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

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One thought on “ACC Basketball Power Rankings for 3/8, Postseason Awards, and Tournament Preview

  1. Pingback: Tournament Tweeting: ACC Second Round Recap and Quarterfinals Preview | Stiles On Sports

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