- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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This week's attempt at ranking the surprisingly tight-at-the-top ACC:
1. North Carolina: No Dexter Strickland? No problem. Not only did the Tar Heels give their best defensive effort of the season in a 74-55 win against NC State on Jan. 26 that wasn’t as close as its final 19-point margin, they finally started connecting from 3-point land against Georgia Tech -- something they had struggled with during ACC play -- for a 93-81 victory Saturday. That 33-point loss at Florida State on Jan. 14 still stings, but it’s looking more and more like a much-needed slap in the face to a team that is the best in the conference when it competes with focus and passion.
2. Florida State: The Seminoles remain the hottest team in the conference, beating Wake Forest 75-52 in their only game last week to extend their winning streak to five. FSU has now scored at least 75 points in four straight games -- a good sign for a team that struggled to reach 50 a couple of times earlier in the season.
3. Duke: When is a win not a win? When coach Mike Krzyzewski says it feels more like a loss. That was his sentiment after the Blue Devils’ seven-point victory over St. John’s on Saturday, during which Duke allowed a 22-point second half lead to dwindle because of a lackadaisical defensive effort. In a surprisingly-tight ACC race, that’s enough to drop Duke from the top of these power rankings this week.
4. Virginia: The Cavs continue to get it done with defense. After holding Boston College to 49 points (the ninth time this season they’ve held a foe to fewer than 50), Jontel Evans and Sammy Zeglinski cut off NC State guard Lorenzo Brown's penetration to the basket in the final seconds of that game, forcing a 3-pointer that missed -- and securing a 61-60 victory.
5. NC State: Although State did a solid job of rallying after its blowout loss at UNC, Brown's potential game-winning 3-pointer fell short against Virginia. The Tar Heels and Cavaliers did a good job of slowing down Scott Wood, as State’s leading scorer was held to 7-for-23 shooting in the two losses.
6. Maryland: The Terps broke a three-game losing streak -- including a 74-61 loss to Duke on Jan. 25 -- by beating Virginia Tech 73-69 at home. Terrell Stoglin scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half to lead the effort, and he continues to lead the ACC in scoring with 21.3 points per game.
7. Miami: The Canes followed a 64-49 win at Georgia Tech with a 76-54 victory at Boston College, pulling away from the Eagles with a 27-5 game-ending run. Junior forward Kenny Kadji continues to impress, averaging 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks during those two games.
8. Clemson: When Andre Young shoots 40 percent or better, Clemson is 3-0 in ACC play. When Young shoots below 40 percent, Clemson is 0-3 in ACC play. He did the former against Wake Forest, scoring 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting during his team’s win over Wake Forest.
9. Virginia Tech: The Hokies lost by two points to BYU, before falling by four points in Maryland last week. The only Tech game this month that hasn’t been decided by four or fewer points was its double-digit loss to UNC. The Hokies are now 1-6 during that stretch, and it’s going to get more difficult to dig out of the ACC basement.
10. Wake Forest: C.J. Harris has now scored in double figures for 20 straight games -- the first Deacon to do so since Jeff Teague -- but it wasn’t enough to contend with Florida State at home, or Clemson on the road, last week. Wake has now lost five of its last six games.
11. Georgia Tech: The Jackets managed to score a few more points in the first half against UNC on Sunday (32) than they had in their previous four losses (19.3, on average). But leading scorer Glen Rice Jr.'s sore big toe, injured in practice last week, isn’t helping matters.
12. Boston College: The young Eagles have now lost four straight since beating Clemson and Virginia Tech earlier this month.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
This week's attempt at ranking the surprisingly tight-at-the-top ACC:1. North Carolina: No Dexter Strickland? No problem. Not only did the Tar Heels give their best defensive effort of the season in a 74-55 win against NC State on Jan.