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State of the U 2015 ACC Tournament Preview/Predictions

Can Virginia repeat? Just how many wins do the 'Canes need? Who might sneak their way to the semifinals? All that and more....

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

For three years running now, the ACC Tourney crown has been kept out of the triangle.

In 2012 it was the Seminoles who broke the UNC/Duke hex.

Then in 2013 Miami was dominant and won both the regular season and Tournament Championships.

Last season, a gritty UVA team repeated the feat.

The Hoos took home the regular season title again this year.  Will they continue their recent dominance this week in Greensboro?

Can Duke regain their lofty perch as the league's elite program?

Will Miami get the 2 wins they need to assure themselves a trip to the dance?

Let's break it all down below:

The Favorites:

#1 Duke -  Yes, defending champs Virginia will have the #1 seed. But to me this is the team to beat, led by sensational freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones.  Let's not also forget the solid contributions they have gotten all season long from upperclassmen Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson. The Devils can stake their claim to a #1 seed in the big dance with an ACC Tourney victory, so they should be motivated.  If there is one concern with this talented bunch, it is that they only go 8 deep.

#2 Virginia - Who wants to face Tony Bennett's club with tired legs?  No one, that is who. UVA blends the best defense in the country this side of Lexington with clutch and balanced offensive play to win games down the stretch, minus the ones they flat out dominate. Malcolm Brogdon loves shooting daggers and the combination of Anthony Gill and Darion Atkins is underrated at the 4.  They are just steady and relentless, and that is why they have only 2 losses all season long. If Justin Anderson was back already, I'd pick the Hoos as the biggest favorite to win this tournament.

#3 Notre Dame - The Irish come at you in waves. Jerian Grant is one of the least talked about superstars in all of College Basketball. He gets plenty of support from sharpshooters Pat Connaughton and Steve Vasturia. Zach Auguste provides the inside punch, and Demetrius Jackson is a future star at the point. With recent improved play from Bonzie Colson inside and on the wing, they are even more dangerous.  To beat ND, you have to just hope they have an off shooting night.

#4 Louisville - Give Rick Pitino's team credit, they lost PG Chris Jones but have not missed a beat. With Montrezl Harrell's ability to take over games, they will be no easy out either this week or beyond.  Terry Rozier loves shooting tough shots with the game on the line, and Pitino knows how to get production out of unsung heroes. Just ask Virginia, who were victimized by the Cardinals last night.

The Sleepers:

#1 Miami -  The 'Canes seem to play their best ball away from the friendly confines of the Bank United Center. They won games this year at Duke and at Syracuse, and easily could have defeated Louisville on the road, not to mention taking UVA to double OT in Coral Gables. PG Angel Rodriguez is questionable for this tournament, but UM has no shortage of firepower led by Sheldon McClellan, Davon Reed, and arguably the most improved player in the conference in Tonye Jekiri, down low.  They also have a  plethora of shooters off the bench who can get hot at any given moment.

#2 NC State - Trevor Lacey is a handful in any game he participates. He has a nice supporting cast led by Ralson Turner and lightning quick Cat Barber. But what really makes this team dangerous is their depth.  The Pack have all kinds of size, featuring BeeJay Anya, Abdul Malik-Abu, and the Martin twins.  In a battle of attrition, this is not the team you want to face.

#3 North Carolina -  It seems odd to call the Heels a "sleeper."  But UNC is a sub par shooting team. They make up for it but getting out in transition, and leaning on the nice medium range games of Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson.  PG Marcus Paige hasn't been 100% this season, but he is the kind of player who makes big plays at big times, and for that reason North Carolina is a dangerous team this time of year.

Most to play for:  Miami (2 wins gets them in, 1 is iffy), NC State (should be in minus a bad loss), UVA and Duke (potentially playing for #1 seeds, though both look good at the moment).

What's missing:  Syracuse.  The Orange self imposed a postseason ban, even before the NCAA came down with penalties.  We won't miss their suffocating 2-3 zone, but we will miss the satiric and cutting barbs of Coach Boeheim. I just love when a member of the press asks him if one of his players is overrated this time of year.

Predictions:

Round 1 -

Boston College over Georgia Tech.  Olivier Hanlan is good enough to win a 1st round ACC game all on his own, and the Jackets limp into this tourney with a lot of injuries.

Wake Forest over Virginia Tech.  Danny Manning's team is led by high scoring G Codi Miller-McIntyre and low post presence Devin Thomas. But underrated stretch 4 Konstantinos Mitoglou is a match-up nightmare. VT can get hot from three, particularly Adam Smith, but the nod here goes to the Deacons.

Round 2 -

FSU over Clemson - The Noles have the right mix with steady Montay Brandon, explosive Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and a trifecta of 7 footers, to make some noise.  Clemson can defend, but they just don't have the scorers to escape this one.

UNC over BC -  The Heels are just too physical inside for the Eagles.  Kennedy Meeks should have a big game in this one.

NC State over Pitt -  Pitt is ferocious at home and I love Michael Young's game, but they have too many offensive droughts. Lacey and Turner bring this one home with some high octane scoring.

Miami over Wake Forest - UM has too much on the line to lose this one. In the teams lone regular season battle, Wake needed a ridiculous shooting night and a missed finger roll at the buzzer by Rodriguez to win. UM gets their revenge in this one.

Quarterfinals -

Virginia over FSU - The Seminoles would need Rathan-Mayes to score 40 to win this one. It's possible, but also more likely the Hoos hold FSU as a team to under 40.

UNC over Louisville - I hate to go against Pitino this time of year, but the Heels have the horses to slow down Harrell. The loss of Jones finally catches up with the Cardinals.

Duke over NC State - The Pack do have a win over Coach K's group in the regular season, but Tyus Jones is on another level right now. Cook is also sizzling.

Miami over Notre Dame - A win would almost assuredly give Coach Larranaga's squad a berth in March Madness. That motivation, plus the fact they actually have the guards to match-up with ND, leads the way in this upset win.

Semifinals -

Virginia over UNC - Too much Brogdon, too much London Perrantes, too much Mike Tobey, too much everything for North Carolina.

Duke over Miami - UM pounded the Devils at Cameron Indoor back in January. But again, Duke is better now than they were then. And another 25 point, 5 assist, 5 steal performance from Angel is a lot to ask, if he even plays.

Final -

Duke over UVA - Okafor runs a much, Justise Winslow does something dirty, and Jones continues to cement himself as a big time player, as the title finds its' way back to Durham.

All Tournament Team -  Malcolm Brogdon UVA, Quinn Cook Duke, Tyus Jones Duke, Jahlil Okafor Duke, Brice Johnson UNC, Davon Reed Miami

MVP - Tyus Jones, Duke

The Full Schedule/Bracket:

March 10-14, 2015, Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum

Tuesday, March 10 (First Round)

#12 Boston College vs. #13 Georgia Tech ESPN2/ACCN      1:00

#11 Wake Forest vs. #14 Virginia Tech   ESPN2/ACCN      3:00

WednesdayMarch 11 (Second Round)

#8 Clemson vs. #9 Florida State ESPN/ACCN       Noon

#5 North Carolina vs. BC/GT winner      ESPN/ACCN       2:00

#7 NC State vs. #10 Pittsburgh   ESPN2/ACCN      7:00

#6 Miami vs. WF/VT winner       ESPN2/ACCN      9:00

ThursdayMarch 12 (Quarterfinals)

#1 Virginia vs. TBA     ESPN/ACCN       Noon

#4 Louisville vs. TBA   ESPN/ACCN       2:00

#2 Duke vs. TBA ESPN/ACCN       7:00

#3 Notre Dame vs. TBA   ESPN/ACCN       9:00

FridayMarch 13 (Semifinals)

Game #11        ESPN/2/ACCN     7:00

Game #12        ESPN/2/ACCN     9:00

SaturdayMarch 14 (Finals)

Game #13        ESPN/ACCN       8:30

ACC Tourney

Enjoy the Tournament everyone.