Miami, Wake Forest and Notre Dame completed the tutorial portion of the ACC Tournament which means Monday is when the big dogs hit the floor. We’ll refer to them as the starting five because they’re the five teams who are expected to actually reach the tournament whether they advance as far as possible or get hospitalized with alcohol poisoning on Thursday morning.
Syracuse, Duke, UNC, Pittsburgh and uhh…(Googles ACC standings) Florida State? No. that’s not right. (Googles ACC basketball standings) Miami? No, that’s last year (mutters to myself, browses through Googling for Dummies on Google Books, searches 2014 ACC basketball standings)
Oh right Virginia. To be honest, Virginia as a No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament feels like an alternate universe in which Ice Cube makes children’s movies, the Pope swears more than Chris Tucker and Kevin Hart is starring as a 21st century Rob Lowe.
I peeped Virginia climbing up the standings and the potential ramifications of a victory over Syracuse, but they wasn’t supposed to actually finish the job.
Virginia has retaken the mantle of preeminent program in Virginia from VCU. They’re also the polar opposite of NC State because of their balanced scoring, depth and blue collar group. While five teams are expected to receive at-large bids, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was incredulous at the idea earlier this week—especially if 17-win West Virginia is getting consideration after beating a depleted Kansas team Saturday.
“I have a hard team thinking that our 15-team league would only get five bids,” Krzyzewski said on a conference call. “I find that hard to believe.”
NC State and Clemson could fill in those two slots if the Selection Committee were to look favorably upon the ACC. NC State forward TJ Warren may finally have a national audience to witness his offensive prowess this week in Charlotte. Warren has scored duplicate 40 plus point games to close out the regular season and if the Wolfpack trounce Miami on Thursday, it will set up a rematch of the Wolfpack and Syracuse. He can also play a little defense too. On Tuesday he swooped in and stole Jabari Parker’s ACC Player of the Year Award.
NC State regularly fields talented rosters, but Mark Gottfried’s teams never seem to find that extra gear. It’s not like they haven’t been close. The Wolfpack were a Marcus Paige lay-up and a CJ Fair lay-up in transition away from beating UNC and Syracuse last month.
Syracuse just needs a win. Any type of win to salvage a No. 2 seed. Clemson is drifting in the exact same boat as NC State. They look like an orange that’s been used for a game of hacky sack for the final two weeks of the season. Conversely, Pittsburgh went a combined 0-5 against the top four teams in the ACC. Those four teams get first and second round byes thanks to the ACC’s new 15-team tournament format.
Despite Pitt’s 23 wins, they mostly came against inferior competition and their best win was against Stanford on Nov. 26.
They're 0-6 against the RPI top 25 and 6-6 in their last 12 games. A loss at Wake on Wednesday could send them bouncing into the NIT.
On the flipside, Clemson constellation KJ McDaniels has snuck underneath the radar as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Head coach Brad Brownell’s only previous trip to the NCAA Tournament with Clemson was after a 22-12 season in his inaugural season at the helm. Stealing an ACC Championship Game berth would go a long way towards getting the committee to show the 19-11 Tigers a little love.
However, ultimately, the ACC Tournament’s main storyline revolves around Virginia’s pursuit of a No. 1 overall seed. The difference between being a No. 1 or No. 2 seed is microscopic in reality, but as far as perception goes, this tournament in Charlotte is huge for the team from Charlottesville. Nobody can question their schedule if they rip through the tournament gauntlet.