Conference Stock Report

This week the league places four teams in the RPI top-25 and six teams in the top-50. The top third is starting to separate from the pack and solidify their hold on a bye in the conference tournament. The number of bubble teams, however, has grown with Miami and Maryland pulling big upsets.

This week we focus on the upcoming conference tournament. As things stand, five teams have locked up NCAA tournament bids. Five other teams are in the mix for what should be three additional bids this year. Getting a favorable seed in the conference tournament could be the key to some teams playing their way off the bubble and into the NCAA's.

Look at Boston College. If they run the table, they are in the tournament and get to play one of the bottom dwellers in the league in round one. If they drop a game, they will face another bubble team in round one and would need to win in order to secure a tournament bid. In other words, round one of the ACC tournament will decide the final three bids for the league. Getting a good seed and the right opponent will make the difference for at least three teams.

The Buys

North Carolina (24-3, 10-3): Despite their stunning loss at Maryland, UNC remains the favorite to nab the top seed in the ACC tournament. Two of their remaining three games are against fading teams and they have just one road game. They also hold the tie-breaker over Clemson, Duke and FSU. Duke could still catch them, but they host them to end the season. Barring a total collapse over the last two weeks, the Tar Heels will be the top seed.

Clemson (22-4, 8-4): With the top seed in the tournament unlikely, the Tigers are fighting for a first round bye. They are in solid position, but still have some work to do. They did beat Duke, but have lost to both FSU and Wake. They have to travel to both to finish the season. If they split and win their home games, they will get the bye. Winning both would land them in the number two spot. Two losses and they drop out of the top-four and play in the first round as the fifth seed.

Duke (22-5, 8-4): Like Clemson, Duke controls their destiny as far as a first round bye. Unlike anyone else in the top-four right now, they could fall pretty far down the standings. Three of their final four are on the road. All three have been tough places for the Blue Devils over the years. At a minimum they have to win three of the remaining four. A split or worse and they could fall down the standings into the sixth or seventh spot.

Florida State (21-6, 8-4): The Seminoles control their destiny and have some things working in their favor. They have wins over Clemson and Wake. They get another shot at Clemson and travel to Duke. The key game for them is tonight at BC. A win there and they are just about a lock to get a first round bye, assuming they hold serve at home. A loss and they probably need a Wake loss to get into the top-four.

Wake Forest (20-5, 7-5): The team with the toughest road to a first round bye is Wake. They sit one game out of the top-four and that means they need someone to lose. They do hold the tie-breaker with Duke, Clemson and FSU. They also get Clemson at home to finish the season. So, they can run the table and get a bye. Even if they drop the finale, they are unlikely to fall far in the standing as they hold an advantage over most of the teams right behind them.

The Holds

Boston College (19-9, 7-6): The Eagles are in a precarious position. They are out of the conversation for a bye. Even if they run the table, they would need a lot of help to get into the top-four. The most important thing now is finishing fifth or sixth. That gives them a first round game against one of the league's doormats. It would also mean avoiding UNC in the second round, if they make it that far. The key to that goal is winning tonight against FSU. That would give them a leg up on everyone else for seeding and it would probably lock up a NCAA tournament bid.

Maryland (17-9, 6-6): Like Boston College, the Terps are fighting for one of the top two spots in the first round. They have been hot of late and are back in the conversation for a NCAA bid. They have Duke and Wake at home. The later could be critical to a tie-breaker. Their road games are against two fading teams. They need to win three to secure a NCAA bid and they need to run the table to have a shot at the fifth or sixth seed.

Miami (16-10, 5-8): They have no shot at a high seed and they need to win their final three to get back on the bubble for a tournament bid. Their win over BC was huge for them. Their final three are at GT and UVA. They finish up at home against NC State. If they run the table, they not only get back on the bubble, they get a manageable opponent in the first round of the conference tournament. Facing a Maryland or Virginia Tech in round one would give them a shot to win their way into the NCAA tournament.

NC State (15-10, 5-7): To get a NCAA bid they have to run the table and they probably need at least one win in the conference tournament. The later will depend on avoiding the fifth or sixth seed in round one. A split of their final four gets them no worse than the tenth seed. With home games against BC and Maryland, they have a shot. That would give them some hope of having a nice tournament and perhaps sneaking into the NCAA with a late bid.

The Sells

Virginia Tech (16-10, 6-6): The Hokies are fading fast and have gone from a tournament team to a bubble team. They have little shot at a high seed in the conference tournament. Their goal is to avoid one of the bottom three seeds. The rest of their schedule is brutal. They finish with Clemson, Duke, UNC and FSU

Virginia (9-14, 3-9): The post season is no longer a concern for Virginia. Even if they run the table, they would need to make the conference finals to get into the NIT. They can be a spoiler. Of their final four games, two are at home against Miami and Maryland. Winning those two would keep them out of last place and could even vault them into tenth place. More important, they have a chance to submarine two team's chances for the post season.

Georgia Tech (10-16, 1-12): This is the one team with absolutely nothing to play for the rest of the way. They have no chance at anything beyond the regular season and pretty much locked into last place. The only game worth watching is their home game against Miami, who needs to run the table. Otherwise, they are just playing out the string.

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