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Record: 25-6, 16-2
Now, the real question will be asked of the Cavaliers. Are they a legit contender? They arguably had an easier schedule than other ACC foes, not having to play UNC and Syracuse on the road. Can Virginia back up the regular season title with the tourney championship?
Things won’t be easy from the start either getting Maryland (who they just lost to) or Florida State. A likely matchup with North Carolina follows. If the Cavs can make it to the championship game it will be deserved and a No. 2 NCAA seeding will go along with it. Their offense will need to be as consistent as their defense.
Record: 27-4, 14-4
Once considered the best team in the country, the Orange have fallen off losing four of their last six games. The big news for them in their last game was that Jerami Grant returned to full strength. He was a missing piece from the previous couple losses.
We know that ‘Cuse have a great zone defense, but will their offense score enough? If defenses can stop Trevor Cooney from getting open looks, it’s going to fall on C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis to take over. A semifinal match with Duke awaits, their third meeting of the season.
Record: 24-7, 13-5
The Blue Devils rebounded from their ugly defeat at Wake Forest to top UNC last Saturday. They have a team that can compete with anyone due to tons of scoring options, but lack a solid defense and a consistent big man. Like the two teams above them, a 3-seed is guaranteed, but a 2-seed is possible for the Big Dance.
Duke will likely face Clemson in the first game, a team they already lost to by 13 points. They’ll have the edge on Syracuse in the semis, but a very slight edge it is.
Record: 23-8, 13-5
Despite losing their final game at Duke, the Tar Heels are still the hottest team in the conference (along with Virginia), just one game removed from a 12-game winning streak. Their projected seeding has jumped up to a 5 and could rise even more if they can make the championship game.
First up will likely be Pittsburgh, a difficult test, but one they should win. A matchup with Virginia is waiting for UNC in the semis. They already lost by 15 points at Virginia, but that was back in January.
Record: 23-8, 11-7
Even with its struggles over the second half of the season, Pitt still looks like a lock for the tournament. The Panthers are 5-6 in their last 11 games, but have won three straight on the road. They will no doubt be a tricky team to predict going forward.
Lamar Patterson is the only true scoring option every game on this team which is their main problem. They shouldn’t have trouble in their first game, but then will have to face UNC. Someone other than Patterson will need to step up in that game.
Record: 19-11, 10-8
The Tigers were slightly on the bubble, but two losses in the past two weeks have shot them down, one at Wake Forest and the other a winnable game against Pitt. Now, Clemson will need to make a move in the ACC tourney, a run that will require topping Duke and probably Syracuse in the semis. It’s a tough road ahead, but those teams aren’t invincible.
The ACC is filled with mid-range teams that can be tough opponents in this tournament. NC State is led by one of the best players in the conference in T.J. Warren (24.8 PPG) and could be a problem for Syracuse. Both Maryland and Florida State can give trouble to Virginia in the quarterfinals.
A lot of people will be looking at another UNC-Duke matchup in the championship because they just don’t trust the defensive Virginia and Syracuse teams all that much. However, defense has gotten those two teams to the top for a reason.
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