ACC Tournament has chance for some surprises; some others not so much

I don’t want to grow up.

This used to be the one week that I could be a rebel.

In high school, conference tournament week meant sneaking a radio into class Thursday, and playing hookey Friday to follow the most exciting basketball of the year.

All of that is a distant memory now, with flexible college schedules that have me out of class by 11 a.m. on Fridays.

This year it’s even worse! Spring break means I’ll be able to wake up just in time to watch the first group of games from my bed.

Sounds great, but I really do miss the thrill of listening to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech instead of my Earth science teacher.

Anywho, for those of you who live for conference tournament week, this one’s for you.

The ACC Tournament kicks off its week with a slew of crucial first round games on Thursday.

The biggest game of the day will be Georgia Tech versus North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets had an opportunity to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid with a win over Virginia Tech this past Saturday, but with the loss they are out entirely in all likelihood.

The Jackets beat North Carolina handily in their one regular season match-up, and also enjoyed a 20-point lead in the other before holding on to win by two in Chapel Hill, but this game could serve as one to salvage the Heels’ season, so Paul Hewitt’s team better bring their “A” game.

Also huge is Wake Forest and Miami. If it weren’t for UNC, Miami would be the talk of the league as the biggest underachiever. The Hurricanes have some real talent in the backcourt and up front with guys like Dwayne Collins and James Dews, but they struggled in conference play after going unbeaten in the non-conference.

Miami could be the upset special of the weekend, and that’s who I am going with.

Until Wake Forest stunned Clemson to finish the regular season, the Demon Deacons were in a free fall from NCAA lock to squarely on the bubble. Beating the Tigers in a must-win situation was huge, but it is not enough to convince me they have righted the ship entirely.

Clemson should make the field of 65 next Sunday, but a loss to NC State would not help its case. The Wolfpack have the least talented team in the conference, and Clemson should pass by them with ease.

The other game that fans of Greensboro Coliseum will use as their personal two-hour bathroom break is Boston College against Virginia. Neither team will likely make the postseason in any form, and without Sylvan Landesburg playing for the Cavaliers, there is not a single player in this game worth the price of admission.

On to the second round:

As the fourth seed, Virginia Tech saved its season with consecutive wins in the final week of the season, after three straight losses looked to have sent them to the NIT again.

While most of the players and coaches seem to think they are in the NCAA Tournament for sure, there is the possibility they could be jobbed again if they do not win in the ACC quarterfinals.

The Hokies will face the winner of Wake and Miami, which as I said earlier, believe to be Miami.

But for the sake of normalcy, let’s say Wake holds off the Hurricanes. The Hokies beat Wake in an up-and-down game last month in Blacksburg in which Malcolm Delaney went off for 31 points.

Either the Deacons or the Hurricanes are a good matchup for Tech.

Florida State is the darkhorse in the tournament. They have the best chance at matching up with top seed Duke’s size, and are athletic enough to stop the backcourts at Virginia Tech and Maryland.

The Seminoles get the Clemson/NC State winner. Clemson could give them a run with Trevor Booker manning the post, but the ‘Noles should prevail to the semifinals.

Maryland tied Duke for the conference title, but sits in the second seed for the tournament. They get the winner of Georgia Tech and UNC. This one is scary, because both of those potential opponents have firepower. Maryland is playing far and away its best basketball right now, and Greivis Vasquez appears to have locked up conference player of the year honors.

If there were an upset in the second round, it would be in this game.

Duke will name the score of its game against the BC/Virginia winner.

In the semifinals, Duke and Virginia Tech are the most likely to get there. Florida State has a tough matchup with Clemson to get by, but they should be there as well. I’m going to go ahead and say Georgia Tech stuns Maryland in the quarters, leaving Florida State against Georgia Tech and the Blue Devils against the Hokies.

At that point, all four teams would safely be in the NCAA Tournament, so it would be down to seeding and pride on the line. Despite the road loss to Maryland in a death trap game, Duke is playing very well right now. The Blue Devils have had problems away from home, which could be trouble in Greensboro. However, Virginia Tech has not set the world on fire on the road either.

Georgia Tech could give FSU some problems inside. Solomon Alabi against Gani Lawal would be the matchup of the tournament. The Yellow Jackets have the most to prove this week, after getting the short end of the stick in conference scheduling.

Don’t let its seed fool you, Tech is not the seventh-best team in the conference.

After reaching the finals, Duke and Tech would be a good matchup, but there simply is no team in this league that can effectively control both Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, while still having enough bodies to keep Kyle Singler and the rest of the Duke frontcourt at bay.

The league is very balanced across the board, but Duke is simply a head above the rest. Stranger things have happened, but the Blue Devils are a tough matchup for anyone else in the ACC, and have a chance to prove that this weekend.


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