March 9, 2010

EA's ACC Conference Tourney Preview

Virginia



Tony Bennett looked like a genius when Virginia started the ACC Season with three straight conference wins. Since then, the Cavaliers have gone 2-11 to finish ACC play, ending the regular season on a 9-game losing streak.



Now with Sylvan Landesburg being suspended for the tournament due to academic reasons they lose their leader in points (17.3), assists (2.9), and minutes (32.1). Doesn't sound like the recipe for success to me.



Bottom Line



Virginia was already last in the ACC in points per game (66), and without Landesburg, their offensive options are limited. A big area of weakness for the Cavs is on the defensive glass. They gave up 17 offensive rebounds to Maryland in their finale, and have absolutely no inside presence.



Senior Jerome Meyinsse has been the only guy to raise his game in Landesburg's absence. He's averaging 16 points per game in his last four contests, and has a decent arsenal of moves on the block. However, there's no way they are making it past BC, they simply don't have the horses.



Odds to win the ACC: 100-1



NC State



I wouldn't read too much into BC losing to Sidney Lowe's club in the season finale. To be fair, the Eagles had locked up their seed in the ACC tournament, and the Wolfpack were playing for pride on senior night.



As Dennis Horner proved in that game, he's one tough egg to crack. After getting his eye split open on a hard foul from Josh Southern, Horner rallied for 11 of his 14 points in the second half. That win was N.C. State's third in their last four games.



Bottom Line



Scoring droughts have been a nemesis of North Carolina State the entire season. With only one true inside scoring threat and a very limited amount of consistent outside shooters, the book is out on N.C. State - shutdown leading scorer Tracy Smith and everything else falls into place.



N.C. State was 11th in the ACC in points per game (68.3) and they don't have a rotation deep enough to keep their stamina against Clemson's full court pressure.



Odds to win the ACC: 70-1



Miami



There's not a soul on the Miami team that hasn't seen a shot he doesn't like. They shoot early in the shot clock, and do not look to move the ball around much. Pretty much if you get loose from your defender, you have carte blanche to hoist as many off-balance threes you can take.



Look out for freshman Durand Scott, who's been in double figures in his last 6 games. He could be the spark on offense that could help Miami win in a shootout. Scott can shoot or slash, and will be one of the building blocks for this Canes team next season.




Bottom Line



If Dwayne Collins can't go for the Canes (stress reaction in tibia), you might as well consider this to be an 11-team tournament. Even if he can go, it's uncertain how effective he will be, considered he's been resting his leg for over a week. Frank Haith indicated that he will not practice before Thursday's matchup with Wake Forest. Collins is Miami's leading scorer and rebounder, and if he's unable to play, Miami will look to play run and gun.



Odds to win the ACC: 40-1




UNC



Can we have a moment of silence so we can feel bad for Ol' Roy Williams? …Thanks. The Tar Heels are simply too green this season to pose a threat to anyone. Duke was up on them by 27 - at the half - during their last outing. How average was North Carolina this year? For the first time since the ACC was formed in 1954, the Heels didn't have a player chosen to the first, second or third all-conference teams.



When you're ranked 4th in the preseason rankings and you end up six games under .500 in conference play, the season can take a toll on you. But watching that effort at Duke told me that this team has packed it in, as they were letting Kyle Singler come clean off picks and shoot bunnies in the lane without even a hand in his face.



Bottom Line



Georgia Tech swept the season series against the Heels, and last time they played the Yellow Jackets fans started to leave with 10 minutes left to play - because that's how boring it was to watch North Carolina lose. There's no way they get past the Jackets.



After Deon Thompson, North Carolina simply doesn't have a player that can score off the dribble. Since Ed Davis broke his wrist, this team simply lost any chance of keeping up with any team in the ACC. Where's B.B. King to sing "The Thrill is Gone" when you need him?



Odds to win the ACC: 30-1



Boston College



On paper, it looks like BC gets a half decent draw. They should polish off Virginia with ease as they did last week, and that would set them up with Duke, who they hung with for 40 minutes at home.



However, BC hasn't been especially good away from Conte Forum. The Eagles only won one contest on the road in ACC play, and you'd have to imagine that the crowd is going to be always in favor of whomever they play.



In order for BC to advance past Duke, both Reggie Sanders and Rakim Sanders will need to be on from the word go. Evan Ravenel needs to stop taking chincy fouls, as there's no way the Eagles win if Josh Southern has to play more than 15 minutes.



Bottom Line



The biggest reward that BC can take away from this tournament is a NIT bid. This will allow this group to continue to gain valuable game experience as a unit, which will hopefully lead to a more productive season next year. Corey Raji could have a possible torn labrum in his left shooting shoulder, and the Eagles would miss his consistent scoring presence playing back-to-back days.




Odds to win the ACC: 25-1





Georgia Tech



I'm not sure what to make of the Yellow Jackets this season. They have two certain NBA first rounders in Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors, and when these guys are on, they look like a dark horse candidate to win the ACC. These two big men are very agile for their size, creating mismatches on the block that other teams have to compensate for with double teams.



Georgia Tech almost knocked off Maryland on the road, if it were not for one, but two separate buzzer beaters (Gary Williams called timeout as Vasquez threw the first one in) for what would have been Maryland's only home loss this season. If they can get through UNC on Thursday (who they've beat twice already), it will pose an interesting revenge game.



Bottom Line



You can almost see the dollar signs floating above the heads of some certain lottery picks. One of the more attractive temps at my office complimented my shirt the other day, and I thought I was the man for about four hours. I can only imagine if I saw my name on ESPN with a NBA lottery pick next to my name. That's what they call a gift and a curse.



Joe Lunardi also has Georgia Tech as a "lock" to get an at-large bid into the tournament. A loss to lowly UNC could change that, but it's highly unlikely.



Odds to win the ACC: 12-1





Wake Forest



Wake Forest put it on cruise control a little early, losing 4 of their last 5 games before beating Clemson at home. While that win may get them to March Madness, a loss to lowly Miami could put them back on the bubble.



Led by point guard Ish Smith, Wake looks to run their opponents off the floor, and Smith will try to take advantage of the many long rebounds that come his way from Miami's three-point gunning.



Al-Farouq Aminu simply has a nose for the ball on the glass, and was the only player in the ACC to average a double-double on the season (15.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg).



Bottom Line



Do yourself a favor and watch Dino Gaudio coach this team before you decide to lay any money with your local oddsmaker or put Wake in the Sweet 16 in your office pool. He's unable to motivate this team, who at times don't even appear to be looking in his direction when they're in the huddle. He seems to have the philosophy of just rolling the ball out on the floor, and hope his guys' athleticism beats the other guys' skill. Wake could sneak by Virginia Tech in the quarters, but Duke would demolish them in the semis.



Odds to win the ACC: 14-1



Clemson



No team has ever won four games en route to the ACC tournament title, and Clemson has lost its ACC tournament opener four times in six appearances under Oliver Purnell, including last season when the fifth-seeded Tigers were stunned by last-place Georgia Tech. Thanks to their loss against Wake Forest this past weekend, Clemson finds themselves playing on Thursday instead of having a bye into the quarterfinals.



Demontez Stitt could help Clemson solidify its NCAA at-large berth with a win over NC State. Stitt averages 11.2 points and 3.3 assists per game and he's playing his best basketball down the stretch, scoring at least 15 points in four of his last six games.



Bottom Line



Much of what Clemson can do in this tournament relies on Trevor Booker. He's a force to be reckoned with on the block, and is learning how to find the open teammate when he's gets doubled in the post. When Clemson is knocking down its outside shots, it opens up Booker to dominate in the lane. Teams that do not have an answer for Booker usually have trouble with Clemson.



Odds to win the ACC: 8-1



Virginia Tech



As Malcolm Delaney proved Saturday at Georgia Tech, he's nearly impossible to stop. The reigning ACC player of the week dropped 32 on the Yellow Jackets to shore up a first round bye for Virginia Tech. Delaney thrives on drawing fouls, as he went 14 of 17 from the stripe during that game.



The X-factor for the Hokies is forward Jeff Allen, and if he's able to string 2 or 3 solid games together, Virginia Tech could sneak up on some teams.



Bottom Line



Virginia Tech already has their ticket punched to the Big Dance, and now they are looking to improve their seeding. The Hokies might get a 6 or 7 seed if they get one win, but could be an 8 or 9 if they lose to the winner of the Miami/Wake game.



Odds to win the ACC: 9-1




Florida St.



If Florida State can get their offense together, they could be one of the most dangerous teams to play in the postseason. This Seminole team has a very deep bench with a solid eight-man rotation, and if they can keep everybody fresh (whereas Duke plays some starters 35+ minutes) the 'Noles could make a run towards the ACC title.



Florida State is one of best defensive teams in the country, not just the ACC. Their defense is led by 7-1 Solomon Alabi, the ACC leader in blocks (2.3 bpg). He clogs the lane, and alters shots, helping the 'Noles hold opponents to under 60 points per game in 5 of their last 6 contests.



Bottom Line



Florida State needs to find get two good games from Chris Singleton, the team's second leading scorer and this year's ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Singleton is 2 of his last 11 inside the arc his last two games. He needs to stay composed, and allow the offense to come to him. If the 'Noles can get some shots to fall, there's no way they can't stay with Duke or Maryland.




Odds to win the ACC: 6-1



Maryland



Greivis Vasquez is as Rick James would say - "Collld Blooooded". There's no doubt he is probably only behind of Ohio State and [db]John Wall of Kentucky in the player of the year race.



He single-handedly buried Duke with two runners that could easily be described as prayers, except he makes shot like that on the daily. Vasquez is the main reason that the Terps led the ACC in points per game, field goal percentage, and three point field goal percentage.


But then he has game like he did to end the season against Virginia where he was throwing the ball off the side of the glass, dribbling for 34 seconds, and taking some really bad shots. When Vasquez is off, Maryland goes long stretches without scoring,



Bottom Line



I'm still not convinced the Terps are better than Duke. Their bigs fall asleep on the defensive end, and Maryland is 11th in the ACC in rebounding margin, getting less than one extra rebound than their opponent. Gary Williams is very cognitive of his team's strengths and weaknesses however. Vasquez now runs a point-forward set, where he plays a two-man game with senior guard Eric Hayes, who usually rotates to the top of the key as Vasquez slashes - which leaves the deadly Hayes wide open for three where he is shooting over 45 percent.



On a neutral floor, without the support of a crazy crowd, I see Coach K and Duke coming up with a game plan to get the ball out of Vasquez's hands, or at the very least making him go to the left - his off-hand - with the mentality that someone else is going to have to beat them.



Odds to win the ACC: 5-2



Duke



Forget Singler, Scheyer, and Smith for a moment, Brian Zoubek has come out of the woodwork to help give Duke an extra boost. Big Z has been averaging 10 boards a game since he stole Mason Plumlee's job after the win at Conte, including a 17 and 16 against the Terps. He's been a big factor of why Duke leads the ACC with a +6.1 rebounding margin.



And while Scheyer and Singler have been solid for Duke, there's nobody I'd rather have with the ball than Nolan Smith at the end of a game. Just like he did against BC, Smith's greatest asset is being able to take his defender off the dribble. And when he gets in the lane, he doesn't panic when the big rotates over, Smith looks for a way to get around him on his way to the bucket.



This was very evident towards the end of the last game against Maryland where Scheyer took some really bad shots, and turned the ball over down the stretch, whereas Smith became the go-to guy burying clutch shots to keep Duke in it.




Bottom Line



In a tournament, you need to have more than one guy who can create his own offense. Coach K has installed a motion offense that keeps his three scorers are constantly coming off of all sorts of picks to get open looks. There is not a team in the ACC that matches up well against Duke's speed on the perimeter, nor its size underneath. All five starters from Duke can hit the glass with authority, and games can be decided by second chance points alone. They should win the ACC running away.



Odds to win the ACC: 11-10



Look for our writer's predictions for the ACC tournament in the Conte Crib.


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