The ACC sent nine teams to the NCAA tournament in 2017 and 2018 and the conference has the potential to be just as deep headed into the 2019 tournament. Continuing with our preseason coverage here on STL, we’re going to take a look at how the ACC shakes out in terms of potential tournament squads. Presented alphabetically in each group, we’ve broken up the conference into five tiers:
(Pretty Much) Locks:
While calling anything in the preseason a lock is pretty silly, these teams have the talent, depth, and coaching to be considered locks to make the tournament.
Zion Williamson shrugged off questions about potential NCAA investigations into his [picking up the bag], much as Duke will shrug off enough opponents to easily qualify for the tournament. Make no mistake: Williamson and RJ Barrett are legit.
The Heels add some excellent freshmen talent to some establish veteran leadership - a recipe for success usually for Roy Williams. They should have zero issues qualifying, whether the contend for an ACC title or not (they will).
UVa took last year’s tournament off after winning the ACC title - that shouldn’t keep them from stifling enough opponents this year to easily qualify. Braxton Key could be the catalyst towards another dreaded No. 1 seed.
Should be In:
It’s hard to see things going too poorly for these teams in 2018-2019 - they’re most likely going to make the tournament.
This is a bit of a gamble, but I think Brownell takes the large chunk of players that return from last year’s Sweet Sixteen squad and makes a big run in the ACC slate. The frontcourt for the Tigers has the potential to be really really good.
I fully expect another FSU-like season out of FSU. Trent Forrest should be good enough to focus the team on and the Noles should comfortably win enough games to avoid the NIT.
Tyus Battle is back and freshman Jalen Carey should provide a big spark in the Orange backcourt this year. Boeheim’s squad was squarely on the bad-side of the bubble last year...until the committee selected them anyway. They should have less stress making it this year.
Frontcourt depth will be the biggest concern for the Hokies, but they should score enough points to win enough games to qualify. The team may drop immediately in prognostications if any of their injury bad luck pops up again.
Strong Side of the Bubble
It’s likely you’ll see most of these teams make the field when all is said in done...but it could be tight.
The Canes lost a ton in the departure of Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown, but I’m willing to trust Jim Larranaga will get the team on the right side of the bubble. Chris Lykes is, of course, both awesome and tiny - but the team will really need to see a jump in production from former 5 star Dewan Huell.
Is TJ Gibbs good enough to make up for Matt Farrell’s departure? Bonzie Colson is mercifully gone, right? Most should expect to see Mike Brey’s team in contention for a tourney berth, but it could be closer than Irish fans would like if the star production isn’t easily replaced.
Weak Side of the Bubble
Certainly these teams could outperform expectations, but these teams might come up a little short.
Jerome Robinson is a monster loss for BC’s tournament hopes, but they do still have Ky Bowman. Jordan Chatman is a good enough shooter, but new faces are going to have to emerge for the Eagles to get on the right side of the bubble.
The roster has a ton of talent, but I’m a skeptical of a new coach coming in and immediately getting strong results in the loaded ACC. Mack is a great coach though, so the Cardinals could easily play into a top four or five seed in the NCAAT.
“Kevin Keatts is a good coach” seems to be a popular sentiment, but he has a huge roster overall to deal with this season. I’m not sold on Keatts, yet, but anyone dealing with this many new faces is going to face a tough time making it out of conference play in good shape.
Not Looking Good
It’s unlikely that these teams will win enough games to make the tournament...but we’re all undefeated as it stands now!
Oh no, Ben Lammers is gone! Who will Jack Salt pick on? No one on this roster really stands out, but Coach Josh did bring in a pair of four star recruits this year...
We’ll miss laughing at Kevin Stallings going 0-18 in conference play, but until we see otherwise, this is the worst team in the ACC.
A gaggle of four star recruits (and a five star!) are joining the Deacs this season, so Danny Manning’s team could very well outperform their preseason expectations...but it’ll be a tough task. Jaylen Hoard (the five star) has difference-maker scorer potential.
Looking at the conference at this point, it seems likely that the ACC gets eight or nine NCAA tournament berths, but expect to see plenty of movement among those teams in the murky middle of the conference outlook.