Championship Week is here. The ACC tournament tips off on Tuesday. For the second straight season, the usually mighty conference has been very disappointing. Heading into the conference tournament there are only three schools that I consider a lock for the big dance. There are four other teams that are on the bubble. That should make things really interesting this week in Brooklyn.
2021-22 ACC Tournament Predictions
First Round – Tuesday, March 8th
#12 Boston College Eagles Vs. #13 Pittsburgh Panthers
These teams have both been bottom dwellers all season. The Earl Grant era has not started off well at BC. The eagles are 13th in the ACC in scoring average and are the worst three-point shooting team. At least they are in the top half in rebounds.
When Jeff Capel was hired at Pitt in 2018 there was hope that he could return the program to how they were under Jamie Dixon. That has not even come close to happening, and this is his worst season yet. The Panthers are the worst offensive team in the conference. I’ll go with Pitt in a close one though because of John Hugley.
#11 Louisville Cardinals Vs. #14 Georgia Tech Yellowjackets
Georgia Tech had an impressive year last season. But then Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado left for the NBA and Josh Pastner’s team has regressed big-time. They are good at defending the perimeter, but that is really the only thing they do particularly well.
Since parting ways with Chris Mack in late January, Louisville has lost nine of ten games. The last three were not even particularly close. They were an even .500 in conference play before that but would up 6-14 and in eleventh place. JUCO transfer El Ellis has not lived up to the hype this season. Senior Malik Williams has played well though. But I’ll go with Michael Devoe and the Yellowjackets in an upset.
#10 Clemson Tigers Vs. #15 North Carolina State Wolfpack
This season has been a disaster for the Wolfpack. They lost their star forward Manny Bates just one minute into the season opener. That’s rough for anyone. This team has some solid offensive talent at the top of the roster with Dereon Seabron, Terquavion Smith, and Jericole Hellems all averaging over 13 points per game. But that is about it. In addition to that, the Wolfpack are abysmal on defense. They are 321st in the country in points against per game and 342nd in defensive rating. That is out of 358 teams.
Clemson is right in the middle of the pack in the conference in most categories. They have regressed this season after making the NCAA Tournament last season. On the bright side though PJ Hall has made massive improvements in his sophomore season. There is more talent on this team than their record suggests. Brad Brownell’s squad comes into this game riding a five-game winning streak. Make that six with an easy victory over NC State.
Second Round – Wednesday, March 9th
#8 Syracuse Orange Vs. #9 Florida State Seminoles
To put it bluntly, this is the worst Syracuse team in over 50 years. The last time they finished with a record under .500 was the 1968-1969 season. They are not good at all defensively. Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone just is not working anymore. At least they can score though. The Orange have five players averaging double figures. They have plenty of height and length. If only they could play defense.
Florida State has enjoyed high levels of success in the last five seasons. I contend that the Seminoles would have made it to the Final Four in 2020 if the tournament hadn’t been canceled. But this season has been different. They don’t have the big guys that Leonard Hamilton loves. This team still should’ve been better than they have been though. Neither team is good defensively, and Syracuse has the better offense. But I’ll go with the ‘Noles in an upset.
#5 Wake Forest Demon Deacons Vs. #12 Pittsburgh Panthers
Wake Forest has made massive massive improvements in Steve Forbes’ second year as head coach. Forbes just won ACC Coach Of The Year and Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams won ACC Player Of The Year. The Demon Deacons are one of the best and most efficient offenses in the country. In addition to Williams, another transfer, former Indiana State Sycamore Jake Laravia, has played well and so has Davien Williamson, who followed Forbes to Winston-Salem from East Tennessee State.
However, this team is still on the bubble, but easily on the comfortable side. As long as they don’t suffer what would be an awful loss to Pitt, they’ll be fine. They will cruise past the Panthers.
#7 Virginia Tech Hokies Vs. #10 Clemson Tigers
As I wrote two months ago, Virginia Tech has been one of the biggest disappointments in college basketball for me this season. They have turned things around a little since then, but not quite enough. They were my third team out of the tournament yesterday. They have to win this game. The Hokies will go as far as Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts take them. If the team plays consistently this could be a big week for them in Brooklyn.
I think this will be a good game. Clemson just beat Virginia Tech by four on Saturday. But the Hokies will get their revenge and move on.
#6 Virginia Cavaliers Vs. #14 Georgia Tech Yellowjackets
As usual, Virginia is really good defensively. They are 10th in points against per game. The problem is that they can’t score. The Cavaliers are 334th in the nation in points per game. ECU transfer Jayden Gardner is the only one that they can consistently count on to score. But despite that Tony Bennett will have the squad ready to perform like he usually does.
With Wake’s middling defense, I think UVA will be able to find ways to score enough to win this game and move on to the quarterfinals. They are on the bubble so they will need this win.
Quarterfinals – Thursday, March 10th
#1 Duke Blue Devils Vs. #8 Florida State Seminoles
Duke is going to come into this came angry. Fresh off a loss to arch-rival UNC in Coach K’s last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils are going to be looking to take that anger out on someone. They are already the best offense in the ACC and top 10 in the country in points per game. Five players average double figures. They are also the second-best rebounding team in the ACC.
Their big men will dominate, something rare against Florida State, and win this game.
#4 Miami Hurricanes Vs. #5 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Miami, like Wake Forest, has been a pleasant surprise this season. Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong have both really impressed. DePaul transfer Charlie Moore and George Mason transfer Jordan Miller have made big impacts too. Miami has a win over Duke at Cameron, as well as wins against UNC and North Texas. They also already beat Wake Forest twice in the regular season, but we know how hard it is to beat the same time three times in the same season.
The key in this game is going to be rebounding. Wake Forest is third in the ACC in rebounding average and Miami is dead last. The Deacs will outrebound the Canes in what should be quite a good game and move on to the semifinals.
#2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Vs. #7 Virginia Tech Hokies
Notre Dame is a team that confuses me. They went 15-5 in conference play, but really only have wins over UNC and Miami. But then they do have the big win against Kentucky from December. Most bracketologists view them more favorably than I do, so we will have to see how this tournament goes. They are still a bubble team either way. The guard play of freshman Blake Wesley and senior Dane Goodwin has been good all season.
Both of these teams have a lot riding on this game. Virginia Tech is trying to get into the NCAA tournament, while Notre Dame is trying to keep themselves on the right side of the bubble. The stellar scoring defense of the Hokies is going to make a difference in this game.
#3 North Carolina Tar Heels Vs. #6 Virginia Cavaliers
North Carolina comes into this came on the (tar) heels of a huge win over Duke, spoiling Coach K’s celebration. After suffering a bad loss to Pitt in mid-February, the Heels have won five straight games. Armando Bacot has been excellent all season and was barely beaten out for ACC POTY. UNC’s problem is their depth, something they are really lacking. The loss of Dawson Garcia has really hurt that depth. But the starters are playing really well.
The Tar Heels are scoring a lot. It should not take too much to outscore Virginia. UVA’s defense will keep them in this one, but UNC will pull away in the end.
Semifinals – Friday, March 11th
#1 Duke Blue Devils Vs. #5 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The more research I do on Wake Forest and the more I look at them, the more I like them. Because of that, it is extremely tempting to pick them in this game. They are much more experienced than Duke is, and they can catch fire in the tournament and win the whole thing. Both teams have solid depth, but the Blue Devils’ depth is just better. Plus they have the decades of experience that Mike Krzyzewski possesses. Duke wins a close one in overtime. This should be a great game.
#3 North Carolina Tar Heels Vs. #7 Virginia Tech Hokies
Carolina swept both matchups with VT during the regular season. Caleb Love scored 20+ points. He will be the key in this one too. A win in this game could probably get the Hokies into the NCAA Tournament. The problem is that I think UNC is just too good. They may not have the depth, but they have the talent. The Heels win in a good, close game.
Finals – Saturday, March 12th
#1 Duke Blue Devils Vs. #3 North Carolina Tar Heels
This is the rematch that most people probably want to see in the title game. Especially the Duke fans who want revenge after last weekend’s heartbreak. They split the season series and both of these teams come into this one highly motivated. UNC is trying to improve their seeding, and Duke is trying to remain a 2 seed.
This game really all depends on Armando Bacot. In both regular season games against the Blue Devils, the Tar Heels were clearly so much better with Bacot on the court than without him. If Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams can contain him, they will win this game. Wendell Moore Jr.‘s experience should help them as well. But look out for Carolina guard Caleb Love.
In the end, I think Duke comes out on top, with Coach K winning his 16th ACC Tournament championship. Another great chapter in this historic rivalry.
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