What’s more debatable: How to rank the first two ACC teams, Nos. 3-4, or the jumble of the following seven? Only one thing’s certain: Boston College is at the bottom of the bunch.
1. North Carolina
I wrote earlier this week that polls -- and in this case, power rankings -- should be about what teams have done, and not necessarily what they have the potential to do. So at first, I had Duke in the top spot. And a strong case could be made for the Blue Devils, considering their league-high RPI and lone loss.
But that loss was in ugly fashion at Ohio State. Plus, the Devils only beat Belmont at home by a point in their season opener. And Wednesday, they still looked like they were trying to bounce back from the thumping they took from the Buckeyes.
UNC, meanwhile, crisscrossed the nation twice before playing like one of the top three teams in the country during a one-point loss at Kentucky. The Tar Heels’ 10-point defeat to then-unranked UNLV in Las Vegas makes for a rub -- but that’s the only rub. Carolina is playing better right now.
3. Virginia: What a difference a fifth year makes. Forward Mike Scott, back for an extra extra season of eligibility, has led the Cavs to their first 8-1 start since 2004, averaging 15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds. They get the nod over FSU because of their double-digit win over Michigan.
4. Florida State: What does it say about the ACC that its fourth-best team managed only 41 points, and missed its first 15 shots, in a loss to Harvard? Yikes. But FSU still ranks among the national leaders in field goal percentage defense and blocked shots.
5. NC State: Three days after the Pack let a seven-point lead against Indiana evaporate, they allowed Stanford to come back from a dozen-point deficit. With C.J. Leslie consistently scoring in double figures, new coach Mark Gottfried boasts a team with a bunch of potential. But it must learn to finish.
6. Virginia Tech: Seth Greenberg had to have a toughness talk with his team after it lost its second straight, to Kansas State, earlier this week. It seemed to kick in during the Hokies’ victory at Rhode Island, where Erick Green scored 24 points.
7. Maryland: Point guard Terrell Stoglin continues to lead the Terps -- and the ACC -- in scoring (22.5 ppg), but he could use the addition of center Alex Len, who becomes eligible later this month, and the (hopefully) post-holiday return of guard Pe'Shon Howard from a broken left foot.
8. Miami: It’s hard to come up big when your big men are in street clothes. With senior forward Julian Gamble out after tearing his ACL over the summer, and junior center Reggie Johnson not expected back until next month because of knee surgery, the Hurricanes have had to make do with a lineup that includes three transfers. It didn’t work against Memphis, its best test yet this season.
9. Wake Forest: Deacs coach Jeff Bzdelik thought his team took a step in the right direction when C.J. Harris buried a game-winner to upset Nebraska on the road Nov. 20. Then, three days later, Wake fell behind by as many as 23 points and lost to Richmond at home. It’s going to be that sort of year in Winston-Salem.
10. Clemson: The Tigers have lost by three points or less to Charleston, Coastal Carolina and South Carolina. Sure, they’ve had to replace last year’s veteran leaders, Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant. But with two seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup, it has been a disappointing beginning -- even for a team that was only projected to finish seventh in the preseason.
11. Georgia Tech: With no seniors on the roster except for a couple of former walk-ons, the Yellow Jackets have had to count on Glen Rice Jr., who was suspended the first three games of the season for violating team rules. He leads the team in scoring with 14.3 ppg.
12. Boston College: Only one player, junior Oregon transfer Matt Humphrey, has started each of the Eagles’ first eight games. Before Thursday, the difference between two wins and being winless? Seven points.