The ACC remains the top women’s basketball conference in the nation, with six teams ranked in the AP Top 25: No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 9 NC State, No. 14 Miami, No. 18 Syracuse and No. 22 Florida State. All six teams can expect to get a bid in the NCAA Tournament even if they suffer an early-round defeat in the ACC Tournament.
Beyond the ranked teams, it gets a little unclear. The Clemson Tigers (17-10, 8-6 ACC) will finish no lower than .500 in conference play after a 91-58 win over Boston College on Feb. 16. According to ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s latest projected bracket, the Tigers would earn an at-large bid. The North Carolina Tar Heels would also get an NCAA Tournament bid in part because of their 3-2 record against AP-ranked teams.
The ACC has 15 teams, which means most teams could make the NCAA Tournament next month. If a team in the bottom half of the conference wins the tournament, it’s possible that there could be as many as nine teams, depending on how the results shake out.
The ACC may still not have an NCAA No. 1 seed
Though the ACC is the strongest major conference in women’s college basketball, there have been no national juggernauts. The strength of the ACC is helping more teams get into the NCAA Tournament, but it could also be hurting the top teams from earning a No. 1 seed.
In Creme’s projected bracket, Louisville (24-2, 11-2 ACC) was the only ACC team to receive a No. 1 seed even after a 71-49 loss to Miami last Sunday at home.
Notre Dame (25-3, 12-2 ACC) has the upper hand to win the conference because the Irish own the tiebreaker over the Cardinals. However, they lost 78-73 to an unranked North Carolina team on Jan. 27, a noticeable blemish for the defending national champions. If both teams have a misstep between now and the end of the ACC Tournament, then the ACC will not have any No. 1 seeds despite the conference’s overall strength.
ACC games of the week
No. 14 Miami Hurricanes (22-6, 10-3) vs. No. 22 Florida State Seminoles (21-5, 9-4)
When: Sunday, Feb. 24, at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Watsco Center, Coral Gables, FL
How to watch: ESPN2
Notes: The Hurricanes were the ACC’s hottest team until they lost 73-65 to Virginia Tech on Feb. 21. They have dominated the series in recent years and won 15 games before the loss last Thursday. Sophomore guard Mykea Gray led the Hurricanes with 20 points in the loss while Beatrice Mompremier added 18 points and 15 rebounds. The Seminoles are coming off a 78-46 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers at home last Thursday. Kiah Gillespie continued her strong season, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the win.
No. 18 Syracuse Orange (20-6, 9-4) vs. No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-3, 12-2)
When: Monday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
How to watch: ESPN2
Notes: The Fighting Irish could get much closer to winning the ACC regular season conference title with a win tonight because this is their last game against a ranked opponent. They are coming off an 89-61 win over Duke last Thursday where Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish with 25 points. Syracuse, on the other hand, has won three of its last four games. The Orange’s last game against a ranked opponent was on Feb. 13 when they lost 77-73 to NC State. A Syracuse win here may not just give Louisville the regular season title — it could also help the Orange get a top-4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Elsewhere in the ACC:
- Arike Ogunbowale’s 25-point performance against Duke didn’t just give Notre Dame a big win. Ogunbowale is now the Fighting Irish’s career leading scorer with 2,371 points. Dallas Wings point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 2,357 when she played for Notre Dame from 2009-13.
- Last week, Miami’s Emese Hof won the ACC Player of the Week award while NC State’s Elissa Cunane won the Freshman of the Week award. Hof also won espnW’s National Player of the Week award after scoring 25 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in Miami’s 79-73 win over Louisville on Feb. 17.