Syracuse entered the ACC Tournament feeling pretty good about their NCAA Tournament chances for the first time since 2013.
Despite being without leading scorer Tyus Battle due a lower back injury, the Orange defeated Pittsburgh, 73-59, in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday night. Syracuse trailed the Panthers, 36-30, at halftime, but used an 8-0 run with all 8 points scored by Buddy Boeheim to take a 43-39 lead early in the second stanza. The Orange would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
After shooting 60-percent from three-point range in the first half, Pittsburgh cooled down and shot just 30.8-percent from deep after the break. Conversely, Syracuse heated up from beyond the arc down the stretch, shooting 54.6-percent from three in the second half.
Jared Wilson-Frame led the Panthers with 24 points, on 8-of-16 from three-point land, and seven rebounds. Sidy N’Dir added 10 points in the losing effort.
Boeheim paced Syracuse with 20 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Elijah Hughes and Frank Howard scored 18 points apiece. Hughes also grabbed four rebounds, dished out three assists, and came away with two steals.
The Orange squared off with Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Thursday night. Battle missed his second straight game with a lower back injury. After rallying back from as much as a 17 point deficit in the first half, Syracuse tied the game at 46 on a triple by Boeheim with 13:02 to go. The Blue Devils pulled away down the stretch to win 84-72.
In a turnover plagued affair, Duke outshot the Orange as the Blue Devils shot 53.7-percent from the floor, compared to 48.1-percent shooting for Syracuse.
The real difference in the game was that Duke has the best player in the country and the likely #1 pick in the NBA Draft Zion Williamson. Williamson, who returned after missing five consecutive games with a sprained knee, erupted for 29 points on a perfect 13-of-13 from the floor, 14 rebounds, and five steals. Fellow freshman phenomenon RJ Barrett tallied 23 points, on 8-of-16 from the field, and six rebounds. Freshman point guard Tre Jones finished with 15 points and eight assists.
Howard led the Orange with a career-high 28 points, on 11-of-2o shooting, and three assists. Boeheim poured in 15 points, while Oshae Brissett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Despite the loss, Syracuse entered the NCAA Tournament with a record of 20-13. Howard was named to the ACC Tournament Second Team, while Williamson was named the MVP after Duke won the championship game over Florida State, 73-63, Saturday night.
Battle is expected to return in the NCAA Tournament, but playing without him in the ACC Tournament gave others the opportunity to step up, specifically, Howard and Boeheim.
Player of the Week: Frank Howard
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Frank Howard. After a lower leg injury caused him to miss the first four games of the season, Howard did not play to the form he showed he was capable of during his junior campaign. The senior point guard averaged 23 points on 50-percent shooting in Battle’s absence at the ACC Tournament. With Battle back and Howard and Boeheim shooting with confidence, the Orange just might be poised to make another run in the “Big Dance.”
Up Next: The NCAA Tournament vs. #9 Baylor
For the first time since 2013, Syracuse did not have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. This year, the Orange were firmly in and earned the 8-seed in the West Region. Syracuse will take on the 9-seed Baylor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tip-off is set for Thursday night at 9:57pm. The game will be seen on truTV. The Bears are 19-13 overall and are coming off an 83-66 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. Baylor is led by Tristan Clark who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
If the Orange were to defeat the Bears, they would take on the winner of the game between the 1-seed Gonzaga and the 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson, who defeated Prairie View in the First Four Tuesday night.
Syracuse amid Two-Game Skid Heading into the ACC Tournament
After losing to #2 Virginia at home on Monday night, Syracuse traveled to Clemson on Saturday in hopes of avoiding two consecutive losses heading into the ACC Tournament. The Orange jumped out to an early 23-13 lead with 6:48 left in the opening stanza following a free throw by Oshae Brissett. Buddy Boeheim connected on a jumped with 14 seconds left in the frame to give Syracuse a 31-24 advantage at the halftime. Bourama Sidibe made a layup with 15:53 remaining to give the Orange a 38-33 lead. The Tigers responded with a 14-0 run, capped off by a free throw by David Skara, to take a commanding 47-38 advantage with 11:27 to go that would prove to be too much for Syracuse to overcome down the stretch. Clemson pulled away to earn a 67-55 win to improve their NCAA Tournament resume in the regular season finale for both teams.
It was an ugly game for both sides. The Tigers shot just 33.9-percent from the field, including just 5-of-20 from three, and turned the ball over 15 times. On the other hand, the Orange shot it at a 37.5-percent clip, including 6-of-19 from deep, and turned the ball over 18 times. The difference in the game was Clemson’s strength on the glass. The Tigers outrebounded Syracuse 45-30.
Marcquise Reed posted a double-double with 24 points, on 7-of-17 from the floor, 10 rebounds, and five steals to lead Clemson. Elijah Thomas posted a double-double of his own with 13 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Shelton Mitchell added 10 points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Brissett paced the Orange with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Boeheim chipped in with 11 points off the bench, while All-ACC Third Team performer, Tyus Battle, finished with 10 points and three rebounds.
With the loss, Syracuse finished the regular season with an overall record of 19-12 and 10-8 in the ACC. The Orange earned the six-seed and a first round bye in this week’s ACC Tournament when Louisville fell at Virginia on Saturday.
Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Oshae Brissett. The versatile Canadian prospect has failed live up to the standard he set as a freshman averaging only 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season, compared to 14.9 points and 8.8 boards a year ago. However, he is still an important piece to the puzzle for the Orange. Brissett’s efficiency has always been a question mark, but his shooting percentage has jumped from 35.4-percent last season to 39.1-percent this year. His free throw percentage and three-point percentage have both taken a hit this season though. He went from being a reliable 78.7-percent free throw shooter as a freshman to shooting just 66.7-percent from the charity stripe in his sophomore campaign. Brissett set his sights on possibly entering the NBA Draft this year, but a major strike against him will be that he has shot just 26.5-percent from three-point range, down from 33.1-percent a season ago. If he can buck these trends, as he did against Clemson when he shot 5-of-5 from the line and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, the Orange will be poised to make noise in the postseason once again.
Up Next: The ACC Tournament vs. #11 Boston College/#14 Pittsburgh
Sixth-seeded Syracuse will take on either the 11-seed Boston College or the 14-seed Pittsburgh in the Second Round of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday night at 9:30pm. The Orange swept the season series from both the Eagles and the Panthers. Syracuse beat Boston College 77-71 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts on January 30th and 67-56 in the Carrier Dome on February 9th. The Orange defeated Pittsburgh 74-63 at home on January 19th and 65-56 at the Peterson Events Center on February 2nd. The Eagles finished the regular season 14-16 overall, 5-13 in the ACC, while the Panthers are 13-18 overall and 3-15 in ACC play. Boston College is led by Ky Bowman who is averaging 19.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and four assists per game, while Xavier Johnson leads Pittsburgh as he is averaging 15.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per contest.
If Syracuse were to win their second round game, they would take on third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 9:30pm.
The Syracuse Orange are just over halfway through the ACC portion of the schedule and hold a 16-7 overall mark and a 7-3 record in conference play. There is still a long way to go in the regular season, but as of right now Syracuse is sitting on the right side of the bubble—a feat that seemed unlikely following four losses in the non-conference season. Let’s take a look at the last few games and the road ahead in the ACC.
The Orange entered their contest with Miami on a two game win streak having beaten then #1 Duke on the road and former Big East rival Pittsburgh at home. The Hurricanes kept it close in the first half and Syracuse entered the locker room with a 32-29 lead. Clinging to a three point lead, 42-39, with 15:09 remaining, the Orange set off on a 19-5 run to take control for good. Syracuse pulled away to a 73-53 win at home.
The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone baffled Miami. The Hurricanes shot just 33.9-percent and turned the ball over 13 times. On the other hand, Syracuse shot it at a 49.1-percent clip, including 46.7-percent from beyond the arc.
DJ Vasiljevic led Miami with 11 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.
Elijah Hughes paced the Orange with 22 points, on 8-of-13 shooting, three rebounds, three blocks, and three steals. Buddy Boeheim chipped in with 12 points and three boards off the bench, while Tyus Battle added 10 points, six rebounds, and nine assists.
Syracuse put their three game win streak on the line when they traveled to Blacksburg to take on the 10th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. Virginia Tech raced out to a 43-24 halftime advantage. The Orange climbed to within eight, 43-35, on a free throw by Battle. Syracuse would get no closer the rest of the way and the Hokies would go on to win by a margin of 78-56.
Virginia Tech was shot over the zone by shooting 52.1-percent from the field and 46.7-percent from three-point land. The Hokies held the Orange to 36.4-percent from the floor.
Justin Robinson led Virginia Tech with 35 points, on 9-of-13 shooting from deep, three rebounds, and eight assists. Ahmed Hill scored 16 points, on 6-of-10 from the field, and six boards in the victory.
Oshae Brissett led the way for Syracuse as the sophomore forward tallied 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Frank Howard and Battle poured in 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The Orange looked to rebound from their loss at the Hokies with a win over the Boston College Eagles—Syracuse’s second game of a three game road trip. Trailing 15-6, the Orange used a 14-0 spurt to take a 20-15 lead with 9:48 left in the opening stanza on a jumper by Howard. Syracuse took a 42-35 lead into intermission. Boston College got within six on a layup by Ky Bowman with 2:04 to play. That was the closest the Eagles would get as the Orange hung on for a 77-71 victory.
Syracuse shot 55.8-percent from the floor and drilled 11 triples to come away with the win.
Bowman and Jordan Chatman scored 21 points each to pace Boston College. Bowman also dished out four assists. Jared Hamilton added 12 points, while Nik Popovich finished with 11 points and six rebounds for the Eagles.
Battle poured in 31 points, on 11-of-17 from the floor, collected four rebounds, and distributed six assists in the win. Boeheim came up with another solid performance off the bench with a career-high 13 points and three boards. Hughes knocked in 10 points and pulled down four rebounds to help earn the Orange earn the hard fought road win.
Syracuse squared off with Pittsburgh for the second time this season in hopes of completing their three game road trip with a record of 2-1. The Orange took as much as a 16-point lead in the first twenty minutes and a 13-point lead, 35-22, into the half. The Panthers cut Syracuse’s lead to five, 46-41, when Jared Wilson-Frame nailed a three-pointer with 10:09 to go. The Orange responded with a 9-0 run to take a 55-41 advantage that they would not relinquish. Syracuse went on to win 65-56.
Syracuse’s defense stymied Pittsburgh’s attack. The Orange held the Panthers to 31.6-percent shooting, while Syracuse shot it at a 41.5-percent clip.
Terrell Brown led Pittsburgh with 16 points, on 8-of-13 from the field, and six rebounds. Xavier Johnson scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out 6 assists, while Wilson-Frame tallied 12 points and came down with 10 rebounds.
Brissett posted a double-double with 18 points, on 6-of-9 from the floor, and 12 rebounds. Howard dropped in 15 points and pulled down three boards. Paschal Chukwu finished with 10 points and eight rebounds to help the Orange to victory.
Florida State made a trip to the Carrier Dome Thursday night as Syracuse eyed another three game win streak and their second win over a ranked conference opponent. The 22nd ranked Seminoles raced out to a 36-14 lead. The Orange used a 17-3 spurt to end the first half to pull with eight, 39-31, at the break. Syracuse cut Florida State’s lead to one, 46-45, but failed to get over the hump and take the lead. The Seminoles pulled away over the final nine minutes of the contest to earn an 80-62 win at the Dome.
Having fallen behind by 22 points so early in the game, the Orange pressed throughout, but were noticeably gassed down the stretch. Florida State shot a blistering 54.5-percent from the field, including 50-percent from distance. Syracuse’s comeback was stopped short mainly due to their inefficient from behind the three point line where the Orange connected on just 5-of-20 of their attempts.
Terance Mann stuffed the stat sheet for the Seminoles with 22 points, nine, rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Mfiondu Kabengele scored 18 points, pulled down eight rebounds, and blocked two shots off the bench. Phil Cofer and MJ Walker tallied 11 points each. Cofer ripped down three boards and distributed three assists as well.
Battle paced Syracuse with 23 points on 8-of-15 from the floor. Hughes added 17 points. Brissett posted his second consecutive double-double with 16 points and 12 boards.
Syracuse is quite the team when it gets contributions throughout the rotation, but in their most recent losses, Howard and Chukwu have been non-existent. For example, Howard and Chukwu played major roles in wins at Duke and Pittsburgh, but combined for zero points in the blowout loss at home to Florida State. Battle and Hughes have played well, but the Orange will certainly need their seniors to step up down the stretch in ACC play if they plan on being on the right side of the bubble and making another deep run in the “Big Dance.”
Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett
With the key role the Elijah Hughes has played in support of Tyus Battle in the 2018-19 campaign, Brissett has seen his numbers take a hit from his freshman to his sophomore season. Make no mistake, Brissett is still a key cog in the Orange machine. The Canadian product is averaging 13.7 points, on 40.5 shooting, and 7.8 rebounds per game this season and has recorded double-doubles in his last two games. He may need to continue to play like that if Howard and Chukwu are unable to produce down the stretch for Syracuse to have a chance a making a deep postseason run.
Up Next: Boston College and the Road Ahead
The Orange will host Boston College in the second meeting between the two schools this season. Tip-off inside the Carrier Dome is set for 2pm. The Eagles are 11-10 overall, 2-7 in league play and are coming off an 80-55 loss at Duke Tuesday night. Ky Bowman is one of the best players in the conference and has had stellar performances against Syracuse in the past. Bowman leads Boston College scoring 20.3 points, grabbing 7.8 rebounds, and dishing out 3.7 assists per contest.
After hosting Boston College, the Orange will play four of their last seven games against ranked opponents (home against Louisville, Duke, Virginia, and at North Carolina), while also traveling to North Carolina State, Wake Forest, and Clemson. Syracuse has positioned themselves well in the ACC standings as of right now, but there are tests still left to pass if the Orange prefer not having to sweat it out on Selection Sunday yet again.
Syracuse Follows Up Win over Top-Ranked Duke with Triumph over Pitt
Syracuse avoided a letdown with a win over Pittsburgh at home on Saturday afternoon.
The Orange gained a 28-16 lead on a jumper by Tyus Battle with 2:37 remaining in the first half. The Panthers responded with a 9-0 spurt to close the halftime margin to 28-25 in favor of Syracuse. The Orange pulled away as they opened the second stanza with a 22-6 run capped off with a dunk by Battle with 9:46 left to take a 50-31 lead. Syracuse hung on to score a 74-63 victory over their former Big East rival.
The Orange shot 46.3-percent from the field, 46.2-percent from three and held Pittsburgh 33.8-percent from the field and 31.4-percent from deep. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone perplexed the Panthers and forced them into 17 turnovers.
Jared Wilson-Frame led Pittsburgh with 19 points, on 7-of-15 shooting, and eight rebounds. Xavier Johnson chipped in with 17 points, on 6-of-11 from the field, seven rebounds, and three assists.
Battle paced the Orange with 22 points, on 9-of-17 from the floor, and three rebounds. Buddy Boeheim poured in a career-high 13 points on 4-of-5 from three-point land. Oshae Brissett added 11 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Frank Howard scored 10 points and dished out five assists. Paschal Chukwu tallied six points and pulled down 11 boards. Elijah Hughes dropped in eight points, while Marek Dolezaj stuffed the stat sheet with four points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Syracuse fans braved winter storm Harper and came out in a flurry as the 24,466 in attendance was the largest crowd in college basketball this season.
With the win, the Orange improved to 13-5 overall and tied for first in the ACC with a 4-1 record in conference play.
Player of the Week: Tyus Battle
Tyus Battle earned many accolades for his play this week, including NCAA Player of the Week, Naismith Player of the Week, and ACC Player of the Week. The junior guard averaged 27 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in wins over Duke and Pittsburgh. Battle now leads all active ACC players in scoring. If Syracuse plans to stay atop the ACC, Battle will need to continue to perform at an All-ACC level.
Up Next: Miami and Virginia Tech
Syracuse returns to action when they face Miami on Thursday night. Tip-off is set for 8pm. The Hurricanes are 9-8 on the season, 1-4 in league play, and are coming off an 85-76 loss to #13 North Carolina on Saturday. Miami is led by Chris Lykes who is averaging 18.1 points and 3.7 assists per game. Last year, the Orange won the lone meeting between the two schools, 62-55, in Coral Gables, Florida.
Syracuse travels to Blacksburg to square off against the tenth-ranked Virginia Tech Saturday night. Tip-off is set for 8pm. The Hokies are 15-2 overall, 4-1 in the ACC, tied with the Orange for first place, and are coming off an 103-82 loss to #11 North Carolina on Monday night. Virginia Tech is led by Nickeil Alexander-Walker who is averaging 18.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per contest. Last season, Syracuse defeated the Hokies 68-56 in the only meeting between the two schools on New Year’s Eve.
The ACC should be one of the most exciting conferences in college basketball this season. How will it all shake out?
As the calendar turns to October, postseason baseball is in full force, but the college basketball season will soon be upon us, as many teams are opening their campaigns with practices and Midnight Madness events. The summer without college basketball is always long and grueling, but the season is right around the corner.
First, I would like to dive into what looks to be the best conference in basketball once again, the ACC. Here are my projections for the 2018-19 season.
1.)Duke Blue Devils
Duke will likely be atop the ACC again this year. Coach K brings in the top recruiting class in the country with the like of RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson, and Tre Jones making their way to Durham. The question mark for the Blue Devils is whether they will be able to generate any production from returners Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier. If this team can gel, it will be talented enough to win the ACC.
Virginia returns three key pieces from last year’s team that finished 31-3. It will be interesting how this team will rebound from being the first one seed to ever lose to a sixteen seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers led by Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will look to get back on the right track in 2018-19. Virginia’s X-factor is sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter who could be in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year, National Player of the Year, and the NBA Draft Lottery.
3.)North Carolina Tar Heels
Although overshadowed by Duke’s recruiting class only eight miles down Tobacco Road, North Carolina may have the 2019 NBA Draft number one overall pick in Chapel Hill this season. Nassir Little is the reigning MVP of the McDonald’s All-America game and he along with the rest of the Tar Heels, most notably Luke Maye, will look to be contenders in the ACC.
4.)Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies have an experienced senior class returning to Blacksburg this season that is one of the most successful in school history. Buzz Williams and company will look to make a run toward the top of the ACC and into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite having NCAA Tournament success in 2016 and 2018, the Orange have struggled to finish near the top of the ACC since their inaugural season in the league (2013-14). Hall of Fame coach, Jim Boeheim, returns all five starters, including Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, and Paschal Chukwu, from a team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago. Syracuse should be a contender for the ACC title this season and stay well away from the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble.
6.)Florida State Seminoles
After a surprising trip to the Elite Eight last year, Leonard Hamilton’s team will look to be a force in the ACC this year and get back to the “Big Dance.” The Seminoles have an experienced group that will only get better. Look for sophomore MJ Walker to have a break-out year as he fills in for Brain Angola who graduated in 2018.
In a year where Brad Brownell was on the hot seat, Clemson had one of its best years in program history and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1997. Marcquise Reed is one of the best players in the ACC and will look to build on his Second Team All-ACC campaign from a year ago. The Tigers should be an elite defensive team, but if they fail to make the NCAA Tournament, it will be because of their offense.
Amid the turmoil surrounding the program left by Rick Pitino, the Cardinals found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble last season. Interim head coach David Padgett was replaced by Chris Mack, who arrived in Louisville after leading Xavier to a Big East regular season crown and a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. VJ King and Malik Williams came to Louisville as possible NBA prospects, but failed to generate much hype under Padgett. King, Williams, and a myriad of graduate transfers under the guidance of Mack will look to make a run back to the NCAA Tournament.
9.)North Carolina State Wolfpack
Kevin Keatts led the Wolfpack to the “Big Dance” in his first year in Raleigh after taking over for Mark Gottfried. This year, North Carolina State will have nine newcomers on its roster, most notably CJ Bryce, who followed Keatts from UNC-Wilmington to NC State.
10.)Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame found itself the first team left out of the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday last season. The Fighting Irish will look a lot different than they have in the past as they lost Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell to graduation. TJ Gibbs Jr. and Rex Pflueger will need to step up and take leadership if Notre Dame has any chance of making an impact in the ACC and getting back on the right side of the bubble.
The Miami Hurricanes lost to Cinderella story Loyola-Chicago in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Following that defeat, the Hurricanes lost Lonnie Walker IV and Bruce Brown to the NBA Draft. Miami returns a core of players from last year’s squad that finished 22-10, but lack the talent that they had in Walker IV and Brown. Chris Lykes and Dewan Huell will need to step up in their absence.
12.)Boston College Eagles
Had Jerome Robinson returned to Chestnut Hill for his senior season, Boston College would have been a lot higher in the ACC Preseason standings. The reality is that the Eagles will need to replace one of the most prolific scorers in the conference’s recent memory. With Robinson gone, Ky Bowman is the lead man for Boston College for the first time in his career. He has been a consistent scorer throughout the first two years of his career, but will need to make a big jump to lead the Eagles in the post-Jerome Robinson era if they hope to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
13.)Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Danny Manning is squarely on the hot seat after another disappointing season for the Demon Deacons a year ago. A tumultuous offseason saw Manning lose Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore to the NBA Draft, however, both of which went undrafted. Later in the summer, a member of Manning’s staff, Jamill Jones, was charged with third-degree assault for punching a 35-year-old man from Florida in the face in New York City. The man later died due to his injuries. Additionally, Keyshawn Woods transferred to Ohio State. The Demon Deacons are young and inexperienced. Aside from Chris Paul’s $2.5 million donation to the program, the future does not look bright for Wake Forest.
14.)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech will be in the basement of the ACC yet again. After the Yellow Jackets went 13-19 a year ago, their best player, Josh Okogie, to the NBA Draft and Tadric Jackson and Ben Lammers to graduation. Jose Alvarado will look to build on an impressive freshman season in hopes of keeping Josh Pastner’s squad relevant in the ACC.
The Pittsburgh Panthers are in rebuilding mode after Kevin Stallings brought the program crashing down in only two seasons at the helm. The Panthers were the laughing stock of the ACC, and maybe even college basketball for that matter, a season ago as they failed to win a single conference game. Pitt went out and hired Coach K’s lead assistant Jeff Capel with hopes that his prowess on the recruiting trail could lead the program back to what it was under Jamie Dixon. For now, he is still left with the shambles that remain from the Stallings area. The good news for Pitt is that Jared Wilson-Frame and the rest of the Panthers have nowhere else to go, but up.
ACC Tournament: March 6-March 10, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
The Atlantic Coast Conference will host their men’s basketball conference tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the second consecutive year. The Tourney will feature eight teams destined for a run in the NCAA Tournament and teams fighting to build their resume for an at-large bid or to secure an automatic bid.
NCAA Tournament Locks: Virginia, Duke, Miami, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Florida State
Virginia is playing for pride in Brooklyn. As regular season ACC Champions, the Cavaliers are a lock for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament at 28-2 overall, 17-1 in conference play. Virginia has a chance to claim both the regular season and ACC Tournament title for the first time since 2014, but the main goal for this week is to stay healthy and prime themselves for a deep run in March. ACC First Team performer Kyle Guy left Saturday’s game with a knee injury, but returned in the second half. Virginia Will open at noon on Thursday against the winner of the match-up between the eight seed Florida State and the nine seed Louisville.
Pending any slip-ups in the rest of the conference tournaments, a strong showing at the Barclays Center could land Duke a one seed. The Blue Devils have won six of their last seven, including a big comeback victory over arch rival North Carolina Saturday night. At 25-6 on the season, 13-5 in the ACC, Duke has improved defensively, led by ACC Player and Rookie of the Year Marvin Bagley III, All-ACC Second Team performer Wendell Carter, Jr., and All-ACC Third Team player Grayson Allen. They have the talent to win the ACC Tournament and make a deep run in the “Big Dance.” Duke will open on Thursday against either 10 Notre Dame/15 Pittsburgh or the seven seed Virginia Tech at 7pm.
Miami (22-8, 11-7) looked like they were headed for the bubble after three straight losses to Boston College, Virginia, and Syracuse, but responded with four wins in a row down the stretch. The Hurricanes are a lock for the NCAA Tournament and will look to improve their seed at the ACC Tournament. ACC All-Rookie Team member Lonnie Walker IV has proven to be a go to scorer and a clutch performer. Miami will open against 11 Syracuse/14 Wake Forest or the six seed North Carolina on Thursday at 9:30pm.
Clemson has proved to be one of the best surprises of college basketball this season. Despite losing their second leading scorer, Donte Grantham, to a torn ACL in early January, the Tigers ended the season at 22-8 overall, 11-7 in conference—good for fourth place. All-ACC Second Team selection Marcquise Reed will look to lead Clemson to an ACC Tournament Championship and a possible top four seed in the “Big Dance” that could lead them to a chance to play their first weekend games in either Charlotte or Nashville. Clemson will open against either 12 Boston College/13 Georgia Tech or the five seed NC State on Thursday at 2:30pm.
NC State was once a bubble team, but as the season progressed, the Wolfpack have proven themselves to be a giant killer. At 21-10 on the season, 11-7 in the ACC, NC State has beaten Arizona, Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, and Florida State. Led by All-ACC Third Team player, Omer Yurtseven, the Wolfpack will be a tough out for the top teams in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. NC State will open against the winner of 12-seed Boston College and 13-seed Georgia Tech on Wednesday at 2:30pm.
North Carolina is the six seed in the ACC Tournament. Losing to Duke in the last game of the regular season pushed the Tar Heels into a four-way tie for third place, in which they lost all tiebreakers. North Carolina will look to use the ACC Tournament as an opportunity to get back to their winning ways prior to the “Big Dance.” Prior to the last week of the regular season, the Tar Heels were winners of six consecutive games and were one of the hottest teams in the country. Losses to Miami and Duke to close the regular season make it imperative for North Carolina to win at least one game in Brooklyn to hang onto a two or three seed in the NCAA Tournament. Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson, and Luke Maye will look to have the team primed and ready for the Tar Heels to leave their mark on March Madness once again. North Carolina will open against the winner of the 11-seed Syracuse and the 14-seed Wake Forest on Wednesday at 9:30pm.
Virginia Tech entered ACC play as one of the top offensive teams in the country, but struggled to play any semblance of defense. Over their last eight games of the regular season, the Hokies finished 5-3, including wins over Virginia, Clemson, and Duke. Over that same stretch, Virginia Tech held opponents to 66.3 points per game—five below their season average. As the saying goes, defense wins championships. The Hokies, led by All-ACC Second Team selection, Justin Robinson, will look to prove that true at the Barclays Center this week. Virginia Tech will open against the winner of the 10-seed Notre Dame and the 15-seed Pittsburgh on Wednesday at 7pm.
Florida State travels to Brooklyn as the 8-seed at 20-10 overall, and 9-9 in the ACC. The Seminoles have been in and out of the top 25 all season and closed the regular season with a 5-5 record in their last 10 games. Florida State should still be in the NCAA Tournament, even if they were to lose to Louisville in their first game of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday at noon. Terance Mann will look to lead the Seminoles to ensure a bid come Selection Sunday.
On the Bubble: Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse
Despite all of the off the court issues this season, Louisville finds themselves squarely on the bubble as they head to the Barclays Center. If the Cardinals can get a win over Florida State and revenge against De’Andre Hunter and Virginia, they should feel good about their chances of securing an at-large bid. All-ACC Defensive Team member Anas Mahmoud will look to lead Louisville to a bid this week, beginning Wednesday at noon against Florida State.
Notre Dame is one of the selection committee’s greatest sources of conclusion this season. After playing a majority of their ACC schedule without Preseason ACC Player of the Year, Bonzie Colson, All-ACC Third Team performer Matt Farrell kept the ship afloat for the Fighting Irish. Now, with Colson back in the lineup, the committee may elect to view Notre Dame’s resume based on how they played with their star on the floor. The Fighting Irish need to avoid losing to winless Pittsburgh in the first round at 2:30pm on Tuesday, and may need wins over Virginia Tech and Duke to solidify a berth to the “Big Dance.”
America’s favorite bubble team, the Syracuse Orange, have managed to find themselves in need of wins in the ACC Tournament to hear their names called on Selection Sunday yet again. The Orange will look for their first win in the conference tournament since joining the ACC in the 2013-14 season. Second Team All-ACC player Tyus Battle, All-ACC Rookie Team member Oshae Brissett, and runner-up for the title of the ACC’s Most Improved Player, Frank Howard, would shoulder most of the responsibility for earning the at-large bid if they are able to. Syracuse likely needs two wins this week to feel good about their chances to do so. The Orange will open against Wake Forest on Tuesday at 7pm.
Syracuse swept the season series against Pittsburgh with a 60-55 win over the Panthers on the road on Saturday.
The Orange, without starting forward Matthew Moyer, inserted Marek Dolezaj into the starting five for the first time this season. Syracuse looked sloppy to start and Pittsburgh took advantage. Jared Wilson-Frame made his first five field goal attempts as the Panthers took an early 14-6 lead. The Orange used an 11-1 run to take a 17-15 lead. Pittsburgh shot 29.6% from the field in the first half compared to just 22.2% shooting from the field for Syracuse. The Orange used a 9-1 advantage at the charity stripe to take a 22-20 lead into the break.
With the game tied at 40, Syracuse used a 7-0 to build a 47-40 lead with 6:47 remaining. The Panthers would not get any closer than four. The Orange pulled out 60-55 victory for their first win on the road in conference play.
Wilson-Frame led Pittsburgh with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the losing effort.
Syracuse won the game thanks to a career day from freshman big man Bourama Sidibe. Sidibe registered career-highs in three statistical categories, finishing with 18 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 31 minutes off the bench. This was the first game that the Orange were not led in scoring by one of their “big three” (Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett).
Battle, the only other Syracuse player to score in double figures on Saturday, scored 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. Brissett tallied with 9 points and corralled 8 rebounds. Dolezaj recorded 7 points and 5 rebounds in his first career start. Howard added 6 points and 4 assists.
Sidibe’s performance was a surprise to many, including Coach Jim Boeheim, as he expressed his thoughts on his back-up center’s play during his postgame press conference. “He was spectacular,” Boeheim said. “Bourama was tremendous. He was the difference in the game. He’s healthier. He’s been getting better in practice. If he had been healthy all year, he could do this on a regular basis.”
Sidibe will need to continue to be productive as Moyer is not expected to return any time in the near future due to an ankle injury he suffered against Boston College.
With the win, Syracuse improved to 15-6 overall, 4-4 in the ACC, while Pittsburgh dropped to 8-14, 0-9 in conference.
Up next, Syracuse travels to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech on Wednesday at 8pm. The Yellow Jackets are 10-10 overall and 3-4 in the ACC. Georgia Tech hosts #18 Clemson Sunday night. Most recently, the Yellow Jackets suffered an 88-77 loss at the hands of Florida State on the road Wednesday night. Georgia Tech is led by Josh Okogie who is averaging 17.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Last year, the two teams split the season series with each team winning at home. The Yellow Jackets won 71-65 in Atlanta, while the Orange won 90-61 in the Carrier Dome.