The Irish may have blew both of its chances to pick up a signature win during the non-conference season, but thanks to the gauntlet that is the ACC the Irish still have plenty of chances to get the NCAA Tournament committee’s attention.
Really outside of Boston College and maybe Georgia Tech there are no “gimmes” this year in the ACC. Even the schools who aren’t usually that strong, like Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest, have solid teams this year.
Clemson has an outstanding wing in senior Jaron Blossomgame. The Tigers are 12-1 and are receiving votes in the top 25 rankings.
Many are expecting head coach Buzz Williams to get the Hokies their first NCAA bid since 2007. VT has a strong backcourt with Ahmed Hill, Justin Robinson, and Seth Allen.
Head coach Danny Manning has had a nice turn around at Wake. They might not be a contender for an NCAA bid this season, but they won’t be a pushover for anyone. Sophomore forward John Collins has been impressive thus far as he’s averaging a double-double of 17.3 points and 10.8 rebounds.
NC State had a down year in 2015-2016, but they many are expecting better from them this season as they were picked to finish in front of the Irish in the ACC (6th). The Wolfpack have an impactful freshman in Dennis Smith Jr., who is averaging 18.9 points per game.
Florida State has been a bit of a surprise in non-conference. They’re 12-1 and ranked No.20. The ‘Noles have two exciting players in Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac. They also have impressive wins over Illinois and Minnesota.
Miami might not be as strong as they were last season, but they’re a tournament team no doubt. Jim Larranaga returns two of his top four scorers from last year’s group.
Pittsburgh hadn’t been the Pitt we’ve grown to know the last few years under Jamie Dixon, but first year head coach Kevin Stallings has the Panthers at 10-2 with a key win over Maryland.
Syracuse was ranked highly in the preseason after an unexpected Final Four run last season. They have stumbled in the non-conference as they are just 7-5, but they are still Syracuse and will be a tough test.
Then you have that group of elite programs with Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Louisville. The Irish get three of these four at home, so there will be opportunities to pick up a signature win.
Last season the ACC had seven NCAA bids, and would have had eight if Louisville would have been eligible. This season some see the ACC getting as many as nine or 10 bids. ESPN has even speculated that the conference might get as many as 11 teams. If the Irish can get anywhere from nine to 11 wins in conference play they’ll have a good shot of garnering a tournament bid.
The Irish won’t ease into conference play. They’ll be diving right in. Right off the bat the Irish travel to Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve and just a few days after that they’ll take on the No.6 Louisville Cardinals at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish have one last non-conference contest on Wednesday against St. Peters. We’ll have a preview for your before the matchup. Make sure to keep up with us here at One Foot Down all season long as we’ll have full coverage of Notre Dame’s march through the ACC.