Conference Tournament Preview

The ACC conference tournament begins tomorrow and much is on the line for almost every team in the league. For some it is an elimination round. For others it is a chance to improve their NCAA tournament position. For everyone it is a chance to end the season with a chance to cut down the nets in the Georgia Dome.

With the conference tournament about to start, it is time to take a look at what is at stake for each team. For many of the teams, it is a win and move on situation. The bubble teams in the conference need at least a win to get an NCAA bid. For others it is all about seeding in the NCAA. For a few, it is the last chance to play this season.

Boston College

At Stake: BC is probably in the tournament at this point. However, a first round loss could drastically hurt their seeding. With a first round win they could end up somewhere between a seven to nine seed and they could climb if they continue to win. A loss could knock them down as low as a tenth seed.

Key to Success: The emergence of Rakim Sanders and Joe Trapani as legitimate scoring options has given Rice and the offense a tremendous boost. It is vital they continue to produce and guide this team into the post season. It will be interesting to see how Trapani responds in his first ACC tournament after playing one of his worst games against Georgia Tech in the regular season finale.

First Round Opponent: Virginia

Virginia

At Stake: After finishing the regular season with a 10-17 record Virginia must win the conference tournament to receive the automatic bid.

Key to Success: Freshman Sylven Landesberg has been nothing short of sensational this season. He has been asked to do everything this season for the young Cavaliers. However, Virginia needs others to step up and provide some offense. Virginia has surprised some opponents lately, most recently Maryland, because various teammates have risen to the occasion and scored. If Landesberg gets some help offensively UVA will stand a chance against BC.

First Round Opponent: Boston College

Miami

At Stake: Miami is still in the hunt for an at-large tournament birth. In order to reach the tournament, Miami must win at least two games down in Atlanta to merit serious consideration for a seed.

Key to Success: By this point the ACC is well aware of the Jack McClinton's explosive offensive capabilities. He is consistently good for his 20-points a game, but the real key for the Hurricanes will be the play of forwards Dwayne Collins and Jimmy Graham. These two upperclassmen combine to form Miami's frontcourt and their play will largely determine whether or not Miami can sneak into the tournament. As teams double McClinton they will get opportunities down low, but they must capitalize.

First Round Opponent: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech

At Stake: The Hokies once promising start is now in jeopardy after losing seven of their last ten games down the stretch. Similar to Miami, Virginia Tech will likely have to win two or possibly even three games to have a shot at earning an at large bid.

Key to Success: Virginia Tech is led by their big three scorers: A.D. Vassallo, Malcolm Delaney, and Jeff Allen. They combine to produce over 70% of the offense. The Hokies will need some scoring from their bench, particularly in the grueling style of the ACC Tournament, when games are played on back-to-back days and the starters need to rest.

First Round Opponent: Miami

Clemson

At Stake: At this point it appears Clemson is a lock for the tournament, but they can still improve or hurt their case for seeding. A strong showing in Atlanta could earn the Tigers a #4 seed.

Key to Success: Forward Trevor Booker has emerged as a reliable double-double type of player, however, the three-point shooting of senior Terrance Oglesby has proved to be the secret weapon of the Tigers. As long as Oglesby is on the floor Clemson is never out of a game. He can heat up quickly and he gets plenty of open looks from the attention that Booker draws down low.

First Round Opponent: Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech

At Stake: After a disappointing regular season the Yellow Jackets must run the table to get the automatic conference bid.

Key to Success: Pound the ball inside to all conference player Gani Lawal and senior forward Alade Aminu. They seem to have success when they do, but they don't look inside enough and often end up settling for low percentage three point-shots.

First Round Opponent: Clemson

Maryland

At Stake: After their stunning loss to UVA, Maryland must win two games in the conference tournament to have a real shot come selection Sunday. One win will at least keep their hopes alive for a bid. So, round one is an elimination game for them.

Key to Success: The question for Maryland will be if the fiery senior Greivis Vasquez can lead this team to victory. The versatile guard leads the team in scoring, rebounds, and assists. The team is 6-1 when Vasquez scores over 20-points. He may need to pull out another UNC-type of performance when he led the Terrapins to victory with a triple-double; 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

First Round Opponent: North Carolina State

North Carolina State

At Stake: With a 16-13 record they must win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA this year.

Key to Success: The Wolfpack's guard play has been mediocre at best all season long. They need some consistency in the backcourt and a leader to emerge that is capable of running the offense and limiting turnovers.

First Round Opponent: Maryland

Florida State

At Stake: Florida State is in the tournament at this point. With a few wins in the conference tournament they could play their way up to a fourth seed, although if they lose early a fifth seed is likely.

Key to Success: Florida State has prided themselves on their defense this season. They have two players (Douglas and Alabi) selected to the All ACC Defensive Team. The Seminoles must continue to play strong defense as this creates opportunities for fast break points and transition buckets from Tony Douglas and company.

First Round Opponent: A bye in the first round and the Clemson/GT winner in round two.

Duke

At Stake: The Blue Devils late season slump could hurt their seeding. If they lose early they could fall to a fourth seed. If they win a few they will likely be a three, but could sneak into a two seed.

Key to Success: Duke has relied on the outside shot more so than any other team in the conference. When their shots are falling they are tough to beat, but when they are cold their offense becomes totally out of sync. Following their loss to BC they inserted freshman guard Elliot Williams into the starting lineup and moved Scheyer over to point guard, which has been somewhat successful for the Blue Devils. It will be important for them to get their shooters (Scheyer, Henderson, and Singler) going early and create looks for them.

First Round Opponent: A bye in the first round and the BC/UVA winner in round two.

Wake Forest

At Stake: Wake Forest is undoubtedly in the tournament and they head into Atlanta having won four straight games. They could receive as high as a second seed if they can win the conference tournament. Otherwise they will likely settle for a third seed.

Key to Success: Wake Forest thrives on running the fast break. They have the personnel to get up and down the floor quickly and push the tempo. The Deacons must establish their fast pace and not get slowed down by their opponents' style of play.

First Round Opponent: A bye in the first round and the UM/NC State winner in round two.

North Carolina

At Stake: Baring a complete collapse, UNC is a leading candidate for a one seed. If the regular season champs can win the conference tournament they will likely be looking at the number one overall seed in the tournament.

Key to Success: When UNC plays poorly its because their defense has let them down. Coach Roy Williams has stressed defense, but UNC occasionally slips and plays very passive, giving up easy baskets in transition. UNC must stay focused on the defensive end and avoid lapses in order to repeat as ACC Tournament Champions.

First Round Opponent: A bye in the first round and the VT/Miami winner in round two.

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