March Madness: How many does the ACC get in?

acc basketballThe ACC has three teams in the RPI Top 10, five in the Top 20, six in the Top 30, seven in the Top 50, and an eighth just outside the Top 50.

Are those numbers an indication of how many ACC teams will go dancing next month?


Locks: Virginia, North Carolina, Miami, Duke, Notre Dame

If the season ended today, Virginia (21-5, 10-4 ACC) and UNC (22-5, 11-3 ACC) would be in the running for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cavs perhaps having a slight edge, very slight.

UVA is fifth in the RPI (UNC is seventh), and the Cavs are 5-1 against the RPI Top 25 (UNC is 2-2) and 702 against the Top 50 (UNC is 3-4).

A lot will be decided there over the next couple of weeks, obviously, but it’s hard to imagine either falling below the two line right now.

Miami (21-5, 10-4 ACC) has a shot at a two, but is more likely headed toward the three. The ‘Canes are 2-2 against the RPI Top 25 and 6-2 against the Top 50.

Duke (20-7, 9-5 ACC) is new to the lock list, though you do have to throw in a caveat: damn, Duke is thin, and with Matt Jones hobbling around on a sore ankle, Derryck Thornton jerking his shoulder out of place at Louisville, the six-man gang can’t afford anything even minor in the way of injuries.

Duke has a strong RPI (11th), but a 7-5 mark in the last 12 games doesn’t speak to better than a four seed on Selection Sunday.

Notre Dame is our final ACC lock. The Irish (18-8, 9-5 ACC) lost a heartbreaker at Georgia Tech Saturday night, but a 27 RPI and a 4-2 record against the RPI Top 50 speak volumes. Notre Dame is a five or six seed.

For what it’s worth, and it’s not worth anything, but Louisville (21-6, 10-4 ACC) would have been an obvious lock here as well. The Cardinals are 19th in the RPI, 2-4 against the RPI Top 25 and 3-5 against the Top 50. Their best wins (UNC and Duke) are at home, so they would have probably fallen to the five line, but you wouldn’t want to have to play them.


Work to do: Pitt, Syracuse

Pitt (19-7, 8-6 ACC) is 35th in the RPI despite a 1-5 record against the RPI Top 50.  The Panthers have three meaningful wins – at Notre Dame in early January and a sweep of Syracuse, including a win in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. This coming week is key, with home games against Louisville and Duke.

Split those two, then avoid slip-ups next week with Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and Pitt is in as a seven or eight.

Syracuse (18-10, 8-7 ACC) had its margin of error reduced to slim with the 14-point home loss to Pitt on Saturday. There is the intrigue of how the selection committee will handle the nine-game absence of coach Jim Boeheim. The Orange went 4-5 overall and 0-3 in ACC play during that stretch, and are 14-5 overall and 8-4 in ACC play otherwise.

The 52 RPI is danger zone, though, but ‘Cuse is 2-4 against the RPI Top 25 and 5-7 against the Top 50, with neutral-court non-conference wins over Texas A&M and UConn, and a road win at Duke.

Syracuse is off until the weekend, and needs a win over NC State in its home finale, before going on the road next week at North Carolina and at Florida State.

Beat the Pack, and split next week, and ‘Cuse is in. Finish 1-2 in that stretch, and then the Orange may need to impress in the ACC Tournament.


Outside looking in: Clemson, Florida State

Wow, that Clemson resume is just … weird. The Tigers (16-11, 9-6 ACC) are still just two and a half out in the ACC regular-season race.

But … there are lots of buts with Clemson. The biggest being its RPI – 99. No matter what else you have going for you, no team is getting serious consideration for an at-large bid at 99.

That said, Clemson is 3-2 against the RPI Top 25 and 4-5 against the Top 50, with wins over Louisville, Duke and Miami.

Problem there: all of those were at home. The Tigers have no meaningful road wins to speak of, with a bad, bad road loss (at Minnesota).

The schedule down the stretch is not kind, with road games at Georgia Tech and Boston College sandwiched around a home game with Virginia.

Even pulling an upset of Virginia to finish out a three-game season-ending winning streak would do little to improve Clemson’s hopes: it’s ACC Tournament-or-bust for the Tigers.

Ditto for Florida State (16-11, 6-9 ACC) on that line. We’re being nice even including the Seminoles in the outside looking in list here.

FSU is 72nd in the RPI and 3-6 against the RPI Top 50, but teams on the bubble who lose four straight need to start thinking about the NIT.

The ‘Noles are much, much closer to playing on Tuesday in the ACC Tournament than they are to getting a ticket to the Big Dance.

– Column by Chris Graham

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