First things first, shoutout to Miami for ruining UNC’s senior night (I didn’t see a walk, what you talkin’ bout). Secondly, Duke and UNC losing has more widely opened the slightly ajar door NC State had wedged their foot in to make getting a top 3 seed in the ACC tournament a reality. Coach Keatts, would you mind kicking that door down?
Significance 1: The top 4 teams in the ACC get that coveted “double bye”, and start the conference tournament in the quarterfinals. Cue all the old school fans saying, “that’s what the ACC tournament is supposed to look like!”. I’m with you, chief, but the ship has sailed on a tournament with 8 teams (or 9 with a play-in). Playing a conference championship game on a Sunday just don’t feel right but that’s where we are.
Significance 2: NC State is in the drivers seat to secure its first top 3 finish (potentially tied for 2nd) in the conference since hits from Outkast’s last album (sad) and Kanye’s first album were on the radio. Julius Hodge may have been hungry, but 2004 was a long time ago, and 14 years is a LONG time to go between such a high finish. There could be a freshman at State reading this who would be too young to have any memory of the last time the Pack finished so well in the standings. To say nothing of actually winning the conference, this would be a huge accomplishment for Kevin Keatts in his rookie season. I’m still one of those people who considers winning the ACC regular season “winning the conference”, and also, get off my lawn. Any team that can finish in the top 3 of the best conference in the country deserves respect (looking at you, Selection Committee). This has only happened 7 times since 1980. I used to be good at math, but I’m pretty sure 7 for 37 is a not good percentage.
Significance 3: Finishing in the top 4 of the conference should end all this silly bubble talk, and hopefully get the Pack out of the dreaded 7-10 seeding range. Kevins Keatts may be a winner, but being able to avoid a 1 or 2 seed in the second round of the NCAA tournament would be very nice, please and thank you.
SO, what needs to happen to make these significances a reality? Let’s get to prognosticatin’.
(For anyone unfamiliar, the ACC tie breaking rules can be found here. Yes, it’s weird that it’s a Syracuse news site, but it has the best explanation immediately available to a lazy google search)
12 is the Magic Number
If NC State wins its next two games and finishes with 12 ACC wins, it has the 3 seed, simple as that. If UNC beats Duke and Clemson wins out, all 4 teams would finish tied for 2nd. Seeds 2-5 would be: UNC, State, Clemson, Duke (misses double bye). Top seed is obviously Virginia, they have run away with the conference.
Just changing UNC losing to Duke in that scenario makes the Tarheels (at 11-7) drop to the 6th seed. Let’s make this happen. In this case, State would be tied for 3rd with Clemson and would win the tie breaker due to their records against Duke. Seeds 2-6 would be: Duke, State, Clemson, Miami, UNC.
11 might be snake eyes
If the Wolfpack finish 1-1 over the next two games, things get very dicey. The Pack could drop as low as 7th. This would require UNC beating Duke, Clemson to win at least 1, and Louisville (including a win over State AND UVA) and Miami winning out. Seeds 2-7 would be: UNC, Duke, Clemson, Miami, Louisville, State.
Conversely, if NC State loses to Georgia Tech but beats Lousville, then they could finish 4th with a Duke win over UNC. Seeds 2-5: Duke, Miami/VT, State, UNC. In this scenario, it’s crazy that Miami and VT are playing for either 3rd or 8th, no in between; their game carries a lot of weight for those two teams. If the Heels beat Duke, the Pack drops to 5th and just misses the double bye.
10 wins is still good, right?
Of surprise to no one, losing the last two games to finish 10-8 would be the worst case scenario for the Wolfpack. 10 wins would still be a very good season based on where they were picked in preseason, but NC State could fall as low as the 9 seed. This would be no bueno. There are multiple combinations of teams that could fill in the seeds above this spot so I won’t list them, plus it’s depressing to think about.
NC State can finish no better than tied for 6th in the standings, with an 8 seed in the conference tournament if it fails to win one of the final two games.
What did we learn?
Just win, baby, win. It was totes obvious what the conclusion was going to be, but just win and you control your own destiny. It also goes to show how strong parity in the ACC is that the last two games of the season will determine the standings for half the league. So don’t play the game of needing to rely on a certain combination of other games to shake out one way or another. The Wolfpack have never really made a habit of making things easy for themselves.
But then again, they also haven’t had a habit of doing many of the things they’ve done this season. Consecutive ACC road wins, avoiding traps after big wins, coming back from big deficits, 4-1 against Tobacco Road teams, the list goes on. Coach Keatts, I’d really like to see your team in person next weekend, so do your thing.