ACC Tournament Preview 2021: Two Favorites & One Sleeper

After a season of controversy and instability amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 New York Life ACC Tournament is set to tip-off on Tuesday at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.

More importantly, for the conference’s 15 member-programs, the true essence of March basketball has finally returned after a 363-day hiatus—and there’s certainly some unfinished business.

As usual, the winner of the tournament will officially punch their ticket into the NCAA National Tournament via an automatic bid.

Let’s take a more detailed look at the bracket ahead:

First Round - Tuesday, March 9th, 2021 (ACCN)

1.) #12 Pittsburgh vs. #13 Miami | 2 PM

2.) #10 Duke vs. #15 Boston College | 4:30 PM

3.) #11 Notre Dame vs. #14 Wake Forest | 7 PM

Second Round - Wednesday, March 10th, 2021 (ACCN)

4.) #8 Syracuse vs. #9 NC State | 12 PM

5.) #5 Clemson vs. Pittsburgh/Miami | 2:30 PM

6.) #7 Louisville vs. Duke/Boston College | 6:30 PM

7.) #6 North Carolina vs. Notre Dame/Wake Forest | 9 PM

Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 11th, 2021 (ESPN/ESPN2)

8.) #1 Virginia vs. Syracuse/NC State | 12 PM

9.) #4 Georgia Tech vs. Winner of Game 5 | 2:30 PM

10.) #2 Florida State vs. Winner of Game 6 | 6:30 PM

11.) Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 9 | 6:30 PM

Semifinals - Friday, March 12th, 2021 (ESPN/ESPN2)

12.) Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 9 | 6:30 PM

13.) Winner of Game 10 vs. Winner of Game 11 | 9 PM

Championship - Saturday, March 13th, 2021 (ESPN)

14.) Winner of Game 12 vs. Winner of Game 13 | 8:30 PM

*All times in EST

The Favorite(s):

#2 Florida State- Despite dropping 2 out of their final 3 games against unranked opponents and ultimately losing a portion of the ACC regular-season title in the process, the Seminoles will now enter the ACC Tournament with a chip on their shoulders as the #2 seed.

With the amount of talent on their roster, head coach Leonard Hamilton and his team are still poised for a deep run in March.

Leading the way on offense is senior guard M.J. Walker, who has averaged a team-high 13.1 points across 19 games this season—enough to earn All-ACC Second Team honors. Following closely-behind was junior forward RaiQuan Gray, who racked up 12.4 points and 6.9 rebounds while appearing in all of the Seminoles’ games this season.

Meanwhile, freshman standout guard Scottie Barnes, who was also recently named as the conference’s Freshman of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year, averaged 10.4 points, 4.3 assists, and 4.3 rebounds in 19 games this season.

Additionally, as a result of their final two losses, the team has taken a slight stumble in the latest AP Top 25 poll, falling to #15 in the nation. However, they still sit one position above Virginia.

Their first game will take place Thursday at 6:30 PM when they face the winner of the Louisville vs. Duke/Boston College game on Wednesday.

#1 Virginia- The Cavaliers finished atop the conference with 2 consecutive wins over Miami and Louisville en route to claiming the program’s 10th ACC regular season championship—their 3rd in the last 4 years.

Unlike years past, head coach Tony Bennett's defensive-minded program has struggled for the most part against nationally-ranked opponents. In particular, their conference resume alone—albeit limited this season—includes losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech.

Nonetheless, the team's All-ACC senior forwards Sam Hauser (15.8 points and 6.8 rebounds/game) and Jay Huff (13.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks/game) have each displayed the team's true success through their strong scoring capabilities.

On Thursday at noon, Virginia will look to begin their journey back to the ACC tournament championship against the winner of Syracuse-NC State.

The Sleeper:

# 4 Georgia Tech- The Yellow Jackets closed out their regular season riding the ACC’s longest current winning streak of 6 games.

Granted, the majority of their wins during that time span came against the conference’s bottom-half of teams—Pittsburgh, Miami, Syracuse, Duke, and Wake Forest—they did, however, manage to defeat then-16 ranked Virginia Tech.

With a combination of momentum, defensive assistance from ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jose Alvarado, and offensive help from ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright, Georgia Tech seems perfectly capable of pulling off the unthinkable.

Should they advance past their first game in the quarterfinals on Thursday, they’ll likely have another rematch with Virginia after previously losing both of their regular season games against the 'Hoos.

But as for now, the Yellow Jackets will set their sights on the task at hand and await the outcome of Wednesday's Clemson vs. Pittsburgh/Miami to determine their next opponent.