What’s more surprising so far in this topsy-turvy ACC? That Boston College, the team predicted to finish 12th, already has two league wins, or that North Carolina, predicted to win the ACC and more, got pummeled at Florida State by 33 points? Here’s this week’s attempt at ranking the squads in this head-scratching conference:
1. Duke: The Blue Devils’ defense is still a work in progress, but it showed some much-needed second-half intensity in surviving a close game against Virginia (despite making less than half of its free throw attempts and only a quarter of its 3-point attempts) at home last week. After winning at Clemson on Sunday, Duke is 3-0 in ACC play.
2. Virginia: The Cavs took Duke down to the wire at Cameron Indoor Stadium but couldn’t find enough offense, besides senior forward Mike Scott, to extend their 12-game winning streak. Still, UVa's defense (as well as Scott, who has scored 23 points in each of his past two games) will continue to give teams fits.
3. North Carolina: The 33-point loss at FSU on Saturday was the worst in the Roy Williams era -- embarrassing and unacceptable for a team considered a Final Four favorite. The Tar Heels must show more mental toughness on the road. They must get more from their bench. And they need a lot more from ACC Preseason Player of the Year Harrison Barnes, who is 7-of-25 his past two games.
4. NC State: After coach Mark Gottfried challenged his team to play better defense than it did during its midweek loss to Georgia Tech, the Wolfpack responded, holding Wake Forest to 2-of-20 from 3-point range and 40 total points in a 76-40 win. All five NCSU starters continue to average double figures in scoring.
5. Florida State: After winning at Virginia Tech and blowing out UNC, it looks like it’s finally starting to come together for the Seminoles. Their defense is showing its expected intensity and the team is playing more as a unit. Deividas Dulkys isn’t going to score 32 points every day, but if FSU can get some consistent offense from Michael Snaer and Ian Miller, it’s going to become harder and harder to beat.
6. Maryland: The Terrapins have now won nine of their past 10 games as Terrell Stoglin continues to score and freshman Alex Len continues to impress. Next up: a test at Florida State, another team that looks to be on the upswing after an inconsistent start to the season.
7. Miami: The Hurricanes, on paper, have the pieces to be a factor in the ever-shuffling ACC standings, but they still haven’t put it all together. They’ve had plenty of time to stew after their big loss at UNC last Tuesday, but they can’t afford to have guards Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott both shut down, as they were against the Tar Heels.
8. Clemson: After losing to Boston College and Duke, coach Brad Brownell is still looking for a go-to scorer to consistently make plays when needed. Will that player ever emerge?
9. Virginia Tech: After losing to Boston College (a team with nine freshmen), coach Seth Greenberg said it’s too early to panic. But at 0-3 in the ACC, with games against UNC and Virginia on the horizon, the Hokies are on the brink of busting their NCAA tournament bubble before it’s even inflated.
10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets snapped their four-game losing streak by winning at NC State, only to lose at Maryland. Tech scored only 19 points in the first half of that game, its lowest half of scoring of the season.
11. Boston College: Who’d have thunk it? The freshman-laden Eagles followed a two-point win over Clemson with a two-point win over Virginia Tech. You’ve got to respect what Steve Donahue is building in Chestnut Hill.
12. Wake Forest: NC State tried to keep the Deacons from scoring 40 points in its 36-point romp; it almost succeeded. Although junior C.J. Harris remains near the top of the league in scoring, the Deacons have now lost three of their past four games.
Robbi Pickeral can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: bylinerp.