I tweeted it on Sunday but it’s worth repeating this morning: There’s a strong case that the suddenly offensive-minded Florida State Seminoles are the favorite to get the one-seed for the ACC tournament. FSU is tied with North Carolina at 7-1 in conference play and Duke is a game behind at 6-2 in what is basically a three-team race for regular season honors.
Nobody is going to make the case that Florida State is better than UNC. Well, hold on, I am sure a few people might. FSU did beat the Tar Heels by 33 in their only meeting, after all. But a home win in isolation provides surprisingly little information on the relative strength of the two combatants. And considering the other 20 or so games played by both teams, I’m comfortable stating the UNC is better than Florida State purely based on each team’s entire body of work.
However, the best team doesn’t always win its conference and at this point it’s reasonable to suggest that Florida State is the favorite – or at worst co-favorites with UNC – to win the ACC regular-season. That’s pretty amazing considering if, before the season, someone broached the idea that UNC wasn’t the best team in the nation, they were asked to re-take College Hoops Analysis 101.
The reasons the ‘Noles are the favorite are that (a) their remaining schedule is easier and (b) they own the tiebreaker over UNC. The Tar Heels play the first of two games against Duke tonight and have two more games against Virginia while the Seminoles have but one game against each.
I ran the Simulator after Duke’s loss on Sunday and it indicated that Florida State and UNC had roughly equal chances of winning the top seed. However, that didn’t consider that FSU owns the tiebreaker in a two-way dead-heat with UNC, which occurs in about 7% of the simulations. Thus, accounting for these cases, the simulator spits out the following chances for a regular-season title in advance of tonight’s Duke/UNC and Florida State/Boston College match-ups…
FSU 45% UNC 34% Duke 18% UVa 2% Miami + NC State 1%
Note: Simulator assumed that all other tie circumstances besides UNC/FSU were broken by coin flips.
The Seminoles actually have a 28% chance of owning sole possession of first place after tonight if you buy the percentages listed on my site. Sure, Carolina will probably beat Duke, but a Blue Devil win wouldn’t be anything close to the upset of the year. And it would be a nightmare scenario for the Tar Heels’ chances of winning the ACC, since like Florida State, Duke has an easier conference schedule than Carolina remaining.
I don’t like throwing around the term “must-win” because if UNC lost tonight and won their remaining conference games, I expect they would still be ACC regular-season champs. But having to rely on winning at Duke and at UVa to do that isn’t a good position to be in. So yeah, it’s pretty close to a must-win for the Tar Heels.