Still the best conference tournament out there.
I don't know how it works in other states but I know in North Carolina, ACC Tournament Friday is a de facto state holiday. I am of the persuasion they should just declare it as such and be done with it because the productivty between 12 and 4 PM has to be bordering on someone actually losing money. It is a beautiful thing and coupled with the first two days of the NCAA Tournament which I think are the two greatest days of any sporting event March is a lot of fun.
This version of the ACC Tournament really hinges on whether Ty Lawson's toe is healthy enough to play. If it is, UNC is the favorite to cut down the nets for a 3rd straight season. If not then the field is wide open, well not wide open more like open to the top five, maybe six teams to have a shot at winning it. Since we have no idea a scant two hours from the start of the tournament whether Lawson will play, it makes figuring this thing out even more difficult so take what I am about to say with a grain of salt.
I am going to operate on the assumption that Ty Lawson will not play at all, at which point we are looking at four other teams that have a legitimate shot at winning the ACC title. Boston College might sneak into this group but I doubt it.
#1 North Carolina
Even without Lawson, the Heels have enough weapons to at least make it to Sunday. They are also more experienced than any other team in the field in terms of actually winning the weekend which has already happened twice. Yes, Lawson is the straw that stirs the drink but it is possible a well played three games by Larry Drew and Bobby Frasor at point along with some hot shooting from Wayne Ellington and Danny Green balanced by the inside presence of Deon Thompson and Tyler Hansbrough might just be enough to pull this off. It will not be easy sans Lawson but if these guys step up along with Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller, I think they are in the mix versus being a favorite with Lawson. The Heels will need some breaks for sure but I would not count them out yet.
#2 Wake Forest
With Lawson a question mark, many people will look to Wake Forest as the next best thing. Wake has the inside presence and great guard play which is the combination you need. Even now Jeff Teague is working on a way to channel Randolph Childress from 1995 and play of out his skull for three games. Wake, despite some inexperience, has some guys who have played well in this tournament. Ish Smith and Harvey Hale played big roles in the Deacs' infamous double overtime game in 2007 when 11th seeded Wake knocked off a hot Georgia Tech team. The flip side to this is Wake's penchant for wetting the bed on the road and playing down to their competition. The Deacs potentially draw either NCSU or Maryland on Friday, both of whom could give the Deacs problems. Wake must also deal with being on this stage and playing like a #2 seed. Do not look past the coaching side either since Dino Gaudio is still on the learning curve to some extent.
The simple question for Duke is whether they can handle three games in three days. I say no unless Mike Krzyzewski gets religion and plays his bench. No one knows if Nolan Smith will be available, Greg Paulus has been working on the transmission under the Duke bus and anyone else off the Blue Devil bench is either inexperienced or unreliable. Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler played practically the whole game in Chapel Hill and by the end it showed. There is no way they can do that all weekend in Atlanta, especially if they end up playing Wake on Saturday.
#4 Florida State
The official dark horse of the 2009 ACC Tournament. FSU has the personnel and they also have a legit scoring threat who just might be pissed off enough over not being the ACC POY that he does some channeling of his own in the form of Georgia Tech's James Forrest who was ticked off he was not All-ACC first team he torched three teams, UNC included as the Yellow Jackets won the title. FSU's biggest problem? they have the ACC COY in Leonard Hamilton. Yeah, that is pretty freaking hilarious that an ACC COY is a liability but it is what it is. FSU also has the tough task of beating a team three times in won season should they draw Clemson on Friday. Something tells me Clemson is going to put up some fight should they get by Georgia Tech.
Clemson can play well enough to win this thing their biggest obstacle is no one has ever won four games in four days to take the ACC title. I think Clemson stands a good chance to get by FSU and if they end up facing a Lawson-less UNC, they have a good chance of making a 2nd straight trip to the ACC title game, an accomplishment that will earn Oliver Purnell a monument on campus. Clemson's other issue is they love to press and that is difficult to do on four straight days. Their best hope is GT lays down because they simply want it to be over.
#6 Boston College
The four games in four days also stands in the way of the Eagles, but they also have senior leadership in the form of Tyrese Rice who is a potent enough scorer to make a difference. The players surrounding Rice are good enough to give any of the above teams fits. BC's first problem is they need to beat UVa which is by no means a gimmie. It would behoove them to handle the Cavs in short order so they have something ready for Duke Friday night. BC is also looking at playing back-to-back late games which can be immensely difficult. This team has a chance as wins over Duke and UNC have proven but they are just barely above the contender qulaifying line here.
Four games in four days and not enough talent to handle it. That is how you can look at the other six teams. Georgia Tech and Virginia are going to be done in short order. UVa is the only team that has anything close to a prayer of getting one win and even then I think BC takes them down. NC State has a penchant for making noise and so far are the only team to ever go from Thursday to Sunday before losing in the title game. The Wolfpack has done it twice and is capable of winning at least two games at which point they are going to need some miracle stuff to continue. Miami and Maryland have that single player who can carry the load but in the Terps cases, the supporting case disappears and Greivis Vasquez gets turnover happy far too often to make it through four games. Jack McClinton will be fun to watch but unless Miami gets more from Dwayne Collins and Brian Asbury it will be a short trip. Virginia Tech proabably has the best balance but has been inconsistent. In the case of Miami, Maryland and Virginia Tech they all need wins for the purpose of making the NCAA Tournament. If any of them actually make it to Saturday, they will be feeling pretty good about their chances to the point the rest may not matter as much.
The bottom line is I think UNC finds a way to win it even if Lawson does not play. If that does not happen, I think it is either going to be Wake Forest or Clemson. Whatever the case, if you are a basketball junkie, starting today you will get your fill.
#8 Virginia Tech def. #9 Miami
#5 Clemson def. #12 Georgia Tech
#10 NC State def. #7 Maryland
#6 Boston College def. #11 UVa
#1 UNC def. #8 VT
#5 Clemson def. #4 FSU
#2 Wake Forest def. #10 NCSU
#3 Duke def. #6 BC
#1 UNC def. #5 Clemson
#2 Wake Forest def. #3 Duke
#1 UNC def. #2 Wake Forest