ACC Tournament preview and predictions: 11 NCAA bids realistic?

The Dagger

The 2018 ACC tournament tips off Tuesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Here is an in-depth look at the tournament including a complete bracket, TV information, analysis and predictions.

The 2018 ACC men’s basketball tournament bracket. (Screenshot: ACC on Twitter)
The 2018 ACC men’s basketball tournament bracket. (Screenshot: ACC on Twitter)

WHO IS THE FAVORITE?

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

The ACC has three teams — Virginia, Duke and North Carolina — in the top 10 and plenty of other very talented teams that have been or are currently in the top 25. But the nation’s top team, Virginia, is the favorite for the tournament this year. The Cavaliers ran away from the field to wrap up the regular season conference crown by late February and boast away wins at Duke, Florida State and Miami, home victories over North Carolina, Clemson and Louisville and a sweep of Louisville.

The Cavaliers are led by the nation’s best defense and a trio of guards — Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and Devon Hall — who shoot the ball very well from the outside and can penetrate the lane as well. Freshman forward DeAndre Hunter, though, is the X factor. The first man off the bench, Hunter has improved significantly in ACC play and can be a go-to player offensively as a midrange one-on-one scorer. The Cavaliers don’t always play the most aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball, and people may complain about their slow pace. But Virginia plays efficient, high-IQ basketball has had major success with it over the past several years.

WHO ELSE CAN WIN?

There’s at least a handful of teams who can seriously contend for the tournament crown. Duke is incredibly talented. North Carolina boasts the nation’s fourth-best offensive efficiency and has terrific leadership in reigning Final Four Most Outstanding Player Joel Berry II and fellow senior Theo Pinson. Clemson has done a great job keeping things together following the loss of second-leading scorer Donte Grantham. Virginia Tech has wins over all three of those teams as well as a victory over Virginia.

Duke, though, seems like the most dangerous non-Virginia team. Grayson Allen is rounding into form after what’s mostly been a subpar season, and if he can continue his late-season surge into the conference tournament, that makes the Blue Devils all the more dangerous. Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. — both potential top-10 picks in this summer’s NBA Draft — form an intimidating interior post tandem. The Blue Devils have five players who score in double figures, and any contributions off the bench will be a major plus.

BUBBLE IMPLICATIONS

Louisville (19-12, 9-9, KenPom: 33, RPI: 43): The Cardinals blew their biggest chance to secure a spot when they blew a four-point lead with 0.9 seconds left. Louisville has no signature wins but also no bad losses, putting it in a big spot to make a move in the conference tournament. Louisville might need two wins, but David Padgett’s team has the talent to get them.

Syracuse (19-12, 8-10, KenPom: 50, RPI: 47): The Orange have made a habit of being on the bubble for the past several seasons and enter the conference tournament needing to move the needle significantly. Syracuse knocked off Clemson in the regular season finale, which was a good start to what is a very important week.

Notre Dame (18-13, 8-10, KenPom: 32, RPI: 71): The Irish have endured a brutal stretch of injuries and are very much on the outside looking in heading to the Barclays Center. But there’s reason to believe for Notre Dame. The team is as healthy as its been, and the Irish have an impressive early-season win over Wichita State. Notre Dame has its work cut out for it, but it’s not an impossibility for the preseason top-25 team.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

1. Bonzie Colson, F, Notre Dame: The ACC preseason player of the year missed nearly two months due to a foot injury but made his 2018 debut Feb. 28 and posted 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks against Pitt. Then he posted a double-double in a tight loss to UVA. Notre Dame is clinging to the edge of bubble talk right now — Mike Brey’s squad went 6-9 with Colson out of the lineup — and will need a huge week if it wants to make a run and slide into the NCAA tournament.

2. Marvin Bagley, F, Duke: Bagley finished the regular season second in the conference in scoring (20.7 per game) and first in rebounding (11.1 per game) in what will in all likelihood be his only year in Durham. He missed a couple of weeks late in the year with a knee issue but has looked close to 100 percent in the games since. His blend of skill, size and physicality on the block is nearly impossible to stop as long as he’s getting enough looks.

3. Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College: At 20.9 points per game, Robinson is the only player in the ACC averaging more points than Bagley. The 6-foot-6 guard has had some huge performances over the past month — 46 in a loss to Notre Dame, 29 in a win over Miami, 29 in another loss to Notre Dame and 30 in a loss to Miami — and is one of the most well-rounded offensive talents in all of college basketball. He’s shooting over 50 percent from the field, over 44 percent from deep and over 83 percent from the line. The Eagles won’t be dancing unless they make a miracle run, but Robinson makes them one of the most exciting teams to watch in this tournament.

Marvin Bagley will hope to lead Duke to an ACC tournament title in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Marvin Bagley will hope to lead Duke to an ACC tournament title in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

ONE BIG STORYLINE

Last year, the ACC sent nine teams to the NCAA tournament, the most in the conference’s history. This year, there’s a legitimate chance that the conference could hit double digits. Louisville needs a big week, and the Cardinals have the skill and the defensive acumen to get a big win to propel them into the field. Syracuse, meanwhile, hasn’t missed back-to-back dances since 2007-2008 and will also need a significant win or two playing in its home state. The Big East holds the all-time record for bids in a year, sending 11 teams in 2011. Depending on how the week shakes out, this year’s ACC could threaten that mark.

SCHEDULE

All times Eastern

Tuesday, March 6 | First round
No. 12 Boston College vs. No. 13 Georgia Tech — Noon, ESPN2
No. 10 Notre Dame vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh — 2:30 p.m., ESPN2
No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Wake Forest — 7 p.m., ESPNU

Wednesday, March 7 | Second round
No. 8 Florida State vs. No. 9 Louisville — Noon, ESPN
No. 5 North Carolina State vs. No. 12 Boston College/No. 13 Georgia Tech — 2 p.m., ESPN
No. 7 Virginia Tech vs. No. 10 Notre Dame/No. 15 Pittsburgh — 7 p.m., ESPN2
No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Syracuse/No. 14 Wake Forest — 9 p.m., ESPN2

Thursday, March 8 | Quarterfinals
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 Florida State/No. 9 Louisville — Noon, ESPN
No. 4 Clemson vs. No. 5 North Carolina State/No. 12 Boston College/No. 13 Georgia Tech — 2 p.m., ESPN
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Virginia Tech/No. 10 Notre Dame/No. 15 Pittsburgh — 7 p.m., ESPN
No. 3 Miami vs. No. 6 North Carolina/No. 11 Syracuse/No. 14 Wake Forest — 9 p.m., ESPN

Friday, March 9 | Semifinals
Winners of quarterfinals 1 and 2 — 7 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Winners of quarterfinals 3 and 4 — 9 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2

Saturday, March 10 | Final
Semifinal winners — 8:30 p.m., ESPN

PREDICTIONS

First round
No. 12 Boston College over No. 13 Georgia Tech
No. 10 Notre Dame over No. 15 Pittsburgh
No. 11 Syracuse over No. 14 Wake Forest

Second round
No. 9 Louisville over No. 8 Florida State
No. 5 NC State over No. 12 Boston College
No. 10 Notre Dame over No. 7 Virginia Tech
No. 6 North Carolina over No. 11 Syracuse

Quarterfinals
No. 1 Virginia over No. 9 Louisville
No. 5 NC State over No. 4 Clemson
No. 2 Duke over No. 10 Notre Dame
No. 6 North Carolina over No. 3 Miami

Semifinals
No. 1 Virginia over No. 5 NC State
No. 2 Duke over No. 6 North Carolina

Final
No. 2 Duke over No. 1 Virginia

Other conference tournaments: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

What to Read Next