The Pre-Conference Tournaments and the ACCPosted by KCarpenter on November 18th, 2011
While technically speaking the pre-conference tournaments started long before yesterday, counting the opening rounds of the NIT and a few others with qualifiers, but Thursday was the day that the tournaments began in earnest. I thought it would be a useful exercise to go through the list of all 12 ACC teams and evaluate their individual chances of winning their respective tournaments.
Boston College – 76 Classic
The Boston College team picked to finish last in the ACC would have a tough time in just about any competitive tournament field. An opening game against St. Louis will be challenging enough, as SLU is one of the better teams in a very strong Atlantic 10 this year. If they pass St. Louis, they will probably have to play Villanova, a tough out for an ultra-young BC team. The rest of the field includes New Mexico and Santa Clara, both capable of pushing Boston College to the breaking point. There’s not a good chance that the Eagles win this tournament, but they could at least win the opener.
Clemson – Diamond Head Classic
Xavier is the easy favorite for this tournament, but fortunately for Clemson, they are positioned on the other side of the bracket along with the (by-December) battle-hardened Long Beach State. The Beach is gunning for upsets and Xavier will have to take care to win its opening matchup against Casper Ware and company. Clemson’s path to the finals is significantly easier. The Tigers’ side of the bracket features rebuilding Kansas State, inexperienced UTEP, and a Southern Illinois team that isn’t what it once was. Clemson should make the finals, but taking down XU will be a challenge.
Duke – Maui Invitational
The Maui Invitational is loaded, but I’d say that Duke has a good shot at a heavyweight bout with Kansas, and a fair shot at winning considering the troubles the Jayhawks had against Kentucky. Duke will have to beat either a talented Michigan or Memphis team after beating Tennessee (which the Blue Devils should). Michigan and Memphis are both teams with a lot of potential that hasn’t necessarily translated to wins yet and both are trying to make the leap this year. Beating Duke is a great way to make such a statement. On the other side of the bracket, Kansas just has to beat Georgetown to have a clear shot at the final considering the troubles that have plagued Ben Howland’s UCLA team. Beating Kansas, even in a down year is a tall order, but in a head-to-head match-up, I think Duke is certainly good enough to win.
Florida State – Battle 4 Atlantis
Florida State has a good chance of winning at least two of their three games in the Bahamas. While Harvard is expected to win the Ivy League this year and UNC Asheville is expected to win the Big South, the elephant in the room is the defending champion, Connecticut . Florida State, if it continues to play its trademark brand of excellent defense, should be able to beat any given team in the field. UConn is another matter, however, and will likely be too much for the Seminoles to handle.
Georgia Tech – Charleston Classic
This is an intriguing tournament to me as it seems to pair decent non-power conference schools against imminently beatable teams from the power conferences. As bad as Georgia Tech was last year, I thought they stood a chance in a weak field. Tulsa, Northwestern, Saint Joseph’s and Virginia Commonwealth all field good-not-great teams, but none of them seemed to be clearly better than the Yellow Jackets. The power conference teams outside of Northwestern seem particularly weak. LSU has already been upset this season and a Seton Hall team that struggled last season has lost several major contributors. Of course, since Georgia Tech promptly lost to Saint Joseph’s last night there is no need for additional speculation.
Maryland – Puerto Rico Tip-Off
It was hard to see Maryland getting too far in this tournament even before they lost to a very good Alabama team. Beyond that the field also includes Purdue, Temple, and Wichita State. None of these teams have clear powerhouse lineups but they all expect to make waves this year. Maryland with a new coach and in a rebuilding year didn’t really stand a chance. Still, if you are a fan of intrigue, the potential rematch of last year’s championship NIT game between Wichita State and Alabama should be a lot of fun.
Miami – Orange Bowl Classic
Okay this isn’t really a tournament, but it’s a doubleheader involving Miami so let’s roll with it. The Hurricanes’ matchup against Florida Atlantic is just an opening act for the main event, a later bout between Florida and Texas A&M. Still the UM game has a bit of drama as the Hurricanes knocked Florida Atlantic out of the NIT in the first round last year. The Sun Belt regular season champions will have something to prove, but Miami seems to have things figured out this season and should win comfortably.
North Carolina – Las Vegas Invitational
The Tar Heels should be able to emerge victorious from a mostly weak field. Their first matchup is against a South Carolina team that already lost to lowly Elon. With Southern California still rebuilding, the only thing standing in North Carolina’s way is the host, UNLV. The Running Rebels are pretty good, and they have a decent chance at an upset since they are hosting, but North Carolina is a strong and clear favorite.
North Carolina State – TicketCity Legends Classic
This four-team showdown in New Jersey is stacked against N. C. State. Their first game is against a very good, though clearly beatable Vanderbilt team, while Texas is almost certain to beat an Oregon State team that has simply not been much of a factor over the past few years. Sadly, the Wolfpack’s best chance for a win is probably against Oregon State in the consolation game.
Virginia – Paradise Jam
Virginia is supposed to make a bid for the upper echelon of the conference this year and if they want to show they mean business, they should win this tournament. The Cavaliers should win against Texas Christian, but after that Virginia will (probably) have a pair of challenging but winnable games. Drexel was one of the better defensive teams in the country and they will probably be good on that end this season as well. On the other hand, Bruiser Flint (which is the best possible name for a coach in the world) has a team that often struggles to score, and that might be the only edge that the Cavaliers need. Marquette is the best team in the field, but they are certainly not beyond the reach of Mike Scott and company. If Virginia is going to make the NCAA Tournament this year, beating Drexel and Marquette is a good place to start.
Virginia Tech – NIT Season Tip-Off
Seth Greenberg must have bittersweet feelings about participating in yet another NIT event. That said, the Hokies squaring off against Syracuse in Madison Square Garden promises to be an exciting if not competitive game. Virginia Tech is still searching for an identity in the post-Delaney Era, but trying to find it against Syracuse at the Garden is inopportune timing. Similarly, playing Oklahoma State or Stanford in either the championship or consolation game will also be challenging for the Hokies. However, if Virginia Tech can get past Syracuse, they have likely proven themselves capable of beating Oklahoma State and Stanford. I, and probably most other folks, think Syracuse is the clear favorite here, but I’m not willing to write-off VT just yet.
Wake Forest – Old Spice Classic
The good news for Wake Forest is that this is one of the weaker fields in the tournament landscape. The bad news is that Minnesota is also in the field. While Wake Forest should be willing to put up a good fight or even win against the other teams in the tournament, Minnesota should win this one unless there is a major upset.