ACC Tournament Preview

The ACC Tournament promises to be entertaining throughout with national championship contenders, bubble teams and underdogs ready to make a run. Will Virginia defend their 2014 title, or will a new champion be crowned? Scout previews one of the nation's top basketball conference tournaments inside.

ACC Tournament 1st Round #1

WATCH
March 10th, 1:00pm ESPN2
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Georgia Tech Preview: Perhaps no team in the ACC has as many disappointing losses as Georgia Tech. After starting 9-3, they finished 3-15 down the stretch, but that does not mean they played poor basketball. Of those 15 losses, 12 were by single digits and eight by five or fewer points. If a team is going to make a miracle run in the 2015 ACC Tournament, the Yellow Jackets may be best suited to do so. They have played Duke, Notre Dame (twice) and Louisville very tough.

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Marcus Georges-Hunt, Tech’s best player, is out for the tournament, which significantly impacts their ability to make that run. Without him in the fold, Charles Mitchell becomes the most important player with his ability to score inside. Also keep an eye on center Demarco Cox who may take on more of the scoring load. A first round matchup with Boston College is very winnable, but the task is daunting beyond that. A second round contest with North Carolina will be difficult to survive.
-- Michael McAllister, Scout

Boston College preview: The Boston College Eagles finished 13th in the ACC this season. In Jim Christian's first year at the helm, BC finished 12-18 and 4-14 in conference. The Eagles were pleasantly surprised when star junior guard Olivier Hanlan finished as the ACC's leading scorer. However, despite Hanlan's heroics the team operates at its highest level when everyone is scoring the basketball. They need senior guard Patrick Heckmann to score and distribute the basketball and form a potent guard duo with Hanlan.

The Eagles don't have great forwards, but they can overpower Georgia Tech's guards and beat them in the first round if both Hanlan and Heckmann go off. Georgia Tech is BC's first opponent and forwards Marcus Georges-Hunt and Quinton Stephens posed problems for the Eagles in their first game. Christain will find a way to contain the forward duo. Heckmann understands that his days on a college basketball team are numbered and will have a day. The Eagles will edge the Yellow Jackets, sending the Eagles into the second round to face University of North Carolina. Barring any miracles, the Eagles season will end on Wednesday in the second round of the ACC tournament.
-- Joseph Jacobs, EagleInsider.com

ACC Tournament 1st Round #2

WATCH
March 10th, 3:00pm ESPN2
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Virginia Tech preview: Buzz Williams first season at Virginia Tech may not have had a lot of wins, especially in conference, but there is a foundation being laid. Adam Smith and Justin Bibbs are a dynamic offensive backcourt. They can light it up from the outside and score in bunches. If the Hokies are to make a run in this tournament, they have to lead the way. Especially without big man Joey Van Zegeren.

The biggest issue with Virginia Tech this season has been their lack of size inside and lack of overall depth on the roster. As Williams builds both of those in the coming years, with recruiting improving, Tech is a program to watch. This year, however, there is simply not enough there to pull off more than a win or two. A matchup with Wake Forest is winnable, as would a second round date with Miami. But beyond that, Tech would be in real trouble.
-- Michael McAllister, Scout

Wake Forest preview: Despite a poor conference record, Wake Forest did pull off wins over NC State, Miami and Pitt while playing Virginia, Duke and Louisville tough. Danny Manning has things headed in the right direction, but this year’s squad is very limited. They are led by Codi Miller-McIntyre and the emerging Konstantinos Mitoglou. Both have the ability to put up points in bunches, and will need to play at a very high level for the Demon Deacons to make a run.

The tournament actually sets up well for Wake to pull off a couple of upsets. Virginia Tech is not a deep team and the Deacs have an edge inside. If they can keep the Hokie shooters at bay, they should advance. They have already beaten Miami earlier this season, and played Notre Dame tough on the road. Wake has the pieces to pull off upsets in both if they play well. But if they have to face Duke in the semis, the run will likely end. A one win showing is the most likely scenario, but pulling off two or three is not out of the question.
-- Michael McAllister, Scout

ACC Tournament 2nd Round #1

WATCH
March 11th, 12:00pm ESPN
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Florida State preview: This was bound to be a rebuilding year for Florida State after the graduation of 2013–14 leaders Okaro White and Ian Miller. Once leading scorer Aaron Thomas was ruled ineligible in December, the Seminoles offense ran through Xavier Rathan-Mayes for the rest of the year, and the redshirt freshman led the team in scoring (14.4 PPG) and assists (4.4). Rathan-Mayes was spectacular at times, scoring 35 in a loss at North Carolina and 30 in the final 4:38 at Miami, but FSU has simply lacked the offensive firepower around him necessary to compete in the upper half of the ACC.

FSU faces Clemson in the first round of the ACC Tournament in what is sure to be a street fight after the teams split their regular season matchups. Rathan-Mayes will likely get his points, but the question for the Seminoles is whether he will get enough scoring support. This game will likely be won by the first team to 60 points. I’ll favor the Seminoles to get a narrow win over the Tigers before bowing out with a late scoring drought against Virginia.
-- Jason Staples, NoleDigest.com

Clemson preview: Behind a strong defense, the Clemson Tigers surprised with eight conference wins and close calls in several other ACC games. At one time, Clemson was a bubble team, but lost six of their last eight games to make winning the ACC Tournament their only hope of reaching the Big Dance. The key to Clemson’s success is the emergence of Jaron Blossomgame. The athletic wing can score from anywhere and has to have a special tournament for the Tigers to make a run.

Their bracket is extremely difficult to navigate. A second round matchup with Florida State will be tough. Each team won on the road in their two games this season. The Seminoles have more offensive punch, but the Tigers play stingy on the defensive end of the floor. That is the key for any type of postseason magic.
-- Michael McAllister, Scout

ACC Tournament 2nd Round #2

WATCH
March 11th, 2:00pm ESPN
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

North Carolina preview: Despite having one of the most athletic, talented and deep rosters in college basketball, the North Carolina Tar Heels have had a somewhat disappointing 2014-15 season. UNC lost six of their last 10 games, including two to rival Duke and one to NC State. The ACC Tournament is an opportunity for North Carolina to shed some of that late disappointment where they came up small in their bigger games. Their deep and big frontcourt will be pivotal to their success. Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks combine for over 15 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game.

But the most important player for the Heels is point guard Marcus Paige. He needs to be at the top of his game as guard play is critical in the postseason. His ability to hit the outside shot while also penetrating will tell the tale in the conference tournament and beyond. Their first matchup against Boston College or Georgia Tech should be very winnable as the Tar Heels went 3-0 in the regular season against those two. Beyond that are matchups with Louisville and then potentially Virginia. A win against the Cardinals in the quarterfinals is critical for momentum heading into the Big Dance.
-- Michael McAllister, Scout

ACC Tournament 2nd Round #3

WATCH
March 11th, 7:00pm ESPN2
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Pittsburgh preview: Pittsburgh's season canvassed multiple peaks and valleys, from bad losses to Hawaii, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest to victories over ranked North Carolina and Notre Dame teams. Just as the Panthers were poised to play their way off the bubble, they lost their final three games to not only fall off the NCAA map but down to a 10-seed in the ACC Tournament. The only thing that could save those NCAA hopes is a surprise run to a tournament title in shades of former Big East glory, yet North Carolina State awaits Pitt in its first game Wednesday and the Wolfpack beat the Panthers handily when the teams opened their respective ACC schedules against one another in January.

Their key player is James Robinson. While Michael Young and Jamel Artis were the team leaders in terms of statistics this season, the Panthers go as he does. The better he plays, the further Pitt goes. The key to success is their defense against everyone. Unlike most Jamie Dixon-era team, these Panthers won a number of games in spite of their defense. In tournament play, one bad defensive showing will serve as a death knell for Pitt. Expect a loss to North Carolina State on Wednesday.
-- Nate Barnes, PantherDigest.com

NC State preview: NC State enters the ACC Tournament playing really well, having won five of their last six games with the lone loss coming on the road at Boston College. During that stretch, the Pack had road wins against North Carolina, Louisville, and Clemson which should bode well for them playing on a neutral court moving forward. The No. 7 seed, the Wolfpack opens Wednesday night against No. 10 seed Pittsburgh, a team the Pack defeated 68-50 in PNC Arena on January 3rd. NC State's wings, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner, were huge in that matchup, totaling 35 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the field. Defensively, State blocked nine shots and held Pitt to 32.7% shooting from the field.

If NC State can get past the Panthers they would matchup with No. 2 seed Duke, another team that they defeated earlier this season. The Wolfpack handed the Blue Devils their first loss of the year, an 87-75 defeat on January 11th when they held Duke to 36% shooting from the field and blocked 10 shots. Winning either game won't be easy for NC State, but if they do it will likely be because of the play of their guards and their team defense. Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner, and Cat Barber are carrying them offensively and when they struggle, so does the Wolfpack. However, they've been able to fall back on their defense in recent weeks. During the recent six-game stretch, NC State has held four opponents to less than 37.5% shooting from the field.
-- James Henderson, PackPride.com

ACC Tournament 2nd Round #4

WATCH
March 11th, 9:00pm ESPN2
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Miami preview: It was supposed to be a down year for Miami, but the Hurricanes had a strong season that has put them squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. They had big wins on the road over Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh and have played several of the conference’s best very tough. The Hurricanes play strong defense and efficient offense, led by point guard Angel Rodriguez and wing Sheldon McClellan. Both can light it up and will have to play well for Miami to make a run.

The best rebounder in the ACC is center Tonye Jekiri who is also a solid rim protector. His development has made the ‘Canes a well rounded team in 2014-15. The bracket sets up well if they can get by a desperate Wake Forest or Virginia Tech squad in the second round. They are the type of team that can give Notre Dame problems. If they pull that upset, a rematch with Duke, who Miami blew out early in conference play, would loom. Miami can beat anyone in the conference and is dangerous in this tournament.
-- Michael McAllister, Scout

ACC Tournament Quarterfinal #1

WATCH
March 12th, 12:00pm ESPN
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Virginia preview: Virginia men's basketball followed last season's record breaking performance with another one. The Cavs finished 28-2, a program record, and became the first team not from North Carolina to win back-to-back ACC regular season titles, and the 'Hoos look to repeat as ACC Tournament Champions next week. UVa got to this position by playing strong defense and an efficient offense. The Cavaliers held 13 opponents to under 50 points this season, and forced some opponents into long prolong scoring droughts, which averaged around six minutes a game.

Malcolm Brogdon is no doubt the key man for the Cavs. Brogdan has scored in double digits 24 times this season, but he is also a tremendous defender-often given the task to defend top guards. Coming into the tournament, the 'Hoos will have to do something they rarely had to do during the season, bounce back from a loss after losing to Louisville in regular season finale. The Cavaliers could also be without junior guard Justin Anderson, who had an appendectomy last week. As of Sunday, UVa head coach Tony Bennett remained unsure when Anderson could make his return, saying it could be one week or two. Virginia, however, has proved they can play without Anderson, who missed seven games this season with a fractured pinky. In those games several other players stepped up including: Evan Nolte, Anthony Gill, Marial Shayok and Isaiah Wilkins.
-- Jacquie Franciulli, HooNation.com

ACC Tournament Quarterfinal #2

WATCH
March 12th, 2:00pm ESPN
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Louisville preview: Louisville is 3-1 since the dismissal of point guard Chris Jones and the Cardinals have a ton of confidence after beating No. 2 Virginia on Saturday. Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino typical has his team playing its best ball in March and this season is no different. He simplified the defense because the team has some young players who were not getting the little nuisances of the ‘confuse the opponent’ zone they normally play and he is begging the team to help offset shooting deficiencies with better passing.

Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier were both second-team All-ACC performers and can each carry the load, but senior forward Wayne Blackshear is the key to a tournament run. When Blackshear is active and physical, the Cardinals are a whole lot better. Point guard Quentin Snider and center Chinanu Onuaku are the two freshmen starting for the Cardinals. Louisville has won three postseason conference tournament titles in a row after bagging the Big East the final two years and the AAC last season. Pitino believes they are primed for another run, only this time in the ACC.
-- Jody Demling, CardinalAuthority.com

ACC Tournament Quarterfinal #3

WATCH
March 12th, 7:00pm ESPN
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Duke preview: In finishing second behind Virginia, Duke earned a double bye into the quarterfinal round of the tournament. Their first opponent will likely be North Carolina State who will need to get by Pittsburgh, Should the Blue Devils avenge the regular season loss to the Wolfpack, Duke would likely have a third game against Notre Dame followed by a rematch with Virginia. It's hard to find a hotter team in the league right now, and over the last 11 games the Blue Devils have shown the ability to blow out good teams, win in hostile environments (which Greensboro will most likely be given Duke's popularity with the rest of the opposing fan bases), and rally against good teams.

There have been some trouble spots along the way with Coach K's squad struggling to pull away from over-matched opponents, getting into foul trouble, and some extended periods of less than adequate defense, but those trends are becoming fewer and fewer. It's been quite a while since Duke hoisted an ACC Tournament trophy, but this year's team may be Coach K's best chance since the 2011 team.
-- John Watson, TheDevilsDen.com

ACC Tournament Quarterfinal #4

WATCH
March 12th, 9:00pm ESPN
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

Notre Dame preview by Tim O'Malley: From the depths of their inaugural 6-12 ACC campaign of 2014 to a third-place finish and 14-4 conference record a calendar year later, Mike Brey's '15 Fighting Irish appear to be the best of his 15 editions in South Bend. Fifth-year senior Jerian Grant is the straw that stirs the drink, leading the team in scoring and assists with an absurd 59 percent two-point shooting percentage as the team's combo guard. With its double bye for the ACC Tournament set since late February, Notre Dame's toughest potential opening test would be No. 6 seed Miami, a team the Irish defeated in mid-January, 75-70 in South Bend.

The Irish likewise beat both potential underdogs in their portion of the bracket, No. 12 Wake Forest and No. 15 Virginia Tech, winning both games handily. Looking ahead, No. 2 seed Duke looms as a difficult defensive matchup for the Irish though the teams split home victories in two meetings this winter. Consider a win and subsequent loss to the Blue Devils the most likely scenario for Brey's bunch, with 0-1 serving as a major disappointment. Two wins or (gulp) more would qualify as an According to Hoyle miracle considering their pre-season standing.
-- Tim O'Malley, IrishIllustrated.com

ACC Tournament Semifinal #1

WATCH
March 13th, 7:00pm ESPN or ESPN2
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

ACC Tournament Semifinal #2

WATCH
March 13th, 9:00pm ESPN or ESPN2
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

ACC Tournament Final

WATCH
March 14th, 8:30pm ESPN or ESPN2
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro (N.C.)

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