The ACC Guru
ACC Baseball Tournament Preview
The baseball regular season ended over the weekend and the ACC Tournament Pools have been set. Congratulations to the Virginia Tech Hokies for winning the Coastal Division Championship and getting the #1 seed in the tournament. Congratulations as well to the Louisville Cardinals for winning the Atlantic Division Championship. They will be the 2 seed in the tournament.
The ACC has been very strong all year, and that is reflected in how tight the standings were and that 11 of the 12 teams that are in the ACC Tournament are also in contention to make the NCAA Tournament. 5 of the 12 teams finished within one game of .500 in league play this year. This should make for a fantastic tournament. Pool play begins tomorrow and runs through Friday. The winners from the 4 pools will then play in the semi-finals on Saturday, with the Championship on Sunday.
I'm going to preview the 4 pools below, and predict the winners. It should be a great week of baseball in Charlotte.
#1 Virginia Tech 40-11 (19-9)
#8 North Carolina 34-19 (15-15)
#12 Clemson 35-21 (13-16)
Virginia Tech has looked like the best team in the ACC for most of the year, and they proved it on the field. The won the division title over the weekend, and they haven't lost a weekend series since mid March. The Hokies have taken care of business on the mound and at the plate. The hit over 100 home runs and rank 3rd in team ERA. They are now up to #2 in the country and 4th in the RPI, but this pool will be no cake walk for them. Both North Carolina and Clemson are playing some of their best baseball of the year. Clemson is coming off a sweep of Boston College where they outscored them 26-3 and also has the ACC Player of the Year in Max Wagner. UNC has come on strong to finish the year 11-2 and make a case for them to make the NCAA Tournament, as well. The only series played between these teams in the regular season was between VT and UNC, which the Hokies won 2-1.
Clemson vs North Carolina- Tuesday 7 PM
Virginia Tech vs Clemson- Thursday 7 PM
North Carolina vs Virginia Tech- Friday 7 PM
Prediction: All 3 teams will finish 1-1, and Virginia Tech will move on to the semi-finals as the highest seed from Pool A.
#2 Louisville 38-16-1 (18-11-1)
#7 Georgia Tech 33-21 (15-15)
#11 Pitt 27-26 (13-16)
Louisville really came on strong down the stretch, and finished the regular season 14-5-1 (Yes, the ACC has a weird rule that allows ties after 12 innings on a travel day) to claim the Atlantic division title. Louisville has the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference with Levi Usher, who also leads the league in steals, but they can also swing the bat, as they are 3rd in the league in runs scored. The Cardinals need to win the pool, because they are fighting for a top 8 national seed, which would guarantee it playing at home through the Super Regionals.
Standing in the Cardinals way is Georgia Tech and Pitt. Pitt has a few nice series wins on their resume (Louisville, Clemson, and UVA), but those were earlier in the year and they finished the season winning only 1 of their last 9 games. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, is playing really well outside of getting swept at Clemson at the beginning of the month. The Yellow Jackets have series wins over Virginia Tech, FSU, Miami, and UNC on the year and lead the league in home runs. In the regular season, Pitt actually beat Louisville 2-1, but Georgia Tech swept Pitt. This should be another exciting Pool.
Pitt vs Georgia Tech- Tuesday 11 AM
Louisville vs Pitt- Wednesday 11 AM
Georgia Tech vs Louisville- Thursday 11 AM
Prediction: Georgia Tech and Louisville both beat Pitt before Louisville edges the Jackets on Thursday morning to take Pool B.
#3 Miami 39-16 (20-10)
#6 Wake Forest 39-16-1 (15-14-1)
#10 NC State 33-20 (14-15)
Miami looked like they were going to run away with the conference early on (they won 14 straight games at one point), but they ended up losing 3 of their last 5 ACC series allowing VT to take the Coastal from them. This is still a really good ball club with one of the best pitching staffs in the league. They're 2nd in the conference in strikeouts and 5th in team ERA. Regardless of what happens in the Tournament, Miami is still going to host a Regional in the NCAA Tournament as they are in the top 10 in the RPI.
Wake Forest is another team that is playing it's best baseball at the right time. They finished the season 11-3-1 and now are a lock to make the NCAA's and have the best pitcher in the conference in Rhett Lowder. NC State on the other hand has had a disappointing year after making it to Omaha last season. NC State only has 2 series wins over ACC Tournament teams all year, but still find themselves on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Winning the pool would be the most beneficial to NC State, but could also propel Wake into the Regional hosting conversation. The only series in the regular season between these teams was a sweep by Wake over NC State.
NC State vs Wake Forest- Tuesday 3 PM
Miami vs NC State- Wednesday 7 PM
Wake Forest vs Miami- Friday 3 PM
Prediction: Miami and Wake both beat NC State, and Wake Forest upsets Miami on Friday to take Pool C.
#4 Notre Dame 33-13 (16-11)
#5 Virginia 38-15 (17-13)
#9 Florida State 32-22 (15-15)
Notre Dame and Virginia should be looked at as equal favorites to win the pool. Both teams should be hosting regionals next week, and Florida State will be an NCAA team too, so this will not be an easy pool to win. Notre Dame was 17-3 (including a sweep of FSU) at home this year and only has 4 wins vs RPI top 25 teams, so you might think they are at a disadvantage playing away from South Bend, but neither FSU or UVA are in their best form right now either. FSU is coming into the tournament on a 4 game losing streak, but have series wins over Miami, Louisville, and Wake Forest earlier in the season. Virginia finished the season losing 4 of their last 6 ACC series, but they also started the season on a 26-3 run. If they can start scoring again with the consistency that they were at the beginning of the season, there's very few teams in the country that are as good as the Hoos. All 3 of these teams rank in the top 4 in team ERA, so manufacturing runs could be vital for getting out of Pool D. Brian O'Connor's teams have been great at this over his years at Virginia, and for that reason I'm picking UVA to advance to the Semi-Finals.
Florida State vs Virginia- Wednesday 3 PM
Notre Dame vs Florida State- Thursday 3 PM
Virginia vs Notre Dame- Friday 11 AM
Prediction: Virginia beats FSU, FSU upsets Notre Dame, and Virginia takes down the Irish as well to win Pool D.
Virginia Tech vs Virginia- Saturday 1 PM
Our first semi-final matchup could be a great one between the Hoos and the Hokies as we could get a 4th Commonwealth Clash on the year. Virginia Tech took 2 of 3 in Charlottesville earlier this year, but the aggregate score was only 15-13, so I'm expecting another tight one in Charlotte. I'm picking the Hokies to advance to the Championship, though, with a well-timed, late inning home run.
Louisville vs Wake Forest- Saturday 5 PM
Two of the hotter teams in the ACC will face off in the other semi-final, and I personally really hope we get to see this game. The reason? When these 2 played each other earlier in the year in Winston-Salem, the Sunday rubber match ended in a tie due to travel restrictions by Louisville. So this, in theory, will be the extremely rare 4th game rubber match. Sign me up. I'm picking Louisville to advance because of their ability to put up big scores.
Virginia Tech vs Louisville- Sunday 12 PM
These have been the 2 best teams in the conference coming down the stretch, so this should be the best case scenario for the Championship. It also helps that they played a great series earlier this year in Blacksburg. The Hokies took 2 of 3, but Louisville outscored them on the weekend 15-11. I'm picking Louisville to continue their hot streak, win the ACC Tournament, and lock up a top 8 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Looking forward to a great week of baseball that begins tomorrow morning!