ACC Bubble Watch: February 14Posted by Mick McDonald on February 14th, 2017
With the Selection Committee releasing its early look at the top 16 seeds on Saturday, we are now officially in the home stretch of the 2016-17 regular season. Here is a look at the state of the bubble in the ACC four weeks away from Selection Sunday. (KenPom rankings are all as of Monday, February 13)
LOCKS (6): North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame
- Clemson (13-11, 3-9 ACC, KenPom: #39). We knew there was likely to be a very good ACC team that would fall victim to a brutal schedule and as a result miss the NCAA Tournament. To this point of the regular season, it appears that Clemson is that team. Wins at home over Georgia (KenPom: #50), UNC-Wilmington (KenPom: #56) and Alabama (KenPom: #62), along with a win over Davidson (KenPom: #88) on a neutral court, and at South Carolina (KenPom: #27) represent an impressive array of victories. The Tigers’ only bad loss came against Oklahoma (KenPom: #82) on a neutral court, but nine defeats in ACC play are too much to overcome. Clemson probably needs to a 5-1 finish to the regular season and a decent showing in the ACC Tournament to receive a bid — a difficult, if not impossible, task. This Week: Wake Forest (2/14), at Miami (2/18).
- Georgia Tech (15-10, 6-6 ACC, KenPom: #79). In league play, Georgia Tech has notched big home wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame. A home loss to Ohio (KenPom: #109) is the only significant blemish on the Yellow Jackets’ non-conference resume, but it’s not a killer and a nice road win over VCU (KenPom: #43) will help compensate. The Selection Committee has seemed to value “big wins” regardless of location in recent years, so it will be interesting to see if that trend holds again this year. If the Yellow Jackets can take care of business in their three remaining home games and find just one win on the road (at Miami, Notre Dame or Syracuse), they should be going dancing in Josh Pastner’s inaugural season. This Week: at Miami (2/15), vs. Syracuse (2/19).
- Miami (16-8, 6-6 ACC, KenPom: #35). The Hurricanes are going to be suffer from a very soft non-conference schedule (#288 nationally). Their best win was a neutral court victory over Stanford (KenPom: #104) and they took losses to their only other quality opponents, Florida and Iowa State. The good news for Jim Larranaga’s club is that his team doesn’t have any bad losses and can claim a nice victory over North Carolina in the “big win” category. Protecting home court against fellow bubble teams Georgia Tech and Clemson this week is absolutely necessary. This Week: Georgia Tech (2/15), Clemson (2/18), at Virginia (2/20).
- Syracuse (16-11, 8-6 ACC, KenPom: #47). Syracuse represents the complete opposite of Clemson’s resume. The Orange’s non-conference schedule resulted in no important wins and a terrible home blowout loss to St. John’s. Since a conference-opening loss to Boston College, however, Syracuse has gone 8-5 with a pair of great wins over Florida State and Virginia. Recent losses to Pittsburgh and Louisville in overtime mean there is more work ahead, but the Orange will probably be in good shape if they can split their final four regular season games. This Week: at Georgia Tech (2/19).
- Virginia Tech (17-7, 6-6 ACC, KenPom: #51). The Hokies are probably in the best shape of any ACC bubble team. They own an increasingly impressive road win against Michigan (KenPom: #30) and have beaten Duke and Virginia in Blacksburg. This week will be tricky with two games on the road, but Virginia Tech ends the season with three of four games at home and looks poised for its first NCAA Tournament berth in a decade. This Week: at Pittsburgh (2/14), at Louisville (2/18).
- Wake Forest (15-10, 6-7 ACC, KenPom: #32). The Demon Deacons have already lost 10 games but the only remotely questionable defeat is a home loss to Clemson. The problem in Winston-Salem is a relative lack of good wins. All Danny Manning’s club can claim from its difficult non-conference schedule is a road win over Richmond (KenPom: #94) and home wins over Bucknell (KenPom: #90) and Charleston (KenPom: #92). Late collapses against Clemson and Duke are the difference between the bubble and feeling relatively comfortable. The advanced metrics love the Deacs because of their terrific offense (ninth nationally) and paucity of bad losses, but this feels like an NIT team without another quality win or two. Their only chance for a truly impressive home win comes on March 1 when Louisville visits. This Week: at Clemson (2/14), at Duke (2/18).