It was an up-and-down year for the Clemson Tigers in conference play as they notched several impressive home wins but also hurt themselves with close losses on the road. They finished 10-8 in the ACC and are slotted as the No. 7 seed in the tournament. Clemson will face No. 10 seed Georgia Tech Wednesday at 7 p.m., the third time in less than a month that the two teams will square off. The Tigers beat the Yellow Jackets at home by 14 but squandered a 13-point second-half lead in a loss on the return trip to Atlanta. If Clemson wins, it will face No. 2 seed Virginia, which bested the Tigers 64-57 in Greenville last week. Let's take a look at the bracket and pick the winners, shall we?
Tuesday, March 8:
(12) NC State vs. (13) Wake Forest
It's incredible how bad Wake Forest was in ACC play after performing relatively well in the non-conference slate. The Deacons are just too poorly coached to knock off Cat Barber and company - who had a disappointing season in their own right.
(11) Florida State vs. (14) Boston College
Not much to say here. Florida State has NBA talent, and Boston College may be as bad a team as the ACC has ever seen.
Wednesday, March 9:
(8) Pittsburgh vs. (9) Syracuse
Syracuse has lost 4 of its last 5 games and Pitt 3 of its last 4, so neither team is playing its best ball right now. Both teams really need this game to feel great about an NCAA Tournament berth, so I expect it to be fiercely competitive. Pitt beat Syracuse by double-digits twice this season though, so the matchup edge seems to favor the Panthers.
(5) Duke vs. NC State
Barber will do all he can, and I don't think this will be a runaway, but a fresh Duke team (for one game, at least) should be able to handle business here.
(7) Clemson vs. (10) Georgia Tech
The Tigers probably believe they should be 2-0 against the Jackets and will want to exact revenge for their recent collapse in Atlanta. Georgia Tech has been playing well though, so expect another battle between these two familiar teams.
(6) Virginia Tech vs. (11) Florida State
It's not a misprint - the Hokies ripped off five wins in a row to end the regular season and climbed all the way to the No. 6 spot for the ACC Tournament. But a team that relies too heavily on the three-ball is a tough pick in a tournament setting, especially against a team that presents so many matchup problems like Florida State.
Thursday, March 10:
(1) North Carolina vs. (8) Pittsburgh
I think Pitt will seal up a spot in the dance against Syracuse on Wednesday, but its run will end here against a Tar Heel team that simply has too much firepower.
(4) Notre Dame vs. (5) Duke
The Irish have had a couple questionable showings late in the season, but I think their offensive efficiency and shooting prowess will be too much for a Duke team that just isn't as good on defense as it typically is.
(2) Virginia vs. (7) Clemson
The Tigers have hung tough with the Cavaliers twice already this season, and I don't think they will go quietly. With that said, Virginia is a machine that Clemson just hasn't proven the ability to overcome.
No. 3 Miami vs. (11) Florida State
Hey, I've got to at least have one Cinderella story, right? The Seminoles have under-performed their talent level all season, but they can match up with Miami athletically and have the ability to knock off the Hurricanes.
Friday, March 11:
(1) North Carolina vs. (4) Notre Dame
Too much depth, too much size. The Tar Heels should overwhelm the Irish in the post, and Notre Dame's shooting won't be enough to compensate.
(2) Virginia vs. (11) Florida State
The road ends here for the upstart Seminoles, as they won't be disciplined enough to upend well-schooled Virginia.
Saturday, March 12:
(2) Virginia vs. (1) North Carolina
The Hoos are playing the best basketball of any ACC team entering the tournament, and they will ride that momentum to a tournament championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.