- Matt Cox
3MW All Conference Teams:
1. Dean Dome Dominance Propels the Heels
North Carolina was perfect in Chapel Hill this season, sweeping all 8 of their ACC home games, posting impressive wins against Virginia, Louisville and Duke over the past 3 weeks. The outside shooting of Joel Berry and Justin Jackson have transformed the Tar Heels from an offensive rebounding and transition reliant offense to a balanced scoring attack capable of putting up points from anywhere on the floor. Opposing defenses last year had the option of routinely going under high ball screens and sagging deep into the paint area to focus on limiting interior touches for Brice Johnson. Now, the efficient long range shooting of Berry and Jackson have opened up space for the stable of UNC bigs to operate more freely in the low-post, a big reason why Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and freshman Tony Bradley have all been so productive this year.
2. Josh's Redemption
A simple change of scenery can sometimes make all the difference and that's precisely what happened with Josh Pastner in his first year at helm in Georgia Tech. After essentially being run out of town by a Memphis fan base with lofty expectations, Pastner abruptly silenced many of his harshest critics with a stunning ACC performance this season in Atlanta. The Jackets were predicted by many to occupy Boston College in the cellar of the ACC before the year began, and some even questioned whether they would even tally one win in league play:
"Prediction: Georgia Tech will not win a single game in the ACC this season. Worst roster that Josh Pastner has ever been associated with." - Jon Rothstein
Thanks to a breakout year from junior forward Ben Lammers and the emergence of a young star in freshman Josh Okogie, the Yellow Jackets appear to be at least a year ahead of schedule in the rebuilding process. Georgia Tech currently sits at 8-10 in the ACC and has an outside chance to play their way back into bubble consideration, but will need two wins in Brooklyn for the committee to take them serious next Sunday.
This year's ACC tournament will be hosted at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. The unique 15-team setup creates a rare double-bye opportunity for the top-4 teams in the conference: North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame & Louisville. The next tier of importance are seeds 5-9 (Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Miami), who await the winner of the opening round matchups featuring the league's bottom-6 squads.
Projected Tournament Teams and Seeds (per bracketmatrix.com):
1) North Carolina: 1-seed
2) Louisville: 2-seed
3) Florida State: 3-seed
4) Duke: 4-seed
5) Virginia: 5-seed
6) Notre Dame: 5-seed
7) Miami (FL): 8-seed
8) Virginia Tech: 8-seed
9) Wake Forest: 11-seed
10) Syracuse: 12-seed
As of now, bracketmatrix is projecting the ACC to punch a whopping 10 tickets to the Big Dance. Wake Forest and Syracuse currently sit squarely on the bubble, implying neither cannot afford an opening round slip up in Brooklyn or their Selection Sunday fate may be doomed. Wake will have to get by 15-seeded Boston College in their opening round game, who the Demon Deacons managed to squeak by in their only regular season matchup in Chestnut Hill, 85-80. If Wake can have success pounding it inside with a heavy dose of John Collins post ups, they should feel much safer about the odds of hearing their name called on CBS next Sunday.
Syracuse's date with Miami may be the biggest of the entire tournament, given a loss for the Orange may solidify their destiny as a NIT team. 'Cuse defeated the Hurricanes in the first game of the ACC regular season back in early January, overcoming a Cane bloodbath on the offensive glass - an issue that Jim Boeheim is way too familiar with through all the years of playing the patented 2-3 zone. Currently, the Orange are ranked dead last in the conference in defensive rebounding, and will need to limit 2nd chance opportunities against a Miami team that typically sends multiple athletes to the offensive boards to chase down missed shots.
Dark Horse Team(s):
In a brutal tournament field that features 11 teams ranked in the top-50 in kenpom.com's overall rankings, the Demon Deacons may be the best bet to make a deep run. As aforementioned, the Deacons draw a favorable matchup in Boston College, who lacks a true low-post defender to matchup with John Collins (Collins had 26 & 14 in their first meeting this year). If they prevail today, they'll advance to play Virginia Tech, who, much like the Golden Eagles, have no other bonafide interior presence that can cover Collins outside of an undersized Zach LeDay. Collins only had 13 points in Wake's 89-84 victory in Blackburg last week, but needed only 6 shots to get there thanks to his supporting cast catching fire, led by Bryant Crawford who went off for 26 points. The Decons' inside-out attack centered around Collins has been a nightmare to guard all season long for ACC foes, and when they get consistent effort on the defensive end, Wake can play with just about anyone in the country.
(12) Clemson defeats (13) NC State
(10) Wake Forest defeats (15) Boston College
(11) Georgia Tech defeats (14) Pitt
(9) Miami defeats (8) Syracuse
(5) Duke defeats (12) Clemson
(10) Wake Forest defeats (7) Virginia Tech
(6) Virginia defeats (11) Georgia Tech
(1) North Carolina defeats (9) Miami
(5) Duke defeats (4) Louisville
(10) Wake Forest defeats (2) Florida St.
(3) Notre Dame defeats (6) Virginia
(5) Duke defeats (1) North Carolina
(3) Notre Dame defeats (10) Wake Forest
(3) Notre Dame defeats (5) Duke