Hopefully ACC fans caught the Syracuse-Duke matchup, because it's likely one of the best games you'll see all year. Both teams proved they're fully capable of holding their own in a heavyweight bought. The Orange, though, continue to make their case at the nation's best team.
Hidden in the scrum of Super Bowl coverage, Virginia added another quality win to its resume by beating Pittsburgh. The Cavaliers can make the argument that they possess the top defense in college basketball.
Plus, the Tar Heels are starting to bounce back.
The top of the ACC looks stronger as we stand today, but the middle-to-lower rankings are grim. There isn't much of a distinction among the teams in the 6-15 range.
1) Syracuse (21-0, 8-0) - With 21 wins to start the year, Syracuse is off to the best start in school history. C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant both scored career-highs in the win against Duke. Their final 23 points against the Blue Devils came from in the paint or at the line. This team also rebounds 40 percent of its missed shots, ranking No. 10 in the nation. Those tools can build a title run. Welcome to the No. 1 spot in the nation.
2) Virginia (17-5, 8-1) - We've been telling you the Cavaliers are legit. Malcolm Brogdon hit a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds to play to take down Pittsburgh. Add in a victory this past week over Notre Dame and Virginia is on a five-game winning streak. The 8-1 start in ACC play is the best mark since the 1981-82 season. Brogdon has scored in double figures for a career-best nine straight games. Joe Harris has been relatively quiet lately, but he's receiving backup in the scoring department. Defense continues to pave the way to wins, as Virginia leads the nation in points allowed per game.
3) Duke (17-5, 6-3) - Did Rodney Hood get fouled by Rakeem Christmas on that last dunk attempt? It doesn't matter now. Duke snapped a five-game win streak with a loss to No. 2 Syracuse, but the Blue Devils proved they are capable of going toe-to-toe with the nation's best. Jabari Parker and Andrew Dawkins fouled out. The Blue Devils committed 25 fouls total. You can't beat a top team by giving them so many cheap points. But Duke finished with 20 assists, sharing the ball well. It also didn't score a single point from a mid-range field goal. Opponents should keep that in mind going forward.
4) Pittsburgh (18-3, 6-2) - Back-to-back losses to two of the ACC's best. After failing to come close against Duke, Pitt blew another chance at a solid resume booster. No one played well against the Cavaliers. Lamar Patterson shot 3-of-14. Talib Zanna scored a whopping two points. Two upcoming games against Miami and Virginia Tech should help get back on track, but Syracuse waits on the horizon again. Can the Panthers finally claim a signature win?
5) UNC (14-7, 4-4) - The Tar Heels are back to .500 in conference play after an 0-3 start. Three double-digit wins against teams they're supposed to beat; is this the same team Roy Williams has been coaching all season? Leslie McDonald is stepping up, as he's scored 35 points over the last two games. Free throws are crucial to UNC. In seven losses, the Tar Heels have shot 48.7 percent at the line. They're shooting 67.2 percent in their wins. Fundamentals are key.
6) Maryland (11-9, 3-4) - Nothing big happening here over the last week, but Maryland did pick up two wins over Miami and Virginia Tech (glamorous, I know). Dez Wells shot 13-of-16 in those games, scoring a combined 40 points. Seth Allen looked much better with seven assists against the Hokies. There are bright spots here and there, but the schedule ahead features two matchups with Virginia and games against Duke and Syracuse. The future could be bleak for the Terps.
7) Clemson (13-6, 4-3) - After back-to-back blowouts, the Tigers' defense regrouped to hold the Seminoles to 49 points. Clemson still ranks No. 2 in the nation in fewest points allowed per game. K.J. McDaniels looked much better than his two previous outings. The jury is still out on this squad, though.
8) North Carolina State (13-7, 3-4) - Another team that thrives on scoring down low, N.C. State leads the ACC in points in the paint per game. But the Wolfpack were dominated on the boards by the Tar Heels, and they shot just over 53 percent from the line. T.J. Warren single-handedly beat the Seminoles. He's on fire since his four-point game against Virginia. But he needs help, which is probably the reason N.C. State ranks No. 169 in the nation in points per game.
9) Florida State (13-6, 4-3) - The Seminoles are the latest ACC team to enter free-fall mode. Three straight losses hurt. Florida State's defense has been torched by back-to-back one-man shows. T.J. Warren put up 30 points on Jan. 29, and K.J. McDaniels went for 26 points on Saturday. Maybe the Seminoles need to avoid players with initials for first names. FSU scores a conference-leading 25 percent of its points in transition. Keep pushing the tempo. That's all it can do right now.
10) Wake Forest (14-6, 4-3) - At least they weren't blown out by Syracuse? That's the only positive to take from the last week. Travis McKie was stellar against Georgia Tech, leading the team with 26 points. But he went cold against the Orange, continuing his up-and-down pace. Wake Forest is 9-0 when it scores 34 or more points in the paint. It's safe to say the Demon Deacons should look inside more often. They've shot 6-of-35 from downtown over the last two games. Keep chuckin' away.
11) Miami (10-9, 2-5) - Miami is no longer a threat in ACC play. Maryland shot 56 percent from the floor in its 74-71 win over the Hurricanes. There's not much offense, either. Miami ranks No. 341 (no, that's not a typo) in the nation in points per game, No. 295 in assists per game and No. 286 in field goal percentage. The out of conference win against Norfolk State might be the last victory it sees for some time.
12) Georgia Tech (11-9, 2-5) - Trae Golden suffered a groin injury in the win over Wake Forest, so his status is in question at the moment. Beating the Demon Deacons is about as good as it gets for the Jackets. They couldn't hang with the Tar Heels in the second half, so they broke even last week. Tech's remaining schedule includes five winnable games to lead to at least a record of a few games over .500.
13) Notre Dame (11-9, 2-5) - Needing overtime to beat Boston College does not help anyone's cause. The Irish were outmatched by the Cavaliers, which was expected, and while losing their leading scorer for the year continues to plague the team, defense has been a glaring weakness. Notre Dame allows opponents to shoot right around 45 percent per game on average.
14) Boston College (5-14, 1-5) - Signs of life actually emerged from the Eagles last week. They flew right past Virginia Tech and nearly grabbed a victory in overtime against the Irish. Ryan Anderson is playing his best ball of the season, scoring 39 points in those two matchups. Boston College also committed just 15 combined turnovers. Bask in the glory now, because it will likely be brief. The next two games feature Virginia and Duke.
15) Virginia Tech (8-11, 1-6) - Congratulations, Hokies, you've been demoted to the worst team in the conference. How do you lose twice against Boston College? This time was a rout, falling 76-52 to the Eagles. That's pathetic. Virginia Tech doesn't appear to be too interested when on the court. Fifteen total assists over the last two games show how poor this team passes the ball. Eight consecutive losses and counting.