The Atlantic Coast Conference continues to send talented, high-powered squads deep into the postseason. In the 2016 NCAA tournament, both Florida State and North Carolina reached the Sweet 16 with Pittsburgh falling just one round short. Is 2017 the year one of these teams, or another ACC school, makes an even deeper run? As many as five programs could be making a strong case for a bid, including North Carolina State, which must first survive a tough non-conference slate that includes matches against Kansas (twice), Florida and Michigan. But first things first: Who are the odds-on favorites to come out on top in the ACC?
To no one’s surprise, perennial favorites North Carolina and Florida State once again find themselves atop most lists of contenders for the Atlantic Coast Conference crown.
The Tar Heels, fresh off a conference championship and NCAA tournament run that took them all the way to the Sweet 16, ended last year’s campaign ranked No. 11 in the final AVCA poll. In addition to welcoming back outside hitter and ACC Freshmen of the Year, Julia Scoles, the Tar Heels return middle blocker/opposite Taylor Fricano and outside hitter Taylor Leath, a second-team AVCA All-American selection and ACC Player of the Year. They also feature a top-notch recruiting class.
Checking in two spots behind North Carolina in last year’s AVCA poll at No. 13, the Seminoles also reached the Sweet 16, losing in four sets to eventual national champion, Stanford. To remain in contention for a championship, they must replace four key contributors, including setter and three-year team captain, Hailey Luke.
Finishing a single vote shy of Florida State in the 2017 ACC Preseason Poll, Pittsburgh is poised to make a serious run. Among others, they return ACC setter of the year, Kamalani Akeo. Also keep an eye on Notre Dame as coach Jim McClaughlin will try to move the Irish to the top with help from senior middle blocker and All-ACC second-team selection, Sam Fry.
The rest of the pack:
The rest of the pack is, appropriately enough, led by the Wolfpack of North Carolina State, which finished 20-12 last season and returns senior outside hitter Julia Brown, senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Kearney and junior setter, Becky Porter. Miami also brings back most of its key contributors from 2016, including senior outside hitter Olga Strantzali, an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American selection. Duke could also contend with help from returning middle blocker, Leah Meyer, a 2017 Preseason All-ACC pick.
Top 5 conference matches to watch:
- Florida State v. North Carolina, October 27, 2017 – Mark your calendars: It’s the only regular season matchup between these two powerhouses and it’s in Tallahassee. Who wins might very well determine who gets crowned ACC champ.
- Notre Dame v. Pittsburgh, October 29, 2017 – The one and only meeting between these contenders for the ACC crown will occur in South Bend—and it should be an entertaining, hotly contested battle.
- Miami v. North Carolina State, November 1, 2017 – Why will this one matter? You name it—anything from conference bragging rights to an RPI boost that maybe, just maybe, could make a difference on Selection Sunday.
- Florida State v. Pittsburgh, October 6, 2017 – If Pittsburgh wants to leapfrog Florida State in the ACC, it can send a powerful statement at this first meeting between the teams in Tallahassee.
- North Carolina v. Duke, November 24, 2017 – This classic rivalry hardly needs hype, especially since it could factor into North Carolina’s NCAA tournament seeding—or help determine if Duke punches a ticket to the dance.
VolleyMob’s ACC Pick:
VolleyMob Pre-Season Predictions
- North Carolina
- Florida State
- Notre Dame
- North Carolina State
- Georgia Tech
- Wake Forest
- Virginia Tech
- Boston College