ACC Baseball Playoff Picture

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Last weekend essentially ended BC's chances, which now require a lot of help before anyone even starts talking about next week's game against Clemson.

With the expansion to 14 teams this year, we knew the ACC baseball tournament would be a little bit whacky and wild.  Instead of playing the grouped, round robin format employed since 2007, the conference went back to double-elimination in its league tournament with seeding determined by finish among teams in the different divisions.  The top two seeds would automatically go to division winners, while the remaining teams ranked 2-10 would line up based on overall performance.

In Year One, it's already confusing as all hell.  Miami is at present the #1 team in the ACC with a 19-5 conference record, first place in the Coastal Division.  Florida State is the #2 team in the tournament, two games back of them for the race for the top overall seed.

That's about as easy as it'll get.

Virginia is a game back of Miami for the Coastal Division, one game better than the Seminoles.  But because the Cavaliers aren't a top team in a division, they're the #3 seed in the tournament if it started today.  That means determining playoff position becomes less about catching the team in front of you as it is about catching the team in first in your division.

It gets especially hairy to consider that the next best Atlantic Division team after FSU is Clemson, who at 12-11 in ACC play is only good enough for seventh best.  That translates to the second through fifth place teams in the Coastal Division chasing Miami for the top seed or bust, not Florida State.  It also means the Seminoles can comfortably relax and await a play-in game winner, while the Hurricanes cannot.

If the playoffs started today, Miami would finish as the top seed, while Florida State would be the #2 team.  They would play the winners of the two play-in games, which are single elimination games between the four lowest teams.  The 7th seed plays the last team in (#10) and the 8th and 9th place teams play each other.  Those two teams reseed in the first round of the tournament, meaning the 8-vs-9 game winner faces an opponent based on who wins in the 7-vs-10 game.

Hypothetically, then, the second place team from the Atlantic Division has to play a single elimination play-in game in order to play the first place team in their division in the next round, since Clemson is currently 7th, while the teams finishing first through fifth in the Coastal move through to the first round by default.

Welcome to the wild and whacky tournament setup.

Again, here are the current seeds if the tournament started today:

Miami (1; 1st place Coastal), Florida State (2; 1st place Atlantic), Virginia (3; 2nd-Coastal), Duke (4; 3rd-Costal), North Carolina (5; 4th Coastal), Georgia Tech (6; 5th Coastal), Clemson (7; 2nd-Atlantic), Wake Forest (8; 3rd-Atlantic), Pittsburgh (9; 6th-Coastal), and Maryland (10; 4th-Atlantic).

Boston College is currently in 12th place, on the outside looking in.  After dropping two of three to Pitt last weekend, the Eagles' chances at making the conference tournament went from critical but surging to fatal.  They'll need a lot of help in order to get through.  With three games remaining against Clemson next week (they play non-conference Binghamton this week), BC can finish, at best, 12-18 in the ACC.  Let's look at the bottom of the race to determine how they could get in.  At 4-20, Notre Dame will finish 14th.

Place Team Record GB Games Remaining BC Win Head-To-Head?
8th Wake Forest 12-12 -- 6 No
9th Maryland 12-14 -- 3 Yes
10th Pittsburgh 11-13 -- 6 No
11th NC State 9-15 2 6 Yes
12th Boston College 9-18 3.5 3 N/A
13th Virginia Tech 8-19 4.5 3 N/A

Of Wake Forest's six games remaining, three are against NC State and three are against Virginia.  Maryland has to play Pittsburgh for three, and the Panthers will play both Maryland and Notre Dame.  NC State plays Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, while the Hokies wrap up with just the three against the Pack Nine.

So what happens with Boston College?

BC conceivably could be out of the race before ever even getting to next weekend against Clemson.  BC needs NC State to either lose five of their last six games or get swept in all six.  They also need Pittsburgh to get swept by both Maryland and Notre Dame.  And then they have to sweep Clemson, at present the league's seventh seeded team and second best in the Atlantic Division.  If all of those conditions are met, BC would be the 10th seed.  Birdball cannot finish ninth or higher.

That's the cleanest way for BC to get into the tournament.  There is, however, a second way they could get in.  If BC finishes in any combination of tie with Pittsburgh, NC State, or Virginia Tech, the first tiebreaker scenario among three or more teams is cumulative head-to-head.  BC swept NC State, so if Pittsburgh, NC State, and BC all tie for the position, the Eagles would actually win the tiebreaker scenario.  The first tiebreaker rule is dictated by winning percentage amongst tied teams, but both Pittsburgh and BC would have gone .667 against those team (BC being 4-2 and Pittsburgh being 2-1, having not played NC State).  That series sweep of NC State would, in effect, negate losing to Pittsburgh in this scenario.

The second tiebreaker scenario would be record against divisional opponents, which has Pittsburgh at 8-10 and BC at 10-9.  In this scenario, BC wins.

BC cannot end up tied with Virginia Tech without being tied with Pittsburgh.  In that scenario, Virginia Tech wins the tiebreaker thanks to a sweep of Pittsburgh.

Nothing to it right?

The bottom line is that Boston College, by losing two of three last weekend, essentially kicked themselves out of the tournament.  Blowing the lead on Saturday, coupled with losing the 8-0 lead in the third inning, essentially sealed their fate.  Despite all the funky math, BC is out if PIttsburgh takes care of even marginal amounts of business this week or if the Eagles lose one game to Clemson in Death Valley next week, even if it gets to that point.

It was a valiant run, but it looks like a fourth straight season on the outside of the ACC Tournament looking in.

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