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What Remains in the Conference, Part II

And now the six teams still mathematically, if not realistically, in the hunt for the ACC title. Five of them have NCAA bids locked up, but which five depends on who you ask.

Maryland 20-7 (6-6)
Remaining schedule: Florida State, UNC, at Duke, NCSU

Maryland (22nd in RPI, 13th in Pomeroy) is only on the list of teams in the running for the conference champion because I'm too lazy to run all the scenarios to make sure - if it's possible, it would take a raft of collapses from the teams in front. How they do, of course, depends on which Terrapin team shows up. They're riding a three game winning streak, their longest of any kind since December. The team that manhandled Clemson should be able to bit FSU, State and even Duke. The team that dropped a game to Miami, well, couldn't.

Personally, I think the only game left they'll win is their home finale.

Duke 20-7 (7-6)
Remaining schedule: at Clemson, at St. John's, Maryland, at UNC

Ah Duke (13th in RPI, 9th in Pomeroy) the team of streaks. Lose 2, and the folks begin to panic. Win 5, and the stories are about how mighty the Blue Devils are. Lose another 4, and there's talk of missing the tournament. Win another 2, and where does that leave us?

Putting aside St. John's, which should be an easy out-of-conference victory, the slate is three teams who have two wins and one official apology on the Blue Devils. The key is the Clemson-Duke game. If the Tigers come out of their funk for a little revenge in Littlejohn, it could spell another 0.500 season like 1996.

The mathematical formulae really like the Blue Devils, huh? Does anyone really think they're the ninth best team in the country?

Virginia Tech 18-8 (8-4)
Remaining schedule: BC, Miami, at Virginia, Clemson

The Hokies (20th in RPI, 33rd Pomeroy) looked absolutely awful against State, but UNC fans are quite familiar with looking awful against the Wolfpack and know to discount that. They catch BC on the post-Carolina slump, which should allow them to avenge their earlier loss, leaving a rivaly game in the final week for striking distance of the conference championship. I've always been more confident in Tech than their state rivals this season, and don't see any reason for that to change now. Look for them to win out and nab that second seed.

Boston College 18-8 (9-4)
Remaining schedule: at Virginia Tech, Clemson, at Georgia Tech

The team that in the course of a week went of ACC leader to also-ran, due to one bout of poor defense and another of poor shooting. The Eagles (29th in RPI and Pomeroy) are ripe to be preyed on by the Hokies, and depending on which BC defense shows up, could fall to the Tigers as well. With only three games left, they were going to need a little help to take the conference crown anyway, but they won't manage that with only more win.

Virginia 18-7 (9-3)
Remaining schedule: at Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, at Wake

All of a sudden this Virginia team (34th in RPI, 42nd Pomeroy) is looking at a reasonable shot at a 13-win conference season. Was anyone thinking that at the start of the season? Certainly not me, and I held the team in more esteem than most.

The Cavaliers have the easiest road out of the conference. Miami, Wake and GT are all easily winnable games, leaving only the Hokies as a stumbling block. Unofrtunately, given their last meeting, they'll probably have to settle for twelve wins and third in the conference.

North Carolina 23-4 (9-3)
Remaining schedule: NCSU, at Maryland, at Georgia Tech, Duke

The team in the driver's seat, thanks to some help from the Wolfpack. The Heels (3rd in RPI, 1st Pomeroy. Woot!) have to make it past the same Wolfpack that stopped them last time - a feat pretty much everyone thinks will not repeat. That's followed by two tricky road games and the Duke rematch. Maryland on the road is the biggest question mark, since you never know which Terrapin team will show up, and a twice-humiliated Blue Devil team has gotten too familiar with winning in Chapel Hill. I don't feel Carolina can win four straight - they've been a little sluggish against some good teams lately - and they'll need them all to stave off a late Virginia Tech charge, but I have to believe they'll take the top seed in the conference tourney.