2020 ACC Tournament Predictions with Betting Odds
Since adding Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in 2013 in The Great Expansion, the ACC has averaged 7.3 teams in the NCAA Tournament over the last six years. Barring a major upset winner in the league tourney they will be lucky to get five teams in this year's Big Dance and this looks like the weakest ACC field in a decade.
That doesn't mean that the ACC is full of bad teams, though. The disparity between the bottom teams and the top teams is razor thin. And you only have to look at the game results to prove it. Regular season conference champion Florida State lost its first game of the season against a Pittsburgh team that is No. 13 in the 14-team ACC tournament field. Their first round opponent, No. 12 seed Wake Forest, also beat Duke. No. 2 seed Virginia and No. 3 seed Louisville also lost to bottom tier teams this season, falling to Boston College and Clemson, respectively.
Parity rules in the ACC. It isn't as stacked with talented teams as leagues like the Big Ten and the Big East. But that doesn't mean that there aren't as many as seven or eight teams in the conference capable of cutting down the nets this weekend.
The ACC Tournament begins Tuesday, March 10 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC with the league crowning a champion on Saturday night. Here is Doc's Sports 2020 ACC Tournament preview and predictions:
The Favorite: Florida State (+100)
The Seminoles clinched the first outright ACC regular season title in school history with a resounding win over Boston College on Saturday. Now they are the top seed and favorite to cut down the nets in Greensboro. There is no real secret to what Florida State throws at opponents. They are one of the deepest, largest and most physically gifted teams in college basketball. Relying on Leonard Hamilton's trademark defensive style, FSU can choke the life out of opponents on the defensive end while overwhelming them in the paint and on the offensive glass. This version of the Seminoles has been great about transitioning from defense to offense and the veteran backcourt of Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker gives them two steady hands on the wheel.
The Contender: Louisville (+390)
Despite their impressive statistical measurements, I can't help but feel like this Louisville team has been somewhat of a disappointment this year. At no point this year have the Cardinals looked like a dominant team, much less a true national title contender. They had one good nonconference win (over an exhausted Michigan team, at home) and one good ACC win (over Duke at Cameron Indoor). But beyond that, Louisville has some bad losses (Clemson and Georgia Tech), some nearly bad losses (Pitt and Tech again) and they enter the postseason just 3-4 in their last seven with their last true road win coming on Feb. 1. This is a senior-dominated team, and junior Jordan Nwora is playing his last college ball as well. But this team hasn't been as good as they were expected to be all season so I don't know why anyone would expect them to start now.
The Sleeper: Virginia (+200)
This team is gross. I know the defending national champions win because of their system. And maybe a different analyst would be talking about how amazing and impressive their 15-5 ACC regular season mark was in spite of their personnel losses from last year. But not me. This team plays ugly, terrible basketball for long stretches. It isn't that they are one of the five lowest scoring teams in the nation. That is an offshoot of their style. It's the fact that this team is so pathetic offensively. They are No. 304 in field goal percentage and No. 317 from 3-point range. They have won eight straight and 11 of 12 games entering the tournament. But an incredible eight of those wins have come by three points or fewer or in overtime and Virginia hasn't beaten a tournament-caliber team on the road all year. Get ready to fade this group.
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The Spoiler: Notre Dame (+3600)
I expected a bit more from this veteran squad this season. I suppose playing its way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble was the most I should've expected. However, I can't help but feel that Mike Brey has still got a little magic left in this group. The Irish have exactly one win this year over NCAA tournament-caliber teams and that came against UCLA back on Dec. 14. However, seven of this team's 12 losses this year have come by three points or fewer so they may be better than their record. The Irish lost twice to FSU and once to Virginia by a combined total of just four points. John Mooney has been a double-double machine and T.J. Gibbs still has some big shots left in him. I also think the Irish have a favorable slot in the bracket, drawing the weakest of the top four seeds (Virginia) in the quarterfinals. This team, desperate to lock down a tournament slot, could get hot for two or three days here.
Potential Early Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 4 Duke (-7.5) vs. No. 4 N.C. State (2:30 p.m., Thursday, March 12)
This will be the third meeting between these two teams in the last three weeks. North Carolina State drew first blood with a resounding 88-66 win over the Blue Devils on Feb. 19 and Duke answered with 88-69 revenge beat down on March 2. Now, assuming the Wolfpack can hold off either Pitt or Wake Forest (not a given), we could get a rubber match in what would be the most emotionally charged quarterfinals matchup. The Wolfpack may be in a position where they need to win this game to punch their ticket to The Big Dance so they have absolutely everything to play for. But Duke is one of the two legit national championship contenders in the ACC this year. And while their youth may make them seem vulnerable, half of their six losses this year have come by two points or less or in OT. Duke won't be itself. If the Wolfpack want to pull the upset they are going to have to earn it by driving a stake through the Blue Devils' hearts.
2020 ACC Tournament Predictions: This is going to be one of the most difficult conference tournaments to handicap. There is a lot of talent. There are a lot of young, erratic teams. And there is simply not a big difference in ability between the top and bottom teams. Beyond that, the bracket is unbalanced, with the two best teams (Duke and FSU), three of the league's five best teams, and several potential spoilers clustered at the top of the bracket.
I think that the winner of the Virginia Tech-North Carolina game has a great chance to make the quarterfinals and throw a scare into Louisville. I also have zero expectations for Virginia and I will be stunned if they won more than one game in this tourney. That means that the most likely winner of the ACC Tournament will be the winner of the Florida State-Duke matchup in the semifinal, assuming that they can each hold off quarterfinal challenges from in-state rivals Miami and N.C. State, respectively. The Seminoles and Blue Devils are the two deepest, most talented teams and I think that they will hold off Louisville in the finals.
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 11 of 13 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and will have an 8-Unit Conference Tournament Game of the Year this week. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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