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ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Week 16: Zion controls the paint, FSU keeps winning and Dre Hunter stays hot

There’s a lot to get to in this week’s rankings. Quick, before Wake Forest gives up another wide-open 3-pointer, let’s dive right in.

 

No. 1 Duke

A week the started with a historical comeback at Louisville, concluded with an electric home win over NC State. In the win over the Wolfpack, RJ Barrett notched a triple-double, the fourth in program history: 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists (zero turnovers). The majority of Barrett’s assists went to — of course — Zion Williamson, who was on the receiving end of six dimes from the lefty.

Williamson was incredible again: 32 points (12-of-16 FGA), 36 percent usage rate, three steals and three offensive rebounds. Duke was +25 with Zion on the floor (29 minutes), too. This was Williamson’s 10th game with three or more steals, and his 17th game with two or more steals. He also shot 12-of-14 on attempts at the rim (85.7 FG%), including three dunks. It was his 14th game with two or more dunks.

According to Synergy Sports, Williamson is now scoring 1.32 points per possession in transition on 83 percent shooting. He’s the only Division I player (minimum 50 possessions) shooting above 80 percent in transition. Against NC State, Williamson continued his dominance on the block: 5-of-6 on post-up attempts.

For the season, Zion is now shooting 77 percent on post-ups and has scored 1.3 points per possession, according to Synergy — both of which are No. 1 in the nation.

Next up: UNC.

 

No. 2 Virginia

Similar to Duke, Virginia picked up a key comeback victory midweek on the road against a top-25 foe, and then returned home for a weekend victory — hanging on to defeat a frisky Notre Dame squad, 60-54.

This wasn’t the best game for the usually-excellent Ty Jerome, who struggled against Notre Dame’s zone: 0-of-6 on 2-point field goal attempts, three turnovers. Virginia scored just 0.98 points per possession, one of just four games this season when UVA has scored under one point per possession. Thankfully for Tony Bennett, he has a stud like De’Andre Hunter to throw the ball to for easy offense.

With a three deadly 3-point shooters and crisp ball movement, Virginia is a tough team to zone. So far this season, UVA has scored 0.96 points per possession (52.2 eFG%) against zone defenses, per Synergy. Early on, Hunter, an excellent face-up/midrange scorer, got to work at the nail. Square up to the hoop, triple threat position, rocker step, lift and launch — this is vintage Hunter.

Hunter went 4-of-7 (57.1 FG%) from 7-20 feet. The future lottery pick now has an effective shooting rate of just under 56 percent on half-court jump shots, per Synergy. Of course, when Notre Dame exited its zone in the second half, Hunter had no problems cooking 1-on-1.

Virginia’s talisman on offense, Hunter (24.5 percent usage vs. Notre Dame) can be positioned anywhere on the floor and cause destruction. When Braxton Key entered the game, Hunter drifted from the nail to the wing and continued to shread Notre Dame. (46.3 3P%, 68.2 eFG% on catch-and-shoots)

This next look comes from more good zone offense from the Cavaliers. Jerome occupies the weak side of the floor while Hunter and Kyle Guy overload the strong side; there aren’t enough defenders to properly matchup. Kihei Clark’s pass to Guy at the wing puts D.J. Harvey in a no-win situation: a hard closeout on Guy makes for an easy look to Hunter in the corner.

Here’s another zone look with Hunter and Guy on the same side of the floor and Mamadi Diakite in the dunker spot along the baseline. Hunter uses his drive game and easily splits the gap in Notre Dame’s zone. When Juwan Durham commits up, Hunter hits Diakite for another spike. Passing and play-making will never be Hunter’s strong suit, but he drives with his head up and has absolutely showcased the ability to create open looks for others this season.

 

No. 3 North Carolina

Well, things got out of hand quickly on Saturday in Winston-Salem as UNC shook off the loss to UVA by blowing the doors off of Wake Forest. North Carolina started the game on an 18-0 run (lol), and never looked back — handing Wake the most-lopsided defeat in the history of the Joel Coliseum.

Amazingly, this wasn’t North Carolina playing its top-shelf brand of offensive basketball, either. The Heels went just 3-of-11 from the free throw line and recorded 15 turnovers (20.3 percent turnover rate). And yet, they still scored 1.28 points per possession. That’s because UNC shot the heck out of the basketball: 75.4 effective shooting rate.

The last time UNC posted a single-game effective shooting rate above 75 percent was way, way back in Nov. 2007 — a win over Old Dominion, out in Las Vegas.

With Cameron Johnson once again leading the way, UNC splashed 16 3-pointers, including seven triples from the graduate student. According to Synergy, UNC went 11-of-16 (68.8 3P%) on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts.

North Carolina currently ranks seventh nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom; the Heels are the second fastest team in the country, too — 14.2 seconds per offensive possession. As the rotation starts to solidify, and injuries heal, this team can be as dangerous as anyone come March.

Up next: You Know Who.

 

No. 4 Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech went 2-0 last week with single-digit-points victories over Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for the Hokies, the absence of point guard Justin Robinson continues to loom, especially for Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

Without Robinson, Alexander-Walker is forced to play a more ball-dominant role; the offense now flows through Kerry Blackshear Jr. and NAW. That’s not a bad setup, either; both of those guys are really good. Tech still scored 1.1 points per possession in the win over Pitt, thanks to 10 3-pointers (47.6 3P%); however, Alexander-Walker had his troubles. A likely first round pick come June, NAW scored just nine points (2-of-5 FGA) and coughed up three turnovers. (He also dealt with foul trouble, too.)

In the five games since Robinson left the lineup, Alexander-Walker has shot just 36 percent from the field (32.1 2P%) and averaged nearly five turnovers per 36 minutes.

Blackshear was outstanding against the Panthers, though. The veteran big scored 29 points (10-of-11 FTA, 3-of-3 3PA), grabbed six offensive rebounds and (14.6 offensive rebound rate in ACC play, No. 1 in the league) and handed out three assists, too.

Blackshear hit two pick-and-pop 3-pointers and went 3-of-4 on attempts after a post-up or offensive rebound. Buzz Williams and Tech need Blackshear to continuously bring his diverse offensive profile to the table, especially with Robinson on the mend.

Another positive takeaway for Virginia Tech: Assuming Robinson returns for a stretch run, the Hokies have at least three guys capable of starting or finishing a play.

 

No. 5 Florida State

After last week’s dunkapalooza win over Wake Forest, Florida State continued to assault the rim — eight more dunks — and win ballgames: 69-47 over Georgia Tech. This wasn’t Florida State’s best offensive game (0.94 points per possession), but freshman Devin Vassell brought good minutes off the bench: 11 points (one dunk, 2-of-3 3PA) and two steals.

FSU has won seven straight games as the Seminoles have fattened up against an easier stretch of its schedule; four of those victories have come against ACC teams outside the top 70 of KenPom.

The win over Georgia Tech was a dominant defensive performance against a bad offense. FSU, which blocked six shots (16.7 percent block rate), held Tech to a minuscule 0.64 points per possession, one of the best outings this program has put up under Leonard Hamilton. Florida State is now up to No. 16 nationally in weighted defensive efficiency.

 

No. 6 Louisville

Well, it certainly wasn’t pretty, but Louisville rebounded from its collapse against Duke with a tight 56-55 win over Clemson. On Saturday, Louisville struggled mightily to hit shots (31.6 3P%, 40.7 eFG%) and scored under 0.81 points per possession, easily the worst offensive performance so far under Chris Mack.

Obviously, a win over Clemson is nothing to sneeze at; however, similar to the Duke game, the Cards looked incredibly shaky against the press. Now in 13 ACC games, Louisville has just one game with a sub-15 percent turnover rate — 17.3 percent against Clemson.

All that said, this is still a really good team that has shot at a top-four seed in the ACC Tournament. Take a deep breath, and get ready Syracuse (away) and UVA (back home).

 

No. 7 NC State

This week was a bit of a roller coaster for NC State. Serious off-court problems from Eric Lockett and the mystery surrounding Sacha Killeya-Jones were met with a 1-1 record, including a 15-point home win over Syracuse.

Despite the loss at Duke, there are plenty of positives NC State can take from Saturday’s defeat in Durham. Even with a size disparity that became more uneven due to foul trouble with Wyatt Walker and D.J. Funderburk, the Wolfpack didn’t scare in that game.

Markell Johnson was solid as a pick-and-roll decision-maker (10 assists, 16 points); he even handled ball pressure from Tre Jones (three turnovers) about as well as any other lead guard has so far this season. That’s high praise. Torin Dorn and C.J. Bryce were solid, too, combining for 30 points.

NC State has two home games this week against two of the league’s weaker teams: Boston College and Wake Forest. After that, it’s FSU, Georgia Tech and Boston College. The Pack has a chance to really improve its conference win-loss column with some crucial late-season victories.

 

No. 8 Clemson

For my money, there’s nothing more emblematic of Brad Brownell’s time at Clemson that what happened last week. The Tigers sputtered offensively (0.79 points per possession at Louisville) and lost two games by a combined two points. Think about that for a second. Factor in the Braxton Beverly buzzer-beater a few weeks back and three of Clemson’s seven ACC losses have come by a combined four points.

For a team that’s on the absolute cusp of an NCAA Tournament berth — Bracket Matrix currently has the Tigers as a 12 seed — these results are critical. Clemson has six regular season games on its schedule, including two home games this week (FSU, Boston College). It’s time for Brownell’s club to win a few of these close games.

 

No. 9 Syracuse

Syracuse played just one game last week — losing by 15 at NC State. Offensively, this team continues to be bland and pretty awful (49.4 eFG%). Without much perimeter shooting (32.2 3P%), Syracuse needs Elijah Hughes, badly, to hit shots.

The schedule really picks up this week, too, although both games will take place at the Carrier Dome: No. 18 Louisville and No. 1 Duke.

 

No. 10 Notre Dame

There’s no surprise that the Saturday matchup of Notre Dame at Virginia produced one of the slower games of the weekend: 61 possessions. Virginia (20.7 seconds per possessions) and Notre Dame (1.83 seconds per possession) are two of the more methodical offenses in the country.

T.J. Gibbs and D.J. Harvey got off to a decent start for Notre Dame, scoring 20 of the team’s first 22 points. However, UVA held John Mooney mostly in check, and Gibbs and Harvey — along with Prentiss Hubb — were forced to hit tough shots late in the clock. That’s a recipe for disaster against Virginia, hence the 0.89 points per possession (26.7 3P%).

That said, Notre Dame hung tough and nearly pulled off an upset on the road. This team, man, it just won’t quit on Mike Brey.

Gibbs has gone through a bit of an up-and-down season; however, the junior guard bookended the Virginia game with two nice scoring flurries. He finished with 17 points (3-of-8 3PA), three assists and two steals. Gibbs did a little bit of everything, too: floaters in the lane, attacked Jack Salt on a switch at one point and found an open 3-pointer in transition. This dude has serious range.

 

No. 11 Miami

Miami can only go where Chris Lykes can take them. That’s reductive analysis, but it’s true, too. When he’s off, Miami really can’t find enough offense to win, which is what happened at Boston College on Sunday.

Lykes (26 percent usage rate) finished with 10 points on just 3-of-15 (0-8 3PA) shooting. The Canes are now 3-8 in the 11 games when Lykes has shot under 42 percent from the field. Lykes has scored 10 or fewer points in only four games this season; however, Miami is winless in those contests.

 

No. 12 Pittsburgh

Conference play continues to be rather unkind to an otherwise fun Pittsburgh team. The Panthers have dropped nine straight games (2-11 ACC) and have lost 10 of their last 11 games. According to KenPom, Pitt’s weight offensive efficiency has fallen off a cliff in ACC action: 97.6 points per 100 possessions, 12th in the league.

As Jeff Capel reminded everyone after the weekend loss to Virginia Tech, this is a long rebuild process he and his staff have in front of them.

Despite the struggles, it’s been enjoyable to watch Pitt’s young backcourt find its footing. Point guard Xavier Johnson is asked to do a lot — likely too much; he leads the ACC is usage rate during conference play (31.6 percent). He’s drawn six fouls per 40 minutes against ACC competition, along with a 31.6 percent assist rate.

(I also loved this move from Johnson against the Hokies. Johnson dribbles to the wing as if he getting ready to pass the ball off on a garden variety dribble handoff. Instead, however, he catches VT napping — by keeping his dribble, faking the DHO and getting to the rim. This is an next-level type play from Johnson. Even Tech’s help-side defense is too slow to react.)

 

No. 13 Boston College

Ky Bowman had arguably his worst offensive game of the season on Sunday, but Boston College was still able to claim victory over Miami. Junior big Nik Popovic stepped up with 15 points (5-of-7 FGA at the rim) and 14 rebounds. Elsewhere, Jordan Chatman (37.6 3P% in ACC play) splashed three 3-pointers.

Boston College has now won two straight games — for the second time since the start of ACC play — and in both of last week’s games, the Eagles held opponents to under 0.9 points per possessions.

 

No. 14 Georgia Tech

In terms of adjusted offensive efficiency during ACC play, Georgia Tech ranks dead last, per KenPom: 86.7 points per 100 possessions.

The Yellow Jackets managed under 0.65 points per possession in the loss to Florida State, which light-your-hair-on-fire bad. It’s also the fifth time this season Tech has been held under 0.75 points per possession; Florida State is now responsible for two of those games.

 

No. 15 Wake Forest

Ah, yes. The weekly tradition/evaluation of Just How Far Can Wake Forest Fall? Last week, the Demon Deacons dropped two games in increasingly embarrassing fashion — falling to FSU (14 dunks allowed) and UNC (16 3-pointers allowed) by a combined 60 points.

Wake Forest was helpless against the Tar Heels, who handed the Demon Deacons the worst loss in the history of the LJVM Coliseum.

But don’t worry, folks. Basketball coach Danny Manning, who has spent his entire life around the game of basketball, has all the answers. Or, well, something like that.

 

Contributor Rankings

 David GlennBrian GeisingerJosh GrahamConsensus
1DukeDukeDukeDuke
2VirginiaVirginiaVirginiaVirginia
3UNCUNCUNCUNC
4Florida StateVirginia TechFlorida StateFlorida State
5LouisvilleFlorida StateLouisvilleLouisville
6Virginia TechLouisvilleVirginia TechVirginia Tech
7NC StateNC StateSyracuseNC State
8SyracuseClemsonNC StateSyracuse
9ClemsonSyracuseClemsonClemson
10Notre DameNotre DameNotre DameNotre Dame
11Boston CollegeMiamiBoston CollegeBoston College
12MiamiPittMiamiMiami
13PittBoston CollegeGeorgia TechPitt
14Georgia TechGeorgia TechPittGeorgia Tech
15Wake ForestWake ForestWake ForestWake Forest

 

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