ACC Tournament Preview

Posted by Matt Patton on March 10th, 2015

The ACC Tournament gets started in Greensboro today and the microsite will be there throughout the week to provide coverage all the way through Saturday night’s championship game. Let’s tease the next five days with some storylines, players to watch and a not-so-wild prediction.

Three Important Narratives

  • #1 Seed Drama (and the Battle for a True ACC Champion): Duke and Virginia both look like #1 seeds if the season ended today. But there’s one problem — the season isn’t over. Wisconsin and Arizona are both nipping at their heels and if both win their conference tournaments, chances are that the Selection Committee thinks pretty hard about dropping one of those ACC teams to the second line. If either Duke or Virginia wins the ACC Tournament, that team is a lock for the top line. If the Cavaliers and Blue Devils meet in the finals, the loser still has a really good chance. Lose before then, though, and all bets are off. The more important storyline from a conference perspective is the crowning of the true champion. One issue with the unbalanced ACC schedule is that regular season wins and losses aren’t directly comparable anymore. Virginia had the easiest conference strength of schedule of any ACC team (in part because it can’t play itself), but the Cavaliers only played Duke once (at home), North Carolina once (away), Louisville twice, and Notre Dame once (away). Duke, on the other hand, got Virginia once (away), North Carolina twice, Louisville once (away), and Notre Dame twice. The Blue Devils only played one extra game against the top five teams, but that extra game was on the road. What I’m trying to say here is that if we want to crown a true ACC champion with no regrets, Duke and Virginia need to meet on Saturday evening for a neutral-court rematch.
Don't forget about the Wolfpack. (AP Photo | Jason DeCrow)

Don’t forget about the Wolfpack. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Bubble Bath: Heading into Greensboro, the ACC bubble situation is pretty straightforward this year. Pittsburgh needs to walk away with the trophy. NC State is mostly safe (not that the Wolfpack should think about losing to Pittsburgh on Wednesday). Miami is on the outside of the bubble but can definitely play itself into the Big Dance. The Hurricanes need a splashy win (alas, the winner of Wake Forest and Virginia Tech won’t cut it). A win over Notre Dame on Thursday might just tip the scales. Beating Duke a second time would make it a sure thing, and beating any other opponent to make the championship game would probably be enough as well.

  • Possible Underdogs: The lowest seed to ever win the ACC championship was a #6 seed. Take that with a grain of salt (and it will almost certainly be broken in the next few years) because the ACC for a very long time only had eight or nine teams. If I was going to rank ACC underdogs (teams outside the top five), NC State would be out in front. The Wolfpack should have a strong contingent in Greensboro that will grow with every passing game. Miami is the next obvious choice (although I should really say Angel Rodriguez). A Tuesday team that could make a run? Keep an eye on Boston College.
Hanlan is must-watch TV this season. (Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Hanlan is must-watch TV this season. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Four Players to Watch

  • Olivier Hanlan, Boston College: Speaking of Boston College, Hanlan has already lit up the Greensboro Coliseum once in this event. He’s having a historic season in Chestnut Hill and there’s no reason he can’t best what he did two years ago. He’s become a poor man’s Stephen Curry (the college version rather than the absurd superhuman now playing for the Warriors), and the Eagles will need him more than ever.
  • Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: Grant seemed like he hit a wall at the end of the season but a week of rest should help his legs return to form. He’s the most complete offensive player in the conference (maybe the country), and is bound to impress this week.
  • Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson was the most efficient player in the league before his finger injury. Virginia managed to finish mostly strong without him, but the Cavaliers’ chances at making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament rest on his shoulders.
  • Trevor Lacey, NC State: Why can NC State win this thing? Because Lacey is totally fearless. He’s also impossible to guard and can put the Wolfpack on his back for extended periods of time.

Honorable mentions: Angel Rodriguez, Marcus Paige, Jamel Artis, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook.

Prediction: Virginia gets its revenge against the shorthanded Blue Devils.

mpatton (576 Posts)

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