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ATLANTIC
COAST
CONFERENCE

Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
March 6-10

 

VIRGINIA
Record: 28-2, 17-1
The Cavaliers ran through the ACC almost with ease this season, but the tournament is another beast. As of note, while they have won the regular season numerous times in recent years, won just one conference tournament (2014). None of their games will be considered easy because Florida State and Louisville are both NCAA tournament teams and so are likely semifinal opponents Clemson and NC State. As the top seed, the title runs through the Hoos, but this isn’t the type of team that’s going to dominate. Due to style of play, these games will be close and it was only a week ago that Louisville almost took down Virginia. They may have the most complete and consistent squad for the season, but will be harder to trust come tourney time.

DUKE
Record: 25-6, 13-5
The Blue Devils are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time and that’s why a lot will pick them to win this tournament. However, a matchup with desperate Notre Dame could be a tough draw and then a rubber match against North Carolina could happen in the semifinals. Still, Duke has the most talent in possibly the country and is playing great zone defense, which is why many will be backing the 2-seed.

MIAMI
Record: 22-8, 11-7
On the other end of Duke is a team that fell into the 3-seed after winning its final four games. Having to take down UNC in its first game will be difficult as will any opponent in the semifinals. The Hurricanes are a long shot to win this tournament, despite a lower seed, based off how inconsistent they’ve been and the continued absence of Bruce Brown, who is still injured.

CLEMSON
Record: 22-8, 11-7
In the same boat as Miami, not many will back the Tigers to win this tournament due to their inability to beat top competition since Donte Grantham went down. Recent losses at FSU, VT and Syracuse show that. Even if they get by NC State in the first game (likely opponent), taking down Virginia is going to be problematic after the Cavs beat them 61-36 back in January.

NC STATE
Record: 21-10, 11-7
The Wolfpack may be the best underdog to throw some money on simply because they’ve shown throughout the season that the talent is there to beat top teams. While they’re inconsistent, wins at UNC and against Arizona and Duke stand out. Getting past Clemson is more than possible, while anything can happen against Virginia. In the first game, Virginia won 68-51, but that came in Charlottesville. The Wolfpack have depth, size and NBA talent so the tools are there.

NORTH CAROLINA
Record: 22-9, 11-7
After losing their final two games, the Tar Heels fell to a 6-seed due to numerous tiebreakers. It’s an unfortunate fall, but the path is more than achievable to reach the semifinals. Nothing is easy in the ACC, but they should win their first game to set up a rematch with Miami. Even though the Hurricanes stole that recent meeting, Miami also had one of its better shooting days of the season (11 made threes). The Heels aren’t as good as year’s past, but the leadership of Joel Berry is unmatched by most in the conference.

There are five other teams in the conference that could make the NCAA tournament, but will be heavy underdogs to advance to the semifinals or championship. Virginia Tech beat the best team in the ACC (Virginia), but will get a hungry Notre Dame team in the first game and then Duke in the quarterfinals. The Irish will be playing for their NCAA lives and may need to get past Duke in the quarters to have a chance. With Bonzie Colson back, they’ll be a popular upset pick, but that would require five wins in five days.

Louisville is another team that could make a run even with losses in four of its last five. If the Cardinals can get past an underwhelming Florida State team, a rematch with Virginia is next. The Seminoles are in the same position and have the better seed, but struggled against the elite ACC teams this season. As for Syracuse, it also needs to win at least two games to be considered for March Madness. There’s no reason to put money on the Orange as they’ll have to go through UNC, a team that has already shown it can beat a 2-3 zone.

Virginia makes the most sense to back as it only had one conference loss and if it’s another Duke-Virginia game, the Hoos could be favored. Those two are the easiest teams to back, while others like UNC, Notre Dame and NC State have longer roads, but that also means better odds.

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