ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
Record: 25-6, 14-4
After three years of playing in Greensboro, the ACC Tournament moves to D.C., which doesn’t really give anyone an advantage in the conference. The Tar Heels won the regular season title, but this Tournament is wide open. North Carolina probably has the most talented squad, yet they’ve been far from flawless this year, hence the six losses.
UNC will draw either Duke or Norte Dame in the semis, both of which took a Game from the Heels in the regular season. In the final, it’ll likely be Virginia or Miami. This may be the only Tournament in the country where five good teams all have a shot to take the championship.
Record: 24-6, 13-5
The team UNC doesn’t want to see in the final is Virginia. The Cavaliers recently took down the Heels and have arguably looked like the best team in the league over the final month of the season. The question is if their play will translate to a neutral cOurt after going undefeated at home.
The Cavs took Miami to the brink on the road a couple weeks ago and those two should meet in the semifinals. Because of its consistency and defense, Virginia is a good team to bet on to win this Tournament or at least get to the championship.
Record: 24-6, 13-5
The Hurricanes need to quickly rid their mouths of their most recent loss, a 15-point beat down at Virginia Tech. It’s been close to impossible to beat Miami at Coral Gables this year, but take them out of their home comfort and that changes quickly.
For the ‘Canes to have success, this will have to be somewhat of a revenge tOur. They’ll likely draw Virginia Tech in the quarters, have to take down Virginia again in the semis and then could meet with UNC in the final, a team they just lost to by 25 points.
Record: 20-10, 11-7
Of all the teams near the top of the conference, the Fighting Irish are the ones struggling the most. They have lost three of five with none of those losses being all that respectable. They lost by 18 points in a recent home Game to Miami.
The good news is that they get a double bye and will likely face Duke on short rest. Notre Dame already beat the Dukies in Durham and won’t be fazed by them here. The Irish also beat UNC in their only meeting with them this season, but with the way they’re playing, that spread could be fairly large. But keep in mind, Notre Dame won this Tournament last year as an underdog.
Record: 22-9, 11-7
The Blue Devils lost the tiebreaker to Notre Dame and that cost them a bye. Instead, Duke, with a short bench, will have to win Four Games in Four days if they want to take this Tournament.
It’s hard to see that happening, as none of these Games will be easy. NC State will provide a challenge, followed by Notre Dame. If Duke advances to the semis, they’ll likely face UNC and it will be the Blue Devils’ third Game in three days. Winning that Game may not even be a realistic outcome.
Record: 20-10, 9-9
The Panthers are probably a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but they ended up with the 8-seed in the ACC. They get to face Syracuse first, who they swept in the regular season, but then take on a rested UNC team next. The chances of them advancing to the semis are slim.
Record: 19-12, 9-9
The Orange are in the same situation as Pitt, but as the 9-seed. They aren’t guaranteed a spot in the NCAAs, however, and three losses to Pittsburgh wouldn’t look great on the resume. If ‘Cuse advances to take on UNC, that would probably be a more competitive Game as the Orange zone could flummox the Heels somewhat.
Virginia Tech and Clemson both finished with better records than Pitt and Syracuse, but neither are headed to the NCAA Tournament. To do so, they’ll likely have to reach the championship Game here, meaning winning three straight. Miami and Virginia stand in their path. Florida State is in a similar situation, but was stuck with an 11-seed, meaning they’ll probably have to win Four Games to get an NCAA bid.
The Tar Heels may be the favorite to win it all, but the favorite hasn’t often won this Tournament. As it stands, it’s hard to see UNC not reaching the championship Game, considering depth-deficient Duke and a struggling Notre Dame. Virginia will probably be a trendy pick to win, as well.