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ACC men's basketball power rankings: Duke debuts in top spot ahead of conference play

Paolo Banchero's team-leading 18.3 points per game have the Blue Devils in a groove.
Paolo Banchero's team-leading 18.3 points per game have the Blue Devils in a groove.

After a thrilling first few weeks of college basketball, only this week's ACC-Big Ten Challenge remains on the schedule before ACC teams start facing off against one another. With nearly a month of play to look back upon and much more still ahead, our beats are here to give you The Chronicle's inaugural Power Rankings of each team vying for the ACC crown:

1. Duke (7-0)

Duke is rolling. After a big win against then-No. 10 Kentucky to start the season, the Blue Devils have remained undefeated. And the biggest cherry on top came Friday night against No. 1 Gonzaga, when Duke unleashed the trio of Wendell Moore Jr., Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams to upset the Bulldogs in Las Vegas. Banchero and Moore are both averaging at least 17.9 points per game, and Williams’ paint presence has been dominant the past four games. I know the ACC is down this year, but that shouldn’t put any less weight on Duke being No. 1 in these power rankings. This team is the real deal. -Jake Piazza

2. Virginia Tech (5-2)

The Hokies are no powerhouse, but they have competed to the final seconds with top-25 teams. After dominating five weak nonconference opponents, Virginia Tech faced No. 9 Memphis and No. 25 Xavier in back-to-back games. Virginia Tech lost both, but by slim margins—eight points against Memphis and one against Xavier. The Hokies even had the lead against Xavier with 25 seconds left in regulation, but Xavier pulled ahead and a last-second jumper from guard Hunter Catoor would not fall.

Regardless of the outcome, Virginia Tech impressed against the nation’s best. In an otherwise weak ACC, that’s enough to put them in the conference’s top two. -Glen Morgenstern

3. North Carolina (4-2)

So far the headlines for this North Carolina team include a close call with Brown and two losses at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament—though to very talented and ranked teams. First-year head coach Hubert Davis is being given a run for his money so far in North Carolina’s extremely difficult nonconference slate with Michigan and UCLA still to come. This is clearly a Tar Heel team that has a bit to figure out as strong individual performances from Armando Bacot, Brady Manek, RJ Davis, Dawson Garcia and Caleb Love just haven’t aligned to give them that premier win. 

Thus far, Davis’ team has been a bit of a disappointment, and I’m not confident that they will end up being a top team in the conference come the meat of this season, but here they are ranked third since the rest of the conference has been even more of a disappointment. -Micah Hurewitz

4. Florida State (5-1)

Since falling 71-55 to Florida two weeks ago, it has been business as usual for Leonard Hamilton and company in the win-loss column. But pull back the curtain on this current four-game win streak, and some clear flaws emerge for the Seminoles. Florida State was outrebounded by Boston 34-32 last Wednesday, eventually needing a Matthew Cleveland putback to escape with a one-point victory. Add in a 65.4% mark from the charity stripe to go along with 14.7 turnovers per contest, and there is still a heck of a lot of work to do before conference play. As usual for a Hamilton-led team, though, the Seminoles are very balanced—six players, including leading scorer Malik Osbourne and Houston transfer Caleb Mills, average more than seven points per game.

By the end of the season, Florida State should be the clear second-best team in the conference. But those issues still need to be accounted for until that narrative fully emerges, and I had them at No. 2 in part due to the ACC’s struggles so far. A date with No. 3 Purdue Tuesday will enlighten us a bit on the Seminoles. -Max Rego

5. Louisville (5-1)

Outside of a puzzling overtime loss at home to Furman a few weeks ago, it’s been smooth sailing for the Cardinals early on, and what lies ahead looks even more promising. After earning three early wins with relative ease against overmatched opponents, Louisville nabbed a title at the Bahamas Championship with impressive wins against Mississippi State and Maryland. The Cardinals look the part, and they have done it without head coach Chris Mack, who returns this week from a six-game suspension ahead of a road showdown with Michigan State.

Just a few weeks ago, placing Louisville among the ACC’s top tier would have felt like a stretch. It’s early, but that no longer feels like the case: the Cardinals are answering the questions that kept them out of that conversation, oft-injured fifth-year forward Malik Williams looks good as new and there’s still plenty of room for growth. Look out for Louisville. -Jonathan Levitan

Complete rankings:

1. Duke

2. Virginia Tech

3. North Carolina

4. Florida State

5. Louisville

6. Virginia

7. North Carolina State

8. Georgia Tech

9. Wake Forest

10. Clemson

11. Syracuse

12. Notre Dame

13. Miami

14. Boston College

15. Pittsburgh


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