We made it.

Finally, it’s tournament time.

Starting Tuesday, the ACC will gather at Capital One Center in Washington DC for its last conference tournament in which its entire membership is included. Starting next year, with the addition of Cal, Stanford and SMU, the bottom 3 teams will be left out of the field.

But that’s a bridge we don’t have to jump off for another 12 months. For now, we can simply concentrate on basketball.

North Carolina, which won the regular season championship outright thanks to its victory at Duke on Saturday, is the top seed. That, however, doesn’t guarantee anything.

The No. 1 team in the bracket hasn’t cut down the nets at the ACC Tournament since Virginia did it in 2018. And because of the parity that has existed throughout the league this season, you might consider leaving your chalk at home before heading to the nation’s capital.

Beyond the battle for the championship trophy, there are plenty of other storylines to follow during the 5 days of the tournament – not the least of which is the quest to get or stay on the right side of the NCAA bubble. There could also be a coaching job or 2 on the line.

There’s a lot to digest. So let’s start breaking it down.

Most favorable draw


The Tigers could have earned a double-bye into the quarterfinals by winning their regular-season finale at Wake Forest. But even though they lost and will have to play an extra game to win the title, a feat Virginia Tech pulled off 2 years ago, they still have a reasonable path as the No. 6 seed.

Their 1st game on Wednesday against either a Boston College or Miami team they beat by double digits in their most recent meetings. Should they advance, their quarterfinal opponent would be No. 3 Virginia, a team that has been scuffling down the stretch. And they’re also on the same side of the bracket against Duke, on a neutral court this time rather than at Cameron where the Blue Devils were bailed out by a questionable last-second call.

Clemson’s biggest obstacle on the way to the final could be the starting time of their games. They’ll have the late games throughout the tournament.

Least favorable draw


The Panthers were rewarded for their recovery from a 1-5 start in the conference with the No. 4 seed and the final double-bye in the bracket. But their draw could be a tricky one. Assuming Wake Forest wins its tournament opener on Wednesday, Jeff Capel’s team will be matched up with the Deacons in what could end up being an elimination game that determines which team gets into the NCAA Tournament and which gets relegated to the NIT.

If that wasn’t difficult enough, the reward for winning that matchup would be a semifinal date against the No. 1 seed, North Carolina, an opponent it lost to by 13 on its own home court the day after New Year’s.

Team with the most to lose

Wake Forest.

The 5th-seeded Deacons figured to have wrapped up their NCAA bid by upsetting Duke 2 weeks ago. But then they forgot they had to keep winning and dropped 3 straight – including 2 to double-digit tournament seeds Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.

They stopped the bleeding on Saturday by beating Clemson in a Quad 1 opportunity that will help their resume. But at 19-12 overall and a NET ranking that has fallen into the high 30s, they can ill afford to lose again to either the Irish or Yellow Jackets in their 1st game in DC. It’s a painful lesson Steve Forbes and his team learned in 2022 when a Wednesday loss to Boston College knocked them out of the field of 68.

Even with a win in its 1st tournament game, Wake might still need to beat Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals to lock itself into the NCAA bracket.

Teams with the most to gain

Pittsburgh, Wake and Syracuse.

The Panthers are in the best spot and might only need to win once to earn an NCAA bid. The Deacons will likely have to win twice and the Orange might have to get all the way to the final to have a shot. Everyone else below the top 2 and Clemson need a miracle.

Team most likely to make a surprise run


The Orange looked to be going nowhere fast after absorbing a 37-point beatdown at the hands of UNC on Jan. 13. But Adrian Autry’s team has grown steadily since then. And with the sophomore trio of Chris Bell, Maliq Brown and Quadir Copeland emerging as effective complements to star guards Judah Mintz and JJ Starling, it has caught fire late.

Syracuse finished the regular season having won 5 of its final 7, including an impressive revenge victory against the Tar Heels and can play its way into the NCAA Tournament conversation by winning a couple in DC. It’s also the team with the best chance of becoming this year’s version of Virginia Tech and stealing the whole thing.

Top-4 seed most likely to go 1-and-done


The Cavaliers righted themselves somewhat on Saturday by blowing out Georgia Tech 72-57. And yet, they still have to prove they can score consistently enough on Thursday to hold off a Clemson team averaging 78 points per game.

Virginia figures to be safely on the right side of the NCAA bubble with 22 wins overall and a 13-7 record in the league. But Tony Bennett’s team has been heading in the wrong direction since running off 8 straight wins between Jan. 18-Feb. 10. Even with Saturday’s win, they appear ripe for an upset. They limp into the postseason having lost 4 of their final 7 regular season games, failing to reach the 50-point mark 4 times.

Most dangerous double-digit seed

Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets were just 7-13 in the league, but they count both of the tournament’s top 2 seeds among their victims. In addition to stunning UNC and Duke, they’ve scored road wins against Clemson and Wake Forest, 2 other teams in the top half of the standings.

Damon Stoudamire’s team comes into the tournament having won 4 of its last 6. In addition to having an elite scorer in Miles Kelly, Tech also features one of the best young inside-outside duos in the ACC in freshmen Baye Ndongo and Naithan George. The Yellow Jackets aren’t good enough to go on an extended run. But they’ve got enough firepower to burst Wake Forest’s bubble and give a top-4 seed headaches if they get that far.

Potential breakout player

Judah Mintz, Syracuse.

The sophomore guard has put together one of the best seasons in the league, though it might have gone unnoticed because of where he plays and where his team is in the standings. Mintz ranks in the top 5 of the conference in scoring at 18.7 points per game, assists at 4.5, steals at 2.1 and minutes at 33.8.

If there’s anyone on a Wednesday seed who can carry a team and has a strong enough supporting cast to carry a team to 4 wins in 4 days, it’s Mintz.

Potential sitting out player

Kyle Filipowski, Duke.

Filipowski did his best Grayson Allen impression on Saturday by sweeping the leg and tripping UNC’s Harrison Ingram late in the 1st half of Saturday’s rivalry game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils star got away with it during the game. But it’s entirely possible that the ACC could review the incident and hand out some supplemental discipline, including a 1-game suspension.

That’s a long shot, particularly because of who’s involved. But it wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 2005, Wake Forest star Chris Paul was suspended for a game after hitting NC State’s Julius Hodge in the groin. Obviously, that was a much more egregious transgression. Still, it’s something worth keeping an eye on.

Most intriguing Tuesday matchup

No. 10 NC State vs. No. 15 Louisville.

The coach of the losing team in this game becomes the most likely to lose his job by next week. It’s especially important for the Wolfpack’s Kevin Keatts. His team started out 5-1 in the ACC but finished with 4 straight losses to drop into the dreaded opening round. Adding to the intrigue is the possibility that State might be without its leading scorer DJ Horne, who missed the 2nd half of Saturday’s loss at Pitt with a “lower extremity injury.”