ACC Tournament Preview
As conference tournaments begin, all eyes will be on the best conference in college basketball, the ACC. More specifically, everyone will be on the lookout for No. 3 Duke and Zion Williamson, who has been out with a knee injury since Feb. 20. With Williamson, there is a serious argument to be made that Duke is the best team in all of college basketball. Without him, however, Duke lost three of its final six games and is far less dangerous.
Outside of Duke, top-seeded Virginia is the favorite to win the tournament, and No. 2 North Carolina finished the regular season with wins in 14 of its final 15 games. The Cavaliers and Tar Heels tied for the ACC regular season title.
Barring a major upset, Virginia will almost certainly claim a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but everyone else’s fate will depend on their conference tournament results. Here are predictions for all 15 teams going into the ACC tournament, in order of their seeding ahead of Tuesday's first-round games.
15. Notre Dame
First-Round Game: No. 10 Georgia Tech
This season was an unusually down year for Mike Brey and his Notre Dame squad. John Mooney has had an excellent year, averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds per game, but outside of him, the Irish will struggle to match up with a better Georgia Tech team. The Irish will make an early exit on Tuesday to end their season.
Prediction: Loses in first-round
First-Round Game: No. 11 Boston College
The Panthers boast a trio of guards averaging in double figures led by Xavier Johnson’s 15.6 points per game. However, like Notre Dame, the Panthers will need a lot to go right to avoid a first-round exit against a more talented Boston College team.
Prediction: Loses in first-round
13. Wake Forest
First-Round Game: No. 12 Miami
Tuesday's game between Miami and Wake Forest should be the best of the three first-round contests. These teams split the regular season series, and Wake Forest is coming off two disappointing regular-season-ending losses to Duke and Florida State.
The Demon Deacons have shown they can compete against the top teams in the conference, but it will be nearly insurmountable for them to make a deep run in the tournament with having to play their first game on Tuesday.
Wake should take advantage of the Miami’s lack of scoring depth, leading to a second-round matchup with Virginia Tech. The Demon Deacons will be knocked out there.
Prediction: Beats Miami in first-round, loses to Virginia Tech in second-round
12. Miami Hurricanes
First-Round Game: No. 13 Wake Forest
Miami’s bench is a serious concern heading into this week. In the Hurricanes’ final regular season game against Virginia Tech, they produced zero bench points, which will be problematic in the ACC Tournament.
Chris Lykes has been one of the most underrated players in the ACC this season, averaging 16.2 points per game, but he has struggled down the stretch. If Miami continues to struggle from the perimeter, it will be an early exit for the Hurricanes.
Prediction: Loses to Wake Forest in first-round
11. Boston College
First-Round Game: No. 14 Pittsburgh
Boston College enters the ACC tournament after its worst performance of the season against NC State, in which the Eagles shot 16-of-60 from the field as a team.
Boston College should have no trouble getting past Pitt in the first round, but it will need a herculean effort from Second-Team All-ACC guard Ky Bowman to get any further than that.
Prediction: Beats Pitt in first-round, loses to Syracuse in second-round
10. Georgia Tech
First-Round Game: No. 15 Notre Dame
Georgia Tech should take care of bottom-ranked Notre Dame in the first round without much difficulty, but its second-round matchup with Louisville will be much more difficult.
Louisville beat Georgia Tech by 28 points in their only meeting of the season. The Yellow Jackets have battled through the injury bug all season and have remained competitive, but Louisville is a particularly daunting matchup for them. A similar result should occur in the ACC Tournament.
Prediction: Beats Notre Dame in first-round, loses to Louisville in second-round
9. Clemson Tigers
First-Round Game: No. 8 North Carolina State
The Tigers enter the tournament winning four out of their last five games, including a near upset victory over North Carolina.
The lone meeting between Clemson and NC State in the regular season ended with the Tigers squandering a six-point lead in the final minute. This Clemson team is playing its best basketball of the season behind Marcquise Reed, who is averaging 19.4 points per game.
The Tigers should get a win against the Wolfpack, but then they will have to face the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers in the second-round.
Prediction: Beats NC State in second-round, loses to Virginia in quarterfinals
8. North Carolina State
First-Round Game: No. 9 Clemson
NC State ended its season with a blowout win over Boston College. The Wolfpack battled back to beat Clemson in their only meeting of the season, but it took a fortuitous cold streak of missed free-throws to happen.
These teams are evenly matched, but Clemson was the better team at the end of the regular season. NC State went just 5-5 in its final 10 games of conference play and was far too inconsistent to be a major threat in the conference tournament.
Prediction: Loses to Clemson in second-round
First-Round Game: Georgia Tech (projected)
The Cardinals finished the regular season with a close loss to Virginia on the road, in which they led for much of the second half. Louisville has at times played like one of the best teams in the conference, but inconsistency has plagued the Cardinals from finishing higher in the ACC standings.
Jordan Nwora was the ACC’s most improved player in 2019, but the Cardinals lack the depth to be a serious contender in a tournament that they will have to win four games in four days to take home the title.
A win over Georgia Tech in the opening round of the tournament should not be a problem, but a second-round game against a red-hot No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels team will be too much to overcome.
Prediction: Beats Georgia Tech in second-round, loses to North Carolina in quarterfinals
6. Syracuse Orange
First-Round Game: No. 11 Boston College (projected)
Syracuse has once again been one of the best defensive teams in the country with its 2-3 matchup zone. The Orange have a lot of size and length that allow them to clog up passing lanes and force turnovers. However, outside of Tyus Battle, Syracuse has not had much consistency on offense this season.
The Orange will have no trouble against Boston College or Pitt, but a quarterfinals matchup against Duke with a healthy Zion Williamson does not bode well for Jim Boeheim and company. Even though Syracuse defeated Duke once already this season, a second upset victory seems unlikely.
Prediction: Beats Boston College in second-round, loses to Duke in quarterfinals
5. Virginia Tech
First-Round Game: No. 13 Wake Forest (projected)
Buzz Williams has done a remarkable job with this team considering the injury plague that hit them this season. Justin Robinson has battled injury issues all season and Chris Clarke and Landers Nolley II were lost for the year, but the Hokies still find themselves as a dangerous five-seed.
The duo of all-conference guards Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear Jr. will make the Hokies a tough out. However, with Robinson likely to miss the tournament, Virginia Tech will have trouble matching up with top-seeded Virginia in the semifinals.
Prediction: Beats Wake Forest in second-round and Florida State in quarterfinals, lose to Virginia in semifinals
4. Florida State
First-Round Game: No. 5 Virginia Tech (projected)
Florida State is coming off an excellent season, setting a new program record with 13 wins in conference play. The Seminoles won 12 of their final 13 games to close out conference play and defeated Virginia Tech in overtime in their only meeting of the season.
Look for Virginia Tech to get revenge in its likely Thursday matchup in the ACC tournament. The Hokies have done well to fill the void left by Justin Robinson and stay afloat in conference play, and they have a chance to go deep in the tournament. A talented Florida State team will simply draw a bad first matchup.
Prediction: Loses to Virginia Tech in quarterfinals
First-Round Game: No. 6 Syracuse (projected)
Duke's chances of taking home the ACC title come down to the health of superstar forward Zion Williamson. If he's healthy, the Blue Devils can take home the crown. If not, they could be bounced early. Williamson, the ACC Player of the Year, is likely to be back for the ACC tournament.
Duke is a far superior team with him on the floor at both ends of the floor. While Williamson will be enough to power Duke through the early rounds of the tournament and earn a spot in the ACC title game, beating Virginia for the third time will be difficult.
An ACC title would be a great accomplishment and likely give Duke a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the real goal for Duke is a deep March Madness run.
Prediction: Beats Syracuse in quarterfinals and North Carolina in semifinals, lose to Virginia in the championship
2. North Carolina
First-Round Game: No. 7 Louisville (projected)
North Carolina finished the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the country and is much improved since the start of the season. Much like Duke and Virginia, the Tar Heels are national title contenders regardless of their ACC Tournament result.
Louisville will give the Heels all they can handle in the quarterfinals, but the Heels will prevail to set up a third matchup with Duke. The difference this time though will be a healthy Williamson for the Blue Devils, as North Carolina will fall just short of beating Duke a third time.
Prediction: Beats Louisville in quarterfinals, loses to Duke in semifinals
First-Round Game: No. 9 Clemson (projected)
Virginia finished the season strong to lock up the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, and the Cavaliers should take home the ACC title. Virginia is deep and talented, losing just two games all season. Virginia is always elite defensively, but this year’s squad is Tony Bennett’s best offensive team, led by Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter
Both of their losses came to Duke, before Zion Williamson's ankle injury. However, in the second game Duke shot the ball from the perimeter far better than their season average, so expect that number to regress to the mean this time. Virginia knocks off Duke in the third matchup to take home the title.
Prediction: Beats Duke in championship
Will Desautelle is a junior majoring broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Junior / Broadcast Journalism and Political Science