Just over a week remains until the Hoos begin their quest to a title against Morgan State, so it seemed like a perfect time to make a far too early prediction on where they and the rest of the ACC may find themselves on Selection Sunday. To make things easier, we've split the league into tiers and for the 'Projected Seed' field we're using Joe Lunardi's most recent Bracketology, which can be found here.
Tier 1: Title Contenders
North Carolina Tar Heels
Projected Seed: 1
Outlook: Lunardi has UNC as his #1 overall seed, which should come as no surprise since the Heels also took home the top spot in the preseason AP Top 25 poll released on Monday. North Carolina lost star guard Marcus Paige for 3-4 weeks with a broken finger but he'll be back and ready in plenty of time for ACC play and the meat of the schedule. Plus, UNC could go 10-20 and the NCAA would probably still find a way to sneak them in the field.
Projected Seed: 2
Outlook: UVa is projected to earn a second straight 2 seed, which I think most Wahoo fans would take as long as Michigan State isn't lurking in the second round. Virginia might have fewer question marks than any other team in the league at this stage and as long as they can stay healthy they should be squarely in ACC and NCAA title contention.
Duke Blue Devils
Projected Seed: 2
Outlook: This is ranking that seems to be fueled by equal parts school name, recruiting rankings, and the presence of Coach K, which isn't to say that it's necessarily wrong. Duke won it all last year behind touted freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, but they're gone now, leaving behind Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and an incoming class headlined by five stars Brandon Ingram and Chase Jeter. Who knows how the freshmen will translate to the NCAA, but we can guarantee that they'll flop a lot and be easy to root against.
Tier 2: Tourney Locks
Projected Seed: 5
Outlook: Louisville lost stars Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell to the NBA draft but brought in graduate transfers Damion Lee (Drexel) and Trey Lewis (Cleveland State) to provide veteran leadership on a roster filled with talented underclassmen. Given the talent level in the program and the teaching of Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino, it would seemingly take a massive scandal to prevent the Cards from making the tournament. Wait...
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Projected Seed: 5
Outlook: Like their former Big East brethren, Notre Dame also lost two players to the NBA in forward Pat Connaughton and do-everything guard Jerian Grant. Despite the losses, the Irish were actually picked to finish fourth at ACC Media Day thanks in large part to Demetrious Jackson (preseason first-team All-ACC) and Zach Auguste (preseason second-team All-ACC). The Irish should be competitive in every game, now if they could just agree to never wear these again.
Projected Seed: 7
Outlook: The Canes just missed the NCAA Tournament last year, going 21-12 (10-8 ACC) and earning a 2 seed in the NIT where they would lose to Stanford by two in the championship game. This year, however, Miami has one of the most upperclassmen laden teams in the country with five seniors headlined by the dynamic Angel Rodriguez. Jim Larranaga won the ACC in 2013 with a similarly experienced team and while these Canes aren't likely to accomplish that feat, they should find themselves easily in the NCAA field.
NC State Wolfpack
Projected Seed: 7
Outlook: Mark Gottfried is nothing if not consistent as every year his NC State teams have won 22-24 games and 9-11 ACC games. This year's incarnation features talented point guard, and 757 native, Cat Barber, along with big man BeeJay Anya and the sophomore Martin brothers, Caleb and Cody. NC State will beat someone (likely Duke or UNC) they have no business beating, lose to a bunch of teams they should overwhelm and ultimately find themselves in the 7-10 seed range come March.
Tier 3: Bubble Teams
Florida State Seminoles
Projected Seed: 9
Outlook: Florida State went just 17-16 (8-10) last season, but they have possibly the best scorer in the ACC in Xavier Rathan-Mayes. For those unfamiliar with Mayes, below is a video of him scoring 30 points against Miami, in the final 4:36 of the game. Combine that with a top-20 recruiting class and the Noles should return to the Dance for the first time since 2012.
Projected Seed: 11
Outlook: Syracuse missed out on all postseason play last year as a result of a self-imposed ban brought on by an NCAA investigation. While the Orange are eligible to play in the postseason again this year, they'll be without Head Coach Jim Boeheim for the first half of ACC play as part of a suspension stemming from that same investigation. Cuse has the talent to compete at a high level, but with this much turmoil around a program it's hard to tell how things will play out.
Projected Seed: N/A
Outlook: Pitt made the NCAA tournament in each of Jamie Dixon's first eight seasons as coach, but have missed out in two of the past four years, including a first round NIT loss to George Washington last season. The Panthers have struggled more than expected since moving to the ACC, but Dixon is a good coach and the program has an identity and a capable floor general in James Robinson. If they can avoid any bad losses, that should be enough to earn them a bid.
Tier 4: Maybe Next Year
Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Clemson Tigers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Virginia Tech Hokies, Boston College Eagles
Projected Seed: Hah
Collective Outlook: Each of these teams are long shots to make the NCAA tournament in the 2015 season. Wake and VT are attempting to rebuild under second year head coaches, Clemson and Georgia Tech are likely one down season away from replacing their current coaches, and who knows what Boston College is doing. Maybe one of these teams will surprise everyone and make a leap, but it seems more likely they're each at least one more year away.