The ACC Tournament may not start in earnest until Thursday, when those teams with double-byes finally get to play, but Wednesday's morning slate features a great mix of NCAA blue bloods and teams hoping to win their way onto the Tournament bubble. As always, we've got you covered if you need a bit of extra motivation to watch this morning's games.
Note: Gambling is illegal in many states and we in no way encourage any readers to actually place wagers on these games or any others.
ACC Tournament Prediction Record: 1-1
Game #1: #8 Pittsburgh (20-10, 9-9 in ACC) v. #9 Syracuse (19-12, 9-9 in ACC)
Point Spread: Pittsburgh -2
Regular Season Meetings (Home Team in bold): 12/30: Pittsburgh 72, Syracuse 61. 2/20: Pittsburgh 66, Syracuse 52.
Overview: Wednesday starts off by paying homage to the old Big East as Pittsburgh and Syracuse take the floor at the Verizon Center. Both of these teams find themselves squarely on the NCAA bubble, Joe Lunardi's Bracketology lists Pitt in his Last Four Byes, and Syracuse in his Last Four In. The winner of this contest will likely secure a bid, while the loser will have to hope that there are no mid-major upsets as they await Selection Sunday.
Neither one of these teams is playing great basketball at this point, Pittsburgh has lost six of their last ten while Syracuse lost four of five to close the regular season. Pitt's losses seem more concerning, however, as they closed conference play by losing back to back games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. A win in either contest could've taken them safely off the bubble. Perhaps most concerning was the way the Panthers' offense stagnated in each game, Michael Young was the only starter to reach double-figures in both and Pitt went a combined 3-32 from 3 point range in the losses.
Syracuse lost both regular season matchups by double digits, but the first came during Jim Boeheim's suspension and the Orange have been a different team since the crotchety Hall of Famer returned to the bench. Despite the mediocre results, this Cuse team still has all the pieces to be a contender in this tournament. Trevor Cooney and All-ACC Second Team guard Michael Gbinije provide senior leadership, while All-ACC Freshman Malachi Richardson rounded into form late, reaching double digit points in four of his last five games. Don't let yourself get too caught up on those regular season scores here.
The Pick: Syracuse +2
Game #2: #5 Duke (22-9, 11-7 in ACC) v. #12 NC State (16-16, 5-13 in ACC)
Point Spread: Duke -8
Regular Season Meetings (Home Team in bold): 1/23: Duke 88, NC State 78. 2/6: Duke 88, NC State 80.
Overview: The Wolfpack barely escaped Wake Forest during Tuesday's opener, winning 75-72 but sadly failing to cover. Their reward for squeaking past a team that went 2-16 in conference: a third matchup against Triangle rival Duke. NC State needs to win the ACC Tournament to make the NCAAs, so at this point they're still just playing for pride after losing both of the regular season meetings between these schools.
We broke down NC State during yesterday's guide, but then on Tuesday something amazing happened. A player other than Cat Barber led the Wolfpack in scoring! Freshman guard Maverick Rowan (strong name), paced NC State with 24 points while shooting 6-13 from beyond the arc. While State desperately needs a reliable second scoring option, Rowan averaged only 12.5 points and shot just 33% from three during the regular season so I'm not convinced his performance on Tuesday is replicable.
Unlike the Wolfpack, Duke is a fairly well-known commodity at this point. The Blue Devils are talented and led by likely top-5 draft pick Brandon Ingram and First Team All-ACC guard, and Ted Cruz impersonator, Grayson Allen. Duke is also perilously thin, Amile Jefferson is now officially out for the season and Coach K seems intent on playing a six man rotation in his absence. That lack of depth is likely to catch up to Duke later in the ACC Tournament given that they would have to win games on four consecutive days to claim the crown. However, don't expect that to matter too much today. Duke is rested, motivated after a loss to rival North Carolina, and simply more talented.
The Pick: Duke -8