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Examining the ACC Bubble (February 13th)

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K.J. McDaniels and Clemson are vying for a spot in the field of 68. (Mark Crammer/Orange and White)

While the latest buzz in the ACC surrounds Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis’ 35-footer to down Pittsburgh, the conference tournament is quickly approaching and the conference still has five teams sitting on the bubble. Most teams have just six conference games to play and the time is now to make a push for a NCAA Tournament spot. Top-ranked Syracuse, Virginia, Duke, Pittsburgh and North Carolina are all currently locks, but here is a look at the ACC teams currently on the bubble in the ACC and what lies ahead:

Clemson (15-8, 6-5 ACC)
RPI: 68
Key Wins: Duke
Bad Losses: Auburn, Notre Dame
Overview: If the NCAA Tournament began today, the Tigers would likely be on the outside looking in. Aside from the play of guard K.J. McDaniels, the offense has really struggled and Tuesday’s loss to Notre Dame was one that Clemson absolutely could not afford. Clemson will have the opportunity to notch a signature win on Saturday when they host Virginia.
What Lies Ahead: After Saturday’s game with Virginia, the remaining schedule for Clemson is very manageable. Clemson will play five of its final seven games at home including contests against fellow bubble teams, Maryland and N.C. State as well as ACC bottom-feeder Miami. The only road contests for the Tigers are to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

Florida State (14-10, 5-7 ACC)
RPI: 64
Key Wins: Virginia Commonwealth, Massachusetts
Bad Losses: Miami
Overview: After a great start to the season, Florida State is reeling having lost six of its last eight games. The Seminoles are currently on the outside of the bubble looking in and are in danger of their first losing season in conference since the 2007-08 season. FSU suffered a terrible loss at home to Miami its last time out.
What Lies Ahead: The good news for Florida State is that the chance to get back into the NCAA Tournament conversation is there. FSU visits Wake Forest on Saturday before hosting North Carolina on Monday with an opportunity to notch its third key win of the year.

Maryland (14-11, 6-6 ACC)
RPI: 76
Key Wins: None
Bad Losses: Oregon State
Overview: Maryland led in the second half of Monday’s game at Virginia, but couldn’t close the deal as the Terrapins still lack a signature win. The Terps have been largely inconsistent and still lack a victory against an ACC team with a winning record in conference play. Maryland absolutely needs a strong finish to make a serious case for a NCAA bid.
What Lies Ahead: While four of Maryland’s final six games are at home, it has three games remaining against ranked opponents. Maryland will visit Duke on Saturday before home games against Wake Forest and Syracuse. Though the remaining schedule is tough, the Terrapins will have multiple opportunities to notch that signature win they currently lack.

N.C. State (16-8, 6-5 ACC)
RPI: 51
Key Wins: None
Bad Losses: None
Overview: The Wolfpack are by far the hottest ACC team on the bubble. N.C. State has managed to win the close games of late as three of its last four wins have come by four points or less. Overall, N.C. State has won five of six thanks largely to the play of T.J. Warren, the ACC’s leading scorer. According to Wednesday’s bubble breakdown, N.C. State is the only ACC bubble team currently in the field of 68.
What Lies Ahead: N.C. State is set to play three straight road games beginning with top-ranked Syracuse on Saturday. The Wolfpack have yet to collect a key win, but N.C. State’s worst loss came in overtime to MEAC-leading North Carolina Central. N.C. State also has a visit to Pittsburgh left on the schedule, but has home games it should win against Miami and Boston College as well.

Wake Forest (14-10, 4-7 ACC)
RPI: 86
Key Wins: North Carolina
Bad Losses: Georgia Tech
Overview: After dropping four straight, Wake Forest is dangerously close to falling off the bubble. The Demon Deacons have been dreadful of late defensively and like Clemson, FSU and Maryland, Wake is currently on the outside looking in.
What Lies Ahead: Saturday’s home game against Florida State may be a must-win for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have road games remaining against North Carolina, Maryland and Miami. Wake Forest has four of its final seven games at home including a contest with Duke on March 5th which could make or break the Deacons’ tourney hopes.

Mike Ferguson is an ACC staff writer for the College Sports Network and can be followed on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Also, be sure to LIKE College Sports Net’s ACC page on Facebook!

 
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