Amazingly, the NCAA regular season has come to a close. That means it is conference tournament time. The power conferences tip-off on Tuesday and that starts with the ACC conference tournament. Typically, this is a top-two conference, but this year it is not close to normal. While the ACC does have some title contenders, they are not the traditional Blue Bloods, a few who have struggled mightily. Let’s make some predictions for who comes out of this crazy conference.
2020-21 ACC Tournament Predictions
Round One – Tuesday, March 9th
#12 Pittsburgh Panthers vs #13 Miami Hurricanes
Both teams have had a really hard time this year. Miami has struggled because of injuries. Without losing guys like Chris Lykes, this is a legitimate tournament team. Unfortunately, they never were able to put a full roster on the court and their potential was limited because of that. They still have plenty of talent though and were very competitive against some good teams all year long.
Pittsburgh has been up and down all year. Recently, they have seen the departures of some of their best players, including Xavier Johnson. It seems like the Panthers are falling apart at the seams as Jeff Capel may be on his way out. Justin Champagnie is still a monster and can win ACC Player of the Year. He will do just enough to get Pittsburgh over the hump in this game.
#10 Duke Blue Devils vs #15 Boston College Eagles
Boston College never was able to take the next step under Jim Christian. Ultimately, that led to him being fired midway through this season. Somehow, the Eagles almost beat Villanova to start the year and looked really tough. They have played a million close games this year but come out on the wrong side of every single one of them, including the last time they played Duke. Additionally, Wynston Tabbs recently left the program.
Duke has squandered every opportunity they had to make the NCAA Tournament after securing a huge win over Virginia. They have now lost 11 games, nine of which have been by seven points or less. They have no idea how to win close games and it has been their downfall. Duke has as much talent as any team in the ACC, but they have found ways to lose as opposed to ways to win. They sneak this game out again by having more talent and knowing their only way into the tournament is to win five games.
#11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs #14 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest has struggled mightily all year and that will not change any time soon. They are in a transition period with Steve Forbes just starting to lay the foundation of his program. The future may be bright but the present is not.
Notre Dame has been up and down all year. They just secured a dominant win over Florida State and have shown to be really solid when making shots. This is a team a lot of people are counting on being tough next year. The Fighting Irish are just better and more experienced than Wake Forest and they get this win.
Round Two – Friday, March 10th
#8 Syracuse Orange vs #9 North Carolina State Wolfpack
North Carolina State enters this game having won five straight, including one over Virginia. They have already played Syracuse twice and lost both of those meetings. While they are talented, they just do not have the type of team to beat the Orange zone. This was a bit of a down year for the Wolfpack.
Of course, it is hard to beat any team three times in a year. However, Syracuse is just better than the Wolfpack. We also know that they love to be on the bubble and that is exactly where they are. Syracuse needs this one so they can get to play Virginia and try to elevate their resume. Luckily, they’ve been playing great. Buddy Boeheim is taking over and Kadary Richmond has taken a lot of minutes at point guard which has correlated to wins.
#5 Clemson Tigers vs #12 Pittsburgh Panthers
Clemson has played really well in February. They went 5-0 with wins over Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina. They did drop a game to Syracuse in March but responded with a dominant win over Pittsburgh. This game would be a rematch against the Panthers who had no answer for the stingy Tigers defense.
Aamir Simms and crew just have way too much for the Panthers. The defense will frustrate Pittsburgh and Clemson moves on.
#7 Louisville Cardinals vs #10 Duke Blue Devils
Louisville has been up and down all year. They have some really good wins on their resume but they also have some 40-point losses. Carlik Jones is staking his claim to ACC Player of the Year and this tournament will go a long way in proving that.
The Cardinals have already beaten Duke twice this year by a combined 12 points. In both games, Matthew Hurt has dominated the Cardinals but the end result is all that matters. Louisville’s guards have crushed Duke in recent years and that will decide this matchup. Duke gets one bounce to go their way and sneaks this game out because they need it more.
#6 North Carolina Tar Heels vs #11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
North Carolina goes as their guards go. Everyone on Earth knows that the Tar Heels want to dominate the paint and control the boards. They do that often, but if their guards turn it over constantly, that does not matter. With young guards, literally, anything can happen in March.
This game will be closer than people think. Notre Dame can flat-out shoot it and they are very experienced. North Carolina gives up a lot of threes and if the Irish are hot, this one can be a struggle. North Carolina has a big second half to survive this game but they get all they can handle.
Quarterfinals- Thursday, March 11th
#1 Virginia Cavaliers vs #8 Syracuse Orange
Virginia somehow sneaks into the ACC regular-season championship after getting some help. Sam Hauser has been red hot of late and that has led to the good version of Virginia. As always though, they go as Kihei Clark goes. If you want to beat Virginia, you have to make him a scorer.
This will be the second meeting of the year for Virginia and Syracuse as the Cavaliers won the first one in dominant fashion. Virginia is built to destroy the Syracuse zone and make it impossible for them to score on the other end. Syracuse will be playing desperately as they will need this one to feel good about their tournament chances. Virginia is just too tough to beat and they win this one going away.
#4 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs #5 Clemson Tigers
Give Georgia Tech and Josh Pastner all the credit in the world. The Yellow Jackets finished the year with six straight wins including wins over Syracuse, Duke, and Virginia Tech. They have gotten monster performances from Player of the Year candidate Moses Wright.
Clemson is a tough matchup for the Yellow Jackets. Both teams are very experienced and play extremely hard. Both teams are also on a roll and coming into this game red hot. Georgia Tech is just a little bit more talented and they win this rubber match on the shoulders of Jose Alvarado.
#2 Florida State Seminoles vs #10 Duke Blue Devils
Florida State is kicking itself from giving away the ACC regular-season crown with a loss against Notre Dame on the last night of the season. They are still incredibly deep and talented led by freshman sensation Scottie Barnes.
Duke and Florida State have not played this season since the game was canceled for COVID-19 concerns. However, this is not a good matchup for Duke. The length and athleticism of the guards for the Seminoles is the difference and they roll the Blue Devils ending their tournament hopes. Florida State uses this game to get back on track as they head towards March Madness.
#3 Virginia Tech Hokies vs #6 North Carolina Tar Heels
Virginia Tech may be the most surprising double-bye team in the ACC. They were projected to finish towards the bottom of the conference but Mike Young has worked wonders. Unfortunately, this will be their first game since February 27th. That could be concerning, especially against a talented Tar Heels team.
Virginia Tech has really tough guards that will cause big-time problems for the guards of North Carolina. Although the Tar Heels dominate the paint, the Hokies sneak this game out by forcing a ton of turnovers.
Semifinals- Friday, March 12th
#1 Virginia Cavaliers vs #4 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Yellow Jackets had Virginia beat one month ago but they gave the game away in the last ten minutes when they went ice cold. This has battle written all over it. It should be a really low-scoring, slow-paced game that is won by the team that makes the least number of mistakes.
The Cavaliers are the first to 50 points and win this game by a few. Sam Hauser is going to have to have his A-game and the ‘Hoos have to knock down shots.
#2 Florida State Seminoles vs #3 Virginia Tech Hokies
The Seminoles are just deeper and more talented than the Hokies but that is not always enough. Keve Aluma is going to give the Seminoles all they can handle but it will not be enough.
Florida State was embarrassed in the second half against North Carolina and looked awful against Notre Dame to end the season. That bodes well for Leonard Hamilton who will get the best out of his guys when it matters most. Florida State always makes a run when it matters and that run begins in the ACC tournament. They are championship bound.
Finals- Saturday, March 13th
#1 Virginia Cavaliers vs #2 Florida State Seminoles
Yes, these are the one and two seeds in the ACC. However, the tournament is really a coin flip. These two teams have been the most consistent in a season that has lacked consistency.
This is a rematch from February 15th where the Seminoles hammered the Cavaliers in Tallahassee by 21 points. While it is no secret that Florida State is infinitely better in Florida than anywhere else, their talent cannot be overestimated. The most important matchup in this game will be Sam Hauser vs MJ Walker. While those two will not guard each other, they will be the steady presence their team needs to cut down the nets.
Walker, Barnes, and the crew are going to be too long for Virginia. The Seminoles win the ACC tournament and enter March Madness as a number three seed.
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