We take a step away from our usual ACC Power Rankings this week to talk brackets.

It’s nearly March, after all, and what better way to ring in the most wonderful time of the year for hoopheads than a deep dive into the bracket hopes of all your favorite/most hated ACC squads.

All seedings discussed below come courtesy of bracketmatrix.com, a website that does the dirty work of aggregating brackets from every bracketologist out there to determine average seeding. The good folks at Bracket Matrix also rank bracketologist in terms of accuracy, explaining why journalists like the great Rocco Miller at Bracketeer are the best at making brackets while more famous bracket heads like Joe Lunardi aren’t so accurate.

Let’s dive into all 7 of the ACC hopefuls, beginning with 2 teams on the outside looking in at present, Syracuse and Pitt.

Wrong side of the bubble

Syracuse (19-10, 10-8)

Projected Seed: None. Under Consideration.

Biggest strength: Judah Mintz, of course. Syracuse wins with terrific guard play and could create chaos and win a game if they reached the Big Dance. Mintz is the sun around which everything orbits for the Orange, and over 30% of Syracuse’s possessions end with a Mintz shot, foul drawn, or turnover, one of the highest “usage rates” in college basketball. Complementing Mintz is Notre Dame transfer JJ Starling, a good perimeter defender who can really finish at the basket but shoots just 33% from beyond the arc. Quadir Copeland, a switchable wing who is a thief merchant and has helped key a huge improvement from Syracuse defensively this season, rounds out an outstanding group of perimeter players.

Biggest weakness: Rebounding. The Orange are too often annihilated on the glass, ranking 14th of 15 ACC teams in rebounding margin and 298th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, per KenPom. The Orange were blown away on the glass, 41-24, in their loss to Clemson in early February. They’ll need to compete better on the glass over the final weeks of the regular season and in the ACC Tournament if they hope to steal a bid late.

Pitt (18-10, 9-8)

Projected seed: None. Next Four Out.

Biggest strength: Perimeter defense and rebounding. The Panthers do a great job contesting shooters with their length and athleticism. Their 30.3% 3-point percentage against ranks 7th in college basketball, per KenPom. They also do a terrific job on the glass, turning what was an early season weakness (Pitt had a negative rebounding margin in ACC play in late January) into a strength. The Panthers’ frontcourt doesn’t score much, but they do rebound, collecting 77% of their opponents’ misses, the 7th-best figure in the country. Pitt also grabs 31.9% of its misses, which ranks in the top 100 in the country. Pitt has the 2nd-best strength of schedule and the 2nd-most Quad 1 wins among ACC bubble teams, but the worst strength of record, NET and KenPom rankings. With 0 Quad 1 opportunities remaining in the regular season after Tuesday night’s loss at Clemson, the Panthers will need a deep ACC Tournament run to secure a second straight bid to the Big Dance.

Biggest weakness: Frontcourt scoring. Pitt’s freshman guards have delivered all Jeff Capel could have asked for this season. Carlton Carrington and Jaland Lowe have combined to average over 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists a game, and their improvement has taken pressure off microwave scorer Blake Hinson, who leads the team with 18.5 a contest. If Pitt is to make the run it needs to go dancing, though, they’ll need more from their frontcourt from a scoring standpoint. The Panthers rank 14th of 15 ACC teams in 2-point field goal percentage (46.1%), which means on nights they are just average from deep, such as Tuesday night at Clemson (7-25), the Panthers can really struggle to score.

In the Field … barely

Wake Forest (18-10, 10-7)

Projected seed: 11 (Last Four In)

Biggest strength: Elite offense. The Demon Deacons run great stuff, doing a fantastic job of using 2 bigs who can pass to find open shooters and cutters from high positions on the floor.

Wake Forest can really shoot it, ranking 22nd in the country in 3-point shooting percentage (37.4%), a number that has improved since sharpshooter Damari Monsanto returned to provide an additional floor spacer. When necessary, Andrew Carr can provide inside scoring too, as he did in Wake’s 2 best wins this season (18 vs. Duke, 22 against Florida). The outstanding inside-outbalance and a good offensive system mean that if Wake gets into the NCAA Tournament, they’ll have the juice to stay a game or two.

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Biggest weakness: Whatever happens to Wake Forest when they aren’t at Joel Coliseum. The Demon Deacons have won just 3 times away from the friendly confines of Joel Coliseum, and the metrics, which typically love Wake Forest, reflect the disparity between the Wake Forest team that shows up in Winston-Salem and the one that takes the floor anywhere else. The biggest issues in road games come offensively, believe it or not. While Wake Forest ranks 23rd in offensive efficiency nationally, per KenPom, they are just 66th in road and neutral games, per Bart Torvik. The Demon Deacons shoot under 32% from deep on the road, and have won the rebounding battle just twice in road or neutral contests this season — a bad formula for success.

Virginia (20-8, 11-6)

Projected seed: 10

Biggest strength: Elite defense, as usual. Ryan Dunn should win ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and if he doesn’t, then his teammate and the 2023 winner, Reece Beekman, should repeat. Dunn is a bona fide national defensive player of the year candidate, a projected lottery pick despite an offensive game that doesn’t do justice to the word “raw.”

Coupled with Beekman, the best on-ball perimeter defender in college basketball, the Hoos rank 9th in defensive efficiency in the country and 13th in effective field goal percentage allowed (46%). That’s how you win 20 games despite struggling to reach 50 points throughout February.

Biggest weakness: Frontcourt scoring. It isn’t fair to Virginia’s backcourt to suggest the whole offense is the issue. Tony Bennett’s blocker-mover principles work, as evidenced by multiple top-25 offenses in his tenure in Charlottesville. But defenses don’t respect any of Virginia’s post players to finish inside, and as a result, they crowd the 3-point line and dare the Cavaliers to either pound the ball inside or drive and create. Virginia lacks much in the way of talent outside of Beekman that can beat you 1-on-1 off the bounce, which means scoring can be difficult for long stretches when Isaac McKneely or Jake Groves don’t make jump shots.  We’ve seen Tony Bennett work miracles before, but this team looks destined for another early March exit because they can’t manufacture easy baskets inside.

Sweet 16 good

Clemson (20-8, 10-7)

Projected Seed: 5

Biggest strength: PJ Hall, a genuine All-American candidate. In a year where RJ Davis wasn’t breaking 50-year-old North Carolina records, Hall would be a shoo-in for ACC Player of the Year. Finally healthy (for the most part) after 2 years of lingering injuries, Hall averages 18 points and 7.5 rebounds a night while playing the best defense of his life (1.5 blocks) inside. Hall is the heartbeat of the program, and sending the Clemson senior home is going to be a brutal ask for any opponent come March.

“(PJ) is a joy. I’ll get emotional if I talk about him too long,” coach Brad Brownell said this week. “He loves and cares about everybody, and he’s the heart of what we do here. He’s the ultimate program guy. Whatever we have to do or need to do, he does. I’m extremely grateful to coach him.”

Brownell has done a good job — yes, a good job — building a roster that complements Hall’s strengths as a mobile, modern big. Joe Girard has thrived when defenses collapse on Hall inside, Ian Schieffelin has become the grinder glue guy that Hall’s former roommate, Hunter Tyson was a season ago, and Chase Hunter is the unselfish floor general who consistently makes the right reads. It is a good roster, and one that has the battle scars of missed tournaments past that gives it an edge.

Biggest weakness: Perimeter defense. Girard is a defensive liability, but you accept it because of how well he shoots the basketball. The problem for Clemson has been that outside of Hunter, Clemson lacks a true on-ball stopper on the outside. Schieffelin is a physical guy but not as switchable as Brownell asks him to be, and he is often exploited in mismatches on quicker wings or guards. RJ Godfrey is too small to be effective against post-ups and too big to guard quick wings. Chauncey Wiggins hasn’t offered much in league play and likely won’t in March. The Tigers have allowed ACC opponents to shoot 35% from deep in league play, and because they don’t turn you over (14th in the ACC in turnover percentage), they can struggle at times to get stops.

Final Four contenders

Duke (21-6, 12-4)

Projected seed: 3

Biggest strength: Balance on offense. The Blue Devils are excellent on offense, with potent shooting around star big man Kyle Filipowski, who can stretch a defense, beat you in the pick-and-pop, or post you and score inside. Duke ranks 8th nationally in KenPom Offensive Efficiency and leads the ACC in effective field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage. The midseason star turn of freshman Jared McCain, who has scored in double figures in 8 of Duke’s past 10 games (an 8-2 stretch), has made Jon Scheyer’s team more multiple and hard to guard.

Biggest weakness: Interior defense. Duke ranks 9th in the ACC in 2-point field goal percentage defense, a product of teams attacking switches in the post and bad help defense that has plagued the Blue Devils all season. While Tyrese Proctor is a marvelous defender, the rest of Duke’s guards can be taken on straight line drives, which makes life hard on Filipowski, who often plays “free safety” near the tin. Mark Mitchell, a physical wing who can guard 5 spots, makes Duke better in this regard, and the Blue Devils are slowly improving defensively as Mitchell regains health and plays a more prominent role. Duke’s defense ranks 46th overall against Quads 1 and 2, per Torvik, despite ranking 25th in KenPom overall. Better defense against better opponents could decide whether this Duke team plays beyond the second weekend.

North Carolina (22-6, 14-3)

Projected seed: 2

Biggest strength: Magnificent defense at all 3 levels. The Tar Heels can flat out guard, and Hubert Davis’s decision to switch less off the ball and let his bigger players play more pure man was a stroke of genius that changed the ceiling for this team. That call came after UNC was eviscerated in the pick-and-roll and switches in a mid-December loss to Kentucky. Since, the Tar Heels are a top-5 defense in Torvik, and have risen all the way to 7th overall in KenPom Defensive Efficiency. The Tar Heels lead the ACC in effective field goal defense (44.5%) and 3-point defense (30.7%) and rank top 20 nationally in defensive rebounding, gathering 76% of opposing misses. When you can get stops and control the glass, you’ll win plenty of games in March.

Biggest weakness: What happens when Armando Bacot goes quiet. RJ Davis will be RJ Davis, a lock All-American who should garner some Wooden Award votes. RJ alone can win at least a game or two in March. But the tougher games come in Round 2 and beyond, and Davis will need help. Where will it come from?

Who scores with him come March? Hubert Davis begged Bacot to do more offensively in late January, and the big man has responded, scoring in double figures in all but one game in January and posting 6 consecutive double doubles before being limited to just 5 points in Monday night’s win over Miami. Bacot was especially dominant in the Tar Heels win over Duke on Feb. 3, posting 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. If the Tar Heels get that Bacot in March, they’ll play into April. If not, role players Cormac Ryan and Harrison Ingram will need to fill the gaps. They’ve done so at times this season, but whether they can come the Big Dance is a pressing question.