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ACC Tournament Matchups: Virginia's potential quarterfinal games

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven't heard, the Virginia Cavaliers clinched the outright regular season ACC title, and earned the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament that comes with it.  As the top seed, UVA will get a double-bye in next week's ACC Tournament in Greensboro and play first on Thursday, March 12th, at noon against the winner of the #8/#9 game (noon, Wednesday).  Let's take a look at the ACC standings. with Syracuse removed; as you can see, the area around 8th and 9th place gets messy:

Rank Team Record
1 Virginia 16-1
2 Duke 13-3
3 Notre Dame 12-4
4 Louisville 11-5
5 North Carolina 11-6
6 NC State 9-8
7 Miami 8-8
8 Pittsburgh 8-8
9 Clemson 8-9
10 Florida State 7-10
11 Wake Forest 5-11
12 Boston College 3-14
13 Georgia Tech 3-15
14 Virginia Tech 2-15

Who may Virginia face in the first round next week? Here are all the potential 8 or 9 seeds, in order of their probability of playing in the 8/9 game, per playoffstatus.com.

Clemson Tigers (8-9 ACC, #85 KenPom)

Chance of appearing in 8/9 game: 86%
Previous Matchup(s):  UVA won 65-42 [53 possessions] on 1/13 at JPJ
Do we want to play them? Yes. Please.
Remaining schedule: @ Notre Dame

Clemson has scratched and clawed their way into 9th in the ACC. Despite solid defense (3rd in the conference), the Tigers once again really struggle to score, as they managed just 42 points against UVA in Charlottesville back in January and .96 PPP on average in ACC play.  They have treaded water of late, following up a four-game winning streak by losing 5 of 7, with their lone wins at home against VT and in OT against GT.  If the Tigers hold on and manage a "second round" win, they're a favorable matchup for the Hoos.

There are lot of scenarios remaining, but an 8-9 Clemson team is in good shape to end up in this game as a 9 seed. They finish the season at Notre Dame, so could fall to #10, but it'd take a win by FSU, then some messy tiebreaker scenarios to pan out as well.

Pitt Panthers (8-8 ACC, #76 KenPom)

Chance of appearing in 8/9 game: 40%
Previous Matchup(s):  UVA won 61-49 [55] on 2/16 at home
Do we want to play them? Probably.
Remaining schedule: vs. Miami, @ Florida State

The Panthers look like a mirror image of Clemson. They can score, and have actually played better offensively than UVA during conference play, but only the Hokies have defended more poorly.  The downside of taking on the Panthers is that they 1) will be desperate for a "signature win" in the ACC Tourney, and 2) their plodding style of play has the potential to lower possessions and keep the game close.  The Hoos neutralized Pitt's offense at JPJ, but can't afford to go ice-cold again in a potential ACC Tournament rematch.

Because they finish the season against two other contending teams, Pitt has a greater than 10% chance of finishing in any spot between 5th and 10th.

Miami Hurricanes (8-8 ACC, #66 KenPom)

Chance of appearing in 8/9 game: 39%
Previous Matchup(s):  UVA won 89-80 [75] in 2 OTs on 1/3 at Miami
Do we want to play them? Bring it on....but the two teams above seem much nicer.
Remaining schedule: @ Pitt, @ VT

Miami has fallen a bit out of the bubble discussion, as they've whiffed on their opportunities to big up a big win since their January victory at Cameron, and have some bad losses on their resume as well. The inconsistent Canes are a little scary because of their high-usage point guard Angel Rodriguez; he torched the Hoos for a career-high 25 points in Coral Gables.

Let's root for a road win over Pitt tonight, which would both lift the Canes closer to a 6 or 7 seed and increase the likelihood that the Panthers fall to the 8/9 game.

Florida State Seminoles (7-10 ACC, #110 KenPom)

Chance of appearing in 8/9 game: 20%
Previous Matchup(s):  UVA won 51-41 [58] on 2/22 in Cville
Do we want to play them? Bring it on! As long as nobody gets hurt.
Remaining schedule: vs. Pittsburgh

FSU used a 6-3 midseason stretch (and the emergence of Xavier Rathan-Mayes) to crawl out of the basement and toward respectability in the ACC; Mayes scored 13 points on 5-15 shooting against UVA at JPJ.  Florida State's struggles shooting the basketball, particularly the three-ball, make them a good matchup for UVA, but strange things always seem to happen during games with the Noles (like last year's postgame fight or this season's Brogdon/Perrantes collision).

NC State Wolfpack (9-8 ACC, #41 KenPom)

Chance of appearing in 8/9 game: 15%
Previous Matchup(s):  UVA won 61-51 [60] on 1/7 in Cville, and 51-47 [56] on 2/11 in Raleigh
Do we want to play them? We should win...but playing NC State in the Tourney brings back bad memories.
Remaining schedule: vs. Syracuse

UVA and NC State have an interesting history together. Virginia has won the last 8 regular season matchups between the teams, dating back to 2010. But the Pack has bested the Hoos during their last 5 ACC Tournament games (2000, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2013).  That, plus the fact that NC State is easily the highest-ranked potential opponent by KenPom and they'll be playing for an NCAA berth, means they are the team I'd most like to avoid in the quarterfinals in Greensboro.

Luckily, NC State has an 85% chance of finishing in the 6 or 7 spots, and a home win against Syracuse this weekend would lock that up.


Looking a round ahead, if UVA advanced to the semifinals, they'd likely play a 4 or 5 seed. Currently, the only teams that can be 4th or 5th in the conference are Notre Dame, Louisville, and UNC.  A Notre Dame win at Louisville tonight clinches at least a #3 seed for the Irish.