10 games that will determine the ACC winner

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The ACC’s basketball media day is coming up this weekend.

Usually, this is the traditional segue from football to basketball on Tobacco Road and its environs. Of course, the media day isn’t even in North Carolina this year – it’s in Atlanta, site of March’s ACC tournament.

Anyway, typically this is the time when fans of most schools in the league (at least most of the pre-expansion schools) start getting excited about basketball matchups with High Point, Radford and Maryland-Eastern Shore rather than whatever lingers on the football schedule.

Of course, expansion changed some of this, along with Florida State’s tumble from annual dominance. But with every team in the conference already tagged with a loss, there is actually a little intrigue even as basketball is about to get underway.

There’s six weeks left in the regular season, and here’s 10 games that might have a big say in who actually wins the conference:

Oct. 25

Boston College at North Carolina: With divisional losses to Virginia and Virginia Tech already absorbed, the Tar Heels don’t have much room left to maneuver. They’d better upend Boston College on their way into their final bye week.

Virginia Tech at Florida State: Even with a loss at BC, the Hokies are still in control of the Coastal Division. The schedule becomes more manageable after this week, with three of four at home in November. But a stinker in Tallahassee probably hands the division lead to Georgia Tech. On the other side, Florida State must be wary because of its loss to Wake Forest; the Seminoles probably can’t afford more than one loss the rest of the way.

Nov. 1

Florida State at Georgia Tech: Speaking of the Yellow Jackets, they’re 3-1 in the ACC (6-1 overall) and get Virginia and Florida State in Atlanta the next two weeks. If Tech gets them both, it’ll probably be time to engrave Paul Johnson’s name on the conference’s coach of the year trophy.

Nov. 8

Georgia Tech at North Carolina: Has a good chance to be an eliminator game for both teams – at least, if they’re still in the chase.

Nov. 13

Virginia Tech at Miami: It’s easy to forget about the Hurricanes and their two conference losses. But suppose they topple Wake Forest and then exact some payback for a shutout loss at the Orange Bowl to Virginia. All the sudden, they’re 3-2 and get the Hokies at home on a Thursday night.

Nov. 15

Boston College at Florida State: There is no rest for the Eagles at any point going forward, and this shapes up to be the nastiest test of all. Boston College will be coming off a home game against Notre Dame – always a biggie for New England’s major Catholic school – and will no doubt need this for a divisional push.

Nov. 22

Boston College at Wake Forest: Assuming the Demon Deacons can regroup from Saturday’s humbling in College Park, they might be in the best shape of anyone. Their only remaining game against an Atlantic Division contender is the tussle with BC, and they avoid Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. There might be another loss lurking out there, but this is the biggest game left on Wake’s schedule.

Florida State at Maryland: The Terpies have nabbed Florida State in the Seminoles’ last two trips to College Park, and a third would give Maryland some hope in the conference title chase. Florida State is probably the best team left on the Terps’ schedule, which means it’s the safest best for a Maryland victory.

Nov. 29

Maryland at Boston College: This could easily turn out to be two 7-4 teams battling for a spot in the Champs Sports Bowl. Actually, Maryland would be battling for it, because an 8-4 or 7-5 BC team would undoubtedly fall much further down the bowl pecking order. But it could also decide the Atlantic Division.

Virginia at Virginia Tech: Trust me, I didn’t forget about Lord Groh and his many vassals in the Old Dominion. If the extreme home/road Cavaliers can win at either Georgia Tech or Wake Forest, they might just have a chance to create havoc in the conference. That’s assuming they can win the Commonwealth Cup – something Virginia hasn’t done in Blacksburg since 1998.

Patrick Stevens

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