Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
When: March 7-11.
Championship Game: March 11 — 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN.
2016 Champion: North Carolina.
Let’s get this out of the way: The ACC has been the best conference of the big-six this season.
With six teams ranked in the second-to-last AP Top 25 poll, this tournament should be great to watch. The top four seeds—North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame and Louisville—all have grabbed the coveted “double bye.” Because of that, their action won’t start until Thursday. There will be plenty of action before they get involved though.
Three games kick this tournament off on Tuesday in Brooklyn, leading to the championship game Saturday night. So let’s take a look at the favorite, the contenders, and the pretenders for the ACC tournament.
The Favorite — North Carolina
As the national runner-up from one year ago, not to mention regular season champions, the Tar Heels are the clear favorite. Now by no means are they a lock to win. But, UNC has proven to be the most consistent team in the conference from start to finish. Look out for a possible Friday night rubber match between North Carolina and Duke if both take care of business early. They’ve already treated us to two thrilling games during the regular season.
Contenders — Florida State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Duke, Virginia, Miami
Regardless of what happens this week, these six teams are all tournament locks.
Duke has the most talent, yet are still struggling to put it all together. Florida State has been inconsistent since the calendar turned from December to January, seeing as they were laying the groundwork for a run at a No. 1 seed back in late 2016. Virginia doesn’t have a double bye, but they are the one team that I don’t see being affected by that. Meanwhile, Notre Dame and Louisville are basically equal, but the Cardinals have a bit more depth.
And Miami may have their work cut out for them, but this Hurricane team is no slouch. And if anything, they should give North Carolina a good fight. Assuming they win their first-round matchup against Syracuse, of course.
Pretenders — Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Clemson, NC State, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech.
While there may be some teams in this group who could be playing in the NCAA tournament even if they don’t win the ACC, most will need to run the table to keep on playing meaningful games past Selection Sunday.
Virginia Tech, however, should find themselves in the national tournament as long as they take care of Tuesday’s Wake Forest/Boston College winner. Even if they lose, there’s a good chance they still sneak into the dance. But that depends on automatic bids from other leagues. Therefore, they cannot afford to leave it in the hands of others.
Wake Forest should take care of business against BC, but it may get dicey for them if Virginia Tech does, in fact, knock them out. A Syracuse win over Miami should lock them into the tournament, but a loss could have them on the edge of their seats come Selection Sunday. If they end up beating Miami and North Carolina, then they’re a lock.
Georgia Tech and Clemson would both need to make it until at least Thursday to have a shot at an at-large bid, while NC State, Boston College and Pittsburgh need to win the whole darn thing.
Who’s your pick to win the ACC Tournament?