Around the ACC: 2007 ACC Tournament Preview

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It’s tournament time! The crusty,
old-line ACC media
may hate the first day of competition in the expanded
ACC, but not us, we love all four days of the ACC’s intense shootout. Who’s hot,
who’s not, and what are the storylines heading into Thursday’s action in Tampa?
We break down each team, from the #1 seed to the #12 seed (because all ACC teams
deserve equal love, even Miami), and tell you what to look for in this week’s
one-day-early “Around the ACC.”


#1 North Carolina Tar Heels (25-6, 11-5 ACC)

Leading Scorer: Tyler Hansbrough, 18.8 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Tyler Hansbrough, 8.0 rpg

North Carolina closed the season with an 84-77 loss at Georgia Tech and an
86-72 win at home against the Duke Blue Devils. UNC won the ACC by default, with
both UVA and Virginia Tech blowing opportunities to earn the #1 seed over the
weekend. The Tar Heels lost two games in a row before beating Duke, and haven’t
been quite as good this year as most people expected them to be.

They’ll have an injury heading into the ACC tournament. Tyler Hansbrough was
fouled hard by Gerald Henderson during Sunday’s game and he suffered a broken
nose. (Maybe you heard about this.) He’ll have to wear a special facemask for
the ACC tournament.

North Carolina will face the winner of the Clemson/Florida State game at noon
on Friday. On the Tar Heels’ side of the bracket, there is only one team that
has defeated UNC this year, and that is Maryland. Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech
and NC State are the other three ACC teams to knock off UNC, and they are on the
opposite side of the bracket and can’t face the Heels until the finals.

The common denominator in North Carolina’s six losses this season has been
defense. The Tar Heels have allowed 81 points or more in all six of their
losses. That’s the magic number for teams facing them in the ACC tournament.
Score 80, and you have a chance to beat them.


#2 Virginia Cavaliers (20-9, 11-5)

Leading Scorer: Sean Singletary, 18.8 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Jason Cain, 6.4 rpg

Virginia had a chance to win the ACC straight up, but they lost at Wake
Forest 78-72 on Saturday afternoon. Still, the Cavaliers get a nice seed for the
ACC tournament. They will face the winner of the Duke/NC State game at 7pm on
Friday. The Cavaliers were a combined 3-0 against the Blue Devils and Wolfpack
during the regular season, so their chances of advancing to the semifinals are
good.

When the ACC announced the All-Conference teams on Monday, it was no surprise
that Virginia’s guards were high on the list. Singletary was named first team
All-ACC, while J.R. Reynolds was second team All-ACC. If both of those guys are
“on”, Virginia can beat just about anybody.

If Virginia gets to the semifinals, their opponent will be Virginia Tech,
Georgia Tech or Wake Forest. The Hoos are 3-2 against those three teams this
year, with all three wins coming at home and both losses occurring on the road.


#3 Virginia Tech Hokies (20-10, 10-6)

Leading Scorer: Zabian Dowdell, 18.3 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Deron Washington, 5.6 rpg

Virginia Tech enters the ACC tournament having lost their last two games.
Tech fell at Virginia 69-56 last Thursday and dropped a home game against
Clemson 75-74 on Sunday. While the ending was disappointing, it was a great
regular season for the Hokies, and they get a decent draw in the ACC tournament.

Tech will face the winner of the Georgia Tech/Wake Forest game on Friday at 9
pm. (The game will probably tip off around 9:20 or 9:30.) The Hokies beat Wake
Forest 63-60 in Blacksburg back in December and defeated Georgia Tech 73-65 in
Atlanta in January. If Tech gets past the quarterfinals, its likely opponent
would be either Duke or Virginia, teams Tech went a combined 2-1 against during
the regular season. They wouldn’t have to face UNC or Maryland until the ACC
finals.

Overall, that’s a pretty good draw for Tech. Whether or not they’ll beat the
Yellow Jackets is another question, but it’s a lot better than being on the same
side of the bracket as UNC and Maryland.

Keep in mind while watching Tech play on Friday that the Hokies have won
exactly one conference tournament game since the 1999-2000 season, beating
Rutgers in the 2004 Big East tournament.


#4 Boston College Eagles (19-10, 10-6)

Leading Scorer: Jared Dudley, 19.3 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Jared Dudley, 8.5 rpg

Boston College enters the ACC tournament in a major slump. The Eagles have
lost four of their last five games. Their only win in that span was a narrow
59-54 home win over Clemson. BC lost to UNC and Duke at home and were run out of
the gym in road losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

Because of their good start, BC still played its way into a first round bye.
However, they’ll have to face the winner of the Maryland/Miami game on Friday at
2 pm. That’s likely to be Maryland, who has won seven games in a row. That would
be a matchup of the league’s hottest team against perhaps its coldest. If BC got
past Maryland, they’d likely face UNC in the semifinals.

The Eagles are in the NCAA tournament no matter what at this point, but a
solid performance in the ACC tournament could boost their seeding. Unfortunately
for BC, Maryland is going to be hard to handle in the quarterfinals, assuming
the Terps get past Miami.


#5 Maryland Terrapins (24-7, 10-6)

Leading Scorer: D.J. Strawberry, 15.2 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Ekene Ibekwe, 7.6 rpg

Maryland is the ACC’s hottest team. They have won seven games in a row,
including three road wins at NC State, Clemson and Duke. They defeated UNC at
home 89-87, and they capped off their season by blowing out NC State 79-59 in
College Park on Senior Day. The Terps have locked up an NCAA tournament bid, and
they’ll try to use the ACC tournament to play for seeding.

Although the Terps lost to Miami at home back in January, they should be able
to dispatch the Canes at 7 pm on Thursday night. That will give Maryland a
quarterfinals matchup with Boston College, a team that’s in a major slump. They
are also on the same side of the bracket as UNC.

Maryland is definitely one of the best, if not the best team in the
ACC right now, and many people are saying they are a sleeper to win the ACC
tournament. Well for one, they are no longer a sleeper. Everyone in the ACC
knows what Maryland is all about right now. It will take a great effort from
someone to send them home from Tampa.


#6 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (20-10, 8-8)

Leading Scorer: Javaris Crittenton, 14.5 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Jeremis Smith, 5.8 rpg

If Maryland didn’t exist, Georgia Tech would have to be considered the
hottest team in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets have won seven of their last nine
games. Their only losses in that span were road games to Duke and Virginia. They
also beat Florida State on the road in that span. The Jackets won their last two
games of the season against UNC and Boston College.

Georgia Tech will face Wake Forest on Thursday night at 9 pm. If they get
past the Demon Deacons, they’ll face Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals, the
only team to defeat the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta this season. The Hokies are
3-1 against Georgia Tech since entering the ACC. Their only loss came in the ACC
tournament quarterfinals back in 2005.

The main question for Georgia Tech is how they will do outside the city of
Atlanta. They are 16-1 in Alexander Memorial Coliseum, and 1-0 in the Georgia
Dome. In true road games they are just 1-8. However, in neutral site games not
including the Georgia Dome, the Yellow Jackets are 2-1 with wins over Purdue and
Memphis, and a loss to UCLA.

Georgia Tech has improved quite a bit from the beginning of the season, and
they have more than likely assured themselves of an NCAA tournament berth with
20 overall wins and a .500 record in conference play.

Can Georgia Tech consistently bring it outside of Atlanta? We’ll find out
this weekend.


#7 Duke Blue Devils (22-9, 8-8)

Leading Scorer: DeMarcus Nelson, 14.2 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Josh McRoberts, 7.8 rpg

Duke has been an up and down team throughout their entire ACC schedule. They
will be entering the ACC tournament on a down note, losing their last two games.
They lost at home to Maryland 85-77, and then dropped their season finale 86-72
at North Carolina. The Blue Devils finished 22-9 overall and 8-8 in ACC play, so
they are safely in the NCAA tournament, with an RPI of 14.

Duke will take on NC State in the first round on Thursday at 7 pm. The Blue
Devils will be without the services of guard Gerald Henderson, who was ejected
from the UNC game on Sunday for a flagrant foul on UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough. If
Duke knocks off the Wolfpack, the Devils will take on Virginia in the
quarterfinals.

Duke isn’t one of the ACC’s strongest teams as they usually are, but don’t
count the Blue Devils out of the ACC tournament. They have won seven of the last
eight ACC tournaments. In the one year they didn’t win, 2004, they made the
finals. Coach K knows how to get his team prepared in the postseason.

The Blue Devils likely don’t have the experience or the depth to win the ACC
tournament this year, but don’t be surprised if they make a run at the
semifinals or finals.


#8 Clemson Tigers (21-9, 7-9)

Leading Scorer: K.C. Rivers, 13.3 ppg
Leading Rebounder: James Mays 6.6 rpg

The Clemson Tigers will enter the ACC tournament on the heels of a two game
winning streak. They defeated the Miami Hurricanes at home 74-70 in overtime,
and then upset Virginia Tech on the road 75-74 on Sunday afternoon, spoiling the
Hokies’ chances of a share of the ACC regular season championship.

Clemson’s opponent in the first round will be the Florida State Seminoles.
The Tigers knocked off FSU twice during the regular season, beating the Noles
68-66 in Tallahassee back on January 3 and 71-58 at Clemson on February 7. Will
they beat able to beat Florida State a third time?

The Tigers do have a resume for the NCAA tournament. They won 21 games, which
is very good, and their RPI is #35. However, the Tigers went just 7-9 in ACC
play. They need to beat Florida State in the opening round. The winner of that
game will have a shot to make the Big Dance, and the loser is looking at another
NIT appearance.


#9 Florida State Seminoles (19-11, 7-9)

Leading Scorer: Al Thornton, 20.1 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Al Thornton, 7.2 rpg

Florida State’s NCAA tournament chances looked done when point guard Toney
Douglas went down with an injury in February. The Seminoles lost five
consecutive games without Douglas but rallied to win their final two games of
the season, both at home, against NC State and Miami. Douglas returned against
Miami and hit a big three-pointer that sent the game into overtime. He scored 13
points in the game.

With Douglas back, Florida State is a sleeper in the ACC tournament. After
starting 0-3 in ACC play, the Seminoles rallied to get to 5-4 in league play,
and they looked like they were heading to the Big Dance. Then Douglas went down
with a broken hand, and the Noles slipped to 5-9 in the ACC.

Douglas is a transfer from Auburn, and the former SEC Freshman of the Year.
He is a very good player who is a great complement to Al Thornton, who is
arguably the most dynamic player in the conference. With Douglas back, the
Seminoles regain the services of their second leading scorer (13.1 ppg) and a
very good three point shooter (43.3%).

Florida State will take on Clemson in the first game of the ACC tournament,
on Thursday at noon. With both teams fighting for an NCAA tournament berth, the
first game of the ACC tournament could possibly be the best.


#10 NC State Wolfpack (15-14, 5-11)

Leading Scorer: Brandon Costner, 16.3 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Brandon Costner, 7.5 rpg

NC State doesn’t have a shot to make the NCAA tournament unless they win the
ACC tournament. They draw Duke in the first round. The Blue Devils defeated NC
State 79-56 in Raleigh back on January 20. This time Duke will be facing NC
State without Gerald Henderson, who is suspended for the opening round because
of his flagrant foul on Tyler Hansbrough in Sunday’s Duke-UNC game.

Still, NC State isn’t the popular pick in this game. The Wolfpack have five
ACC wins this year, and four of them came against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
State didn’t have a lot of success against teams from places other than
Blacksburg or Winston-Salem.

However, it’s the ACC, and everybody has a chance, including the Wolfpack. If
they manage to get past Duke, they’ll face Virginia in the quarterfinals.


#11 Wake Forest (14-15, 5-11)

Leading Scorer: Kyle Visser, 16.9 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Kyle Visser, 7.2 rpg

Wake Forest is a much better basketball team now than they were back in
January. In fact, the Deacons have quietly won five of their last nine games.
Senior center Kyle Visser has had a very impressive season for the Demon
Deacons. He leads Wake in scoring and rebounding, and he’s the only player on
the team to average double figures in scoring.

Wake Forest will take on Georgia Tech in the opening round of the ACC
tournament at 9 pm on Thursday. Wake beat Georgia Tech 85-75 in Winston-Salem on
January 30, and they lost to the Yellow Jackets 75-61 on February 21 in Atlanta.

If the Demon Deacons get past Georgia Tech, they’ll face Virginia Tech in the
second round. The Hokies have won the last two meetings between the two schools,
including a 63-60 victory in Blacksburg back in December.


#12 Miami Hurricanes (11-19, 4-12)

Leading Scorer: Jack McClinton, 16.8 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Dwayne Collins, 6.4 rpg

Not only do the Hurricanes have nothing to play for except pride, but they
also get the toughest draw of all the teams playing in the opening round of the
ACC tournament. Miami has to play Maryland, the league’s hottest team. The Canes
upset the Terps in College Park back in January, but things are a lot different
now. Maryland has won seven in a row, and Miami has gone through a plethora of
injuries and suspensions.

The Hurricanes have lost four of their last five games, with their only win
in that span coming against Virginia. However, their last two losses have been
very close. Miami was downed 74-70 at Clemson in overtime, and then lost to
Florida State 98-90 in overtime. Miami was very close to finishing out of the
basement this year.

Still, things are likely to come to an end against Maryland on Thursday.
Tipoff is scheduled for 2 pm. If they do get past the Terps, their opponent will
be Boston College.

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