One of the more surprising comments during a crazy night of basketball Wednesday came from North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who said his team looked "scared to death" during the first half of an 83-64 loss to Clemson.
The Tar Heels?
That's not something you'd expect from the defending national champions. Then again, strange scenarios are becoming more and more common in the ACC, which has been hard to figure thus far.
John Henson and the Heels were swarmed by Clemson.
(Mary Ann Chastain/AP Photo)
Three days after it beat Duke, Georgia Tech lost to a Virginia team that, somehow, has won six straight games. Wake Forest and Maryland can beat teams in their conference – but not William and Mary. Clemson blows a 23-point lead against Illinois one month and then throttles North Carolina the next.
Speaking of the Tar Heels, it's looking less and less like North Carolina's year in the ACC. Williams' squad committed 25 turnovers in losing to Clemson for the first time in 10 games, and things will only get tougher from here.
Then again, nothing is out of the question this year in the conference. Sure, there may not be any elite teams. But that makes it more fun.
Here are this week's conference power rankings:
1. Duke (14-2, 2-1) – Jon Scheyer's numbers (92 assists and 19 turnovers) are sick.
2. Clemson (14-3, 2-1) – Nine players average more than 13 minutes.
3. North Carolina (12-5, 1-1) – The Tar Heels missed Tyler Zeller (foot) in Wednesday's loss to Clemson.
4. Wake Forest (12-3, 2-1) – The Demon Deacons have won eight of their last nine.
5. Maryland (10-5, 1-1) – Greivis Vasquez is averaging 18.5 points and 6.1 assists.
6. Virginia Tech (13-2, 1-1) – Malcolm Delaney scored half of his 28 points from the free-throw line in Wednesday's win over Miami.
7. Georgia Tech (12-4, 1-2) – The Yellow Jackets are the toughest team in the league to figure out.
8. Miami (15-2, 1-2) – Dwayne Collins (8.6 rebounds) is a defensive force down low.
9. Florida State (13-4, 1-2) – Saturday's game against Virginia Tech is a must win following two straight losses.
10. Virginia (10-4, 2-0) – Sylven Landesberg scored 22 points in Wednesday's win over Georgia Tech.
11. North Carolina State (12-5, 1-2) – Five losses have come by an average of 5.8 points.
12. Boston College (10-7, 1-2) – A victory over Maryland on Saturday will get the Eagles out of the cellar.
Virginia – The former last-place team in the league has won six in a row following Wednesday's upset of Georgia Tech. The Cavaliers have also defeated North Carolina State and Alabama-Birmingham during that stretch. If this keeps up Tony Bennett will have a shot at ACC Coach of the Year.
Florida State – Tuesday's home loss to N.C. State was one of the more head-turning upsets of the young conference season. The Seminoles' next two games (against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech) are in Tallahassee, but neither will be easy.
THREE TO WATCH
Georgia Tech at North Carolina – The Tar Heels have struggled on the road, but at home they've been great.
Wake Forest at Duke – The Demon Deacons have some nice players, but are they experienced or poised enough to handle the environment at Cameron Indoor Stadium?
Clemson at Georgia Tech – Two of the more athletic teams in the conference face off in Atlanta. A win would be a huge boost for either team.
Scoop Jardine has Syracuse on point.
(Julie Jacobson/AP Photo)
1. Syracuse (16-1, 3-1) – Point guard Scoop Jardine has replaced Brandon Triche in the starting lineup.
2. Villanova (15-1, 4-0) – Scottie Reynolds is one of the country's best players in the clutch.
3. West Virginia (13-2, 4-1) – Point guard issues are hampering the Mountaineers.
4. Pittsburgh (14-2, 4-0) – Gilbert Brown and Jermaine Dixon are averaging a collective 19.4 points since returning to the lineup last month.
5. Georgetown (12-2, 3-1) – Austin Freeman had 28 second-half points in a comeback win over Connecticut.
6. Connecticut (11-5, 2-3) – Stanley Robinson averages 17.1 points and 7.7 boards.
7. Notre Dame (14-3, 3-1) – Luke Harangody is on pace to lead the Big East in scoring and rebounding for the third straight season.
8. Louisville (12-5, 3-1) – Three of the next four games are on the road.
9. Marquette (10-6, 1-3) – Buzz Williams' squad may be the most unlucky team in college basketball.
10. Seton Hall (10-5, 1-3) – The Pirates' lack of discipline is finally catching up to them.
11. Cincinnati (11-6, 2-3) – Will the Bearcats miss the NCAA tournament – again?
12. Providence (10-6, 2-2) – Strong coaching makes the Friars the best of the worst in the Big East.
13. St. John's (11-5, 1-3) – Anthony Mason Jr. has finally returned for the Red Storm.
14. South Florida (10-6, 0-4) – Ohio State transfer Anthony Crater has missed all 13 of his field goal attempts since becoming eligible two games ago.
15. Rutgers (9-7, 0-4) – Greg Echenique's decision to transfer is a big blow to the Scarlet Knights' program.
16. DePaul (7-8, 0-3) – How will the Blue Demons respond to Jerry Wainwright's firing?
Pittsburgh – If Jim Boeheim isn't voted Big East Coach of the Year it will be because the award went to the Panthers' Jamie Dixon. No one expected anything out of a Pittsburgh squad that lost its top three players in DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Levance Fields. Yet here the Panthers are, back in the Top 25.
DePaul – The Blue Demons fired head coach Jerry Wainwright this week and, frankly, it's tough to be optimistic about the direction of DePaul's program. The school hasn't won a regular-season Big East game since March of 2008 – and it's not as if Wainwright wasn't a capable coach. DePaul needs to hire a head coach with Chicago ties.
THREE TO WATCH
Syracuse at West Virginia – This has all the makings of being the best game in the Big East thus far.
Notre Dame at Cincinnati – Luke Harangody will try to help his squad pick up an all-important road win in this game pitting two of the Big East's middle-of-the-pack teams.
Georgetown at Villanova – Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe are averaging a combined 49 points for the Hoyas in Big East play.
Blake Hoffarber hits big shots for the Gophers.
(Paul Battaglia/AP Photo)
1. Michigan State (14-3, 4-0) – The Spartans' rugged non-conference schedule will pay dividends during the Big Ten race.
2. Ohio State (12-5, 2-3) – Even after missing six games, Evan Turner should be in the player of the year conversation.
3. Purdue (14-2, 2-2) – Robbie Hummel's 35-point effort was overshadowed in Tuesday's loss to Ohio State.
4. Wisconsin (14-3, 4-1) – Reserve Jordan Taylor keyed the Badgers' win over Purdue with 23 points.
5. Minnesota (12-5, 3-2) – Blake Hoffarber is shooting 50.5 percent from 3-point range.
6. Illinois (12-5, 4-0) – The Illini avoided disaster with a one-point home win over Penn State on Tuesday. Bruce Weber isn't happy with Demetri McCamey's defense.
7. Northwestern (12-4, 1-3) – Purdue and Ohio State are next.
8. Michigan (8-7, 2-2) – The Wolverines will be out for blood in Thursday night's rematch with Indiana.
9. Penn State (8-8, 0-4) – Talor Battle has made just 14 of his last 47 field goal attempts and has been held to nine points in his last two games.
10. Indiana (7-8, 1-2) – Verdell Jones is averaging 16.8 points over his last five games.
11. Iowa (6-11, 0-4) – Could Tuesday's win over Tennessee State be the last victory for the Hawkeyes all season?
Ohio State – With Evan Turner back in the mix the Buckeyes still have an outside shot of winning the Big Ten title. Granted, Ohio State will have to be almost perfect from here, but that's certainly not out of the question judging from Tuesday's thrilling come-from-behind victory at Purdue.
Wisconsin – The loss of forward Jon Leuer (broken wrist) could end up being a huge blow to a Badgers squad that appeared to have a legitimate shot at conference championship. Leuer, who averages 15.4 points and 6.2 rebounds, is likely done for the season.
THREE TO WATCH
Illinois at Michigan State – Home losses are unacceptable for a Michigan State squad hoping to win its second straight Big Ten crown.
Wisconsin at Ohio State – The Badgers will be hard-pressed to beat Evan Turner and the Buckeyes in Madison – especially without Jon Leuer.
Purdue at Illinois – Purdue may have the better team, but Illinois is 10-0 in Champaign this season.
Kim English has the Tigers roaring.
(Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)
1. Texas (16-0, 2-0) – The Longhorns are ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history.
2. Kansas (15-1, 1-0) – The Morris Twins are in a funk.
3. Kansas State (14-2, 1-1) – Despite the loss to Missouri, the Wildcats are still the league's third-best team.
4. Oklahoma State (13-3, 1-1) – Monday's overtime loss to rival Oklahoma was a heartbreaker.
5. Missouri (14-3, 2-0) – Kim English is averaging 15.4 points.
6. Baylor (13-2, 1-1) – It's tough to take the Bears seriously following Tuesday's loss at Colorado.
7. Texas Tech (12-4, 0-2) – An NCAA tournament berth may be wishful thinking.
8. Texas A&M (12-4, 1-1) – How good is Kansas State? Just ask the Aggies.
9. Iowa State (11-5, 0-1) – The Cyclones have lots of reasons to be optimistic following a gutsy performance in Wednesday's loss to No. 1 Texas.
10. Oklahoma (10-6, 1-1) – Tiny Gallon had 13 points and 18 rebounds against Oklahoma State.
11. Colorado (10-6, 1-1) – The Buffaloes committed just five turnovers in Tuesday's win against Baylor.
12. Nebraska (12-5, 0-2) – German forward Christian Standhardinger is eligible after sitting out the first 15 games.
Missouri – The same "Forty Minutes of Hell" defense that helped last year’s Tigers squad reach the Sweet 16 is starting to define this bunch, as well. Saturday's win over Kansas State was a huge step for Missouri, and Wednesday’s road win at Texas Tech was even bigger.
Kansas – It's never good when starters are questioning their playing time and expressing confusion over their roles, but that's exactly what's happening with these Jayhawks. Bill Self needs to nip this problem in the bud before things get out of hand.
THREE TO WATCH
Oklahoma State at Baylor – After a promising start last season the Bears went into a slump during conference play. Is Baylor going to let its fans down again this year? We'll see.
Texas at Kansas State – This could be one of the few losses – or, heck, the only loss – on the Longhorns' Big 12 schedule.
Oklahoma at Texas A&M – Right now the Aggies are a fringe NCAA tournament team. But there is still a chance for them to work their way into the mix if they take care of business against lesser teams at home.
Jerome Randle steadies the Bears.
(Julie Jacobson/AP Photo)
1. Cal (10-5, 2-1) – Jerome Randle is averaging 19.1 points.
2. USC (10-6, 2-2) – How strange would it be if the Trojans won the league in the same year they were banned from postseason play?
3. Arizona (8-8, 2-2) – Nic Wise is in a huge slump. He's averaging just 10.4 points over his last five games and is shooting just 32.6 percent in that span.
4. Oregon (10-5, 2-1) – A home loss to downtrodden Oregon State was difficult to stomach.
5. Arizona State (12-5, 2-2) – The Sun Devils hit the road this weekend with games at Oregon and Oregon State.
6. Washington (10-5, 1-3) – A loss to Arizona State is bad enough. But by 17 points?
7. Washington State (12-4, 2-2) – Klay Thompson had just nine points in a loss to Arizona State.
8. Stanford (8-7, 2-1) – The Cardinal are full of momentum after back-to-back wins over USC and UCLA.
9. UCLA (7-9, 2-2) – The Bruins may be bad on a national scale. But they're right on par with most teams in the Pac-10.
10. Oregon State (10-5, 2-1) – The Beavers lost to Seattle by 51 points. At home.
Cal – The Golden Bears showed some moxie during their second-half comeback against USC last weekend. At this point it wouldn’t be surprising if Cal ends up being the only Pac-10 team to receive an NCAA tournament berth.
Washington – The Huskies have lost three straight games by an average of 15 points. That'd be embarrassing in any league, but in the Pac-10, it's downright shameful. Hard to believe this team was ranked in the Top 25 just a short time ago.
THREE TO WATCH
Cal at Washington State – The Cougars have a gaudy record, but they've yet to defeat a top-tier opponent all season. A victory over the Golden Bears would be Washington State's closest thing to a quality win (unless you count Arizona).
Arizona at Oregon – The interesting twist here is that Oregon assistant Mike Dunlap will be scheming against the team he helped coach last season.
USC at UCLA – The cross-town rivals may be far apart in our rankings, but the difference between No. 2 and No. 9 in the Pac-10 isn't that big. A win here would be a huge momentum boost for the Bruins.
Eric Bledsoe has emerged at Kentucky.
(James Crisp/AP Photo)
1. Kentucky (17-0, 2-0) – Eric Bledsoe has reached double figures in four straight games.
2. Mississippi State (13-3, 1-0) – Is there still hope for Renardo Sidney? Of course.
3. Tennessee (12-2, 0-0) – The Vols will be tough if their three suspended players return. Heck, they're tough without them.
4. Vanderbilt (13-3, 2-0) – Freshman John Jenkins has made 25 of his last 40 3-point attempts for a team that has won seven straight.
5. Ole Miss (13-3, 1-1) – Andy Kennedy has yet to post a winning SEC record.
6. Florida (11-5, 0-2) – Sophomore Erving Walker is making huge strides.
7. Alabama (11-5, 1-1) – The Crimson Tide outscored LSU 38-16 in the paint Saturday.
8. Georgia (8-7, 0-2) – Mark Fox's squad may be the SEC's most-improved team along with Alabama.
9. Arkansas (7-8, 0-0) – Can Courtney Fortson get the Razorbacks to the NIT?
10. South Carolina (11-5, 1-1) – Devan Downey scored 33 points in Saturday's win at Auburn.
11. Auburn (9-7, 0-1) – Six of the Tigers' seven losses have come by 10 points or less.
12. LSU (9-7, 0-2) – Trent Johnson's team is void of high-caliber players other than Tasmin Mitchell.
Kentucky – It was amazing to see how well the Wildcats' freshmen performed in a hostile environment during Tuesday's victory over Florida. Time and time again, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins came up with huge answer shots following big Florida baskets. Darius Miller and Patrick Patterson did, too. This is a championship-caliber team that's only going to get better.
Florida – Unless things take a dramatic turn, this will likely be the third straight season that Billy Donovan's squad misses the NCAA tournament. Florida – which needed a 60-foot buzzer-beater to top N.C. State last week – can't afford to have any slipups against lesser opponents the rest of the way.
THREE TO WATCH
Arkansas at Mississippi State – The return of Razorbacks guard Courtney Fortson makes this a scary game for the Bulldogs.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina – Despite some early season slipups, the Commodores still have NCAA tournament hopes – but only if they can win games like this on the road.
Ole Miss at Tennessee – Six days after upsetting Kansas, the Vols are hoping for another win against a Top 25 opponent.
Gordon Hayward tries to get Butler in a groove.
(Michael Conroy/AP Photo)
1. BYU (17-1, 2-0) – Jimmer Fredette played 18 minutes Wednesday after missing two of the previous three games with mono.
2. Temple (14-3, 2-0) – The Owls showed a lot of character in Sunday's close win at Rhode Island.
3. Gonzaga (12-3, 1-0) – The Zags nearly lost to Portland on Sunday before escaping with an 81-78 win.
4. Xavier (11-5, 3-0) – Five of the Musketeers' next six games are at home.
5. UNLV (14-3, 2-1) – The Runnin' Rebels ended New Mexico's 19-game home winning streak.
6. Northern Iowa (15-1, 6-0) – The only thing standing between the Panthers and an undefeated record is a loss to DePaul.
7. St. Mary's (15-2, 2-0) – Mickey McConnell is averaging 6.4 assists.
8. Dayton (13-3, 2-0) – The Flyers have won 11 of their past 12 games.
9. Butler (12-4, 5-0) – Gordon Hayward leads the Bulldogs in points (16.8) and rebounds (8.9).
10. Alabama-Birmingham (14-2, 2-0) – The Blazers might be the best team in a strong Conference USA.
Xavier – The Musketeers are on a roll again following a string of tough non-conference losses. After losing at Wake Forest in double-overtime, Chris Mack's squad rebounded with consecutive league road wins against LaSalle, George Washington and Charlotte.
New Mexico – Once ranked as high as No. 11, the Lobos got off to a rocky start in Mountain West Conference play by opening with losses against San Diego State and UNLV – the latter of which came at home.
THREE TO WATCH
Gonzaga at St. Mary's – This is always the most entertaining game of the West Coast Conference season. Too bad Patrick Mills and Austin Daye aren't still around.
Dayton at Xavier – The winner will take control of the Atlantic 10 race.
Northern Iowa at Wichita State – The top two teams in the Missouri Valley Conference face off when the Panthers visit the 16-2 Shockers.