Friday, February 25, 2011

ACC - Who's in, who's out?

Happy Friday, folks. This is a total cop-out post; late and short. A busy week reached its climax today, but I'll be back tomorrow morning with something more lengthy about Duke-Virginia Tech (Saturday, 9pm). For now I'd like to spark a discussion about ACC teams and their shot at the tournament.

Here's how I group them:

No chance, barring a miracle conference tourney run

Miami (17-11, 5-8)
Virginia (14-13, 5-8)
N.C. State (14-13, 4-9)
Georgia Tech (11-16, 3-10)
Wake Forest (8-20, 1-12)

Need a perfect finish and a great conference tourney run

Boston College (16-11, 6-7)

Barely outside the bubble:

Maryland (18-10, 7-6)
Clemson (18-9, 7-6)

Barely inside the bubble:

Florida St. (19-8, 9-4)
Virginia Tech (18-8, 8-5)

Absolute locks:

Duke (26-2, 12-1)
UNC (21-6, 11-2)

The bubble teams are the most interesting, so let's take a closer look at each, starting from the top down.

Florida State: 54 RPI, 19-8, 9-4

Significant out-of-conference wins: Baylor

Before Singleton's injury, they looked like a lock. Now? Well, they're still pretty close. They need one win in their last three to reach the 20-10 milestone; 20 overall wins, 10 conference wins. But those games are far from gimmes. It starts at home against Miami, who played to their potential for the first time all season in a huge win against BC. Next is home against a Carolina team who, despite recent struggles, keeps winning the games they should and will be fighting for a chance to stay within a game of Duke before the year-end showdown. Last, they visit N.C. State. Again, a game they should win, but State has shown a little fire of late, and a road game is a road game.

The fact is, Florida State is a different team without Singleton. They don't have much chance to do any damage in the big dance, and even though the tournament committee isn't supposed to consider that, you know it'll be in the back of their minds. Give them any excuse to exclude the Noles, and you can bet it'll happen.

Still, one more win for FSU cements their resume; it's hard to turn down the 3rd place team in the ACC when they've reached 20-10. But that one win is proving a lot tougher than anyone thought.

Virginia Tech 63 RPI, 19-8, 8-5

Significant out-of-conference wins: Oklahoma St., Penn St.

Again, we have a team that seemed to be a virtual lock last week. Then the horrendous loss to UVA happened, and things became a little topsy turvy. All the sudden, the Hokies are in a real tough spot. They finish the season with Duke, Boston College, and away at Clemson. The BC game shapes up nicely for them, but Duke and Clemson have the distinct smell of losses. If they finish 20-10, 9-5, is that good enough? The answer probably depends on how Maryland and Clemson finish, but Tech's resume doesn't really inspire a lot of confidence. If we assume that the ACC will get 4 teams (and I think that's the most we can reasonably expect), I don't see a 1-2 finish being good enough unless they make the ACC finals.

This is a really puzzling team. Five of their conference losses have come to Virginia (2), Georgia Tech, and Boston College. You'd expect them to win at least three of those games, and the poor record gives them the label, deservedly or not, of inconsistency and underachievement.

Maryland: 81 RPI, 18-10, 7-6

Significant out-of-conference wins: Penn St.

They need a big win Sunday at UNC. That's the long and short of it. If they manage that, they can easily win their last two against UVA and Miami. And that would give them 10 conference wins, 21 overall, and a pretty airtight argument for the tournament (provided they win at least 1 ACC tourney game). In a way, they're in a better position than Virginia Tech. Ken Pomeroy has them ranked 19th, despite everything, and only a few bad losses have kept them from the top tier. A win against Carolina, and suddenly they're on everyone's radar.

A loss against UNC, though, probably spells disaster. It'll relegate them to 4th or 5th in the ACC, and barring a run to the ACC tournament finals, that may be all she wrote. In which case they'll kick themselves for the loss at Boston College two weekends ago.

Clemson: 64 RPI, 18-9, 7-6

Significant out-of-conference wins: Seton Hall

I really like this team, and I hope they find a way to make it in. The problem is, the rest of their schedule looks tough: Wake, at Duke, and Virginia Tech. Well, Wake isn't tough, but it will be damn near impossible for them to take down Duke on senior night when the Devils are going for a second straight perfect season at home. And Virginia Tech will be fighting for their tournament lives in what should be a real battle.

Last Thursday's 8-point loss to N.C. State was killer, though they recovered with a good home win against Miami. Assuming they lose to Duke, wins against Wake and Tech would make them 20-10, 9-7, in which case they'd probably need to make the semifinals of the ACC tournament to have any shot.

Boston College: 50 RPI, 16-11, 6-7

Significant out-of-conference wins: California, Indiana, South Carolina

Much respect to Steven Donahue for an excellent coaching job with minimal talent this season. The lesson of the year? Everybody else in the ACC better hold on for dear life when this guy gets his recruits in. The BC athletic department should be patting themselves on the back right about now.

That being said, this probably isn't their year. Donahue held it together with smoke and mirrors, even coming within a Reggie Jackson 3 of upsetting Carolina on the road. But the cream rises to the top, and great coaching only goes so far without talent. Even if BC finishes 2-1 (UVA, V. Tech, Wake), they'll only be 8-8 in conference, and they won't have 20 wins. Nothing but an ACC tourney win could get them in the dance. The only chance they have otherwise is to win out (next week's game in Blacksburg is the huge obstacle here) and make the ACC finals. Both scenarios seems like a real long shot. The one thing the Eagles have going for them, though, is that in case of a tie, they have a better RPI and better out-of-conference wins than the rest of the ACC bubble.

Still, I'm not holding my breath. In 2-3 years, though? Watch out, ACC. Dudes are going to be tough.


If I had to pick today, I'd say the ACC field looks like this:

Duke, UNC, Florida State, Maryland

Let's hear everyone's thoughts.


  1. Barring a total collapse over the last few games and a quick exit in the ACC tourney, I'd say FSU is in. I dont think the Committee will punish FSU for the loss of Singleton,

    If Maryland loses to either UVA or Miami, they are done unless they make a run to the ACC championship game. I don't know how much of a factor RPI and SOS are going to be this year (the experts keep saying its a "soft" bubble, whatever that means), but Maryland doesnt really have a signature win. I hope they miss the tourney, for reasons that escape me, I really hate the terps.

    -Craig J.

  2. Ugh, this is like trying to figure out which one of my seven month old's diapers was the least disgusting today.

    I probably agree with your picks. I think FSU gets in by virtue of their win over Duke. I'm not completely sold on Maryland, but Sweaty's teams always seem to give Roy fits. If they can pull it off this weekend that will help tremendously.

    I don't think this is the year the committee will take a chance on VPI (two loses to Virginia is BAD and I like Bennett), but ask me again on Sunday.


  3. Craig, I agree about FSU. It would take an epic collapse, but I don't think they're 100% in yet like Duke or UNC.

    I'd only qualify the Maryland lacking a signature win point by saying that none of these bubble ACC teams have a signature win. The Terps win over Penn State is actually better than Clemson or BC or FSU can boast, and I think the tourney will look at the conference other words, they'll take at least 4 from the ACC, so Maryland will be compared to those teams rather than outside squads with signature wins.

    Candice, the ACC really is like a diaper this year. I'm not sure what that makes Duke, but it's interesting that you think V. Tech is on the way out. My Maryland pick was somewhat optimistic, but it sounds like you're even more confident (provided they get by UNC). That would be pretty devastating for the Hokies to get shut out another year. They're basically the definition of a bubble team right now. Surprise surprise.


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