The ACC tournament tips off Thursday with the first round of play. The top four will play Friday against the winners of the first-round games.
We could be in store for a few surprises, as some of the mid-level teams have begun hitting their stride.
The ACC always has a handful of teams make the NCAA tournament, so the participants can use these games as a tune-up for the big dance.
Here is what it will take for each of the top four teams to win the ACC tournament.
Boston College, Virginia Tech and Maryland finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in the ACC pre-tournament rankings.
However, these teams have showed positive signs that may allow them to be sleepers in this tournament.
BC’s Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani gained All-ACC honors, while Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen for Virginia Tech shared those honors. Maryland’s Jordan Williams was selected to the All-ACC first team, and Terrell Stoglin was chosen for the All-Freshman team.
Don’t count out these teams just because they don’t have a first-round bye.
Clemson enters the ACC tournament ranked fourth and will take on the winner of Boston College and Wake Forest. The Tigers finished 20-10 during the regular season.
All-ACC standout Demontez Stitt will look to continue his strong regular season campaign. Jerai Grant was named to the All-Defensive team.
Clemson finished 9-7 within the conference, including wins over both BC and Wake Forest.
The Tigers enjoyed an eight-game winning streak early in the season.
Clemson could be a good choice to at least reach the semifinal round.
Boston College has looked good, but Clemson took care of them the first time around and should do that again.
However, the Tigers are not on par with the top ACC teams, so the semifinals should spell their exit.
Led by All-ACC junior Chris Singleton, the Florida State Seminoles notched the No. 3 spot in the ACC tournament. They will play the winner of Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech.
Singleton averaged 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game before missing the final five games due to foot surgery. He is ready to go for the postseason, though.
The Seminoles had that memorable win over Duke in mid-January and won nine of their final 13 games, finishing 21-9 overall.
Florida State may turn a few heads during this tournament if it can keep up its consistent play.
They won three out of the five games Singleton missed, so the Seminoles will need him to return strong.
A semifinal berth appears likely, and a trip to the conference championship can occur if they outduel Duke for the second time this season.
The Blue Devils only suffered three conference losses this season, two of which came in their final three games.
At 27-4, Duke earned a first-round bye with the No. 2 spot and will take on the winner of Maryland vs. NC State.
Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have been the leaders all season, and coach Mike Krzyzewski will rely on his two stars to rally the team after those two late conference losses.
Duke will be looking to avenge its midseason loss to Florida State. The Blue Devils and Seminoles would have to win their first games in order to meet in the semifinals.
This could be the top game of the entire tournament. Duke should be able to hold off the Seminoles and earn a trip to the conference championship.
It may even be the favorite to upset No. 1 North Carolina.
Following their seven-game win streak to close out the season, the North Carolina Tar Heels enter the ACC tournament as the No. 1 seed.
They will play the winner of UVA vs. Miami.
Four Tar Heels were named to the All-ACC team. North Carolina is coming off a big win over Duke in the final regular season game, so it should have the early momentum heading into the tournament.
It’s been rumored that Roy Williams only uses the ACC tournament as a warm-up for the NCAA tournament.
However, the Tar Heels can make a statement that they are one of the top teams to beat in the nation.
They shouldn’t have a problem with UVA or Miami and also seem like the logical choice to defeat Clemson in the semifinals.
There’s a chance North Carolina may face Duke for the third time this season in the conference championship.
I doubt the Tar Heels would treat this game as a tune-up and would put their best foot forward.
My official ACC pick: North Carolina defeats Duke in the championship, 79-74.