ACC Tournament Preview

#1 seed-Virginia Cavaliers (28-2, 16-2 ACC)

Complacency won’t be a concern for Tony Bennett, as his Cavaliers roll into Greensboro on the heels of a 59-57 loss to Louisville in the team’s regular season finale.  The ‘Hoos have fared remarkably well without Justin Anderson, whose status for the tournament is still unknown after an appendectomy continues to delay his return from a broken finger.  Without Anderson, the conference’s leading 3-point shooter at 48.4%, the Cavaliers offense has sputtered at times.  But when you possess the nation’s top defense, high offensive outputs normally aren’t as needed.  Can Virginia’s stifling defense propel the team to back-to-back ACC tournament crowns?

#2 seed-Duke Blue Devils (28-3, 15-3 ACC)

Fresh off a sweep of their Tobacco Road rivals, Coach K and Duke storm Greensboro with hopes of yet another ACC tournament crown.  The Blue Devils haven’t lost since January 28 at Notre Dame, compiling an 11-game win streak and four wins over Top 25 opponents in that span.  The team possesses the perfect combination of veteran leadership and young talent, as Senior Quinn Cook, along with freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones have Duke in the conversation for a top seed in the NCAA tournament.  It appears as if the Devils and Virginia are on a collision course to a finals meeting, but both teams will need to fend off inevitable upset attempts in order to meet for a second time this season and force a rematch of last season’s final, a 72-63 victory by UVA.

#3 seed-Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-5, 14-4 ACC)

Led by all-conference guard Jerian Grant, Notre Dame has positioned itself well for a run at the school’s first ever ACC tournament title.  The Fighting Irish could potentially move as high as a two seed in the NCAA Tournament with a deep run in Greensboro, and the team has already proved more than capable of beating the league’s top talent.  The Irish will need consistently great performances from Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson in order to take home the hardware and match what their women’s team accomplished just days ago.

#4 seed-Louisville Cardinals (24-7, 12-6 ACC)

After an upset of league-leading Virginia solidified one of the four coveted double byes, Montrezl Harrell and Louisville will look to keep momentum on their side this week in Greensboro.  In all likelihood, the Cardinals will face fifth-seeded North Carolina in the Quarterfinals on Thursday, a matchup that has already provided two thrilling regular season contests.  Louisville lost a heartbreaker in Chapel Hill in early January thanks to a Marcus Paige layup with seconds remaining, but earned revenge at home on January 31 with a 10 point overtime win over the Heels.  A tough road awaits Rick Pitino and company, but the Cards are more than talented enough to win three games in three days.

#5 seed-North Carolina Tar Heels (21-10, 11-7 ACC)

The Tar Heels limp into Greensboro having lost six of their last 10 games, including two to bitter rival Duke.  But make no mistake: Carolina has the talent on its roster to make a deep run in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.  Junior point guard Marcus Paige scored 23 points in the team’s most recent loss to Duke, a trend that will need to continue for the Heels to have a successful March.  Carolina awaits the Boston College-Georgia Tech winner, followed by a potential quarterfinal matchup with fourth-seeded Louisville.  Don’t be surprised to see UNC in the semifinals this week.

#6 seed-Miami Hurricanes (20-11, 10-8 ACC)

Entering Greensboro as the one true “bubble team” in the ACC, Miami needs a convincing win to solidify its tournament résumé. The Canes already have a quality win over Duke, but the team can’t afford an early-round exit this week in Greensboro.  Ideally, Angel Rodriguez, who is questionable for Miami’s Wednesday night opener due to a wrist injury, would return in emphatic fashion for the Canes, who haven’t played up to potential, largely due to the play of the struggling guard.  A win over the Wake Forest-Virginia Tech winner might not put Miami squarely in the NCAA tournament field, meaning a win over Notre Dame in the quarterfinals would also be necessary.  Should they advance, the Canes and Irish would play a rematch of their January 17 meeting, a 75-50 Notre Dame win.

#7 seed-North Carolina State Wolfpack (19-12, 10-8 ACC)

NC State has been pegged by many as the team with the greatest chance to play Cinderella this week in Greensboro.  The Pack opens their Tournament Wednesday against a reeling Pitt squad, a game the team will be expected to win.  The Wolfpack holds a massive advantage in the rebounding department; NC State is ranked 21 in the country in rebounds per game, while Pitt falls outside the top 200.  Should the team advance to Thursday, it would meet second-seeded Duke.  The in-state rivals have met just once this season, an 87-75 Wolfpack win in Raleigh.

#8 seed-Clemson Tigers (16-14, 8-10 ACC)

Clemson has lost six of eight leading up to the team’s Wednesday afternoon matchup with ninth-seeded Florida State.  The two teams have split this season, with Florida State’s size and length in the post wreaking havoc in the Noles win on the road at Clemson.  In the Tigers’ win, Clemson forwards Jaron Blossomgame and Donte Grantham combined for nearly half of the team’s points, a trend that must repeat itself if Rod Hall and company are to advance to the quarterfinals to face Virginia.  Clemson will need to win the rebounding battle and get solid production from its post players in order to move past FSU and make a run in Greensboro.

#9 seed-Florida State Seminoles (16-15, 8-10 ACC)

Freshman phenom Xavier Rathan-Mayes leads the ‘Noles into tournament play on the heels of a 61-52 win over Pitt in the team’s regular season finale.  Florida State has enough size in the post to cause problems for any team’s offense, a skill that the team will rely heavily on if they are to make a run in the tournament this week.  A potential second round matchup with top-seeded Virginia awaits, and that game might not be as lopsided as most might think.  FSU was close to pulling an upset against UVA on February 22 in Charlottesville, and the ‘Noles undoubtedly want one more crack at Malcolm Brogdon and company in Greensboro.

#10 seed-Pittsburgh Panthers (19-13, 8-10 ACC)

Pitt is reeling entering its Wednesday night matchup with seventh-seeded NC State.  The Panthers have lost three consecutive conference games to Wake Forest, Miami and FSU, and all hopes of an NCAA tournament bid seem to have seriously diminished.  Jamie Dixon and company would undoubtedly need to make at least an appearance in the semifinals to reopen their tournament discussions, a tall task considering that Duke awaits on Thursday in the quarterfinals if the Panthers can beat NC State.  Pitt has faced the Wolfpack just once this season, a 68-50 loss in Raleigh.

#11 seed-Wake Forest Demon Deacons (13-18, 5-13 ACC)

Wake Forest has been competitive under new head coach Danny Manning, winning five conference games and dropping several other close contests to highly-ranked opponents.  The Demon Deacons closest upset bid came on February 14 in Charlottesville, a 61-60 loss to UVA during which Wake led by seven points at halftime.  Konstantinos Mitoglou scored a team-high 18 points that night, adding another dimension to the Deacs offense that proved extremely difficult to cover.  Opponents expect Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas to provide the majority of the team’s offense, but if Mitoglou can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting ability, don’t be surprised to see Wake playing on the second or even third day of the tournament.

#12 seed-Boston College Eagles (12-18, 4-14 ACC)

The Eagles endured a rough nine-game losing skid that spanned nearly a month, but Olivier Hanlan and company have rebounded with three straight conference wins.  First year head coach Jim Christian seems to have BC steered in the right direction, and a win in the ACC Tournament would affirm a successful opening campaign for Christian in Chestnut Hill.  The Eagles have had good luck against Georgia Tech, their first round opponent, in years past, as Hanlan dropped 41 points his freshman season on the Jackets in 2013.  With an opening round win, BC could potentially face North Carolina in the second round.  The Tar Heels and Eagles have met just once this season, 79-68 UNC win in early February.

#13 seed-Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-18, 3-15 ACC)

In terms of current positioning for future seasons, Georgia Tech is in arguably the worst position of any team in the ACC.  Leader Marcus Georges-Hunt will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot, and the team hasn’t been able to muster consistent output on the offensive end even with the junior forward in the starting five.  The Yellow Jackets have been in nearly every league game they’ve played in 2015, but have just three conference wins to show for it. Tech is 0-12 in ACC games decided by seven points or less, a trend that has seen the Jackets blow multiple late-game leads.  Georgia Tech is equipped to pull an upset or two in Greensboro, but Georges-Hunt’s injury is likely the final blow in what has been a forgettable season for the Yellow Jackets.

#14 seed-Virginia Tech Hokies (10-21, 2-16 ACC)

The Hokies limp into the ACC Tournament on a seven-game losing streak, but thanks to a talented core of young players and first-year head coach Buzz Williams, hopes are high that Virginia Tech will be a regular in the top half of the conference in the coming years.  The Hokies have played several close games, most notably an overtime home loss against Duke during which the team had multiple opportunities down the stretch to win.  Winning multiple games in Greensboro this year would be a stretch for Virginia Tech, but Buzz Williams and company could definitely cause some unforeseen trouble to more talented opponents.  The Hokies have faced their opening round opponents, Wake Forest, just once this season.  Virginia Tech outscored Wake in the second half, but dropped a 73-70 decision in Joel Coliseum.