Well, folks, we’ve made it. The final week of the ACC regular season is here (VT kicked things off yesterday with an upset win over Duke). Some NCAA Tournament auto-bids will be claimed this week, but over here in the nation’s most prestigious conference, resumes are still being padded...and pot marked.
***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), UNC (4; 7), Duke (5; 3), Clemson (10; 18)
UVA has secured the 1 seed in the ACC Tournament and probably locked up a 1 seed in the NCAAT. Duke, and even North Carolina, are still in play for a 1 seed in the NCAAT as well. Clemson is trending down, but the Tigers still project as a top 5 seed.
In good shape: Miami (31; 41), Virginia Tech (47; 31), NCSU (48; 39), FSU (51; 35)
Some time wins has this category suddenly flush with teams. While the 4 squads are listed in descending RPI order above, their odds of making the Dance probably go in this order: VT, NC State, flip a coin between Miami and FSU.
Miami benefited from Rex Pflueger being a late scratch and got the road win they needed over Notre Dame. Their RPI, thanks to a smart schedule, has been near lock territory all year. But given the uncertainty around Bruce Brown’s availability for the NCAA Tournament—he was just ruled out for the ACC Tourney—the Hurricanes probably need one more win, including the ACC Tournament, to really feel good on Selection Sunday. Their first chance comes tonight in Chapel Hill.
Truth be told, I strongly considered jumping VT from “work to do” straight up to lock status. We’re talking about a team that now owns wins over UNC, Duke, and @UVA (the single best win in the country). However, the Hokies have an abysmal OOC SOS, a bad loss to St. Louis, and only 5 total Q1 wins. It’s extremely likely Virginia Tech earns a bid, but I’ll wait for one more win to 100% lock them.
NC State is now 8-4 since getting point guard Markell Johnson back from a felony-related suspension, with two of the four losses coming against UVA and UNC. Johnson is shooting 48.5% from 3 in ACC play, tops in the league. Fresh off their demolition of FSU, it’s clear the Wolfpack are playing their best basketball of the season under first year coach Kevin Keatts. I’m of the belief that the selection committee will largely overlook State’s two bad losses, attributing them to a team still figuring out a new system. That said, you never quite know what logic the committee will apply each year and NCSU does have a pretty unsightly OOC SOS. Similar to VT, NC State is extremely likely to make the dance, but one more win would lock things up for sure. Expect that victory to come Thursday when State travels to Atlanta to take on a Georgia Tech team that has lost 11 of their last 12 games.
FSU had one game last week and to say it didn’t go well is putting it mildly. The Seminoles were thrashed in Raleigh, going 0-fer from 3 for the first time in ACC play since 2006. A tier 1 loss doesn’t really damage a resume in and of itself, but the way it happened put a dent in FSU’s efficiency ratings—the Seminoles dropped from 26 to 35 on KenPom. Now, the official metric used to determine quadrants, at least for this year, is the RPI. But as noted above, efficiency metrics will indeed be on team sheets this season and it certainly doesn’t hurt to be as high on those as possible. FSU has two games this week, a roadie against Clemson and a home finale against BC. Win both and the ‘Noles can rip the tags off their dancing shoes. Go 1-1 and FSU would need to win at least 1 in the ACCT to feel safe on Selection Sunday. Drop both this week and FSU would probably need to make the ACCT semi-finals.
More likely than not to make it, but work left: None
All these teams moved up a level.
Truly on the bubble: Louisville (39; 34), Syracuse (46; 51)
With their season perhaps on the line, Louisville came up with a massive road win against Virginia Tech on Saturday, sweeping the Hokies on the season. That win looks even better given VT’s upset of Duke last night. But while the road win jumped UL back up into solid RPI territory, the Cardinals still have just three Q1 wins. That’s a problem. The good news is, Louisville has two more Q1 opportunities left, starting with Virginia at home on Thursday. Win that one and the resume suddenly looks much better.
Remember when I said Georgia Tech has lost 11 of their last 12 games? Well, the one win was a 55-51 triumph over Syracuse back on January 31st. That, my friends, is how you get left out of the Dance. The Orange had two chances at a resume changing win last week, home against UNC and at Duke, and they whiffed on both. In possession of just two Q1 wins, ‘Cuse would probably be out if selections were made today. But they aren’t and the Orange can still circle the wagons. The road game against BC on Wednesday is probably a “must win.” Get that one and a home finale against Clemson gives them one more shot at a Q1 victory.
Outside looking in: Notre Dame (68; 29)
Notre Dame blew a great chance at home against Bruce Brown-less Miami, but salvaged the week—and maybe their season—with a furious comeback win in Winston-Salem. Now the Irish face Pitt at home (must win) before closing the season out on the road against UVA. The good news is, Bonzie Colson is slated to return to action on Senior Night this Wednesday. But questions remain. How much will he play? Can he be effective? If the Irish don’t beat UVA, does it matter? The truth is, Notre Dame is a complete wild card.
Auto bid or bust: Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh
Boston College has two chances to play spoiler this week, at home against Syracuse and on the road against FSU. I suppose GT could pull off a stunner against NC State, but even a loss might not keep State out. Other than that, Wake and Tech play each other and Pitt appears headed for 0-18.