Tuesday, March 11, 2014

ACC Tournament Preview

I'm an ACC fan and most ACC fans love the conference tournament.  No, it isn't what it once was just because the size of the league has made it so.  It was once a three day weekend event that saw a tough league fight it out to crown a champion.  The league only stretched from Washington DC to Atlanta (then Tallahassee in 1992) so there was a coziness to it and you saw a good amount of fans from each school.

Now it is a five day affair with the league as far north as Boston, as far south as Miami and as far west as South Bend, IN.  Fitting fans of 15 schools in Greensboro Coliseum doesn't have the charm as it did when fans of schools that truly hated each other got going on Friday.

Things change and the ACC is hoping that this tournament gets the hype that the old Big East tournament once did.  Maybe.

TEAM TO BEAT:  Virginia.  The Cavaliers surprisingly won the regular season title and went an amazing 16-2 during the campaign.  While this is a conference tournament, their spectacular defense is a tough thing to prepare for in less than a day.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN:  Duke.  Since Dean Smith retired in 1997, I almost always pick Duke to win the ACC tournament.  Coach K takes this tournament very seriously (Roy Williams does not; Jim Boeheim is in his first ACC ringer) and Duke tries to use this to launch into the NCAAs.  They have played pretty well of late and possess the most talent in the league.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR:  North Carolina.  The Tar Heels were on a 12-game winning streak that was snapped at Duke in the finale (not many teams would've beaten Duke that day).  They could start off against either struggling Pittsburgh or perhaps Wake Forest or Notre Dame ... both they beat a week ago.  They also wouldn't have to face Duke or Syracuse until the championship game.

YOUR CINDERELLA:  NC State.  Watch them.  TJ Warren is the conference player of the year and he's been on fire of late.  State gets the Miami-Virginia Tech winner and neither of them are very good (though the Canes did smack them a bit ago).  Win that and they'd get a slumping Syracuse squad who they nearly beat a month ago.  From there, who knows?

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE:  North Carolina.  This is a technicality since all four North Carolina schools have a home court advantage in Greensboro.  However, the Heels are the most popular team in the state and their fans will buy up as many tickets as they can from losing fans.  Plus, there is a Duke hate factor that matters if Duke moves along.  Honestly, I'm splitting hairs here, but if UNC plays Duke in the title game, there will be more Heels fans.

MUST WATCH GAME (FIRST ROUND):  Wake Forest vs Notre Dame.  What else can I tell you?  There is the newness of the Irish in the tournament and both have made some decent waves this season.   The Irish did beat Duke and the Deacs beat Duke and North Carolina.

MUST WATCH POTENTIAL SECOND ROUND GAME:   Maryland vs Florida State.  This one is actually set up so no potential here.  FSU was a bubble team as late as last week.  Maryland is coming off their shocking win over Virginia plus they're in their final ACC tournament.

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