The ACC has gone mad.
Normally, I would sit back and break down the standings, the weekend that was, and look ahead. But with three weeks remaining in the regular season, there's no time for that. Let's just look at the way things are and try to shape up what's at stake this weekend.
Heading into this weekend, three teams are within a game of one another for the top seed in the conference. Miami has a healthy lead in the Coastal Division, while Louisville sits a half game behind Florida State for the Atlantic Division lead. With Florida State off this week, it's entirely possible that a team with a worse record could finish up this weekend ahead of a team with a better record, that the third seed - second place in the Atlantic - could wind up behind the #2 seed because Miami is winning their division.
At the same time, roughly a half of a game separates the last playoff spot from 13th place. The ninth seed in the league is a half of a game in front of that, with the eight seed a half of a game ahead of that in a virtual tie with seventh place. From sixth place to 13th, two and a half games separate the pack.
The only thing we know as of right now is that Virginia Tech is 5.5 games back of the last playoff spot and have been, given who is playing who in the next three weeks or so, mathematically eliminated from the ACC postseason.
But there's so much more in play than that.
The jockeying within the ACC ranks means the league, at its most competitive season in years, is looking for upwards of ten spots in the national tournament. The league has been utterly dominant in non-conference play, and it could have anywhere from 11 to 12 teams finish with 30 wins on the season. That's the highest percentage of member teams with that many wins since the introduction of the two division format in 2006.
Since the latest round of realignment, only one league has ever gotten that many teams into the national tournament - the SEC, who had 10 teams in 2014. As of right now, most bracket prognostications have nine ACC schools in the field of 64 but leave open the possibility for a 10th team to make it.
The latest Baseball America projection has nine ACC teams in the national tournament. All of the teams inside the ACC Tournament bubble except for Notre Dame make it, and the top four seeds all host regionals, with the top three teams earning national seeds (meaning they would host all the way to Omaha). Notre Dame and Duke are among two of the first four teams out, with Boston College and Pitt in the next four out. Long Beach State, Lamar, Arizona State, and Maryland are the final four teams in the projection.
For Boston College, it means they can get into the tournament by simply winning their next couple of weekends. With six league games left, the Eagles could potentially make the ACC Championship by splitting to go 3-3. Nearly all of the teams in the logjam still have games against one another, in some capacity, meaning a good weekend by someone puts them right inside the bubble. If the teams cannibalize each other, one weekend could be enough to boost someone into that based on tiebreakers.
The thing to remember is that even though teams are aligned with equal games back, the ACC uses winning percentage to seed. That means teams aren't penalized by having games rained out, but they also don't make up any ground. Though Boston College is currently tied in terms of "games back," they've also played less games than Duke but played more games than Pitt. As a result, the Eagles' winning percentage has them in 12th place.
I'm not even going to get into how these things will shake out and who is likely to finish where. At this point, there's far too many permutations.
Back to BC for a second. The Eagles are currently a top 50 team in the national RPI rankings, meaning they likely need a couple of more marquee wins to help their cause. Having beat NC State, Virginia and Louisville, BC gets a huge boost, especially since the Wahoos are all of a sudden up into fifth place and threatening to jump even higher. But the Eagles aren't in at-large territory yet. For that, they'll need to pick up wins over both Wake and Georgia Tech - all while avoiding losses in those midweek games. All of a sudden, predicting the midweek games as being "well it's only one game against Northeastern" becomes that much more important.
So that means the following. If BC is able to go 3-3, they're likely to be in the hunt for the final playoff slot, which would put them directly in line for a shot at a single elimination game. If they win that and qualify for pool play, they're probably in the tournament. If they can win a game within the pool, they'll be a lock. As predicted at the beginning of the season, that puts them right about at the 32 win mark.
The Eagles likely need 12 conference wins to get into the ACC Championship. 13 gets them a good shot at an at-large bid before they even play in the ACC Championship, and 14 gets them locked into both. If they sweep both weekends? You're all invited to the pants party.
Here's this week's schedule:
Wake Forest at Boston College
NC State at Clemson
Louisville at North Carolina
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame
Miami at Georgia Tech
Alcorn State at Virginia Tech (non-conference)
Bowling Green at Florida State (non-conference)
Gardner-Webb at Duke (non-conference)
And here's the updated standings. Bear in mind that the final standings are determined by winning percentage, so the games behind stat may be misleading.
|Place||Team||Record||Winning Percentage||Overall Record||Games Behind*|
*STAT IS UNOFFICIAL