As I watch the waning minutes of the pivotal Wake/Miami contest (late update – Wake holds on), I think it’s time to evaluate the position of our ACC brethren, with post-season play just around the corner:
Category One – Mortal Locks:
Wake Forest (10-2, #3 RPI, #5 Sagarin)
UNC (8-2, #8 RPI, #1 Sagarin)
Duke (8-3, #6 RPI, #8 Sagarin)
Not only could these powerhouse teams lose out and still dance (about as likely as me growing a third eye), they are also looking at – realistically – no worse than a #3 seed. In fact, I will go on record and predict TWO #1 seeds from the ACC (Wake, UNC), with Duke getting a #2. Duke has questionable depth, but I think Wake and UNC each have as good a shot as any team to win it all. The Wal-Mart crowd will have justification to turn in their usual blue-tinged pool entries, for a change.
Category Two – On Solid Ground:
Maryland (6-5, #22 RPI, #22 Sagarin); Magic Number – 1
After watching the helpless Pack demolish the Terps in College Park, I had my doubts. While I was certain that Georgia Tech would bounce back (more later), I thought Maryland might need another miracle ACC tourney run to avoid the dreaded NIT. Despite a brief relapse in sultry Miami, the 2004-05 Terps have proven to be as stubborn and resolute as their sweat-drenched head coach. I think they would dance at 7-9 in the ACC, and if everything plays out as predicted, Maryland will be a very solid #5 or #6 seed.
Category Three – Pure Bubble:
Georgia Tech (5-6, #40 RPI, #24 Sagarin); Magic Number – 3
Miami (6-6, #48 RPI, #44 Sagarin); Magic Number – 2
The numbers seem to indicate that Tech could sneak in at 7-9, but I wouldn’t count on it – not without a win in the ACC tourney. The Bees have played very poorly of late, even with Elder playing at Clemson and in a terrible home loss to NC State. When you really only have one guy (a gimpy Elder) who can shoot, it’s hard to win consistently. Take this team out of an open court game, and they are mediocre at best. Teams that lose at home to miracle-hoping squads like VT and NC State usually find themselves in the NIT. Miami, on the other hand, has kept up its pesky play, beating Maryland and extending Wake to the limit. They will need 8-8, but only need 2 more wins to get there. GT may be more likely to win 3 than Miami is to win 2, however. The schedule is everything for the bubble-bound.
Category Four – Distant Bubble:
Virginia (4-7, #44 RPI, #71 Sagarin); Magic Number – 3.5
Virginia would be the toughest case to call at 7-9. They played a tough out-of-league schedule, with decent results. They would be 6-2 in the second half of ACC play. Unlike GT and NC State, they benefit from the committee’s use of RPI over Sagarin data. But the Cavaliers are so bad – in my admittedly subjective judgment – that I don’t see it happening anyway. At 8-8, or 7-9 with a tourney win, UVA would be a lock. Don’t hold your breath. And don’t worry, Wahoo fans – Gillen will still be fired.
Category Five – All I Need Is A Miracle:
NC State (4-7, #96 RPI, #42 Sagarin); Magic Number – 5
Virginia Tech (5-6, #135 RPI, #101 Sagarin); Magic Number – 5
Please forgive the Mike + The Mechanics reference, but these teams don’t need to win the ACC tournament, but they really need to catch fire. Unfortunately for Coach Sendek, Georgia Tech isn’t on the remaining schedule, but all remaining games are THEORETICALLY winnable (although nobody expects a home sweep of UNC and Wake). State’s poor non-conference performance means 8-8 won’t be enough without an ACC tourney win (maybe two, if the first is on Thursday). Virginia Tech was so bad in December (first ACC team to ever lose to VMI) that even 9-7 woin’t punch their dance ticket. 10-6 would be hard to deny – but it’s also realistically impossible. When the RPI and Sagarin agree you’re in the triple digits, you hope to have the athletic department print NIT tickets. Still, if they get to 7 wins, Seth Greenberg gets my vote for ACC Coach of the Year.
Category Six – Need the Automatic Berth:
Florida State (3-8, #115 RPI, #87 Sagarin)
Clemson (2-9, #103 RPI, #73 Sagarin)
Familiar territory for these two, despite pre-season hopes of Miami and Virginia Tech occupying the cellar. I suppose stranger things have happened, but Vegas would give you pretty good odds if you think either one of these plodding sqauds can win 4 ACC games in 4 days.
The Toughest Call – First Team All-ACC:
C. Paul, Wake (POY)
R. Felton, UNC
J. Hodge, NCSU
S. Williams, Duke
S. May, UNC
I won’t list a second team, but instead note that these 3 get honorable mention for first team:
J. Redick, Duke
J. Jack, GT
E. Williams, Wake
NOTE: RPI data from collegerpi.com