The fact that it was a down year for ACC basketball was reflected in the number of conference teams selected for the NCAA tournament. Four teams-Duke (tournament champion), North Carolina, Florida State and Clemson were given invitations to play in the tournament, while Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami were given invites to the NIT. Maryland, while having the same overall record as Miami and finished one game better in conference (though losing to the Hurricanes head to head) will be staying home, as will the remaining ACC basketball teams. This post will not quibble as to whether or not Maryland deserved a bid to the NIT over Miami-that isn’t an argument worth pursuing. The NIT is a consolation prize; the goal is to get to the NCAA tournament.
Virginia Tech, and to maybe a lesser extent Boston College may have legitimate reason to be upset at being left out. But in both cases, you could also argue against their inclusion. The Hokies faded badly down the stretch after finally getting a signature win over Duke that supposedly had them set for the tournament. Boston College swept the Hokies, but didn’t beat any of the four ACC teams that made the ACC tournament. The Eagles also suffered by losing (at home) to both Harvard and Yale. Harvard at least is in the NIT. But Yale? Bottom line though, both teams (and Maryland as well) had many chances to play their way into the tournament, but apparently didn’t do enough to merit inclusion.
As for the four teams in-Clemson gets tested immediately, as it will face the University of Alabama-Birmingham in one of the new “First Four” games in Dayton tonight. The winner must hustle down to Tampa for a date with West Virginia in the first game on Thursday. The Tigers’ inclusion over the Hokies was somewhat surprising; they don’t own a win over the top two teams (Duke and North Carolina) in the conference, and split with Florida State. They did go 3-0 over Virginia Tech and Boston College, so perhaps that was what swayed the committee. Should the Tigers get past the Moutaineers, a date with either Kentucky or Princeton awaits on Saturday. Florida State starts its tournament journey with an opening round game against the Aggies of Texas A&M. Whether Chris Singleton plays or not, the Seminoles will still defend well, but will have to find ways to score to beat the Aggies. Should they get past that game, the Notre Dame-Akron winner will be next.
North Carolina is a #2 seed in the East Regional and draws the Long Island University Blackbirds in its opening round game on Friday. The Tar Heels will be expected to win that game and face either Washington or Georgia in the next round. Despite losing the ACC tournament championship game to Duke, there is still talk that the Heels can make a deep run in the tournament. If seeding holds, a matchup with #1 Ohio State could happen in the regional final in what would be a great game to watch. Finally, the Blue Devils, which claimed a #1 seed in the West Regional, will face the Hampton Pirates on Friday afternoon. Their next matchup, should they advance, would be against either the Tennessee Volunteers or the Michigan Wolverines, two talented but inconsitent squads.
Now, where is that bracket I’m going to fill out to win a million dollars….at any rate, if you are a fan, enjoy the tournament.