2017 North Carolina Power Rankings: UNC, Duke heading in opposite direction ahead of rivalry finale

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

Rob Kinnan—USA Today Sports
North Carolina Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson (44) dribbles up the floor during the second half against the Virginia Cavaliers at Dean E. Smith Center. The Tar Heels won 65-41.

Just when it looked like the Blue Devils were back, suddenly they weren’t. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels just keep on rolling while the Seahawks stormed to four straight wins to clinch a third straight CAA regular season title.At most, every team in the state either has one regular season game remaining or its conference tournament coming up. So, essentially what you see is what you’re getting with every program at this point in the season.With the ACC Tournament on the horizon, 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. North Carolina (30)Last Week: 2UNC just continues to romp its way through the ACC slate with four straight wins and 25 overall victories for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. The Tar Heels look the part of the strongest team in the ACC after dominant victories over Louisville (previously No. 7 in the AP Poll) and Pittsburgh.Saturday’s game will no longer be a matchup of two top-10 programs due to Duke’s struggles, but it will certainly be a bloodbath. The Blue Devils will be more desperate again, but the Heels are a well-oiled machine ahead of their trip to Brooklyn next week.2. UNCW (26)Last Week: 3When discussing UNCW’s record-setting regular season, it’s important to point out exactly which record you’re referring to. Several players have set records this season with their play, but the team already has 26 wins and a 13-1 mark at home — both all-time highs for the program.The Seahawks haven’t even entered the CAA Tournament and coach Kevin Keatts already has the most victories in a single season in program history. With a No. 1 seed already locked up, Keatts will look to shatter the mark with three wins necessary to win and advance to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year.3. Duke (24)Last Week: 1A week after losing its consensus spot as the No. 1 team in the N.C. Power Rankings, Duke drops all the way to third after two losses the previous week. The Blue Devils’ road struggles have returned with two narrow losses at Syracuse and Miami to drop them to 3-5 in ACC play away from Cameron.Grayson Allen hasn’t quite looked like himself in recent weeks, averaging just eight points per game since posting 25 against UNC. After Mike Krzyzewski wisely sat him out against UM, Duke will need Allen to get healthy down the stretch to make any semblance of a run in March.T4. NC Central (20)Last Week: 4With two game remaining in the regular season, the Eagles have already clinched a third MEAC title in the last four years. Despite one slip up to start conference play, NC Central has rattled off 13 straight wins.Prior to LeVelle Moton’s arrival, NCCU was a middling program in the Division II CIAA with little direction. Now the Eagles are by far the most consistent team in the MEAC with a shot at making a second NCAA Tournament in four years with the conference tournament starting next week.T4. Pfeiffer (20)Last Week: 5Much like NC Central, Pfeiffer is riding a 13-game winning streak with one game remaining in Conference Carolinas play. The Falcons played just one game last week, but it was a trouncing of Belmont Abbey by a final of 80-62.With two consecutive games in the 80s — a normal performance for most teams — Pfeiffer’s scoring average dropped to 105.9 points per game. Thanks to four players averaging more than 15 points per game, the Falcons have one of the most prolific offenses heading into the Conference Carolinas Tournament on Saturday.6. Queens (15)Last Week: 7Queens University of Charlotte is back on track at the perfect time in the season after four wins in the last five games. Heading into the SAC Tournament fresh off two blowout wins, the Royals still have a shot at entering the Division II Tournament as a top-10 team.7. Wake Forest (10)Last Week: 9The Demon Deacons played just one game last week, needing a huge rally to survive against a lowly Pittsburgh team at home. Luckily, Wake has ACC Player of the Year candidate John Collins, who has 11 straight 20-plus point games with seven double-doubles over that stretch.8. UNC Greensboro (9)Last Week: 8Seniors R.J. White and Diante Baldwin have the Spartans back on track in the Southern Conference despite a rough stretch in January. With the conference tourney tipping off on Friday, UNCG will eventually have to tackle fellow juggernauts in East Tennessee State and Furman to play late into March.9. UNC Pembroke (6)Last Week: 10Following a tight win over North Georgia to start the PBC Tournament, the Braves are 22-7 overall with an eight-game winning streak. Saturday provides a huge test with a quarterfinals matchup against Lancer, a team that took UNCP to overtime earlier this month in an 83-81 win for Pembroke.10. UNC Asheville (4)Last Week: 6A loss to Gardner-Webb on Thursday dropped the Bulldogs to second in the Big South standings, but a convincing win over Liberty helped keep them there. While UNC-Asheville didn’t clinch the regular season title, three more wins in Rock Hill, S.C. would propel the Dogs to the NCAA Tournament.Also listed: Guilford (1)