Pitt’s Road to ACC Title is (Mostly) Downhill (November 6th Update)

  0 Braden Keith | November 06th, 2017 | ACC, College - Women's Indoor, News

What a difference 1 week can make. Since last week, when we declared at least 6 teams ‘still in the hunt’ for the 2017 ACC title, the current front-runners have solidified their positions, while many of the contenders have faded from the fight.

The conference’s three 2-loss teams, Louisville, NC State, and Syracuse, all swept their opponents last week. Meanwhile, Syracuse lost two and Miami went 1-1 to fall into a log-jam for 4th-place in the conference.

While UNC looks like they’re heating up again after a pair of 3-0 sweeps (including one of Syracuse that gives the Tarheels a crucial tie-breaker, if it comes to that), it may be too little, too late. They needed at least one of those top 3 teams to stumble over the weekend, and none did so.

With that, we will formally declare the ACC a 3-team battle with 6 games to go. Conceivably, if UNC got on a roll and won out (Louisville and Duke are really their biggest challenges left), and the leaders all went stone-cold and lost a lot of games that they should win, the Tar Heels could still take the title. While the schedule lines up that the UNC winning out part is quite a possibility, the other half of the equation is improbable.

Given that Pitt would only need 3 wins from a schedule that still includes Virginia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, and Virginia (who have won 3, 2, 3 and 2 games in the ACC this year, respectively) to eliminate the Tar heels, we feel comfortable that UNC’s chances at a league title are dead. Especially with Pitt holding the tie-breaker.

More Analysis After the Standings:

2017 Women’s Volleyball Standings
Pittsburgh 12-2 0.857 19-6 0.760 W3
Louisville 12-2 0.857 18-6 0.750 W5
NC State 12-2 0.857 17-8 0.680 W3
Miami 9-5 0.643 15-5 0.750 L1
Syracuse 9-5 0.643 17-10 0.630 L2
North Carolina 9-5 0.643 12-10 0.545 W2
Duke 8-6 0.571 16-9 0.640 L1
Notre Dame 7-7 0.500 17-8 0.680 W1
Georgia Tech 7-7 0.500 12-13 0.480 L1
Florida State 6-8 0.429 12-10 0.545 L3
Wake Forest 3-11 0.214 11-15 0.423 L4
Virginia Tech 3-11 0.214 9-16 0.360 W1
Boston College 3-11 0.214 6-18 0.250 L2
Clemson 2-11 0.154 7-18 0.280 L2
Virginia 2-11 0.154 6-18 0.250 W1

To the Top of the Table: Pitt Panthers (12-2 ACC, 19-6 Overall)

A monster weekend for the Pitt Panthers has rewritten the script in the ACC. When we did last week’s update, Pitt had lost 2 of their last 3 games, and those two losses also meant that both NC State and Louisville held a tie-breaking win against them.

While Louisville and NC State will still have the edge over Pitt in a tie-breaker scenario, the Panthers overcame their two toughest games left with huge wins over Miami (3-1) and Florida State (3-0) on Friday and Sunday at home. While the Panthers still have to finish the year with 4 games on the road, 3 of those games are against Clemson (2-11 ACC), Virginia Tech (3-11 ACC), and Virginia (2-11 ACC).

They also play 3-11 Wake Forest, as well as Georgia Tech – who have had a good year but just lost to Virginia on Saturday.

Duke is playing well – they had won 5 straight before a 5-set loss to Louisville on Sunday – and they’ll be the biggest hurdle for Pitt to run the season out. Given the relative strength-of-schedule, Pitt now becomes our favorites to take the ACC title. But take note: there’s nothing that Pitt can do to stop NC State or Louisville from winning out. They need a loss by both teams to take the automatic bid.

Remaining Schedule (ACC Record):

  • Wake Forest (3-11 ACC)
  • Duke (8-6 ACC)
  • @Clemson (2-11 ACC)
  • @Georgia Tech (7-7 ACC)
  • @Virginia Tech (3-11 ACC)
  • @Virginia (2-11 ACC)

Offense Improving: Louisville Cardinals (12-2 ACC, 18-6)

Louisville’s offense looked better last week than it did the two before, albeit against inferior competition. The Cardinals hit .320 against Wake Forest (with only 14 hitting errors – matching their season-low in ACC play), and then came back on Sunday to hit .259 against a surging Duke team.

The Cardinals’ defense, which had 100 digs and 12 blocks against Duke, continue to come up big in crucial moments. They held Duke to .213, .075, and .200 hitting percentages in the last 3 sets of the 5-set, come-from-behind win on Sunday. No team has hit higher than .207 against the Cardinals in their last 5 games, all wins.

When Louisville plays their best game in all facets, they’re the best team in the ACC. Finding someone to become the team’s offensive rock will be key to the Cardinals’ chances at winning the ACC and, if selected, making a run in the NCAA tournament.

Note: the Cardinals still hold tie-breakers against Pitt, for now They should coast through next week’s play and wind up for a big back-to-back against NC State and UNC the week after. That’s going to be this team’s make-or-break weekend.

Remaining Schedule (ACC Record):

  • Virginia (2-11 ACC)
  • Virginia Tech (3-11 ACC)
  • NC State (12-2 ACC)
  • UNC (9-5 ACC)
  • @Boston College (3-11 ACC)
  • @Syracuse (9-5 ACC)

Offense On Fire: NC State (12-2 ACC, 17-8 Overall)

Aside from a couple of anomalies, the NC State offense, led by transfer-setter Kylie Pickrell, continues to raze their competition. Including a .353 hitting percentage against Miami and a .375 hitting percentage against Boston College last week, the Wolfpack is hitting .282 in their 12 ACC wins this year.

In their 2 losses, they’re hitting just .139.

Like Louisville, NC State controls its own destiny. If they win out, they’re the ACC Champions and receive the automatic bid. They could still get there with a loss, but then the Louisville game on November 17th becomes crucial. NC State gets the fewest breaks headed down the stretch, and like Pitt, they also finish with 4 on the road: except against tougher competition.

Remaining Games (ACC Record):

  • Clemson (2-11 ACC)
  • Georgia Tech (7-7 ACC)
  • @Louisville (12-2 ACC)
  • @Notre Dame (7-7 ACC)
  • @Duke (8-6 ACC)
  • @Wake Forest (3-11 ACC)

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of VolleyMob.com. Braden's first foray into sports journalism came in 2010, when he launched a swimming website called The Swimmers' Circle. Two years later, he joined SwimSwam.com as a co-founder. Long huge fans of volleyball, when Braden and the SwimSwam partners sought an opportunity to …

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