There are seven ACC teams in the tournament. But right now, we’re only talking about six, because we here at the Fizz have been covering every aspect of Syracuse and San Diego State. From the Aztecs’ weaknesses, to SU’s recent tournament failures and even the rest of the Midwest region. Best of all, two Fizz staff members, Matt Bonaparte and Gill Gross, are on-site in Indianapolis for daily updates, FizzCasts, and anything else Orange hoops related.
March Madness starts in just one day, and you might need some last-minute help with your bracket. Especially when it comes to the teams of the ACC, who have beaten each other in roundabout fashion all year. Here’s where the six other teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference will probably end up finishing in the Big Dance.
Virginia (#4 Seed, West Region)
The Cavaliers got a tough draw. After being eliminated from the ACC tourney because of a positive COVID-19 test, most of UVA’s team is stuck in quarantine. Tony Bennett and company won’t be able to travel to the Indianapolis bubble until Friday, the day before they play 13-seed Ohio.
Even worse for UVA, the MAC Tournament champions are no pushover. Ohio took Illinois down to the wire early in the season, and is 9-1 in its last 10 games. The Bobcats are led by Jason Preston, a 6-foot-4 three level scorer with amazing backstory and NBA potential. He’s not alone, as four of Ohio’s five starters averaged double figures in the MAC Tournament. If the Cavs make it past the ‘Cats, they could meet Creighton or UCSB in the Round of 32 (nobody knows who’s coming out of that matchup either). Presuming they advance, they’ll most likely lose to top overall seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
Prediction: Sweet 16 (but keep them on upset alert…make at least one bracket where Ohio wins)
Florida State (#4 seed, East Region)
The Seminoles have been wildly inconsistent down the stretch of the season. Talent-wise, they’re amazing. Leonard Hamilton essentially has two starting fives with a top-10 draft pick coming off the bench. However, they’re absolutely plagued by turnovers. In the ACC Tournament, FSU turned the ball over 42 times in two games. At times, their offense is dysfunctional, giving opponents one transition opportunity after another, but the Seminoles have flashed the potential to make a run.
FSU’s first round opponent is 13-seed UNC Greensboro. The Southern Conference Tournament champs can force turnovers (15 a game in conference play), but are weak offensively., finishing last in the SoCon in both overall field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage. Expect Florida State to lock UNCG down and dominate on the perimeter.
From there, the Seminoles face the winner of a toss up between 5th-seeded Colorado and 12th-seeded Georgetown. FSU should be rolling after an easy first round win, and should progress to the Sweet 16, where they should matchup with 1-seed Michigan. This is where the rubber meets the road for the ‘Noles. Can they protect the basketball against an elite defensive team? The jury’s still out.
Prediction: Sweet 16
North Carolina (#8 Seed, South Region)
UNC has somewhat figured it out at the end of the season (besides the loss to SU). The Tar Heels beat Florida State and Duke despite turning the ball over 20 times in both contests. Roy Williams’ team comfortably waxed Notre Dame and Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament before falling to the Seminoles in the UNC-FSU season rubber match. This should be obvious by now, but Carolina’s strength is its four ridiculously skilled bigs. The Heels reallly need their forwards, because the team is shooting under 32% from three.
North Carolina faces 9-seed Wisconsin in the Round of 64. The Badgers were ranked as high as fourth in the nation at one point before falling out of the top 25. Greg Gard’s team can play two dynamic bigs at once, but UNC has more depth at the forward spot. However, Wisconsin will certainly have the best guard on the floor. Senior D’Mitrik Trice is a finalist for the Bob Cousy award, given to the best floor general in college hoops. This should be a nail-biter, but UNC should pull it out.
However, 1-seed Baylor waits in the wings, and the Bears have elite level guard play. Carolina will struggle to keep it close after a grind-it-out game two days earlier.
Prediction: Round of 32
Virginia Tech (#10 seed, South Region)
The Hokies have fallen off the face of the proverbial college basketball earth after being an early season hot topic. VT had five of its last eight games canceled because of COVID-19, and then were knocked out of the ACC Tournament by North Carolina. Mike White’s squad has become leaky on the defensive end, allowing both Pitt and Georgia Tech to shoot over 50% from the field, and they had no shot on the boards against the Tar Heels.
Virginia Tech faces 7-seed Florida in the first round. After losing their best player Keyontae Johnson early in the season, the Gators have become extremely streaky. Florida has beaten West Virginia in Morgantown, but also fallen to South Carolina, the worst team in the SEC. The Gators are led by Tre Mann, a versatile guard shooting almost 40% from behind the arc, and Colin Castleton, a 7-foot Michigan transfer who can cause problems for VT big Keve Aluma.
Virginia Tech-Florida should be extremely close, but it’s hard to see either team beating 2-seed Ohio State, a team that goes two-deep at every position with a clutch scorer in Duane Washington Jr.
Prediction: Round of 32
Georgia Tech (#9 Seed, Midwest Region)
GT is the second of three (including Syracuse) ACC schools in the Midwest. The Yellow Jackets finished the season strong, racing past FSU to win the ACC Tournament championship. Georgia Tech has reportedly had a member of its traveling party test positive, but that person’s identity is unknown. Regardless, the Jackets are a tough, experienced team, led by senior guard Jose Alvarado and ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright.
GT faces Missouri Valley Conference champ Loyola Chicago in its opening game. Porter Moser’s team is led by Cameron Krutwig, a senior center who started when the Ramblers made a Final Four run in 2018. He and Wright’s battle down low is must-see TV. Krutwig is the only player who averages double figures, but Loyola as a team is extremely efficient. The Ramblers are fourth in the nation in field goal percentage, shooting at a 50.5% clip. This game should be close, but Tech has more talent at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, talent won’t be enough to get past 1-seed Illinois, who is an extremely popular pick to win it all. The Fighting Illini start 7-footer Kofi Cockburn down low, and he’s bigger and better than Wright.
Prediction: Round of 32
UPDATE: Moses Wright is out for the first-round matchup against Loyola Chicago…Hammer the Ramblers!
Clemson (#7 seed, Midwest Region)
Everyone saw what Syracuse did to Clemson. Buddy Boeheim got hot, and Clemson couldn’t throw a stone in an ocean. The Tigers had railed off five straight wins before losing in the Dome, and the loss seemed to shake Brad Brownell’s team. Clemson beat Pitt in its last regular season game, but was upset by Miami in the ACC Tournament. The team built on defense surprisingly couldn’t stop the Hurricanes down the stretch.
10-seed Rutgers is Clemson’s first round opponent, and don’t be surprised if the Scarlet Knights pull the upset. RU has been through its ups and downs throughout a tough Big Ten slate, but it’s the same team with the same pieces that took it to SU earlier this season. Rutgers is bigger then Clemson, has better guard play, and a do-it-all wing player in Ron Harper Jr. This could certainly be a disappointing end to the Tigers’ season.
Prediction: Round of 64