North Carolina Tar Heels: Glen Rice Jr.

Conference Power Rankings: ACC

February, 20, 2012
With two weeks remaining, it looks like it’s going to be a down-to-the-wire race for the regular-season ACC title. This week’s attempt at the power rankings:

1. Duke: After needing a 20-point rally to beat N.C. State, Duke had it a lot easier at Boston College on Sunday. The Blue Devils won by a decisive 25 points to remain tied atop the ACC standings with UNC and Florida State. Next up: a trip to Tallahassee, Fla., on Thursday for a rematch with the Seminoles.

2. North Carolina: Sophomore Harrison Barnes averaged 23.5 points in wins at Miami and over Clemson, and both he -- and his teammates -- appear to be revving up for a postseason run. Outside shooting is still a concern lately, but defense is making up for it.

3. Florida State: The Seminoles’ win at N.C. State on Saturday marked the first time the they have beaten all four ACC teams from North Carolina -- UNC, Duke, Wake Forest and the Wolfpack -- in the same season. “Being from North Carolina, it’s a big thing,’’ said guard Ian Miller, who hails from Charlotte, N.C.

4. Virginia: The Cavaliers’ upset loss at Clemson marked the first time they have dropped back-to-back games this season. But the Cavaliers followed up by beating Maryland to secure its first 20-win season since 2006-07.

5. Miami: After his team lost to the Hurricanes, Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said he thinks Miami is an ACC tournament team. But UM (which broke a two-game losing streak with the win) is taking a one-game-at-a-time approach: “It’s a goal and a dream,’’ guard Durand Scott said, according to The Miami Herald. “But you can’t deal with the future unless you take care of the present. Today is the present. Today is what’s important right now.”

6. N.C. State: With back-to-back losses at Duke and to FSU last week, it’s going to be difficult to reach the 11 ACC victories coach Mark Gottfried predicted his team would need for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The Wolfpack are now 7-5 in league play, with home games against UNC and Miami and road matchups at Clemson and Virginia Tech left on the docket.

7. Maryland: The Terps suffered their largest margin of defeat this season when they lost by 27 points at Virginia, and coach Mark Turgeon grew so frustrated with his team’s turnovers and shot selection that he pulled his starters with four minutes left. “I just had enough of selfishness, not boxing out, not defending,’’ he said, according to The Baltimore Sun.

8. Clemson: The Tigers followed an upset win over Virginia with yet another loss to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. “I don’t think it has much to do with extra pressure or anything like that,” Tanner Smith said of the Tigers’ 0-56 streak at UNC. “We just didn’t make the plays down the stretch that we needed to make.”

9. Virginia Tech: Dorenzo Hudson's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer helped beat Georgia Tech in overtime. But it couldn’t quite erase the sting of allowing FSU to come back from a nine-point deficit in the final 90 seconds to win, just two days before.

10. Wake Forest: The Deacons ended a six-game slide with a win over Georgia Tech, only to possibly begin another one with a loss at Miami. They get a break before playing Boston College next weekend.

11. Boston College: The Eagles managed only 50 points against Duke and lost their third straight game.

12. Georgia Tech: The Jackets’ last-second loss at Virginia Tech means they have now lost three straight, and nine of their past 10. They played that game without Glen Rice Jr., who is suspended indefinitely.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

Conference Power Rankings: ACC

February, 6, 2012
North Carolina rallied, Miami upset and Virginia and Florida State battled. It was quite a weekend for the ACC, and here’s an attempt at this week’s power rankings:

1. North Carolina: Harrison Barnes can star when hurting. Kendall Marshall can play an extended stretch with four fouls. And the Tar Heels can still rally, as they showed by coming back from a nine-point deficit at Maryland. But they’re going to have to get more production from their bench, as their reserves managed only nine points in two games last week.

2. Florida State: Michael Snaer managed only three field goals against Virginia’s defense, but they all came at timely points in the second half. The Seminoles have now won seven in a row -- including beating the three other ranked teams in the ACC -- and remain in the driver’s seat for the league’s regular-season race.

3. Duke: The Blue Devils’ loss to Miami marked their second ACC loss at home. Coach Mike Krzyzewski summed up the problem like this: “A Duke team should play with energy for 40 minutes – or 45,” he said, according to The (Raleigh) News & Observer. “Go outside and look at the banners. There are quite a few of them up there. They were not won without energy, without hunger, with ... complacency, with[out] people really wanting it.”

4. Virginia: The Cavs recorded a season-high 20 turnovers in their loss to Florida State, which they blamed more on their execution than the Seminoles’ defense. Senior Mike Scott continues to impress, as Virginia’s four losses this season have come by a combined 10 points.

5. Miami: It took three overtime periods -- two versus Maryland, one at Duke -- to extend the Hurricanes’ winning streak to four, and in so doing, they’re pushing their way back into the NCAA conversation. Sunday’s win marked Miami’s first at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and only its second win over the Blue Devils since joining the ACC.

6. NC State: Scott Wood made six 3-pointers in the Pack’s victory against Wake Forest. Most notably, he did it in his home arena, the RBC Center -- although he told The News & Observer he prefers playing on the road. "Anytime you have fans talking trash, it raises your game."

7. Maryland: The Terps gave the Tar Heels all they could handle on Saturday, even leading by as many as nine points in the second half before UNC rallied. Guard Terrell Stoglin continues to lead the ACC in scoring, but Maryland has now lost five of its past six games.

8. Clemson: The Tigers lost both their games last week and also lost forward Milton Jennings, who was suspended for the second time this season, this time for academic reasons. He’s out indefinitely, meaning the Tigers lose an average of 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

9. Virginia Tech: The Hokies -- who had had six of their previous eight ACC games decided by four or fewer points -- finally won a close one when it beat Clemson 67-65. But they squandered a 17-point and lead and needed the Tigers to miss a shot at the end to survive.

10. Wake Forest: It was a tough week for the Deacons, who lost to two in-state foes -- UNC and NC State. That extended their losing streak to four.

11. Georgia Tech: Glen Rice Jr. scored three points in the final minute to help his team beat Boston College and snap a six-game losing streak. “Everybody in the locker room right now is going crazy,” Tech guard Mfon Udofia told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the game.

12. Boston College: The Eagles have now lost six in a row -- the last two by a combined nine points -- and things don’t get any easier with Florida State coming to town on Wednesday.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

Conference power rankings: ACC

January, 30, 2012
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.