With a handful of games, the ACC race changed quite a bit Saturday. Syracuse survived Pitt by five points to break the tie at first, Clemson and Virginia are now locked up with Pitt for second and Duke, Florida State and Maryland are knotted for third, although Maryland's loss to FSU pushes them to the bottom of the tier.
Wake and Miami are in a tie for fourth, while Virginia Tech and, surprisingly, Notre Dame and UNC are in fifth.
State, Georgia Tech and BC are all tied at 1-4 for the basement.
If NCAA bids went out today, the cutoff would be Florida State and bubble teams would be hard to find.
Barring some impressive turnarounds or a Greensboro sweep, the bottom four teams are done. We would expect Notre Dame and UNC to rise. Miami is proving that great coaching makes a great difference, but the 'Canes still have a long way to go. Wake Forest and Maryland could conceivably pull it off, but both better get busy.
Which leads us to the most interesting question, and a refrain of the Miami point about coaching: can Clemson keep it up?
The Tigers beat Wake, as expected, but not by much. Wake's 36.2% from the floor is not a particular shock, given Clemson's rugged defense. We were a bit surprised that Wake hung with Clemson on the boards, although not offensively.
Stat of the game: Clemson had 10 blocks, with four by the remarkable KJ McDaniels.
For people who enjoy smash-mouth basketball, Clemson plays at Pitt on Tuesday. That should be a very interesting game. We wouldn't favor Clemson, but given what they've done so far, we wouldn't rule them out, either. And it would be pretty cool to see Clemson in second place.
Assume for a minute the Tigers win that one: next up is the classic Charlie Brown-and-the-football-game at UNC, but for the first time...ever? Clemson would be favored.
Doesn't this sound weird? From ESPN: Marcus Paige scored 21 points and North Carolina beat Boston College 82-71 on Saturday for its first ACC victory of the season.
Ol' Roy Williams mixed things up and put Leslie McDonald and 6-7 Jackson Simmons in the starting lineup. Simmons only played eight minutes, but previous starter Joel James, coming off an injury, played just four minutes.
For a change, UNC shot well, hitting over 50%. The Heels got solid performances out of James Michael McAdoo, Marcus Paige and JP Tokoto, and Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson were solid off the bench.
Before UNC gets Clemson, there's a little trip to Charlottesville Monday to play Virginia. The Cavs are hot currently and scoring against the packline is not the easiest thing in the world, so we'll see how that goes.
Syracuse certainly didn't have an easy time with Pitt, but Tyler Ennis came through late, hitting two baskets in the last 1:50.
Pitt cut the lead to one with :05 left and then fouled Ennis, who hit both. Former Blue Devil Michael Gbinije then made a foolish foul, but Pitt missed both and put Rakeen Christmas on the line for the final margin.
We honestly didn't expect Virginia to handle Florida State a second time. Win? Yeah, okay. Toy with FSU. That we didn't expect.
But the 'Hoos were up 40-26 at halftime and in total control. Virginia was on fire from three point range, hitting 63.6%. True to form, Florida State had 18 turnovers.
In general, a 10-7 record looks mediocre, but as always, you have to consider context. Miami lost its top six players last year and didn't have a ton of talent coming back. But consider: at the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Miami was 4-5. Since then, with stiffer competition, the 'Canes are 6-2, including a near upset of Syracuse at Syracuse and a one-point loss at Virginia Tech. That's pretty remarkable.
Georgia Tech found out that Miami's back on Saturday as the Hurricanes blew Tech out of the water, 56-42. Georgia Tech started the game 8-35 from the floor and finished just 29.5% for the game.
If anyone is missing it, Miami, while not the powerhouse we saw last year, is a superb defensive team and capable of playing with anyone now. That includes Duke, as the Blue Devils visit Miami this week.
On Sunday, Virginia Tech visits South Bend, or, as the ACC likes to call it, Notre Dame, Indiana (seriously). You'd think the conference would have put enough flights into South Bend to get the city right.
Anyway, Notre Dame should win, but not a lot has gone as expected for the Irish, so reserve judgment.