LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After finishing 2017 on such a high note by suggesting Louisville's chances of winning in Rupp Arena were improved without the tension of Rick Pitino raging on the sidelines, predictions should take a place with high fructose corn syrup on the list of things I need to reduce in 2018.

I can't say it's going to be easy, especially when a prediction is as inviting as this one:

Pittsburgh, the team Louisville will host at 9 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center, is the worst team the Cardinals will play the remainder of this season. If the Cards don't win this game, and do it with gusto, it will officially be time to howl at the moon.

Not only is Pitt ranked the worst team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Panthers have the second worst power rating of the 75 teams in the top six leagues according to Ken Pomeroy's computer formula.

Worse than Ole Miss. Worse than Rutgers. Worse than DePaul.

Just not worse than California.

The ACC schedule-maker gave Louisville a hug, guaranteeing the Cards a victory to begin ACC play as well as 40 minutes to scrub away the sting of that timid performance at Kentucky.

The schedule-maker also gave me a perfect launching spot for how the 15 ACC contenders rank as teams move into conference play.

These numbers are not simply my projections (unless they shake out at least 90 percent correct). They are a compilation of five computer formulas -- Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, Kevin Pauga, Erik Haslam and the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

Here we go. Print and save (or do a better job than me):

15. Pittsburgh (8-6) -- This stat won't tell you everything you should know about the Panthers, but it's a solid start. They rank last in the ACC in attendance at 3,521.

That's for a building that seats 12,508 and was known as one of the toughest places to play in the Big East when Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon were in town. Kevin Stallings needs more than wins and players. He needs friends.

14. Georgia Tech (6-7) -- It's not simply that the Yellow Jackets are the only ACC team with a losing record. It's the teams that Josh Pastner's team has failed to beat -- Grambling, Wright State, Wofford.

This would have been a perfect season for U of L to play Tech twice -- or at least on the road. There's only one game and it's at Second and Main.

13. North Carolina State (10-4) -- If the Wolfpack can play their way onto the bubble, they can flash credentials like beating Arizona and Penn State. But Kevin Keatts' team ranks 13th in the league in three-point shooting percentage as well as three-pointers made so he'd be better concentrating on recruiting.

12. Wake Forest (7-6) -- This is Year Four for Danny Manning who has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in Winston-Salem. I'm not saying he's on the Hot Seat but I wouldn't be shocked if the Hot Seat popped up on his WAZE app by March.

11. Boston College (10-4) -- The Golden Eagles beat Duke in Chestnut Hill and lost to Virginia by one in Charlottesville. They have home games with Clemson and Wake Forest this week -- and if they win both, look for Jimmy Christian's team to become the trendy Sleeper Pick.

10. Virginia Tech (11-3) -- The Hokies looked the part of a dangerous team when they challenged Kentucky in Rupp Arena. But a closer look at their resume does not show any Top 75 wins but it does show an ugly loss to Saint Louis.

9. Louisville (10-3) -- Can a team fail to show toughness for 13 games and then develop it against the toughest competition in college basketball?

That's a perfect question for Louisville. The Cardinals don't do enough attacking to get to the free throw line and they don't do enough work on the defensive glass. Both fixes are not optional if David Padgett's team expects to outperform Pomeroy's projection of a 9-9 ACC record.

8. Notre Dame (11-3) -- Bonzie Colson has maintained his spot in the Player of the Year race. Matt Farrell is a quality point guard. T.J. Gibbs is Mike Brey's most improved player.

But, as usual, the Irish are not deep and they don't have a monster post player, which explains losses to Ball State and Indiana.

7. Syracuse (12-2) -- I guess the computer formulas have been more dazzled by the Syracuse wins over Texas Southern, Cornell and Colgate than I have been.

Mark me down as questioning the numbers because I don't believe the Orange are the seventh-best team in the league, not with an effective field goal percentage that ranks 265th in the nation.

6. Florida State (11-2) -- Leonard Hamilton is a marvel. The guy will turn 69 in August. He has outlasted Jimbo Fisher -- at a fraction of the price. His three best players from last season are gone.

The Seminoles have a win over Florida and currently project as a 10-8 team on Pomeroy.

5. Miami (12-1) -- Bruce Brown and Ja'Quan Newton gives the Hurricanes one of the best backcourts in the ACC. Dewan Huell, who is 6 feet 11, is a likely pro. Coach Jim Larranaga is legit. This will be an NCAA Tournament team.

4. Clemson (12-1) -- The Tigers' are a seven-point loss against Temple shy of being unbeaten -- and that is with five Top 100 wins, including one at Ohio State.

Pomeroy ranks them as a Top 10 team on defense and a Top 25 team on offense, which explains why Louisville's win probability for the Cards' trip to Littlejohn Coliseum Saturday is 27 percent.

3. Virginia (12-1) -- Don't make the mistake that I made of dwelling on the Cavaliers' 65-39 loss to Florida in the NCAA Tournament as well as Virginia's 7-8 finish last season.

Tony Bennett's team does not miss London Perrantes as much as I expected because they don't take bad shots and guard like crazy.

2. North Carolina (12-2) -- The Tar Heels got thumped by Michigan State and burped against Wofford but don't overlook six Top 100 victories, including wins over NCAA Tournament teams like Arkansas, Michigan and Tennessee.

This is a Show Me Week for Roy Williams' team: They play at Florida State and Virginia.

1. Duke (13-1) -- This is the most talented team in the league. This is a team with pro after pro after pro. Marvin Bagley is the nation's best big man. This is a team that has beaten Michigan State, Florida and Texas.

But this is a team with legitimate questions on defense because the Blue Devils rank 81st in Pomeroy's defensive efficiency numbers while allowing 89 and 93 points in their first two ACC games.

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