In the third installment of our 2010 ACC Tournament preview, I will take a look at the prime-time tilt between tenth seeded North Carolina and seventh seeded Georgia Tech as well as the potential Friday matchups with the second seeded Maryland Terrapins.
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In the only nationally televised ACC game on Thursday (ESPN2), the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will face the North Carolina Tar Heels for the third time this season. The Ramblin' Wreck won the first game at Chapel Hill 73-71 after blowing a large lead and handled the Heels easily in Atlanta, 68-51.
Georgia Tech has more at stake than any other team in the ACC Tournament. They are the only true bubble team in the conference and need one or two wins to feel comfortable come Selection Sunday. After entering the season with high expectations, Tech has struggled a bit more than anticipated. Home losses to Virginia Tech and Florida State and buzzer beating losses at Miami and Maryland stand out in this frustrating year for coach Paul Hewitt. Despite this bad luck, March is a time for new beginnings. Tech is among the most talented teams in the conference and could definitely make some noise if they roll into Greensboro with some confidence.
If Paul Hewitt feels bad about his season, looking across the scorers table to North Carolina and Roy Williams should make him feel a bit better about himself. After being ranked 4th to start the season, UNC has plummeted and set several new records for teams coming off a national championship in the previous season. Adding injury to insult, Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Ginyard, both Wear twins and Leslie McDonald have all been inactive at some point this season. It will be interesting to see if the Heels put up a fight on Thursday or just decide to pack it in and start prepping for next season.
Georgia Tech will win if...
They get the ball inside to Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors. Even though he was only 3rd Team All-ACC, we still believe that Lawal is the best post player in the ACC. Sometimes he just does not get enough touches. This post tandem will out-work you on the boards and just beat you to death if you are not willing to put your body on the line. On the downside, this sometimes leads to foul trouble as well, so it will be important for the two big fellas to stay on the court. In the backcourt, Iman Shumpert is a big-time player that can carry his team. If Shumpert, Brian Oliver and Glen Rice, Jr. are clicking from deep, it could be a long night for the Heels.
North Carolina will win if...
They keep Tech off the boards and hit some jump shots. Without Ed Davis in the middle, it will be hard for the Heels to defend Favors and Lawal. Both of them weigh about two-times that of John Henson, although he has been an effective shot blocker since his move to power forward. Tyler Zeller and Deon Thompson will need to toughen up in a big way for the Heels to have a good chance. The jump shots will need to come from Will Graves, Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland. Graves is a very streaky shooter and has been to known to single-handedly keep UNC in games with his range. Drew and Strickland have been turnover prone and inconsistent, but they have the potential to make big plays for the Heels.
WakeJake- GT 85, UNC 64
MRickman- GT 70, UNC 72
BJohnston- GT 81, UNC 77
RAJohnston- GT 79, UNC 66
BSD Average- GT 79, UNC 69
Collectively, we feel that UNC will not be able to compete with Favors, Lawal and Shumpert for 40 minutes. UNC would need Georgia Tech to come out sluggish and jump on them early to have a strong chance. Barring extreme foul trouble, we think it will be very tough for Zeller, Thompson and Henson to rebound the ball effectively on Thursday. It may be time to finally pull the plug on Carolina's season.
The winner of this game will take on ACC Regular Season Co-Champion Maryland. The potential matchup between Maryland and Georgia Tech could be one of the best games of the tournament in our opinion. In their first game in College Park, Cliff Tucker hit a desperation three at the buzzer to steal a win for Maryland. Not many Terrapin opponents were competitive against them on their home floor this season, so it is pretty obvious that Tech matchups up well against Maryland. Other than surprising frosh Jordan Williams, Maryland is pretty thin in the paint. Favors took advantage of this in the first matchup by tallying 21 points and 18 rebounds.
Maryland, of course, is led by ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez, who has just refused to let his club lose on several occasions. Under ACC Coach of the Year Gary Williams, whose teams always seem to be playing their best ball in March, the Terps are sure to come out firing on all cylinders on Friday. If Vasquez is putting up his normal point and assist totals in addition to Eric Hayes, Williams and Landon Milbourne playing at a high level, Maryland is very tough to beat. The potential Vasquez vs. Shumpert matchup is something that ACC fans should be very excited to see in Greensboro.
If UNC advances past GT, they would get a chance at redemption as well. Carolina only played the Terps once this season in College Park and got hammered 92-71. In his career, Vasquez has been very successful against the Heels and we don't see Larry Drew or Marcus Ginyard breaking that streak in the tournament. Again, Carolina would need a big step up in guard play and a little luck to get past a Maryland team that is playing at a very high level lately.
BSD Odds to win ACC Tournament:
Maryland - 17%
Georgia Tech - 1.5%
North Carolina - ~1%