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ACC Tournament: College Basketball Betting Preview (2020)

by March 10, 2020

It’s an exciting time in college basketball, as championship tournaments for the major conferences begin this week. The ACC tournament gets underway on Tuesday, one day before most of the others. This is due to the number of teams in the conference and because the tournament schedule is set up to give teams “byes” and “double byes.”

When betting a team to win a conference tournament, one should take into account a lot of factors. How well is a team playing currently, their potential path to a championship, and the location of the tournament all are things to consider. For the ACC tournament, the top four teams all gain a significant advantage from the rest of the competition. Since they earned a double-bye, they only need to win three games in three days as opposed to four or five games in as many days.

Here is a breakdown of all the favorites, dark horses, and longshots to win the ACC Tournament (odds courtesy of FanDuel).

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Florida State (+200)
Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton won ACC Coach of the Year after leading the Seminoles to the ACC regular-season championship. The Seminoles enter as winners of seven of their last eight games. 

Florida State is an appealing team to wager on in a conference tournament format. The Seminoles are a deep team, as eight players average at least 19.3 minutes per game. The daunting task of having to win three games in three days should not affect them as much since they will have fresh legs deep into the tournament. 

Florida State ranks in the top four in the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom. They rank second in the conference in both offensive rebounding percentage and three-point shooting. The Seminoles are a menacing defensive team as well. Their full-court man-to-man pressure wears teams down over the course of a game. Florida State forces opponents into turnovers on 22.0% of their offensive possessions.

Duke (+250)
Though Duke is the fourth seed in the ACC Tournament, they are the second-biggest favorite according to oddsmakers. The Blue Devils benefit from the tournament being played in Greensboro and thus should have the home crowd support.

Duke is not playing their best basketball, however, as they went 3-3 to close the regular season. All three losses came on the road, as they struggled against NC State and Wake Forest before losing to Virginia on the last possession.

Sophomore point guard and ACC Player of the Year Tre Jones is back to lead Duke to their second consecutive conference tournament championship. Jones plays 81.6% of Duke’s minutes, while no other player plays more than 63%. Though they stumbled down the stretch, the metrics still love Duke. They rank sixth in the NET and are top 12 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

Louisville (+300)
Since joining the ACC, the Cardinals have not made an appearance in the conference tournament championship. Louisville struggled mightily down the stretch, losing its last four conference road games by 9.8 points per game.

Louisville’s offense is primarily to blame for their recent struggles. They have failed to top 72 points in six of their last seven games. The Cardinals need players like Lamarr Kimble, David Johnson, and Darius Perry to step up and provide scoring options outside of Jordan Nwora. The good news for Louisville is they avoid Florida State and Duke until the conference championship. The bad news is that if seeding held, they would face Virginia in the semifinals, a team they split two meetings with this year.

Virginia (+750)
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett may have done his best coaching job this year, even better than last year’s national championship season. Bennett lost important players like Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Jack Salt, and De’Andre Hunter from last year’s team, and his Cavaliers still finished second in the regular-season ACC standings. After a three-game losing streak in early January, the Cavaliers finished 12-2 in their last 14 games. This stretch includes an eight-game winning streak as they head into the ACC Tournament.

Virginia is back to playing the way that they feel comfortable with. Their slow tempo and suffocating defense spurred their latest winning streak. The Cavaliers have not allowed more than 56 points in any of the last five games. They rank first in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and second in effective field goal percentage allowed. Their style is tough to prepare for with no games off in between tournament games.

Dark Horses

North Carolina (+2300), Clemson (+3000), NC State (+3500), Syracuse (+3500), Notre Dame (+4000)
Interestingly, North Carolina has the best odds of this group, even though they are the only team not to have a bye. That means the Tar Heels would have to win five games in five days to win the ACC Tournament.

The top four teams in the conference (FSU, UVA, Louisville, Duke) all separated themselves from the rest of the competition throughout the regular season. NC State is the only conference “dark horse” worthy of the discussion for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack would likely need to beat the winner of the Wake Forest-Pittsburgh game as well as Duke in the quarterfinals to have their name called on Selection Sunday. 

Outside of NC State, the only team that appears capable of winning multiple games in the ACC Tournament is Clemson. The Tigers defeated three of the conference’s top four teams (Duke, FSU, Louisville) in the regular season. However, all those games were at home, and winning on a neutral court in a conference tournament setting is a different task. 


Georgia Tech (+10000), Miami (+10000), Pittsburgh (+10000), Virginia Tech (+10000), Wake Forest (+10000), Boston College (+15000)
It is unlikely any of these teams will play in the quarterfinal round on Thursday, let alone win the four or five games necessary to win the tournament.

Best Bets: Duke +250, small wager on Virginia at +750

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

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