2. Duke: After dropping two of three games earlier in the month, Duke appears to have righted the ship and is now playing its best basketball of the season. The Blue Devils have been dominant in their past four victories, and Mike Krzyzewski's decision to use a deeper rotation has paid huge dividends. Jabari Parker has been fantastic as a rebounder over the past few games, and he's also receiving tons of help in the frontcourt from Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee. Now, we'll see if Duke can carry that momentum into Saturday's showdown with Syracuse.
3. Virginia: The Cavaliers struggled through the nonconference portion of their schedule, but they're now showing why many of us thought they had a chance to be one of the best teams in the ACC this year. Tony Bennett has his group playing their typical outstanding defense, and they also have some nice offensive weapons in Joe Harris, Anthony Gill, Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogdon.
4. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is starting to receive criticism about its 18-3 record because those three losses are against the only quality opponents the Panthers have played. I'm not buying that Pitt is a pretender. Lamar Patterson had a tough night against Duke, but he's still one of the best players in the country, and those two teams battled back-and-forth for the first 30 minutes of Monday night's contest. This is still a very dangerous team that shouldn't be taken lightly.
5. Wake Forest: The fact that Wake Forest is this high in the rankings says more about the lack of quality around the rest of the league than it does about the Demon Deacons. It's not pretty, but Jeff Bzdelik is winning the conference games he's supposed to win. We'll see how legitimate this squad is during a two week stretch in February where Wake Forest will play four of five games on the road in the ACC.
6. North Carolina: We're two-thirds of the way through the season and I still have no idea what to make of North Carolina. The Heels picked up a very impressive win at home against Clemson this past Sunday, which snapped a streak in which they'd lost four out of their last five. At this point, UNC needs to string together some wins to be in position for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
7. Florida State: Similar to Wake Forest, Florida State has done what it's supposed to do in ACC play this season. They have three conference losses thus far – two against Virginia and one against Duke – both of which appear to be tournament teams. If the Seminoles can continue to win the games they're supposed to win, there's a chance they could also be in the discussion as a tournament team.
8. Clemson: Sunday night seemed like a great opportunity for Clemson to snap its 6,000 year losing streak to North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and the Tigers weren't even close. North Carolina won by 19, and it wasn't even as close as the final score indicates. Maybe the Tigers aren't as good as we thought they were?
9. N.C. State: As much as Duke fans enjoyed watching it, N.C. State isn't as terrible as we saw in Cameron Indoor Stadium during the Blue Devils' 35-point rout. The primary issue for the Wolfpack continues to be the lack of production from anyone outside of T.J. Warren, but this is a very young and inexperienced team with guys who are learning new roles. Tyler Lewis playing a key role in the second half of last weekend's win over Georgia Tech is certainly reason for optimism.
10. Maryland: January has not been kind to the Terrapins, who've lost four of their last five games, including two losses to Pittsburgh. What has to be most disappointing to Mark Turgeon is how teams have been able to beat Maryland in the paint, which was expected to be one of its biggest strengths this season. This probably isn't how the Terps wanted to finish their tenure in the ACC.
11. Notre Dame: It's making less and less sense how this group beat Duke to begin ACC play. The Irish are playing like a team that's missing its leading scorer, which was to be expected after the dismissal of Jerian Grant from the university. Unless Eric Atkins can put the team on his back, there's not much hope for Notre Dame getting things turned around for the second half of the ACC season.
12. Georgia Tech: The loss of Robert Carter Jr. to injury and the lack of production from Chris Bolden is taking its toll on the Yellow Jackets. Trae Golden and Daniel Miller have stepped up, but this is still a group that needs more balance to compete with the top level teams in the league. I'm intrigued to see if Georgia Tech can get some momentum in February when they get four consecutive home games.
13. Miami: Miami isn't nearly as bad as its 2-6 record in ACC play indicates. The Hurricanes are actually a strong defensive team, which is a sign of how much Jim Larranaga has had to rebuild from last year's squad. However, the biggest problem with this group is a lack of reliable offensive options. The Canes just don't know how to generate enough offense to stay in games.
14. Boston College: There's really no logical way to explain the dumpster fire that has been Boston College's season. Olivier Hanlan is one of the best guards in the ACC. Ryan Anderson is one of the most underrated forwards in the ACC. Patrick Heckmann, Lonnie Jackson and Eddie Odio are serviceable role players. Boston College has no excuse for being 5-14 this season, but here we are.
15. Virginia Tech: I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas, and while I was there I bet on Virginia Tech to be able to cover the 17.5 point spread against Virginia. With less than four minutes to play, the Hokies trailed by 14 points and I thought I was in good shape to cover. Next thing I knew, the game was over and Virginia won by 20! It's a bad sign when a team that's already not playing for much quits in the final minutes of a game against its hated rival. A very bad sign.