The clock is ticking down on the 2018 ACC Regular Season, and Bracketologists are now making oh-so-awesome appearances during basketball games. Last week, I began a regular feature that allows us to take a breath, absorb the results, and take a hard look at where we are going forward. Now, with another week of results and the NCAA’s first Top 16 out there, it’s time for another look.
Thanks to both how Carolina has played the last two weeks and results around them, these projections are a lot sunnier than just about any of us thought they were going to be.
Well, some of us thought things were better than others, but I digress.
Let’s look at the standings after games yesterday.
ACC Standings after 2/18
Amazingly, even last place isn’t sealed yet, as Wake and Pitt face off on Wednesday. A Wake win seals the bottom spot for the Panthers, a Pitt win means they could win out...oh...they still play Virginia? Never mind, Pitt’s locked up that bottom seed.
As stated multiple times, the goal for Carolina going to Brooklyn should be the double-bye, aka a fourth seed or above. Last week, we saw that Carolina controlled that double bye by just winning out, but it would be the fourth seed. How has this changed?
First off, Carolina is mathematically eliminated from the one seed. Even if UVA were to lose out, they’d only finish in a tie with Carolina and they have the tiebreaker. Yes, it is possible that Carolina could finish in a four-way tie with UVA, Clemson, and Duke, or some combination thereof, but the Hoos have beaten all of those teams and don’t play any of them again. Carolina shares a regular season title, but they don’t get the 1.
Now you move to the two seed. Carolina is now in full control of this spot thanks to Duke’s two wins this week. So...thanks?
First off, the win Duke had against Virginia Tech added a loss to the Hokies, which drops them from the discussion if the Heels win out from here. So, the “easiest” scenario is if Clemson, Duke, and Carolina all win out except, of course, Carolina winning the rematch in Durham. All three finish year with a record of 13-5, and tie for second. What to do?
You unleash the MINI CONFERENCE!
The ACC will break the three teams out and seed them by how they played each other, with winning percentage being the best. In this case, Carolina would be 3-1, Duke would be 1-2, and Clemson would be 1-2. Carolina gets the two, and Duke gets the three with their head-to-head win over the Tigers.
The other possibilities with Carolina winning out includes one or the other team taking another loss along the way and making it to where Carolina only ties with one. Obviously, they get the head-to-head with Duke if it’s just them. A tie with Clemson forces a different tie breaker: starting at the top of the conference and going through each team until one team has done better than the other. So, in this scenario, both teams have the loss to UVA, and then you have Duke, which Carolina would be 2-0 and Clemson would be 0-1. Again, Carolina is your two seed.
The short of it is that Carolina is in full control of the two, as is Duke. If both win out till the end of the season, then the game in Durham on March 3 is winner-take-all. There may be a scenario where Carolina loses a tiebreaker to Clemson, but even then they’d get the three seed, and thus still have the double bye.
Now, what if Carolina loses one along the way?
The problem is that with the conference so tightly bunched, it’s tough to say. One loss gets them to final record of 12-6, and right now there are three other teams with 6 losses: Virginia Tech, Louisville, and NC State. So, let’s look at their schedules.
Virginia Tech: vs.Clemson, vs.Louisville, vs.Duke, @Miami
Louisville: @Duke, @Virginia Tech, vs.UVa, @NC State
NC State: vs.BC, vs.FSU, @GT, vs.Louisville
So, all three can’t win out, but it’s possible two of the three will, Virginia Tech and NC State. In this case, Duke still gets the 2 seed because they’d be one game ahead of Carolina with the win (either Carolina has another loss and still beats the Devils or they win out until they play in Durham, either way Duke would have a game up on Carolina). In this process, Clemson dropped a game to the Hokies, so you are left with a FOUR team tie for third with Clemson, Carolina, Virginia Tech, and NC State. Mini-conference time:
Clemson: 2-3 (1-1 versus State and Carolina each, loss to VT), Virginia Tech: 3-0 (would have swept all), NC State: 2-3 (1-1 versus Clemson and Carolina, lost to VT), Carolina: 2-3 (1-1 against both Clemson and State, lost to VT).
So, VT gets the three seed. The problem then becomes that Clemson, State, and Carolina would all be 2-2 against each other. Then what? Well, you go down the conference to compare records until you can break the tie, by winning percentage. All three will have lost against UVa, then we hit Duke, and that’s the tiebreaker. If Carolina drops one before Durham and then wins the rematch, they’ll have two wins over the Devils to NC State’s one and Clemson’s none, giving them the four seed. If Carolina’s loss is Duke, then State gets the four thanks to their one win, Carolina at 1-1 gets the five, and either way Clemson gets six.
The easiest scenario for Carolina should they drop one is hope that Louisville wins out. If that happens, they’ll add a loss to both Virginia Tech and State, and simply finish in a tie with the Cards. Assuming Clemson doesn’t drop another, it creates a tie for fourth, which Carolina gets based on the win Saturday. If Clemson were to drop one more, the tiebreaker is for third, giving Carolina the three seed.
For Carolina’s sake, the best thing obviously is to win, but also to root for Louisville. I cannot stress how big that win was for Carolina Saturday night, because as you can see they figure into how a lot of the seeds below them will play out.
Next Sunday Carolina will have one more game under their belt, and the rest of the teams they are worried about will have two except for State and FSU. The seeding scenarios will be even clearer, but the big takeaway is this: Carolina controls the two seed, and a loss isn’t necessarily a death blow to the double bye.
They also could tank and still fall. 10-8 probably won’t cause them to go all the way to Tuesday, but they do not have the double bye sewn up by any means.
NCAA Tournament Seeding
Last week, Carolina was told by the NCAA Selection committee where they stood:
As an aside, how silly is that tag line? I get you are supposed to create excitement, but...no, the Sweet 16 is not going to look like that.
Anyway, if Carolina’s path to an ACC double-bye is easy to explain, then their path to Charlotte is almost as easy to explain: win out. If they do, they’ll finish clear ahead of Clemson and Duke and get that other spot with Virginia in Charlotte. What’s remarkable is that as of last Sunday, I’m not sure where they’d start the tournament.
To understand, you have to know where the first weekend sites are. Besides Charlotte, there’s Nashville, Pittsburgh, Wichita, Dallas, Boise, Detroit, and San Diego. Based on those seeds, Virginia and Duke get Charlotte, Auburn and Clemson get Nashville, Nova and Xavier get Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati and Michigan State would get Detroit. In fact, unless Xavier or Villanova completely tank, you can probably go ahead and cross off Pittsburgh as an option, as they will get first dibs there. Some projections would have Carolina starting out in Wichita, so clearly some work is left to be done.
Now, since then, things have changed. There were eleven teams seeded ahead of Carolina last weekend, and seven took a loss. Villanova, Xavier, Purdue, Cincinnati, Auburn, Texas Tech, and Clemson all went down in defeat in the past eight days. During that span, Carolina added two big wins to their resume, including a Q1 road win at Louisville.
If you’ve read this far and did the math, you’ve likely come to the same conclusion: not only can the team get up to a two seed if they win out, but a one seed is absolutely on the table. All you have to do is play it out and look at their resume. You can scroll down to last week to see the explanation of these quadrants, but let’s see where they stand right now:
RPI: 4th, BPI 7th, Kenpom 7th, Sagarin 8th, Q1: 8-5, Q2: 4-1, Q3: 6-1, Q4: 3-0. BPI SOS 1
Now, Carolina has three games left: at Syracuse, hosting Miami, at Duke. At this moment that is two Q1 games and a Q2 game. Win there, Q1 is 10-5 and Q2 is 5-1, and you get to the ACC Tournament as a two seed. Your first game is at worst a Q2 game, then two more Q1 games. By winning the title, you go into Selection Sunday finishing second in the ACC, the Tournament champs, 12-5 Q1 record and 6-1 Q2. If Kansas, currently owners of a Q3 lost, can be considered a 1 seed right now, why can't Carolina?
The funny thing is, to guarantee that they play in Charlotte, they almost have to go on this path. Clemson has done what Carolina needed them to do to make it easier, but the other part of this is Duke. Duke has enough of a resume that to have an argument for a higher seed, and thus a spot in Charlotte, Carolina has to finish ahead of them. A season sweep would be a minimum requirement if they stumble in the ACC Tournament. Clemson’s bad week likely slots Carolina into Nashville right now.
I should also note here that if you bought tickets to the Atlanta regional, you might as well sell them now. UVa is about as locked into that spot as you can be, and one of the rules of the bracket is that teams from the same conference are not bracketed together on the top 16 line. Right now Carolina likely is where Clemson was slotted last weekend, the three in the midwest, as Duke is still going to be ahead of them in the pecking order. Book this, though: if Carolina plays in Charlotte, their path will either be as the two seed in the East or the one seed out west. Playing in Charlotte means that Carolina finished ahead of Duke, and will be seeded higher than the Devils, and the committee has already told us that spot goes to Boston, while the midwest’s one seed will likely go to Kansas, Xavier, or Michigan State if they can win out.
Bottom line for the NCAA’s: like in the ACC, keep winning and let the rest of the teams take care of themselves. Easier said than done.
On Sunday we’ll check back in and see how things have changed again, and then we’ll do one last check in of the ACC Standings on the Friday before the Duke game. By then the exact scenarios will be known for where Carolina can end up. Before the ACC Tournament starts, we’ll look at what Carolina likely needs for the NCAA’s.
Three weeks to go and there’s still a lot up in the air.