Duke’s win over UNC Thursday night changed the ACC race.
UNC was in the driver’s seat and may be yet. There’s no longer a guarantee though - the Heels, Florida State and Virginia all have just three losses in conference.
UNC has some tough games left. The Heels have to go to Raleigh and you never know, but the Pack is in free fall. After that they have home games with Virginia and Louisville, Pitt and Virginia on the road and then Duke at home in the traditional finale.
Virginia still has the home-and-home with UNC, a road game at Virginia Tech (never easy for the Cavs), Duke at home (and the UNC road visit just three days later), a home game with Miami, State at home and Pitt on the road.
And Florida State?
The ‘Noles visit Notre Dame and Pitt, then back home for BC, out for Clemson and Duke before finishing up with Miami at home.
One of these three stretch runs is easier than the others.
Duke on the road is never easy but Florida State has the best chance to sweep the remaining games.
Behind the three-loss tier lurks Syracuse, Louisville and Duke. Syracuse has really struggled on the road - at Clemson, the Orange let Donte Grantham right in the one part of the zone they’re supposed to deny to opponents, and he hit a clutch three (Tyus Battle hit a bigger one a few seconds later but still).
The reaming road trips are to Pitt, Georgia Tech and Louisville and the ‘Cuse gets them at home too along with Duke.
Although Jim Boeheim has done an impressive job of turning the season around, we could see three losses there with no problem, maybe more.
Only a fool would rule out a Rick Pitino team and the Cards get a break down the stretch: Miami at home, Syracuse away, the Hokies at home, UNC away, Syracuse at home, Wake away and then Notre Dame at home.
UNC will be tough and Syracuse won’t be easy on the road but they should win most of these.
And Duke? The Blue Devils get Clemson at home this weekend, Virginia on the road, Wake Forest in Durham, Syracuse and Miami away before wrapping with FSU at home and the short trip down 15-501 to UNC.
All of those games are winnable but there are no guarantees. The most likely wins are Clemson and Wake Forest, but we wouldn’t bet on those.
In short, the bye teams are going to come from these six teams. Everyone else is playing to either shore up a bid or to make an argument for getting one.
If it were today, we’d expect the ACC to get nine bids - those six and Notre Dame, Miami and Virginia Tech.
There’s lot of basketball left though and Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Clemson can still dream.
Everyone has injuries this time of year but we feel especially bad for Syracuse’s Paschal Chukwu, who is temporarily blind in one eye. He’s had two surgeries, is schedule for a third, and is obviously not playing again this year.
We wondered earlier if Pitt had bailed on Kevin Stallings. Columnist Paul Zeise says they have not.
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- With Jamel Artis slowed by injury, Justice Kithcart stepped up for Pitt