ACC Tournament Primer

Its official, the calendar has finally turned over to March. Spring is on its way, and even more importantly to college hoops fans, so is March Madness. Before we dive full on into the madness, the coming week’s major conference tournaments should provide plenty of thrills. Think of them as the matinee feature to the NCAA Tournament’s Prime Time showing if you will, the only difference between the two? Exclusivity, only 68 teams get the magical invite to go dancing in March Madness, whereas conference tournaments are an open party where everyone’s invited.

With another spectacular season of ACC basketball in the books, it’s now time to look forward. The ACC tournament kicks off Tuesday in our nation’s capital, Washington DC. Much like a party, everyone attending the ACC tournament brings something different to the table. As your ACC chaperone, I’ll be taking you on a team-by-team meet and greet from top to bottom. Along the way I’ll distinguish where each squad stands, what they’re playing for, and where I see them ending up when the parties over.

For your reading pleasure and ease of access in case you’re just here to get straight to your favorite team. (I promise I won’t be offended if you skip… Alright maybe just a little offended.) I’m dividing the ACC up into four categories by record and ability, as follows.

Top Dogs: North Carolina, Miami, Virginia, Duke
Middle of the Pack: Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Lower Rung: Georgia Tech, Florida State, NC State, Wake Forest
Rock Bottom: Boston College

Top Dogs

UNC: 25-6, 14-4 in conference
What they’re playing for: Seeding
The North Carolina Tar Heels are your ACC regular season champions. They’ve got nothing left to prove in conference but a deep ACC tournament run could cement their status as a 1 seed for March Madness.
Where they end up: Championship Game

Miami: 24-6, 13-5 in conference
What they’re playing for: How Bout a Little Respect!
Despite a strong season from the Canes they continue to fly under the radar. They have fared well against the upper echelon of the ACC this season with victories over Virginia, Louisville, Duke, and Notre Dame twice. Continuing that trend in tournament play would turn some heads and garner Miami recognition as a national title contender.
Where they end up: Semifinals

Virginia: 24-6, 13-5 in conference                                                                                                             What they’re playing for: Top Billing                                                                                                  The Cavaliers two year reign at the top of the ACC is over. Though, the Hoos remain a dangerous squad. As of now they’re slated for a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Winning the ACC Tournament and a top seed in March Madness would certainly ease the sting of losing their regular season crown.                                                                                                               Where they end up: Tournament Champion

Duke: 22-9, 11-7 in conference
What they’re playing for: Seeding and Stability
Duke is clearly in the field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament. A few wins in the ACC Tournament could vault them to a higher seed in March Madness. They are also seeking consistency. The Blue Devils have lost 3 of their past 5 games.                                                 Where they end up: Semifinals

Middle of the Pack

Notre Dame: 20-10, 11-7 in conference
What they’re playing for: Seeding
Starting to see a common theme here? For teams squarely in the NCAA tournament field seeding is half the battle. Currently projected as a 7-seed, Notre Dame would greatly benefit from winning a game or two in the ACC Tournament and creating an easier first round matchup in the big dance.
Where they end up: Quarterfinals

Virginia Tech: 18-13, 10-8 in conference
What they’re playing for: Stay on a Roll
Virginia Tech has displayed serious improvement in the second year under Coach Buzz Williams, especially of late. A weak overall record will keep them out of the NCAA Tournament, but the Hokies ended the regular season on a five game winning streak. Keeping the hot streak going will provide momentum for next season.
Where they end up: Second Round

Clemson: 17-13, 10-8 in conference
What they’re playing for: Showcase Their Blossom
Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame was named First-Team All ACC, as well as the ACC’s most improved player. If you haven’t had a chance to watch him play you’re missing out. This blossom is sure to be in full bloom under the bright lights of DC.
Where they end up: Quarterfinals

Pittsburgh: 20-10, 9-9 in conference
What they’re playing for: NCAA Tournament Hopes
When Pitt defeated Duke it appeared to all be coming together. They finally picked up the signature win they were lacking. The Panthers then proceeded to finish up with two baffling losses to inferior opponents. The slight bit of good news, Pitt is matched up with Syracuse who they’ve beaten twice already this season. Another win against the Orange could solidify their March Madness entry.                                                                                               Where they end up: Quarterfinals

Syracuse: 19-12, 9-9 in conference
What they’re playing for: Revenge and Security
Syracuse has a bone to pick with Pittsburgh. The Panthers have defeated the Orange twice this season and are set for a third tilt. A victory over Pitt would be helpful to their NCAA Tournament chances. Conversely losing three times in one season to a team with a similar resume would be quite damning.
Where they end up: Second Round Loss

Lower Rung

Georgia Tech: 18-13, 8-10 in conference
What they’re playing for: A Fond Farewell
This year the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have compiled their most wins since the 2009-10 season. Their success is largely due to a strong senior presence. Marcus Georges-Hunt, Adam Smith, and Nick Jacobs lead the way. Leaving on a high note would be ideal for three men who helped turn around the program.
Where they end up: Second Round

Florida State: 18-12, 8-10 in conference
What they’re playing for: Experience For Next Year
Florida State’s trip to Washington DC is more for next year than the present. The Seminoles top three scorers are two freshman and a sophomore. Experiencing the rigors of tournament play in the ACC first hand will be good for their young guns.
Where they end up: Quarterfinals

NC State: 15-16, 5-13 in conference
What they’re playing for: A Cat Call
A program that seemed on the rise after a Sweet 16 trip last year, the Wolfpack hit a roadblock this season. The lone bright spot has been Cat Barber’s exceptional play. A likely NBA draft pick, the ACC Tournament will be Barber’s farewell. Winning a game or two would be a nice sendoff for the Junior stand out.

Where they end up: Second Round

Wake Forest: 11-19, 2-16 in conference
What they’re playing for: To Get the Season Over With
There’s not much positive to pull from Wake Forest’s season as the Demon Deacons lost 14 of their last15 games. Fortunately for the Demon Deacons, they’re not the bottom of the ACC barrel, and most of their players return next season as Danny Manning is laying a foundation which bottomed out in the Jeff Bzdelik era.
Where they end up: First Round Loss

Rock Bottom

Boston College: 7-24, 0-18 in conference
What they’re playing for: Save Some Dignity
Boston College is the first team to go winless in ACC Conference play since the 1986-87 Maryland Terrapins. That’s 29 years ago and a team no longer in the conference, brutal. Adding insult to injury the football team also went winless in ACC play. Doing so, Boston College earned the distinction of becoming the first school to have teams to go winless in conference play for both football and basketball in the same year since World War II. A win in the ACC Tournament won’t take them out of the record books, but it would save some face.
Where they end up: Losing… Again, First Round Loss


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