Little time left in ACC regular season, but lots of questions remain

acc basketballWith less than a week left in the ACC regular season there’s still lots to be settled. Here’s just a few things to ponder as we enter the final few days before postseason play begins.

Who ya got?

Louisville currently leads the conference, but do you take the Cardinals or the field for the regular-season crown?

Louisville has been at or near the top of the standings for most of the season. The Cardinals stumbled a bit a few weeks ago, but have righted themselves somewhat lately. The Cardinals are a veteran squad led by Jordon Nwora.

I take the field. Louisville is currently a half-game up on Florida State, but the Cardinals close the season with a game at Virginia Saturday. The Cavaliers are the hottest team in the league, and a win over the Cardinals would not be surprising.

The Seminoles travel to Notre Dame tonight, and host Boston College Saturday. The game against the Irish will be tough, as ND is still fighting for its postseason life, but I like the ‘Noles. A win over BC gives FSU the regular-season crown even if it ends up tied with Louisville as a result of sweeping Louisville earlier this season.

ACC Coach of the Year?

It’s a two-man race between Leonard Hamilton and Tony Bennett.

The final two games for FSU and Virginia will settle the issue.

Both coaches have done tremendous jobs this season.

Hamilton is one of the most underrated coaches in the nation. He consistently has his FSU teams in the thick of the conference race and does so while running a clean, well-thought-of program. All this at a football-factory school.

Bennett is no longer underrated, and hasn’t been for several seasons.

Bennett has taken this current Cavalier team into the upper echelon of the league standings despite being one of the worst shooting teams in the country. Eight games into the conference schedule, Virginia was 4-4 and trending down to the distinct possibility of playing early – very early – in the conference tournament.

Fast forward about a month, and his team still doesn’t shoot the ball that well, but somehow has won nine of 10 games. The Cavaliers are still in the hunt for a regular-season title and have clinched a coveted double-bye next week in Greensboro.

All this after losing three players early to the NBA, and losing one of the most dedicated grunt players ever, Jack Salt.

Bennett is having the time of his life. He’s doing what he does best – he coaches, he makes players better.

Since they don’t award co-coaches of the year, I believe Hamilton gets the nod. FSU will likely win out to give the Seminoles the regular-season title. That will be the slim difference between two great coaches, likely the leagues next hall-of-fame coaches in waiting.

Over or under four: How many ACC teams go dancing?

Currently only four teams are locks for the big dance. (FSU, Louisville, UVA, Duke).

Syracuse, Clemson, NC State, and Notre Dame are all on life support. Regardless of how each of those four conclude the regular season, a strong performance next week will be a must.

I take the over, but barely. Syracuse is my choice as the leagues fifth and final NCAA tourney qualifier.  The Orange is already 10-9 in ACC play (17-13 overall) and conclude the regular season at Miami Saturday. A win in South Florida and a win in the Greensboro should be enough for Syracuse.

So, on the surface, the upcoming ACC Tournament, which returns to its rightful home, the Greensboro Coliseum appears to have the look of the haves vs, the have nots. But in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast, my friends.

This year’s tournament is shaping up to be more similar to a WWE cage match. Four teams in, and the others fighting among themselves for maybe one precious bid.

Before Thursday even arrives in Greensboro, Vince McMahon might be needed to settle things.

Story by Scott German

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