The ACC Guru
With only 2 weeks left in the regular season and teams having 4, 5, or 6 games remaining, things are starting to take shape in the ACC standings.
Duke and Notre Dame seem like locks for the double-bye. Miami, North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Virginia will fight it out for the remaining 2 double-byes. While Boston College, Clemson, NC State, and Georgia Tech seemed destined to play on Tuesday in Brooklyn. Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Florida State, Pitt, and Louisville are holding down the middle of the standings and will look to be in at least 9th place so they won't have to play on Tuesday. Let's take a look at how each team is performing at this moment and their outlook for the rest of the season.
Side note: Anyone that's a fan of ACC basketball, especially those of you with fond memories of watching the ACC Tournament on a classroom TV cart, needs to be watching "The Tournament: A History of ACC Men's Basketball". It's a ten-part documentary that airs on ACC Network on Monday Nights at 9 PM and is also available on the ESPN App. It is fantastic.
Mike Young's club seems to have figured things out in Blacksburg. Charlie Moore must have woken up the Hokies, because since his half-court game-winner, Virginia Tech has won 6 straight games, including a physical victory over in-state rival Virginia on Monday night. After that Miami game, VT was 10-10 and 2-7 in conference. They now sit at 16-10 (8-7) and find themselves square on the bubble for March Madness. They're still on the outside, looking in, but have a chance to play themselves into the field. The computers still love the Hokies. They're sitting at 37 in the NET, 28 on KenPom, and 21 in the BPI. All great numbers for an at-large bid. They also still have quality games against UNC (tomorrow, Q2), at Miami (Q1), and at Clemson (Q2). I'm starting to like the Hokies chances of getting into the Big Dance.
The Irish started the season pretty up and down, including a win over Kentucky and a loss against Boston College, but since the calendar turned to 2022, Notre Dame has been on fire. Since then they've only lost at Virginia Tech and against Duke. They're sitting at 12-3 in the conference and have a pretty favorable schedule down the stretch. Notre Dame's toughest game remaining is tomorrow at Wake Forest. If they can get past Wake, I think they will do no worse than splitting the regular season title with Duke. As far as the NCAA Tournament goes, the Irish should be safely in even though the computers don't love them as most have them in the 50s. They do have a 6-6 record in Q1 and Q2 games. They'll probably be somewhere in the 6-10 seed range in March.
Pitt isn't going to the NCAA Tournament unless they go on a Georgetown-like run from 2021, but I'm so impressed with their turnaround. I was calling the Panthers the worst Power-6 team in the country earlier this year, but after a 3 game winning streak, Pitt now has 6 wins in conference and is up to 10th in the standings. If I were a bubble team, I'd be afraid to see the Panthers in Brooklyn.
Virginia barely makes the cut for a trending up team after losing to Virginia Tech this week, but I think the Hokies would have beaten anyone in the country that night with as fired up as that crowd was. Prior to that loss, Virginia had won 4 straight including huge wins over Miami and against Duke in Cameroon Indoor. The Hoos are still considered a bubble team, even though they're probably 10-12 spots off the cut line. UVA is not going to get into the tournament on their computer metrics, as most places have them in the 70s and 80s. If they're going to get in, it will be based on their wins. They have 6 Q 1&2 wins including at Duke and against Providence. However, as a bubble team, UVA finds itself in a good spot with back-to-back massive opportunities. They play at Miami tomorrow and host Duke Wednesday (both Q1). The Hoos might need to run the table to make it in, but either way Tony Bennett has done an incredible job turning this team around.
Everyone knows North Carolina is still looking for a big win. They're 0-7 in Q1 games and they're 2 best wins are against bubble teams at home. BUT all year they've been able to say they don't have a bad loss. That was until Pitt came to Chapel Hill on Wednesday as a 14 point underdog and promptly beat the Heels by 9. Ouch. Coming into the game, it would have been a Q4 loss, but it was such an upset that Pitt moved up in the NET enough to be a Q3 loss. Carolina is now squarely on the bubble. They are one of the last 4 teams in as a 12 seed in Lunardi's latest Bracketology. UNC cannot afford another bad loss and would feel a lot better if they can find a way to beat Virginia Tech or Duke coming up.
FSU finally ended their 6 game losing streak with a 1 point victory at home over Clemson. The Seminoles have fallen from 1st to 9th in the standings in a matter of a few weeks, but it's to no fault of their own. They have been destroyed by injuries. Losing Malik Osborne for the year completely changed this team, but Polite, Mills, and McLeod have all missed time as well. This is just bad luck. Florida State should be back near the top of the league next year.
Things are not going well in Louisville. They're riding a 7 game losing streak and have lost 10 of their last 11. KenPom also predicts them losing their last 5 games. No one saw this coming for the Cardinals, and they will have a very active offseason. They'll be looking for a new head coach, and they'll probably be very active in the transfer market with 4 seniors on the team and only the 11th best recruiting class in the conference coming in.
Boston College must just be a tough matchup for Notre Dame. They beat the Irish earlier in the year and just took them to overtime in South Bend this week, but outside of that and a win over Virginia Tech, the Eagles haven't done much this year. They've now lost 4 straight and 6 of 7, but have a few decent chances to pick up another win or 2 this year and try to build some momentum going into next year.
Through December, Clemson was up to 38th in KenPom and was looking like they were going to be an NCAA Tournament bubble team, but since then it has not been pretty for the Tigers. In 2022 they are 3-10 and have now lost 5 straight. The bright spot for Clemson this season has been the emergence of PJ Hall. He deserves to be on an All Conference team.
The Wolfpack have one of the best Freshmen and one of the best scorers in the ACC in Terquavion Smith and Dereon Seabron, but it has not resulted in wins for some reason. Before beating Georgia Tech on Tuesday, they had lost 6 straight and now find themselves in 14th place in the league. Kevin Keatts' seat is on fire.
Duke was considered the best team in the ACC at the beginning of the year, and at this point of the year, they are the best team in the league. Duke is really good. They are one of maybe 10 teams that have a legit chance of winning a National Championship. The Blue Devil's resume is really strong. They currently sit as a 2 seed in all the projections, but could work their way up to a 1 seed. They also have a great chance to win the regular season championship for the first time since 2010. Coach K's farewell tour could end in a magical way.
No one expected Miami to be here at the beginning of the year, but since they established themselves as a contender, they've remained near the top of the standings. They've won 3 straight have stumbling in back-to-back games against Notre Dame and Virginia. Even with a loss or 2 down the stretch, they should be able to get the double bye at the ACC Tournament. The Hurricanes are another team that the metrics don't favor, but should be able to find themselves comfortably into the NCAA Tournament as a 7-10 seed as long as they win the games they should for the rest of the year.
Steve Forbes has done an incredible job in Winston-Salem and at this point of the year, is my pick to be ACC Coach of the Year. Wake was picked to be 13th in the league in the preseason and is now sitting in 5th place and currently one the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Wake has dropped back-to-back tough games to Miami and Duke, but has a great bounce-back chance for a big win hosting Notre Dame tomorrow. After that, they have an easier 3 game stretch to end the season. I like Wake's chances of getting into the Tournament. They're 6-7 in Q1&2 games, they're ranked in the 30s in all the metrics, and they don't have a bad loss. They'll also probably be a 7-10 seed.
The Orange were starting to get hot, as they won 4 straight games before losing in Blacksburg last Saturday. Syracuse has moved themselves into the middle of the standings, and I really liked their chances of making a late push, but I think they're really going to miss Jesse Edwards. You could already tell the difference against Virginia Tech as Aluma and Mutts had their way against the zone. Syracuse still has 6 games plus the ACC Tournament to make a push, but they look like they'll be an NIT team this year.
The defending ACC Tournament champs have been near the bottom of the standings all year and currently are sitting in dead last. They'll need to repeat as champs if they want to play postseason basketball the year. Michael Devoe does have a chance to win the scoring title this year. He's less than 1 PPG behind Alondes Williams.