The ACC Tournament kicks off Tuesday in Louisville with pool play, featuring three consecutive elimination games. At 11:00 a.m., the 10th seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets square off against the 6th seeded Miami Hurricanes. Roughly an hour after the conclusion of the first game, 7th seeded N.C. State plays 11th seeded Boston College and then 5th seeded Clemson faces 9th seeded Duke in the nightcap.
The 2017 version of the Tournament features a twist on previous years, where there will again be pool play prior to a single elimination portion of play. Unlike previous years, where pool play featured eight teams split into two groups of four, this season there are four pods of three teams each. The winners of each of the four pods will advance to the semifinals on Saturday, where it becomes single elimination.
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons come into the Tournament as the three seed, fresh off one of their most successful seasons in program history. The Diamond Deacs won 19 conference games and for their efforts were placed in a pod with Miami and Georgia Tech. The Deacs will play Georgia Tech Wednesday night at 7 (or slightly later depending on how long the other two games run) and Miami on Thursday afternoon at 3.
As previously written about, this year’s format is…odd. The good news for the Deacs is that as the top seed in their pod they reap nearly every single benefit a team can possibly have. Each team in the pod plays two games total (one each against the other two teams) but in the event of all three teams going 1-1, the top seed in the pod advances. Furthermore, since Miami and Georgia Tech square off in the first game of the tournament, the Deacs have the advantage of knowing exactly which team they need to beat to win the pod. That is, whoever wins the Miami-Tech game is the only team Wake needs to beat while the other game will be meaningless.
This means for Wake fans that all eyes should be on the Miami-Tech game that starts Tuesday morning. I was anticipating that both teams would throw their Friday starters in the opener, since the loser cannot advance to the semifinals, but neither team is sending their main guy. This is interesting since one team won’t even get to use their top starter in a game that matters. That is, what could have been another advantage for Wake (getting to use Parker Dunshee against a non-Friday starter) will actually be a matchup between two teams using their normal Friday guy.
Notably, it does appear that the other four teams playing today are each sending their Friday starter, so perhaps a bit of a bad break for the Deacs in an otherwise quite favorable format. Another benefit that Wake receives, an advantage over the other three top seeds, is that the Deacs conclude their pool play on Thursday while Louisville, North Carolina, and Virginia all play on Friday. If the Deacs win the pod and make the semifinals this allows an off day for pitchers.
Wake fans can pull for whoever they want, but it is more beneficial if Georgia Tech wins today as the Deacs’ elimination game then comes on Wednesday instead of Thursday. This allows the coaching staff to manage the bullpen arms accordingly and could allow someone like Griffin Roberts to throw a few more pitches than normal knowing he would not be needed again until Saturday.
I’ve seen a lot of questions on Twitter about the format but all that matters is the following:
Top seeds (Louisville, UNC, Wake, and UVA) advance if they go 2-0 or if they go 1-1 and beat the team that wins the first game of the pod. These four teams are eliminated if they go 0-2 or if they go 1-1 and lose to the team who wins the first game of the pod.
The other eight teams must go 2-0 to advance and are eliminated if they do not.
The winner of Wake’s pod will play the winner of the UNC/N.C. State/Boston College pod on Saturday.
We will have more coverage of the ACC Tournament this week, but I would expect that Dunshee will be the starting pitcher against the winner of the Tech/Miami game and either Donnie Sellers or Drew Loepprich to get the start against the loser. This would set up Connor Johnstone for a start in the semifinals on Saturday and then either Sellers or Loepprich (whoever didn’t start in pool play) to be the go-to guy in the event that Wake advances to the championship game.
The Deacs have a potent offense and are a legitimate threat to win the ACC title this year. Let’s score some runs.