Ok , ACC fans, it’s tourney time, whereupon the wheat shall be separated from the chaff, the cream shall rise to the top, and the cream of wheat shall ascend above the gruel (or something).
The stark reality is that our beloved and oft-touted conference is having a pretty forgettable year in terms of the overall quality of basketball played. Sure, the games and teams have been competitive, they just haven’t been very good. Only two teams (Duke and Maryland) finished above .500 on the road and 7 teams(!!) finished with 2 or fewer road wins. Since everyone will be on the road over in Greensboro, it might turn into a battle royale of “who sucks the least?”. Nevertheless, the tournament is always an exciting event, as thousands people who dislike each other for no real reason gather from all over the eastern seaboard, with the hopes of rubbing their foes’ noses in the stinky shame of ignominious defeat. I will be there rooting my Devils on and writing post-game reviews for your perusal. I expect a lot of exciting 56-55 finishes!
Most of the chatter is that it’s Duke’s tournament to lose. While there’s little doubt that Duke is the most talented team overall, I still don’t believe they are that far beyond the reach of a motivated FSU , Virginia Tech, or Maryland team. So it’s far from a gimme (though not seeing them at least make the finals would be fairly surprising). The Devils are one of the hotter teams coming in, along with Maryland (7-0), FSU (5-1), and Clemson (5-2). Teams that come in on the skids are Wake (1-4), UVA ( 0-8) , Miami (1-5) and GT (2-5) , while North Carolina’s entire season has been one big’ol skid (mark).
Team With Most to Play For: Duke might be playing for a one seed (arguable, as I personally think their body of work might have already sealed the deal), but regardless, i would nominate Va. Tech and Ga.Tech. They are both currently 11 seeds according to Joe Lunardi. While that’s not exactly the bubble, it’s kind of like the bubble of the bubble (the proto-bubble?) and a Thursday or Friday loss could put them in NIT jeopardy.
Team Least Likely to Win: Pretty hard to dredge out the nominee from the rapidly decomposing offal at the bottom of the conference. Having seen the train wreck that is UNC basketball first hand at Cameron, I’m tempted to give the Heels my nomination, but this has to go to UVA. The ‘Hoos were offensively challenged even with Landesberg and now that he’s gone (along with reserve guard Calvin Baker) they’ve got about as much chance as a cat turd in a dog factory.
Dark Horse: I’m gonna go with Wake Forest here. They’ve got a good point guard and (someone needs to remind Dino Gaudio) a great big man in Aminu. L.D. Williams, Smith and Aminu are all good defenders and, lest we forget, they have the dirtiest player in the ACC in Scumbag of the Year Chas(e) McFarland. If they can consistently knock down some outside shots when teams start keying on Aminu, they could beat anybody.
Randolph Childress Candidates (Players most likely to carry their team with an incredible offensive performance): In fairness, these guys can’t really come from the top two squads, which is unfortunate since that’s where both the best and some of the most underrated scorers in the conference are housed (I love Milbourne’s game). So I’ll go with Malcolm Delaney and Al-Farouq Aminu instead, both matchup nightmares on teams that need to make an impression to seal their trip to the big dance, and maybe boost their draft stock along the way.
Team Most Likely to Benefit from the Crowd: In round one, that’s probably got to be Wake once again, as Miami is likely to have sparse representation and the Deacs do at least travel well. Really curious to see what the split will be for the Clemson-State game. Honestly, the crowd may not really make a difference in any of these games since postseason tourney crowds are usually terrible. Moving on.
First Round Predictions
- BC vs. UVA - Virginia’s got nothing. BC has slightly more than that. Advantage BC!! Now, let’s break this puppy on do…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
- WFU vs. Miami - Both of these teams suck on the road and have been playing horribly of late. There is no WAY Wake should lose to these guys (again), and, since the Miami section will have about 10 people in it, the Deacons might be able to convince themselves that they are playing at the Joel. Remember when Miami was 15-1? Seems like a looooong time ago, don’t it?
- GTech vs. UNC - It’s Team Find-a-Way-to-Lose vs. Team Hindenberg in the “Which-coach-has-done-a-shittier-job?” Game. Georgia Tech should have the motivational edge with the NCAA tournament bubble looming, and, frankly, Paul Hewitt is probably coaching for his job. I’ll go with Tech in a squeaker.
- Clemson vs. NC State - Clemson defied all logic by actually finishing the year strong (6-3), though all of those wins came at home. State defied nothing and finished the year floating at the bottom of the barrel, although they did win three of their last four. I’m gonna take a flyer here and go with State for absolutely no reason at all.
If we’re honest, we know that while the first few days of the NCAA tournament are always fun to watch, the first day of just about any conference tourney is decidely less so. We’re not seperating contenders from pretenders here, we’re just sifting through various levels of pretenders. Hopefully we can get at least one decent game out of this lot to salvage the day, and if not, we’ll just rely on one thing to provide us with the adrenaline to make it through the day: the postseason is here. Now let the games begin!