Stretch Run Schedule Analysis
With the ACC race entering the final third of the expanded 18-game campaign, seven teams remain in legitimate contention for the four first-round byes at the four-day ACC Tournament. But one very important variable has already been determined: the schedule.
Because of the league’s unbalanced slate, not every contender faces the same stretch run. Here’s a look at the closing six games for the league’s top seven teams:
|Team||Home games left||Road games left||Home opponent win%||Road opponent win%||Overall opponent win%|
We can draw a few conclusions from those numbers.
1. Miami is going to win the regular season. The Hurricanes are the only team of the top seven that has four home games in the final six contests. Jim Larranaga’s squad also has the second-weakest opponent winning percentage, so expect them to finish strong. It would take a monumental collapse and/or significant injuries for them to lose a three-game lead in the standings with their remaining schedule.
2. Expect NC State to get hot. The Wolfpack when through a bit of a midseason lull, which just happened to coincide with the toughest part of its schedule. But the opponent winning percentage of State’s final six games is the weakest of any team among the top seven squads. One quirk of the schedule is that FSU and NC State face each other twice in the final six games, which means those two teams—separated by one game in the standings—will have a head-to-head opportunity to determine which team has a better shot at the bye.
3. Virginia and Maryland, the two teams perhaps perched most precariously on the NCAA Tournament bubble, have tough schedules. The Cavaliers’ remaining opponents have the highest winning percentage among the top seven schools, and Virginia by far has the toughest remaining road schedule. Maryland, which is 1-4 away from the Comcast Center in ACC play, closes with four road games out of its final six--but those four opponents, except for Virginia, are all weak. The season finale matching the Terps and Cavaliers in Charlottesville could carry significant NCAA implications.
4. Carolina has a split schedule.You can look at the Tar Heels’ remaining slate in one of two ways. You could say UNC gets a break, because three of the remaining four toughest games are at home (State, FSU and Duke). But you could also say that the Tar Heels have absolutely no margin for error on the road, because losses at Clemson and/or Georgia Tech would be damaging for NCAA positioning. There’s no question that Carolina’s remaining marquee games will be at the Smith Center. The more telling games, however, might come on the road.