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ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament 2019 preview

The Orange aren’t in action until Thursday, but we can look ahead now.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team has already taken off for Greensboro, N.C. for this week’s ACC Tournament, but won’t play until Thursday, March 7 at 11 a.m. ET.

Syracuse is the five-seed in this year’s tournament after finishing 22-7 (11-5 in the ACC). Current NCAA bracket reveals have the Orange as a four-seed, which would mean they host a subregional. In order to keep that position, though, they’ll need to win at least one game in the ACC Tournament.

Below is a quick overview of all you need to know about this year’s event, possible Syracuse opponents and where we think the Orange could wind up.

Players to know

Beyond Syracuse point guard Tiana Mangakahia?

Louisville’s Asia Durr and Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale tied for the league lead in scoring with 21.4 points per game. In total, 12 different ACC players put up over 15 point per game, but the top scorers include those two, Virginia Tech’s Taylor Emery (17.9 ppg) and Duke’s Haley Gorecki (17.1 ppg). Mangakahia’s 16.6 was seventh overall.

The Hokies’ Regan Magarity was the lone player to average double digit rebounds (10.1), and Miami’s Beatrice Mompremier was the only other ACC player even close at eight per game while also leading the conference in offensive boards per game (four).

Mangakahia lapped the field with 8.4 assists per game — 3.2 more per game than nearest competitor Jackie Young of Notre Dame. Notably, however, Young did have a better assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7 to Mangakahia’s 2.2), though also had 93 fewer assists.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Teams to know

Obviously the ACC’s pretty damn good. While Syracuse is currently projected as a four-seed, they’re one of five conference teams included in those rankings. Louisville and Notre Dame are both one-seeds, while NC State’s a three-seed and Miami is also a four.

Along with that top five, Florida State (22-7, 10-6) has basically been ranked all season, and Clemson and North Carolina are both solidly in the projected NCAA Tournament field right now. Virginia Tech is also knocking on the door.

Some history

Since Syracuse arrived in the conference for the 2013-14 season, Notre Dame has played in the title game every season, winning four straight before falling 74-72 to Louisville last year. In that five-year stretch, the Irish have appeared all five times, followed by Duke (twice), then Florida State, Syracuse and Louisville with one appearance each.

It’s been seven years (2011-12) since the 1-seed didn’t appear in the championship game — that year saw 3-seed Maryland beat 4-seed Georgia Tech. The top seed’s appeared in and won 10 of the last 11 ACC Tournament titles. The championship game hasn’t featured an upset (by tournament seeding) since 4-seed Clemson beat 2-seed UNC in 1999.

The most successful team in the history of the event is current Big Ten program Maryland (10 championships), while has nine titles and Duke has eight. Three different teams — Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina — have won four in a row since the event started in 1978. So yeah, whole lot of parity here.

Who’s Syracuse likely up against?

First up for the Orange is the winner of the 12/13 game between Virginia and Boston College. SU beat the Hoos by four in late January, and swept BC with two one-sided victories. A win there on Thursday will earn Syracuse a rematch with Miami after a tough 13-point home loss to the ‘Canes back on January 23.

Should Syracuse be able to pull that upset, they’d potentially be playing their next game for a chance to move up to a three-seed in the NCAA bracket. That would require a major surprise victory over Notre Dame in the semifinals, however. The Irish beat the Orange 98-68 at the Dome last Monday, and as mentioned, 1-seeds don’t lose much in this event. An unlikely victory would lead to a second championship game appearance — likely against either Louisville or NC State. If it came to that, you’d want the Wolfpack, who SU only lost by four to on February 13.

Predictions

No one’s fooling themselves into thinking Mangakahia can put up 44 points every night like she did against FSU, or that Syracuse is always going to play to that ceiling as a team. Still, something resembling the decision-making (continually drove the ball inside and didn’t settle for a ton of threes) seemed to be the strategy best tailored to this team making some postseason noise. Assuming they get past UVA/BC, there’s a good chance they can beat Miami too as long as they avoid the costly errors and Mompremier doesn’t bury them on the glass. Last time around against Miami, she had 12 points and 10 boards while Emese Hof went off for 21 points. I’m not going to trick myself into thinking SU can beat the Irish. Very few teams (if any) can.

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We’ll have daily previews up for the games for as far as SU goes in the ACC Tournament. As mentioned, things gets started tomorrow. Then Syracuse and the BC/Virginia winner are in action at 11 a.m. ET on your local RSN.