Georgia Tech’s first two steps of the ACC tournament aren’t entirely impassable.
The trouble is that for the Yellow Jackets to beat Boston College in the first round and Miami in the quarterfinal would require them to do something they haven’t done in the past two years – win consecutive ACC games.
Tech has perhaps its last opportunity to put a stamp on its second season with coach Brian Gregory starting Thursday in Greensboro, N.C., at the 60th ACC tournament. The Jackets (16-14, 6-12), the No. 9 seed, will play No. 8 seed Boston College in a noon game with the winner advancing to a Friday quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Miami in another noon game.
A Tech win over the Eagles, who beat the Jackets 74-72 Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Mass., is entirely possible. A second win over the teetering Hurricanes (three losses in their past five games, including to Tech last week) would be a considerable achievement for the Jackets, and might put them into the NIT.
The Jackets are up against at least two pieces of history. The last time a No. 1 seed lost its first game was 1997. In the past seven ACC tournaments, Tech has won more than one game just once, when it reached the finals in 2010.
A second upset win over Miami would send them to a Saturday semifinal, where it would face Virginia, N.C. State or Virginia Tech.
That said, it appears the tournament is Duke’s to lose. The Blue Devils, the No. 2 seed, are rolling after the return of forward Ryan Kelly three games ago. Duke was shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from 3-point range in its first 15 ACC games, the last 13 without Kelly. In the three games since his return to finish the 18-game conference schedule, the Blue Devils are shooting 52.9 percent and 45.9 percent, respectively.
“I’m not sure how you make an argument for anybody but the Blue Devils to be the favorite in the tournament,” said David Glenn, host of the North Carolina-based David Glenn Show and editor of the ACC Sports Journal. “They’re at worst one of the best teams in the country. They might be the best team in the country.”
Duke will play the Maryland-Wake Forest winner on Friday. If the seeds hold, the Blue Devils would face North Carolina, which lost to the Blue Devils 69-53 in Chapel Hill, on Saturday, in the semifinal.
A Duke championship would be its fourth in five years and 11th in 15.