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The Tar Heels Are For Real: Inside the ACC Tournament

It took some real configuring to come up with the ACC Tournament bracket. Seeds 10-3 were anyone’s guess. They’ve all had strong wins, but they’ve also all been upset more than once. You can’t count on anyone in the ACC, but you can’t sleep on anyone either. This is the toughest conference in men’s basketball. I’ll give Pac-12 second place this year, but there’s no comparison when it comes to the ACC.

Among all the upsets and victors, only one team remains constant. Here’s an inside look at the ACC Tournament:

The Bottom Feeders:

The ACC bottom feeders consist of the teams ranked 15-10 in the tournament. First things first, don’t count out Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are trying to go dancing, and everyone in their path better watch out. They’ve won some notable games, recently beating Louisville. They’ve also knocked out a decent Miami and Virginia Tech team. There’s a lot on the line for this team, so expect them to play like it.

Second, I may be reaching, but NC State could advance past the first round. With everything going on with State’s program, this is a shocking statement, but also a statement people were making preseason. Dennis Smith Jr. just won ACC Freshman of the Year. Coach Gottfried literally has nothing left to lose. If State advances past their first round, which is within their reach, they’ll be getting a rematch against Duke. Remember when NC State took down the Blue Devils at Cameron this year? That’s something Coach K and everyone else wants to forget, but how epic would it be if State took them down yet again in the tournament? I’m reaching again, I know, but one can dream. State could play with a chip on their shoulder, or they could crumble and end their season as undignified as the start.

Georgia Tech’s coach Josh Pastner was crowed ACC Coach of the Year, beating out hall of famers Coach K and Roy Williams. Though people are scratching their heads about this one, Georgia Tech could take the honor and run with it come ACC Tournament time. However, Virginia may halt their run in the next round.


Never sleep on Jim Boeheim. A few years ago, no one would have ever thought that Syracuse would have to fight to make the NCAA tournament. Last year, the team barely made the cut, and then Boeheim managed to give a big middle finger to the committee by making it to the Final Four. This year’s team could find themselves in a similar fate, but they have to make the big dance first and get through the ACCT. 

Things weren’t looking good for the Orange at the beginning of the year. Calling the loss to Boston College an embarrassment is an understatement. Then, just as Boeheim does, the team managed to put things together. They beat Miami and Wake, upset Florida State and Virginia, and let us not forget the buzzer beater against Duke. Needless to say, no one wants to run into Boeheim come tournament time. It’ll be a good fight against Miami, but getting past the beast that is UNC is no simple task, and it’s doubtful Syracuse is up for that.


Miami, like Syracuse, is one of those ACC teams you scratch your head at, yet you pray they’re not in your bracket. They could come up big, or they could greatly underachieve. They sure have provided a lot of entertainment in the ACC this season. Then the moment they found their way to the Top 25, they lost…and then lost again.

Despite the losses, this team has been the king of upsets. They took down powerhouses UNC, Virginia, and Duke. Their résumé still looks descent for the NCAAT, but with so many questionable teams out there, to lockup a spot Miami has to at least make it past the first round. Remember, Syracuse is no easy task. The two met early in the season, and ‘Cuse was still in their ‘we lost to Boston College’ mode. They’re a different team these days, and the Hurricanes may not breeze by them.

If Miami does advance, we’ll get to see the rematch of the UNC vs. Miami game. UNC is out to redeem themselves, but considering they crushed Syracuse in the regular season, they’re hoping to see them take the court on Thursday.

Virginia Tech:

Here we go again. Every week there’s a new ACC underdog everyone is afraid of. VTech, Miami, Syracuse, Wake, take your pick. They’re all beatable, but they’re all bracket busters. VTech and Syracuse must have traded places. VTech was dangerous early on this season, then declined rapidly since then. Their notable wins are Duke, Virginia, and Miami. Joe Lunardi has the Hookies at an 8-seed in the NCAA tournament, but you know who’s still trying to get their ticket punched?

VTech plays the winner of the Wake and Boston College game. Which means they’ll probably play Wake come Wednesday. Wake is considered by some to be a sleeping giant, so let’s not rule out VTech getting knocked out in the second round.


Does anyone else see the pattern of Duke and Virginia being the ones who are on the opposite side of the upset? This is important information to consider now that it’s tournament time. Duke is fragile. Like everyone else in the list mentioned above, they go up and down. After taking hit after hit in the preseason, and for most of the regular season, many thought the Blue Devils would finally be able to put it all together by March. It’s now March.

The Blue Devils have their ticket to the NCAAT, but they’re probably less than pleased with their seeding considering Vegas had them as #1 overall preseason. Because of the loss to UNC, the Blue Devils have to play one extra game than their friends UVA, FSU, ND, and UNC. Again, they’re fragile, so while winning the second round should be a piece of cake, they then face Louisville, whom they lost to earlier this season. With a Blue Devil win, we could then see a rematch against UNC. The entire UNC-Duke fan base is praying this won’t happen considering their heart rates still haven’t gone down since the last time.

You could flip a coin to decide who’ll win in the third round. With Louisville being fresh while Duke will have already played one game, I’m giving this one to Louisville. 


People who call UVA’s style of play beautiful, how can you stay awake when watching them play? They’ve got to be the most boring team in the ACC. They’re not known for shooting the lights out, but their defense will make sure their opponent doesn’t either. This team only lost by a two-point buzzer beater against Villanova. They’ve also beat Louisville not once, but twice. They’re the only team so far to accomplish that.

Again, like every team in the ACC, once the media starts talking about you, they jinx it. UVA went on a four-game losing streak. Granted, those teams weren’t bottom feeders. UVA is either hit or miss depending on whom they play. UNC made it no match for them in their first meeting, but then UVA proved that their defense does win games in the second meeting. If the opposing team isn’t shooting well, UVA will win. If the opposing team is hitting nothing but net, the Cavaliers won’t win the shooting battle.

The Cavaliers should make it past the second round, drawing Notre Dame next. UVA won in the regular season because ND couldn’t throw it in the ocean. If ND is shooting well, UVA won’t have much of a shot (get it?). 

Florida State:

Mark this team up as another hit-or-miss team. The Seminoles had so much hype early in the regular season, faded, but have recently come back into the conversation. They’re going dancing at the NCAAT, but what’s on the line for them is to prove that they are the contenders the media has portrayed them to be. Up until their meeting with UNC in January, the Seminoles had only lost one game in the preseason. However, that loss was against a not-so-good Temple team. 

FSU has beaten some big teams, but they’ve also lost to big teams and bottom feeders. They should make it to the semis, having a better draw than Duke. They then either draw UVA or Notre Dame, neither being cupcakes. FSU has what it takes to make it to the Championship, but they could fold like everyone else is capable of doing. They’re my pick to make the second best run at the ACC title.

Notre Dame:

Notre Dame has been sneakily making their way onto everyone’s watch list. Bonzie Colson made a run for ACC POY, and made ACC first-team. Though suffering a four-game losing streak, the Fighting Irish has managed to hold their own in the conference. Their big wins came against Louisville and Florida State. However, both of these teams beat Notre Dame when they had the home court advantage.

Notre Dame has it in them to make a run, but that would mean potentially getting past UVA and Florida State, both of whom they’ve lost to. Their road is not easy. I wouldn’t pick them to make it to the big night.


Louisville would be my pick to have the second best run at the title, but as fate would have it, they have to get past Duke and UNC to get there. If they end up beating two tobacco road teams, they deserve the title. Louisville hasn’t really won the big games yet. They lost to top-rated UNC, UVA, FSU, and ND (whom they beat at their next meeting). Their other loss came against Wake with a share of the regular season title on the line. They did come up big against ND, preventing them from sharing the title, but what other notable wins did this team have in the ACC? They did beat Kentucky and Indiana in the regular season, but this is the ACC we’re talking about. 

Let’s not rule Louisville out. They’re dangerous. There’s no doubt about it. Can they get past both powerhouses of North Carolina? Probably not. 


The UNC Tar Heels are for real. They have been the only semi-consistent team in the ACC. Though they’ve had their struggles: Georgia Tech and Miami. The Tar Heels won the regular season by two games. That’s an impressive accomplishment considering the depth of the ACC. After the loss against UVA, the Tar Heels had an epic victory over Duke. Does anyone else remember the story where UNC lost to UVA then turned around and beat Duke? That happened last year, and UNC not only won the ACC Tournament, they made it to the NCAA Finale.

Justin Jackson was just named ACC POY, and after on and off struggles, Joel Berry and Isaiah Hicks had monstrous performances on Saturday night. Expect the Tar Heels to keep this momentum going. Though Miami would love to take down the Tar Heels again if given the chance, with the way UNC is playing, their chances are slim. UNC should easily get to the semis. The fight against Duke and Louisville will be the hardest challenge, especially if it’s Duke because those games are always a battle. With the momentum on their side, expect UNC to return to the championship game, and probably be crowned back-to-back victors. 

The ceiling is the roof after all. I’m clueless about this too, but it’s a good tournament motto, no?

Taylor currently works in television production in New York City. Her current project was for a Sesame Work Shop show called 'Helpsters' that is now streaming on AppleTV. While at Appalachian State University, Taylor majored in Film and Creative Writing. She enjoys reality TV, college basketball, binge-watching Netflix, eating Mexican food, and cuddling with her cats. Her dream is to be a television show writer. For inquries, she can be reached at taylorpdills@gmail.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/taylordills/
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