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Monday, January 9, 2012
Conference Power Rankings: ACC

By Robbi Pickeral

Clemson over Florida State? Wake Forest over Virginia Tech? And here I thought it might be easier to figure out which teams fit where once ACC play began. Unexpected outcomes keep these power rankings a work in progress, but here’s this week’s attempt:

1. North Carolina: Small forward Harrison Barnes has scored 20 or more points in three of his past four games (including 25 in the Tar Heels’ ACC-opening win against BC), but UNC has to find a way to keep intensity and concentration throughout the entire 40 minutes of a game.

2. Duke: After last week’s loss at Temple, coach Mike Krzyzewski made two lineup switches: Freshman Quinn Cook made his first start at point guard, and forward Ryan Kelly came off the bench instead of starting. The result -- a career-high 21 points from Kelly and an 81-74 victory at Georgia Tech. It will be interesting to see if the personnel-tinkering continues.

3. Virginia: Won its 12th straight game when it beat Miami in its ACC opener, but forward Mike Scott -- the only Cavaliers player to score in double figures that game -- is going to need more offensive help from his teammates, especially Thursday at Duke. UVa continues to lead the league by holding foes to 50.5 points per game.

4. NC State: Coach Mark Gottfried said last week he thought the Wolfpack would need 10 or 11 victories to make the NCAA tournament. NC State's on its way. C.J. Leslie posted a double-double en route to beating Maryland on Sunday. State has now won seven of its past eight games, with the lone loss coming to top-ranked Syracuse.

5. Miami: The Hurricanes are still adapting to the man-to-man defense coach Jim Larranaga wants them to play, and they got a good look at the fundamentals at Virginia. UM guard Durand Scott couldn’t score on the final possession, and despite a comeback attempt, the Hurricanes fell by a point.

6. Clemson: The Tigers recorded their second-highest number of points (79) this season in their blowout win over the Seminoles. But can they keep scoring? It will take more wins to rise out of the triple-digit RPI rankings after losses to Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston and others earlier this season. So it will take more wins to keep them this high in the power rankings.

7. Wake Forest: C.J. Harris returned from a groin injury to bury two 3-pointers in the final 65 seconds Saturday, and the Deacs out-pounded the Hokies by 11 on the backboards. Just one game into their league schedule, they have already matched their ACC win total (one) from last season. But can they build upon it? That win comes in the same week they lost to Wofford.

8. Virginia Tech: Coach Seth Greenberg told reporters that upperclassmen Dorenzo Hudson, Victor Davila and Erick Green didn’t set the right tone during the pregame Saturday, and losing 58-55 at Wake Forest certainly doesn’t set the right tone for the conference season (or finally earning an NCAA tournament bid). The Hokies are now 1-7 in ACC openers since joining the league.

9. Maryland: Terrell Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer, recorded 25 points at NC State, but nonetheless still saw his team’s seven-game winning streak snapped in Raleigh. The Terps are still a work in progress.

10. Florida State: Just when the Seminoles thought they might be gaining some defensive momentum and gaining some offensive traction -- splat. Coach Leonard Hamilton questioned his team’s effort and focus after losing to Clemson by 20 points, and said there’s some sort of disconnect he just can’t figure out. But he (and they) had better do it soon.

11. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets gave the Blue Devils a better push than expected before losing by seven points. Can they continue to do that each game? Tech has now lost four in a row.

12. Boston College: The fact BC cut UNC’s 20-plus point lead to nine in the second half Saturday bodes well for the future. But with nine freshmen on the team (and five in the starting lineup), the Eagles aren’t just rebuilding, they’re repouring a foundation.

Robbi Pickeral can be reached at bylinerp@gmail.com. Twitter: @bylinerp.