ACC Tournament Preview

ACC Tournament: March 6-March 10, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

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CSSSports.com

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

Kyle Guy
accsports.com

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.

marvin bagley
sportingnews.com

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.

luke maye
chapleboro.com

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.”

bonzie
Notre Dame Insider

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.

tyus acc
syracuse.com

Here’s a look at the 2018 ACC Tournament Bracket:

ACC
accsports.com

Prediction:

Semis: Virginia def. NC State, Duke def. Miami

Final: Duke defeats Virginia in the title game.

All-Tournament Team:

Marvin Bagley III, Duke (Tournament MVP)

Grayson Allen, Duke

Kyle Guy, Virginia

Lonnie Walker IV, Miami

Omer Yurtseven, NC State

Weekly Round-Up (3/3)

Winners, Losers, and What to Watch

Here’s a look at this week’s winners and losers and Saturday’s premier match-up.

Winner: Virginia Cavaliers

deandre hunter
The Daily Progress

With one game left in the regular season, Virginia is seemingly a lock for a one seed in the NCAA tournament. At 27-2 overall, 16-1 in the ACC, the Cavaliers have been the most consistent team in college basketball this season, although they may not be the flashiest team we’ve ever seen. The Virginia offense scores 67.5 points per game, 310th nationally, but allows only 52.6 points per game—the best in the nation. This formula has yet to get Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers to the Final Four, but the three headed back court of Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, and Ty Jerome, combined with De’Andre Hunter, who has been an X-factor off the bench, this group may have what it takes. After losing to Virginia Tech at home, Virginia has rattled off four consecutive victories. Most recently, the Cavaliers came back to beat Louisville on the road on a banked in three at the buzzer by Hunter. Virginia closes out the regular season on Saturday at 4pm at home versus Notre Dame.

Loser: Rhode Island Rams

Rhode Island once had a chance at a four or five seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Rams began Atlantic 10 play 13-0 before losing to St. Bonaventure on February 16. After losing to the Bonnies, Rhode Island has gone 2-2 down the stretch, including two losses in the last week of the regular season to St. Joseph’s (by 30 on senior night) and Davidson (at the buzzer). Although the Rams won the A-10 regular season, their recent struggles, combined with a poor showing in Washington D.C. in the conference tournament could land them as low as an eight seed, which could negatively impact their chances of making the second weekend. If Rhode Island can turn it around, the tandem of Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews could present the Rams as a formidable foe for a major conference opponent in the “Big Dance.”

Premier Match-Up: #9 North Carolina at #5 Duke (8:15pm ESPN)

Saturday’s premier match-up takes us to Tobacco Road for the greatest rivalry in college hoops. The North Carolina Tar Heels will enter Cameron Indoor Stadium with the hopes of sweeping the regular season series over Duke and spoiling Grayson Allen’s Senior Night. Both teams are looking for a win after losing games earlier this week. North Carolina lost to Miami on a buzzer beater by Ja’Quan Newton, while the Blue Devils lost to Virginia Tech on a last second offensive rebound put-back by Chris Clarke.

Prior to losing to the Hurricanes, the Tar Heels had won six straight and put them in position to come away with either a two or three seed come “Selection Sunday.” North Carolina seniors, Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, would like nothing more than to upset the Cameron Crazies one last time. Berry II and Luke Maye are averaging 18.2 and 17.9 points per game, the best duo since Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins in the early 1980’s.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 10 ACC Tournament - North Carolina v Duk
SI.com

Prior to losing at Virginia Tech, Duke had won five consecutive games after losing to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, NC. Not only will it be Senior Might for Allen, but it will likely be the last home game for freshman Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. who are expected to be lottery picks in this year’s NBA Draft.

In the first meeting, both defenses struggled in the first half, but North Carolina got the stops they needed down the stretch to come away victorious. The Blue Devils have switched, almost entirely, to a 2-3 zone since and have held teams to an average of 56.8 points per game since.

Expect the Crazies to be out in full force and Duke to get revenge in a close win Saturday night.

grayson allen
sportingnews.com

Duke 78, North Carolina 76

Virginia at Syracuse

Syracuse Stumbles in Loss to Virginia

tyus
nunesmagician.com

Syracuse suffered a 59-44 defeat at the hands of #2 Virginia on Saturday.

The 44 points were the fewest points the Orange has scored in the Carrier Dome since it began playing its home games there in 1980.

Syracuse trailed 31-21 at the half and would get no closer than nine in the final stanza as the Cavaliers ran away with it down the stretch.

Virginia’s defense held Syracuse to just 33.3% shooting from the field, while the Cavaliers connected on 48.9% of their shot attempts. Virginia also outrebounded the Orange by a 35-26 margin and held a 27-0 advantage in bench points.

De’Andre Hunter led the Cavaliers with 15 points off the bench. The freshman also dished out 6 assists. Kyle Guy fell short of his season average for points, scoring just 14 points on an inefficient 5-for-15 from the floor. Guy also grabbed 4 rebounds.

Syracuse was led by Tyus Battle’s 15 points. Frank Howard scored 11 points. Marek Dolezaj finished with 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting and grabbed 7 rebounds. Oshae Brissett added 9 points and 6 rebounds.

Battle, Howard, and Brissett played all 40 minutes as only one reserve (Matthew Moyer) checked in for the Orange. Syracuse plays Louisville on Monday where fatigue hopefully won’t be a factor in that one.

Jim Boeheim commented on his team’s performance in his postgame press conference. “We rely on our two guards to score and make plays and when they don’t we have a problem offensively,” Boeheim said. “That’s really the bottom line the last three games.”

Bourama Sidibe was inactive versus Virginia as the freshman center was suffering from discomfort due to tendinitis that has lingered and impacted him all season.

Syracuse dropped to 15-8 overall, 4-6 in the ACC, while Virginia improved to 22-1 on the season and 11-0 in conference play.

The Orange return to action on Monday night when they travel to the Bluegrass State to take on Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center at 7pm. The Cardinals are 16-7 overall and 6-4 in the ACC. Louisville is coming off an 80-76 loss to Florida State at home on Saturday. The Cardinals are led by Deng Adel who is averaging 15.7 points and 5 rebounds per game. Last year, Louisville swept the season series over Syracuse. The Cardinals won 76-72 in overtime in the Dome and 88-68 at the Yum! Center.

Syracuse at Georgia Tech

Syracuse Stumbles in Road Loss to Georgia Tech

tyus gt
projectspurs.com

Syracuse suffered a 55-51 loss at the hands of Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.

The Orange offense struggled to get anything going. Syracuse used its full court press to speed up the Yellow Jackets and climb within three points with 8:52 left. The Orange would get no closer as Georgia Tech was able to solve the press and hang on for a win at home.

Georgia Tech’s defense frustrated Syracuse all night, holding the Orange to just 30% shooting for the game. The Yellow Jackets also forced Syracuse into 15 turnovers on the night. The Orange kept themselves in the game by keeping Georgia Tech to just 33.3% shooting. Syracuse stayed out of foul trouble. In contrast the Yellow Jackets sent the Orange to the free throw line 20 times—Syracuse converted on 16 of their attempts, but their dominance at the line was not enough to make up for their abysmal performance from the floor.

Georgia Tech was led by Josh Okogie who scored 20 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and came away with 4 steals.

The Orange were led by Tyus Battle who scored 19 points, corralled a career-high 9 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists. Oshae Brissett finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds, while Frank Howard recorded 11 points and 4 rebounds. Marek Dolezaj added 5 points and 8 rebounds in his second career start.

Matthew Moyer returned from his one game absence due to an ankle injury. The redshirt freshman was ineffective, recording just one rebound in two minutes off the bench. Moyer was clearly uncomfortable, unable to contribute and was pulled by Coach Boeheim after his short stint.

Syracuse will be without freshman guard Howard Washington for the rest of the year due to a right leg injury. Although Washington was only averaging 1.1 points per game, his absence leaves the Orange with just two scholarship guards (Howard and Battle) available for the rest of the season.

Jim Boeheim discussed his team’s performance in his postgame press conference. “We just struggled on offense,” Boehiem said. “They made it hard for us. We just didn’t convert.”

Syracuse fell to 15-7 overall, 4-5 in the ACC, while Georgia Tech improved to 11-11 on the season and 4-5 in conference play.

Syracuse will host #2 Virginia on Saturday at 4pm. The Orange are in need of a big win if they hope to crawl onto the right side of the bubble. A win over the Cavaliers would go a long way to help them achieve such a feat. Second-ranked Virginia (21-1, 10-0 ACC) is coming off a 74-64 victory over Louisville on Wednesday. Syracuse will hope to split the season series with the Cavaliers. The Orange lost the first meeting between the two teams as they fell 68-61 in Charlottesville on January 9. Howard led the Orange with 18 points in the loss, while Kyle Guy poured in a game high 22 points to lead Virginia to the victory.

Weekly Round-Up (1/27)

Winners, Losers, and What to Watch

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers this week and what to watch for on Saturday.

Winner: Arizona Wildcats

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Many wrote off Arizona (17-4, 7-1 PAC-12) early in the season after they scuffled out of the gates and lost all three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Wildcats, who climbed to #11 in the rankings, have lost just one game since returning to the U.S. Earlier this week, Arizona got revenge for that loss, beating Colorado 80-71 to claim their fifth straight win in PAC-12 play. Freshman 7-footer Deandre Ayton has continued to impress and improve his NBA Draft stock. He is averaging a double-double so far with 19.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. The Wildcats will look to pick up their sixth consecutive win when they host Utah on Saturday at 5:30pm.

Loser: Clemson Tigers

The Clemson Tigers (16-4, 5-3 ACC) are one of the surprises in college basketball this season. Clemson moved up to #18 in the rankings following a 67-58 win over Notre Dame last Saturday. However, the Tigers lost their second leading scorer for the rest of the season, senior forward Donte Grantham, to a torn ACL in the win. Clemson’s offense looked abysmal in their first game without Grantham as the Tigers scored just 36 points in a blowout loss to #2 Virginia on Tuesday. On a team where five players (Marcquise Reed, Grantham, Gabe DeVoe, Shelton Mitchell, and Elijah Thomas) averaged double digit scoring, while no one else averaged more than four points per game, Clemson will need their role players to step up if they hope to challenge for an ACC Championship and a deep run in March. The Tigers return to action when they travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech at 6pm on Sunday.

Saturday’s Premier Match-Up: #2 Virginia at #4 Duke (2:00pm CBS)

marvin bagley iii
inthefrontrow.com

On a loaded weekend of college hoops which features the Big 12/SEC Challenge, one game sticks out above the rest. The second ranked Virginia Cavaliers travel to Tobacco Road to battle with the Duke Blue Devils. Virginia (19-1, 8-0 ACC) enters the contest on an eleven game win streak and holds a two-game lead over Duke in the ACC standings. The Cavaliers feature a three guard lineup of Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, and Ty Jerome who combine for nearly 54% of the team’s scoring. A win over the Blue Devils in the only game between the two teams this year would put Virginia well on their way to a regular season conference title. Duke (18-2, 6-2 ACC) is undefeated at home so far this season. Their only losses were on the road against Boston College and North Carolina State. All five starters average double figures in scoring for the Blue Devils, led by Marvin Bagley III’s 21.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Duke will need to control the pace and get out in transition to overcome Virginia’s stout half-court defense. Look for the Cameron Crazies to fuel the Blue Devils to a big win at home.

Prediction: Duke 73, Virginia 69

Syracuse at Virginia

Syracuse Comeback Falls Short

pascal chukwu
syracuse.com

Syracuse lost its third game in a row against #3 Virginia Wednesday night by a score of 68-61.

After a back and forth first half, the Cavaliers took a 29-26 lead into the break. Virginia’s 3-point shooting was the difference, as the Cavaliers shot 40% from deep over the final 20 minutes. Virginia built a 14 point lead with 1:24 remaining. Syracuse used their full-court press to trim the lead to as low as 5, but the time ran out on the Orange’s comeback and the Cavaliers hung on for the win.

It was a defensive battle throughout, as neither team shot the ball well. Syracuse shot 38.3% from the field compared to a 37.7% clip for Virginia. Virginia passed the ball effectively versus Syracuse’s 2-3 zone and recorded 15 assists. Syracuse’s offense fell into disarray in the second half. The Orange tried to use one-on-one matchups to beat Virginia off the dribble. That tactic was unsuccessful. Syracuse finished the game with just 3 assists.

One positive for the Orange was that they were more aggressive on the boards than they were in their two previous games. Syracuse outrebounded Virginia 41-31, including a 19-13 advantage on the offensive glass.

The Cavaliers were led by Kyle Guy who scored 22 points on 5-of-11 shooting from behind the arc. Freshman De’Andre Hunter was effective in the middle of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in the first half for Virginia and finished with 15 points. Devon Hall added 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists as well to help pace the Cavaliers.

Syracuse was led by Frank Howard who scored 18 points in the losing effort. Oshae Brissett added 16 points and 8 rebounds. Tyus Battle finished with 12 points before fouling out. Paschal Chukwu was one point away from a double-double. The junior center recorded 9 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Despite the loss, Syracuse was the first ACC team to score more than 60 points versus Virginia so far this season.

Jim Boeheim reflected on the effectiveness of his team’s full-court press in the postgame press conference. “We can press for little bits, you know we’re playing six guys, it’s hard to press a lot,” Boeheim said. “We thought we could keep the game a little more in touch tonight and use it in the last five or six minutes, but we weren’t in touch. That was the problem.”

With the loss, Syracuse falls to 12-5 overall and 1-3 in the ACC, while Virginia improved to 15-1, 4-0 in conference.

Syracuse will travel to Tallahassee, FL to take on the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, January 13 at 2pm. Florida State is ranked 23rd in the country and enters the game 12-3 overall and 1-2 in the ACC. The Seminoles are coming off an 80-74 defeat at the hands of #15 Miami on the road. Prior to playing Syracuse on Saturday, Florida State will also host Louisville at 9pm on Wednesday. The Seminoles are led by Terance Mann who is averaging 14.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Last year, Syracuse won the lone meeting between the two teams 82-72 in the Carrier Dome.

Notre Dame at Syracuse

Syracuse Edged by Notre Dame

tyus nd
NCC News

Syracuse was unable to rebound from a bad loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday and lost an ugly 51-49 game to the hands of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were playing without their two best players, Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell.

With the Fighting Irish leading 49-46 with 49 seconds remaining, Tyus Battle nailed a three to tie the game. Following a steal on the defensive end, Battle was stripped of the ball with 5 seconds to go. TJ Gibbs missed a contested layup in transition, but Rex Pflueger tipped in the put back with 2 seconds left. Frank Howard’s half court heave came up short and Notre Dame held on to win 51-49.

Syracuse held Notre Dame to 20.7% shooting in the first half, but 8 early turnovers by the Orange, who shot 50% in the opening stanza, allowed them to build only a 28-19 advantage at the break. Syracuse shot just 30.8% over the final 20 minutes. Notre Dame used an 8-0 run early in the second half to get themselves back in the game, which put them in a position to steal the win away from the Orange.

Notre Dame outrebounded Syracuse 42-27, including 21-8 on the offensive glass, an astounding stat, given that the Orange rank 10th in the nation in rebounding margin. This is the second game in a row where Syracuse was outrebounded. Jim Boeheim had this to say in the postgame press conference regarding his team’s effort on the boards. “This was the first game where someone really got physical on the boards with us and we could not rebound,” Boeheim said. “We’re not a good rebounding team. That was a myth, complete myth. Noboby’s really gone to the boards, except for the last two games, and when they did we cannot rebound down there.”

Gibbs led the Fighting Irish with 18 points, while Pflueger added 12 points and 7 rebounds.

Battle led the Orange with 21 points, while Howard turned in a performance of 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists. Oshae Brissett recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Paschal Chukwu picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes to go. Bourama Sidibe played the rest of the game in Chukwu’s absence. In doing so, Sidibe played in his 12th game of the season making him no longer eligible for a medical redshirt this season. Sidibe finished with 4 points, 2 rebounds, and a block in just 10 minutes of action.

With the loss, Syracuse falls to 12-4 on the season and 1-2 in conference play.

Syracuse clearly struggling offensively and solving that problem will not get any easier as the Orange are set to take on #8 Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA on Tuesday, January 9 at 8pm. The Cavaliers have the best defense in the country, holding opponents to just 52.7 points per game. Virginia is 12-1 overall, 3-0 in the ACC and is coming off a convincing 61-49 win over North Carolina on Saturday. The Cavaliers are led by sophomore guard Kyle Guy who is averaging 14.9 points per contest. Syracuse won the lone meeting between the two teams last year, 66-62, in the Carrier Dome.

The Elite Eight (January Edition)

Breaking Down the Nation’s Best

The beginning of the college basketball season was one that we have never seen before. For the first time in the history of the sport there were no undefeated teams entering the month of January. Upset after upset led to a tumultuous and cluttered field at the top, but I’m here to try and help you sort it out.

Let’s take a look at Joe Lunardi’s top seed line in his latest edition of Bracketology, see what each team has done to this point and assess what they need to do to hold their projected seed, and consider potential weaknesses on the teams.

1 Seeds: Duke, Villanova, Michigan State, Arizona State

Duke Blue Devils

Record: 13-1 (1-1 ACC)

RPI: 1

SOS: 1

Notable Wins: Michigan State (neutral), Texas (neutral), Florida (neutral), Florida State

Bad Losses: at Boston College

Stay: With the top RPI and the top Strength of Schedule in the country, Duke has a little more wiggle room than the rest of the teams on the top seed line. The ACC is the toughest conference in the country. Duke will need to avoid bad losses against teams at the bottom of the conference and steal a few wins from the rest of the teams at the top of the conference on the road to impress the committee. Finishing strong over their last ten games would protect the Blue Devils from falling off the top seed line if things don’t go so well in the ACC Tournament.

Drop: Duke would fall off the top seed line if they suffer more than one bad loss at home and struggle on the road against the ACC toughest competition. Problems could arise for Duke if they become complacent, lose games down the stretch and fail to showcase themselves well in the ACC Tournament.

Villanova Wildcats

bridges elite
Mikal Bridges looks to lead his Villanova Wildcats back to the Final Four. sbnation.com

Record: 13-1 (1-1 Big East)

RPI: 7

SOS: 7

Notable Wins: Tennessee (neutral), Gonzaga (neutral)

Bad Losses: None

Stay: Villanova will need to continue to show that they are the class of the Big East if they hope to stay on the top seed line. Having already lost on the road to Butler, Villanova will need to prove they are worth a spot as a one seed. The Big East is better than advertised and the chance to beat both Xavier and Seton Hall twice could go a long way in making a case for Villanova to keep their seat amongst the top four teams in the nation.

Drop: With Arizona failing to make the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Villanova lost the opportunity to snag a quality win on a neutral floor against a perennial national powerhouse. Failing to win games against the cream of the crop in Big East play could jeopardize Villanova’s chances to retain its top seed.

Michigan State Spartans

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Michigan State vs Miami
The chance to lead Michigan State to both a Big Ten and a National Championship was the reason Miles Bridges decided to return to East Lansing for his sophomore season. spartanavenue.com

Record: 15-1 (3-0 Big Ten)

RPI: 27

SOS: 35

Notable Wins: North Carolina (neutral), Notre Dame

Bad Losses: None

Stay: Michigan State will need to seize every opportunity they have to secure a win against a ranked opponent throughout Big Ten play. As of now, their only chance to do so is against Purdue at home on February 10. The Spartans may need to run the table to hold onto it’s ranking.

Drop: With a lower RPI and Strength of Schedule compared to the other three teams on the top seed line, largely attributable to the weaker than normal Big Ten, Michigan State has a slimmer margin for error than the rest of the teams on the top seed line. More than one bad loss at home and a rough end to the regular season, combined with a poor showing in the Big Ten Tournament could derail the Spartans’ hopes to remain number one.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Record: 12-2 (0-2 Pac-12)

RPI: 5

SOS: 14

Notable Wins: Xavier (neutral) at Kansas

Bad Losses: at Colorado

Stay: Similar to Michigan State, Arizona State only has one remaining game on their schedule against a ranked opponent. After losing to their in-state rival Arizona, who is on the rise, and at Colorado, the rematch against the Wildcats in Tempe is a must win for the Sun Devils if they hope to hold onto a one seed.

Drop: With back-to-back losses to open up conference play, another slip up could knock Arizona State off of the one line. America’s surprise team will need to continue to do so if they plan to be on the top seed line come Selection Sunday. Arizona State would be my pick to fall off the one line.

There is a lengthy list of honorable mentions that could possibly find themselves sitting on the one line come tournament time. For the time being, let’s focus on Lunardi’s 2 seeds in his latest Bracketology: Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia, and Xavier.

Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma is my first pick to steal a one seed if any of the current one seeds slip up throughout conference play. Led by the nation’s best player, Trae Young, the Sooners are tough to stop on the offensive end. Oklahoma lost to Arkansas in the PK80, but have not lost since. The Sooners are now 2-0 in Big 12 play, including a win over a previously undefeated TCU team. The offensive potency combined with the wins they already have and the opportunities in the loaded Big 12 to come up with additional marquee wins are a perfect storm for Oklahoma to make a run to the top of the field of 68. Given the strength of the Big 12 and the weakness of both the Big Ten and the Pac-12, it is tough to imagine a world where the Big 12 Champion is not a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, I predict it will be Oklahoma. A win in a crucial game at West Virginia this weekend could shape their case even further.

Virginia Cavaliers

kyle guy
Virginia is rising to the top behind the play of sophomore guard Kyle Guy. cavalierdaily.com

Virginia was unranked during the preseason, but the Cavaliers have climbed through the rankings to establish themselves in the top 10 once again. Kyle Guy, minus the man bun, has taken over his team in his sophomore campaign. The Cavaliers have an opportunity to make noise again in the ACC. If they can remain at the top of the ACC throughout the regular season, an ACC Championship could propel them to a one seed. The question for Virginia is whether they can score enough points against defenses that are just as tough as theirs. The Cavaliers lone loss this season is to West Virginia, an equally stout defensive team that held Virginia to 61 points.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Although there are no remaining undefeated teams in college basketball this season, there is one team that is undefeated on American soil. That would be West Virginia. The Mountaineers have rattled off 12 consecutive wins since losing their season opener to Texas A&M in Germany. Senior guard Jevon Carter has led the team through the non-conference slate. The Mountaineers are 2-0 in Big 12 play with wins over Oklahoma State and Kansas State. A win over Oklahoma would go a long way in launching West Virginia further into the conversation for a one seed in the Big Dance.

Xavier Musketeers

bluiett
Will Xavier rise to the one line this year? ncaa.com

Xavier has one loss on the year against Arizona State. The Musketeers blew out Cincinnati in a heated cross-town rivalry and are off to a 3-0 start in Big East play with wins over Marquette, DePaul, and Butler. Trevon Bluiett and the rest of the Musketeers have a chance to steal a one seed. Xavier plays Villanova twice. Two wins against the Wildcats could propel Xavier to the top seed line come March Madness.

Big Ten-ACC Challenge Preview

big ten acc

This week in college basketball features the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Below is a preview of which games are a must watch and which conference will win this year’s challenge.

Monday, Nov. 27

Wisconsin at Virginia

My game of the night on Monday, is the night cap between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Virginia Cavaliers. Wisconsin has dropped three games to ranked opponents so far this season, losing tough games to #15 Xavier, #22 Baylor, and #23 UCLA. With that being said the Badgers, led by versatile big man Ethan Happ who averages 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, will be a tough out for an undefeated, but inexperienced and untested Virginia team. The Cavaliers are led by sophomore guard Kyle Guy who is averaging 15.8 points per game. With the game in Charlottesville, I expect Virginia to pull out a close one at home.

Tuesday, Nov. 28

Louisville at Purdue

My must watch game on Tuesday is a battle between #19 Louisville and #18 Purdue in West Lafayette. The Cardinals, led by Deng Adel who is averaging 17.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, are undefeated, but have yet to play a team from a power conference. The Boilermakers, led by Carsen Edwards averaging 18 points and 4 rebounds per game, finished 7th in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Coming off losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky and a win over #2 Arizona, Purdue is tested and ready to take on the Cardinals. Expect the Cardinals to win a tough one on the road.

Wednesday, Nov. 29

Miami at Minnesota

#11 Miami at #14 Minnesota is the game to watch on Wednesday. Miami is off to an undefeated start to the season, but Wednesday will be their first chance to play against nationally ranked competition. Defensively, Miami has dominated’ holding their opponents to just 54 points per game. The Hurricanes’ balanced attack is led by Dewan Huell who averages 13.4 and 7.2 rebounds per game. Minnesota is coming off a big win over #25 Alabama in the Barclays Center Classic in which Alabama was forced to play with only three players. The Golden Gophers are led by Jordan Murphy who is averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds per game. Hopefully, both teams will be able to play 5-on-5 for the whole game. My pick is for Minnesota’s offense to overcome the stout Miami defense to win a hard fought game at home.

Thursday, Nov. 30
Notre Dame at Michigan State

Save the best for last. The match-up in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge that I am looking forward to the most is Thursday’s game between Notre Dame and Michigan State. The Fighting Irish showed that they will not quit under any circumstances in defeating Wichita State in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational Championship Game. Bonzie Colson can do it all; he is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Matt Farrell is one of the top point guards in the country, averaging 17 points and 4 assists per game. Michigan State has proven that it is deeper than just Miles Bridges this year. With a balanced attack and depth at all positions stepping up to overcome Bridges’ injury to help the Spartans win the PK80 Victory Bracket Championship, Michigan State will continue to be favored in most games this year. In this one, I’ll choose the upset; I’ll take the Fighting Irish on the road. This may be a match-up of my two favorite teams to watch this year and I can’t wait for a great one Thursday night in East Lansing.

I am looking forward to a great slate of games and I predict that the ACC will win the 2017 Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Take a look at the rest of my picks for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge:

Monday, Nov. 27

Maryland at Syracuse**

Tuesday, Nov. 28

Northwestern at GEORGIA TECH
FLORIDA STATE at Rutgers
ILLINOIS at Wake Forest
Iowa at VIRGINIA TECH

Wednesday, Nov. 29

DUKE at Indiana
BOSTON COLLEGE at Nebraska
Michigan at NORTH CAROLINA
PENN STATE at NC State
Clemson at OHIO STATE

*Winners BOLD

**Can’t choose. Conflict of interest