ACC baseball: For Pack, it’s just win

cwright@newsobserver.comMay 13, 2014 

  • Race to Greensboro

    Miami, Virginia, Florida State, Duke and Maryland have secured spots in the 10-team ACC tournament. Georgia Tech has done all it can do and is in great shape but must wait. UNC, Clemson, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Pitt and Boston College (barely) can play their way in. Here’s the clearest path for each:

    Georgia Tech (14-16): Clinches spot with one loss by N.C. State or Pitt.

    UNC (14-13) and Clemson (13-13): Each needs just one win in its respective series or one loss by N.C. State or Pitt to clinch.

    Wake Forest (13-14): Two wins against Virginia, or one win and one loss by N.C. State or Pitt.

    N.C. State (11-16): Win one more game in its series than Pitt does.

    Pitt (11-16): Win one more game in its series than N.C. State does.

    Boston College (9-18): Sweep Clemson and have N.C. State or Pitt get swept.

If N.C. State wins one more baseball game than Pitt this weekend, then the Wolfpack will head to Greensboro for the ACC tournament. It’s as simple as that.

If they don’t … grab the spreadsheet because the Pack’s path to Greensboro gets complicated in a hurry.

The ACC has many ways of breaking ties for seeding and inclusion in its year-end tournament, including a coin flip and blind draw. Those final two options could save everybody some time.

The Wolfpack and Panthers are 11-16 in the conference and tied for the 10th and final spot in the ACC tournament. Neither has a clear advantage in its final series: The Wolfpack will travel to Virginia Tech (8-19), and Pitt will travel to Notre Dame (6-21), which just won a series against Clemson.

It is possible, if not likely, that N.C. State finishes in a three-team tie for 10th (or four-team or even a five-team tie at 14-16). But for now, let’s focus on a couple of potential two-team ties with Pitt or Wake Forest for 10th.

N.C. State-Pitt: They didn’t play each other, so the ACC will break the tie by comparing their record against common opponents, starting from the top and working down until a winner emerges.

The determining common opponents are Duke and Clemson.

In simple terms, N.C. State needs Clemson (13-13) to pass Duke to win its tiebreaker with Pitt. N.C. State was 2-1 at Clemson, winning the final two games after losing Carlos Rodon’s start in the opener. Pitt went 1-2 against the Tigers.

It’s doable, but Duke has a significant head start. The Blue Devils (15-12) are in fourth place but will end the season at No. 4-ranked Florida State (19-8). One Duke win means Clemson must sweep Boston College (9-18), which remains mathematically alive.

If Duke can stay ahead of Clemson, the Wolfpack would stay home because Pitt swept the Blue Devils, and N.C. State went just 1-2.

N.C. State-Wake Forest finish 13-17: Getting here requires a lot of ifs and ands, but the result is simple: N.C. State won the tiebreaker by winning the series last weekend at Doak Field. The only way this plays out in a tie for 10th is if Wake Forest (13-14) is swept by top-ranked Virginia (21-6), N.C. State wins two of three at Virginia Tech and Pitt sweeps Notre Dame (to clinch a No. 9 seed or better).

Three-team ties

There are numerous scenarios (even Boston College, Pitt and N.C. State limping in at 12-18), but perhaps the most likely three-way ties are for Wake Forest, Pitt and N.C. State to finish 13-17, or N.C. State, Pitt and Georgia Tech to finish 14-16. Any three-way tie that doesn’t include Pitt automatically means the Wolfpack has qualified for the tournament.

Combined records vs. common opponents are used to break a three-team tie.

13-17 Wake, Pitt, N.C. State: Duke and Clemson (and Maryland) could decide who advances. Again, to win this tiebreaker, N.C. State needs Clemson to finish ahead of Duke and Maryland. Pitt would win the tiebreaker if Duke finishes ahead, and Wake Forest would survive if Maryland finishes ahead.

14-16 N.C. State, Pitt, Georgia Tech: For this three-team tie scenario, North Carolina (14-13) must beat Miami at least once. If the Heels do that, they are guaranteed a spot in the ACC field. And Wake Forest must either be swept or beat Virginia twice this weekend. If Wake Forest is swept, then this tiebreaker becomes about seeding, not qualifying. All three would make the ACC tournament.

Four-team ties

Again, too many to list, but everybody has a favorite option. Which do you prefer? How about this: If Clemson gets swept, and Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Pitt all finish 14-16, Clemson will stay home and the other four advance. Want five? Add UNC getting swept to the mix. It’s maddening, but it will sort itself out by Saturday morning.

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