The 2017 ACC tournament is upon us, with a stacked field that could lead to 11 March Madness bids. Top-seeded North Carolina, led by junior Justin Jackson, will headline the event.
That isn't the only school that will be in action, of course, as the conference boasts an incredibly deep talent pool. Six ACC teams are currently in the top 25, eight already have 20 wins and 12 are above .500.
The depth has led some to wonder whether the historically great conference might be able to tie the Big East's 2011 record of 11 NCAA tournament berths.
That largely depends on whether 17-14 Georgia Tech, led by ACC Coach of the Year Josh Pastner, can make a deep run in this week's tournament to supplement a resume that includes wins against North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame.
That storyline and many more will play out in New York before we know for sure how many teams will be heading to March Madness.
|Schedule, Start Times (ET), Live Stream and TV Info|
|Tuesday, March 7|
|Noon – No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 13 NC State||(ESPN2/ACC Network)|
|2 p.m. – No. 10 Wake Forest vs. No. 15 Boston College||(ESPN2/ACC Network)|
|7 p.m. – No. 11 Georgia Tech vs. No. 14 Pitt||(ESPNU/ACC Network)|
|Wednesday, March 8|
|Noon – No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 9 Miami||(ESPN/ACC Network)|
|2 p.m. – No. 5 Duke vs. Tuesday noon winner||(ESPN/ACC Network)|
|7 p.m. – No. 7 Virginia Tech vs. Tuesday 2 p.m. winner||(ESPN2/ACC Network)|
|9 p.m. – No. 6 Virginia vs. Tuesday 7 p.m. winner||(ESPN2/ACC Network)|
|Thursday, March 9|
|Noon – No. 1 North Carolina vs. Wednesday noon winner||(ESPN/ACC Network)|
|2 p.m. – No. 4 Louisville vs. Wednesday 2 p.m. winner||(ESPN/ACC Network)|
|7 p.m. – No. 2 Florida State vs. Wednesday 7 p.m. winner||(ESPN/ACC Network)|
|9 p.m. – No. 3 Notre Dame vs. Wednesday 9 p.m. winner||(ESPN/ACC Network)|
|Friday, March 10|
|7 p.m. – Thursday afternoon winners||(ESPN or ESPN2/ACC Network)|
|9 p.m. – Thursday evening winners||(ESPN or ESPN2/ACC Network)|
|Saturday, March 11|
|9 p.m. – Friday evening winners||(ESPN/ACC Network)|
*All games can be streamed on WatchESPN.com.
Players to Watch
Jackson enters the tournament fresh off being crowned the ACC's Player of the Year with 24 of a possible 53 first-place votes, per Andrew Carter of the News & Observer.
Jackson is posting career highs in points (18.3), rebounds (4.7) and three-point percentage (38.5). His offensive box plus-minus of 7.6 ranks third in the conference, per Sports Reference.
He also brings a hunger to this postseason that few outside his own team can understand. He wrote the following in the Players' Tribune about losing in buzzer-beating fashion to Villanova in last year's national championship game:
For us, that game — that loss — was so important ... because it wasn't just any old loss. If you play a sport, you win games and you lose games. And then you move on. But that loss — losing in that way, in the final game, right after Marcus's game-tying three — is burned into us. I hope that it's toughened us up. I think it has. And I know this for sure: It's a daily reminder that Tar Heel Nation has unfinished business. We want a championship.
With the memory of that game fueling Jackson and his teammates, expect plenty of intensity from the Tar Heels this week.
Duke sophomore Luke Kennard was among those who received votes for ACC Player of the Year. And it's not hard to see why.
Kennard leads the conference in offensive box plus-minus, per Sports Reference, and is averaging 20.1 points while shooting 45 percent from three.
His incredibly efficient season made him a unanimous selection for first-team All-ACC.
As the 10th seed in this tournament, Wake Forest has a long and bumpy road ahead if it wants to win it all. But having sophomore John Collins will help.
Collins leads the NCAA in player efficiency rating this season, per Sports Reference. And he's posting a ridiculous 41.3 points, 21.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per 100 possessions.
"I always thought I was capable of playing the way I am playing," Collins told the Winston-Salem Journal's Kegan Lowe. "I just didn't think it would come by my second year."
Dennis Smith Jr.
Another player to keep an eye on in the early rounds is N.C. State point guard Dennis Smith Jr., whose 6.3 assists per game leads the conference. The 18.5 points and 36.9 percent from three-point range aren't bad either.
"Best point guard in the draft," An NBA scout told Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. "He has the opportunity to be an All-Star in the future. You rarely see college guys with such a killer instinct."
Of course, the best conference in the country features plenty more stars than those listed above. They'll all be on display in the Big Apple this week.