ACC Bracket Breakdown

Miami is the first ACC regular season and tournament champion to not receive a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Miami is the first ACC regular season and tournament champion to not receive a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Miami
No. 2 seed, East Region

Miami will face Pacific, the champions of the Big West, in Austin, Texas.  Pacific split meetings with Saint Mary’s and was blown out by Gonzaga in December.  The Hurricanes are the first team to win the ACC regular season and tournament championships without receiving a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Miami may feel disrespected, but the draw they receive as a product of the lower seed may be worth it.

The winner of Miami-Pacific will face either Illinois or Colorado.  As a team, Illinois is shooting 41.6% from the field.  With Durand Scott likely guarding Illinois guard Brandon Paul if Miami plays the Illini, Miami would stand a good chance of routing them.  Colorado relies on sophomore guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker.  While Dinwiddie gets to the free throw line at a prolific rate, Miami’s edge in experience should prove valuable if that meeting comes to fruition.

Marquette could be a potential Sweet Sixteen opponent as the third seed in the East.  Like with Brandon Paul and Illinois, the Golden Eagles would likely have to find offense with Scott defending Vander Blue.  Marquette is only a 30% shooting club from beyond the arc, so this isn’t the chuck-happy Golden Eagles squad we are accustomed to seeing in March, which could make them susceptible to an opening weekend loss before they get the chance to face Miami. If that’s the case, look for sixth-seeded Butler to make an appearance.

Duke
No. 2 Seed, Midwest Region

Duke will open the NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia against the Albany Great Danes. Albany won the America East Conference tournament, but lost 82-60 to Ohio State, the only RPI top 50 team on its schedule.

The winner of Duke-Albany will face either Creighton or Cincinnati.  Creighton is led by Doug McDermott, who is averaging 23.1 points per game for the Bluejays.  Creighton also boasts wins against Wisconsin (in Las Vegas) and twice against Wichita State (once at home, once in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament).  The Bluejays were eliminated in the round of 32 last season by North Carolina.

Cincinnati had a hot start to the season, reaching as high as eighth in the AP poll with a 12-0 record before losing to New Mexico. However, the Bearcats lost seven of their last 11 games.  Cincinnati likes to keep games low-scoring, as they aren’t a great offensive squad.  Creighton may shoot 42.1% beyond the arc, but Duke’s perimeter defense would probably be able to contain the Bluejays, making Cincinnati perhaps a less enviable matchup.

Duke is in the same region as the tournament’s top overall seed, the Louisville Cardinals.  While Duke fans will not be smiling about this, it has to be seen as a bit of a blessing that it is Louisville, rather than Indiana, that the Blue Devils might meet in Indianapolis.  The greatest threat to Duke in this region may actually be the third seed they could see in Indianapolis, Michigan State.  If Duke meets the Spartans, Tom Izzo’s team will look for a physical contest.  The Blue Devils struggled in those kinds of games this year, highlighted by two losses to Maryland.

NC State
No. 8 seed, East Region

NC State is headed to Dayton, Ohio, where they will open the NCAA Tournament against the Temple Owls.  Temple boasts the Atlantic 10’s Player of the Year, Khalif Wyatt. However, they have a negative rebounding margin, which could spell a big game for Richard Howell.

The reward for the winners will be a date with the Indiana Hoosiers.  The last ACC team to face Indiana was North Carolina, when the Hoosiers drubbed the Tar Heels 83-59 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  Indiana has lost three of its six, leading some to believe this was the team that should have been a second seed instead of Miami.  Is it a case of recency bias, or have the Hoosiers slipped from their earlier dominance behind Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo? We probably won’t know for sure until they face either the Wolfpack or the Owls.

NC State fits well in this region, in the sense that it is awash with consistently inconsistent teams.  Fourth seeded Syracuse boasts a road win against Louisville and reached the Big East Championship (where they lost to the Cardinals), but lost four of five to close the regular season and have a knack for underachieving in the NCAA Tournament.  UNLV, the fifth seed in the East, has two losses against teams outside of the RPI Top 100 but has a potential top pick in this year’s NBA draft in freshman Anthony Bennett.  So if the Wolfpack can get past Indiana, then a rematch of their ACC Semifinal loss to the Hurricanes might just be in the cards.  Then again, a disappointing loss to the Rebels or Orange is just as likely.

North Carolina
No. 8 seed, South Region

Tar Heels fans with a sense of humor probably allowed themselves a chuckle while muttering under their breath when North Carolina’s draw was revealed on CBS Sunday.  North Carolina may not be terribly concerned with their first opponent, Villanova.  The Wildcats aren’t a particularly strong offensive team, so the hot-shooting Tar Heels could easily outscore Villanova.

However, awaiting North Carolina in the next round would be a date with Kansas. Roy Williams’s former school. The team that eliminated UNC last March. In Kansas City. Naturally.

The Tar Heels are 2-8 against teams in the NCAA Tournament field, and those wins were against NC State and UNLV.  Thus, North Carolina has to be considered pretty strong underdogs against the Jayhawks.  If the Tar Heels can spring the upset, though, they’re still in a pretty tough region.  Fourth-seed Michigan started the season 16-0 and has a strong backcourt in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr.  No. 5 seed Virginia Commonwealth reached the Atlantic 10 Championship and hung with Duke on a neutral court in the Bahamas.  The opposite side of the bracket features No. 2 Georgetown, a top-five overall team with Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter, and No. 3 Florida is a senior-loaded team that played for the SEC Championship.  It was a great run to finish the year for North Carolina, but the deck is really stacked against it.

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1 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Excellent breakdown, Zach. Someone’s been paying attention in basketball class.

    See my post on the basketball forum for a breakdown of bids by conference for the last few years.

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