On Thursday, the Atlantic Coast Conference's version of Championship Week kicks off with 4 first round games, leading up to Sunday's Tournament Championship. In this preamble to March Madness, which teams have the most to gain, and who could surprise? We break it all down for you.
The 60th Annual ACC Tournament promises to be a wide open and interesting affair this week in Greensboro. The biggest questions other then how much hyperbole Dick Vitale screams out, are which bubble teams can help their chances and can anyone stop Duke with Ryan Kelly? Last year FSU shocked the traditional powers by taking the crown. Can Miami build off of their ACC regular season Championship to do the same? In any event it promises to be a fun week filled with high drama and terrific hoops action.
Teams with the most on the line: Virginia, Maryland, NC State, UNC. The Heels and Wolfpack appear to have done enough to secure at large bids. But Championship Week is always full of surprises. Should a slew of mid major conference tournaments produce upsets and State and Carolina lose early this week...... Well you never know. Virginia has really earned their way in with strong play in conference, including wins over UNC and Duke. But some bad out of conference losses (Old Dominion, Delaware) leaves some doubt. My guess is one win and they're in, but anything less and hold your breathe Selection Sunday. The Terps will need a magical run this week to make it.
Sleeper Alert: FSU. The Seminoles are the defending champs after all. Also, they closed out the season with wins over NC State and Virginia teams with a lot on the line. Their young players (Ian Bookert and Kiel Turpin in particular) have improved. And in a close game, no one wants to be on the other end of Michael Snaer's clutch dramatics.
Key Players to Watch: Durand Scott almost led a 12th seeded Miami team to the finals as freshman. The 'Canes will need him at his best to make it to Sunday. NC State's CJ Leslie can absolutely take over a tournament like this, if he gets hot. Joe Harris can not afford an off night if UVA is to make a run. BC's Eddie Odio may not put up huge numbers, but he provides sorely needed athleticism to a highly skilled Eagles club. Also keep an eye on Duke's Ryan Kelly, should the Devils keep advancing. He has largely played off adrenaline since returning from injury. Can he sustain his exceptional play, playing back-to-back games?
In a match-up of steadily improving teams, BC knocks off Ga Tech as Joe Rahon outguns Chris Bolden in a battle of good young guards.
In what could be the lowest scoring game in ACC Tournament history, look for FSU to defeat Clemson behind Michael Snaer and Okaro White.
Boston College has no answers for Kenny Kadji, and Reggie Johnson finally gets going on the block, as Miami rolls to an easy win over BC.
NC State continues to find their game, overcoming the terrific play of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell behind Scott Wood and Lorenzo Brown. The Wolfpack advance to the semifinals and keep Virginia squarely on the bubble.
I am really tempted to pick the Noles over the Heels in the final quarterfinal. I suspect FSU gives UNC all they can handle and then some, but tired legs prevent the upset. Carolina wins just barely.
NC State has a chip on their shoulders about losing to Miami on a last second tip in February 2nd. But playing their third game in three days and not being the deepest squad, is no formula for slowing Shane Larkin and Co. Miami plays a strong second half and prevails to advance to their first ever ACC Tournament Final.
Duke had little trouble taking apart UNC this past Sunday. I expect UNC to put up more of a fight this time around. PJ Hairston and Reggie Bullock drain enough shots to keep this one close, but Mason Plumlee is too much inside for James Michael McAdoo. Duke advances in a close one.
The last time these two teams met, Duke escaped with a 3 point win behind Ryan Kelly's career high 36 points. But while Kelly and the Devils dominated the game from the perimeter, Miami's guards got into the paint at will. Playing their third game in three days, the team that takes the higher percentage shots and gets to the line, usually wins. If (and this is a big if) UM can stay out of foul trouble and continue to get into the paint, they should hand Duke its' first loss of the season with Ryan Kelly in the line-up.
Will it be enough to get the 'Canes a #1 seed? Good thing the Selection Show is only hours later!!
MOP: Kenny Kadji, Miami
ALL ACC Tournament Team:
Kenny Kadji, Miami, Shane Larkin, Miami, Quinn Cook, Duke, Seth Curry, Duke, CJ Leslie, NC State, Reggie Bullock, UNC.
The Nitty Gritty:
2013 ACC tournament site: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
2013 ACC tournament dates: March 14th-17th, 2013
Tournament Schedule & TV Information
Thursday, March 14 (First Round)
Game 1: No. 8 Boston College vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Game 2: No. 5 NC State vs. No. 12 Virginia Tech, 2 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Game 3: No. 7 Maryland vs. No. 10 Wake Forest, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Game 4: No. 6 Florida State vs. No. 11 Clemson, 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Friday, March 15 (Second Round)
Game 5: No. 1 Miami vs. Game 1 Winner, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Game 6: No. 4 Virginia vs. Game 2 Winner, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Game 7: No. 2 Duke vs. Game 3 Winner, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Game 8: No. 3 North Carolina vs. Game 4 Winner, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Saturday, March 16 (Semifinals)
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN/ACC Network)
Game 10: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN/ACC Network)
Sunday, March 17 (Finals)
Game 11: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN/ACC Network)