It's all about Duke and Zion in ACC

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

March 12, 2019 02:56 AM

Major conference tournament action tips off Tuesday when the Atlantic Coast Conference hits the floor in Charlotte with three first round games. All the other power conference tournaments begin Wednesday.

Media, fans and bettors will be watching the Duke Blue Devils closely.

Zion Williamson will reportedly return from his knee injury for the ACC tourney. If he’s anywhere near 100%, the Blue Devils are serious championship threats this week and in the Big Dance. If not, Duke remains on the short list of elite teams…but only “a name in the hat.”

Last week, VSiN introduced you to the concept of using conference margin averages to visualize quality from top to bottom in any league. Numbers aren’t perfectly clean in this 15-team grouping because the schedule doesn’t permit a full double round robin (that would be 28 games!) ACC teams did play 18 games against each other, which is at least enough to get a good sense of point differentials up and down the scale. 

ACC Regular Season Margins in Conference Play: Virginia 13.7, North Carolina 11.0, Duke 8.6, Florida State 5.2, Louisville 4.7, Virginia Tech 3.8, Clemson 2.6, NC State 0.4, Syracuse -0.1, Miami -5.1, Boston College -7.1, Notre Dame -7.2, Pittsburgh -8.6, Georgia Tech -8.6, Wake Forest -13.6

Duke was only 1.8 in the six games Zion missed (counting both games against North Carolina because he was injured so early in the first meeting). Think of them as about 12 with him, 2 without in ACC action.

With three elite teams in this event, earning the #1 seed was very important. Virginia has a relatively friendly pathway to the semifinals…only needing to beat the winner of Wednesday’s NC State/Clemson game. North Carolina and Duke will probably have tougher quarterfinal opponents, then have to face each other if they sweep through to the semis. 

Here’s a quick look at seedings by bracket section…

  • Virginia’s Quarter: #1 Virginia, #8 NC State, #9 Clemson.
  • Florida State’s Quarter: #4 FSU, #5 Virginia Tech, #12 Miami, #13 Wake Forest.
  • North Carolina’s Quarter: #2 UNC, #7 Louisville, #10 Georgia Tech, #15 Notre Dame.
  • Duke’s Quarter: #3 Duke, #6 Syracuse, #11 Boston College, #14 Pittsburgh.

Remember that it’s best to avoid betting “futures” prices to win any conference tournament. You’ll typically earn a better return with a “rolling parlay” approach. Invest whatever you were thinking about for a futures bet on your chosen team to win its first game on the money line. Roll over your return round by round, with the option of stopping if a key player is seriously injured in a victory. 

VSiN will quickly run through conference margin averages Wednesday for the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac 12…all of which begin during a very busy basketball bonanza. That will include a special look at the first postseason game for St. John’s. The Red Storm plummeted all the way to a #7 seed in the Big East because other teams closed so well, and will host #10 seed DePaul (FS1, 9:30 p.m. Wednesday ET). 

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