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2018 ACC Tournament: NCAA Positioning

The ACC Tournament is over but there’s so much still to play for.

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ACC Basketball Tournament - Semifinals
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils drives against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the semifinals of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 9, 2018 in New York City.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The ACC championship will be decided tonight.

Duke will not be involved

The Blue Devils lost 74-69 to North Carolina last night. They also lost:

-- The chance at Duke’s 21st ACC championship

-- The chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament

-- Maybe the chance to open the NCAA tourney with two games in Charlotte.

Of course, if Duke repeats its lackluster performance from Friday night, none of that will matter. Duke won’t last long in the NCAA playoffs.

Then again, I can’t help thinking back to 1991, when Duke was humiliated by North Carolina in the ACC championship game, 96-74. Believe me, as bad as last night was, that was worse. Yet, the ’91 Blue Devils rebounded to win six straight NCAA Tournament games and Duke’s first national championship.

After that, nobody bothered very much about that ACC Tournament loss to the Heels.

We won’t know until Sunday whether the second loss to UNC (in three games) was enough to knock the Blue Devils out of Charlotte. No. 1 seed Virginia will get one of the Charlotte pods. Will the other go to Duke or UNC? It’s a tough call – Duke has a slightly better record and a higher RPI rating, but UNC has more quad one wins and, of course, won two of three head-to-head games.

Duke will almost certainly be a No. 2 seed when the tournament opens.

Does that matter?

Well Coach Mike Krzyzewski has earned enough seeds to offer a statistical universe.

This is how his teams break down according to NCAA seeds:

-- 13 No. 1 seeds. Have produced four national championships, seven Final Fours, one Elite Eight and five Sweet 16s.

-- 10 No. 2 seeds. Have produced one national title, four Final Fours, one Elite Eight,. two Sweet 16s, two second round losses and one first round loss (Lehigh in 2012).

-- Six No. 3 seeds. Have produced one Final Four, one Sweet 16, two second-round and one first round loss (Mercer in 2014).

K has also had one No. 4 (a Sweet 16 finish), one No. 5 (a Sweet 16), one No. 6 (a first round loss) and one No. 8 (a first round loss).

It’s obvious that Duke performs better as a No. 1 seed, but there’s not a lot of dropoff between No. 1 and No. 2. The drop from a possible No. 1 to a probable No. 2 hurt, but not that much.

It could also help geographically.

As a No. 1, Duke would have most likely have ended up in the West or Midwest. As a two, Duke’s most likely destination is in the East – in the same bracket as No. 1 Villanova.

I’m a big advocate for the ACC Tournament. I think it’s a significant achievement – something to be cherished.

But even I admit that a deep NCAA Tournament run can erase all memories of disappointment in the ACC.


No. 1 Virginia (30-2) vs. No. 6 UNC (25-9)

I would argue that this game is more important to Virginia than to North Carolina.

The Cavs have been the most consistent ACC team for five seasons now, but they have very little to show for it – the 2014 ACC title, a 2016 Elite Eight run. That’s about it.

While Tony Bennett’s team has floundered in postseason, Duke and North Carolina have earned national titles. It may be bad luck or small sample size, but Virginia’s program is starting to be haunted by question marks due to its failures in March.

Before Virginia can reach the stature of Duke and North Carolina, the Cavs have to have postseason success – and sustain it.

They handled UNC fairly easily in the one regular season meeting, but that was back in early January and was in Charlottesville. Pomeroy rates the Cavs a 65 percent favorite in the title game.


Clemson (23-9) – The Tigers will receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament – its first since 2011. Brad Brownell, then in his first season, won a play-in game that first year. So far, that’s the Tigers only NCAA win this century.

Whatever happens, this season has been an unexpected success.

It will be interesting to see if Brownell can sustain the success next season. He returns Marquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas. He’s got to replace Gabe Devoe and top sub Mark Donnal. Freshman Amir Simms showed a lot of promise and could be better as a sophomore.

Brownell has four star forward John Newman from Greensboro as his only recruit for next season.

Duke (26-6) – As discussed, Duke is going to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Blue Devils played about as poorly as it’s possible to play against UNC – too many turnovers, giving up too many offensive rebounds to the Heels, and shooting poorly from 3-point range.

Yet, Duke still had a shot as a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds.

Obviously, this team will be dismantled after the season. Grayson Allen will graduate and Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval and maybe Gary Trent will turn pro.

Mike Krzyzewski has another incredible lineup of freshmen lined up for next season – the three top-ranked players in the class, plus the No. 1 point guard.

The Blue Devils will be much like this year’s team next year – very talented, but very young.

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