The calendar has flipped to December and with most teams having about 7-ish games in the bank, we're about a quarter of the way through the season. With the ACC-B1G Challenge behind us and most teams having completed their holiday tournament runs, we feel it's the right time to take a look at our preseason Power Rankings and see what needs updating. A few teams are as good as we thought they'd be, a couple are as bad as predicted, and in between a lot of teams are surprising for better or for worse.
Our writers cast their ballots and the results are presented here as a countdown. Let's get into it. Commentary provided by Valentine.
#15 - Wake Forest (4-3)
Not getting a game in the ACC vs B1G Challenge seems perfectly emblematic for what I predict will be an eminently forgettable season.
Best Wins: None
Losses: St Joe's, Houston Baptist, Richmond
#14 - Georgia Tech (4-3)
Maybe the Wrambling Wreck won't be such a dumpster fire this year. Maybe they will. Even if they improve, they're still going to be a basement team in this year's ACC.
Best Wins: None
Losses: Tennessee, Northwestern, St Johns
#13 - Miami (5-3)
I like Jim Larranaga, I really do. But his teams flatter to deceive and losing to Rutgers is awful. Simply awful.
Best Wins: Fresno St
Losses: Seton Hall, Rutgers, Yale
#12 - Pittsburgh (7-1)
The Jeff Caple Experience will be better for Pitt fans than the failed Kevin Stallings Experiment, but we'll just have to see how well Caple adjusts to actually having to coach. A close loss on the road to a decent Iowa team counts as a moral victory, for, let's face it, a program that needs to collect some moral victories.
Best Wins: St Louis
#11 - Notre Dame (6-1)
This could very well be the pick that comes back to haunt me later in the season. A tough win over Illinois was nice, but Mike Brey is just replacing too many parts from his highly competitive, and shall I say highly entertaining, teams of the past 5 years.
Best Wins: DePaul, Illinois
T-#9 - Boston College (6-1)
Beating last year's Final Four Darlings Loyola and then Minnesota in The Challenge goes a long way to recovering from the post-Jerome Robinson hangover.
Best Wins: Loyola, Minnesota
T-#9 - North Carolina State (7-1)
A very easy out of conference schedule doesn't tell us much about this team. They got a good lead in the second half vs Wisconsin, but the Wolfpack's supposedly vaunted in-your-face defense couldn't close out the game.
Best Wins: Vanderbilt
#8 - Clemson (5-2)
It's hard to differentiate between a lot of these middle teams teams but I'm giving love to Clemson because of how well they played last year. A win over Georgia looks less impressive considering that Georgia then lost by 25 to Georgia Southern.
Best Wins: Georgia
Losses: Creighton, Nebraska
#7 - Syracuse (5-2)
This team has talent. The question, of course, will be if they can find any depth. Middling results out of conference clouds the optimism of a solid win vs Ohio State. Worth noting that projected starting guard Franklin Howard has missed time with injury so far.
Best Wins: Ohio State
Losses: UConn, Oregon
#6 - Virginia Tech (6-1)
Losing to Penn State. Woof. There's a lot of talent in Blacksburg and rumors abound that Chris Clarke may return to the team, so this team can be dangerous, but persistent rumors about Buzz Williams' impending departure cannot help a program build week-in and week-out success.
Best Wins: Purdue
Losses: Penn State
#5 - Louisville (5-2)
Beating a very good Michigan State team is an instant resume builder. Chris Mack can coach and with the quality of player he'll be able to attract due to Louisville's cachet, he's going to have a powerhouse before long. But for now, expect the Cardinals to collect several scalps along the way..
Best Wins: Michigan State, Seton Hall
Losses: Tennessee, Marquette
#4 - North Carolina (6-2)
This is another reputation pick because there's a lot of talent here, but the Tar Heels were absolutely destroyed by Michigan. They can't play defense. Roy Williams was so miffed by the total lack of defensive organization that he benched his starters, and left them on the bench, in the middle of the second half. The second team didn't fare much better.
Best Wins: Stanford, UCLA
Losses: Texas, Michigan
#3 - Florida State (6-1)
FSU deserves to be a top selection just because they went out and played an out-of-conference schedule that befits a team that expects to be playing late in March. While we faced off against Towson and Dayton, FSU started off with Florida (a dream out-of-conference matchup, BTW), LSU and Villanova. Neither team covered themselves in glory in the Nova game, but playing Jay Wright's team is a statement. In beating Purdue, they beat a better Big Ten school than we did.
Best Wins: Florida, LSU, Purdue
#2 - Virginia (7-0)
The question is if, not when, Kihei Clark is going to become your favorite UVa player. Ever. He's been an absolute revelation, but I'm still wary of a team that's going to give him 30+ minutes a game. He's a wonderful defender, but even with him and Hunter getting major minutes on the perimeter, Maryland was able to get into the paint at will against us. It looks to me like Bennett has extended the Pack Line by three feet, but we're not shutting down the middle. I'm not sure what to make of Key: he's got good hands and can play D and he seems a bit soft, but he did log 10 points in just 11 minutes vs Maryland.
Best Wins: Dayton, Wisconsin, Maryland
#1 - Duke (7-1)
This is purely a reputation selection here. I hear Duke is really good, but no one's talking about them. I wish ESPN would cover them. (Did you pick up on the sarcasm?)
Best Wins: Kentucky, Auburn, Indiana