Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011 ACC Mid-term Report

The greatest rivalry in college basketball ... and maybe all of sports ... resumes tomorrow. The UNC-Duke game ceremoniously marks the midseason for the ACC season. Everyone has played at least eight games and the standings seem to be settling.

TEAM TO BEAT: DUKE. Despite their little lull right now, Duke is by far the most talented team in the conference. Even without Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils are loaded. The one thing is that 4 of their last 7 games (after the UNC game) will be on the road, including trips to Virginia Tech and Carolina.

IF NOT THEM, THEN: NORTH CAROLINA. This is a relatively new development, but they have the talent, the depth (though that keeps thinning) and the size to make things difficult for most ACC teams. If the Heels want to take back the conference, they have a lot on their plate. After traveling to Duke, they still must go to Clemson, Florida State and NC State ... along with home dates with Duke, Boston College and Maryland.

TEAM WHO COULD RISE: MARYLAND. The Terps have a rather favorable schedule the rest of the way. Yeah, they do travel to Duke and North Carolina but they also get NC State and Miami at home. They have big games sprinkled in there, but if the Terps are going to cause any damage in the league, they will have to win those games.

TEAM WHO COULD FALL: BOSTON COLLEGE. There is a glut in the middle of the league so it's hard to say who could fall. BC is my leader for this category (though UNC could be ripe for this). BC is a team that relies on gunning threes and plays relatively no defense. With a tough slate of games down the stretch, I see them falling off the bubble.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: NOLAN SMITH. It is Smith's to lose. He leads the Blue Devils in scoring and assists and have gone from a shooting guard to lead guard when Irving went down. He brings it on both ends and is a matchup nightmare.

COACH OF THE YEAR: ROY WILLIAMS. Okay, okay, okay. So it hasn't been the best year for the Tar Heels. But follow me. Ol' Roy watched David and Travis Wear transfer, Will Graves kicked off the team and now Larry Drew II quitting on him. He has been playing a 6-4 guy at backup power forward. He has two freshmen starting, including his point guard. His backup point guard? He doesn't have one. And all this for a team that missed the tournament last year. There is a lot of work to do for this to happen, but if the Heels finish in 2nd place this year ... plus the lack of a better option ... Ol' Roy could win this one again.

DUKE-CAROLINA PREDICTION: I am a diehard Carolina fan and think we can win this game. But if I had to put money on it, I'd say Duke wins by 14. Maybe something like 76-62. Carolina is too young and has two freshmen playing important roles on this team that have never set foot in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The other guys' last trip to Durham ended with a 32-point thumping. Kendall Marshall will be brought down to earth and Kyle Singler will do a lot of damage in this one. Duke wins.

Still, GO HEELS!!!

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