The ACC Baseball tournament begins on Tuesday, as the top eight teams head to Durham North Carolina. They are in the second year of the new (and somewhat improved) format. Play begins with four three-team pools:
UNC and Clemson each ended the regular season at 22-8 in conference play and were crowned co-champions. For seeding purposes, the ACC first looks at head-to-head records, but the two teams did not play. The second tie-breaker is record against common opponents and by that metric UNC won the #1 seed.
Seeding is key in pool play as it is the tie-breaker if the three teams in the pool go 1-1. The Tigers start pool play at 3pm on Wednesday with Notre Dame who they took 2 of 3 against in South Bend earlier this year. Win or lose, they’ll play Miami at 7pm on Thursday. They need to go 2-0 in those games or go 1-1 and have the team that beat them lose to the other team in the pool so all three finish 1-1 and the Tigers advance via seeding tie-breaker. Foolishly, the ACC scheduled Miami vs. Notre Dame as the first game of Pool B. Clemson must beat the winner of that game. Clemson’s game against the loser of that first game is meaningless.
Should Clemson advance, they’ll face the winner of Pool C, at 5pm on Saturday in a single-elimination semi-final game. NC State is the top seed and most likely opponent coming from that pool. They swept Clemson in the first ACC series of the year, however Clemson is playing much better now while NC State faces the specter of postseason play, something the Wolfpack has not found success with in a long time. NC State has not won an ACC Conference or Divisional Championship in baseball, football, or basketball (no divisions) since 1992!
If Clemson is to advance beyond that they’d play the winner of the Pool A and Pool D semi-final game at noon on Sunday.
This format is a mild improvement from the previous one that had two four team pools and was often littered with meaningless games after teams had already clinched advancment from their pool. The SEC’s format (four single elimination play-in games followed by an eight-team double-elimination tournament) is certainly ideal, but the positive about the ACC’s new format is its guarantee to provide three high-end single-elimination games to conclude the tournament. Clemson could face NC State and UNC in those game, in Durham, to bring another ACC Championship to Clemson, SC. Games will be available online on ESPN3.