The Atlantic Coast Conference tournament has been owned by Duke for most of its recent history, as the Blue Devils have won the championship in 10 of the last 13 seasons. North Carolina won back-to-back in 2007 and 2008, and Maryland defeated Duke in 2004. Overall, it’s been a Tobacco Road monopoly, with only eight of the 58 tournament championships won by a team besides Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest.
Things don’t look likely to change this season, as North Carolina and Duke head into Atlanta as the odds-on favorites to win the title. However, there is still plenty on the line when it comes to NCAA tournament ramifications. With North Carolina’s win over Duke last weekend, the Tar Heels now have the inside track towards a No. 1 seed. The winner of this tournament will likely get a top seed. Florida State is fine, Virginia should be good with one win, and Miami (Fl.) and North Carolina State are firmly on the bubble.
The top four seeds receive a bye in the quarterfinals, and it doesn’t seem like a team from the lower half of the conference has the chops to win four games in four days and get the automatic bid. Duke vs. UNC, round three? It’s possible.
No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 Wake Forest: Both teams have had few bright spots this season, with the Terrapins having won just four of its last 14 games. Wake Forest didn’t do much besides beat Boston College, although the Deacons’ win over Loyola (Md.) to start the season looks solid after last night. Maryland won the first meeting.
No. 5 North Carolina State vs. No. 12 Boston College: NC State absolutely needs two wins to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Wolfpack are 0-8 against the top 50 of the RPI, and therefore need to beat Virginia in the quarterfinals. Boston College’s win over Florida State in February looks like an anomaly.
No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech: Both teams have been competitive throughout the season, and Clemson has actually won five of its last seven games to end the regular season. Virginia Tech has seen nine of its losses since the start of 2012 decided by five points or fewer. This one could be close.
No. 6 Miami (Fl.) vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech: Another bubble team facing a must-win, Miami (Fl.) has two really good wins over Duke and Florida State, but not much else. The Hurricanes were swept by North Carolina State, and likely need to reach the semifinals to get a bid. Georgia Tech is playing in its home city; will it matter?
-- Jeff Borzello