The title means nothing to North Carolina, Duke or Florida State. The three of them are solid locks for the NCAA tournament as if anyone needs convincing. North Carolina finally looked like the team everyone thought it would be at the beginning of the season in the final game against the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels were the more talented team and they played like it, dominating Duke from the beginning and never letting up.
If that’s the North Carolina team we see from here on out, they will be tough to beat-even by Kentucky or Syracuse. As for Duke and Florida State, their bodies of work are solid enough to merit entry without too much complaint. Few teams can boast the quality of wins the Blue Devils have, and the Seminoles have two huge wins over North Carolina and Duke on their ledger with only two really stinkers of losses. If the Seminoles defend as they are capable and do enough on offense, they should be a tough out in the tournament.
The title makes a better application for Virginia, North Carolina State and Miami. Virginia should still be in, but some shaky play down the stretch may leave some doubt in the minds of the selection committee. However, for the better part of the season the Cavaliers have been solid and if they can keep pushing forward (and certainly a win or two in the ACC tournament wouldn’t hurt), they will hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
For North Carolina State and Miami, there remains work to be done. Both teams should get past their opening round games over Boston College and Georgia Tech respectively. Those presumed wins won’t do much more than add to their win totals, but the following games-where the Wolfpack will meet the Cavaliers and the Hurricanes match up with the Seminoles-wins in those games should raise each team’s profile for an invite to the Big Dance. Of course, should the Wolfpack and Hurricanes somehow get games against the two top seeds-and Miami already has a win over the Blue Devils on its resume-close games, if not wins, might seal the deal for both teams. But then again, it’s not just what they do, it’s what teams all over the country do, as there are many teams fighting for those last open slots for the NCAA tournament.
As for the ACC tournament, just about everyone I talk to expects another Tar Heel-Blue Devil championship game. That may well be the case, but in this tournament, surprises abound. In fact, many of the guesses I made above regarding the Wolfpack and Hurricanes may not come to pass-it could be just as likely they lose their opening round games as they could roll into the semifinals. And with the Blue Devils further weakened by Ryan Kelly’s foot injury, perhaps that championship game pairing may not come to pass either.