Brian: Now that we've seen how the ACC and the new ACC -- Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame -- have fared in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, it's never too early to start thinking about next year. While we don't know who's going to jump early, formereagledad posed the question yesterday: How many (and which) ACC teams will (should) make the NCAAs next year?
Jeff: If the same teams made the dance next year as did this year we're looking at seven. With Syracuse being as likely to make the dance as Duke and North Carolina while Pitt and Notre Dame fall somewhere into the second tier of ACC basketball programs. Considering this was a down year for the ACC, anything less than seven teams next year out of the 14 team league would be extremely disappointing.
Starting with Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina, the ACC has 3 teams in the tournament. Then, with Miami being a 2 seed in the tournament this season and have some success so far, they would have to have a monumental step back next season to not even make the dance. Even though Miami is losing their 2nd through 6th leading scorers to graduation, as long as Shane Larkin returns, I think they can get into the tournament as a high seed next year.
Then other teams that figure to be in the mix for next year's dance include NC State, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Florida State. Certainly the league will not get 11 teams into the dance but I think 4 out of this next group is very possible and likely. So with the assumption that Miami makes the tournament again, the ACC will have 8 total teams in the NCAA tournament.
Brian: For me, Duke and North Carolina will both be there. I'd imagine Syracuse will be there too barring any NCAA investigation craziness. That's the top tier of the conference.
Miami will be interesting. The Hurricanes lose Durand Scott, Trey McKinney Jones and virtually their entire front court next season (Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble). I'm expecting the U to make a deep tournament run this year -- I've got the Canes in the Final Four opposite Florida -- but I'm not sure if the Hurricanes get in next year just yet. Could be another one-and-done type season from Miami a la Florida State this year.
The second tier of teams likely includes Miami as well as Pitt, Notre Dame, Virginia and N.C. State. Right below them I've got Maryland, BC and Georgia Tech. I see Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech continuing to struggle in the bottom fourth of the conference next season.
A big part of this will be not only the talent these clubs will retain, but also the league schedule. I'd really look at which programs each school will play twice next season as a quick litmus test. BC is a bit disadvantaged in that both of its primary partners were NCAA Tournament teams this year (Notre Dame and Syracuse). Other programs will have it a bit easier (e.g. Clemson draws Georgia Tech and Florida State), but I don't think that's anything the program can't overcome. There's still a lot we don't know about the schedule -- namely the other two home-and-home opponents for each program so it's hard to say with any degree of confidence which programs look like a Tournament team and which don't.
In all, my guess is the conference puts 7 or 8 in the Dance next year -- Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse, and then some mix of my second and third tier teams. For what it's worth I don't see Boston College as an NCAA Tournament team next year. My gut tells me they'll finish somewhere in the 17-19 win range which will probably be good enough for an NIT appearance.