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ACC teams vie for top NCAA seeds

At the beginning of the season, there was talk of as many as eight ACC teams receiving bids to the NCAA Tournament. Now, only three teams are locks. But of those three teams, all are potential No. 1 seeds.

North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke, each ranked in the top five in both polls and the RPI, will compete this weekend in Washington, D.C., with at least two one seeds most likely emerging.

The number of ACC one seeds is contingent on the play of Kentucky and Kansas, since Illinois has already locked up a one seed. The Wildcats and Jayhawks are the two most talked-about non-ACC teams. But if both of these teams falter terribly in their conference tournaments, a third ACC team might gain a one seed by default, as there are few other teams in the running.

The fifth-ranked Blue Devils will probably need to win the ACC Tournament. If Duke were to beat Wake Forest and lose to UNC, however, either Wake Forest or Duke could receive the ACC’s second top seed.

“If we advance to Sunday, we’ll have a chance to be an unbelievably high seed,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Anything is possible.”

But Blue Devil loss to Wake Forest or a defeat by the the Tar Heels without a victory over the Demon Deacons would most likely not be enough for Duke to garner one of the four No. 1 seeds.

By beating Duke March 6, No. 2 North Carolina all but secured a top seed. Even with a loss in the quarterfinals to Maryland or Clemson, it is doubtful that any team would take the Tar Heels’ top spot.

Third-ranked Wake Forest barely escaped defeat in its final game of the season at N.C. State. The Demon Deacons will have to play their quarterfinal game without All-ACC point guard Chris Paul, who was suspended for punching the Wolfpack’s Julius Hodge in the groin. Losing a game without its star player may not harm Wake Forest, depending on the success of other top-tier teams.

In the past, the selection committee has not punished teams harshly for losses without key players who were suspended or injured if the player could potential return for the Tournament.

Beyond seeding, an important implication is location for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Under the recently-implemented “pod format,” which allows teams to play closer to home and helps attendance, two of these teams will likely play rounds one and two of the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., regardless of their seeds. If the Blue Devils do not receive a No. 1 seed, the selection committee may otherwise reward Duke by placing it just two hours from home.

“We’ve beaten more top-10 teams than anybody, and we have as tough a schedule as anybody,” Krzyzewski said, whose team ranks third in the nation in strength of schedule. “We have the toughest schedule in our league.”

Unfortunately for the ACC, and possibly for Duke, since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1986, no conference has received three of the top four seeds.


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