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Virginia Tech Basketball: A look around the ACC

The Hokies and Virginia both lost on Wednesday night as the ACC shapes up to be wild in 2016-17.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at North Carolina State
N.C State guard Dennis Smith Jr.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech fans have clamored all season long for the Hokies to be ranked in the top 25. Well, after last week’s huge win over then-No. 5 Duke, Tech entered the polls for the first time this season ranked No. 21.

How did the Hokies respond to prosperity?

Well, not very good.

In its first game since being ranked, Virginia Tech traveled to Raleigh on Wednesday night and were manhandled by the Wolfpack, 104-78, to drop the Hokies to 12-2 on the season and 1-1 in conference play.

While it was a bad loss, it’s important to note that 16 conference games remain and the Hokies don’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for themselves. Tech is back on the road Saturday with a trip to No. 12 Florida State. The Seminoles, led by super sophomore Dwayne Bacon and freshman Jonathan Isaac, sit atop the ACC with a 14-1 record, including a 2-0 mark in conference play.

The ‘Noles upset Virginia last week when Bacon hit a three-pointer to win it in the end.

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Team Overall Conference GB Streak
Team Overall Conference GB Streak
No. 12 Florida St. 14-1 2-0 -- W10
No. 23 Notre Dame 13-2 2-0 -- W4
No. 8 Duke 13-2 1-1 1 W1
Georgia Tech 9-5 1-1 1 L1
No. 14 North Carolina 13-3 1-1 1 W1
N.C State 12-3 1-1 1 W1
No. 21 Virginia Tech 12-2 1-1 1 L1
Syracuse 9-6 1-1 1 W1
Clemson 11-3 1-1 1 L1
Boston College 8-7 1-1 1 L1
Miami 11-3 1-1 1 L1
Pittsburgh 12-3 1-1 1 W1
Wake Forest 10-5 1-2 1.5 W1
No. 11 Virginia 11-3 1-2 1.5 L2
No. 9 Louisville 12-3 0-2 2 L1
ACC Basketball Standings

Remember before the season when everyone handed the league title to Duke? Well, the Blue Devils have the most talented squad in the league, however, it’s teams like FSU, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech that is going to make this league the best it’s been since, well, perhaps forever.

UVA and North Carolina have had issues, too, this season. The Tar Heels were upset by a Georgia Tech team that lost to Duke by over 50 points on Wednesday. And the Wahoos have lost two straight in league play.

Pitt, rejuvenated under new head coach Kevin Stallings, sit at 12-3 on the season, and while the Panthers won’t win the league title, they’ll be a tough out on any given night. Stallings’ team plays at a much faster pace than what former coach Jamie Dixon did. And Pitt has several talented upperclassmen that can score, including Michael Young and Jamel Artis.

Ninth-ranked Louisville sits at 0-2 in league play. This is the same Louisville team that beat Kentucky recently. The Cardinals have beaten some pretty impressive teams outside of the ACC, but were blown out by Virginia at home last week and fell to Notre Dame on Wednesday.

While Florida State is the league’s hottest team, who is the ACC’s best team?

If Duke can get it together while head coach Mike Krzyzewski is out for the next month, then the Blue Devils will win the league. There is simply too much talent on this team. However, what if this team doesn’t gel as one?

UNC is probably the league’s most veteran team led by Joel Barry, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.

Virginia has dominated league play in recent years, but have currently lost two in a row. The ‘Hoos are replacing some talented players in former ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, but head coach Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense keeps UVA in every game. Both losses came down to the wire. Virginia started 1-2 in league play last season, too.

But the team to watch out for is North Carolina State. In Dennis Smith, Jr., the ‘Pack has the best player in the league. Yes, that’s right, better than Grayson Allen, Bacon or any of Duke’s highly-ranked freshmen. Smith can score, shoot, distribute and defend. Players like Terry Henderson, BeeJay Anya and Omer Yurtseven fill out a talented and balanced N.C. State squad.

So, while Wednesday’s defeat was a tough one for the Hokies, it was just one loss. Tech has a prime opportunity for a huge win this weekend in Tallahassee. If the Hokies can end FSU’s winning streak, most will forget about their struggles against the Wolfpack.

This race is going to be long, winding and fun. Every game from here on out will have an NCAA Tournament-type feel to it. And for the Hokies, they must be prepared on a nightly basis or they’ll quickly fall out of contention.