The Atlantic Coast Conference tournament will tip off on Tuesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. And while the ACC tourney is a major college basketball event in its own right, the pressure is mostly on teams fighting for top seeds in the NCAA Tournament later this month, and those teams just fighting to get into the March Madness field.
The 15-team field includes several squads that are considered locks to make the NCAA Tournament. They’re led by Virginia (28-2), the unanimous No. 1 team in the country according to the Associated Press poll. The Cavaliers are also the top seed in the ACC Tournament.
Virginia and Duke Enter as Co-Favorites
But despite their lofty resume, Virginia enters the tournament as a co-favorite with one of college basketball’s traditional powers. The second-seeded Duke Blue Devils (25-6) finished their regular season strong with a come from behind victory at home over North Carolina and will look to carry that momentum into the conference tournament.
According to OddsShark.com, the Blue Devils are the slight favorite to win the ACC Tournament. They are listed at +200, just ahead of Virginia (+250). North Carolina (+700) is the third choice.
This mirrors the betting odds for the NCAA Tournament itself, where all three of these teams are among the favorites to walk away with this season’s national title. At Ladbrokes, Duke (6/1) is one of the tournament favorites, as is Virginia (7/1). Meanwhile, the North Carolina Tar Heels (16/1) are part of a second tier of teams that fall behind the top seeds, which also include Michigan State (13/2) and Villanova (13/2).
ACC Tourney Gives Bubble Teams a Chance
That means that the finals of the ACC Tournament could easily be a preview of a Final Four encounter, or perhaps even the March Madness title game. But for other teams, the early round games in this week’s tournament could be the last chance they get to punch their ticket to the big dance.
The conference features several bubble teams, including three that are listed among the first eight that are currently out of the field according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
On Lunardi’s Bracketology page, Louisville (19-12) is the first team on the wrong side of the bubble. That means they’ll want to win at least their first game, a second-round clash with Florida State (20-10), a team that is currently considered safely in the NCAA tournament field but which could be close to the bubble themselves if they should lose their first game this week.
Two other teams are in more precarious situations. Syracuse (19-12) is still alive thanks to a season-ending win over Clemson, but may well need to beat both Wake Forest (11-19) and then overcome North Carolina in the second round of the ACC Tournament to feel any confidence about their chances of making the NCAA bracket.
Notre Dame (18-13) has perhaps the most interesting situation of any team on the bubble this season. The Fighting Irish nearly upset Virginia in their final regular season game, and are 12-3 with senior forward Bonzie Colson in the lineup. Now that he’s back and seemingly healthy, the selection committee may take his 15-game absence due to injury into consideration when evaluating Notre Dame. But they’ll still need to at least win a first round conference tournament game against Pittsburgh (8-23) to garner any serious consideration for March Madness.