With selection Sunday less the a month away, "bubble" teams are starting to feel the pressure, wondering if they will be dancing come March. I will break down every conference and tell you who I think is "In" and who is "Out". Let's start with the ACC.
North Carolina: (22-2 overall, 9-2 ACC), RPI: 4, SOS: 25
The Tar Heels are starting to show that they just might be the most talented team in the country. North Carolina averages 91 ppg and has four legitimate scoring threats in their starting lineup. With Hansbrough, Ellington, Green and Lawson, the Heels can beat teams both inside and outside.
The two factors that could prevent the Tar Heels from making the final four are depth and defense. Last night against Miami, the Tar Heels showed they can do more than just outscore teams and that they can win an “ugly” game.
While they did play 10 players in their rotation, they received little contribution from their bench. Despite these two questions, I expect to see North Carolina in Detroit for the Final Four and I would not be surprised to see them cutting the nets down.
Projected seed: 1
Duke: (20-5 overall, 7-4 ACC), RPI: 5, SOS: 8
After a loss at Boston College last night, the Blue Devils are reeling and leave few remembering that they were once the No. 1 team in the country. Despite their losses, Duke is still a lock to make the tournament, but their seed is falling rapidly.
The Blue Devils lack the offensive firepower and depth to make a deep run in the tournament. I expect that this team will lose at least one, maybe two more conference games.
Their defense, coaching and reputation alone will keep in every game that they play, but, I believe the Duke faithful will be left stewing after another early tournament exit.
Projected seed: 3 and falling
Clemson: (20-4 overall, 7-4 ACC) RPI: 10, SOS: 23
The Tigers suffered a very puzzling loss on the road to Virginia over the weekend, leaving people to wonder how good this team really is.
Clemson has great inside and outside balance and have athletes that will provide tough match-ups for whoever tries to guard them.
Free Throw shoot is this team’s main Achilles heel and it will likely prevent them from going deep in the tournament.
I believe this team has all the pieces to make a deep run and have a year more experience from last year’s team that exited in the first round.
If they can hit free throws and keep up defensive intensity, the Tigers could be a dark horse final four contender.
Projected seed: 3
Wake Forest: (19-4 overall, 7-4 ACC) RPI: 16, SOS: 55
Three weeks ago, the Demon Deacons looked to be unbeatable and a sure bet to reach the final four. The Deacons have shown their youth and they have failed to “get up” for road games against lesser ACC teams.
All the pieces are in place for this team to go deep in the tournament. Tremendous size and great guard play are the strengths of this team, while depth and youth are major question marks.
Many people believe the Deacons burst onto the seen a year early, but wins against Duke, Clemson and North Carolina show that they can beat anybody, while losses to North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Miami, show this team's vulnerability.
Which Wake Forest team shows up in the tournament will determine how far they play.
Projected seed: 3
Florida State: (19-6 overall, 6-4 ACC) RPI: 20, SOS: 26
Leonard Hamilton finally has finally found a Seminoles team that has lived up to its potential and seems to be tournament bound, barring a major collapse.
The ‘Noles posses a non-conference win against Florida, and played Pittsburgh very tough this season. Toney Douglas is an absolute beast and can carry this team on his back.
With Douglas and Echefu, Florida State can beat you inside and outside and will give tournament opponents fits.
A loss at Northwestern is their worst loss, however, that was early in the season so the committee might not hold that loss has a high as they would a loss in February.
I think the Noles are a lock for the tournament, but it would behoove them to not lose many more games.
Projected seed: 7
On the Bubble:
Boston College: (19-8 overall, 7-5 ACC) RPI: 51, SOS: 42
The Eagles might have played their way into the NCAA Tournament with their win over Duke on Sunday night. Tyrese Rice might be the most underrated player in the entire country and has carried this team to the point they are at right now.
Boston College was projected to finish 11th in the ACC this season and now they are on the cusp of a tournament appearance. Wins against North Carolina and Duke certainly will impress the selection committee.
The Eagles have four wins against top 50 RPI teams and I believe that a 9-7 conference record will get the Eagles in. Aside from Rice, the Eagles possess little star power, but they are an experienced, well coached team that could surprise if and when they reach the NCAA tournament.
Projected seed: 9
Virginia Tech: (16-8 overall, 6-4 ACC), RPI: 49, SOS: 41
The Hokies have been hard-luck losers this season with four of their losses coming by less than four points. With that being said, teams who reach the tournament win those close games and do not lose them.
The Hokies have seven wins against teams with a sub-151 RPI and have only 2 against teams with a top 50 RPI. Virginia Tech is an anomaly, some weeks they look like the best team in the conference, then the next they look like an NIT team.
This team is still young by their class years, but they have a lot of big game experience. I think that the Hokies are in as of right now, but if they do not finish better than 8-8 in conference, then they can expect an NIT bid. I think A.D. Vassallo and Malcom Delaney will carry this team to the NCAA tournament.
Projected seed: 10
Miami: (14-9 overall, 4-7 ACC), RPI: 47, SOS: 11
Unlike Joe Lunardi, I believe the Hurricanes are on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. Miami would need to win the rest of their regular season conference games and probably one or two in the ACC tournament to be assured of an at large bid.
One thing that Miami does have going for it is the fact that they have Jack McClinton. After the performance of Stephen Curry in last year’s tournament, the committee might be giddy for big time stars and McClinton is exactly that.
This team has underachieved this season and they only have 2 wins vs. the RPI top 50. The Hurricanes should be rooting for Kentucky to win out, to make their win against the Wildcats in Lexington look that much more impressive.
If you gave Miami the “eyeball test” you will think they “look like” a tournament team, however, the numbers do not indicate the same thing.
Projected seed: NIT
Maryland: (16-8 overall, 5-5 ACC), RPI: 61, SOS: 64
My beloved Maryland Terrapins seemed poised for yet another trip to the NIT. The Terps are on the outside looking in, but they have the chance to play themselves off the bubble and into the tournament.
Remaining games against Clemson, North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest will give the Terps every opportunity to show they are a tournament team. If Maryland can split with these four teams and hold serve on the road against Virginia and North Carolina State, then the could be dancing in March.
Early-season losses to Gonzaga and Georgetown seemed to be quality losses for the Terps, but thanks to the slides of both of those teams, those losses do not hold the same weight for Maryland.
The Terps only real quality win is against Michigan State, and they will need more than that to punch their tournament ticket.
This team has given tremendous effort after the 44-point loss at Duke, and will fight until the end and probably spring an upset or two.
I do think they are in the best situation of any of the current bubble teams because they have 4 games remaining vs. the RPI top 20, and winning those will help their tournament resume more than any win by any of the other bubble teams.
Projected seed: NIT
North Carolina State, Virginia and Georgia Tech round out the bottom half of the conference and will look to burst a team’s tournament bubble.
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