If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that the month of March signals the beginning of March Madness. I will definitely be keeping track of things all month long, from the small conference tournaments through the national championship game. But before we get to that final destination, we still have a few days until one of the great holy days on the sports calendar: Selection Sunday. Between now and then, teams will play their way into, or out of, the NCAA tournament. Those teams who inclusion in the tournament seems in doubt are often said to be “on the bubble.” The first of many posts about March Madness will take a look at those teams considered to be on the bubble in the ACC.
Depending on where you look, the ACC as of this writing has three or four safe teams, or locks, and three or four teams on the bubble. For the purposes of this exercise, Duke, Maryland and Clemson will be considered in the tournament. Wake Forest is close to being a lock, and according to several sites is in the safe zone as of today. I will say that Wake isn’t exactly finishing strong, having lost three in a row with two difficult games on tap to close out the regular season-a road game against Florida State and a home game against Clemson. The Florida State game may amount to a play-in game, with both teams needing a win to shore up their body of work. With a couple more wins, Wake may play their way off the bubble.
That leaves three remaining teams to discuss: Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. It appears that the Seminoles (RPI 54) have the best upside of the three, with some great numbers and wins in their favor (wins over Marquette, and a 3-0 record against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech). However, the non-conference strength of schedule is weak, and they have a 6-7 record against the RPI top 100 which includes a loss to a Florida team also on the bubble. The one bad loss is to NC State. The Seminoles should get in, but a loss to Miami in the regular season finale will cause some doubts.
Virginia Tech (RPI 52) has been a surprise in the conference, but their national profile is suspect . The non-conference strength of schedule is even weaker than Florida State’s, they are on a three-game losing streak and their record is 5-5 against the RPI top 100. They also have losses to Boston College and Miami. Tonight’s game against NC State is a must win, and the finale against Georgia Tech is another potential bubble buster. Virginia Tech needs to win at least two games; if they split their final two regular season contests they will definitely need to win a game in the ACC tournament. No matter what, the Hokies cannot afford to lose to the Wolfpack. Even if they win those two games, there’s a good chance they will be on pins and needles again on Selection Sunday (as it seems they are almost every year).
While Georgia Tech has some great stats in their favor (high strength of schedule, and RPI of 35), they also have some demerits. Even though they have some of the best wins of the three teams on the bubble (Duke, Siena, Wake Forest, Clemson, Charlotte) they are 7-8 against teams in the RPI top 100 and also have two bad losses to Miami and Virginia. They also have a loss to Dayton (also on the bubble) on the resume, and were swept by Florida State. The regular season finale against the Hokies is a key game to watch for both teams, as the winner may go dancing and the loser may be headed to the N.I.T.
Stay tuned over the next ten days to see what happens.