The ACC Tournament starts on Tuesday, with the first of the 3 preliminary round games tipping off at noon ET. Ordinarily, I’d be able to wait until Wednesday to post this analysis, however the ACC is so deep this year that a few teams playing on Tuesday actually still have a chance at an at large NCAA Tournament bid (and these are the 10th through 15th best ACC teams)!
Quite a few ACC teams (8) have already locked up a spot in the NCAA tourney:
I hesitated to include Virginia Tech on this list only because they could still wind up playing BC in their first ACC tourney game (if BC knocks off Wake Forest on Tuesday). That’d be a bad loss and move them down, but I think the Hokies would still make it. Losing to Wake wouldn’t hurt them much. Let’s say this – I reserve the right to reevaluate VT if the unlikely scenario that they play and lose to BC occurs (I have this as a less than 2% chance based on Kenpom).
Like VT, Wake Forest is currently also a 9 seed, but I didn’t include the Deacs as a lock because they definitely play BC on Tuesday. Avoid the bad loss to BC, and Wake should be in even if they lose to VT the next day (beating VT would actually move them ahead of the Hokies, but we’ll discuss seeding another day).
Essentially, both VT and Wake will receive at large bids unless they lose to BC in the ACC tourney.
Syracuse is currently in my first four out. The Orange have some really good home wins in conference, but that’s about it. They currently have an RPI of 80 (that’d be the worst to receive an at large bid since the new RPI formula was created in 2005). The main reason for the poor RPI is their awful road and neutral court performance. They look like an NCAA tourney quality team if you watch them play, but they are going to need to beat Miami on Wednesday in the 8/9 game to improve their RPI and road/neutral profile. Lose that one, and the 18-14 ‘Cuse will be watching the NIT Selection Show on ESPN News.
The good news for Syracuse is that I think beating Miami will lock up a spot for them. It’ll improve their RPI and give them a solid win on a neutral court, fixing the two main issues with their profile (to some extent). They’d play UNC next, and losing that one might actually help their RPI. So for Syracuse, they need 1 win, and they are likely in.
Clemson is perhaps the most interesting discussion. This is a team that looked like a surefire NCAA team before ACC play began. But the Tigers have struggled through some very close, tough losses in the league, finishing in 12th place at 6-12 . It might seem crazy to include a 16-14 (6-12) team in the discussion, but if Clemson can go on a run in the ACC tourney, it might be enough. How much of a run, you ask?
I think three wins would likely do it, and four definitely would. Three would mean wins over NC St., Duke, and Lousiville, all on a neutral court. Even with a loss in the semis to UNC/Miami/Syracuse, the Tigers would be 19-15 with a conference record that would be much improved at 9-13. Their RPI (currently 70th, ahead of Syracuse) would be in the top 50, and they’d have some really good wins on road/neutral courts when you also consider that they won at Wake Forest, S. Carolina, and Alabama.
Georgia Tech seems to have too much to overcome, but a 4 win run to the ACC final would be tough to ignore. Despite being ahead of Clemson in the ACC standings, the Yellow Jackets lack the overall profile (RPI of 94, yikes) and are behind the Tigers as far as an at large bid is concerned.
Pittsburgh, despite having some pretty good metrics for a team with an overall losing record (RPI of 71), will need to win the ACC tourney to receive a bid. The committee likely won’t give an at large bid to a team with an 8-15 record in conference, even with a run to the ACC final.
Other than BC (which we won’t even discuss), NC State has the worst profile of any ACC team, and unless they can pull off a miracle run for their lame duck coach, the season will end this week for the Wolfpack.