2017 North Carolina Power Rankings: Duke, UNC share votes for top spot

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

Mark Dolejs—USA Today Sports
Duke Blue Devils guard Luke Kennard (5) and forward Jayson Tatum (0) are all smiles as they head down the court in the closing seconds in the second half of their game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The top teams in the state remained remarkably consistent, meaning the first three spots were untouched (yay for uniformity!). However, nearly every spot after that was shaken up by another loss for Queens and the strong play of NC Central and Pfeiffer.Duke and UNC kept rolling and stay at the top of the N.C. Power Rankings. However, Duke is no longer the consensus No. 1 team following another nail-biting win over Wake Forest on Saturday.With regular season winding down, 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 (29)Last Week: 1Riding a seven-game winning streak, the Blue Devils are once again the top team in the state in the N.C. Power Rankings. Since a loss at home to NC State on Jan. 23, Duke has beaten the likes of UNC, Notre Dame and Virginia during a streak that has now lasted three weeks.Jayson Tatum continues to emerge as one of the best freshmen in the ACC after posting a career-high 28 points along with eight rebounds against UVA’s stingy defense. Tatum, along with Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen, have the Devils looking like a potential No. 1 seed again.2. North Carolina (28)Last Week: 2Since the loss to Duke nearly two weeks ago, the Tar Heels have blistered both NC State and Virginia. Both wins came by exactly 24 points in completely different fashion, with UNC’s offense blowing out the Wolfpack with 97 points and the defense holding the Cavaliers to 41 points.The loss of Kenny Williams hurts the Heels’ perimeter defense, but it’s clearly not that big of a dropoff. Justin Jackson is emerging as the clear star of the team in ACC play, but the Heels as a whole are neck-and-neck with the Devils for a No. 1 seed in March.3. UNCW (24)Last Week: 3The Seahawks are a perplexing team in the CAA, but one that still looks like the clear favorite heading into March. At 85 points per game, UNCW ranks 12th in the country in total offense. However, the 74.5 points allowed comes in at 233rd out of 347 total teams in the NCAA.Yeah, that’s not good. But after winning two straight CAA regular season titles and coming in as the defending CAA Tournament champs, there’s little concern in Wilmington. And with Kevin Keatts leading the way, an NCAA Tournament berth is still attainable.4. NC Central (20)Last Week: 5The only thing stronger than LeVelle Moton’s blazer game is his team’s play in the MEAC. Through 12 games in conference play, the Eagles are 11-1 with an 11-game winning streak behind the sharp-dressed coach.Already compiling a 20-win campaign for the fourth time in the last five years, Moton has NCCU on the cusp of yet another NCAA Tournament berth. Competing in a conference where only one other team — Norfolk State at 14-13 — is above .500, the odds look pretty good for the Eagles.5. Pfeiffer (18)Last Week: 6Twelve straight wins for Pfeiffer is the longest in the state and has the Falcons climbing into the top five in the power rankings. That’s thanks, in large part, to Pfeiffer’s ridiculous 106.8 points per game this season and a perfect record (13-0) at home.The Falcons avenged their last loss in Conference Carolinas play with an 82-76 win over Limestone on Saturday. With nearly a week off before facing Belmont-Abbey on Saturday, Pfeiffer now has a shot of winning the conference and rolling in the Conference Carolinas Tournament.6. UNC Asheville (14)Last Week: 8Lengthy winning streaks appear to be a theme in N.C., and UNC Asheville is no exception. The Bulldogs are currently on a nine-game winning streak that has included three straight shellackings against Longwood, Presbyterian and Campbell by a total margin of 76 points.7. QueensLast Week: 4After a 16-0 start to the season, Queens University of Charlotte is now 7-3 in its last 10 games. That’s obviously not a terrible record over a 10-game stretch, but playing in the SAC Conference doesn’t exactly stack up to the ACC or Big South competition for teams above the Royals.8. UNC Greensboro (8)Last Week: 9Since losing three straight a few weeks back, the Spartans have now won four straight — with the last two coming by an average of 20 points. Diante Baldwin — the first player to total 1,000 points, 400 assists and 400 rebounds in UNCG history — has the Spartans looking like a contender in the Southern Conference.9. Wake Forest (7)Last Week: 7Outside of a win over NC State, which at this point means very little, the Deacons’ slide in the ACC continues. Wake Forest is now 6-9 in conference play after losses to lowly Clemson and a second close defeat against Duke despite John Collins’ 31 points and 15 rebounds in Cameron.10. UNC Pembroke (4)Last Week: NRCurrently at 20-7, UNC Pembroke cracks the list again with a six-game winning streak in tow. Two of those wins came in overtime against Lander and USC Aiken, but the Braves have a chance at winning the Peach Belt Conference on Saturday thanks to the February turnaround.