Key ACC Non-Conference Games For NCAA Hopefuls

Posted by Brad Jenkins on November 19th, 2019

The top five schools in the ACC preseason poll (Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia and Florida State) look like good bets to make the Big Dance this season, but right below that group sits a trio of teams that appear likely to finish in the middle of the league standings. To warrant inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, it may come down to how these squads perform in a handful of key non-conference games. Here’s a look at each team’s three most important contests outside of ACC play, along with a sneaky tough opponent for the trio.

NC State

Kevin Keatts needs his NC State squad to pick up some key non-conference wins in case the Wolfpack is on the NCAA bubble again next March. (Jerome Carpenter/WRAL)
  • Memphis (Brooklyn, NY – Barclays Center Classic) – Thu Nov 28 (4:00 ET ESPN2)
  • Wisconsin (Big Ten/ACC Challenge) – Wed Dec 4 (9:15 ET ESPN2)
  • @ Auburn – Thu Dec 19 (9:00 ET ESPN 2)

The Wolfpack may catch a break on Thanksgiving Day if Memphis freshman phenom James Wiseman is still sitting out with eligibility issues. Either way, if Kevin Keatts finds his team on the NCAA bubble once again, a neutral site win over a top-20 team would look mighty good on its resume. The other two contests are rematches from last year in which the home team triumphed in tightly contested affairs.

Upset Alert: @ UNC Greensboro – Sun Dec 15 (3:00 ET ESPN+)

The Spartans return three starters from a campaign in which they won 29 games and were closer to making the NCAA Tourney than NC State. According to KenPom’s win probability metric, the Wolfpack currently has a 57 percent chance of coming out on top.

Notre Dame

  • @ Maryland (Big Ten/ACC Challenge) – Wed Dec 4 (7:15 ET ESPN/ESPN2)
  • UCLA – Sat Dec 14 (3:00 ET ABC)
  • Indiana (Indianapolis, IN – Crossroads Classic) – Sat Dec 21 (Noon ET ESPN)

Winning in College Park will be a tough task for anyone this year, so the Irish have a great opportunity to grab an impressive road win early. Perhaps Mike Brey’s guys will be well prepared for the moment, having already played well in a similar circumstance – competing admirably in Chapel Hill before falling to North Carolina on opening night. Notre Dame will be looking for payback in the other two contests. Last year, UCLA scored the game’s final eight points to win 65-62 in Pauley Pavilion. And two seasons ago, Indiana beat the Irish in overtime in this same event.

Upset Alert: Toledo – Thu Nov 21 (8:30 ET ACCN)

The Rockets won 25 games last season after posting 23 the year before, so this is a group that is used to winning. Toledo is considered the preseason favorite to win the MAC’s West Division, according to the league’s coaches.

Syracuse

  • Oklahoma State (Brooklyn, NY – NIT Season Tip-Off) – Wed Nov 27 (7:00 ET ESPN2)
  • Penn State/Ole Miss (NIT Season Tip-Off) – Fri Nov 29 (7:00 ET/9:30 ET ESPN2)
  • @ Georgetown – Sat Dec 14 (1:00 ET FOX)

At first glance, this may not appear to be an overly imposing group, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of these games for Jim Boeheim’s squad. All four schools look very similar in ability to the Orange — meaning, it’s a possibility that these teams will be among Syracuse’s chief competition for selection into the 2020 NCAA Tournament field. This will be the fifth consecutive season that the Orange faces old Big East foe Georgetown. Syracuse’s lone win over that span came last year in the Carrier Dome by a score of 72-71.

Upset Alert: Bucknell – Sat Nov 23 (Noon ET ACCN)

This could be a trap game for the Orange before they get into the games mentioned above. The Bison have a recent history of success, having topped 20 wins in each of the past three seasons.

Brad Jenkins (373 Posts)


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