ACC Tournament 2023: Top Storylines for Men’s Round 2 Games
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The second round of the 2023 ACC tournament is all about the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Hubert Davis’ team could go from NCAA men’s basketball tournament runner-up to out of the field of 68 if it does not win a few games inside the Greensboro Coliseum.
North Carolina’s primary goal on Wednesday is to avoid a bad loss against the Boston College Eagles.
UNC must be aware of Boston College’s record in postseason play under Earl Grant. The Eagles are 3-1 in the ACC tournament in the last two years.
The Pittsburgh Panthers are on the opposite side of the bubble as North Carolina, but they have the same goal to achieve on Wednesday.
Pitt can’t afford a bad loss against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets if the Panthers want to move closer to the bubble with a few days left before Selection Sunday.
The Virginia Tech Hokies appear to have the best chance of the three first-round winners to spring an upset because the NC State Wolfpack stumbled at the end of the regular season.
The Syracuse Orange and Wake Forest Demon Deacons square off in the first of four games, but there are no NCAA tournament implications in the No. 8-versus-No. 9 showdown.
North Carolina Must Avoid Bad Loss
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North Carolina can’t lose to a team that went 9-11 in ACC play and that it beat by eight points in the regular season.
Seems like an easy task, right?
Well, the Tar Heels have had a tendency to make life difficult for themselves this season.
For example, UNC had to wait until February 25 to earn its first Quad 1 win over the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Tar Heels have a 2-4 record against the ACC’s top five seeds, and that put them squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Tar Heels on the “First Four Out” line in his latest bracket projection. Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller does not have the Heels close to the bubble.
Boston College won two games as the No. 13 seed and almost beat the Miami Hurricanes in the quarterfinals in the 2022 ACC tournament, so it will be a tough foe for UNC.
While UNC does not have many good wins, it also does not have a lot of bad losses from ACC regular-season play.
The Tar Heels did not lose to any of the bottom six teams in the ACC, and they held Boston College to 64 points in their lone regular-season meeting.
North Carolina needs to win to have a chance at beating Virginia again and moving to the right side of the bubble.
UNC could also benefit from losses by the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Wisconsin Badgers and Arizona State Sun Devils on Wednesday to clear out some of the potential bubble teams it has to compete with over the next few days.
Pittsburgh Needs to End Late Season Slide
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Pittsburgh let the ACC regular-season title slip away from it.
The Panthers were in a position to land the No. 1 seed in Greensboro and then dropped to the No. 5 seed after losses to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Miami.
Jeff Capel’s team needs to rebound on Wednesday against Georgia Tech to reset itself ahead of tougher games in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
Pittsburgh is on the right side of the bubble entering Wednesday. Miller has the Panthers as a No. 10 seed, and Lunardi has them on the “Last Four Byes” line.
However, a bad loss to a Georgia Tech team that barely escaped the first round on Tuesday could bring the Panthers closer to the First Four in Dayton, Ohio.
Georgia Tech’s early struggles in Greensboro are a good sign for the Panthers. Josh Pastner’s side shot 37.7 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from three-point range in the win over the Florida State Seminoles.
Pittsburgh held Georgia Tech under 70 points in both of their regular-season contests, and it could achieve that feat again on Wednesday given the Yellow Jackets’ poor first-round display.
A comfortable victory would be the best-case scenario for Pittsburgh so that it can then look to improve its NCAA tournament seeding over the next few days in Greensboro.
Other Two Games Should Feature High Scores
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The two other second-round games do not have direct NCAA tournament bubble implications, but they can still be exciting.
Syracuse, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and NC State all average over 74 points per game.
The Syracuse-Wake Forest opener features two teams that just played each other on Saturday. The Orange held Wake to 63 points in a nine-point win.
A low-scoring affair is not expected in that contest again since both teams give up over 72 points per game.
If anything, the Cuse-Wake game should be a free-flowing contest with neither team facing much pressure. A date with top-seeded Miami is on the line.
Virginia Tech barely got past Notre Dame in the first round to set up the clash with NC State.
The Wolfpack are comfortably in the NCAA tournament field, and they could use Wednesday’s game as a chance to get right ahead of the Big Dance.
Virginia Tech may pose a threat as the reigning champion, but it did not win more than two games in a row in the ACC regular season.
The Hokies’ inconsistency could be their downfall, and that may help NC State navigate the second-round matchup.
NC State comes into Wednesday with a scoring average of four points per game higher than the Hokies, but it may have to win a game with a large point total because it allows 70.3 points per game.
The opening and closing contests should be played with much less pressure than the UNC and Pittsburgh games, and that should lead to some entertaining basketball.