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How wild is the ACC right now? Clemson faces Pitt with first place on the line

Scott Ratcliffe

acc basketballIt’ll be an unlikely battle for sole possession of first place in the ACC Saturday, as Clemson — yes, Clemson — will go up against Pitt — you read that right — for a spot at the top of the conference standings.

Both the Tigers and Panthers enter this weekend’s suddenly crucial contest in the Steel City sporting perfect 4-0 league records. Miami was finally bumped out of first place after a shocking upset loss in Atlanta earlier this week, while several teams in the middle of the pack have a chance to jockey for position in the standings in Saturday’s loaded slate of games.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at how every team is looking heading into the weekend.

Clemson Tigers

Current record: 12-3 (4-0 ACC)

KenPom rating: 55th (48th AdjO; 67th AdjD)

NET ranking: 66th (1-0 vs. Quad 1 opponents)

Latest Bracketology projection: None

Overview: The Tigers are off to their best conference start since the 1996-97 season after hanging on to defeat Virginia Tech inside Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday. Hunter Tyson registered a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds against the Hokies. Tyson was one of five Tigers in double figures (PJ Hall 13, Chase Hunter 12, Brevin Galloway 11, RJ Godfrey 10), as Clemson has now won eight of its last nine games. The Tigers have taken the last nine games against the Panthers, and have only lost once in four trips to the Petersen Events Center.

Pitt Panthers

Current record: 11-4 (4-0 ACC)

KenPom rating: 63rd (43rd; 89th)

NET ranking: 63rd (4-1 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: 11-seed

Overview: The Panthers erased a 10-point halftime deficit and escaped with a second-straight upset of a ranked conference foe, taking down Virginia, 68-65, on Tuesday night. Blake Hinson, Jamarius Burton and Nike Sibande combined for 47 points in the win, which gave Pitt its first 4-0 start in league play since 2013-14. Pitt has won five games in a row and 10 of its last 11, as Saturday’s matchup with Clemson will truly feature the two hottest teams in the ACC. The Panthers trail the all-time series against the Tigers, 9-3, and haven’t defeated Clemson since the regular-season finale of the 2013-14 campaign, when Jamie Dixon was still the head coach.

No. 12 Miami Hurricanes

Current record: 13-2 (4-1)

KenPom rating: 44th (14th; 112th)

NET ranking: 38th (4-0 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: 5-seed

Overview: The Hurricanes let a comfortable second-half lead slip away in their loss at Georgia Tech Wednesday, marking their first conference defeat of the season. Junior guard Isaiah Wong had an off night, scoring just 6 points on 1-of-11 shooting (0-for-8 from downtown). The Canes shot 35 percent on the evening and just 16 percent from 3-point land (5-for-32). Miami is off this weekend, with the first chance to bounce back coming Wednesday at home against Boston College.

Syracuse Orange

Current record: 10-5 (3-1)

KenPom rating: 92nd (78th; 118th)

NET ranking: 142nd (0-1 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: None

Overview: The Orange barely survived their mid-week trip to last-place Louisville on Tuesday, emerging from the KFC Yum! Center with a one-point victory. A win is a win any way you slice it, however, and it kept Syracuse in the mix, just one game back of first place for the time being. Next up for Jim Boeheim’s squad is a visit to Charlottesville, where they have enjoyed limited success since joining the conference in 2013. The Orange have won twice in six tries at John Paul Jones Arena.

No. 11 Virginia Cavaliers

Current record: 10-3 (2-2)

KenPom rating: 12th (21st; 20th)

NET ranking: 18th (2-3 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: 3-seed

Overview: The Cavaliers got Reece Beekman back in the lineup and were in control at Pitt Tuesday, but fell apart in the second half and lost by three. Virginia lost a double-digit advantage with poor defense and unforced errors, as the Panthers turned up the intensity down the stretch. Syracuse comes to town Saturday, as the Hoos hope to avoid another losing streak. UVA has won nine of the 11 meetings with the Orange in ACC play, including each of the last three. A win over Syracuse would make Tony Bennett the winningest coach in UVA history, passing Wahoo legend Terry Holland.

No. 16 Duke Blue Devils

Current record: 11-4 (2-2)

KenPom rating: 23rd (30th; 35th)

NET ranking: 24th (2-3 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: 4-seed

Overview: ACC fans were likely doing double takes when checking out the Duke-NC State score Wednesday night, as the Wolfpack jumped out to a commanding 15-0 lead and never looked back in a 24-point thumping in Raleigh. Duke remains on the road Saturday, looking for a season sweep at Boston College. The Blue Devils have won eight-straight games against the Eagles, and 18 of the previous 19 in the series.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Current record: 10-5 (2-2)

KenPom rating: 22nd (11th; 74th)

NET ranking: 28th (1-5 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: 6-seed

Overview: The Tar Heels got back in the win column against Wake Forest Wednesday after stumbling at Pitt over the weekend. Senior big man Armando Bacot had another solid performance, finishing with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists as he continues to lead the ACC in scoring and rebounding. RJ Davis added a game-high 27 in the win. Carolina looks to stay hot when it hosts Notre Dame Saturday. UNC has defeated the Fighting Irish in nine of their last 11 meetings, including the last four in Chapel Hill.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Current record: 10-5 (2-2)

KenPom rating: 83rd (52nd; 122nd)

NET ranking: 80th (2-3 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: None

Overview: After falling in Chapel Hill Wednesday, the Demon Deacons look to get back on track Saturday at Louisville. Wake held a one-point lead over the Tar Heels as the lead changed hands 20 times throughout the night, but Carolina was able to seize control late. The Deacs have never won in four trips to Louisville, but should be considered a heavy favorite against the cellar-dwelling Cardinals.

Boston College Eagles

Current record: 8-7 (2-2)

KenPom rating: 166th (273rd; 91st)

NET ranking: 217th (0-1 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: None

Overview: The Eagles shot 52 percent from the field and survived a hard-fought contest against Notre Dame on Tuesday, 70-63. BC can make it two in a row with an upset of Duke Saturday in Chestnut Hill, but the Eagles haven’t beaten the Blue Devils since December of 2017. Duke took the first meeting last month in Durham, 75-59.

Florida State Seminoles

Current record: 4-11 (2-2)

KenPom rating: 162nd (142nd; 201st)

NET ranking: 244th (0-4 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: None

Overview: The Seminoles have had a week off to rest and prepare for Saturday’s tilt with Georgia Tech in Tallahassee. It will be the last game of freshman 7-footer Baba Miller’s 16-game suspension. When he does officially join the team, Miller — a potential NBA lottery pick — should be able to make an impact down low for the remainder of the season.

NC State Wolfpack

Current record: 12-4 (2-3)

KenPom rating: 42nd (37th; 61st)

NET ranking: 37th (1-3 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: First Four Out

Overview: The Wolfpack looked dominant in the big upset win against 16th-ranked Duke Wednesday, which should certainly enhance their postseason aspirations. Terquavion Smith and Ole Miss transfer Jarkel Joiner lit up the Blue Devils from long range, combining for nine 3-pointers and 45 points in the win. Coach Kevin Keatts brings his troops into Blacksburg for a pivotal Saturday showdown at Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech Hokies

Current record: 11-4 (1-3)

KenPom rating: 35th (33rd; 53rd)

NET ranking: 40th (2-1 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: 9-seed

Overview: Playing without injured senior starter Hunter Cattoor (9.6 ppg), the Hokies dropped their third-straight ACC contest Wednesday in the loss to Clemson. Cattoor, who also missed the previous game against Wake with a forearm injury, played a huge role in Tech’s first-ever ACC Tournament championship last season. Tech hosts a surging NC State team this weekend, as the Hokies try to snap the losing skid. The Hokies, who are 8-1 at home this season, have taken four of the last five meetings against the Wolfpack.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Current record: 8-6 (1-3)

KenPom rating: 121st (156th; 102nd)

NET ranking: 128th (0-5 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: None

Overview: The Yellow Jackets pulled off the upset Wednesday against Miami to notch their first conference victory of the season. Gardner-Webb transfer Lance Terry led the way with 24 points, while sophomore Miles Kelly added 20. Tech trailed 70-64 with 4:50 to go against the 12th-ranked Hurricanes before closing the game on a 12-0 run. Josh Pastner’s team hopes to start a win streak Saturday as they head south to take on Florida State, a team it has beaten in each of the last three matchups. It will be the Jackets’ first road game since Dec. 10.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Current record: 8-7 (0-4)

KenPom rating: 118th (57th; 221st)

NET ranking: 180th (0-1 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: None

Overview: After coming up short at Boston College on Tuesday, the Fighting Irish have fallen into a last-place tie with Louisville. With several experienced veterans back in South Bend, there hasn’t been a lot to be excited about, as Mike Brey’s job security is in serious jeopardy. The Irish travel to face North Carolina on Saturday, and a win could be just the thing to spark a hot streak.

Louisville Cardinals

Current record: 2-13 (0-4)

KenPom rating: 265th (315th; 210th)

NET ranking: 346th (0-4 vs. Q1)

Latest Bracketology projection: None

Overview: The struggles continue for the Cardinals, who gave it everything they had but lost by a point against Syracuse Tuesday. Kenny Payne’s team has become more competitive overall, but haven’t been able to get over the hump in conference competition. The Cards have an opportunity to make some noise with a Saturday home matchup with Wake Forest. Despite the poor results, senior point guard El Ellis has been one of the league’s most consistent performers, averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game.

This Week’s Results & Schedule

Tuesday

Boston College 70, Notre Dame 63

Syracuse 70, Louisville 69

Pitt 68, Virginia 65

Wednesday

Georgia Tech 76, Miami 70

NC State 84, Duke 60

North Carolina 88, Wake Forest 79

Clemson 68, Virginia Tech 65

Saturday

Notre Dame at North Carolina, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2)

Duke at Boston College, 1 p.m. (ACCN)

Georgia Tech at Florida State, 1 p.m. (ACCNX)

Wake Forest at Louisville, 3 p.m. (ACCN)

Clemson at Pitt, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

Syracuse at Virginia, 5 p.m. (ACCN)

NC State at Virginia Tech, 7:30 p.m. (ACCNX)

ACC Individual Leaders

Points Per Game

  1. Armando Bacot (UNC) — 18.6
  2. Terquavion Smith (NCST) — 18.4
  3. Tyree Appleby (WF) — 18.3
  4. El Ellis (UL) — 17.7
  5. Sean Pedulla (VT) — 17.1

Rebounds Per Game

  1. Armando Bacot (UNC) — 11.1
  2. Jesse Edwards (SU) — 10.9
  3. Hunter Tyson (CU) — 10.0
  4. Norchad Omier (UM) — 9.5
  5. Kyle Filipowski (DU) — 8.6

Assists Per Game

  1. Kihei Clark (UVA) — 5.9
  2. Tyree Appleby (WF) — 5.7
  3. Nelly Cummings (UP) — 5.1
  4. Terquavion Smith (NCST) — 4.9
  5. Reece Beekman (UVA) — 4.8

Blocked Shots Per Game

  1. Jesse Edwards (SU) — 3.1
  2. Dereck Lively II (DU) — 1.9
  3. Ja’von Franklin (GT) — 1.7
  4. Naheem McLeod (FSU) — 1.7
  5. Kadin Shedrick (UVA) — 1.7

Steals Per Game

  1. Judah Mintz (SU) — 2.3
  2. Isaiah Wong (UM) — 1.9
  3. Jack Clark (NCST) — 1.9
  4. Terquavion Smith (NCST) — 1.9
  5. Caleb Mills (FSU) — 1.8

ACC Team Leaders

Scoring Offense

  1. North Carolina — 81.4
  2. NC State — 79.8
  3. Miami — 77.3
  4. Wake Forest — 75.9
  5. Clemson — 75.4

Scoring Defense

  1. Virginia — 59.1
  2. Duke — 62.4
  3. Virginia Tech — 64.2
  4. Clemson — 66.2
  5. Boston College — 67.5

Rebounds Per Game

  1. North Carolina — 39.4
  2. Pitt — 39.4
  3. Duke — 39.2
  4. NC State — 38.1
  5. Virginia Tech — 36.9

Assists Per Game

  1. Virginia — 15.9
  2. Clemson — 15.6
  3. Pitt — 15.1
  4. Miami — 14.9
  5. NC State — 14.7

Blocked Shots Per Game

  1. Syracuse — 5.9
  2. NC State — 4.6
  3. Georgia Tech — 4.6
  4. Virginia — 4.5
  5. North Carolina — 4.2

Steals Per Game

  1. NC State — 9.0
  2. Miami — 8.3
  3. Syracuse — 8.2
  4. Boston College — 6.9
  5. Virginia — 6.9

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe has worked as a freelance writer for several publications over the past decade-plus, with a concentration on local and college sports. He is also a writer and editor for his father’s website, JerryRatcliffe.com, dedicated to the coverage of University of Virginia athletics.