The middle tier consists of teams that will be able to compete among each other and pull off the occasional upset of top tier teams but don’t expect them to compete for the ACC regular season crown.
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5. Louisville Cardinals (1-0)
After Notre Dame, the drop off from top tier to middle tier is quite noticeable. Overall, Louisville will probably have more success than a normal team would in their circumstances due to the level of talent on their team.
As long as David Paggett can coach at a respectable level, the Cardinals will be able to compete against other conference teams and beat most of the teams below them thanks to their athleticism and raw talent. That being said, they’ll struggle against the top tier that features better coaching and better overall talent. Don’t be surprised if they have mid season falters as the FBI scandal continues to put a shadow over the university as a whole.
6. Virginia Cavaliers (2-0)
The Cavaliers are always hard to predict and place when it comes to power ranking. They will have one of the lowest offensive outputs in the nation but will also feature one of the country’s best defenses.
When the Cavaliers get beat it usually comes down to raw talent and other teams taking advantage of the small defensive mistakes the Cavs make. They’ll be able to compete against teams above them thanks to their defensive efforts but they’re not going to be a team that blows other teams out consistently.
7. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0)
The Virginia Tech program is on the rise and has quickly risen to the top half of the ACC. They’ve looked really good so far against Detroit and The Citadel but not too much stock should be put into those two games. We’ll get a good look at how strong Buzz Williams squad is come Thursday when they take on St. Louis.
T-9. Syracuse Orange (1-0)
Overall, the program has taken a step back over the last several years which is not too much of a surprise. The Orange are young this season and rather inexperience but looked solid in their season opening win over Cornell. They’ve grown to not worry with Jim Boehiem as head coach and with good reason, they’ll figure it out and could make the tournament in 2017.
The separation between them and the next two programs is so small their virtually tied at this point. We should begin to see some separation over the next few weeks before heading into the conference slate.
T-9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (0-1)
There was a lot of hype around the Wake Forest program entering the season but that took a huge hit last Friday. On Friday, they took an 85-83 loss to Georgia Southern in a reality check game that shows there is still work to be done for the Demon Deacons. We’ll chalk their one possession loss up to nerves and it being game one of the season but they’ll have to fix their mistakes quickly.
T-9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (0-1)
The Yellow Jackets took on UCLA and showed that they can survive without Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson, which is good news as the NCAA has yet to give a ruling on their case. The Jackets will need to play at the high level they did last weekend against UCLA to survive their non-conference schedule to come out with a strong record entering their conference schedule.
Once the Jackets get Okogie and Jackson back they could be a team that can make a run at the NCAA Tournament. At the least, it looks like Josh Pastner’s squad should at least get back o the NIT Tournament in year two of the their six-year plan to get the Jackets to the NCAA Tournament.
11. North Carolina State Wolfpack (2-0)
Some had the Wolfpack as one of the top ten teams in the ACC and they may be close to one but we’re not a believer yet. They were the third worst team in the ACC last season and had one of the best player in the entire country on their team.
This season they are not nearly as talented and their best player Abdul-Malik Abu is currently out with an injury. Their two wins are over VMI and Charleston Southern. We’ll see how they do when they play real competition later in their non-conference schedule and against ACC opponents. They’re a quality team that could be better than last year’s 15-win squad but we’re not belivers yet.