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Looking ahead: What could Duke's path to an ACC tournament title look like?

Bagley and Duke could play North Carolina once again in the ACC tournament.
Bagley and Duke could play North Carolina once again in the ACC tournament.

With the ACC regular season in the rearview mirror, it's time for fans to turn their attention to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. as the 2018 ACC Tournament kicks off at noon Tuesday. Although Duke's No. 2 seeding means that the Blue Devils will not play until Thursday's evening session, there will be plenty of action before then. The Blue Zone takes an early look at what could likely be another exciting five days in the city that never sleeps.

Wild Wednesday

If things go as expected during Tuesday's opening round, there will be at least two enticing matchups on the second day of play. At noon, No. 8 Florida State will play ninth-seeded Louisville, a matchup that was twice decided by four points earlier this season with the teams splitting their season series. Both teams are hanging on the edge of the NCAA tournament—the Seminoles are currently projected by ESPN's Bracketology as a No. 10 seed and the Cardinals are slotted as one of the last four in, meaning Wednesday's game is probably a do-or-die contest for Louisville. 

In the night session, two of the conference's hottest teams will almost certainly face off. Assuming 10th-seeded Notre Dame takes care of business Tuesday against lowly Pittsburgh, the Fighting Irish— buoyed by the return of star Bonzie Colson—will take on No. 7 Virginia Tech, which has now knocked off the ACC's top two teams in the last month. The winner of that contest will then take on Duke Thursday night, meaning Blue Devil fans should be tuned into what could be the best game of the tournament's first two days.

Tobacco Road Round 3?

There is a very good chance that we could once again see Duke take on North Carolina in the ACC tournament semifinals. Last year, the Blue Devils exacted revenge on the Tar Heels, winning 93-83 after falling in Chapel Hill just six days prior. Of course, this time around, it would be North Carolina looking to get back after Duke's  win Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

But as a result of the Tar Heels' defeat in the regular-season finale, they will have to win games on consecutive days to even get a shot at Duke—and it likely won't come easily. North Carolina scraped by Syracuse in upstate New York just a few weeks ago and fell at home to Miami last Monday. Still, if the Tar Heels roll into Friday night with some momentum, it could make for an exciting battle.

The dark horse

The most interesting team in the mix might be N.C. State, which came up just short of earning a double bye. The Wolfpack will be the No. 5 seed, but they'll avoid playing the Blue Devils, North Carolina and Virginia—the likely favorites—until at least the semifinals Friday. N.C. State has also won five of its last six games entering the postseason and as head coach Kevin Keatts said Saturday, they've "stuffed the [N.C. State] stuff."

See the whole ACC tournament bracket below: 

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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