How might Miami’s upset win at North Carolina affect its ACC basketball tournament seeding?
Ja’Quan Newton’s buzzer-beater gives the Hurricanes (10-7 in league play) a shot at a top-four seed, and thus a double bye to start the tournament.
The most straightforward path involves three outcomes: Miami would need to beat Virginia Tech at home Saturday (noon, ESPN2), for UNC (11-6) to lose at Duke (12-5) in their rivalry game at 8:15 p.m. (ESPN) and for both North Carolina State and Clemson (both 10-6) to lose both of their final two.
Clemson hosts Florida State at 9 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU) and visits Syracuse at 2 p.m. Saturday. N.C. State visits Georgia Tech at 8 p.m. Thursday hosts Louisville at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN).
If all that happens — a Miami win, a UNC loss and both Clemson and N.C. State finishing 0-2 — Miami would be the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament. The Hurricanes would open at 9 p.m. next Thursday.
The tournament begins Tuesday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with seeds 10 through 15 facing off. Seeds 5 through 8 begin play Wednesday.
With 12 games remaining in the ACC schedule over the next four days, essentially all that is guaranteed Virginia (15-1) will be the No. 1 seed, and Pittsburgh (0-17) will be No. 15.
Miami could be seeded as high as No. 3 and as low as No. 9.
A host of possibilities
The current ACC standings, and how they could finish:
Virginia 17-1, 16-2 or 15-3
Duke 13-5 or 12-6
UNC 12-6 or 11-7
Clemson 12-6, 11-7 or 10-8
N.C. State 12-6, 11-7 or 10-8
Miami 11-7 or 10-8
Virginia Tech 11-7 or 10-8
Louisville 11-7, 10-8 or 9-9
Florida State 10-8, 9-9 or 8-10
Syracuse 9-9, 8-10 or 7-11
Notre Dame 9-9, 8-10 or 7-11
Boston College 8-10, 7-11 or 6-12
Georgia Tech 6-12, 5-13 or 4-14
Wake Forest 5-13 or 4-14
Pittsburgh 1-17 or 0-18
Rather than plunge much deeper into this rabbit hole and lay out every possibility, let’s focus on how UM could earn a top-four seed.
First, the Canes must beat the Hokies. Whomever wins that game will be 11-7. The other will be 10-8.
Then, they’ll need Clemson and N.C. State to split their final two games. Let’s throw UNC in to the mix, assuming it loses at Duke.
That would put all four teams at 11-7. When two teams are tied, the ACC uses head-to-head records as the first tiebreaker. When more teams are deadlocked, different rules apply.
The first method of three-or-more ACC tiebreaking is combined record of league games between the three teams. In all games played between Miami, UNC, Clemson and N.C. State this year, Miami is 2-1, while N.C. State is 1-1, UNC is 1-2 and Clemson is 2-3.
In that scenario, Miami would be the No. 3 seed.
What about Louisville, which could join the pack at 11-7? The Cardinals, carrying losses to Miami, Clemson and UNC, can finish no better than 1-3 against the aforementioned four. It would need to beat Virginia and N.C. State to get to 11-7. Adding an 11-7 Louisville to that mix would help Miami, which would improve to 3-1 against that group. UNC would be 2-2, Clemson 3-3 and N.C. State 1-2.
In that scenario, Miami would be the No. 3 seed.
Another possibility: Let’s say Louisville doesn’t shock Virginia, UNC beats Duke and it’s a three-way tiebreaker between Miami, Clemson and N.C. State. Miami would lose that tiebreaker to Clemson, which would be 2-1 over those teams. UM would be 1-1, N.C. State 1-2.
In that scenario, Clemson would be the No. 4 seed. Miami would be No. 5, by virtue of its win over N.C. State (remember, removing Clemson means we’re back to head-to-head results to break ties). The Wolfpack would be No. 6.
Get all that?
Also of note
* If Miami found itself in a tiebreaker situation at 11-7, it would own a head-to-head edge over UNC, N.C. State and Virginia Tech, but not Clemson.
* If Miami found itself in a tiebreaker situation at 10-8, it would own a head-to-head edge over N.C. State and Louisville, but not Virginia Tech or Clemson.
* If Miami and Florida State were the only teams tied at 10-8 — a possibility that would depend on Miami losing Saturday and the Seminoles winning their final two (at Clemson on Wednesday, Boston College on Saturday) — seeding would depend on several other teams.
If two teams are tied and their head-to-head records are the same, as is the case here (the Hurricanes and Seminoles split their season series), the next tiebreaker is record against the top seed in the conference, going down the standings until one team gains an advantage.
Both the Canes and Noles are 0-1 against Virginia and Duke and 1-0 against UNC. Miami is 0-1 against Clemson, while a 10-8 FSU would be 1-1, and win the tiebreaker. Miami is 1-0 against N.C State, while FSU is 0-1. The Noles are 1-0 against Virginia Tech, while a 10-8 Miami would be 1-1.
* The worst-case scenario for Miami? A three-way tiebreaker with Clemson and Florida State at 10-8.
In that scenario, FSU (2-1) would win that tiebreaker, and Miami would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker against Clemson. If Louisville goes 2-0 — against Virginia and N.C. State, no easy task — to finish 11-7, Miami would be the No. 9 seed. If the Cards were in the tiebreaker mix, they’d be in an unfavorable position against those teams (1-1 vs. FSU, but 0-1 against Clemson and Miami), which could bump the Canes up a peg.
From the rulebook
The ACC uses the following procedures to break ties for conference tournament seeding:
(1) When two teams are tied in the standings, regular season head-to-head results are used as the tiebreaker.
(2) If the tied teams played each other twice in the regular season and split their games, then each team’s record vs. the team occupying the highest position in the final regular season standings (or in case of a tie for first place, the next highest position in the regular season standings) and then continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.
a. When arriving at another pair of tied teams while comparing records, use each team’s record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to their own tie-breaking procedures), rather than the performance against the individual tied teams.
b. When comparing records against a single team or a group of teams, the higher winning percentage shall prevail, even if the number of games played against a team or group is unequal. (i.e., 2-0 is better than 3-1; 1-0 is the same as 2-0; 2-0 is the same as 4-0; 2-1 is the same as 4-2; 1-0 is better than 1-1; 0-1 is the same as 0-2; 0-2 is the same as 0-4). If the winning percentage of the tied teams is equal against a team, or a group of tied teams, continue down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.
(3) If three or more teams are tied in the standings, the following procedures will be used:
a. The combined record of conference games between the tied teams involved will be compiled. Ties will be broken, and seedings assigned, based on the winning percentage of the combined conference records. The higher winning percentage shall prevail, even if the number of games played against the team or group is unequal (i.e., 2-0 is better than 3-1; 1-0 is the same as 2-0; 2-0 is the same as 4-0; 2-1 is the same as 4-2; 1-0 is better than 1-1; 0-1 is the same as 0-2; 0-2 is the same as 0-4).
b. If procedure (a) fails to break the tie, then each tied team’s record shall be compared to the team occupying the highest position in the final regular-season standings, continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage by a higher winning percentage.
c. If the tie is broken by (a) or (b) regarding one or more teams, but three or more teams remain tied, then procedures (a) and (b) will be reapplied among those tied teams only.
d. If two teams remain tied, procedures (1) and (2) will be followed.
(4) If there is more than one tie in the standings, and when utilizing the tie-breaking procedures there are a pair of teams tied, a team’s record against the combined tied teams (prior to their own tie-breaking procedures) is used, rather than performance against the individual tied teams.
(5) If procedures (2) and/or (3) fail to establish an advantage, a coin flip to break the tie will be conducted by the commissioner after the final regular season game before the Conference Championship.