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Who's Hot and Who's Not

Week of March 11th

After recent years saw flip-flopping Duke/UNC results prove to be profitable, that wasn't the case this year, as North Carolina covered the spread in both meetings, and the 'under' for both games cashed as well. Both teams have much bigger goals in store for the next few weeks though, and it will be interesting to see which one of them goes down first in the NCAA tournament.

But we've got conference tournaments for all the big conferences on the schedule first as this week is the unofficial beginning to March Madness. NCAA automatic bids are starting to be designated to conference tournament winners, and as precious as they can be to some programs, many of the nation's top programs from these power conferences don't emphasize them as much simply because they'd rather peak at the NCAA's rather than the conference tournament.

So this week it's a big of a history lesson regarding two specific conference tournaments over the years, as it's often been as simple as seeding in terms of knowing what seeds to back or fade during the gauntlet run that is conference championship week.

Who's Hot

Backing the Top Two Seeds in the Pac-12 Tournament to win it – Last five years it's been #1 vs #2 in Pac-12 Final

The Pac-12 has dealt with a lot of criticism this year for what's been deemed a “down” year for the conference overall. There have been questions all year about whether or not more than one Pac-12 team will get invited to the NCAA dance, and with regular season champion Washington slumping down the stretch, we may end up only having one program from this conference reach the NCAA's. The good news for Washington Huskies fans in that regard is the fact that each of the past five Pac-12 tournaments, the final has come down to the #1 vs #2 seeds.

Granted the Pac-12 has been more “top heavy” in recent years with the likes of Arizona, Oregon and others having some tremendous years recently, but it would be fitting for a conference that's been filled with parity all year long to conclude yet another year with it's top two teams playing for a berth in the NCAA's.

Top seeded Washington, and #2 seed Arizona State did everything they could to stay close to the rest of the conference this year, and while most brackets have both programs in the NCAA tournament right now, it's far from set in stone. That suggests that the motivation will definitely be there for Washington and/or ASU to go out and try to run the table from here on out, but with the rest of the conference knowing their last shot was in this conference tournament, it's not going to be easy. Heck, #2 Arizona State (+400) isn't even listed as the second favorite to win this tournament, as that honor belongs to #6 Oregon.

Recent history of these #1 vs #2 games in the Pac-12 Tournament Final would suggest there is some value in backing the Sun Devils at that price, but maybe it's best to sit back in the early rounds of this tournament to let the carnage unfold and see who's left standing. If it's Washington and/or Arizona State left, it's those sides you should probably be looking at.

Who's Not

Backing the #2 seed in the ACC Tournament to win it – Only Two ACC Tournament Finals appearances (one win) since 2005 (14 years) for #2 seed in ACC Tournament

I hate to be the bearer of bad news to North Carolina Tar Heels fans, but coming into the ACC tournament this year as the #2 seed does note bode well for them to go on and become conference champions this week. That's because since the conference expanded to having at least 10 teams in 2005, the #2 seed in the ACC Tournament has arguably been the best team to fade.

In the 14 ACC Tournaments played since the start of teh 2004-05 season, the #2 seed in the ACC has one tournament win to their credit (Duke over UNC in 2011), and only made the finals one other time (2016). Considering these teams have all the same benefits as the #1, #3, and #4 seeds in terms of rest, to see the #2 seeds fall at this rate is something to make note of.

Furthermore, you'd think it would be easier to stomach for these top teams to say come up short in the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament – after all the top four teams get a bye to the quarters – but in that same 14-year span, the #2 team lost their tournament opener in the quarter-finals a whopping six times. That's the same number of outright defeats they've suffered in the semis in that span.

From a big picture perspective, you can see some logic behind these #2 seeds losing early in that they are almost always a Top 4 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament and that quickly becomes a bigger priority. Winning a game or two against a league you've already dominated for the bulk of the season isn't that appealing when a National Championship opportunity is right around the corner, and with the lower ACC seeds always looking for that key “resume-building” win at this time of year, these #2 teams tend to also be dealing with their opponent's best shot in these games.

So sorry North Carolina fans, backing your school to win the ACC Tournament this year just has too much history working against it. But don't worry, the news isn't all bad for the Tar Heels if that is indeed the case, as all of UNC's four National Titles in the post-Michael Jordan era have come in a year where they failed to win the ACC Tournament.

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