2021 ACC Tournament Predictions and Betting Odds
It has been an ugly season of basketball in the ACC this season. The league, one of the true powerhouses in college basketball over the past 40 years, is currently ranked as the No. 4 conference in the sport. And I think that’s generous. This has been a sloppy, disjointed season, and the ACC has seemingly endured one embarrassment after another dating back to the start of nonconference play.
The ACC has been hit hard by the coronavirus this winter. The result has been one of the most unbalanced regular seasons of any league in the country. To wit, No. 3 seed Virginia Tech has played just 13 conference games this season against the league’s No. 15 rated strength of schedule. They have played just four times since January. No. 10 seed Notre Dame, on the other hand, has played 18 regular season games against the sixth-toughest league slate.
It’s been a mess in the ACC this year. And it will culminate this week with the ACC Tournament. The league championship tips off Tuesday at the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina, with a champion crowned Saturday night. Here is Doc’s Sports 2021 ACC Tournament preview and predictions:
The Favorite: Florida State (+210)
The Seminoles slipped down the stretch, losing two of their last three regular season games. That cost them another regular season title. However, the oddsmakers – and anyone that’s followed the league this year – know that Florida State is the most talented squad in this conference. They do have to navigate the most difficult half of the bracket, though, with Duke, Louisville, Virginia Tech and North Carolina all potential opponents. Outside shooting and defense have been issues recently. Florida State has allowed four of its last five opponents to score at least 70 points, and they gave up 83 in a loss to Notre Dame Saturday. Florida State has been fouling way, way too much. Both UNC and ND took more than 30 free throws in recent FSU losses. And if you kick out the Boston College game, the Seminoles are just 24-for-80 (30 percent) from 3-point range since Feb. 16.
The Contender: Virginia (+330)
Virginia locked up the regular season title with one of its best efforts in two months, beating Louisville 68-58 on the road on Saturday. The Cavaliers suffered a recent three-game losing streak and they don’t have a single Top 30 win on their resume this year. Virginia is always tricky. They play tough defense and win with execution. But this team really isn’t that good and lacks a single NBA-caliber talent on its roster. The best thing working in the Cavs’ favor is a cushy path to the finals. They’ve gone 2-1 against potential quarterfinal opponents Syracuse and N.C. State and 3-0 against semifinal opponents Georgia Tech and Clemson. This team may be a lock for the final, but I will be surprised if they cut down the nets.
The Sleeper: Clemson (+1200)
The Tigers have rebounded from a tough late January stretch to win six of their last seven games heading into the tournament. That five-game period, in which they lost four times by at least 19 points, was pretty ugly. However, when the Tigers are right – as they appear to be now – they are one of the few teams from this league to prove that they can beat anyone in the country. They have nonconference wins over Purdue and Alabama and they were one of the only schools to beat Florida State in league play. There are two keys for the Tigers. The first is keeping Aamir Simms out of foul trouble. The second is making shots. Clemson is No. 307 in scoring and No. 246 in field goal shooting. Their Top 10 defense can carry them. But to knock off Georgia Tech and Virginia, they will need to make shots.
The Spoiler: Notre Dame (+6000)
Let’s be clear: Notre Dame stinks. They are 10-14 on the season and the Irish have been blown out by 10 or more points a bunch of times. That said, the Irish have a path to do some damage in this tournament. They take on dumpster fire Wake Forest in their first game and then get a shaky North Carolina squad in the second round. The Irish lost only 66-65 in Chapel Hill this season and actually match up OK on the inside with the Tar Heels. An upset there would have the Irish face a Virginia Tech team that hasn’t played yet in March, has just one win (over Wake, so it almost shouldn’t count) since Feb. 7, and has just one win over a team with a winning record since Christmas. If Cormac Ryan gets hot and if Prentiss Hubb can do anything right, then the Irish could bust the bottom of this bracket.
Bubble Team To Watch: Syracuse (+5000)
Syracuse still has a chance to play its way into The Big Dance. Recent wins over North Carolina and Clemson gave their resume a big boost. If they beat N.C. State in their second-round game on Wednesday, they would face off with Virginia in a matchup where a win would essentially punch their ticket into the NCAA Tournament. A loss there and SU will be sweating out Selection Sunday. The thing is, Syracuse really isn’t a tournament-caliber team, and almost nothing that they’ve done this season would suggest otherwise. Their starting guards – Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard – have been garbage, and it took Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim two months to realize that freshmen point guard Kadary Richmond and center Jesse Edwards should be getting more minutes. It might be too little too late for the Orange.
Potential Early Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 7 Louisville (-4) vs. No. 10 Duke (6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 10)
Duke isn’t going to the NCAA Tournament. Get over it, people. The Blue Devils are not a bubble team at all as they enter this tournament and they have virtually no chance to play their way into the NCAA Tournament field, barring winning four games in four days and making a run to the Finals. It’s not going to happen. But that doesn’t mean that this tilt with Louisville won’t be pretty damn entertaining. The Cardinals won both regular season meetings. Both were great games, with Louisville winning by five points at home on Jan. 23 and in overtime in Cameron Indoor on Feb. 27. It’s tough to beat the same team three times in a season. It’s really tough to beat a team playing with nothing to lose and with its season on the line for a third time in a season.
2021 ACC Conference Tournament Predictions: The ACC Tournament is set up to give the top seeds a significant advantage, with the top four seeds getting double-byes. Even with that edge, I still have a hard time seeing this tournament going at all according to plan. The unbalanced schedules have really skewed the balance in this league, with teams like North Carolina and Duke with worse seeds than teams like Virginia Tech and N.C. State, respectively, whom the Heels and Devils are clearly better than. The potential for upsets in the first two rounds of this tournament is pretty massive, and I think that this will be one of the stranger of the major conference tournaments. But when all is said and done, I will be surprised if Florida State isn’t cutting down the nets. They have the size, the experience and, most importantly, the depth to string together three wins in three days. They have also proven throughout this year and they can wail on even the alleged “top” teams in the conference. Look for the Seminoles to win on Saturday and claim the crowd in this ramshackle conference.
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 has posted 12 of 14 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and you can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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