The four double byes available for the ACC Tournament are highly coveted for one obvious reason: having to win three games to win the tournament is certainly easier than winning four straight in this bear of a conference. Coach Brey refers to getting in position for the double bye in nearly every postgame press conference, in addition to talking about players being men. It’s important.
Of interest as well, is the race for ACC Player of the Year. Each of the five teams at the top of the standings has a contender for the award: Justin Jackson (UNC), Donovan Mitchell (Louisville), Luke Kennard (Duke), Dwayne Bacon (FSU), and Bonzie Colson (ND). It makes a lot of sense that the team that finishes strong and wins the regular season title may also have their star rewarded with some hardware.
With a little over two weeks to go, let’s look at who is in the running for these precious double byes, and what the road ahead looks like.
Disclaimer: trying to predict what happens in the ACC is ridiculously stupid, but we’re here to have some fun.
North Carolina (23-5; 11-3)
Carolina’s in the driver’s seat right now to win the regular season title, but their schedule is bananas down the stretch. Every team has had a stretch like this in the ACC, but the Heels are certainly going to have to earn it.
2/22 – Louisville
2/25 – at Pitt
2/27 – at Virginia
3/4 – Duke
Projected Finish: 14-4 (1st). They’ll take care of business at home, but lose one of the two road games. Virginia is a disaster right now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that road loss actually came Saturday against a desperate Pitt squad. Eventually, the return matchup against Duke likely will determine the ACC regular season champ.
Louisville (22-5; 10-4)
The Cards have been just getting by lately, squeaking out wins against Miami, Syracuse and VT. But, they are almost completely healthy and could win the regular season title outright by winning out. Pitino’s done a heck of a job getting Louisville in this position, and in the running for a #1 seed.
2/22 – at UNC
2/26 – Syracuse
3/1 – at Wake
3/4 – ND
Projected Finish: 12-6 (t2nd). I see a couple losses in Louisville’s future, as they have two very difficult road games left. Wake has to win a big game sometime, right? It’ll be discussed below more, but the game against the Irish could be a huge one for both teams.
Duke (22-5; 10-4)
Duke’s hot, and that means everyone is all of sudden back on the bandwagon. That’s fine. I’ll give them credit, that trio of Kennard, Tatum and Allen could absolutely do some damage in March. But can they survive this gauntlet coming up?
2/22 – at Syracuse
2/25 – at Miami
2/28 – FSU
3/4 – at UNC
Projected Finish: 12-6 (t2nd). Not an easy one on the slate for Dook down the stretch. Tomorrow’s game against Jimmy B just seems like one that the Orange are going to pull out of nowhere. Then, they’ll lose at UNC…I hope. UNC already has lost at Miami, and historically, the Blue Devils have had some problems with the Canes.
Florida State (22-6; 10-5)
FSU is 2-5 on the road in the ACC, with all five losses coming by double digits. That spells trouble with two tough road games left. The Canes have fallen fast in the polls, but their overall resume (9 Top 50 wins, strongest in-conference schedule in the nation) should keep their seed respectable.
2/25 – at Clemson
2/28 – at Duke
3/4 – Miami
Projected Finish: 11-7 (5th). Clemson, while completely snakebit, is going to come out and play like their season is on the line and take down the ‘Noles. Then, if FSU can’t win at Pitt, GT or Syracuse, they sure as hell aren’t winning at Dook. Unless they pick up a win on the road, this looks like the odd team out of the Top 4.
Notre Dame (21-7; 10-5)
With the schedules of the teams ahead of them, there is a very small chance that ND at Louisville is for the regular season ACC title. Yeah, that would require UNC and Duke to lose multiple times, but we’re just throwing out scenarios here people.
In addition, an ND loss in that game (even if for the title) could result in a drop to the 5 seed and loss of a double bye. That’s how crazy this conference is, and ND has a serious problem with tiebreakers. For you ND fans, root hard for Clemson on Saturday against FSU.
As an aside, even if ND/Louisville somehow is for the conference title, there is a 0.0001% chance that College Gameday would go to Louisville instead of UNC/Duke.
2/26 – GT
3/1 – BC
3/4 – at Louisville
Projected Finish: 12-6 (t2nd). I like ND’s chances to pick up their second double bye in three seasons, based on the difficulty of the schedules the contenders have remaining (and FSU having issues on the road). As long as they don’t slip up at home, the Irish will have a lot to play for in Louisville on the final weekend of the regular season. I think I’ll go see that one in person.
Miami (19-8; 9-6)
Winning the rock fight of all rock fights against UVa gives the ‘Canes an outside shot at a double bye, but they’ll need to run the incredibly difficult table ahead.
2/25 – Duke
2/27 – at VT
3/4 – at FSU
Projected Finish: 10-8. Miami’s not running that table.