NCAA Tournament Instareaction: ACC Edition

Posted by Mick McDonald on March 17th, 2019

The ACC received seven bids to the NCAA Tournament today, down from the nine invitations that the conference garnered in 2017 and 2018. Those seven selections completely mirrored the overall season for the ACC. It was impressive at the top, with three teams earning #1 seeds for the first time since the Big East performed the trick a decade ago, but it was a disappointment at the bottom, with both NC State and Clemson missing out on trips to the tournament. The Wolfpack have very little to be upset about, frankly, having played the worst non-conference schedule in college basketball this season — but even if you aren’t a fan of that metric, their best win over Auburn while also finding ways to lose to both Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. Here is a quick look at the best and worst case scenarios for the seven ACC teams that did qualify for the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

The Zion Williamson Show Moves to the NCAA Tournament as the Overall #1 Seed (USA Today Images)

Duke (#1 East)

Best Case: The Blue Devils win the National Championship. However, the truest best cast would be four straight blowouts (including a payback win over Virginia Tech and a showdown with Michigan State along the way) as they waltz to Minneapolis as the prohibitive favorite.

Worst Case: Virginia Tech has beaten the Blue Devils before, and with Justin Robinson now back in action, the Hokies get hot from long range and take down Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.

Virginia (#1 South)

Best Case: Tony Bennett leads his best offensive team to his first Final Four and silences a whole lot of doubters, including plenty of loud voices who thought last year’s loss to UMBC proved that his program and his style of playe was “fraudulent.”

Worst Case: I mean… lightning can’t strike the same place twice, right? Right?

North Carolina (#1 Midwest)

Best Case: The Tar Heels return to yet another Final Four after an early exit last season, challenging for a third National Championship game appearance in the past four years. But they’ll have to earn it. Utah State or the Washington zone could be a tricky Second Round match-up, and they could see either red-hot Auburn or always-tough Kansas (in Kansas City!) in the Sweet Sixteen.

Worst Case: The Tar Heels get flustered by an efficient Utah State team or a tricky 2-3 zone from Washington and bow out in the Second Round for the second consecutive season.

Florida State (#4 West)

Leonard Hamilton is Wondering Why He Got a #4 Seed (USA Today Images)

Best Case: The Seminoles use their depth and athleticism to storm through the West bracket, taking out Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen for the second year in a row and avenging last year’s Elite Eight loss to Michigan to get Leonard Hamilton to his first Final Four.

Worst Case: The Seminoles settle for too many bad jump shots and get picked apart by a solid Vermont offense that features a pro-level talent in Anthony Lamb.

Virginia Tech (#4 East)

Best Case: Justin Robinson proves 100 percent healthy in his return to the lineup, and the Hokies upend Duke and Michigan State with a Hokies-heavy crowd in Washington, D.C. cheering them on.

Worst Case: Robinson isn’t himself; Kerry Blackshear gets into early foul trouble; and the three-point shots don’t fall against a very good Saint Louis defense — leading the Hokies to bow out in the opening round. Then, Buzz Williams takes off for Texas A&M.

Louisville (#7 East)

Chris Mack’s Club Earned a Gentleman’s #7 Seed (USA Today Images)

Best Case: The Cardinals remove another Pitino from competing in the NCAA Tournament before Chris Mack cooks up the perfect game plan against Michigan State (featuring lots of on-ball pressure from Khwan Fore and Christen Cunningham against Cassius Winston) to get the Cardinals to the Sweet Sixteen.

Worst Case: They lose to a Pitino while a different Pitino sits in the crowd wearing Golden Gophers gear.

Syracuse (#8 West)

Best Case: We’ve all seen this movie before. The Orange head into the NCAA Tournament with a decent (or worse) team, and everyone expects them to bow out early. And yet, there they are, playing in the second weekend (or beyond). The Orange’s zone baffles top seeded Gonzaga; their length bothers Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke; and a returning Tyus Battle leads the Orange to the Sweet Sixteen.

Worst Case: Battle can’t return or is ineffective, leading the Orange go into one of their signature offensive droughts and allowing #9 Baylor to out-zone Syracuse in the opening round.

Mick McDonald (70 Posts)

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