What Needs to Happen For the ACC to Become Relevant Again

2016 was a great year for the SEC-haters, and especially for those constantly trying to laud the ACC’s talent in football. Not only did Clemson win the national championship, dethroning Alabama, but the Tide were the only top-10 team in the SEC. The two years prior, the SEC had slipped to just two teams in the top 10, after seeing four of their squads attain such a ranking in each of the previous three seasons. Meanwhile, the ACC had five Top-25 teams, with a pair of top-10 squads. It was the third time in four years they had accomplished that feat, after only doing it once between 1998 and 2013. 

The end of the SEC? The rise of the ACC? Not so much. 

Flash forward three seasons, and the SEC is as dominant as ever, and once again, outside a singularly impressive team, the ACC was more or less a complete joke. The conference championship saw Clemson defeat Virginia by a stunning score of 62-17. While Clemson may be able to challenge the best teams in the country, the SEC offers four or five teams team could give Clemson a very good game and definitely capable of beating them. Against those same four or five teams, I don’t think there’s a single ACC team I trust outside of Clemson to snare a victory on the gridiron. One such example of this? In the Orange Bowl this past season, the Florida Gators, second in their division and the third or fourth best team in the SEC, took on Virginia and won 36-28. The score didn’t reflect the nature of the game, as Florida never trailed and spent most of the contest nursing a two-score lead. A UVA touchdown with 38 seconds left cut the deficit to its final margin. The ACC’s second-best against a fringe top-5 SEC team? No contest. 

So what’s the issue with the ACC? And what needs to happen to get back to 2016, where they were arguably the better conference, or at least closer to the SEC’s equal? Here’s a few things that need to happen. 

Stability in the Coastal Division

In the SEC, the West largely dominates, but when you look at the East, they still have a decent amount of stability. Georgia and Florida have won 9 of the past 12 division titles and consistently are among the top teams in the conference. Between promising stretches from Missouri and South Carolina – and the occasional good year from Tennessee and Kentucky – there have been teams to fill the void when the Gators and Bulldogs falter. The stability in the East has allowed for consistent recruiting that establish top-tier teams in both divisions. In the ACC? No such stability has been created – the last seven years have seen all seven teams win the division once. Nobody has repeated since Virginia Tech in 2010-2011. When there’s no clear dominant team, or even a couple of consistently successful squads, no one gains any kind of significant recruiting edge. Furthermore, the lack of clarity in the division just sends more recruits scrambling for the safety blanket that is Clemson and their pure dominance of the ACC Atlantic, and the conference as a whole. Entering the ACC Coastal right now as a player essentially gives you an even 1-in-7 chance at getting to the title game. Players want to play at the highest level, and no ACC Coastal team is consistently offering that opportunity. 

Not only has no team repeated since Virginia Tech at the turn of the decade, but every single season since then, the ACC Coastal representative in the championship game has come from a team that finished third or worse in the division the year before that. Over the last seven years – the stretch with seven different champions – the Coastal division has had five teams finish in the Top 25 a combined seven times. Virginia Tech and Miami have slotted into the rankings twice, and Georgia Tech, UNC, and Duke have all accomplished the feat once. The last two division champs – Pitt and Virginia – did not finish in the Top 25. The lack of consistency among these programs is frankly astounding, and as long as the ACC Coastal is a complete mess, this conference won’t truly improve. 

A consistent challenger in the Atlantic Division

No recruit who has their eyes on making a CFP goes to a non-Clemson team in the ACC Atlantic if they have the choice. The Tigers are 38-2 over the past five seasons of ACC games. Rather than look forward to a big clash that decides the division, fans and Clemson-haters scour the schedule for a game that looks ‘tricky’ or could qualify as a ‘trap game’. In the SEC, even though Alabama looks like a favorite out of the West nearly every year, every single Bama-LSU game or Iron Bowl clash presents a significant obstacle for the Tide. For Clemson, even if they lose a shocker, no team has been good enough to steal the division crime. Clemson’s dynasty started as FSU faded from relevancy. During the Tigers’ five-year reign, the Seminoles have finished as a ranked team twice, and Louisville, NC State, and Syracuse have done it once apiece. Louisville’s 2nd-place finish in the Atlantic last year made them the first team to have 2 second-place finishes in the division in the past five years. Outside of Clemson, the division is a total toss-up, with nobody becoming consistently relevant. If the ACC wants to ever match the SEC – with 4-5 teams consistently cracking the top 20, and usually 2-3 in the top 10, a consistent challenger must emerge. 

Teams That Need To Improve

In the SEC, for each season of this past decade, at least five teams finished the year ranked in the top 25 of the AP Poll. Outside of 2016, the ACC did not do that once. So which teams need to step it up for the ACC to gain further legitimacy? 

Atlantic: Florida State, Louisville

Florida State was the clear second-best team to Clemson this past decade, winning four division titles to Clemson’s 6. However, the crossing of these two dynasties was thin. Florida State finished 14th and 8th in the country as Clemson took over in 2015-16, but they haven’t sniffed the end-of-season Top 25 since then, going just 17-20 over their last three seasons. Look at the SEC, where, although Alabama has won 7 of the past 12 titles in the SEC West, their three-peat from ‘14-16 was the only time they repeated. We need to see somebody rise and clash with Clemson at the top and Florida State has the pedigree to do it. But their program is in disarray right now, so it’s unclear whether they’re ready to get to a Top-25 level any time soon. One team that is trending back in the right direction is Louisville, who has been very good since joining the ACC, but they haven’t broken the glass ceiling just yet. The Cardinals had a blip in 2018 – finishing in last place in their first year post-Lamar Jackson, but they’ve been very consistently otherwise. Consistency is key – FSU was ranked for two straight years before settling into their three-year reign of the conference, and Clemson had been ranked the prior three seasons before their current stretch of dominance. Louisville bounced back last year with an 8-win season, so if the Cardinals can continue to trend upwards, they may be the best bet at giving Clemson a challenger atop the division. 

Coastal: Miami, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech’s three division titles of the past decade make them one of two programs with multiple (Georgia Tech, 2). They’ve had their off years, but with three #1 finishes, and another three at #2 or #3, the Hokies are close to as consistent as it gets in the Coastal division. That combined with their homefield – Lane Stadium – is one of the more intimidating environments in the conference. If they turn that into a deadly homefield advantage, Virginia Tech could establish some much needed stability atop the division. 

Miami was the second clear and logical choice here. Amidst all the turmoil, the Hurricanes have not finished below fourth in the Coastal Division in the past decade. That being said, they’ve turned those consistent results into just one appearance in the ACC Championship, which ended very poorly. Miami has the most pedigree of any team in this division, and it makes sense that if the ACC is to rise to glory, the Hurricanes need to lead the revolution, or at least be one of the leaders. Their fans say it every year but until The U is Back, the ACC Coastal may struggle to gain any semblance of relevance. 

Georgia Tech, with their two division titles, was an honorable mention here, but their recent switch from the triple option and last-place finish last season cast some doubts on to whether they are entering a rebuilding phase, or whether they’re able to compete. 

SEC apologetics make a lot of claims, but they definitely hit the nail on the head when claiming superiority on the football field. The ACC looked like they might be ready to match that, but the past three seasons have shown they are clearly not ready. It’s years away, but look forward to a time where the ACC may finally be able to rival the SEC – at least in top-tier talent if not in total depth.

We Simulated Every CFP – But With An 8-Team Field

Every year, as the College Football Playoff committee controversially selects four teams for the Playoff, there are outraged cries for expansion, as many feel that to many elite teams get shafted by the Committee due to one unfortunate result. The four-team CFP has been around for six seasons now, so we decided to look into how much an expanded field would have changed the results we’ve watched play out on the gridiron.

We expanded the playoff in each season to 8 teams. The Power-5 conference champions and top-ranked Group of 5 team were guaranteed a spot, and the other two slots went to at-large teams. We determined the field by the final CFP rankings of each season, seeding them as they were ranked by the Committee. Here’s what we got:

2014:
The Field

  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. Florida State
  4. Ohio State
  5. Baylor
  6. TCU
  7. Mississippi State
  8. Boise State

Quarterfinals

1. Alabama def. 8. Boise State 42-13 
2. Oregon def. 7. Mississippi State 37-17
3. Florida State def. 6. TCU 34-31 (OT)
4. Ohio State def. 5. Baylor 42-24
Semifinals
4. Ohio State def. 1. Alabama 38-35
3. Florida State def. 2. Oregon 40-24

Championship

3. Florida State def. 4. Ohio State 35-30

The Summary

We do get a new champion in our first year with an 8-team playoff, and I really see a distinct reason for that happening. Jameis Winston and his defending champion Seminoles seemed to really coast through an undefeated season and were simply unprepared for Oregon in the semifinals. In this simulation, they get their wakeup call in the quarterfinals, where they are still talented enough to escape with a come-from-behind OT victory. TCU awakens the beast that is FSU, and they thump Oregon in the semis to reach the championship against Ohio State, who replicated their underdog run with Cardale Jones under center. FSU wins a classic, with Winston throwing for three touchdowns and Dalvin Cook rushing for two, leading the Seminoles to back-to-back titles. 

2015

The Field

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Michigan State
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Iowa
  6. Stanford
  7. Ohio State
  8. Houston

Quarterfinals
1. Clemson def. 8. Houston 27-18
2. Alabama def. 7. Ohio State 24-20
6. Stanford def. 3. Michigan State 28-27
4. Oklahoma def. 5. Iowa 28-13

Semifinals

1. Clemson def. 4. Oklahoma 37-28
2. Alabama def. 6. Stanford 35-16

Championship

2. Alabama def. 1. Clemson 30-13

The Summary

Despite the same champion, this was an interesting plug for an expanded playoff. Eighth-seeded Houston led Clemson at halftime and pushed the Tigers for most of the game, while Alabama and Ohio State played an instant-classic in the 2 v. 7 match-up. We also saw our first quarterfinal upset, courtesy of Christian McCaffrey and the Stanford Cardinal, which gave us a different look in the semis, but ultimately, Alabama vs. Clemson (Episode 1) was not to be denied. The championship game was definitely less close than the championship, although the game was actually 16-13 entering the fourth quarter, but Deshaun Watson didn’t have the fourth quarter touch, allowing Jake Coker and the Tide to seal the deal. 

2016

The Field

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio State
  4. Washington
  5. Penn State
  6. Michigan
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Western Michigan

Quarterfinals
1. Alabama def. 8. Western Michigan 45-17
7. Oklahoma def. 2. Clemson 42-31
6. Michigan def. 3. Ohio State 33-24
4. Washington def. 5. Penn State 40-21

Semifinals
1. Alabama def. 4. Washington 37-34 (OT)
6. Michigan def. 7. Oklahoma 30-24

Championship
6. Michigan def. 1. Alabama 29-28 (OT)

The Summary

Wow. What a stunning result in the 2016 simulation. If you remember, Michigan was left out of the CFP due to their gut-wrenching loss to Ohio State that involved the infamous “J.T was short” play. With the extended field, the Wolverines get a rematch of The Game in the quarterfinals, and they break their losing streak against Ohio State. Meanwhile, Oklahoma stuns Clemson in the quarterfinals, ending Deshaun Watson’s championship run before it started, as Baker Mayfield simply torched the Tigers. Alabama returned to the championship game, but even with Clemson out of the way, they couldn’t rise to the top, as Michigan took them to OT, and then shocked the world and went for two and the win after their overtime touchdown – “It’s Speights, rolling right, fires to Chesson and it’s caught! Michigan wins!” (My electric play-by-play call that I had in my head as I typed this article). Michigan stuns everyone and grabs the national championship. 

2017 

The Field

  1. Clemson
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Georgia
  4. Alabama
  5. Ohio State
  6. Wisconsin
  7. USC
  8. UCF


Quarterfinals

8. UCF def. 1. Clemson 37-27
7. USC def. 2. Oklahoma 49-34
3. Georgia def. 6. Wisconsin 30-21
5. Ohio State def. 4. Alabama 24-14

Semifinals
5. Ohio State def. 8. UCF 34-20
3. Georgia def. 7. USC 33-30

Championship
5. Ohio State def. 3. Georgia 31-27

The Summary

Another year, another wild result with our expanded playoff simulation. 2017 Clemson was probably the weakest of their ongoing dynasty, and they ran into probably the best Group of 5 qualifier of the CFP era in unbeaten UCF, resulting in our first 8 over 1 upset. Sam Darnold put seventh-seeded USC into the semifinals, and #5 Ohio State rolled the Tide in the first round to set up a wild second round. A little bit of normalcy was restored in the semis, with #3 Georgia edging USC, and Ohio State thumping UCF to set up a more traditional championship, where the Buckeyes rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out a national championship, their first in the CFP era after they lost the 2014 title game. For the second straight year, our national champion is a team that didn’t even qualify for the CFP in reality. 

2018

The Field

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Ohio State
  7. UCF
  8. Washington

Quarterfinals

1. Alabama def. 8. Washington 38-23
2. Clemson def. 7. UCF 66-24
3. Notre Dame def. 6. Ohio State 28-24
4. Oklahoma def. 5. Georgia 41-35

Semifinals

1. Alabama def. 4. Oklahoma 42-37
2. Clemson def. 3. Notre Dame 45-23

Championship

2. Clemson def. 1. Alabama 40-34

The Summary

There were a few notable storylines, but ultimately there were no upsets and nothing changed from the actual CFP in 2018. We got to see Notre Dame prove they were worthy of a semifinal spot by edging Ohio State, giving the Irish a needed win in a big game. We finally saw a Group-of-5 team get better than an eight seed, only to watch Clemson absolutely unload on UCF in a revenge game, and an instant-classic in the Oklahoma-Georgia quarterfinal. Once we got to the semis, it was pretty much a familiar story; Tua and the Tide edged out Kyler Murray and Oklahoma (by a slightly smaller margin than in reality) and Clemson thumped the Irish. The title game was closer than it was two years ago, but Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers emerged victorious and take home their first title of the CFP era. 

2019

The Field

  1. LSU
  2. Clemson
  3. Ohio State
  4. Oklahoma 
  5. Georgia
  6. Oregon
  7. Baylor
  8. Memphis

Quarterfinals

1. LSU def. 8. Memphis 42-33
2. Clemson def. 7. Baylor 42-20
3. Ohio State def. 6. Oregon 30-23
5. Georgia def. 4. Oklahoma 35-20

Semifinals

1. LSU def. 5. Georgia 38-31
2. Clemson def. 3. Ohio State 24-20

Championship

1.  LSU def. 2. Clemson 30-27

The Summary

2019 LSU continued to be a machine, although they survived a few scares in this expanded playoff. They dealt with a feisty Memphis offense that, last season, posted 39 points on Penn State’s elite defense. They had to beat Georgia for a second time, and the Bulldogs proved far more competent, particularly with their second crack at LSU’s defense, but Burrow and Co. still emerged victorious. Ultimately, the only changed result was Georgia walloping Oklahoma in the quarterfinals to keep the lackluster Sooners out of the semis, while we also saw an Ohio State-Oregon thriller in the first round. Clemson edged out the Buckeyes in the semis once again, and they pushed LSU to the edge, leading into the fourth quarter, but Burrow put the Tigers on his shoulders and grinded out the victory. 

The 6-year Recap

Ultimately, with six years of an 8-team playoff, we saw three different champions crowned (in 2014,2016, and 2017).We saw just two editions of the Bama-Clemson rivalry and a few shocking quarterfinal upsets, including UCF’s stunner over Clemson, and a pair of victories from the #7 seeds. We witnessed a miracle championship run from #6 Michigan in 2016, before ending our simulation with two of the greatest teams of all time triumphing over expanded fields in 2018 and 2019. 

The initial results of the addition of quarterfinals to the Playoff seemed not great on the surface as only 25% (6/24) first-round contests were decided by one possession. However, even if the quarterfinal clashes were somewhat lopsided at times, they led to more competitive semifinals, as 7 of our 12 semifinal games were decided by 8 points or less. To this date, only three of 12 actual CFP semifinals have been decided by a single score. This note, plus the fact that two of our simulated champions were teams that were actually left out of the Playoff, serves as yet another plug for the Playoff to be expanded in the near future.

NBA Draft Feature: Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State

For our next NBA Draft feature, we’re headed to the ACC and one of the best shooting guards in the country – Florida State’s Devin Vassell. The Seminoles have one of the deepest teams in the nation, so although Vassell’s 12.7 points per game may not pop off the page, it’s actually extremely impressive on a team that runs nine or ten men deep.

Shooting at a 49% clip, Vassell is a versatile and efficient player. He shot 41.5% from three-point range on the season, and he also collected 5.1 boards per contest. Considering he only played a little over 28 minutes per game, Vassell’s numbers are impressive, and the lack of sheer volume has him sitting lower on the draft boards than his worth. Vassell is likely a mid-first round pick, and if you can pick this guy up after the first ten picks, you’ll be getting exceptional slot value.

Top Games

Undoubtedly, Vassell’s best game this season was his season-high 27-point performance against Virginia Tech. Vassell earned his points in his usual efficient manner, but he was particularly on point against the Hokies. Firing on all cylinders, the 6’6 sophomore connected on all seven of his attempts from beyond the arc in leading the Seminoles to a big road victory.
Vassell also posted a double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds) in an overtime victory versus Miami, and he was Florida State’s main source of offense in a defensive slog against Virginia – the Georgia product torched the Cavaliers for 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists in a 54-50 victory.

Projection

Vassell’s role in Florida State’s defensive system, as well as his quietly efficient scoring clip, could help him carve out a role at the next level. His biggest weaknesses according to scouts are scoring volume and assists, but again, much of the volume issues are due to the Florida State system not being conducive to gaudy statistics. His defense and steady consistent play should make him a valuable asset in this year’s draft. He may not be putting up 25 a night, but Vassell has a spot in the NBA, so it’s just a matter of which team takes advantage of his talent.

Prediction: Round 1, Pick 15, Orlando Magic

Obviously, with the draft lottery having not happened yet, the pick order is still a bit of a mystery, so this is based off the records at the time of the sports shutdown. The Magic figure to fall into that mid-first round range that Vassell should go in, and Orlando could use Vassell as an intriguing complement to the offensively talented Evan Fournier. Plus, there’s the added benefit of keeping the FSU guard in-state and comfortable, which can be a big factor in success at the professional level.

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #5: The 1994 Orange Bowl Produced A Classic

Sliding in at #5 on our list is the 1993 Orange Bowl, which decided the national championship at the end of a spectacular college football season. It was played between preseason favorite Florida State and perennial powerhouse Nebraska, and it was an absolute classic, featuring elite defense, no lead of more than eight points, and a spectacular finish. 

Florida State entered the year as the preseason #1 in the AP Poll, and the Seminoles justified the ranking with their level of play in the early stages of the season. They slaughtered Kansas and Duke, 42-0 and 45-7, to start the year. After that, Florida State took on consecutive ranked opponents and hardly broke a sweat, dismantling #17 Clemson 57-0, and travelling to #13 North Carolina and emerged with a 33-7 victory. After a 51-0 drubbing of Georgia Tech, the Seminoles had a glistening 5-0 record, having given up just two touchdowns. They hosted #3 Miami the following week in a huge rivalry contest, but the Hurricanes simply could not match their in-state rivals, as Florida State cruised once more, winning 28-10. They then massacred #15 Virginia by 26 points before dismantling another pair of unranked opponents. 

That led the Seminoles into the Game of the Century against #2 Notre Dame. It was by far their toughest test of the season to date, as the Irish jumped all over the Seminoles, leading 24-7 in the fourth quarter. Florida State cut it to 31-24, but they could not complete the comeback, suffering a loss that seemingly destroyed their national championship hopes. However, the following week, Notre Dame suffered an upset loss to Boston College, and Florida State throttled NC State, returning the Seminoles to the #1 ranking. They finished up their season with a 33-21 rivalry victory over Florida, clinching a spot in the Orange Bowl, which would decide the national championship. 

Meanwhile, Nebraska had been a perennial power under head coach Tom Osborne, accumulating a 195-46-3 record over 20 seasons. Despite his stunningly consistent success, Osborne had not yet won a national title with the Cornhuskers, getting as high as #2, but never climbing the last step. In ‘93, Nebraska started the year at #8, and they slapped 76 points on the scoreboard in their opening victory over North Texas, then another 50 on Texas Tech. They were held to 14 points at UCLA, but they held on for a 14-13 victory in Pasadena. They followed it up with victories over Colorado State, Oklahoma State, a ranked Kansas State team, and Missouri. 

The Cornhuskers, sitting at 7-0 and #6 in the country, travelled to Colorado for their toughest contest of the regular season, taking on the #20 Buffaloes and holding off a late surge from the hosts to win 21-17. Nebraska may have breathed too big a sigh of relief, and they nearly suffered a shocker at Kansas the following week, scraping by 21-20. After that the Cornhuskers put up 49 points on Iowa State and then held #16 Oklahoma to seven to complete an undefeated regular season. While they didn’t win with the same style as Florida State did for most of the year, the results were still there, as they ended the year 11-0 and advanced to the Orange Bowl to fight for the national championship. 

The game took place on January 1, 1994, a year after the same two teams had competed in the Orange Bowl, albeit with far less on the line. The Seminoles had won that one, 27-14, and they entered this contest as massive favorites, with some lines rising as high as 17 ½ points. However, the game was anything but a blowout. Both teams featured spectacular offenses, and the Seminoles were considered to have the better defense, but both defensive units rose to the occasion. 81,536 roaring fans flocked to Miami for the contest, and despite the Seminoles having a massive home-field advantage, neither team notched a point in the first quarter. In what was an indication of things to come, Florida State kicker Scott Bentley booted a field goal for the first points of the game in the second quarter. Bentley added another field goal, but it was only after Nebraska quarterback Tommy Frazier delivered a 25-yard touchdown pass, sending the Cornhuskers to the locker room up 7-6 in a defensive duel. 

Florida State would regain the lead in the third quarter when running back William Floyd bullied into the end zone from a yard out, but the ensuing 2-point conversion failed, keeping the lead at 12-7. Bentley drilled yet another field goal to increase the lead to eight, but the game was hardly over as the two teams played into the fourth quarter.

Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips cut into the advantage, sprinting for a 12-yard touchdown run, but the attempted game-tying conversion was short, and Nebraska remained down by two points. They then held the Seminoles in check, and drove deep into Florida State territory. The Cornhuskers got to the 10-yard line, but they could not advance further. Byron Bennett nailed a 27-yarder, and Nebraska led 16-15, with 1:16 remaining. However, Heisman winner and FSU quarterback Charlie Ward engineered a fantastic drive that culminated in Bentley kicking one more field goal with 21 seconds left. It would be the game-winner, but not without a dose of drama first. 

An excessive celebration penalty on FSU plus a good kickoff return allowed Nebraska to set up shop on their own 43-yard line, albeit with very little time to work with. Frazier connected with tight end Trumane Bell for 29 yards, but the clock hit zero, supposedly ending the game. Florida State doused head coach Bobby Bowden in gatorade and rushed the field, but the referees conferred and determined that Bell was down with a second left on the clock. Controversy raged, but Nebraska setup for a 45-yard field goal. What almost became one of the most controversial finishes in history ended with a horrific field goal attempt, hooked well to the left, sending the Seminoles into raucous celebration for the second time, and putting an end to a classic. 

The Aftermath

The national championship was not only a classic contest, it featured a lot of NFL talent on the field. Nebraska had 21 players from their 1993 roster eventually play in the NFL, while the Seminoles had 14, including 6 draft picks in the ‘94 draft, led by first-round pick Floyd. Ironically, Ward, Florida State’s best player, did not play in the NFL, but that’s not because he didn’t have the opportunity. Ward was drafted in football, basketball, and baseball. He declared he would only pursue the NFL if he was a first round pick, but he was not selected there, and so he pursued a career with the New York Knicks, who took him in the first round of that year’s NBA Draft. He played ten years in the NBA. 

Both teams won titles in the near future, with Nebraska going undefeated in 1994 and completing the task by beating Miami in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. Florida State returned to the top of the football world in 1999 and again in 2013. This past season was the first time since 1976 that the Seminoles were unranked the entire year.

January 28, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

We are back with the third edition of our power rankings, and while the top of our rankings stayed largely the same, there was some significant movers. We highlighted the major movers here, but be sure to check out the full top 10 (and honorable mention) below!

Biggest Riser: Villanova

Biggest Faller: Michigan State

Dropped Out: Michigan State

Joined The Ranks: Villanova, Seton Hall, West Virginia, Dayton

Honorable Mention 

  • West Virginia (Last week: Not ranked)
  • Seton Hall (Last week: Not ranked)
  • Kentucky (Last week: Honorable Mention)

#10 – Dayton Flyers (Last Week: Not Ranked)

  • The Flyers appeared on just one of our ballots last week, but they got the nod in three of four ballots this week, after they dismantled St. Bonaventures and took down a solid Richmond squad on the road. An under-the-radar mid-major due to the success of San Diego State, the Flyers have their eyes on the Atlantic 10 title and an NCAA tournament run. 

#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 9)

  • Oregon choked up a late lead before surviving in overtime against USC, and they followed that up with a dominant victory over a struggling UCLA squad. We didn’t learn too much about the Ducks, as we already knew they were extremely good at home (12-0) so the Ducks tread water at #9 until further notice. 

#8 – Villanova Wildcats (Last Week: Not Ranked)

  • The Wildcats shot up our rankings, after being little more than an afterthought on last week’s ballots. Villanova looked absolutely dominant in beating #16 Butler by 15 points, and they edged out Providence for a key road conference win to secure their sixth straight win. They are our biggest risers of the week, joining the rankings for the first time this year at #8. 
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

#7 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 5)

  • The Blue Devils drop due very little to their own doings. They played one game against a horrendous Miami team and won handily, but their elite ACC competition had more wins against better competition, and so Duke slides two more spots to #7 this week. 

#6 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 7)

  • The Aztecs continue to win and continue to climb. In a prior mid-major report, we identified their road game at New Mexico as a potential trap game. The Lobos have struggled recently, but they are 13-0 at home, so whether the Aztecs continue their climb up the rankings remains to be seen. 

#5 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: 6)

  • There are two ways to look at Florida State’s lone game and win of the week – an 85-84 thriller over Notre Dame. One is a really close game against a below-average ACC squad. The other way is a gutsy finish against a resilient team that plays everyone close. We tended to side with the latter, as the Seminoles won their twelfth straight to move up a notch on the ladder. 
Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: 4) – 1 First Place Vote

  • The ACC-leaders looked shaky in holding off Georgia Tech before rebounding with one of their most complete performances of the year against Clemson. The Cardinals utilized a 20-0 run to seize control and dominated the upstart Tigers for their sixth straight victory. They are holding off Florida State, but they’ll need to keep winning if they want the top seed in the ACC tournament because the Seminoles aren’t backing down. 

#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: 1) – 1 First Place Vote

  • Gonzaga slid in the AP Poll out of the #1 slot, and they slide here, largely due to their weak schedule. It’s hard to make a statement when you beat every team in your conference by 20 or 30 points, and that’s exactly Gonzaga’s issue currently. Whereas other top teams are winning huge statement games, the Bulldogs are cruising through the West Coast conference, beating up on a cupcake schedule. 

#2 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #3) 

  • The Jayhawks haven’t lost since their home defeat to Baylor, but they’ll play second-fiddle to the Bears in these rankings. They showed flashes of brilliance in putting away Tennessee, and they sandwiched that outing with dominant performances versus Kansas State and Oklahoma State. They’re a legitimate national title contender. 

#1 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #2) – 2 First Place Votes

  • Baylor shut down a lot of haters with a dominant performance at an unranked Florida team. The #1 team in the nation, the Bears entered the game as 2-point underdogs. They played with a chip on their shoulder and stifled the Gators to the tune of a 72-61 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. With 15 straight wins, the Bears finally rise to the top of our Power Rankings.

Saturday’s ACC Recaps and Takeaways

The ACC was busy on Saturday, but there were a few yawners before a Notre Dame-Florida State thriller ended the day. Recaps and takeaways are here, as well as the one Sunday game still to be played in the conference.

Louisville 80 Clemson 62

The Game: Darius Perry scored 19 points, Samuell Williamson chipped in 14 points off the bench, and Louisville went on a 17-0 run in the first half to put away the Tigers with ease, the game never coming closer than 13 points in the second half. 

The Takeaway: Clemson is not a legitimate ACC contender. The Tigers had their inspiring underdog week, when they snapped a 59-game road losing streak to UNC and beat Duke at home, but they’ve lost two of three since then, and I don’t see the Tigers making any serious run in the ACC Tournament. 

UNC 94 Miami 71

The Game: Brandon Robinson balled out with 29 points for the Tar Heels, Armando Bacot had a double-double as UNC put up 51 points in the second half and rolled versus Miami to break  a 6-game skid. 

The Takeaway: Miami is the worst team in the ACC. They’ve lost 6 of 7 games with five of those losses by 16 or more points and three by 20+. They entered the day in a tie for last in the ACC with UNC, and they were run off the court by the Tar Heels, clearly highlighting their struggles to be competitive this year. 

Syracuse 69 Pittsburgh 61

The Game: Buddy Boeheim put up 21 points, Marek Dolezaj notched 17 points, and the Orange stayed hot, putting away the Panthers at home for their fifth straight ACC win. 

The Takeaway: Syracuse’s ability to win in different ways could be huge in March. The Orange beat Notre Dame in a shootout 84-82, but they relied on their defense to win on Saturday. During their current winning streak, four of their five wins have been 8 or less points – come March, their ability to win ugly close games could be clutch. 

Boston College 61 Virginia Tech 56

The Game: BC got 23 points from Jairus Hamilton and outscored the Hokies 35-25 in the second half to overcome a halftime deficit and win at home. 

The Takeaway: We have no idea what to expect out of BC. The Eagles beat Wake Forest and Notre Dame to start ACC play, but they lost four of their next five conference games, losing by 39, 18, 19, and 26 points. They lost to Pitt earlier in this week, but won today as an underdog – in conclusion? BC might be the worst or best team on your schedule depending on what version of the Eagles shows up.

Florida State 85 Notre Dame 84

The Recap: Highlighted by Wyatt Wilke’s 19 points 5 for 6 shooting performance from long range off the bench, Florida State shot 12/18 from deep as a team and held off a furious comeback by Notre Dame, who missed four shots in the final 15 seconds. 

The Takeaway: Notre Dame is the best in the country at almost making huge comebacks. As the final Irish shot fell short of its mark, John Mooney grabbed the ball and hucked it at the base of the hoop in frustration. The Irish fell to 2-5 in one possession game and have lost four games in ACC play by a total of 7 points. In all four games, the Irish came back from a double-digit deficit only to lose it in the final seconds. 

ACC Status Report: Syracuse and NC State rise, Irish and Cavaliers fall

I don’t think there’s been much shift at the top in the ACC – I still view Louisville, Duke, and Florida State as the three favorites, but there were some performances that merited a second look as teams jockey for conference tournament position and potentially a spot in the NCAA field come March.

  • Biggest Risers: Syracuse, NC State
    After initially listing Virginia as a dark-horse candidate, I believe the Wolfpack became the ‘best of the rest’ in the ACC outside the aforementioned top 3. This past week, they ended Clemson’s surprising hot streak and edged Virginia on the road.
    I also think Syracuse made a statement this week – in my eyes, the Orange definitely put themselves squarely in consideration for an at-large bid come March. I still don’t see them contending for an ACC title, but they had some really gutsy wins that have them riding a four-game winning streak. They beat Virginia Tech on the road, and then they proved they could win without Buddy Boeheim, beating the Irish on the road 84-82. It was an impressive performance from a team that had lost to Notre Dame at home just two weeks earlier.
  • Biggest Fallers: Virginia, Notre Dame
    Both of these squads played victim to the risers this week. The defending national champions started conference play 3-0 and had me thinking this could be a team that would make another deep run, but they’ve lost four of five, including at home to the Wolfpack and the Orange. Their trademark defense keeps them in games, but this team has lost a lot of offensive firepower, and while they’ll likely make the tournament, I’m highly doubting they make a run.
    The Irish’s quest to reclaim some respect in the ACC took another hit with their home loss to Syracuse. They are 2-5 in ACC play, with the last four of those losses coming by a combined 11 points. With a star in John Mooney, the Irish are staying competitive, but they lack the finishing touch of a perennial winner, and that may plague them if they can’t figure it out soon.
  • QUICK HITS
    The ACC is still one of the best conferences, if not the best conference, in America, and they are loaded with Final Four contenders at the top of the standings. I see the ACC putting 8 teams in the tournament, and my prediction is that those teams will be Duke, Louisville, Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia, and Notre Dame. Right outside the picture, I have Clemson and Pittsburgh.
    I’m declaring 4 ACC teams dead in the NCAA Tournament picture, and those teams are UNC, Miami, Wake Forest, and Boston College.
  • Biggest Upcoming Games
    Notre Dame @ #5 Florida State
    Pittsburgh @ Syracuse
    Clemson @ #6 Louisville

January 20, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

After a crazy week in college basketball, Cal, Nathaniel, Andrew, and Aidan put together the second version of our NCAA Basketball Power Rankings. Florida State was one of several risers, while Auburn very nearly crashed out of the rankings. Butler dropped from #8 to off the list entirely, and Ohio State fell from honorable mention to not mentioned as their Big 10 slump continued.

POWER RANKINGS

Biggest Riser: Florida State 

Biggest Faller: Auburn

Dropped out: Butler, Ohio State

Honorable Mention: Kentucky (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

The Rankings

#10 – Auburn Tigers (Last week: #4)

  • The Tigers are far less scary than they were a week ago, having been blown out twice by unranked SEC teams in Alabama and Florida. The Tigers are still 15-2, but they have some major questions to answer, and another loss could very well drop Auburn out of the rankings. 

#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 9)

  • Oregon lost a tough road game to Washington State, but they had a big comeback at Washigton to win 64-61 in overtime. That, plus a crazy week in college basketball, keeps the Ducks in the rankings. They’ll be home both games this week with a chance to start climbing. 

#8 – Michigan State Spartans (Last Week: 6)

  • As mentioned last week, the Spartans were given the #6 slot right before they got ripped apart by Purdue. A win at home over Wisconsin kept them in the rankings, but they slide nonetheless. This team is too dependent on Cassius Winston, and they’ll look to find a secondary source of scoring. 
San Diego State guard KJ Feagin (10) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nevada, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

#7 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 10) 

  • The Aztecs won two more times this week and took advantage of all the losses at the top of the rankings to move up three slots to #7 this week. In this past week’s Mid-Major report, we identified San Diego’s biggest trap game as their road game at New Mexico, which may be the game that prevents them from going unbeaten. 

#6 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • The Seminoles are quietly establishing themselves as a top ACC contender. They won two close ones this week, taking down Virginia at home and Miami on the road. They are now 6-1 in ACC play, which was enough to be our biggest riser of the week. 

#5 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 1)

  • It was quite the dropoff from last week for the Blue Devils. Last week, we were discussing that if not for the Blue Devils’ upset loss to Stephen F. Austin, they would be undefeated and potentially could stay that way throughout the year. One week later, and Duke is nursing a two-game losing streak, to Clemson and Louisville, and have fallen four spots in this week’s power rankings. 

#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: #7) – 1 first place vote

  • The Cardinals were another big riser this week, largely courtesy of their huge road upset of the Blue Devils. It was their third straight conference road victory, and their fourth straight overall. The Cardinals are rising in the ACC and national picture, with their recent upset, they’re looking like a bona fide Final Four contender. 
Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) brings the ball up court against Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

#3 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #2)

  • Kansas didn’t lose this week, but they looked less than impressive in closing out a mediocre Texas team, resulting in their slight slip in the rankings. The Jayhawks are still an elite team in this country, and their defense has looked the part, but their shooting woes may plague them down the stretch. 

#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #5) – 1 first place vote

  • The Bears may have caught a little disrespect from our ranking last week coming off their big win against Kansas. They responded this week with an easy win over Iowa State and a gutsy comeback versus Oklahoma State. Their offense, a prior concern, has established some small level of consistency, and their defense remains elite. 

#1 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week #3) – 2 first place votes

  • BYU gave Gonzaga their biggest challenge of the past two weeks – and they lost by 23 points. Gonzaga has been absolutely dominant, possibly exemplified no more than in their 50-point win over a 15-3 Santa Clara team. West Coast Conference or not, this team is legit, and they’re our #1 squad this week.