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The ACC regular season only has a few weeks left with the end coming on March 4th. However, the excitement is only going to multiply from here on out. The race for the regular season banner is as tight as any year in recent memory because 5 teams (UNC, Duke, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Louisville), with just about two weeks left in the season, have a realistic shot of winning the title.
North Carolina sits in first place at 11-3 in the conference but has 4 teams right on their tail with 10 wins. Duke and Louisville have the best shot to upend the Tar Heels because they each have one game against the Heels. Louisville plays them tonight at 9 pm (ET) and Duke plays them March 4th in Chapel Hill. A Louisville win tomorrow would catapult them into a tie for first place with UNC. A Duke win over UNC on March 4th, if the records hold true, would give Duke the ACC title because they would own the tiebreaker by beating UNC twice.
Louisville would be in the driver seat with a win over UNC tomorrow because they have the easiest schedule down the stretch. After UNC, they will not have any ranked teams remaining on their schedule.
Duke, on the other hand, has the 2nd easiest schedule (out of the 3) because the only other ranked team they face, in addition to North Carolina, is Florida State.
Senior Guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes Celebrating During 88-72 Win Over Duke (Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports)
UNC will have to face Duke and Louisville, who are both top 10 teams, and will have to go on the road to Virginia, who have lost four in a row and were embarrassed last Saturday in Chapel Hill. UNC has no cupcakes left with the one other game being against Pittsburgh, who took them to the wire earlier in the year.
Whoever wins tonight, Louisville or UNC, will become the favorite to win the ACC. However, if UNC wins tomorrow night, it will be far from locked up because they will still need to beat Duke on their home floor in the regular season finale.
The ending to this regular season will be incredible. So many teams have a shot to win and many of those teams have to play each other down the stretch, making almost every one of the remaining ACC games must-watch basketball. Don’t forget, the ACC has been the most competitive conference in all of college basketball, so even if it isn’t one of the six teams ranked in the top 25, a tight game should still be expected. Especially teams like Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Miami and Virginia Tech, who are not ranked, but are a tough out and will probably end up making March Madness anyways (ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects the ACC to have 10 NCAA Tournament Teams).
I expect UNC to win tomorrow night against Louisville and carry the momentum into the March 4 matchup against Duke, who I expect to also win out going into that game. Therefore, that game will decide the ACC regular season title. I will not pick a winner now but will come out with a preview and a predicted winner the week leading up to the massive showdown.
There is not anything more exciting, maybe in all of basketball, then Duke-UNC playing one game with a title on the line.
Luckily for us college basketball fans, what could easily be a pinnacle (the Duke-UNC showdown), will be nothing more than one moment on the way to a peak. The incredibly competitive and talented ACC teams will have to face off against each other once again in Brooklyn for the ACC tournament.
If the regular season is any indication of how the tournament will play out, then everyone is in for the best four days of college basketball this year, not including March Madness (of course).
Ryan is currently a student at the University of North Carolina. He grew up in the Bay Area and has had Raiders season tickets his entire life fostering his love for the NFL. He has founded his own sports website, thejrreport.com and works at the Sports Desk for the Daily Tar Heel. You can follow Ryan on twitter @rytime98 if you want to discuss anything sports.