2011 ACC Tournament Preview

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Three teams from the ACC are locks for the NCAA Tournament. Three more are
considered bubble teams, and how they perform in Greensboro this week could
decide whether they make the Big Dance or are bumped down to the NIT.

The ACC Tournament doesn’t mean as much to as many people anymore. You can
tell by the number of empty seats in the Greensboro Coliseum, and by the prices
of the secondary ticket market outside the Coliseum.

Nevertheless, it’s still a big event for the players, coaches, and teams that
are on the bubble. For three ACC teams, what they do in this tournament may
decide their postseason fate.

Here’s a quick look at each team and their chances in this week’s tournament.

#1 North Carolina Tar Heels


UNC
Record 24-6
Conf. Record 14-2
RPI 7
SOS 13
Streak Won 7

North Carolina enters the ACC Tournament as the ACC’s hottest team. The Tar
Heels have won seven in a row, and it really should be more than that, as they
blew a huge halftime lead against Duke in their last loss.

UNC rebounded from that loss by running off seven consecutive victories,
which culminated in a relatively easy win over Duke in the final game of the
season. The Tar Heels have been a much better team since true freshman Kendall
Marshall was inserted into the starting lineup and Larry Drew II quit. Losing
Drew was addition by subtraction.

Carolina doesn’t have ideal post depth, but they are playing the best
basketball of any ACC team right now. If they can win the ACC Tournament, they
could still be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and probably a #2 seed at
worst.

As the #1 seed in Greensboro, UNC will get a first round bye. They’ll face
either #8 Virginia or #9 Miami on Friday at noon.

#2 Duke Blue Devils


Duke
Record 27-4
Conf. Record 13-3
RPI 3
SOS 31
Streak Lost 2 of 3

Unlike their in-state rivals, the Blue Devils are not playing good basketball
right now. They lost to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, knocked off Clemson at home
70-59, and lost to North Carolina 81-67 in the season finale.

Despite the fact that they haven’t played well recently, the Blue Devils are
still a very dangerous team. However, they have to get more from senior wing
Kyle Singler. Singler was only 6-of-19 from the field at Virginia Tech,
including 1-of-7 from three-point range. Against UNC, he was 3-of-14 from the
field and missed all five of his three-pointers.

As good as Duke is, they can’t afford for a guy like Singler to have multiple
bad shooting nights. However, this is still Coach K’s team, and the defending
National Champs thrive in postseason basketball.

Duke will face #7 Maryland or #10 NC State on Friday night at 7pm.

#3 Florida State Seminoles


FSU
Record 21-9
Conf. Record 11-5
RPI 44
SOS 84
Streak Won 5 of 7

Everyone thought Florida State would fall off when they lost Chris Singleton,
but instead the Seminoles came together and continued to play very good
basketball. They have won five of their last seven games, and nearly upset North
Carolina last week.

Florida State has a lot of depth in the post. Even with Singleton out, the
Noles still have Xavier Gibson (6-11), Bernard James (6-10), Jon Kreft (7-0),
Terrance Shannon (6-8) and Okaro White (6-8) in their frontcourt. They also have
good height at guard and wing.

Their length makes Florida State one of the best defensive basketball teams
in the country. Their depth could potentially make them a good tournament team
as well. There is a chance that Chris Singleton could return for the ACC
Tournament, but with the way the Noles have been playing without him, there is
no reason to push it.

Florida State will play #6 Virginia Tech or #11 Georgia Tech on Friday night
at 9pm.

#4 Clemson Tigers


Clemson
Record 20-10
Conf. Record 9-7
RPI 57
SOS 76
Streak Won 3 of 4

Clemson is a bubble team who needs a win in the ACC Tournament to feel secure
about their NCAA Tournament chances. That said, the bubble is pretty weak this
year, so the Tigers might be in either way. There’s no way to know at this
point.

Clemson has won three of their last four games, with their lone loss in that
span coming at Duke. The Tigers are playing their best basketball exactly when
they need to. They have a lot of experienced players, including three seniors
who have played in the NCAA Tournament every year of their career. They don’t
want to miss the Big Dance in their final season.

The Tigers will get a pretty good draw on Friday. They’ll face either #5
Boston College or #12 Wake Forest. Wake Forest is very unlikely to make it past
the first round, and the Tigers won their only meeting with BC during the
regular season.

#5 Boston College Eagles


BC
Record 19-11
Conf. Record 9-7
RPI 43
SOS 28
Streak Won 3

Boston College has won their last three games, and have played their way from
the wrong side of the bubble into the field of 68. Right now, many
bracketologists project the Eagles as one of the last four teams in the field.

The Eagles are as experienced a basketball team as you can get. They have
good size in the post, versatile forwards who can play multiple positions, and
an outstanding guard in Reggie Jackson. BC head coach Steve Donahue has his team
playing excellent defense right now. In their last three games, they allowed 44
points at UVA, 61 points at Virginia Tech and 68 points against Wake Forest.
They also held UNC to just 48 points back on February 19.

One more win will likely be enough to get BC into the Big Dance. Their
computer numbers are very strong. They’ll face #12 Wake Forest at 2pm on
Thursday, and a potential quarterfinal matchup with #5 Clemson on Friday could
be one of the best games of the ACC Tournament.

#6 Virginia Tech Hokies


VT
Record 19-10
Conf. Record 9-7
RPI 67
SOS 94
Streak Lost 2

Virginia Tech did a lot for their NCAA Tournament resume by beating then-#1 Duke
three games ago. However, they handed it right back by losing their last two
games of the season against Boston College and Clemson.

Except for that Duke win, the Hokies haven’t played particularly good
basketball over their last five games. That will have to change for the ACC
Tournament. Their first opponent is Georgia Tech, who split with the Hokies
during the regular season. If they get past the Jackets, they’ll face a very
good Florida State team that is playing good basketball right now.

Tech will be playing the late game on Thursday night, which should be fine
because they played so many 9pm games during the course of the regular season.
Jeff Allen has a banged up ankle right now, and though he’ll play against
Georgia Tech, it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be. Allen had 18 points
and 11 rebounds in the first meeting with the Yellow Jackets, and he had 25
points and 14 rebounds in the 102-77 victory in Blacksburg.

No one knows how many wins it will take to get Virginia Tech into the NCAA
Tournament, but they can’t afford to lose to Georgia Tech. If the Hokies win on
Thursday, they’ll face #3 Florida State at 9pm on Friday.

#7 Maryland Terrapins


Maryland
Record 18-13
Conf. Record 7-9
RPI 98
SOS 78
Streak Lost 3

The Maryland Terrapins have played their way from the bubble to the NIT over
their last three games. The Terps have been defeated by North Carolina, Miami
and Virginia in those three games, all by double-digits, and the Virginia loss
was at home. They are playing poor basketball right now, particularly on the
defensive end.

Maryland has 18 wins, but their computer numbers are very low. Anything short
of winning the ACC Tournament will send them to the NIT. Fortunately they play
an NC State team that isn’t particularly well-coached, and Gary Williams vs.
Sidney Lowe should be a mismatch, even if Lowe does have more overall talent.

If the Terps get past NC State on Thursday at 7pm, they’ll face #2 Duke on
Friday at 7pm.

#8 Virginia Cavaliers


Virginia
Record 16-14
Conf. Record 7-9
RPI 138
SOS 105
Streak Won 4 of 5

No coach did a better job with what he had this year than Virginia’s Tony
Bennett (and that’s not a knock on Seth Greenberg, Roy Williams, or anyone
else). The Hoos don’t have a lot of talent, they lost senior forward Mike Scott
for the season with a foot injury, and they were playing a lot of freshman.

Despite all that, and a rocky start in league play, Bennett kept his team
together and they managed to finish with a winning record overall, and nearly
.500 in the ACC. They have won four of their last five games, and are one of the
best defensive teams you’ll see.

No one has scored more than 63 points against Virginia since a 70-68 overtime
loss to Miami on February 5. No one has scored 70 points in regulation against
the Hoos since January 29. They play at a very slow pace offensively, and
combined with their excellent defense, they are a frustrating opponent to face.

If UVA gets by #9 Miami on Thursday at noon, they’ll face #1 UNC on Friday at
noon.

#9 Miami Hurricanes

Miami
Record 18-13
Conf. Record 6-10
RPI 76
SOS 53
Streak 3-3 in last 6

Miami is a very talented basketball team, but they can’t quite seem to put it
together in an NCAA Tournament run. The Canes have skilled guards, athletic
wings, and a really good interior player with great size in Reggie Johnson.
However, they went just 6-10 in league play, and barring an ACC Tournament
Championship, they are headed to the NIT.

The Canes have the talent to advance in the ACC Tournament. They proved it
last year, as the #12 seed. They blew out #5 Wake Forest in their first game,
upset #4 Virginia Tech in their second game, and nearly beat #1 Duke in their
third game. If there is a sleeper team in the bottom half of the ACC standings,
it is the Miami Hurricanes.

They face Virginia at noon on Thursday, and they’ll be hoping to play #1 UNC
on Friday.

#10 NC State Wolfpack


NC State
Record 15-15
Conf. Record 5-11
RPI 118
SOS 51
Streak Lost 4 of 5

Sidney Lowe’s swan song is likely coming up this weekend. The Wolfpack limp into
the ACC Tournament having lost four of their last five games. If they lose their
opening round game against Maryland, they’ll finish with a losing record, and
the coaching search will begin.

The Wolfpack don’t lack for players. Tracy Smith is a very good big man, and
they’ve got other good players in their rotation with solid talent and skill.
C.J. Leslie was a McDonald’s All-American, and Lowe signed a very impressive
freshman class.

However, results are results, and Lowe has never gotten good results. Barring
some sort of miracle, this weekend could be his last as NC State’s head coach.
The Wolfpack play Maryland at 7pm on Thursday.

#11 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets


GT
Record 13-17
Conf. Record 5-11
RPI 160
SOS 81
Streak Won 2

Another coach on the hot seat is Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt. The Yellow Jackets
will miss the postseason this year, and they’ve always been an up and down team
during Hewitt’s tenure, despite bringing in a number of future NBA players.

The Jackets have played better recently, winning their last two games. They
have point guard Iman Shumpert, who is one of the best guards in the ACC. In the
first meeting with Virginia Tech, he had 22 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and
seven steals … nearly a quadruple double. Shumpert is an excellent defender,
and though he’s not the best shooter in the world, he is a very good all-around
player.

Georgia Tech is also expected to get Brian Oliver back for this game. The
hot-shooting Oliver crushed Virginia Tech’s zone to the tune of 29 points in the
first meeting, a 72-57 Georgia Tech victory. He was injured and did not play in
Virginia Tech’s 102-77 win in Blacksburg.

Freshman wing Jason Morris has replaced Glenn Rice, Jr. in the starting
lineup for the last four games, and Georgia Tech has played better with him in
the lineup. He has been a more consistent player than Rice.

Georgia Tech is 2-1 in neutral site games this year, with wins over Richmond
and UTEP, and a narrow loss to Syracuse. The Hokies will be the favored team,
but the Yellow Jackets have the players to win. It should be a very competitive
opening round game.

#12 Wake Forest Demon Deacons


Wake
Record 8-23
Conf. Record 1-15
RPI 263
SOS 96
Streak Lost 10

Wake Forest is a bad, bad basketball team. Last year we saw the #12 seed make a
run to the ACC Tournament semifinals. We aren’t going to see that this year. The
Demon Deacons have lost 10 games in a row, and likely have no confidence in
themselves or head coach Jeff Bzdelik.

Wake plays Boston College at 2pm on Thursday, and that will likely end their
season. They just lost to the Eagles 84-68, and sadly that was one of the better
games that the Demon Deacons have played in the ACC this year.

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