ACC Bracketology: Who’s in, who’s out? – Virginia gets off the bubble

(Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) /

ACC Bracketology update where the conference has three locks but could have five teams make the NCAA Tournament depending on Virginia and NC State.

That only three ACC teams are locks for the NCAA Tournament in late February is a perfect illustration of how weak the conference is this season.

That doesn’t mean the number can’t grow over the next few weeks though. It’s easy to envision a scenario where the ACC can get five teams into the Big Dance on Selection Sunday.

The top three teams in the conference are going to receive invitations to the NCAA Tournament barring an epic collapse. Duke, Florida State and Louisville are all projected to be fairly high seeds. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s latest projections have the Blue Devils and Seminoles’ as two seeds while the Cardinals are a No. 3 seed.

Those three will be playing for seeding down the stretch which will key on who ends up winning the ACC regular-season and who wins the ACC Tournament.

The stakes are much higher for the two teams still teetering on the proverbial bubble. Both reigning national champion Virginia and NC State have work to do if they want to be able to relax come Selection Sunday.

Tony Bennett’s team is in a superior position.

Their recent play has them looking at a No. 9 or No. 10. This year’s version of the Cavaliers doesn’t have the talent or depth to make another run at an NCAA title, but there’s no reason to think Bennett can’t coach them to a Sweet 16 berth with a favorable draw. As long as Virginia keeps winning the games they should down the stretch they should make the field of 68.

NC State’s path towards securing an NCAA Tournament berth is much more challenging. The Wolfpack scored a big home win against Duke last week but missed an opportunity to boost their resume by losing at home to Florida State. Winning at North Carolina this week seems like a requirement for the Wolfpack as opposed to a chance to improve their profile.

Even if the Wolfpack manages to defeat the last-place Tar Heels, they’ll still have plenty of work left to do down the stretch. Their two remaining home games against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest will also serve as must-win games for Kevin Keatts’ squad.

The only other game left on the Wolfpack’s regular-season slate is a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium against Duke on March 2. Sweeping the regular-season series against the Blue Devils might be enough to get NC State comfortably into the field ahead of the ACC Tournament.

If they lose at Duke, they will have work to do in the ACC Tournament. It’s likely NC State will head to Greensboro needing to win a game or two to feel safe on Selection Sunday. Expect Keatts’ team to be one of the high-profile bubble teams right up until the full field is announced.

Florida State, Duke, Louisville are comfortably in. Virginia is off the bubble and will be in barring a number of bid-stealing teams and NC State would be one of the last four in if the season ended today, but still have to work to do to ensure their place in the Big Dance.

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