ACC Tournament Preview: Seriously, Tampa? Was Wilkesboro, NC Not Available?
Posted by Mike on March 8, 2007
I’m going to post a live blog of every ACC Tournament game this week, including UNC games on Tar Heel Mania. TheACC.com has an excellent bracket that updated constantly (requires flash), but before action starts today in Tampa, and I can’t believe it’s in Tampa, it would be useful to quickly preview each team and what to look for.
By the way: yes, that is a Simpsons interpretation of the ACC. And no, I don’t appreciate being Krusty the Clown, but it could be worse. I could be Mayor Adam West.
#12. Miami (4-12): After the early departure of their best player of 2006, point guard Guillermo Diaz, the Hurricanes were not expected to do much damage in the ACC. Still, losing four of their best players due to injury did not do anything to help matters. With those players healthy, they could be 8 or 9 deep, but as of now they can only play with six players, the only one of whom is a significant threat is undersized guard Jack McClinton. I would be shocked if they were to make it past today and their first opponent, Maryland.
UPDATE: Miami upsets Maryland 67-62.
#11. Wake Forest (5-11): Last year the Deacons were in a similar position, near the bottom of the ACC. Still, they had the talent (the only missing piece was Chris Paul) and the experience to make it to the Semifinals of the tourney before bowing out to the #1 seed Dookies. This year their strength is in their depth. They have 13 underclassmen playing alongside projected NBA center Kyle Visser. If Wake has any chance of winning, the offense must go through him. This is a deep team, but they lack experience, and that could be poison in a tournament like this.
UPDATE: Wake Forest beats Ga. Tech 114-112 (2OT).
#10. NC State (5-11): This team is truly an enigma. Certainly they have played better in the return of point guard Engin Atsur from injury, and they have beaten UNC and swept Virginia Tech and Wake Forest this season. The Wolfpack have also stunk it up against everyone else this season. They seem to be underachievers at their core, but this tournament could be the place to showcase their talent. NC State plays with only 7 players, but all of them can hit the 3-pointer. Their strength will be using the three to lure the opposing defense away from the paint, allowing for lanes to drive inside and get easy layups. But their most important asset is coach Sidney Lowe, or more specifically, his red blazer. If he wears it, the Pack can make a deep run. If he doesn’t, Duke is running them out of the building tonight.
UPDATE: NC State beats Duke 85-80 (OT).
#9. Florida State (7-9): Now on to the teams that have a legitimate chance of winning. This Florida State team is really confusing. They are good enough to have beaten Florida, Virginia Tech and Duke at Cameron Indoor, and they may have the most talented player in the ACC in Al Thornton. At the same time, before winning their final two games of the season they had lost their previous five. Granted, all of those opponents were competitive, but the Seminoles cannot afford to have that kind of inconsistency. Perhaps their inconsistency is due to the fact that they have no true point guard. Isaiah Swann and Ralph Mims usually are the guards controlling the ball, but do not play the role of a point guard on the court. Florida State certainly has the capacity to go deep in this tournament, but they may need to commit to a point man and get some consistency in order to do so. To not see Thornton in the Big Dance would be the biggest waste of talent I’ve seen in a while.
UPDATE: Florida State beats Clemson 67-66.
#8. Clemson (7-9): If there’s one team that’s more enigmatic than FSU, it would likely be Clemson. The Tigers began the year as the last undefeated team at 17-0. It took them 12 more games to reach win #20. At 21-9 in the ACC, at first glance one’s tourney chances would appear safe. In fact, after their first loss I predicted that they would finish 22-8, 8-8, and safe from being left out of the Dance. But their collapse has been nearly epic, highlighted by coming back from 5 points down in less than 10 seconds to tie the game in Cameron Indoor, only to have extra time unjustly left on the clock, and a defensive lapse leading to a Duke win at the buzzer. At that point things really got ugly. They still have the talent they’ve had all year, including what may be still the best sixth man in the conference in K.C. Rivers. Still, they probably don’t have the mindset to make a deep run. If they lose to FSU today, they are almost certainly NIT bound.
#7. Duke (8-8): As a die-hard Tar Heel Maniac, it’s tempting for me to kick the Devils while they’re down now, especially after Henderson is getting suspended for today. But that wouldn’t be fair to this team. Tyler Hansbrough has moved on from the elbow incident, and so should everyone else (at least until the novelty shirt comes out next week at the Shrunken Head Boutique on Franklin Street). Beneath their inexperience and struggle lies a good deal of talent. The big problem is that they have absolutely no senior leadership on this team. With experience, they will certainly be back with a venegance next year, so don’t feel too sorry for the Dookies. Most teams would kill to have their “rebuilding year”. They could make a deep run this week, unless Sidney Lowe brings his red jacket, in which case it’s over for them before it even begins.
#6. Georgia Tech (8-8): Unlike most teams in the ACC this year, Goergia Tech finished the season strong, winning 7 of their last 9 games. However, don’t overlook the fact that 6 of those 7 victories were home games, and their one road win coincided with Florida State’s 5 game losing streak and is their only true road win for the entire season. They aren’t out of the NCAA woods yet by any stretch of the imagination, because the committee is going to notice that and wonder if they’ll struggle out of their friendly confines. This is a very young team, led by potential lottery pick Thaddeus Young and 6-5 point guard Javaris Crittenton, and they are very deep and athletic, which is a huge asset come tournament time. However, they must play their A game today, because if Wake beats them, the Yellow Jackets will have a lot of explaining to do.
#5. Maryland (10-6): Okay, everyone from this point on in the list is definitely going dancing next week. Of the top teams in the tournament, the Terps definitely have the most momentum, currently riding a 7-game winning streak that includes a home win over North Carolina and a season sweep of the Dookies. A far cry from when they were 17-7, 3-6 in the ACC and on the outside looking in. Their meteoric rise can e explained in many ways. The biggest improvement the have made is in their offense. Players like D.J. Strwaberry, James Gist, and Ikene Ibekwe were already great defenders, but Strawberry now has an offensive game to make him a more complete player, freshman Greivis Vasquez is playing point guard wonderfully, and senior sharpshooter Mike Jones! who? Mike Jones! who? Mike Jones! is finally getting significant PT. What most surprised me is that while most teams would try to slow down the Tar Heels’ fast pace, the Terps had the athleticism to play at our pace and beat us at it. That’s a big reason why I think they can win this tournament.
#4 Boston College (10-6): All of the top four seeds have really struggled to end the season, but none more than Boston College. The loss of Sean Williams, has had a bigger impact than I has expected, but Al Skinner and the Eagles have always capable of doing more with less. BC has been able to keep the ship afloat thanks to great play from sharpshooter Sean Marshall, point guard Sidney Rice and ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley. They will all need to play exceptionally well if the Eagles want to get past the Terps on Friday. Oh crap. I just jinxed Maryland, didn’t I?
#3 Virginia Tech (10-6): This is a very dangerous team. The Hokies have all of the building blocks necessary to do serious damage in the Big Dance. They have an excellent, cunning coach in Seth Greenberg. They have experienced, talented guards in Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon. And they have a signature win, the distinction of being the only team this year to have defeated the vaunted Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Still, they have had their inconsistencies. They were swept by NC State, and they lost at home to Clemson with the chance of clinching the ACC’s #1 seed. Which Virginia Tech will we see from this point on? I’m betting on the former.
#2 Virginia (11-5): This team is practically a mirror image of the Hokies. They have one of the nation’s best and most experienced backcourts in Sean Singletary and JR Reynolds. The have one of the coolest customers in the business in coach Dave Leitao. In spite of having one of the easiest ACC schedules, they have had their share of signature wins, including home wins over Duke and Va. Tech. But they have also blown their chance at the #1 seed with inexplicable losses down the stretch to Miami and Wake Forest. Unlike the Hokies, however, I think the struggling team will show up, as they are inconsistent outside of their new home, John Paul Jones Arena.
The Extrapolater has been so kind as to do the live blogs of Virginia games this weekend (well, at least the quarterfinal).
#1 North Carolina (11-5): What can I say about the Tar Heels that I haven’t already said on Tar Heel Mania? But let’s review anyway. UNC is by far the deepest and most talented team in the conference, if not the entire nation. Most teams would kill for a lineup of Deon Thompson, Alex Stepheson, Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, Wes Miller, Quentin Thomas, and Bobby Frasor. That’s our bench, for Christ’s sake! Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright may be the best frontcourt in the nation, ad frankly, I think Psycho T is going to play even more aggressively after after last week’s incident. We have two major weaknesses, however. The guards are inexperienced, and with the exception of Ellington, they have real trouble shooting the ball well. A team like Virginia Tech beat Carolina because their backcourt practically ran laps around ours. Our second, and perhaps bigger, weakness, is Roy Williams’ (bless his soul) inability make adjustments in the middle of a game, some that Coach K and Seth Greenberg are excellent at doing. If UNC struggles and Roy doesn’t have a backup plan, they could end up going home early. But with the right mindset, I don’t think there’s a single team in the nation that can beat the Tar Heels.
If you’re really curious, you can look here to see how people are predicting the outcome of the ACC Tournament.
My Pick to Win: Do you really have to ask?