Chase for the Championship | Conference elites separating themselves down the stretch

Sports

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Everyone would love to grab that number one spot, but when it comes to conference tournament time, being in the top four isn’t a bad consolation. The conference’s top four teams will be granted the coveted double-bye in the conference tournament.

Virginia has very few chinks in its armor, as it maintains a healthy lead in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.

At 11-2, the next closest is Florida State at 8-2. They recently routed the Cavaliers 81-60 at home.

Rival Virginia Tech is only two games back with a win over the Cavaliers. They are 8-3 in conference play.

Despite the recent loss, the pandemic might keep the Cavaliers from being caught in the standings. Games across the conference are still being postponed, with other schools trying to find ways to make up previous postponed contests.

North Carolina has made its way in and out of the top four and could be an interesting dark horse pick when the ACC Tournament kicks off in a few weeks. The Heels lost a recent game with UVA but could’ve used a bounce-back game against Virginia Tech. That game was postponed.

UNC played a rare February non-conference matchup against Northeastern and will get Louisville on Feb. 20, which could help vault them closer to the top four. Florida State, Syracuse and Duke remain for the Tar Heels.

A team who’s unexpectedly crashed toward the bottom of the league: Duke. The Blue Devils are having an uncharacteristically bad season and were once 10th in the league standings. Fortunately, they currently sit in 7th place.

Despite their struggles and departure of star freshman Jalen Johnson, the Blue Devils have a chance to play spoiler in the final weeks of the season as they have to play North Carolina again, Virginia, Louisville and Georgia Tech.

Florida State has had two games postponed recently, including what would’ve been a very important one for seeding purposes versus Virginia Tech. Its 8-2 conference record is slightly better than Virginia Tech’s 8-3 mark but they are very much in play for the regular-season crown.

The Seminoles have been known for having deep rotations and being able to throw multiple lineups at teams, something fairly uncommon in college hoops, although more teams have begun to follow Florida State’s blueprint. Will it help them make up the difference in the standings? That remains to be seen.

So, though Tony Bennett’s guys may hang another regular-season title banner, they’ll be on sort of an even playing field when teams converge on Greensboro for the ACC Tournament. The rest of the ACC’s top four is filled with quality teams, with two of the remaining three being ranked in the top 25.

However it goes down, CBS 17 will be there to cover it and bring you the latest happenings on another edition of Chase for the Championship at 7 p.m. Thursday. Tune in!

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