This past week was a big one in the ACC. A couple of matchups featuring top-10 teams highlighted a schedule that’s just starting to heat up. Last Tuesday, No. 4 Virginia hosted No. 9 Virginia Tech and the Cavaliers came away with an impressive 81-59 victory. The loss was the first for the Hokies in conference play.
On Saturday, arguably the top two teams in the nation met when UVa traveled to Durham to face No. 1 Duke. The game, specifically freshmen RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson, lived up to expectations with the Blue Devils coming away with a 72-70 win. It was Virginia’s first loss on the season. The two teams meet again in a few short weeks in Charlottesville.
UNDEFEATED NO MORE!— ESPN (@espn) January 20, 2019
No. 1 Duke hands No. 4 Virginia their first loss of the season at Cameron Indoor! pic.twitter.com/9YOTCpmyfs
Those weren’t the only big games in the ACC last week. Lost in the hoopla of Duke’s win over Virginia, the No. 1 Blue Devils lost to Syracuse in overtime last Monday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was a big upset, and during that game Duke lost freshman point guard Tre Jones. Jones didn’t play in Duke’s win over UVa and his return to action is unclear at this time.
The Hokies, after an ugly win over Georgia Tech the week before, looked overmatched in Charlottesville. However, Buzz Williams got his group back on the winning side of things with an easy win over Wake Forest in Blacksburg on Saturday.
We down Wake Forest 87-71 to improve to 4-1 in ACC play ✊— Virginia Tech Men's Basketball (@HokiesMBB) January 19, 2019
• We score our most points in league action
• Make 'em pay in the paint, outscoring them 30-14
• Remain perfect at home with a 10-0 record#getBETTER | #Hokies pic.twitter.com/PcGRb08Zcw
Earlier in the week, the Demon Deacons picked up a signature win of their own, defeating No. 17 N.C. State, once again proving that any game in this league can down to the wire.
No. 13 North Carolina picked up two wins last week, defeating Notre Dame in Chapel Hill and Miami on the road. Five-star freshman guard Nassir Little continues to come off the bench for the Heels and scored in double figures in both of UNC’s wins last week. The Tar Heels need more from Little if they are going to challenge for an ACC title this season.
Undoubtedly, the surprise of the ACC is Louisville. On the surface, calling the Cardinals a surprise doesn’t sound possible. They are an elite program every year. But with the Rick Pitino scandal last season and the loss of several good players, the Cards, under new head coach Chris Mack, weren’t expected to be contenders this season. Mack, doing his usual outstanding coaching job, has Louisville at 4-1 in the ACC and 13-5 overall. Four of its five losses were to Tennessee, Marquette, Kentucky and Indiana.
Louisville’s sole ACC loss was at Pittsburgh, where new head coach Jeff Capel has the Panthers playing much better basketball and have already far surpassed last season’s win total in league play.
The flip side of Louisville is Florida State. Remember when this team was ranked inside the top 10 and Virginia destroyed the Seminoles? Now, after today’s loss to Boston College, FSU is 1-4 in ACC play.
With Duke taking down Virginia on Saturday, an unprecedented six teams sit atop the league with a 4-1 mark. Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Syracuse. N.C. State is right behind at 3-2.
This week’s slate is headlined by Monday night’s tilt between UNC and Virginia Tech in Chapel Hill. The Hokies need a big win and taking down the Tar Heels in the Dean Dome represents that big win. Tech beat North Carolina last January 80-69 in Blacksburg. Since entering the ACC back in 2004, the Hokies have only one win in Chapel Hill and that was back in 2006-07 when Seth Greenberg was in charge.
The other top games this week are Wednesday’s contest between N.C. State and Louisville and Saturday’s game between Syracuse and Virginia Tech.
It’s a huge week for the Hokies as they battle two teams currently tied with them atop the ACC and have a chance to create some separation.