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ACC Selection Sunday Outlook Update

Five weeks to go and things are starting to come into focus.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been two weeks since our last look at the ACC’s Selection Sunday outlook and we are now into the second half of league play. Some teams have pulled off resume building wins, while other teams keep piling up red flags.

***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.

Essentially locks: UVA (RPI: 1; KenPom: 2), Clemson (4; 17) Duke (8; 4), UNC (10; 12),

This group grows by one with the addition of Clemson. Two weeks ago I mentioned that we needed to see how Clemson responded after the season-ending injury to senior leader Donte Grantham. Since then the Tigers have gone 3-1, including a home win over UNC. Response noted, lock status granted.

Speaking of UNC, the Tar Heels have lost 3 of 4 with the only win coming over Pitt—the ACC’s version of the Cleveland Browns. But here’s the deal. Even if UNC went 2-5 in their final 7, they would still have a projected RPI of 22, and an ACC team with an RPI of 22 is getting a ticket to the Dance. That’s what great scheduling can do for you. Think of it this way: UNC’s situation is like when you lock your car with the door slightly ajar. You feel a little squishy and depending on which parking lot you’re in you might unlock it, shut the door, and lock it again. But the reality is, your car is still locked.

In really good shape: Miami (19; 26), Louisville (26; 33)

Miami’s RPI is identical to what it was two weeks ago and their KenPom has actually climbed a few spots. Plus, the Hurricanes added road wins against NCSU and VT, and a home victory over Louisville. So why aren’t they a lock? They caught the injury bug from Clemson. 5-star sophomore Bruce Brown is out 6-ish weeks after needing foot surgery and that’s a timeline that puts him dangerously close to not being available for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Accordingly, Miami would be wise to prove they can win games without him. The ‘Canes passed their first Brown-less test in Blacksburg, but they need to get a few more wins to lock things up.

Louisville just wrapped up a 4-game gauntlet (@Miami, Wake, @UVA, FSU) that saw them go 1-3. Ahh, the joyous life of ACC Basketball, where getting to .500 feels like finding a parking spot with 45 minutes left on the meter. But things get a little easier for the Cardinals as their four games are ‘Cuse, GT, @Pitt, and UNC. Combine that with a fantastic job manipulating the RPI and David Padgett will likely be putting on his dancing shoes in his first season as a head coach.

More likely than not to make it, but work left: FSU (39; 21)

Florida State won 3 of 4 games since the last update, including a monster road win against Louisville. And truth be told, if the next category up didn’t have the word “really” preceding “good” I would probably bump the ‘Noles up. But that dang out-of-conference schedule. It’s just so bad. As of this writing, FSU has 5 quadrant 1 wins, which is a very nice number, and no sub-quadrant two losses. But with UF tanking, VT right on the tier 2 border, and Wake near the tier 3 border, the resume could look significantly worse in a week or two. If FSU wins either of their two games this week (UVA and @ND), they will move up for sure. But lose both and the home game against Clemson on Valentine’s Day becomes massive.

Truly on the bubble: NCSU (62; 57)

NC State moves into a newly created category on the back of three consecutive wins, including one over UNC in the Dean Dome. Their computer numbers aren’t great. In fact, they are pretty poor by traditional at-large standards. But the Wolfpack boast wins over Duke, Clemson, Arizona, and the aforementioned triumph in Chapel Hill, all of which will grab the attention of committee members. This week brings a road trip to a desperate Virginia Tech squad and a home rematch with their Wine and Cheese rivals, so the next update could see NCSU move up again...or fall back off the bubble.

Outside looking in: Syracuse (47; 50), Virginia Tech (67; 41) BC (79; 80), Notre Dame (81; 42)

Despite okay computer numbers, Syracuse is in trouble. The loss to GT—even in Atlanta—was a huge blow and at 4-6 in ACC play, the Orange just don’t have any margin for error. Even worse, their closing schedule includes road games against Louisville, Miami, and Duke. Yikes.

VT got the tier 1 win they needed over UNC and they have improved their RPI from 105 to 67 thanks to a couple of road wins, but the Hokies still have a lot of work left. Similar to FSU, an atrocious OOC schedule is a stain on their resume that even the late Billy Mays wouldn’t be able to remove. The good news for Hokie fans is they will have plenty of opportunities down the stretch to impress the committee. The closing schedule includes Duke twice, Louisville and Clemson at home, and Miami and UVA on the road. The bad news is, did you just read what I wrote? That’s a hellacious stretch of games.

Boston College stayed alive for one more week with their OT victory over Georgia Tech. However, while the Eagles are much improved this season, they still have zero power conference wins away from home and still have very little chance of making the NCAAT.

ND’s season continues to be hampered by injuries. Matt Farrell played against NCSU for the first time in a couple weeks, but the Irish desperately miss Bonzie Colson. After starting ACC play 3-0, they’ve now lost seven straight. At this point their only hope is to find a way to hold serve at home, perform well in the ACCT with Colson back, and then pray the committee gives them a break.

Auto bid or bust: Wake Forest (116; 92), Georgia Tech (140; 110), Pittsburgh (really bad)

Nothing has changed with these teams. Their only impact will be if they burst another team’s bubble (Wake has looked a little frisky of late, so Syracuse and NCSU better watch out).

At this point the ACC is tracking on securing 8 bids, though 7 and 9 both still seem to be in play. Can any of the teams on the outside make a move? Will NCSU or FSU fall back to or off the bubble?