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ACC Basketball Rankings, Vol. 11: Louisville, Duke and FSU gear up for the stretch run

Let’s get going with this week’s ACC Basketball Power Rankings — with a detailed look at Louisville’s offense, Florida State’s dynamic duo and some quick numbers regarding Cole Anthony since his return to North Carolina’s lineup.

 

No. 1 Louisville

The offensive performance Louisville put forth against Virginia is another feather in this team’s cap: 1.36 points per possession. This marks just the fourth time under Tony Bennett that Virginia — an annual defensive juggernaut — has allowed more than 1.3 points per possession in a single game. (It’s the first time since since December 2013 that this has happened, too.)

Jordan Nwora was wonderfully efficient in this game. The junior sniper scored 22 points on 16 true shooting attempts (4-of-8 3PA) and failed to record a single turnover. As a team, Louisville turned the ball over just six times — a turnover rate of 10.2 percent. The win over Virginia was just the seventh time since the 2007-08 season that Louisville has posted a turnover rate under 12 percent and an effective shooting rate of at least 60 percent.

Also, David Johnson continued to do his thing: with five more assists against Virginia, he now has a 39 percent assist rate in ACC play. Johnson is very, very good.

 

No. 2 Duke

Duke just continues to respond when called upon. Over the last two weeks, the Blue Devils have won five straight games — including three consecutive on the road: Syracuse, Boston College and North Carolina — which was punctuated by Monday’s win over a top-10 Florida State squad. The win against FSU came a mere 48 hours after Duke’s emotional overtime victory at UNC. That’s remarkable stuff.

As usual, Duke’s versatility was on display: in the wins over BC, UNC and FSU, Mike Krzyzewski has downsized, at times. Duke has played extended minutes without either of its power forwards — Matthew Hurt and Jack White — on the floor. The smaller lineups have worked.

Instead Coach K chose to surround Vernon Carey Jr. with four guards/wings, which cleared the lane (some) for drives and pick-and-roll. Hurt is obviously an excellent floor-spacer, but he doesn’t have the same quick-drive game as Tre Jones, Cassius Stanley, Wendell Moore Jr. and Jordan Goldwire. (When VCJ fouled out with 4:16 left to play in regulation against UNC, Duke played the final 9:16 of that game with no true bigs on the floor.)

Speaking of Goldwire, man, he just continues to play great basketball. And after a lackluster performance at UNC, Hurt put together a strong effort in the win over FSU: 12 points (2-of-3 3PA, 6-of-6 FTA) and one monster offensive rebound.

 

No. 3 Florida State

After Florida State’s best offensive performance of the ACC schedule — 1.26 points per possession in a win over Miami — the Seminoles struggled offensively against Duke: 0.92 points per possession (40.2 eFG%). Duke’s half-court defense, which has been brilliant all season, put the clamps on FSU; Devin Vassell, normally brilliant and ruthlessly efficient, required 14 field goal attempts (4-of-12 2PA) to get his 14 points. As a team, FSU shot just 3-of-18 on 3-point attempts.

Despite all of that, Florida State was inches away from a road win over a top-10 Duke team. With Vassell and Trent Forrest, Leonard Hamilton — at the crest of his switch-happy defense — has the two best defenders in the ACC. (Or at least two of the top three, factoring in Tre Jones, too.) In total, FSU forced 21 Duke turnovers, including eight steals from Forrest.

Defensively, Forrest was everywhere in Durham — switching 1-5 and helping wherever needed. Vassell and Forrest give this FSU squad two of the most dangerous help defenders in the country. Those dudes will fly in with weak-side help to block shots or just rip the ball right out of your hands. It’s absolutely wild to watch.

Vassell even got in the post and batted with VCJ. Florida State did as well as any team has this season in limiting deep post touches for Carey — front the post, rotate back side.

 

No. 4 Virginia

Let’s start with the good news, first: going up against Louisville, a solid defensive team, Virginia had its most efficient offensive performance of the season: 1.24 points per possession (11-of-22 3PA). In fact, it marks the first time UVA scored better than 1.2 points per possession since the 2019 title game against Texas Tech.

Now, the bad news: despite the scoring surge, Virginia allowed Louisville to score 1.36 points per possession. This was just the third time all season that an opponent has scored better than 1.1 points per possession against Virginia.

 

No. 5 Syracuse

After consecutive losses to Clemson (a one-point affair) and Duke (a competitively fun Saturday night match-up), Syracuse avoided what could’ve been a disaster with a two-point win over Wake Forest, after a week off.

As the months move along, Quincy Guerrier has put together a nice freshman season, especially in ACC play. Guerrier was impactful against Wake Forest: 13 points (7-of-8 FTA), two blocks and three offensive rebounds.

In conference play, Guerrier ranks top 10 in the ACC in offensive rebound rate (10.9 percent) and 2-point shooting percentage (62.5 2P%). He’s also blocked 1.5 shots per 40 minutes in league action as well.

Guerrier has a tendency to get in foul trouble — committing 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes this season — but he also creates a lot of contact. The native on Montreal has drawn four fouls per 40 minutes in ACC play, where he’s shooting 80 percent from the line.

 

No. 6 NC State

It wasn’t the prettiest of victories on the road in Miami (sans Jericole Hellems), but after three straight losses: a win’s a win, right? The Wolfpack, who have stumbled some offensively in conference play, still managed to score 1.1 points per possession — with Markell Johnson leading the way, along with Braxton Beverly.

This may have been Beverly’s finest game of the season: 14 points, 4-of-7 from 3-point range. However, Johnson was the man with plan — knifing to the rim again and again. NC State shot 17-of-22 at the rim (77.3 FG%), with Johnson leading the way: 6-of-9 around the hoop. As usual, pick-and-roll volume between Johnson and DJ Funderburk or Manny Bates was high.

 

No. 7 Notre Dame

T.J. Gibbs has been an absolute beast for Notre Dame this season. The senior guard continues to excel as one of the top spot-up artisans in the country. Gibbs is one of only four ACC players with at least 50 3-pointers who is also shooting above 40 percent on 3-point looks, too — along with Nwora, Ryan McMahon and Buddy Boeheim. Of that small group, Gibbs has the highest assist rate (18.4 percent) and ranks just behind Boeheim in turnover rate (10.7 percent).

During league play, Gibbs has been on fire: 32-of-64 on 3-point attempts (50 3P%, No. 2 in the ACC), 36-of-62 on 2-point attempts (58.1 2P%, No. 12 in the ACC) and 37-of-41 on free throw attempts (90.2 FT%, No. 1 in the ACC).

Gibbs is playing the best basketball of his career while enjoying a role that’s similar to what he had as a sophomore — playing next to point guard Matt Farrell. Through 12 conference games, per KenPom, Gibbs ranks first in the offensive rating, effective shooting (66.7 eFG%) and true shooting (70.5 TS%).

Among ACC players with at least 50 catch-and-shoot attempts this season, Gibbs ranks third in efficiency — 1.38 points per possession, 69.1 eFG% — behind only Jalen Cone and Nwora, according to Synergy.

 

No. 8 Pittsburgh

Justin Champagnie is in the midst of assembling an All-Freshman team season for Pittsburgh. Last week, Champagnie dropped 20 points and 11 rebounds (four offensive) in a loss to Notre Dame; he then followed that up with 30 points and nine rebounds, all of which were necessary, in a close win over Georgia Tech.

Champagnie currently averages 12.6 points on 52.2 percent true shooting. The freshman forward is shooting just under 65 percent at the rim and leads Pitt with 18 dunks.

 

No. 9 Virginia Tech

Um, what’s going on here, you guys? The Hokies have dropped five straight and continue to suffer from a power outage on offense. Only once in the last five games has Virginia Tech — 100.3 points per 100 possessions against Boston College — broken the one point per possession barrier. Currently, Virginia Tech ranks 12th in offensive efficiency during conference play.

Before the season, if you told Virginia Tech fans that — come mid-February — the Hokies would be 14-10, with five ACC victories, that group of people likely would’ve been reasonably pleased. However, the last two weeks are a disappointing backslide, including two losses to Boston College.

 

No. 10 Clemson

No Aamir Simms (flu) was a tough blow for Clemson on Sunday against Notre Dame; the loss that followed was another tough blow, too. The Tigers have dropped three straight games — in each contest they’ve scored under one point per possession, with the nadir coming against Wake Forest: 0.68 points per possession (33.9 eFG%).

Save for Louisville next Saturday, though, Clemson has some winnable games on the horizon.

 

No. 11 North Carolina

What could’ve been: that’s the story in Chapel Hill. A likely lost season received a glimmer of hope when — after back-to-back wins over Miami and NC State — Cole Anthony announced his return. Well, since then, UNC dropped three straight games, all by six or fewer points, including Saturday’s memorable overtime defeat to Duke.

Anthony really does have the ability to be special; and with a 2020 draft that projects to be underwhelming, he will still go high. Anthony can create his own shot; there’s some pull-up variety to his game, and has moments in the pick-and-roll when his full play-making capabilities seem fully engaged.

On defense, he can be darn good at times, too. For whatever it’s worth, he’s a solid defensive rebounder as well.

However, Anthony finished the Duke game with a couple head-scratching decisions. In the three games since his return, Anthony has averaged 22 points per contest, but on 32.1 percent (27.3 3P%) shooting. With Anthony running the show, UNC scored under one points per possession against BC (0.97) and FSU (0.84), and barely cracked that mark against Duke (1.03). (Of course, those are three good defenses.)

For the season now, Anthony is shooting under 41 percent at the rim.

 

No. 12 Georgia Tech

There are currently five players in the ACC this season with 25+ dunks and a block rate of at least five percent: Vernon Carey Jr., Manny Bates, Jay Huff, Juwan Durham and James Banks.

Banks, unfortunately, struggled in the loss to Pittsburgh: seven points (1-of-5 FTA), four turnovers and five fouls. The veteran big did, however, block three shots and collect four offensive rebounds.

 

No. 13 Boston College

Man, this Boston College squad is vexing. The Eagles rank last among all ACC teams in prominent adjusted efficiency models, like KenPom and Bart Torvik. Those same Eagles, however, have six ACC wins (all by severn or fewer points) on the season and are just a game under .500 in league play. Boston College also gave Duke all it could ask for last week, too.

 

No. 14 Miami

Operating with a limited rotation, Miami has played some competitive basketball this season; however, largely because of their defense, the Hurricanes don’t have enough sustain play over 40 minutes and win games in the ACC. That was the story of Miami a season ago, and it has continued in the 2019-20 campaign.

That said, as frustrating as times have been, Jim Larranaga must be encouraged by the play of freshman guards Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly. Over the last five games, Beverly has averaged 13.4 points (50 2P%) while demonstrating an ability to create for his teammates — 17.6 percent assist rate — and get to the free throw line (5.2 FTA per game). Beverly loves to put pressure on the rim.

Wong has caught a vibe as well. Over the same five-game stretch, Wong has averaged 15.8 points (56.8 FG%, 57.1 3P%) while flashing some serious shot-making skills, too.

 

No. 15 Wake Forest

Wake Forest was this close to putting together a masterful week. That’s been the story far too often for the last decade, though. Wake Forest took a 12-point lead into the half against Louisville, but faltered on the road, losing 86-76.

Then on Saturday against Syracuse, Wake Forest flipped roles — trailing at halftime and storming back over the final 20 minutes — but landed the same result: a close road loss in conference play.

Despite the defeats, Olivier Sarr played good basketball — combining for 31 points (6-of-7 FGA at the rim), 18 free throw attempts (15-of-18 FTA) and nine offensive rebounds in those two games.

 

Contributor Rankings

 David GlennBrian GeisingerJosh GrahamConsensus
1LouisvilleLouisvilleLouisvilleLouisville
2DukeDukeDukeDuke
3Florida StateFlorida StateFlorida StateFlorida State
4VirginiaVirginiaVirginiaVirginia
5SyracuseSyracuseSyracuseSyracuse
6NC StateNC StateNC StateNC State
7Notre DameNotre DameNotre DameNotre Dame
8PittPittPittPitt
9Virginia TechVirginia TechVirginia TechVirginia Tech
10ClemsonGeorgia TechClemsonClemson
11UNCUNCBoston CollegeUNC
12Georgia TechClemsonGeorgia TechGeorgia Tech
13Boston CollegeBoston CollegeUNCBoston College
14Wake ForestMiamiMiamiMiami
15MiamiWake ForestWake ForestWake Forest