- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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Halfway through conference play and only the top two teams are clear at this point. Here are this week's rankings, based on myriad factors, including how teams have performed lately and the foes they've faced:
1. Miami. The eighth-ranked Hurricanes followed Reggie Johnson's game-winning tip-in over then-No. 19 NC State with a blowout home win over Boston College to remain a perfect 9-0 midway through ACC play. With only one ranked team left on the schedule (at Duke, March 2), is it too early to wonder whether UM can run the league table? Next up: a home game against UNC on Saturday.
2. Duke. The No. 4 Blue Devils sure looked like a different team Thursday night than the last time they played (and lost at) NC State. Forward Mason Plumlee has now scored 30 or more points in two of his past three games. His team has won four straight, and it looks as though Duke is finally adapting to playing without starting forward Ryan Kelly, who remains sidelined with a foot injury.
3. Virginia. Clemson managed only 10 first-half points against the Cavs on Thursday, the lowest scoring in a half against Virginia since 1981, according to The Associated Press. It marked the eighth time this season a foe has failed to score 20 points in a half against the Cavs, marking a nice bounce-back effort after they lost by six at Georgia Tech. The Cavs have now won five of their past six games.
4. North Carolina. Leslie McDonald is back from his suspension; P.J. Hairston has recovered from his concussion. That means the Tar Heels, who have won six of their past seven games, are back at full strength to begin a brutal stretch during which they travel to Miami on Saturday and to Durham to play Duke on Wednesday.
5. NC State. Freshman point guard Tyler Lewis has made the most of his opportunity in starter Lorenzo Brown's absence, averaging 14.5 points and 5.5 assists against Miami and at Duke. But the Wolfpack now have lost three straight, beginning when Brown sprained his ankle at Virginia.
6. Florida State. Note to ACC foes: Do NOT play a down-to-the-wire game against FSU. Without Michael Snaer's three game-winners, the Seminoles would be on a seven-game losing streak. Instead, they are 5-4 in conference play. The senior is averaging 13.9 points per game, by the way.
7. Maryland. The Terps won their first conference road game in nine tries (dating back to last season) on Thursday night, pushing their ACC record back to .500. “It feels like we haven't won one of these in forever,” guard Dez Wells told The Washington Post, “which we haven't. It's a really good feeling going home with a win.”
8. Clemson. Rough week for Clemson, which lost at BC and Virginia and faces NC State at home this weekend before going back on the road to play Georgia Tech. Forward Devin Booker remains the team's leading scorer, but has posted double-digit points only once in his past four games.
9. Wake Forest. How can a team that beat then-No. 18 NC State at home and played No. 5 Duke close at home be so bad on the road? The Deacs have now trailed by at least 30 in each of their past three away games. Foes are shooting 48.8 percent against Wake in ACC play.
10. Virginia Tech. After being held to an ACC-season-low 16 points on 33 percent shooting in an overtime loss at UNC, senior guard Erick Green swished 29 against Maryland. He's still the nation's leading scorer, but his team has now lost five in a row.
11. Georgia Tech. The Jackets became the first team in ACC play this season to score at least 60 points against Virginia, ending the Cavs' four-game winning streak. FSU's Snaer halted Tech's chance at beginning its own winning streak, however, with a driving game-winner. The Jackets are shooting only 40 percent in conference play, last in the league.
12. Boston College. Freshman Joe Rahon posted a career-high 26 points against Clemson to end a five-game losing streak ... only to go 0-for-4 with zero points in a loss at No. 8 Miami. So continue the growing pains for the Eagles, who have now lost six out of seven games.