Who deserves the top slot in the ACC? Miami, alone atop the league standings at 4-0, has a strong case. So does Duke, still the highest-ranked among the conference teams. And so does NC State, which handed Duke its first loss of the season last weekend and knocked the Blue Devils out of first place in the national ratings.
Let the debate commence, but here are my ACC Power Rankings for this week, based on myriad factors, including how teams have performed lately and the foes they've faced:
1. NC State. After toppling top-ranked Duke at home on Saturday, Maryland center Alex Len's game winner with 0.9 seconds left kept the Wolfpack from staying perfect in conference play. The loss snapped No. 14 NC State’s 10-game winning streak, but will it erode the Pack’s confidence or momentum? Somehow, I don’t think so.
2. Duke. Seth Curry scored 20-plus points for the third time in four games, and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon broke out of his shooting slump (15 points, 5-for-8) as the third-ranked Blue Devils bounced back from their first loss of the season with a win over Georgia Tech on Thursday night. Duke is now 1-1 without starter Ryan Kelly, who is sidelined with a foot injury.
3. Miami. I hear you, Miami fans: You want the Hurricanes to be ranked higher, considering they’re the only undefeated team in the ACC and are off to their best conference start since going 5-0 to open their Big East season in 1997-98. Next Wednesday’s game vs. Duke will certainly give them the chance to move up in these ratings -- and others.
4. Maryland. After losing at Miami last weekend, Terps fans stormed the court Wednesday night to celebrate their team’s first win over a ranked foe since March 3, 2010. The victory over NC State was an important step for coach Mark Turgeon’s team, which will try to take another one at UNC on Saturday. "I came here to do great things,’’ Turgeon said after the game, according to the AP. “We haven't done many great things since I've been here. This is a great thing."
5. North Carolina. Credit reserve P.J. Hairston's career-high 23 points and little-used backup Jackson Simmons' eight-point, four-rebound afternoon at FSU for keeping the Tar Heels from falling to 0-3 in the ACC last Saturday. But the Tar Heels need more from their starters, particularly their big guys, if they want to continue an upward trajectory in the conference.
6. Florida State. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Seminoles by 22 last Saturday, and despite a 2-1 league start, FSU has now been outrebounded in four straight games. They’ll need to hit the boards hard this weekend against a Virginia team that likes to frustrate offenses with a deliberate pace and defense.
7. Virginia. How do you beat UNC, only to lose at Wake Forest and Clemson? At least the Cavaliers have had an open week to try to figure that out before hosting Florida State on Saturday. Joe Harris continues to lead UVa in scoring, but has shot 10-for-27 in his team’s past two losses.
8. Clemson. It was a good week for the Tigers, who held Virginia and Wake Forest to 44 points apiece in victories. Milton Jennings scored a season-high 21 points against the Cavs, while K.J. McDaniels posted career-highs in rebounds (nine) and blocks (seven) against the Deacons.
9. Boston College. It was a tough week for the Eagles, who lost two down-to-the wire games at Wake Forest and against Miami. Lonnie Jackson has come on strong as of late; he’s averaging just over 20 points in his past three outings. All three of BC’s conference losses have been by five or fewer points.
10. Wake Forest. C.J. Harris scored a career-high 29 points to help topple Boston College, only to have his team score just 44 points total (the Deacons' lowest output of the season) in a loss to Clemson. Next up: Virginia Tech.
11. Virginia Tech. It took overtime, but the Hokies finally halted their four-game losing streak with a win at Georgia Tech. Erick Green -- who else? -- led Virginia Tech’s rally; he has now scored in double figures in 19 straight games dating back to last season -- the ACC's longest active streak.
12. Georgia Tech. After a 10-2 start, the Jackets have now lost four straight to open ACC play. One positive from Thursday night’s loss at Duke: With three freshmen in the starting lineup, Tech led by as many as seven points in the first half. One negative: 21 turnovers for the game.