Selection Sunday: The Horrible Selection Show And Even Worse Selections

Today is Selection Sunday, practically a holiday for college basketball fans as the 68-team field is unveiled for the NCAA Tournament.

A few weeks ago, CBS announced that its annual Selection Show, which began as a half-hour program in 1982 and expanded to a one-hour show in 2002, would take place over two hours.

Think about that.  The entire purpose of the Selection Show is to announce a list of 68 schools, and yet tonight it was stretched out over two hours.  For comparison (and a look at how simply this should be done), the online announcement of the 64 teams in the field for the Division II basketball tournament takes less than 30 minutes.

As you might expect, the 120-minute announcement did not go over well with the public.  And while executives will probably chalk this up to the lack of patience of the general public (or say that if they were complaining it means they were, in fact, watching), the show was legitimately awful.

The program began at 5:30 p.m. ET, and it was 5:50 before any of the field was announced.  After the top seeds were announced, CBS announced the South Region’s matchups over the next few minutes, without dragging their feet too much.

However, after that regional was announced, with three-fourths of the bracket still yet to be unveiled, the network turned to Charles Barkley.  Barkley, a Naismith Hall of Famer and former NBA Most Valuable Player, is an NBA analyst for Turner Sports and is only included in NCAA coverage due to Turner’s involvement in broadcasting the event.  During last year’s coverage, Barkley admitted he does not watch much college basketball before covering the NCAA Tournament, and even if he had not admitted to that, it would be made clear by the inaccuracy of some of the things he says in his analysis.

Despite this, with 51 places on the bracket still blank, and with every bubble team except Vanderbilt and Wichita State, who were in the South Region, still waiting to hear if they were even in the tournament, CBS spent several minutes with Barkley at a touch screen he had trouble operating while he made and explained his picks for the West Region’s games.

Even having to fill an allotment of two hours, there is no reason why CBS needed to have anyone on their air making lengthy predictions before 75 percent of the bracket was even unveiled.

The Selection Show did not get any better after this.  However, the televised announcement would soon become a moot point.

Just as CBS finished announcing the West Region pairings, the bracket leaked online.  Typically, the NCAA and CBS are able to keep the bracket a secret, revealing who’s in, who’s out, and who’s going where live on their air, announcing it everyone–teams, fans, media, etc.–at the same time.  Somehow, a Twitter user posted an image of the entire bracket, with the two announced regions entirely correct, giving the image credibility.

Many were skeptical of the bracket’s authenticity, but it turned out the leaked pairings were perfectly correct.

Many just wish that the leaked bracket, in fact, had been incorrect, because the 68-team field was, in the opinion of many including myself, not picked accurately.

Teams left out of the NCAA field include St. Mary’s (27-5, 15-3 West Coast Conf.), Valparaiso (26-6, 16-2 Horizon League), Monmouth (27-7, 17-3 Metro-American Athletic Conf.), and South Carolina (24-8, 11-7 SEC).  These quality teams were omitted while seemingly mediocre teams Vanderbilt (19-13, 11-7 SEC) and Tulsa (20-11, 12-6 AAC) were included in the tournament field.

St. Mary’s, Monmouth, and Valparaiso were presumably left out of the tournament because of the strength of the conference they play in.  While the non-conference slate of St. Mary’s is not great either, they have absolutely no “bad losses”, and did schedule Stanford and Cal, beating the Cardinal before losing a close road game against the Golden Bears.  The Gaels defeated Gonzaga, the WCC champion, twice, before losing to the Zags in the WCC championship game.   The Gaels rank 37th in the RPI, which is insanely high for a team to be ranked while still failing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Valparaiso, despite being 20 games over .500 and only losing to one team in their conference in the regular season (although they lost to Wright State twice), knew coming into today their tournament odds were not good, once again because of the strength of schedule.  They do have four wins over NCAA Tournament teams (Iona, Oregon State, and Green Bay twice), but their schedule simply was not tough enough, although their RPI ranking of 49th was the second highest of anyone left out of the field.

Monmouth may be the most alarming mid-major team to miss the field.  The Hawks did schedule tough in non-conference play, and have wins over UCLA, USC, Notre Dame, and Georgetown to show for it.  While UCLA and Georgetown ended up not being as impressive, it is not Monmouth’s fault that they scheduled two of the most successful programs in college basketball (both on the road), and it ended up being a down year for both of them.  Monmouth is ranked 52nd in the RPI.

South Carolina becomes the first eligible Power Five conference team to win 24 games and miss the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams.  The Gamecocks are the team on this list whose omission frustrates me the most, since I do live in the state of South Carolina and pull for the team, but I objectively feel they should be in the tournament over Vanderbilt and/or Tulsa.  While the Gamecocks non-conference slate was light, the team did not lose any of those games.  The “light” games against Memphis, Drexel, and St. John’s were only perceived as such because each school had players transfer away after their game with the Gamecocks was already scheduled.  While the Gamecocks rank 64th in the RPI, which is the lowest of anyone perceived as a snub (yet still higher than tournament qualifier Syracuse at 72nd), they picked up one of the most impressive wins by anyone in the SEC all year by winning on the road at Texas A&M.  Losses to Missouri, Mississippi State, and Tennessee were the Gamecocks’ issue, as well as three losses to Georgia, but the team had the highest Strength of Record (an ESPN metric) of anyone to miss the tournament field at 33rd.  (*Note: David Cloninger at The State took an even more in-depth look at how the Gamecocks missed the field.)

On a personal note, it only adds to the frustration that the team the Gamecocks will play in the opening round of the NIT also happens to be the school two of my grandparents attended (High Point).  Of course.

Earlier this week, I heard Dick Vitale speak of the tournament chances of St. Mary’s, Valparaiso, and Monmouth, saying that those teams should be rewarded for winning so many games, instead of awarding the mediocrity of teams who happen to be in a good conference.  I would agree that winning games is the best determiner of who should be in the NCAA Tournament field.  And yet, a pair of teams with 11 and 13 losses from two conference that are not necessarily considered the best are in the field.

Vanderbilt is clearly in the field based on the strength of wins against Texas A&M and Kentucky, although both were at home.  However, while the Commodores met a handful of NCAA Tournament teams in non-conference play, their best non-conference win was arguably against Wake Forest, who was just 2-16 in the ACC.  Typically the ability to win on the road is something the committee looks for, but the Commodores did not beat a single NCAA Tournament team on the road or at a neutral site (0-7 in such games), and they lost to Tennessee (15-19) in their opener of the SEC Tournament.  Vanderbilt does not have an NCAA Tournament resume, plain and simple.

Tulsa has the quality wins to make the field, winning games over five teams in the NCAA field, as well as SMU (25-5, serving one-year postseason ban).  But losses to Oral Roberts and Houston should have made their entry into the field questionable, and two losses in the last two weeks to Memphis, including a 89-67 drubbing in the AAC Tournament, should have made the possibility of a bid remote at best.  After that blowout loss, most assumed the Golden Hurricane had no shot at making the field, creating a complete surprise when their name was on the leaked bracket on Sunday.

Adding to South Carolina’s frustration in missing the field was the fact that they defeated both Vanderbilt and Tulsa in head-to-head matchups this season.  The Gamecocks defeated Tulsa 83-75 on November 23, and beat Vanderbilt 69-65 on January 9.

Yes, I understand that I’m saying there were four snubs and only two teams that should not be in.  In my opinion, there are 38 teams deserving of the 36 at-large bids (the 34 teams that received bids, excluding Vanderbilt and Tulsa, and the four snubs).  Naturally, two of these teams were going to be disappointed in any circumstances.  But the selection committee further magnified the shortage of at-large bids compared to the number of deserving teams by putting two teams in the field that are entirely undeserving.

The committee also made some mistakes in the seeding of the tournament, but I am not going to delve into that discussion.  Bad seeding can be fixed by the affected teams winning games and making a run in the tournament.  Putting the wrong teams in in the first place cannot be fixed, because even if an affected team wins the NIT, it still does not compare to even losing their first game in the NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA Tournament is one of the best sporting events in America.  From the buzzer-beaters, to the Cinderella upsets, to the miracle runs to the Final Four, a nation will be captivated by the thrilling theatre that will unfold over the next three weeks.

But after such a horrendous start to March Madness, the NCAA may need its teams to produce one of its best tournaments ever if they want us to quickly forget the committee’s mistakes.

 

(*Note:  ESPN’s Joe Lunardi wrote his own article about what the committee got wrong.  It’s worth the read.)

 

 

NCAA Tournament Field

South Region
#1 Kansas vs. #16 Austin Peay (Thursday, Des Moines)
#8 Colorado vs. #9 Connecticut (Thursday, Des Moines)
#4 California vs. #13 Hawaii (Friday, Spokane)
#5 Maryland vs. #12 South Dakota State (Friday, Spokane)
#3 Miami (Fla.) vs. #14 Buffalo (Thursday, Providence)
#6 Arizona vs. Wichita State/Vanderbilt winner (Thursday, Providence)
#2 Villanova vs. #15 UNC Asheville (Friday, Brooklyn)
#7 Iowa vs. #10 Temple (Friday, Brooklyn)

West Region
#1 Oregon vs. Holy Cross/Southern winner (Friday, Spokane)
#8 St. Joseph’s vs. #9 Cincinnati (Friday, Spokane)
#4 Duke vs. #13 UNC Wilmington (Thursday, Providence)
#5 Baylor vs. #12 Yale (Thursday, Providence)
#3 Texas A&M vs. #14 Green Bay (Friday, Oklahoma City)
#6 Texas vs. #11 Northern Iowa (Friday, Oklahoma City)
#2 Oklahoma vs. #15 Cal State Bakersfield (Friday, Oklahoma City)
#7 Oregon State vs. #10 VCU (Friday, Oklahoma City)

East Region
#1 North Carolina vs. Florida Gulf Coast/Fairleigh Dickinson winner (Thursday, Raleigh)
#8 USC vs. #9 Providence (Thursday, Raleigh)
#4 Kentucky vs. #13 Stony Brook (Thursday, Des Moines)
#5 Indiana vs. #12 Chattanooga (Thurday, Des Moines)
#3 West Virginia vs. #14 Stephen F. Austin (Friday, Brooklyn)
#6 Notre Dame vs. Michigan/Tulsa winner (Friday, Brooklyn)
#2 Xavier vs. #15 Weber State (Friday, St. Louis)
#7 Wisconsin vs. #10 Pittsburgh (Friday, St. Louis)

Midwest Region
#1 Virginia vs. #16 Hampton (Thursday, Raleigh)
#8 Texas Tech vs #9 Butler (Thursday, Raleigh)
#4 Iowa State vs. #13 Iona (Thursday, Denver)
#5 Purdue vs. #12 Arkansas-Little Rock (Thursday, Denver)
#3 Utah vs. #14 Fresno State (Thursday, Denver)
#6 Seton Hall vs. #11 Gonzaga (Thursday, Denver)
#2 Michigan State vs. #15 Middle Tennessee State (Friday, St. Louis)
#7 Dayton vs. #10 Syracuse (Friday, St. Louis)

First Four
#11 Vanderbilt vs. #11 Wichita State (Tuesday, Dayton)
#16 Florida Gulf Coast vs. #16 Fairleigh Dickinson (Tuesday, Dayton)
#11 Michigan vs. #11 Tulsa (Wednesday, Dayton)
#16 Holy Cross vs. #16 Southern (Wednesday, Dayton)

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Tournament Tweeting: ACC Semifinals Recap and Championship Preview

Semifinals Recap

#1 North Carolina 78, #4 Notre Dame 47
The Tar Heels used a 24-0 run over the closing minutes of the first half and the opening minutes of the second half to turn what had been a close game into an absolute blowout of the Irish, and the biggest semifinal blowout in ACC Tournament history.  North Carolina’s Marcus Paige led all scorers with 16 points, and was one of five Tar Heels to score in double figures.  Isaiah Hicks came off the North Carolina bench for a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.  Bonzie Colson led Notre Dame with 15.  The Tar Heels advance to the ACC Tournament championship game for a record 34th time, and for the fifth time in the last six years, although they are looking for their first title since 2008.  Friday’s win avenged last year’s title game loss for the Heels, as that loss came to Notre Dame.

 

#2 Virginia 73, #3 Miami 68
Virginia wasn’t as dominant as North Carolina, but produced the same result, beating Miami by leading wire-to-wire in front of a predominantly pro-Cavalier crowd.  The Cavaliers defense forced 16 Hurricane turnovers in the game.  ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon led all players in both points and assists, scoring 24 and dishing four dimes.  London Perrantes scored 11 and Mariel Shayok scored 10 for the Cavaliers, while Ja’Quan Newton, my choice for ACC Sixth Man of the Year, scored 19 off the bench to lead Miami.  Virginia reaches the title game for the sixth time in their history, and is looking for their third title, but their second in three years.

 

Championship Preview

#1 North Carolina vs. #2 Virginia
9:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  North Carolina by 2.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia- 1st, North Carolina- 2nd
AP Poll:  Virginia- 4th, North Carolina- 7th
Regular Season:  February 27 at Virginia, Virginia 79, North Carolina 74

 

For what it’s worth…
My Opening Round Record:  2-0
Second Round:  3-1
Quarterfinals:  3-1
Semifinals:  2-0
Tournament Total:  10-2

Tournament Tweeting: ACC Quarterfinals Recap and Semifinals Preview

Quarterfinals Recap

 

#1 North Carolina 88, #9 Pittsburgh 71

The Tar Heels, the ACC’s regular season champions, used a 13-2 run to close the first half, then an 11-0 run in the middle stages of the second half to propel themselves to a convincing 17-point victory over a Panthers team that likely sealed an NCAA Tournament berth just 24 hours earlier by beating Syracuse.  North Carolina’s Joel Berry led all scorers with 20 points, adding four steals, while Brice Johnson had the game’s only double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.  Jamel Artis and Michael Young each tallied 19 points for the Panthers.

 

#4 Notre Dame 84, #5 Duke 79, overtime

The Fighting Irish fought back from a 64-48 deficit with 11:08 to play to defeat Duke in overtime, whose lack of depth finally showed in the second half of their second game in as many days.  Duke’s first team All-ACC guard Grayson Allen led all scorers with 27 points, but like his team, Allen cooled off in the game’s closing stages.  All five Irish starters scored at least 12 points, with V.J. Beachem and Zach Auguste leading the way with 19 each.  Beachem hit two clutch threes late in regulation, and another in overtime, while Auguste also had 22 rebounds, which ties him with Tim Duncan (Wake Forest, 1996) for the second most in an ACC Tournament game behind NC State’s Jim Richter, who had 23 in 1959.

 

#2 Virginia 72, #10 Georgia Tech 52

The Cavaliers used a dominant 42-24 advantage in the second half to pull away from the Yellow Jackets, as their defense showed its strength in holding Georgia Tech to just 41 percent from the floor for the game.  ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon led all scorers with 26 for the Cavaliers, while London Perrantes dished out eight assists.  Adam Smith led Georgia Tech with 16, but All-ACC guard Marcus Georges-Hunt was held to just seven points by the Cavaliers defense.  Virginia scored 22 points off of 14 Georgia Tech turnovers.

 

#3 Miami 88, #6 Virginia Tech 82

As in each of the earlier games, the higher seed and more rested team took over the game in the second half, as Miami turned a one-point halftime lead into a dominant second half, leading by as many as 14 in a game that was never really in doubt.  The Hurricanes won despite a tremendous 31-point performance off the bench by Virginia Tech’s Seth Allen.  Miami’s Angel Rodriguez had 19 points and nine assists, while Sheldon McClellan led the Hurricanes’ five double-figure scorers with 21, and Davon Reed added 17.

 

Semifinals Preview

#1 North Carolina vs. #4 Notre Dame
7:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  North Carolina- 2nd, Notre Dame- 6th
AP Poll:  North Carolina- 7th
Regular Season:  2/6 at Notre Dame:  Notre Dame 80, North Carolina 76

 

#2 Virginia vs. #3 Miami
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia- 1st, Miami- 3rd
AP Poll:  Virginia- 4th, Miami- 11th
Regular Season:  1/12 at Virginia:  Virginia 66, Miami 58;  2/22 at Miami:  Miami 64, Virginia 61

 

 

For what it’s worth…
My Opening Round Record:  2-0
Second Round:  3-1
Quarterfinals:  3-1
Overall Record:  8-2

Tournament Tweeting: ACC Second Round Recap and Quarterfinals Preview

Second Round Recap

#9 Pittsburgh 72, #8 Syracuse 71

In what many considered an NCAA Tournament play-in game, the Panthers were simply better, although Syracuse did come from down 66-54 with 4:22 left to tie the game with 1:58 to play before falling just short when Trevor Cooney missed at the buzzer.  Cameron Johnson led Pittsburgh off the bench with 24 points and six rebounds.  Michael Gbinije led Syracuse with 24, while DeJuan Coleman scored a double-double, with 11 points and 11 rebounds.  The Panthers are now considered to be safe in the NCAA field, and can further solidify that today against North Carolina, while Syracuse will now have to sweat out CBS’s two-hour long Selection Show.

 

#5 Duke 92, #12 NC State 89

This instant classic was the highest scoring regulation game in the ACC Tournament game since 1990, although it was later matched by the Virginia Tech-Florida State contest.  After the Wolfpack turned an 86-77 deficit with 5:13 to play into an 89-89 tie, Marshall Plumlee, who had broken his nose earlier in the game, put the Blue Devils on top for good with an old-fashioned three-point play with 1:14 to go.  Four Blue Devils scored in double figures, including freshmen Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard with 22 each, while Grayson Allen had 19 points and six assists, and Plumlee had 17 points and 10 boards.  Anthony “Cat” Barber led the Wolfpack, who also had four double-figure scorers, with 29.

 

#10 Georgia Tech 88, #7 Clemson 85, overtime

With 9:25 left, it appeared Clemson would cruise to a win, as the Tigers led Georgia Tech 65-47.  The Yellow Jackets methodically crawled back into the game, and found themselves tied at the end of regulation, before keeping their momentum in the overtime session on their way to stealing a win.  Marcus Georges-Hunt led the Yellow Jackets with 28 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while Adam Smith scored 23.  Clemson first team All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame, who eventually fouled out in overtime, led the Tigers with 22.

 

#6 Virginia Tech 96, #11 Florida State 85

The Hokies, playing in front of a virtual home crowd in Washington, D.C., never trailed, on their way to a convincing win over the Seminoles.  The game’s two leading scorers were both off the bench, with Seth Allen scoring 20 for the Hokies, and Devon Bookert scoring 19 for the ‘Noles, leading them in scoring off the bench for the second straight game.  Justin Robinson scored 18 for Virginia Tech, while Justin Bibbs netted 16, and Zach LeDay had 15 points and 12 rebounds.  While Florida State’s three outstanding young guards all scored in double figures (Xavier Rathan-Mayes, 13; Dwayne Bacon, 13; Malik Beasley, 10), Jarquez Smith had a double-double with 11 points and 14 boards. The Hokies extend their league-high winning streak to six games.

 

 

Quarterfinals Preview

#1 North Carolina vs. #9 Pittsburgh
12:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  North Carolina by 7.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  North Carolina- 2nd, Pittsburgh- 12th
AP Poll:  North Carolina- 7th

 

#4 Notre Dame vs #5 Duke
appr. 2:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  Duke by 2.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Duke- 5th, Notre Dame- 6th
AP Poll:  Duke- 19th

 

#2 Virginia vs #10 Georgia Tech
7:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  TBA
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia- 1st, Georgia Tech- 8th
AP Poll:  Virginia- 4th

 

#3 Miami vs #6 Virginia Tech
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  TBA
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Miami- 3rd, Virginia Tech- 7th
AP Poll:  Miami- 11th

 

For what it’s worth…
Opening Round Picks:  2-0
Second Round Picks:  3-1
Tournament Total:  5-1

 

Tournament Tweeting: ACC Opening Round Recap and Second Round Preview

Opening Round Recap

#12 NC State 75, #13 Wake Forest 72
The Wake Forest-NC State tournament opener was an entertaining, back-and-forth game, and came down to the closing seconds with NC State winning 75-72, led by freshman Maverick Rowan with 24 points, and first team All-ACC guard Cat Barber with 22.  For Wake Forest, Devin Thomas had a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Codi Miller-McIntyre scored 14 points while dishing five assists; the loss marks the final collegiate game for both seniors.

 

#11 Florida State 88, #14 Boston College 66
Boston College finished off a historically bad year for their revenue sports, completing a winless stretch in ACC conference play (0-19 including the ACC Tournament) following their 0-8 record in the ACC in football.  Florida State dominated the Eagles, despite 21 points from Boston College senior Eli Carter, with Devon Bookert leading the Seminoles off the bench with 15 points.

 

Second Round Preview

#8 Syracuse vs #9 Pittsburgh
12:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  Pittsburgh by 2.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Syracuse- 10th, Pittsburgh- 12th

 

#5 Duke vs #12 NC State
appr. 2:30 ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  TBA
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Duke- 5th, NC State- 13th
AP Poll:  Duke- 19th

 

#7 Clemson vs #10 Georgia Tech
7:00 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Spread:  Clemson by 1.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Clemson- 11th, Georgia Tech- 8th

 

#6 Virginia Tech vs #11 Florida State
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Spread:  TBA
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia Tech- 7th, Florida State- 9th

 

For What It’s Worth…
Opening Round Record: 2-0
Tournament Total: 2-0

ACC Basketball Power Rankings for 3/8, Postseason Awards, and Tournament Preview

The grandfather of all conference tournaments heads to our nation’s capital for the third time (and the Washington D.C. metro area for the sixth time), opening on Tuesday with the bottom four seeds in action.

There are many storylines going throughout this tournament week in the ACC.  First, here’s how the teams stack up, which happens to currently be in five groups of three teams each:

Group One:  Tournament Contenders, in DC and That Other Tournament

1. Virginia (24-6, 13-5 ACC, Previous Ranking: tie for 2nd, AP Poll: 4th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  3-0
ACC Tournament Opener:  Thursday, 7:00 pm ET vs Clemson/Georgia Tech winner
Led by ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon (18.4 ppg, 2.8 apg) and an insanely good defense (allows 59.6 ppg, 2nd nationally), the Cavaliers are the best team in the league, despite only earning the 2-seed in Washington, D.C.  They take over the top spot in these rankings after their win over North Carolina on February 27, and have the best chance of any ACC team to earn a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Could this be the Virginia team to finally make a deep NCAA run?  They certainly are playing well enough to be a threat to reach the Final Four.

2. North Carolina (25-6, 14-4 ACC, PR: 1st, AP: 7th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  2-1
ACC Tournament Opener:  Thursday, 12:00 pm ET vs Pittsburgh/Syracuse winner
The Tar Heels have the depth and experience to be really dangerous in the NCAA Tournament, although they are just 6-4 in their last 10 games.  A huge key for the Tar Heels is the play of Marcus Paige (12.0 ppg, 3.7 apg), who has not played up to his own high standards in his senior season, but could be a factor in the team’s explosive offense (82.9 ppg, 9th nationally) as they try to reach their first Final Four in seven years (in Chapel Hill, that must seem like an eternity).

3. Miami (24-6, 13-5 ACC, PR: tie for 2nd, AP: 11th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  2-1
ACC Tournament Opener:  Thursday, appr. 9:30 pm ET vs Virginia Tech/Florida State/Boston College
Jim Larranaga was the media’s choice for ACC Coach of the Year, after leading the Hurricanes within one game of sharing the league’s regular season title.  While the trio of Angel Rodriguez (11.6 ppg, 4.3 apg), Sheldon McClellan (15.7 ppg), and Tonye Jekiri (8.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg) make this team dangerous, do not underestimate the contributions of my choice for ACC Sixth Man of the Year, Ja’Quan Newton (10.9 ppg, 2.5 apg).

Group Two:  Solidly in the NCAA Tournament (and Louisville)

4. Louisville (23-8, 12-6 ACC, PR: 4th, AP: 14th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  1-2
Ineligible for postseason due to self-imposed ban
Louisville would have been solidly within the projected NCAA field, but due to their postseason ban, the Cardinals’ season ended Saturday in a 68-46 loss at Virginia.  If they could have figured out the Cavaliers defense (they’re not the only ones to not figure it out), they could have possibly reached their goal of winning the ACC regular season title.  Instead, the innocent players who had nothing to do with the scandal Louisville is punishing themselves for are prevented from going to the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.

5. Duke (22-9, 11-7 ACC, PR: 5th, AP: 19th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  1-2
ACC Tournament Opener:  Wednesday, appr. 2:30 pm ET vs NC State/Wake Forest winner
Sure, this isn’t Duke’s best team.  But the Blue Devils still have a McDonald’s All-American at every position, and have the talent to possibly make a run deep into March.  The problem for Mike Krzyzewski’s team is that they may not have the depth, as they tend to only play seven players.  If Grayson Allen (21.5 ppg, 3.5 apg) plays as well as he did in last year’s national championship run, the Blue Devils could make some noise.

6. Notre Dame (20-10, 11-7 ACC, PR: 6th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  1-2
ACC Tournament Opener:  Thursday, appr. 2:30 pm ET vs Duke/NC State/Wake Forest
The Irish are safely within the NCAA Tournament, but aren’t coming in on a tremendously hot stretch.  The biggest evidence is a blowout loss to Florida State on February 27, although they also never really had a chance to beat Miami at home.  The Irish enter a conference tournament as defending champions for the first time, after last year’s tournament title in Greensboro.

Group Three:  Peaking at the Right Time

7. Virginia Tech (18-13, 10-8 ACC, PR: 11th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  3-0
ACC Tournament Opener:  Wednesday, appr. 9:30 pm ET vs Florida State/Boston College winner
The Hokies join their Commonwealth counterparts at Virginia as the only two ACC teams not to lose since the last rankings, and the Hokies have the longest active winning streak in the conference at five games.  Buzz Williams, my choice for ACC Coach of the Year, has done a phenomenal job in Blacksburg, turning the Hokies into a very competitive program (over .500 in ACC) in just his second year, and his program is only going to get better over the next few seasons.

8. Georgia Tech (18-13, 8-10 ACC, PR: 10th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  2-1
ACC Tournament Opener:  Wednesday, 7:00 pm ET vs Clemson
For the first time in Brian Gregory’s tenure, there is a real reason for optimism in Atlanta, as the Yellow Jackets enter the ACC Tournament having won five out of six and six out of eight.  Marcus Georges-Hunt (16.6 ppg, 3.0 apg) is the undisputed leader of this team, and was rewarded with All-ACC honors (see below).  The Jackets will reach the postseason for the first time in Gregory’s 5-year tenure, with the NIT as the most likely destination (with a very small chance at an NCAA at-large bid if they get a couple of wins in the ACC Tournament)

9. Florida State (18-12, 8-10 ACC, PR: 12th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  2-0
ACC Tournament Opener:  Tuesday, appr. 2:30 pm ET vs Boston College
At the last rankings, the Seminoles were in the midst of a 5-game losing streak, and had played their way off of the NCAA bubble.  Since, the ‘Noles have picked up a pair of key home wins over Notre Dame and Syracuse, and while they need a very deep run this week at the Verizon Center to have a shot at hearing their name called on, they do come in with some momentum.  This could serve this young team well in both the ACC Tournament and further into the postseason.

Group Four:  Squarely On The Bubble

10. Syracuse (19-12, 9-9 ACC, PR: 7th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  1-2
ACC Tournament Opener:  Wednesday, 12:00 pm ET vs Pittsburgh
The Orange have lost four of five entering the ACC Tournament, and now find themselves as one of Lunardi’s “Last Four In.”  The Orange are in the projected field in 90 of the 101 brackets listed on Bracket Matrix, but things could get more stressful for Jim Boeheim and company should they lose to fellow bubble team Pittsburgh, who won both regular season meetings by double digits.  However, the Orange have the better roster, and a slightly better resume, and it can be very difficult to beat a team three times.  A win against the Panthers likely locks the Orange into what would be Boeheim’s 30th NCAA appearance.

11. Clemson (17-13, 10-8 ACC, PR: 8th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  1-1
ACC Tournament Opener:  Wednesday, 7:00 pm ET vs Georgia Tech
The Tigers are technically on the bubble, but likely need a very, very good ACC Tournament to reach the NCAA field.  The good news is, should they beat Georgia Tech on Wednesday, they will have an opportunity to play #4 Virginia, as they look for a resume-boosting win.  For this team that I picked 14th in the league in November, coach Brad Brownell and senior forward Jaron Blossomgame (18.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg), who was named first team All-ACC and the ACC’s Most Improved Player, have done a tremendous job to get this team to where they are at.

12. Pittsburgh (20-10, 9-9 ACC, PR: 9th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  1-2
ACC Tournament Opener:  Wednesday, 12:00 pm ET vs Syracuse
The Panthers are also currently within most projections for the NCAA field, but are not guaranteed an at-large bid without a win or two in Washington to seal it.  97 of the 101 brackets on Bracket Matrix have the Panthers in the field, but to me their resume and roster isn’t quite as good as Syracuse, the fellow bubble team that is their opening opponent in the ACC Tournament.  The Panthers are trying to earn an NCAA Tournament berth for the 11th time in Jamie Dixon’s 13-year coaching tenure, an accomplishment that is often overlooked.

Group Five:  There’s Been Better Years

13. NC State (15-16, 5-13 ACC, PR: 13th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  1-2
ACC Tournament Opener:  Tuesday, 12:00 pm ET vs Wake Forest
This season will be remembered in Raleigh for the excellence of Anthony “Cat” Barber (23.4 ppg, 4.3 apg), but not much else.  Barring an unlikely run in D.C., the Wolfpack’s run of four straight NCAA Tournament berths will end, marking the first time in Mark Gottfried’s tenure the Wolfpack have missed the Big Dance.  Considering that this team has played several close games, it can be said that guard Terry Henderson, who was lost for the season in the season opener, would have made a big difference for this team.

14. Wake Forest (11-19, 2-16 ACC, PR: 14th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  0-2
ACC Tournament Opener:  Tuesday, 12:00 pm ET vs NC State
The good news for Wake Forest is that they had longer than anyone to prepare for the ACC Tournament (seven days between their season finale and tournament opener), and the team they’re playing in Washington, D.C. is one of the two ACC teams they have defeated this year.  The bad news is that, at least in terms of record, the team has regressed in coach Danny Manning’s second year.  Devin Thomas was one bright spot, as the senior who averages a double-double was, in my opinion, an All-ACC snub (15.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg).

15. Boston College (7-24, 0-18 ACC, PR: 15th)
Record Since Previous Rankings:  0-3
ACC Tournament Opener:  Tuesday, appr. 2:30 ET vs Florida State
The Eagles became the first ACC team to go winless in conference play since Maryland in 1986-87, and the first program in a current Power Five conference to go winless in conference play in both football and basketball since World War II.  While the Eagles were stunned at the buzzer last week by NC State in a game they led a majority of the way, most of their losses have been anything but close.  Let’s just say it’s been a rough year in Chestnut Hill.

 

 

ACC Postseason Awards

Player of the Year:
My Vote (no, I don’t actually have a ballot) and Media Selection–Malcolm Brogdon, Sr., Virginia

Coach of the Year:
My Vote–Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Media Selection–Jim Larranaga, Miami

Freshman of the Year:
My Vote and Media Selection–Brandon Ingram, Duke

Defensive Player of the Year:
My Vote and Media Selection–Brogdon

Most Improved Player:
My Vote and Media Selection–Jaron Blossomgame, Sr., Clemson

Sixth Man of the Year:
My Vote–Ja’Quan Newton, So., Miami
Media Selection–Isaiah Hicks, Sr., North Carolina

First Team All-ACC:
My Vote and Media Selection–Brogdon;  Blossomgame;  Brice Johnson, Sr., North Carolina;  Anthony “Cat” Barber, Jr., NC State;  Grayson Allen, So., Duke

Second Team All-ACC:
My Vote–Ingram;  Michael Gbinije, Sr., Syracuse;  Demetrius Jackson, Jr., Notre Dame;  Damion Lee, Sr., Louisville;  Angel Rodriguez, Sr., Miami
Media Selection–Gbinije; Jackson; Ingram; Lee; Sheldon McClellan, Sr., Miami

Third Team All-ACC:
My Vote–Marcus Georges-Hunt, Sr., Georgia Tech;  Anthony Gill, Sr., Virginia;  Michael Young, Jr., Pittsburgh;  Devin Thomas, Sr., Wake Forest;  McClellan
Media Selection–Georges-Hunt; Gill; Young; Rodriguez; Zach Auguste, Sr., Notre Dame

All-Freshman Team:
My Vote and Media Selection–Ingram;  Dwayne Bacon, Florida State;  Malik Beasley, Florida State;  Malachi Richardson, Syracuse;  Bryant Crawford, Wake Forest

All-Defensive Team:
My Vote and Media Selection–Brogdon;  Gbinije;  Tonye Jekiri, Sr., Miami;  Landry Nnoko, Sr., Clemson;  Chinanu Onauku, So., Louisville

*Editor’s Note:  I know my mock ballot did not deviate from the who the media picked very much, but that is because, for the most part, the media got their award picks right. this year.

 

Tournament Preview

There are, as usual, several storylines entering the ACC Tournament.  Here are some of the biggest, followed by my picks for how the tournament will play out:

Bubble Teams
As is the norm in a Power Five conference tournament, perhaps the biggest storyline is the teams hovering on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.  Pittsburgh and Syracuse are currently projected by most to be within the 68-team field, although both are within the last five teams in according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, and could be in a position where an early exit from the ACC Tournament knocks them out of the Big Dance.  Ironically enough, one of them will have to make an early exit–they play each other in the second round on Wednesday in what some are calling a de facto NCAA play-in game.  Clemson has an outside chance to make the NCAA Tournament field, but they have to beat Georgia Tech on Wednesday, then #4 Virginia on Thursday to have any chance.

Teams Coming In Hot
While Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are both unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament barring a deep run in Washington, both teams enter the tournament playing their best basketball of the season.  The Hokies have won five straight, including Saturday’s upset of Miami, while the Yellow Jackets have won five of six and six of eight.  According to projections, the Yellow Jackets are comfortably within the NIT, and may be a resume win or two away from an outside chance at an NCAA berth.  While that is unlikely, they would play #4 Virginia on Thursday should they beat Clemson, giving them an opportunity for a big win.  The Hokies are somehow projected on the NIT bubble, something that makes absolutely no sense to me considering they are currently a hot team, and are over .500 in arguably the best conference in basketball.

NCAA Seeding Battles
Virginia and North Carolina are both in play for a 1-seed in the Big Dance, and some analysts say it could come down to which one, if either, wins the ACC Tournament.  My opinion is that the Cavaliers are more likely to get a top seed than the Tar Heels, although it is possible, though unlikely, that they could both get one.  For the other league teams who are certain they are in the field (Miami, Duke, Notre Dame), this week is naturally an excellent opportunity to pick up some big wins and improve their seeding.

Opening Day Participants
Other than Boston College, who is historically bad, the other three teams playing in the opening round have been competitive, although they have not won the games to show for it.  NC State and Wake Forest are both among the more storied programs in the history of the ACC, and the Wolfpack will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years barring a run to the ACC title.  Florida State won this tournament just four years ago, and has a talented roster, but is stuck in the opening round despite being only a game under .500 in the ACC.

Predictions
Opening Round:  #12 NC State def. #13 Wake Forest;  #11 Florida State def. #14 Boston College
Second Round:  #9 Syracuse def. #8 Pittsburgh;  #5 Duke def. #12 NC State;  #10 Georgia Tech def. #7 Clemson;  #6 Virginia Tech def. #11 Florida State
Quarterfinals:  #1 North Carolina def. #9 Syracuse;  #5 Duke def. #4 Notre Dame;  #2 Virginia def. #10 Georgia Tech;  #6 Virginia Tech def. #3 Miami
Semifinals:  #1 North Carolina def. #5 Duke;  #2 Virginia def. #6 Virginia Tech
Championship:  #2 Virginia def. #1 North Carolina