Since my first look at the ACC futures market two weeks ago, not a whole lot has changed in the conference title race. Virginia (10-1 ACC record) and Florida State (6-2) are still atop the standings and have the two best odds to win the league.
Per DraftKings, Virginia is currently priced at +300, with the Seminoles close behind at +325. The order behind them has shuffled with Duke now completely out of the picture. Louisville (+400), Virginia Tech (+420), and North Carolina (+575) lurk behind the favorites and still have outside shots at taking home the ACC regular season crown.
The Case for Florida State
The Seminoles have had quite the rollercoaster of a season, and present a very interesting case when evaluating their chances to win the league. They were slated to face a difficult four-game road trip starting with their loss to Georgia Tech on Jan. 30. However, they went on their second COVID-19-related program pause of the season following the Georgia Tech loss, postponing their next three games.
The Seminoles caught a potential break avoiding playing at Pitt and Virginia Tech, two dangerous teams. The possibility of rescheduling those trips is not looking great at the moment, as they’re running out of time with the regular season ending in less than a month. The Seminoles were back on the court practicing on Tuesday, and are slated to face Wake Forest at home Saturday, followed by a massive showdown against the Cavaliers on Monday night.
Returning from their COVID pause the first time was no issue for Leonard Hamilton’s club, as they exploded for 103 points in a blowout win over NC State in their first game back. They proceeded to handle UNC and Louisville with ease in the next week, showing zero signs of rust. While there’s no guarantee they come back looking as sharp this time around, getting Wake Forest at home the first game back is a huge plus.
After hosting Wake on Saturday, Virginia comes to town. This is essentially a must-win for the Seminoles’ title hopes. Since they already have an extra loss and will almost certainly finish with fewer games than the Cavaliers, they’ll need Virginia to lose at least two more games the rest of the way. Florida State does have a very good chance to knock off Virginia at home, and will probably be a small favorite on Monday night.
If they do take care of business against the Cavaliers, the work is far from finished for the Noles. They would still have an inferior winning percentage and will be behind Virginia in the standings, so they’ll have to bank on another loss for the Cavaliers while winning out themselves. They have five confirmed games remaining after Monday’s clash, with the most difficult being a home tilt with Virginia Tech and a road game at North Carolina. That’s a manageable schedule, but there’s always the possibility one of their postponed games gets made up.
While the rescheduling aspect of their schedule remains a mystery, it’s not crazy to think that Florida State could run the table with what currently remains in front of them. If you’re confident the Seminoles will beat Virginia on Monday, grabbing the +325 now isn’t a bad idea as that price will go down significantly with a win. I’m not rushing to the window to take the Noles myself, however, as even if they do beat Virginia, they still have plenty of work to do win the league outright.
The Case for Virginia
The good news for Virginia futures backers is that they’ve already done a lot of winning. With 11 games played and six confirmed games remaining, the Cavaliers are in a great position to take the regular-season crown. Their lone conference loss is to third-place Virginia Tech, but they still have a two-game lead over the Hokies. A lot would have to go wrong for the Cavaliers, and right for the Hokies, for Virginia Tech to catch Virginia and win the league via a head-to-head tiebreaker.
Looking at the Cavaliers’ remaining six games, the schedule does have some tough spots. They host North Carolina on Saturday in a potential trap game before the FSU matchup Monday night. I think the Cavaliers stay focused and take care of business in that one, as they have the ability to withstand the Tar Heels’ interior offense with Jay Huff manning the middle. They also have an advantage on the perimeter, as Carolina’s guards have really struggled to score with consistency this season.
As for the showdown in Tallahassee on Monday night, it’s a near coin-flip game, but I lean towards the Seminoles coming out on top. Both teams are very efficient on both ends of the floor, but Virginia’s tendency to suffer long scoring droughts scares me against a very talented, athletic Florida State defense.
Virginia falling to the Seminoles would make things very interesting. I would still give Cavaliers a slight edge at that point, but their road ahead isn’t easy. After playing UNC and FSU, Virginia heads to Duke, gets NC State and Miami at home, and then closes the season with a tough trip to Louisville.
Tony Bennett’s disciplined squad shouldn’t have much issue in dispatching NC State and Miami at home, but those final two road trips present some difficulty. Obviously, this isn’t a typical Duke team, but they’ll be playing with a lot less pressure going forward and will give Virginia a solid effort. I think the Cavaliers matchup very well against a Louisville team that doesn’t have a ton of scoring options, but the Cardinals are always a tough out on their home floor.
First off, I don’t think anyone outside of Virginia and Florida State is a real threat at this point. While the big prices for Virginia Tech and Louisville look enticing, they both have to essentially win out and get at least two losses from the Noles and the Cavaliers. That’s simply too tall a task for either team.
With the big matchup looming on Monday, if you like Florida State to win the conference you should play them beforehand. If they knock off the Cavaliers, they will become the favorite and you won’t see a number as good as +325 the rest of the way. If they lose, their odds will skyrocket but they will almost be out of contention, having to bank on Virginia losing three more games the rest of the way.
I like Virginia to win the conference regardless of the outcome of this game. The decision to play them beforehand or not is a much more difficult one. If they lose, you might be able to get them at +400 or better and they would still technically have the lead over Florida State due to their higher winning percentage. However, waiting on playing them until after the game could be too risky, as they could become odds on favorites if they knock off the Seminoles and increase their commanding lead.
My advice for Virginia backers would be to place .75x the stake you were planning to play on Virginia prior to Monday. If they lose, you place the remaining .25x on the better odds afterwards and have a nice plus money portfolio in your pocket over the last few weeks of the season. If Virginia defeats Florida State, I’d advise to hold onto the remaining .25x and ride out the +300 bet you have the rest of the way for what should be a fairly easy winner.