ACC Tournament Preview

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The best sporting event in the state of North Carolina kicks off once again, as the 58th ACC Tournament starts at high noon on Thursday at the Greensboro Coliseum. While ACC Friday used to be a near-religious day in North Carolina, the tournament has since expanded to include two days of 4 games apiece. While there is more basketball being played, it has somewhat diluted the tournament and taken the excitement out of having every team there on the Friday…but that’s another story perhaps for a slow summer day.

It is here once again, and I for one cannot wait. No matter how poorly the Deacs are doing, and believe me, it would be very difficult to top this year, the ACC Tournament is my favorite sporting event of the year. So without further ado, let’s kick off the previews and take a look at how the tournament will shake out, as well as a preview of the four games tomorrow.

Click through the jump for the 2011 ACC Tournament Preview from Blogger So Dear

 

 

 

I’m not going to sugarcoat it any other way for non-Tar Heel and Devils fans, the final on Sunday is almost guaranteed to be North Carolina vs. Duke. This is what the majority of the fans want that attend, this is what the networks want, and this is what the players on those two teams want. UNC took the regular season title with a win in the last regular season game of the year, and I can imagine that Coach Mike Kryzewski is going to get his men ready to play.

The #1 seed North Carolina is on a roll, having won 11 of their last 12 games, with the only loss coming at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 9th. It is not surprising that the Tar Heels turned it around, but I am fairly surprised that they were able to steal the regular season away from Duke. The Heels are looking to win the tournament this weekend and possibly secure a #2 seed in the East. UNC plays on Friday at 12, and gets the winner of the #8 UVA/#9 Miami. UNC should have little trouble with either team, but Miami would provide a bit more resistance. On a side note, it seems like UVA almost always plays in the 12 spot on the first day. Perhaps revisionist history, but I remember it at least 3 times in the past 5-7 years. This isn’t good unless if you are the #1 seed, which the Wahoos certainly have not been.

As previously mentioned, Duke is a surprise #2 seed, and have had to deal with the loss of freshman phenom Kyrie Irving for the entire ACC season. It is debatable whether or not Irving will be able to play in the NCAA Tournament, and unless if there is some late breaking news that I am unaware of, will not play in the ACC Tournament. If the Devils can win the tournament, knocking off the Heels in the title game, they may be able to backdoor their way in to a #1 seed. They need to play UNC in the title game to boost their resume, and also need a couple of other teams to lose. Duke plays the winner of the #7 Maryland/ #10 N.C. State game at 7:00 on Friday night. Either game will pit Duke against a rival, which could prove to be interesting.

In my opinion it is up to Duke or UNC to lose the tournament if anybody else is going to win it. Nearly every single tournament final over the past 30 years has included either Duke or UNC. Wake played Georgia Tech in the 1996 Final, but other than that I cannot remember one in my lifetime that was not Duke or UNC.

The #3 seed is the Florida State Seminoles. It is not odd that they landed the #3 seed, but I was impressed with how they played even after the loss of their stud Chris Singleton. The Noles rely heavily on defense, and while the offense sputtered throughout the year, they have done quite well for themselves, finishing with a 21-9 (11-5) overall record. The Seminoles are most assuredly in the tournament, and are merely playing for seeding at this point. I think they can get a 5 or a 6 seed if they can win on Friday and put up a good fight against the Devils on Saturday. FSU plays the winner of the #6 Virginia Tech/#11 Georgia Tech game at 9:30 on Friday night. If VT can get by the Yellow Jackets, a win over the Seminoles will probably get them in to the NCAAT, even if it is the First Four.

In a bit of a surprise, the Clemson Tigers took the #4 seed under first year coach Brad Brownell. Also relying on an impressive defensive attack, the Tigers finished at 20-10 (9-7) in the  are in good shape because unless Wake Forest pulls off an astronomical upset over Boston College, Clemson will not have another bad loss. The Boston College-Clemson game could possibly provide as an elimination game for the NCAAT, but I think it is more critical to Boston College to win. Clemson will play the winner (lol) of the #5 Boston College/ #12 Wake Forest game on Friday at 2:30.

Now we know that Boston College is the #5 seed in the tournament, and their NCAA Tournament future is up in the air depending on what analyst you ask. They will completely fall out of discussion if they somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Wake Forest. I do not believe that will happen, so they should focus on their game against Clemson on Friday. First year Coach Steve Donahue has been extremely impressive this year, and is my Coach of the Year in the ACC. Reggie Jackson is also a beast for the Eagles. The Boston College-Wake Forest game will tip off at approximately 2:30 on Thursday, or 30 minutes after the noon game ends. The first session on Thursday (Miami/UVA, BC/Wake) is probably one of the worst on paper that I can remember. Maybe we will get surprised and something good will come out of it.

Seth Greenburg did an outstanding coaching job this year overcoming injuries to lead the Hokies into the NCAA Tournament conversation. If they had been at full strength all year, or really just had Dorenzo Hudson, there is no doubt in my mind that the Hokies would have landed a 3-4 seed rather than the #6 seed. They cannot lose to Georgia Tech on Thursday night, but if they win that, a good showing against Florida State should get them in to the Tournament. I actually think that they have a great chance to knock off the Seminoles and get into the semifinals on Saturday. Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech tip off Thursday night at 9:30.

I really expected Maryland to be better this year, but I am not sure why. They had to replace Greivis Vasquez, and had a lot of young guys coming in. Jordan Williams had a great year, and garnered First Team All-ACC honors, but often times had trouble with his supporting cast. Sean Mosley didn’t step up like a lot of people thought, but freshman Terrell Stoglin has stepped up late in the year and provided some extra firepower. At 18-13 (7-9), Maryland is likely not in the tournament discussion, but if they can make it to Sunday (in the process defeating Duke on Friday), they may have an outside shot at it. Maryland begins their pursuit of cutting down the nets on Thursday at 7:00 against the #10 seed N.C State Wolfpack.

The Virginia Cavaliers somehow managed to overcome the loss of Mike Scott and win 7 games in the ACC to get the #8 seed. This is a pretty good coaching job by Tony Bennett, and he will be looking to advance to Friday with a win over Miami at noon tomorrow in the tournament’s first game. Wake Forest fans can thank UVA for providing the Deacons with their only ACC win of the 2010-2011 season, so I think we should all pull for them tomorrow. Despite being the #8 seed, I think that Miami will prevail out the 12 game. I don’t see the Wahoos having an answer for Reggie Johnson, but hey you never know and that’s why they play the game.

Miami had one of the more bizarre seasons in recent history. No matter who they played, almost every single game was close. Over a span of eight games (from January 19th- February 9th), Miami did not win or lose by more than four points (4-4). I would say that a 4-4 record is fair during that span, but will argue that if the referees knew what an offensive hook, or travel was, the Hurricanes would be 3-5 over that timeframe. That notwithstanding, Miami plays tough against almost anybody, and if they can sneak by the Cavaliers tomorrow, I think the game against UNC on Friday could be closer than people think.

N.C. State was a huge disappointment this year, and it will likely lead to the final nail in the coffin of beloved coach Sidney Lowe. I have heard rumors that he has already been relieved of his job, effective at the end of the season, but cannot substantiate that in any way, shape or form. What I do know is that Sidney Lowe is a very good tournament coach. While I do not like the first round matchup against Maryland (a team that is much better than their record would indicate), I will never count the Pack out of the ACC Tournament while the Kool-Aid man is their coach. It also doesn’t hurt that they have a freak of nature in C.J. Leslie. If he decides to show up and give a decent effort, this could be a pretty entertaining game on Thursday night at 7. The winner gets the great prize of playing Duke the next night!

Georgia Tech has been essentially a one man "wrecking" crew this year with Iman Shumpert (see what I did there?!?!). Shumpert leads the Yellow Jackets in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. If you shut him down, Georgia Tech will not win the game. Paul Hewitt will also likely not be asked to return, and there have been rumors of talks with Tubby Smith. Georgia Tech is coming in on a high note after defeating Miami in the last game at the "Thriller Dome", but gets a tough matchup with the Hokies, who have their backs against the wall. Perhaps VT will lead up to their famous me and manage to blow another NCAA Tournament appearance. This is the late game on Thursday, and will likely be played with the lights half shut off, and friends and family only.

Finally we get to our beloved Mother So Dear….the WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS! Wake Forest needs to win the ACC Tournament to get to the Big Dance this year. We see a favorable draw for a #12 seed against Boston College (then Clemson), and I eagerly wait to see if UNC can hold up their end of the bargain so we play them on Saturday. I figure after we breeze through our first two warm-up rounds, the semifinals will be a little tougher. Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik has struggled this year, but this is the arena that Ron Wellman hired him for…POSTSEASON PLAY! Unfortunately if Coach Bzdelik does not start out 4-0 in the postseason at Wake, there will be no more until next year. The Deacs tip off against Boston College tomorrow at 2:30 (or 30 minutes after the first game ends, as previously mentioned).

Now that each team has been previewed, and it has been shown what they are playing for, I’m going to go ahead and give my predictions for the tournament. These are strictly my opinions, and probably will not matchup in any way with the actual analytical previews that I will do later. In fact, do not be surprised if I pick the losing team in every single game. I am pretty sold on Wake advancing at least to Sunday, if not the Big Dance, but other than that I cannot be sure.

Thursday Games (my picks are bolded)

Thursday, March 10 - First Round

#8 Virginia vs. #9 Miami, Noon, ACC Network
#5 Boston College vs. #12 Wake Forest, 2 p.m., ACC Network (I really can’t in good conscience pick Wake Forest to win given what I have seen this year, prove me wrong Deacs)
#7 Maryland vs. #10 NC State, 7 p.m., ESPN2
#6 Virginia Tech vs. #11 Georgia Tech, 9 p.m., ACC Network

Friday, March 11 - Quarterfinals

#1 North Carolina vs. Miami, Noon, ACC Network/ESPN2
#4 Clemson vs. Boston College, 2 p.m., ACC Network/ESPN2
#2 Duke vs. Maryland, 7 p.m., ACC Network/ESPN2
#3 Florida State vs. Virginia Tech, 9 p.m., ACC Network/ESPN2

Saturday, March 12 - Semifinals

North Carolina vs. Boston College, 1 p.m., ACC Network/ESPN
Duke vs. Virginia Tech 3 p.m., ACC Network/ESPN

Sunday, March 13 - Championship

North Carolina vs. Duke, 1 p.m., ACC Network/ESPN

Thoughts:

·         As you can see, I like to go out on a limb and really pick the underdogs #sarcasm.

·         Virginia Tech will either lose to Georgia Tech in the first round, or give Duke a run for their money, there is no in between in my opinion.

·         Boston College will win the two games necessary to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

·         Thursday is going to be an insanely boring day of basketball unless if Wake Forest wins. Then I will be partying so much that I don’t care what happens the rest of the night.

·         Friday is actually going to be pretty entertaining if the favorites win. It gives the bubble teams a good chance to showcase what they have got and get the win they need to make the tournament.

·         I’m going to Hell for picking North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament. I hope I jinx them and they lose to Miami, but unfortunately I do not see that happening.

·         I do think that if it is a UNC-Duke final then it will be a very good game, and probably a tossup. I’m not sure how the UNC players will react to being on the tournament big stage against Duke’s experienced players.

Well that pretty much wraps up the behemoth ACC Preview, and you better come back later tonight/tomorrow morning (I’m typing this on a plane back from London, so I’m not sure how much jet lag I’m going to get…there are other great ACC SBNation sites that I’m sure are doing a better job than we are right now with stuff like this haha) to see the individual game previews. There will be actual analysis and statistical previews there if you are into that sort of thing. If not then just take what I say as fact because it is as close to the truth as you are gonna get.

Hope you enjoyed, learned some things, and will be able to grace your newfound knowledge on your friends as you skip work to watch the Big East tournament and casually check in on our game tomorrow. Comments are welcome, and Go Deacs!

Shameless Plug: I will be tweeting live from Greensboro all day tomorrow, so if you want live updates follow me at RAJohnston12. I will be funny, entertaining, and informative, what else could you ask for?

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