NCAA

Is Duke the Favorite in the ACC Tournament?

March Madness is right around the corner, but conference champions must be crowned first. The ACC Tournament tips off on Tuesday, with Duke as the favorite to take home the title.

Duke enters the tournament with a 25-6 record and a 15-5 mark in conference play. The Blue Devils secured the No. 4 seed in the bracket and will play NC State, Wake Forest, or Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Florida State locked up the No. 1 seed by winning six of their last seven games in the regular season. No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 Louisville round out the top four contenders.

Duke has won the ACC Tournament two of the last three seasons. The Blue Devils have the most ACC Tournament titles (23) of any team in the conference.

The Bracket

The Pretenders

North Carolina might be the most fascinating team to watch in the ACC Tournament. Unless they run the table, the Tar Heels will fail to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.

UNC went an ACC-worst 6-14 in conference play this season, but Cole Anthony has the team playing much more competitively of late. Will Roy Williams‘ bunch have one last push in them to steal an NCAA Tournament bid?

North Carolina, along with Miami, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Pitt, and Boston College are all given a less than one percent chance to win the ACC.

One interesting longshot to watch will be No. 8 Clemson. The Tigers proved to be giant killers this season, knocking off Florida State, Duke, and Louisville at home.

The problem with Clemson is consistency, as they lost games to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech by double digits. They also lost to Yale in December.

Syracuse, Notre Dame, and NC State represent the second tier of the conference. They’re a notch above the bottom-dwellers, but they don’t have the firepower to compete with the big boys.

The Contenders

Duke may be the favorite based on probabilities, but the ACC is a top-heavy conference with multiple teams figuring to be championship contenders in the Big Dance.

The top four seeds are the presumptive favorites to win the ACC crown, and the champion will most likely come from this group.

According to teamrankings.com, Duke leads the way with a 44.9 percent chance to win the tournament. Florida State is right behind them at 23.8 percent, while Louisville and Virginia are a bit lower at 16.2 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.

No other team has a better than 2.6 percent chance to win it all.

Who will win the ACC Tournament Championship?

Duke has the most talent of any ACC team. Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore, and Cassius Stanley are NBA-caliber players that can dominate at this level if they choose to and Trey Jones is one of the best point guards in the country.

The Blue Devils, however, have trouble bringing their best every night. They come in losing three of their last six games, including an inexplicable loss to Wake Forest. If Duke plays focused, smart basketball the sky is the limit.

Florida State is the No. 1 seed in the conference for a reason. Leonard Hamilton’s crew went 26-5 this season and 16-4 in the ACC.

FSU is incredibly deep every year. Ten Seminoles play more than 10 minutes per game and three players average double digits in the scoring column. They’re able to throw fresh bodies at opponents better than any team in the country, and they have the 14th most efficient defense in the land.

No. 3 Louisville has been up and down all season, but their best might be better than any team in the ACC. The Cardinals rattled off 10 straight wins through January and February and held the No. 1 national ranking earlier this season.

If Jordan Nwora can close games like the player he’s capable of being, Louisville will be a tough out.

Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers enter as the hottest team in the conference and winners of eight straight. Incredibly, seven of those wins came by three points or less. The cardiac Cavs have multiple pieces back from last year’s national championship team and know how to win in close games.

Virginia keeps the March magic from last season alive and wins the ACC Tournament.