The ACC is invading NYC this week, with the men's ACC Conference basketball tournament taking place in Brooklyn this weekend. The ACC's 15-team Franken-tournament is the largest of the major conference tournaments and will have long-reaching ramifications not just in regards of crowning a league champion but also for setting up next week's NCAA Tournament field.
Right now the ACC looks set with at least eight teams in the NCAA Tournament field, with Syracuse and Miami - who happen to be second-round opponents - pulling up the rear. But Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are both fighting for an at-large bid into next week's field as well. A lot of eyes across the country will be fixed on this tournament not just in regards to bids. But how the ACC shakes out should have serious implications for seeding in next week's Big Dance.
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The ACC begins Tuesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The opening round starts Tuesday and ends with the league crowning a champion on Saturday night. Here is Doc's Sports 2017 ACC Tournament preview and predictions:
The Favorite: North Carolina (+150)
I will admit that I didn't think that North Carolina would be as dominant as it has been this season. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson were legit college stars. But UNC has simply shrugged off their losses from last year's team and continued to steamroll all in their path. The Heels aren't unbeatable. They lost at Miami, at Duke and at Virginia in the past month . But they outscored opponents by an average of nearly 10 points a game in league play and have played in the ACC Tournament finals each of the last two seasons. Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have played in and won an absurd amount of big games in their careers, and that veteran core will be tough to topple.
The Contender: Louisville (+350)
The Cardinals are the No. 4 seed in this tournament and have a potential quarterfinal matchup with Duke before a potential semifinal date with top-seeded North Carolina. So the Cardinals could have to beat two powerhouses just for the opportunity to win in the finals against whoever survives the bottom of the bracket. But I think that the Cardinals are the best equipped to take down North Carolina because of their size. Louisville is one of the few teams with a frontcourt and defense to match UNC. And the backcourt duo of Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider are both capable of taking over a game. If the Cardinals make their threes this weekend then they will be tough to stop.
The Sleeper: Florida State (+800)
The Seminoles are the No. 2 seed and a Top 15 team. So it is hard to call them a "sleeper". But they actually have the fifth-best odds to win this weekend's tournament. The Seminoles have tapered off down the stretch, losing three of their last six games . However, the schedule did them few favors, with all three of those losses coming during a four-road-trips-in-five-games, two-week stretch. FSU has three potential pros with Dwayne Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jonathan Isaac. They have plenty of heft in the post, and Leonard Hamilton has plenty of experience winning in the ACC tourney. The issue is youth. They start two freshmen and two sophomores, and these guys have something to prove.
The Spoiler: Virginia (+550)
What Virginia team is going to show up in Brooklyn? They lost four straight games between Feb. 12 and Feb. 20. But they've rebounded with three wins since then, including a dominating effort in a 10-point win over North Carolina. Virginia's calling card is its dominating half-court defense. The Cavs have held Villanova, Duke, North Carolina and Louisville all below 65 points in the past five weeks. But can the Cavs erratic offense score enough for Virginia to win four straight games? London Perrantes is the straw that stirs the drink for this team. But I think the X-factor for this team is freshman shooter Kyle Guy. He is instant offense off the bench and he needs minutes; Virginia is 4-0 in games in which Guy has played at least 25 minutes, including winning two of the last three games.
Bubble Team To Watch: Syracuse (+2500)
I really don't think that the Orange should be considered a bubble team at this point. They are comfortably in the field after demolishing Georgia Tech last Saturday. But now we will see if the Orange can conjure up one of their patented surprise conference tournament runs. Syracuse was always a force to reckon with in the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. But they've yet to even win an ACC Tournament game. Will playing close to NYC, an Orange stronghold, inspire them this week? The Orange have a brutal draw, taking on Miami with UNC waiting in the wings. But we've seen Jimmy Boeheim pull off plenty of March upsets and he could have another trick up his sleeve.
Potential Early Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 7 Virginia Tech (-2) vs. No. 10 Wake Forest (7 p.m., Wednesday, March 8)
Wake Forest will have to beat Boston College to set this game up. But if it happens then this game could determine which of these teams goes to The Big Dance and which one is headed to the NIT. This one would also be a rematch of one of last weekend's best games, with Wake Forest winning 89-84 in a back-and-forth affair in Blacksburg. Both teams have inconsistent defenses. And the winner of this one will be the team that can bear down and get stops. Virginia Tech is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games overall while Wake is 3-1 ATS in its last four. But Wake Forest has had a lot of problems sustaining success. They are just 8-17 ATS in their last 25 games after a win and just 9-23 ATS in their last 32 games after covering a spread.
2016 ACC Conference Tournament Predictions: This tournament really is a crapshoot. There are so many teams that could potentially cut down the nets that it is kind of a fool's errand to try to predict it. The bracket appears pretty lopsided as well. North Carolina or Louisville is most likely to come through out of the top, with the Cardinals getting tested by Duke in the quarterfinals. But the bottom half of the bracket is anyone's game, with FSU, Notre Dame and Virginia all capable of winning this tournament and then motivated sleepers Wake Forest and Virginia Tech desperate to make some noise. I like Florida State or Notre Dame to hold form and make the finals out of the bottom. But I think that the winner of the UNC-Louisville semifinal will ultimately take home the title this week.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and he is on an unbelievable run right now, more than doubling his clients' bankrolls in the last six weeks while earning $11,800 in profit! Robert has banked 10 straight winning college basketball regular seasons and his $100-per-Unit bettors have taken home over $40,000 in winnings so far this decade. There is no better moneymaker in the nation and Robert is looking forward to another amazing March Madness. Click here to get two days of college basketball picks for free - no hassle and no credit card needed.
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