Men's Basketball: Sorry, but no one in the Atlantic Coast Conference comes close to Duke
SOUTH BEND – The end is near. The end, really, is here.
A 20-game league season finishes this week for the 15 men’s basketball teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Some teams are still playing for something, be it a high spot in the final standings, seeding in next week’s league tournament in New York or a way to wedge their way, some way, into the 68-team NCAA tournament.
Others, a lot of others, are simply playing out the string. Like, this can’t end soon enough for the back end of the league which, honestly, hasn’t been very good this season. At all. Ever.
Following are NDI’s ACC power rankings for the week of Feb. 28, our final power poll with the regular season ceasing Saturday. Records are as of Monday morning. Quotes from the league’s 15 head coaches are from the Feb. 28 league Zoom conference call unless otherwise noted.
►1. Duke (25-4 overall; 15-3 ACC)
Last week: 1
Worth noting: Duke’s dismantling Saturday of Syracuse – the Blue Devils led by 10 only 3:41 in, by 22 only 8:11 in and by as many as 30 in the first half – marked the program’s seventh straight league road win and eighth overall. The Blue Devils have won six straight overall and 11 of 12.
Worth quoting: "I don't look at a week. I look at the next opponent. I've done that since I learned how to coach, a few decades ago. I'm not going to change in that regard. We always evoke a lot of attention, maybe a little bit more now. That's something I've had the honor of dealing with for a good part of my career."
-Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski
►2. Notre Dame (21-8; 14-4)
Last week: 2
Worth noting: Victories this week over Florida State and Pittsburgh would give Notre Dame a school record 16 league wins. The Irish won a combined 20 league games – three, 10, seven – the previous three seasons.
Worth quoting: "It's been hard for some of the old-guard ACC people to understand the football machine now. That was an educational process. Probably still is, knowing that our football thing has to be good. I think (former commissioner) John Swofford had to change. That's been interesting for me to watch."
-Irish coach Mike Brey on the importance of football to the ACC
►3. North Carolina (21-8; 13-5)
Last week: 4
Worth noting: Power forward Armando Bacot became the first player in school history to have 20 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in a game in Saturday’s 84-74 victory over North Carolina State. Bacot has 22 double-doubles this season, one shy of the school record of 23 held by Brice Johnson.
Worth quoting: “We’ve played well on the road. That does give us some comfort and some satisfaction. I’m just proud of how resilient the guys have been.”
-Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis after his team won its fourth straight league road game Saturday at North Carolina State.
►4. Wake Forest (22-8; 12-7)
Last week: 3
Worth noting: Wake Forest’s victory Saturday over Louisville was the program’s 15th at home this season, tied for second most in program history.
Worth quoting: "I usually vote for the players on the best teams. Consistency, to me, is the key. I'm not one to lobby for my players. I believe they stand on their merit. You guys are smart. You see it."
-Demon Deacons coach Steve Forbes on voting for all-league squads
►5. Virginia Tech (18-11; 10-8)
Last week: 7
Worth noting: The Hokies might be the one team not named Duke or Notre Dame that you don’t want to see in the conference tournament. Virginia Tech has won two straight and eight of nine after losing three in a row.
Worth quoting: "We've been a pretty darn good basketball team the last six weeks. We've had some quite beautiful days."
-Hokies coach Mike Young
►6. Miami (Fla.) (20-9; 12-6)
Last week: 6
Worth noting: Miami led Virginia Tech by eight points with under two minutes remaining in Saturday’s home game, then watched the Hokies go on a 12-3 run to end the game and get a 71-70 win. It was the Hurricanes’ fifth league loss by four points or fewer, including their third one-point loss.
Worth quoting: "I think all losses are productive. We've benefitted from some of our losses, the things we need to correct, the things players need to pay more attention to. You've got to improve. Anytime you lose, there's a reason."
-Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga
►7. Virginia (17-12; 11-8)
Last week: 5
Worth noting: After winning four straight to climb the league standings and get into NCAA tournament talk, the Cavaliers have lost three of four following Saturday’s home buzzer-beater loss to Florida State, 64-63.
Worth quoting: "We've been in so many games that could've gone one way or another. That always keeps you humble and real to where you're at. You just want to finish strong."
-Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett
►8. Syracuse (15-14; 9-9)
Last week: 8
Worth noting: Losers of two straight and three of five, Syracuse has lost at least 14 games for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.
Worth quoting: “We had enough time to get ready (but) we just didn’t handle it. All that said, Duke’s a top five, four team in the country. They’re really good. I was proud we got down 30 and managed to get it back to 17, but that’s about as good as it was going to be. They’re that much better than us.”
-Orange coach Jim Boeheim following Saturday’s loss to Duke.
►9. Florida State (15-13; 8-10)
Last week: 9
Worth noting: Matthew Cleveland’s 3-point heave to beat the buzzer and give the Seminoles a 64-63 win Saturday at Virginia snapped a losing streak of two straight and eight of nine.
Worth quoting: "We made a great shot at the end. Now we've got to regroup. What we've got to do is move on and start preparing for Notre Dame. We can't get too happy because we won one game."
-Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton
►10. Louisville (12-16; 6-12)
Last week: 10
Worth noting: Saturday’s loss at Wake Forest was No. 16 for the Cardinals this season, their most losses since going 12-19 in 2000-01. This year will mark the first time Louisville finishes with a losing record in league play since finishing 6-10 in the Big East in 2005-06.
Worth quoting: "There will be a ton of lessons that I take from this. I'll take a lot of lessons I've learned about myself, about culture and the importance of establishing a strong foundation. Hopefully this experience will allow me to grow and become afar better head coach."
-Cardinals interim coach Mike Pegues
►11. Pittsburgh (11-18; 6-12)
Last week: 11
Worth noting: Losers of two straight after having won a season-high three in a row, the Panthers come off a bye week to finish with games against Duke (home) on Tuesday and Saturday at Notre Dame.
Worth quoting: "There have been some really, really good players in our league. It's going to be a tough choice for player of the year. For me, the criteria, as I vote, I look on individual performance, but I also try to take into account what that performance has done for their team. That matters to me."
-Panthers coach Jeff Capel
►12. Clemson (14-15; 6-12)
Last week: 15
Worth noting: Playing without its leading scorer and best player P.J. Hall, Clemson snapped a six-game losing streak Saturday with a 70-60 victory at Boston College. The Tigers led by as many as 14 and received a career-best 23 points from guard Chase Hunter.
Worth quoting: "We've got to find points in other ways. As much as anything, other guys are going to get more. My freshmen are getting more playing time. There's just more shots available, right? Guys have more opportunities to score and do things that way. Our guys have done a great job."
-Tigers coach Brad Brownell on playing without P.J. Hall and Hunter Tyson, two of the Tigers' top three scorers, both out with injuries.
►13. Boston College (11-17; 6-12)
Last week: 13
Worth noting: Boston College enters the final week of the regular season tied for 11th place with Clemson having won two of its last three after losing five straight and seven of eight.
Worth quoting: "(Ball security is) always one of our values - try to be 12 (turnovers) and under in ball care. We're doing OK. I don't know if we're doing great. That's a big deal every night."
-Eagles coach Earl Grant
►14. N.C. State (11-18; 4-14)
Last week: 14
Worth noting: North Carolina State scored 45 points in the second half of Saturday’s 10-point loss to North Carolina. But the Wolfpack allowed 46 in the first half while losing for the ninth time in 11 league games.
Worth quoting: "I have no idea, but it's weird. I don't have an answer to that and I'm not even going to say that we play better on the road. It's always great to win at home and we've had a lot of success at home over my years. This team is a little different. It's a different team. it's not the team that everybody thought we would have."
-Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts on his team going 1-9 at home and 3-5 on the road in ACC play.
►15. Georgia Tech (11-18; 4-14)
Last week: 12
Worth noting: After playing five straight games and seven of eight against Notre Dame in which the outcome was decided by eight points or fewer, Georgia Tech never led and lost by 34 on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.
Worth quoting: "Quite a few people called me a lot worse after our performance Saturday."
-Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner on being misidentified on the league Zoom call as the coach of Clemson by an ACC spokesperson.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI