It is officially crunch time across the country in the college basketball world. Every game, every win, every loss is now being disected and analyzed for what it means to a team’s NCAA Tournament hopes. Lose on the road, not a huge deal, lose at home, the sky is coming falling down immediately.
A light mid-week schedule in the ACC certainly was not light on NCAA bubble implications, as Virginia Tech and Clemson both suffered road losses, while Maryland continued on its collision course with Duke for ACC regular-season supremacy. Maryland is in the Dance for sure now, Virginia Tech and Clemson? Maybe.
For the Hokies, Wednesday night’s stinker at Boston College may prove more costly than Clemson keeping true to its historical form by blowing a double-digit lead on the road in its loss to the Terrapins. Speaking with folks who care about whether or not Virginia Tech is in the Dance, the question that keeps coming up is…how can a team that has over 20 wins and will finish no worse than .500 in one of the power conferences not get and at-large bid? Well, the answer is simple and complicated at the same time, the Hokies’ non-conference schedule is the 800-pound elephant in the room, as Seth Greenberg’s team played nobody in the pre-conference slate and holds one of the lowest non-conference strength of schedule ratings in the country. The team’s play in the ACC has been solid, mainly at home, and probably could use a solid road win down the stretch and hold court in Blacksburg, get to 10 league wins to ensure it gets in.
Now, one of those chances for a road win will come in a visit to Atlanta to face the ACC’s other Tech, and a team that has been as enigmatic as any in the country this year. Paul Hewitt’s Yellow Jackets are at the same time, immensely talented, and when firing on all cylinders can beat anyone in the country, but also frustratingly inefficient in key moments that have cost them solid wins and put them under .500 in the ACC entering the final week of the regular season. At 6-7, winning two of the last three will be essential for Georgia Tech, because 7-9 won’t get it done, so the game with Va. Tech could be a play-in game of sorts for both teams, especially if the Hokies should fall at home against Maryland on Saturday.
It will definitely be an exciting final week in the ACC before the league convenes its tournament in Greensboro, the league is poised to have as many as seven teams make the NCAA field, but with so many contenders squaring off, that number could drop, but no fewer than five bids should be a safe assumption.