Virginia Tech stormed through the ACC Women’s Tournament with a dominant performance, stirring up a hornet’s nest of questions in the process.
The third-seeded Hokies blew out Miami by 26 before holding No. 2 seed Duke to 37 points in a 21-point win. They finished off their run by topping fourth-seed Louisville in the final, 75-67.
After five wild days in Greensboro, what have we learned? The main takeaway is we’re still not sure what’s going to happen when the selection committee unveils the NCAA brackets. The games have ended for ACC teams, but there’s still plenty that needs to be decided. Here’s a look at the top storylines scrambling the March Madness picture in the ACC.
Who’s No. 1?
The ACC had plenty of candidates for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. Notre Dame has a lineup of stars and won the regular season. Duke and Virginia Tech were right behind the Irish.
The Hokies certainly looked the part in the ACC Tournament, winning their three games by an average of 18.3 points and taking out two top-four seeds. Can they jump from a No. 3 in their conference tourney to a No. 1 in the Big Dance?
The Irish looked overmatched in a 64-38 loss to Louisville, and one of the key reasons why will be discussed a little later. Duke has also seemingly lost track of its offense — starting with the regular season finale, the Blue Devils have scored 41, 44 and 37 points.
The good news for the ACC is that most of the other power conferences also saw top seeds upset in their tournaments, so the committee could vault Tech to the top row or just ignore the tourney upsets entirely and reward Notre Dame, but the conference is hoping it’s not shut out from a top seed.
Who’s still standing?
ACC Rookie of the Year Ta’Niya Latson. Player of the Year runner-up Olivia Miles. All-ACC second-teamer Diamond Johnson. All of those top-shelf players earned ACC season honors last Tuesday, and that was the last they were heard of for the week. None of them saw the floor in the ACC Tournament due to injuries. It’s possible they were rested to prepare for an NCAA run, but it also could be that the injuries will persist into next week and beyond.
The fates of Florida State, Notre Dame and NC State, respectively, will depend on how ready their stars are to play. The Irish looked good against a depleted Wolfpack team in the quarterfinals, as fellow All-ACC first teamer Sonia Citron was able to pick up the slack in Miles’ absence, but against a fully healthy Louisville team, the Irish were out of it early.
One of the reasons Tech was able to make its conference tourney run is that the Hokies were one of the few teams that had all their top players at 100%, including player of the year Elizabeth Kitley, first-teamer Georgia Amoore and sixth person of the year D’asia Gregg.
Several teams also saw players go down during the action in Greensboro. Wake point guard Kaia Harrison was limited to a handful of minutes in the Deacs’ three games after injuring her ankle, and Notre Dame — already down one starter and with another one, Dara Mabry, already out for the year from a late January knee injury — saw key reserve Natalija Marshall limited to a handful of minutes after suffering an elbow to the eye.
The ACC’s top teams need to get healthy in a hurry or the March run may be a short one for the conference’s showcase teams. And, if all the injured players are back and ready to go for the Big Dance, some tough questions will need to be asked about whether sitting people out of the ACC Tournament is in the best interests of the league.
Who’s in, who’s out, who’s sweating
The best bet at the moment is that Virginia Tech will be a top seed. According to ESPN’s predictions, the league won’t get a No. 2 seed but will have a pair of No. 3s in Duke and Notre Dame. UNC, which beat Duke twice, is expected to be a fourth seed and Louisville a 5.
Florida State and NC State appear to be safely in, with both expected to get 7 seeds according to ESPN’s bracketology, and Miami is on the right side of the bubble, avoiding the play-in round and getting a No. 9 seed if ESPN is to be believed.
Syracuse, which finished 18-12 and 9-9 in the league and lost its ACC Tournament opener to the Wolfpack, is predicted to be one of the first four teams out.
Of course, as last week showed, anything can happen, and developments over the next few days could scramble the picture further.