Bracketology and Reality: ACC VersionPosted by EMann on January 24th, 2013
Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology was released on January 22. While it might be a bit too early to start evaluating his selections with full confidence, there are definitely some interesting predictions he has made about the current state of things in the ACC. For one thing, he has five teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament from the conference in this mock bracket: Duke (overall #1 seed), NC State (#3 seed), Miami (#5 seed), North Carolina (#9 seed), and Maryland (#11 seed).
- Duke (16-2, 3-2): If the season ended today, it would be tough to dispute Duke’s credentials as a #1 seed, considering that they are ranked #1 in the overall polls and #1 in the RPI, but without Ryan Kelly (for a still undetermined length of time), the Blue Devils are not the same team that defeated Louisville, Ohio State, and Minnesota. Regardless, barring a major collapse in the ACC (losing more than four games overall), it would be hard to see Duke losing its spot on at least one of the four top lines, though it would obviously prefer not to drop too many more so that it would be placed in the East Region (Washington, DC) instead of being shipped out to Los Angeles.
- NC State (15-4, 4-2): NC State has probably fallen off the #3-seed line with its shocking loss to Wake Forest earlier this week. While NC State is currently ranked #16 in the RPI, they are likely to drop more in the near future (RPIForecast has the Wolfpack projected to finish #25 in the RPI). NC State’s porous defense and generally mediocre play in the ACC (aside from the Duke game), including a loss to Maryland and barely scraping by non-Tournament contenders Clemson and Boston College, finally came back to bite them in losing to a Wake Forest team that was just 9-8 prior to that game. While NC State is certainly a lock to make the NCAAs at this point, unless they can beat Duke in Cameron and/or beat Miami and have success against UNC, it is highly unlikely they will stay quite so high. If they finish 11-7 in the ACC, as projected by both Pomeroy and Sagarin, a #5 or #6 seed seems more likely, considering that NC State’s best non-conference wins are against UConn and Stanford.
- Miami (14-3, 5-0): Sitting at #4 in the RPI and unblemished in ACC play, Miami is certainly in fine position. However, Miami still must play Duke again in Durham and NC State in league play. It has one signature non-conference win (Michigan State at home), but it also lost to Florida Gulf Coast (albeit without Durand Scott). Miami’s other two losses, to Arizona (who will likely be a #3 seed at worst) and to Indiana State, were the team’s first games without big man Reggie Johnson, who is out indefinitely. The Hurricanes also have two more decent league wins beyond last night’s savaging of Duke, against UNC in Chapel Hill and Maryland at home. Miami will have plenty of chances to further its resume in league play and has a stout SOS (also #4), so some movement away from the #5 seed line is likely. A swap with NC State’s position is not out of the realm of possibility by the end of the season, especially if Miami can sweep Duke or beat NC State.
- UNC (13-5, 3-2): UNC is currently a #9 seed according to Lunardi. Prior to defeating Florida State, Maryland and Georgia Tech in its last three games, they were squarely on the bubble. UNC is currently #35 in the RPI, which is decent but not fantastic. Their only quality non-conference win was against UNLV in Chapel Hill. Their four upcoming dates with Triangle rivals Duke and NC State, along with a return game against Miami in Coral Gables are their best hopes for a true “signature win.” Regardless, based on name recognition and the general weakness of the ACC’s bottom, a #9 seed seems about right for the Tar Heels, who should be able to accrue enough conference wins (Pomeroy projects them to go 9-9 in the league) to make the Tournament. If they finish under .500 in the league with no wins over NC State, Duke, or Miami, their tournament odds may be somewhat slim, however.
- Maryland (15-4, 3-3): Maryland is what we folks like to call a “bubble team.” They have a decent overall record, but are only ranked #64 in the RPI, mostly due to their extremely weak non-conference schedule. After losing to Kentucky in their opener (a team who has gone from preseason top-5 to the bubble itself), Maryland did not lose another non-conference game. However, their best win outside of the ACC is against either George Mason, Stony Brook, or Northwestern, none of which is likely to make the NCAAs without an automatic bid. Maryland’s signature win is undoubtedly its 51-50 triumph over NC State, which will definitely help. But getting another win against Duke, in the rematch with UNC, or a sweep of UVA would be beneficial for Maryland’s chances. If the Terrapins finish 9-9 in the ACC, as they are projected like UNC, it would really help to earn as many quality wins in the league as possible to avoid a nerve-wracking Selection Sunday.
- Virginia (12-5, 2-2): Virginia has the best chance outside of the above five teams of making the NCAA Tournament as it presently stands, although they are not in Lunardi’s field, largely due to their ghastly #142 RPI (although the Cavaliers are projected to finish in the 70s by season’s end). If Virginia ends up missing the NCAAs, they are going to look back on its 0-3 mark against the CAA, including a loss to currently 2-16 Old Dominion, as the reason why. Virginia has quality wins against Wisconsin in the Kohl Center (although Wisconsin is not quite as good as in recent years) along with a decent win against Tennessee in one of the ugliest games of the season. Regardless, Virginia must make the most of its conference schedule, and by dropping games to Wake Forest and Clemson, they are not off to a great start. However, polishing off a sweep of UNC, along with future games against Duke, NC State, and Miami will all provide opportunities for signature ACC wins. Pomeroy projects UVA to finish 11-7 in the league, and they will probably need to finish at least that high in the league with at least one win over the top three teams, to have any serious chance at making the Tournament.