If you Christmas shop in June, you probably enjoy NCAA tournament bracketology in November. Those who keep a more rational calendar delay shopping until Thanksgiving and bubble talk until February.
So it’s time. Even for one-game-at-a-time obsessed coaches.
“You always do,” North Carolina State’s Mark Gottfried said of analyzing his team’s chances. “Anybody that tells you they don't, they're lying.”
Selection Sunday arrives in 30 days.
Who’s in, out or contending?
This season the ACC isn’t all that puzzling. Two teams — gee, wonder which — are locked, two are close and two are teetering.
Outside of an ACC tournament championship and automatic NCAA bid, the remaining six have negligible hope.
The numbers do not surprise.
Since expanding in 2004-05, the ACC has averaged 5.3 bids per season. The high is seven; the low is four.
This season almost certainly will fit that profile.
Here’s a team-by-team breakdown. Rating Percentage Index numbers are courtesy of CollegeRPI.com, which updates its rankings daily. The NCAA updates its only weekly.
* North Carolina (20-4, 7-2 ACC): The only question is whether the Tar Heels will be a No. 1 regional seed for the fifth time in the last eight seasons. The talent is there. Is the fire?
* Duke (20-4, 7-2): Twenty years after their incomparable East Regional final, might the selection committee attempt to arrange a Kentucky-Duke reunion by seeding them 1-2 in the same region? Bet CBS wouldn’t object.
* Florida State (16-7, 7-2): Defense makes the Seminoles more than capable of advancing to a second consecutive Sweet 16, and beyond. But with a No. 31 RPI, Florida State can’t afford many more confounding losses like Wednesday’s at Boston College.
* N.C. State (18-7, 7-3): The Wolfpack already has more ACC wins than in any of Sidney Lowe’s five seasons as coach. But check out its remaining games: at Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, at Clemson, Miami, at Virginia Tech. Don’t see many Ws there, and at No. 50 on the RPI and with a 1-5 record versus the top 50, State needs Ws.
* Virginia (19-4, 6-3): As detailed in Wednesday’s print column, the Cavaliers, 3-2 against the top 50 and 6-3 versus the top 100, are well-positioned for their first NCAA appearance since 2007. The issue then becomes whether a roster with no NCAA tournament experience comes down with collective stage fright.
* Miami (15-7, 6-3): At No. 35 on the RPI, and with a victory at Duke on their resume, the Hurricanes are in the discussion. But a 1-5 record against the top 50 and a bottom-heavy ACC schedule are potential red flags. The Hurricanes still face two games against Florida State, a visit from North Carolina and road tests at Maryland and North Carolina State.
* Maryland (14-9, 4-5): The Terps notched their first road victory Tuesday at Clemson. The NIT will be impressed.
* Clemson (11-12, 3-6): That home loss to Maryland dropped the Tigers below .500 for the first time this season. Who knows whether they can avoid their first losing year since 2004, but regardless, their school-record run of four consecutive NCAA bids is about to end.
* Boston College (8-16, 3-7): Steve Donahue’s Eagles (59.5 points per game) are on pace to become the lowest-scoring ACC team in the shot clock era and the program’s first 20-loss squad since 1999. Not all that surprising with a roster that includes nine freshmen.
* Virginia Tech (13-11, 2-7): Unlike the past five years, the Hokies have played their way out of NCAA contention before mid-February. Tech’s most realistic aim now is a fifth straight NIT, which would be an ACC record you don’t necessarily want to own.
* Wake Forest (11-13, 2-8): This season is progress after last year’s 8-24, 1-15. But coach Jeff Bzdelik has yet to approach the 2010 record (20-11, 9-7, second round of NCAA) that got Dino Gaudio fired.
* Georgia Tech (9-15, 2-8): Under first-year coach Brian Gregory, the Yellow Jackets are headed for their fourth losing season in the last five years.
In short: Duke and Carolina are in, Virginia and Florida State are close, and Miami and N.C. State have serious work ahead.
As for the Colonial Athletic Association: With no teams among the top 80 on the RPI, hope for more than one team in the field is dim. League tri-leaders Drexel, VCU and George Mason are 82nd, 90th and 103rd, respectively.
Most telling, none of the CAA’s 12 teams has a top-50 victory. Last season, the league’s three NCAA tournament teams – Old Dominion, George Mason and VCU – boasted a combined 12 top-50 wins, five against non-conference opponents.
Stay tuned. We’ll update these projections as warranted.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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