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Max Skinner, Special to theACC.com
With Selection Sunday a little over a month away, it’s time for all sorts of predictions and speculation to take place. In order to adequately speculate, it’s absolutely necessary to look at every team’s record, strength of schedule (SOS), and ratings percentage index (RPI).
It's also important to look at a team's overall body of work; quality wins, bad losses and key remaining games. Let's take a closer look at the resumes of the ACC teams who have a realistic shot at making the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
The #2 Virginia Cavaliers have put together quite the resume for the selection committee. However, UVa just lost Justin Anderson to a fractured finger that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks. Virginia’s remaining schedule is relatively easy, and Anderson should return by the ACC Tournament. That’s the good news.
The #4 Duke Blue Devils are starting to heat up. Duke still has yet to play Syracuse and UNC (twice each). If Duke can weather that storm and stay near the top of the ACC, the Blue Devils could challenge Virginia for that elusive #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It also depends on the ACC Tournament, as we saw last year.
The #9 Louisville Cardinals boast one of the nation’s toughest defenses to go along with a slew of talented players. Unfortunately for Rick Pitino’s squad, Louisville’s remaining schedule is pretty tough. Three of their next four games (vs Pitt, vs NCSU, @ Syracuse, vs Miami) are against bubble teams vying for a much needed resume-builder. Not to mention, Louisville wraps up the season hosting both #10 Notre Dame and #2 Virginia.
Hosting the nation’s second hardest schedule, UNC has found some consistency in recent weeks. Coat-tailing off that, UNC has arguably the hardest remaining schedule in the ACC. The Heels have a tough test this weekend at Pittsburgh. Oh yeah, UNC also still has to play bitter rival Duke twice…
Notre Dame has returned to national prominence after a disappointing season last year. The only blemish on Notre Dame’s resume is its weak strength of schedule. Notre Dame has the easiest remaining schedule of any of the top 5 ACC teams. We’ll see if that affects their seeding come Selection Sunday.
Pittsburgh has had a rocky season. Nonetheless, the Panthers find themselves on the cusp of the bubble. Pitt seems comfortable playing old Big East foes as the Panthers have beaten Notre Dame and Syracuse this season. However, mediocre losses to Virginia Tech and Hawaii have stifled Pittsburgh’s tournament hopes. The Oakland Zoo will be pumped up for a must-win game this Saturday against #12 UNC.
Miami (FL) is bubblier than a shaken up Dr. Pepper can. The Hurricanes have all the credentials for a bubble team: an average RPI and SOS, a massive road win at Duke, and a terrible home loss to Eastern Kentucky. After dropping a much needed win at Wake Forest last night, the Canes need a huge win against either Louisville or UNC to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
NC State has been all over the map this season. Mark Gottfried’s squad has the talent, but do they have the wins to make the NCAA Tournament? Based on their record, most people would say no. However, the Wolfpack hosts the nation’s 4th hardest schedule. This alone is keeping NC States' tournament dreams alive. The Wolfpack needs a huge road win either at #9 Louisville or at #12 North Carolina.
Clemson is hanging on by a thread. Tuesday’s close loss to Notre Dame hurt the Tigers immensely. Clemson’s resume—an 80+ RPI and 60+ SOS—does not stack up well. Brad Brownell’s squad needs a massive road win at #4 Duke or at #10 Notre Dame. That’s no easy task but good luck Tigers.
As we can see, the top of the ACC is extremely strong this season. UVa, Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and UNC should all be shoe-ins for the NCAA Tournament. The remaining four teams (Pitt, NC State, Miami, and Clemson) have a lot of work left to do.
This weekend is huge for ACC hoops. The ACC Tournament (March 10-14) will also be a huge dictator. You never know which team could make a run. Whatever happens, this has been an exciting season in the ACC thus far. The last month should be even more exciting so hold on to your seats folks!