The ACC Tournament opens in Greensboro today for the last time until 2019. Over the next three years the tournament will bounce northward, first to Washington, DC to troll Maryland then to Brooklyn for a two year stint. If you are a North Carolinian and an ACC traditionalist, seeing the tournament move away from the Old North State is a tough pill to swallow. It's also necessary given the way TV works today. ACC Commissioner John Swofford did what needed to be done but also didn't abandon Greensboro completely.
This season marks the first time since 1982 the ACC Tournament has shifted from a Sunday final to Saturday night. This too was a TV decision. With the Catholic schools taking the Big East brand and leaving UConn and what's left as the AAC, Saturday night on ESPN was ripe for the picking and Swofford grabbed it. The move to Saturday also gives the championship game and its winner room to breathe. With a 1:00 PM Sunday final, no one is talking about the ACC title game because the announcement of field for the NCAA Tournament sucks all the available oxygen out of the room. A Saturday final allows for the teams that participate in it, the fans, the media, etc, etc, a little extra break before shifting gears to for the Big Dance.
The schedule change coupled with conference expansion means the ACC Tournament will start on a Tuesday and run for five days. More basketball is good even if it is #goacc basketball and the Greensboro Coliseum Curtain of Doom looms large above the heads of the 11-14 seeds.
The probabilities and odds say Duke or Virginia have the best shot at winning the tournament. The eye test certainly nods in Duke's direction. The Blue Devils have won 11 straight games since dropping a 77-73 decision at Notre Dame on January 28th and playing extremely well. College basketball is a guard's game and Duke has a solid backcourt plus an NBA talent in the middle which makes defending the Blue Devils a tough chore. The catch? It's three straight game and Duke has just eight scholarship players.
Virginia is probably the best team to thwart the Blue Devils but the health of Justin Anderson is a concern. Anderson broke a finger against Louisville in early February then had an appendectomy last week. The junior forward is critical to Virginia's success, especially on the offensive end. Prior to Anderson's injury in the Louisville game, Virginia had 19 of 21 games above 100 in offensive efficiency. Starting with that game in which Anderson played just 16 minutes five of the next nine games were below 100 in OE. If Anderson returns and get up to speed, it should restore some of the Cavaliers' offensive efficiency.
Anderson's health and Virginia's struggles are why Louisville and North Carolina could have a shot at the Cavaliers. UNC obviously needs to dispatch the winner of the Boston College-Georgia Tech game. The assumption is UNC vs Louisville III will occur on Thursday afternoon. UNC won by a point in Chapel Hill then lost in overtime at Louisville. Louisville is without Chris Jones now who was dismissed from the team and UNC is fully healthy(assuming Kennedy Meeks' latest fever goes away.)
The winner of that game gets a shot at Virginia while on the other side everyone is hoping for Duke vs Notre Dame III. Standing in the way of that is a potential NC State vs Duke quarterfinal game with the Wolfpack having beaten Duke in Raleigh in early January. NC State is not a great match-up for Duke's defense. The Wolfpack has big men, a point guard who can drive and two legitimate three point shooters. Plus the Wolfpack are also playing some solid defense of late. NC State, of course, has to take care of business versus Pittsburgh first which is by no means a lock with this team.
The only question is whether a team like Miami, Clemson or even Florida State can shake things up, perhaps pull an upset on Thursday. The calender has turned to March and as such the expected and unexpected can clash in spectacularly entertaining fashion. It's also the ACC Tournament which as the kids say, "Enough said."
Boston College over Georgia Tech
Wake Forest over Virginia Tech
Clemson over Florida State
UNC over Boston College
NC State over Pittsburgh
Miami over Wake Forest
Virginia over Clemson
UNC over Louisville
Duke over NC State
Notre Dame over Miami
Virginia over UNC
Duke over Notre Dame
Duke over Virginia