There’s two weeks left in the regular season and a whole lot of teams are jockeying for position. Last year, an ACC record 9 teams went dancing. Could the record be broken just one year later?
***Author’s note: In parentheses next to each team I have included their current RPI and KenPom ranking, in that order. I included both because both will be included on team sheets received by committee members this year (and it’s fun to see how different they often are). However, the RPI is still the only official metric to be used by the committee, it’s the only metric that will be used to determine the win quadrants, and thus it’s the only number that really matters this year.
Locks: UVA (RPI: 1; KenPom: 1), Duke (4; 3), UNC (5; 7), Clemson (10; 16)
We’ve removed the word “essentially” from this category because all four teams could lose out and still receive an at-large bid. From here on out it’s only about seeding.
In good shape: FSU (45; 28)
Perhaps this is a leap of faith, but Florida State got two critical home wins (one of them serving as a resume booster and one avoided a resume killer) and have put themselves in good position to earn a bid. FSU now sits at 19-8 (8-7) with road games against NC State and Clemson and a home tilt against BC left, plus at least one ACC Tourney game. To really feel safe, the Seminoles need to get to 21 total wins—including the ACC Tournament. That’s not to say 20 wins wouldn’t get it done, but the problem with 20 wins is that there’s really no way for FSU to end on that number without adding at least one more questionable loss. FSU’s odds to get in with 20 wins would be largely dependent on how other bubble teams around the country finish, so the Rooting Guides become all the more significant.
More likely than not to make it, but work left: Miami (37; 44), Virginia Tech (55; 34), NCSU (59; 49)
For most of the season Miami has enjoyed a top 30 RPI and appeared in great shape to make the Dance. A Bruce Brown injury and 3 straight losses have started to make the situation less clear. Suddenly, Miami’s Monday road game against a surging Notre Dame squad looks critical and the Fighting Irish have been a tough out at home even before Matt Farrell started making nearly every three he takes. Lose tonight and the Hurricanes would face a near-must win game against Boston College on Saturday in Coral Gables. Remember, if Bruce Brown doesn’t come back before the NCAAT is selected, the committee will have to judge Miami on what they’ve accomplished without him. Thus far, that’s a 3-3 record, and just 1-3 against teams with a winning record.
What a climb it’s been for Virginia Tech over the last 4 weeks. Starting with a win over UNC on January 20th, VT has won 6 of 8 and put themselves in decent position down the stretch. They avoided a resume killing loss against Georgia Tech last week, but the Hokies still need a few more quality wins on their resume to really feel good. Fortunately for them, the schedule maker did them a solid. VT’s next 3 games are Clemson, Louisville, and Duke and they are all in the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum. Going 2-1 over that stretch would get them to 10-8 in ACC play and likely have them on the right side of the bubble—especially if Duke is one of the wins.
I noted last week that if NCSU went 2-0 they would move up a level, and 2-0 they went. The Wolfpack have really found a groove after starting PG Markell Johnson returned from a felony-related suspension, rising up to a top 50 team on KenPom for the first time all season. Yes, State has two Q3 losses, but those are offset by one of the best collection of Q1 wins in the country, including @UNC and Arizona on a neutral court. The OOC SOS is poor, but considering NCSU was coming off a sub-.500 season, I believe the committee will give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the intent of their scheduling. NC State plays three of their final four games at home and the one road game (Georgia Tech) is quite winnable. If they can go 2-2 down the stretch, NCSU will be in decent position. 3-1 would probably lock things up. All that said, they need to avoid another bad loss.
Truly on the bubble: Syracuse (38; 45), Louisville (41; 28)
Syracuse looked left for dead after blowing a home game against North Carolina State, but then they came up with a monster road win over Miami. Currently, the Orange are firmly on the bubble, sitting in just about everyone’s “last four in” or “first four out.” On Wednesday ‘Cuse will be presented with a golden opportunity when UNC rolls into the Carrier Dome. Their biggest issue continues to be a lack of Q1 and Q2 wins and a victory over the Tar Heels would certainly help out in that department.
Last week I wrote this about Louisville: “On top of that, Louisville’s final 5 games are brutal: UNC, @Duke, @VT, UVA, @NCSU. Win any two of those games and the Cardinals are probably in, and three surely locks it up. But it’s not that hard to foresee a 1-4 finish, or possibly even 0-5. Louisville could easily be on the bubble this time next week and frankly, if factoring in future win-shares I could see an argument for them to be on the bubble right now.”
Well, UL began that 5 game stretch with a blowout home loss to UNC and the Cardinals are officially on the bubble. Given that Tony Bennett’s teams have owned Louisville for the last few years, it feels like UL must get at least one of their two road games this week. Beating Duke in Cameron seems about as likely as a big time recruit on the Adidas AAU circuit signing with a Nike school, so Saturday’s game in Blacksburg appears to be massive.
Outside looking in: Notre Dame (61; 29)
The Fighting Matt Farrell’s are making things pretty darn interesting. How well has Notre Dame been playing? After falling to as low as 42 on KenPom following their February 3rd loss to NC State (when the Irish were missing 3 key players), they have jumped all the way back to 29th. Winners of 3 of their last 4, ND still is probably just off the bubble. But no one really knows how the committee will treat the Bonzie Colson situation—or if Bonzie Colson can even come back in time? The best thing Notre Dame can do is keep winning and that starts tonight at home against a suddenly vulnerable Miami squad.
Auto bid or bust: BC (94, 80), Wake Forest/GT/Pittsburgh (it just doesn’t matter)
Boston College joins the ranks of the spoilers, but unlike the other three teams the Eagles look headed to the postseason in some form. Honestly, I suppose if they won their next 6 games (including the ACCT) BC could sneak in on the bubble without earning the auto-bid, but there just isn’t even a remote chance of that happening.