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Men’s Basketball Preview: The 2022 ACC Tournament

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NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 ACC men’s basketball tournament is finally upon us! We have the clearest favorite in what seems like several years, but after a loss in their final game of the regular season, will a different champion emerge? Find the bracket below and the narratives heading into this year’s contest.

The Favorite

The Duke Blue Devils are a pretty clear-cut favorite to win the 2022 ACC Tournament. Their offense is prolific and one of the best in the nation whilst their defense is the best of the conference too. They’ll kill teams with three point shooting and will offensive rebound you into the ground until it feels like your team hasn’t had the ball in ages. They did just drop their regular season finale at home to archrival UNC, but they’ve looked borderline unstoppable outside of that game. Look for Coach K’s final squad to make a run at a national championship this year.

The Challengers

North Carolina, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Miami are the teams with the best chance of dethroning the Blue Devils. UNC just did it last weekend and Miami did it back in January. But the way most of these teams have played in the past few weeks don’t inspire confidence that they’ll be able to get it done. Outside of UNC, each of these teams have gone a middling 3-2 to close out the regular season, with some pretty bad losses thrown in there like Wake Forest dropping a game to Clemson and Notre Dame dropping one to FSU. They’ll have to play almost perfectly to stop this year’s Duke juggernaut, and the blueprint has been set by the Tar Heels late here in the season, but it can be very difficult to get lightning to strike twice. Especially considering 3 of Duke’s 4 ACC losses were by 2 points or less. With the stakes raised, you can expect them to plow into the championship game.

The Cinderellas

Virginia Tech, Florida State, Virginia, and Syracuse make interesting teams to watch for fans of Cinderella stories. All 4 teams managed to get themselves a first round bye, making it so that they only need to win 4 games rather than 5 to become conference champions. Still a very tall task, but a hot team like Virginia Tech making a desperate final push into the NCAA tournament field could prove dangerous. The Hokies are my pick for a dark horse run, but the high-variance play of the Orange led by Boeheim, Boeheim, and Boeheim could also turn some heads.

The Rest

Clemson, Louisville, Pitt, Boston College, Georgia Tech, and NC State round out the remainder of the field. None are sniffing the NCAA tournament and all will likely see their 2021-22 seasons end over the next few days. I’m looking at Virginia as a potential team that might get upset in the 2nd round after their season started coming to a screeching halt in mid-February. So look towards the winner of GT-Louisville to potentially make a small run here. Otherwise? Not much to watch for other than playing time for the young guys.