2017 North Carolina Power Rankings: Duke clinches top spot after convincing wins

North State Journals sports staff picks their top college basketball teams from the state each week

Mark Dolejs—USA Today Sports
Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) celebrates with guard Matt Jones (13) in the closing seconds of the second half of their game against the Boston College Eagles at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Did you miss us? Be honest, after more than a month of not having N.C. Power Rankings, the humdrum of national polls gets old after a while. Luckily, with the first week of conference play out of the way for every team in the state, we’re back with the first ever college basketball rankings.It comes at an interesting time after North Carolina curbstomped NC State on Sunday afternoon, 107-56, in the Dean Dome. Meanwhile, Duke avenged a road loss to Virginia Tech with two straight thumpings of Georgia Tech and Boston College in Durham.Apart from the Big Four, UNCW continues to impress, riding a four-game winning streak after a road loss to Clemson. Programs like UNCG, Queens and NC Central won’t garner much national attention, but they are some of the top teams in N.C. just past the midway point in the season.With the first week of the conference play wrapped up, here’s a look at the top 10 teams in the state, according to North State Journal sportswriters R. Cory Smith, Brett Friedlander and Shawn Krest.1. Duke (30)The gang is all back together for the Blue Devils, and they looked unstoppable in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Then again, Georgia Tech and Boston College aren’t exactly great barometer of where a team stands in the conference.Grayson Allen looks solid at the point, but is already mired in controversy again with a move that the ACC couldn’t decipher if it was another trip. With a trip to Florida State (15-1, 3-0 ACC) up next, Duke has its toughest test in January on Tuesday.2. North Carolina (27)A befuddling loss to Georgia Tech and overtime win at Clemson are all bud forgotten after the mollywhopping UNC gave to NC State. The 51-point win was not only the largest win in ACC play, but was also a crucial victory with teams like Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami also on the docket in January.Justin Jackson and Joel Berry are playing at a First Team All-ACC level — Berry has 50 points over the last two games. Given the Tar Heels’ experience and offensive firepower, this team is rounding into form with the meat of the ACC schedule still ahead of it.3. UNCW (24)No team in the state is hotter than the Seahawks, who currently sit at 15-2 overall and 4-0 in CAA play. Despite playing three of its first four games on the road in the conference, UNCW has won every game by double digits, scoring at a clip of 86.8 points per game — good for 12th in the country.The scoring comes from everywhere for the Seahawks, with C.J. Bryce pacing the team with 17.8 points per game. Devontae Cacok ranks second in the CAA in rebounding (9.6 pg) while ranking first in the country in shooting percentage (82.8). But that’s not all. Denzel Ingram ranks second in CAA with 5.8 assists per game. Chris Flemmings does it all with 15.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 1.5 spg. All of that offense sets up for an explosive team ready to blister through the CAA schedule.4. NC State (21)Following a 26-point win over Virginia Tech, Mark Gottfried told his team “this is just one win.” After a 51-point loss to UNC, he shared a similar message telling his team, “this is just one loss.” Truth be told, that’s exactly what they count as on the schedule. But they prove just how inconsistent the Wolfpack has been this season.Gottfried’s team has just three days to prepare for Boston College in Chestnut Hill on Wednesday night. Still looking for its first road win, NC State still has a chance to have a big January with home contests against Georgia Tech, Pitt and Wake Forest next week.5. UNC-Greensboro (17)It’s time to start paying attention to UNCG this season after an 11-3 stretch following a 1-2 start. The Spartans have lost three of their five games against Power Five opponents, including Virginia at the beginning of the season.Francis Alonso is leading the Spartans with 13.4 points per game with a 44.9 clip from three-point range. Despite an early slip up against High Point and recent loss to Samford, UNCG is one of the top five teams in N.C. at the halfway point in the season.6. Wake Forest (16)The Demon Deacons may have defeated the No. 5 team on this list, but Wake has gone south since. Blowout wins over LSU and Boston College don’t make up for the four losses, including a 1-3 start in conference.Granted, those losses were against Xavier (13-2), FSU (15-1), Clemson (11-4) and UVA (12-3), but Wake has to eventually win some of those games. With UNC and Miami at home before travelling to NC State and Syracuse, the slate doesn’t get much easier for the Deacs.7. Queens (12)Queens University of Charlotte is cruising through the SAC Conference with six of its seven wins coming by 12 points or more. At 13-0, Queens proved it can beat more than just lower-tier teams with an exhibition win to open the season at VCU, who now sits at 13-3 in the regular season.The Royals had their closest call of the season on Wednesday against Catawba (10-4) in an 83-77 win on the road, but the best defensive team in the SAC is fully equipped to run the table the rest of the way.8. Guilford (7)The Quakers are making waves in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference with four straight wins in conference play. Fueled by forwards Carson Long (16.8 ppg in ODAC play) and Dominique Henderson (14.3 ppg, 81.8 fgp), Guilford is on the cusp of breaking into the DIII rankings with a six-game winning streak in tow.9. NC Central (6)This might not be NC Central’s best team under coach LeVelle Moton, but the Eagles are certainly fighting back after a rough stretch to start December. Winners of three straight to close out 2016, NCCU begins conference play with games against lowly Delaware State (4-12), Eastern Shore (3-12), Norfolk State (3-12), Hampton (3-12) before facing rival NC A&T (1-14 in January. Expect the Eagles to quickly climb up the N.C. Power Rankings if Guilford or Queens falter.10. Pfeiffer (4)Coming off a 14-15 year in Misenheimer last season, Pfeiffer is currently 10-2 after starting with a six-game winning streak. Even the losses have been notable, with 80-plus points in every game this year — including a 126-113 loss in an exhibition game at UNCW.Despite dropping two road games at Emmanuel and King already this year, Pfeiffer is perfect at home this season. Currently averaging 106.1 points per game, the Falcons are entertaining and one of the best teams in the state nearly midway through January.Also receiving votes: UNC Asheville (2), UNC Pembroke (1)