North Carolina State 88, #6 Duke 74
It's been nearly seven full years since both North Carolina and Duke lost a conference game on the same night. And while North Carolina has real problems right now (I'll get to those in a moment), this Duke game was more of a fluke than anything else. There are never free games in the ACC, and no team can expect to always win if they can't hit their shots, and Duke was just ice cold while NC State was red hot. Duke hit 39% from the field for the game, while NC State was better than that just on three-pointers (41%) en route to 58% overall shooting from the field. Duke's good rebounding actually continued here, dominating the boards by winning 16 of 34 rebounds on their missed shots, and only give up 5 of 27 rebounds off of NC State missed shots. I don't think there's much point in taking too much out of this game. The worry for Duke is just that they lose a chance to really start to separate themselves from the pack in the ACC. Virginia is leading the conference at 3-0, but nobody takes them seriously. Duke is now tied for the lead in conference record among teams with a realistic chance of winning the conference. This game meant a lot more for an NC State team still hoping to play their way into the Tournament. They move to 2-3 in the ACC and 13-6 overall, but this is their first really good win (a win over Florida State is also worth noting) and their RPI is 84th. Sagarin and Pomeroy have them closer to 60-65th in the nation, and their RPI will improve as their strength of schedule improves, but they still have a bunch of ground to make up to become a serious at-large contender, even with this win.
Wake Forest 82, #23 North Carolina 69
What bothers me about this slide for North Carolina more than anything is that it seems like even Roy Williams doesn't know what to do about this. His team is struggling, but a lot of it seems out of their hands. Injuries have killed them, with Ed Davis missing this game in addition to Tyler Zeller, who will still be out for another month or so. Williams chose to go with Travis Wear as a starter (how many UNC fans thought that with the likes of Tyler Zeller and John Henson on the bench to start the season that Travis Wear would end up starting ACC games?). I continue to argue for Dexter Strickland as a starter because of his explosiveness and energy, and because the team's poor ball handling situation suggests the need for a three guard lineup. This actually wasn't a bad loss if you look at it in isolation. Wake Forest is a very good team that is on pace to easily crack the final field of 65, and they just shot the lights out in this one (50% from the field, 56% behind the arc). North Carolina actually won the rebounding battle (they had four fewer rebounds, but when you control for the number of missed shots UNC was actually much more efficient), and amazingly won the turnover battle, and also had many more assists per made shot. By every statistic other than shooting percentage, the Tar Heels won this game. But this what happens when a team as talented as the Tar Heels loses this many games in this short of a time period. North Carolina now falls to 1-3 in ACC play, which actually puts them alone in 11th place, although they really need to not focus on the standings at this point. They need to get their confidence back by winning a few games, and only then should they worry about where they're sitting in the ACC standings. As for Wake Forest, this is their best win, and they also have a quality win over Xavier. They're up close to 25th in all of the computer polls, and at 3-2 in ACC play are in a four-way tie in the standings with Duke, Georgia Tech and Clemson. Considering how far back UNC has fallen in the standings, and the fact that nobody takes Virginia and Maryland seriously (the two teams with better ACC records than those four teams), it looks extremely likely that one of those four teams will win the ACC regular season title. The Demon Deacons next need to avoid a letdown when they play Virginia at home, and then play at Georgia Tech.
#14 Georgetown 74, #11 Pittsburgh 66
This was probably a reality check loss for Pittsburgh more than anything else. Although you wouldn't have thought they were going to have that reality check at home, where they had won 31 straight, the second longest active streak in the nation, behind only Kansas. This was just one of those days for Pitt, where they played well but constantly could not hit that big shot, including a total of 4-for-18 behind the arc. Breakout star Ashton Gibbs particularly struggled from the floor, and Brad Wannamaker didn't have a good game either. It was just a bad game, but Pitt was due for one of those after so many close wins, and they now fall to 5-1 in Big East play. They have a tricky game Sunday at Seton Hall, but otherwise have a pretty easy schedule until they head to West Virginia on February 3rd. They remain a dark horse for the Big East title. For Georgetown, obviously this win had more to do with a bad shooting night from Pitt than anything else, but they also got a very nice 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting from the field from Chris Wright. It's encouraging to see different players step up every night for this team, and they could be scary good if they pull everything together at some point. At 5-2 in Big East play they remain in contention for the Big East title, but have a very tough game coming up at Syracuse on Monday night. I think that 14-4 will be good enough to grab a share of the Big East title, but a loss for the Hoyas on Monday night will make it extremely difficult for them to get there.