Viewer’s guide to ACC tournament

Keep an eye on Syracuse with HC Jim Boeheim and its star quality front-line players. Nobody’s hotter than Buzz Williams’ Virginia Tech team, winners of five straight.

The ACC men’s basketball tournament remains the centerpiece of all conference tournaments. Now in its 63rd year and dating back to 1954, the ACC tournament has been played in the state of North Carolina 51 times.

For the next three years, however, including this week’s gathering at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Tobacco Road will be replaced by the home of the Washington Wizards, followed by two years in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The tournament then shifts back to North Carolina (Charlotte) in 2019 and the familiar Greensboro Coliseum in 2020, where the tournament has been housed 26 times before.

North Carolina (25-6, 14-4) enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed, followed by No. 2 Virginia (24-6, 13-5), No. 3 Miami (24-6) and No. 4 Notre Dame (20-10, 11-7). All four received a double bye and will not play until Thursday, March 10.

Louisville (23-8, 12-6), which would have been the No. 4 seed, is not eligible to participant in the ACC tournament following its self-imposed ban.

Single byes went to No. 5 Duke (22-9, 11-7), No. 6 Virginia Tech (18-13, 10-8), No. 7 Clemson (17-13, 10-8), No. 8 Pittsburgh (20-10, 9-9), No. 9 Syracuse (19-12, 9-9) and No. 10 Georgia Tech (18-13, 8-10).

ACC tournament play begins Tuesday, March 8, at noon ET when No. 12 N.C. State (15-16, 5-13) takes on No. 13 Wake Forest (11-19, 2-16), followed by No. 11 Florida State (18-12, 8-10) vs. No. 14 Boston College (7-24, 0-18).

Who’s Hot: Miami and Virginia were the only two ACC teams to win seven of their last nine games while North Carolina, Duke, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were the only six-win teams over the last half of ACC play.

Who’s Not: After starting conference play 6-3, Pittsburgh won just three times in the second half of league play, including losses in three of its last four. Syracuse was up to 8-5 in conference play at one point before losing four of its last five.

Top Defense: According to the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings, Virginia is far and away the best defensive team in the ACC in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency with 92.3 points allowed per 100 possessions. The Cavaliers also rank 2nd in the country in points allowed per game at 59.6. (Note: Louisville is 7th nationally in points allowed per game at 61.1.)

Top Offense: There are five teams in the ACC that are among the top 13 teams nationally in the Pomeroy adjusted offensive efficiency rating – Notre Dame (3rd), North Carolina (5th), Duke (7th), Virginia (9th) and Miami (13th). The Tar Heels are the highest scoring team in the ACC (and 10th nationally) at 82.9 points per game. Duke is 18th nationally in scoring at 81.2 points per game.

Free-Throw Shooting: Virginia sits atop the ACC at .761 for the season, but it’s Notre Dame that is shooting .774 in 18 conference games. Pittsburgh is second in the ACC overall at .759 and tied for fourth in ACC play at .735.

Three-Point Shooting: Virginia leads the ACC overall, hitting an impressive .407. But the Cavaliers have attempted 288 less than Duke, which is connecting at a .389 pace. The numbers are comparable in ACC games.

Three-Point Defense: An eclectic group at the top, led by Syracuse, which is allowing a mere .289 made three-pointers in 18 ACC games, followed by Virginia Tech (.300) and Georgia Tech (.309)

Sleeper Game: No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech – The Tigers aren’t as suffocating defensively as they were last year, mainly because they’ve opened up their offensive attack, which is led by gifted Jaron Blossomgame, who finished third in the ACC in scoring at 18.6.

Brian Gregory has the Yellow Jackets playing excellent basketball with victories in five of their last six and six of their last eight. Among teams that have fallen to Georgia Tech down the stretch – No. 4 seed Notre Dame and No. 8 seed Pittsburgh, as well as Clemson.

Sleeper Pick: Syracuse – Coaching in his 85th conference tournament…okay, not quite that many, but Jim Boeheim has danced this dance many times before. His Orange are not playing great basketball now, but the talent is there to do damage, led by Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson. Who better than a Boeheim-coached team to knock off mighty North Carolina.

Sleeper Pick II: Virginia Tech – Look out for Buzz Williams’ Hokies, who enter the ACC tournament as the No. 6 seed. Winners of five straight, they’ll play the winner of No. 11 Florida State vs. No. 14 Boston College, and with a victory, they’ll square off against No. 3 seed Miami. The problem for the Hokies? They just beat the Hurricanes in Blacksburg Saturday, although maybe that means they’re ready for a real shocker.

Takeover Players: North Carolina’s Brice Johnson, Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon, Duke’s Grayson Allen, Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard, Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, N.C. State’s Cat Barber, Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson, Zach Auguste, Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Syracuse’s Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Pittsburgh’s Michael Young.

Irish Illustrated Picks: First round -- N.C. State over Wake Forest, Florida State over Boston College;

Second round – Syracuse over Pittsburgh, Duke over N.C. State, Clemson over Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech over Florida State;

Quarterfinals – Syracuse over North Carolina; Duke over Notre Dame, Virginia over Clemson, Miami over Virginia Tech;

Semifinals – Duke over Syracuse, Virginia over Miami;

Championship – Virginia over Duke. Top Stories