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ACC Tournament Musings

The ACC Tournament pairings have been announced and here they are:

1st Round
#5 Florida State vs. #12 Wake Forest
#6 Maryland vs. #11 Georgia Tech
#7 Virginia vs. #10 Virginia Tech
#8 Clemson vs. #9 Miami

#1 Duke vs. #8 Clemson/#9 Miami Winner
#2 North Carolina vs. #7 Virginia/#10 Virginia Tech Winner
#3 Boston College vs. #6 Maryland/#11 Georgia Tech Winner
#4 NC State vs. #5 FSU/#12 WF Winner

#1-#8/9 Winner vs. #4-#5/#12 Winner
#2-#7/#10 Winner vs. #3-#6/#11 Winner

Whichever two teams survive

Five Thoughts

1. Bracket "Porn"

This term refers to looking at the bracket and then having some sort of excited fit over the potential matchups. This is a bigger deal in the NCAA Tournament because there are greater possibilities. The first one that jumped off the page to me was the possibility of a Duke-FSU semifinal rematch. FSU will have to beat Wake Forest(should not be a problem) and then NC State(they lost by 20 in Raleigh). Duke should have little trouble with Clemson or Miami even if Redick is 3 for 20. People would also like to see how well Virginia would do against UNC a second time around considering they left the Smith Center on the wrong end of a 45 point trouncing. Wake upsetting FSU(which negates the aforementioned rematch with Duke) and playing NC State again would also be interesting.

2. That was Then, This is Now

How much do the regular season results matter in tournament rematches? I think it all depends on how much change a team has undergone. The top four seeds are all playing very differently than they did earlier on. Duke and NC State have struggled while UNC and BC(with the exception of the loss at UVa) have looked the part of gangbusters. One question you ask is whether the current trend of winning/losing will persist in a neutral court tournament with back-to-back-to-back(-to-back) games. Tip off times are also different for some teams and it is simply a different animal altogether. Last year UNC whipped Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill and then lost in the semifinal to them. Among the rematches you have the potential of NC State-Florida State. Which Wolfpack team will show up? The one who beat BC and FSU soundly or the one that has laid the big egg at Wake Forest on Saturday. Which UNC team will be in Greensboro? The 20+ turnover crew which lost 3 of 4 to Miami, BC, and Virginia or the one that beat NC State, Maryland, and Virginia by an average of 31 and then went to Durham and beat Duke? BC is perhaps the most consistent of the four except they started the ACC year at 0-3 and lost at Maryland, their potential quarterfinal opponent. Duke has lost two straight and appear tired. Can they get back to the way things were? Another aspect is whether or not a team is going for a 3-0 sweep over an opponent. It has been said that winning two during the regular season is difficult, winning three in a row over one team of similar talent level is nearly impossible. Some people question why you bother having an ACC Tournament and the answer is because teams change and the 0-3 conference starter may very well be the best team out there right now.

3. Three or four games in a row.

As much as people are making of how tired Duke is, the possibility of 3-4 games in a row for these schools could be a factor. Given such a crush of games in as many days are the deeper teams like UNC going to have an advantage? It is hard to say. The top four seeds get to take Thursday off. If Florida State has to fight tooth and nail to beat Ga. Tech, how much can they bring the next day versus NC State. The flip side to this is the four Thursday winners could be looser and ready to play versus the other four who have been sitting for six days. I think the multi-game debate is only important by Sunday. If a 5-12 school gets to the title game against a 1-4 school, then the prospect of a fourth game in a row versus only three games might be a crucial factor. Of course any overtime winner will automatically have to answer questions about how it will affect them come the next game.

4. J.J. Redick's Slump

And that is all this is for Redick is a slump and some better defense. I touched on this in my Duke-UNC posts and that is this concept of "emotional fatigue." First of, I will refrain from accussing the media of selling a big steaming pile of pyschobabble which is often used to justify everything from bad play to homicide in today's culture and partcipate in an effort to "feminize" men and sports. That being said, this emotional fatigue stuff is a big steaming pile of pyschobabble being pushed by the media to excuse a bad shooting from Redick and reeks of an effort to feminize men and sports. OK, so I did it anyway, sue me. Anyway, there are two reasonable explanations for Redick's bad shooting. First of all, UNC played some killer defense on him. Marcus Ginyard is an inch taller, is quicker, and has some long arms. Anyone who has watched Redick knows that taller, quicker defenders bother him. After the first game this season, everyone made a big deal about how Redick had never played well against UNC and in that game he scored 35. The reason he got on track was UNC's best on the ball defender, Jackie Manuel, graduated. Who do you think has been guarding Redick for three years of UNC-Duke games, Will Robinson? During the first game, UNC tried to have Frasor and Miller guard Redick and used Ginyard some. This time out Ginyard was all over Redick and UNC did a good job of giving help. It also resulted in some open looks for other Duke players who took advantage in some instances but not enough to win. The second factor of Redick's poor shooting is a slump. Everyone has a slump. Every athlete has a period where they miss more than they normally do. UNC guards in the 1980's always waited until a regional final and then decided to slump, which also carried over to the 1990's except for Donald Williams in 1993. Redick is not hitting his shots and if the defenses are better that makes breaking out of a slump more difficult. The emotional fatigue bit is total garbage. Why should breaking a record everyone knew you would break be draining emotionally? Was Johnny Dawkins emotionally drained in 1986 when he came close to breaking the same record? There was no talk of emotional fatigue in 1992 when Duke carried the weight of the world all season long and barely won perhpas the single most emotionally draining game in NCAA history against Kentucky in the regional final. I have no idea what being "emotionally fatigued" means much less how to evaluate whether some is experiencing it or not. Is Redick thinking about it too much? Probably. Is he a little tired? Most likely. Are his emotions are bringing him down and causing him grief? No so much. Having a hand in your face or tired legs from a grueling 30 game schedule is probably more indicative of his slump.

5. Star Power vs. Team Effort

Is there one person who will step up and take control of the tournament? Championships are won by great team efforts but they are also won by great individual efforts complimented by role player contributions. Duke's run of 6 out of 7 titles is probably more indicative of great team play. Wake Forest won the 1995 title because Randolph Childress score 122 points in three days(yes that is 40 points a game). James Forrest was so upset he was left off the 1993 All ACC team that he torched three opponents including eventual national champion UNC to lead Georgia Tech to the title. So the question is whether or not someone like Redick or Hansbrough will have a monster weekend and lead Duke or UNC to the title. Or will a school like BC or NC State get consistent efforts from their players and win the title? Will a player on one of the 5-12 teams have a breakout weekend, average 28 points a game and lead their team to the ACC promised land? These are the mysteries of the ACC Tournament. They call the Rose Bowl the "granddaddy of them all" among bowl games. As far as conference tournments go in basketball, the ACC is still the best one to watch even if the overall league quality is down.