There are five ACC teams ranked in the Top 25. There are 10 teams that could earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, including one with the overall No. 1 seed. There is the potential renewal of the best rivalry in college basketball. And the passion of Syracuse fans in the area is sure to come through.
The Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament begins on Tuesday at Barclays Center, and if one thing is certain, it will leave the joint rocking and generate buzz nationwide.
The tourney kicks off with three games, headlined by 11th-seeded Syracuse against 14th-seeded Wake Forest at 7 p.m. Syracuse (19-12) is on the NCAA Tournament bubble and hopes to tap into the kind of fan turnout it used to get when it played in the Big East Tournament at the Garden. It helped itself by closing the regular season with a win over No. 19 Clemson (the fourth seed) but cannot afford an early exit.
Twelfth-seeded Boston College plays 13th-seeded Georgia Tech at noon. That will be followed by 15th-seeded Pitt against 10th-seeded Notre Dame (18-13), which is another team in need of some wins to reach The Big Dance. After ACC preseason Player of the Year Bonzie Colson was lost to a broken foot, the Irish went 6-9 in the next two months. Colson recently returned, making Notre Dame very dangerous and perhaps a debate for the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
“We have to do some work in Brooklyn to put ourselves on the docket,” Irish coach Mike Brey told The Associated Press.
All of the biggest names — top-ranked and top-seeded Virginia, fifth-ranked and second-seeded Duke, 12th-ranked and sixth-seeded North Carolina and ninth-seeded Louisville — have something at stake.
For Virginia (28-2), there is the chance to cement the NCAA Tournament’s overall No. 1 seeding. Winning the title in Brooklyn should do that, though top scorer Kyle Guy could be limited by what he called a “sprained MCL” in his left knee suffered against Notre Dame on Saturday. The Cavaliers also could be looking at a suddenly very hot Duke squad in a potential title game Saturday night.
The Blue Devils (25-6) enter having won six of seven, including Saturday’s wild comeback victory over Carolina. ACC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. — also a freshman — give Duke perhaps the best frontcourt in the country. The Blue Devils could gain one of the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 seedings with a championship but could have to get through a semifinal against the Tar Heels.
UNC (22-9) could push for an NCAA No. 2 with a run to the title, but it would have to win four games in four nights. The only team with two all-conference first-teamers — Joel Berry II and Luke Maye — the Tar Heels might start that road with Syracuse in the second round and 24th-ranked and third-seeded Miami in the quarterfinals.
Louisville (19-12), which opened the season coping with the scandal that got coach Rick Pitino fired, is another bubble team. The Cardinals not only would have to beat eighth-seeded Florida State in the second round but probably would have to defeat Virginia in the quarterfinals.
At Barclays Center
n No. 12 Boston College vs. No. 13 Georgia Tech, ESPN2, noon
n No. 10 Notre Dame vs. No. 15 Pittsburgh, ESPN2, 2:30 p.m.
n No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Wake Forest, ESPNU, 7 p.m.