The great thing about sports is that any team can win on any night. It doesn't matter if you're David or Goliath heading into the contest, you still have the opportunity to prove the experts right or wrong. The ACC proved many people wrong this year. The defending national champion sits at 5-11 in conference play, a seriously hyped Georgia Tech team finished in the middle of the pack, and the Maryland Terrapins are staring Duke in the face at the top of the standings. Many will consider this a down year for the ACC as the basketball elites are not sitting at the top of the standings together. If Duke and UNC aren't battling for the title, then it must be a bad year in the ACC. That may be the perception of the casual observer. However, the parity in the ACC this year may not be a reflection of its weakness, but highlighting the depth of the conference. Did anyone guess that Virginia would be hovering at the top of the standings as late as the beginning of February? That was the kind of the year that the ACC experienced.
With all of the surprises that happened during conference play, anything could happen in this tournament. The fact that the seedings couldn't be decided until Sunday evening after the very last game in conference play should demonstrate what kind of tournament fans should expect. Outside of Duke and Maryland at the top, the middle of the ACC is a competitive pack of very physical teams that can win on any given night. It may not be the typical ACC basketball to which you are accustomed, but you'll see some hard fought games and likely a few upsets.
As of right now, it seems that Duke, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Clemson are locks for the NCAA tournament. Though, a first game disaster for Virginia Tech, Florida State or Clemson could spell trouble, particularly in a year in which the ACC hasn't been viewed favorably. Highly unlikely that a first round exit will affect any of those teams. However, now that Clemson is the 6th seed in the tournament, they have work to do and will face Florida State in the second round if Clemson can take down NC State.
The teams that need to make a major run through the ACC tournament to get into the big dance are Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech finished their last ten games of conference play with a 4-6 record, including back to back losses to end the year. Tech started conference play with a bang upsetting Duke, but it seems that they got derailed as the season went on. Wake Forest finished the year with a 5-5 record, which included a four game losing streak in which the Demon Deacons lost to UNC at home. Both of these teams will need to make a serious run to make their case for the big dance.
Twelve Names You Likely Know
These twelve players represent the 12 household names in ACC basketball. You may not be familiar with some of these players if you don't follow ACC basketball regularly. This is simply a sampling of the quality of players that you will see in this tournament.
Jon Scheyer, Duke -- Senior, 6'5 190lbs Guard Jon Scheyer, the senior leader of the Duke Blue Devils is in discussions for both ACC player of the year and National Player of the Year. He boasts the 6th best offensive rating in the nation and has a ridiculous Assist/TO Ratio of 3.0. Scheyer can flat out shoot from anywhere on the court and watch out if he gets hot early. Once he starts drawing the double teams, it opens up a lot of options for the Blue Devils.
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland -- Senior, 6'6 190lbs Guard Vasquez has become one of the most polarizing figures in college basketball. However, he can back it up and has become one of the dominant players in the ACC and is certainly in discussion for ACC POY. He rarely comes of the court; he is a big physical guard that can score from anywhere on the floor. However, he knows his role and is able to distribute the ball well with an assist rate of 36.1%, not bad for a guy averaging 19.6 points per game.
Chris Singleton, Florida State --Sophomore, 6'9 227lbs Small Forward Who would have thought that a 6'9 Small Forward would be leading the conference in steals? Singleton has earned his way into discussion for ACC Defensive Player of the Year as he is in the top ten for both steals and blocks. He's an athletic wing player that has the ability to put up big points. However, he is third in the conference in turnovers. He's happy toss up a three point shot from anywhere and is very athletic around the rim.
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech -- Junior, 6'3 170lbs Guard Delaney is averaging 20.9 points per game, accounting for 27% of his team's total points on the year, scoring almost 200 points more than his teammate Dorenzo Hudson. Like Vasquez, Delaney can distribute the ball, averaging over four assists per game with an assist rate of 26.5%. He's more than happy to shoot the three or take it strong to the rim. He'll force you into mistakes and get the easy foul. He's averaging 7.1 fouls drawn per 40 minutes of game play.
Trevor Booker, Clemson -- Senior, 6'7 240lbs Forward Booker is an excellent all around player who is the key to Clemson's success. He has an offensive rating of 112.3, an eFG% of 53% and pulls down rebounds. He's averaging 15.3 points per game and is pulling down 8.3 rebounds. He is going to wear you down in the paint and is the emotional leader of the Tigers. Many considered him the pre-season favorite for the ACC Defensive player of the year.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest -- Sophomore, 6'9 215lbs Forward AFA didn't enter the NBA draft and is having a wonderful sophomore campaign for the Demon Deacons. He's averaging a double-double, scoring 15.9 points and pulling down 10.8 rebounds. In fact, he is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country with an OReb% of 14.6%. He's an outstanding defender and is the cornerstone of Wake's game plan.
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech -- Junior, 6'9 234lbs Forward Lawal controls the pain on both ends of the court. He has a wonderful turn around jumper and is highly skilled at pulling down rebounds. Like most of the big men in the conference, he can get up and down the court and looks to score in transition. Georgia Tech likes to get him isolated on the post in transition off an opponent's miss. If he and Derrick Favors can dominate like they can, Georgia Tech could win a game or too and earn themselves a spot in the big dance.
Reggie Jackson, Boston College -- Sophomore, 6'3 200lbs Guard 12 points. 5.6 rebounds. 4.5 Assists. Not a bad stat line to have night in and night out in the ACC. Jackson runs the show in Chestnut Hill and is have a great sophomore season. Though, it seems that both his stats and minutes have been decreasing of late. Look for Joe Trapani, who could have easily been in this spot, to try and shoot the Eagles' way into the second round.
Deon Thompson, North Carolina -- Senior, 6'9 245lbs Forward Since Ed Davis' injury, Deon Thompson has taken over the paint for the Tarheels. He has been working the glass and trying to will this team to any victory possible. He's averaging 13.7 points per game and pulling down 6.2 rebounds per game. He is going to make your work inside and try to wear you down, forcing mistakes on the defensive end and allowing him to get to the line.
Tracy Smith, North Carolina State -- Junior, 6'8 247lbs Tracy Smith is a complete basketball player. 17 points per game. 7.7 rebounds. He has accounted for 24% of the Wolfpack's total offense and is without a doubt their leading rebounder. While there hasn't been a lot to cheer for at NC State this year, he is certainly a player to watch in the match up with Clemson.
Sylven Landesberg, Virginia -- Sophomore, 6'6 207lbs Guard Landesberg was last year's ACC Rookie of the Year. He is an outstanding guard who really is fun to watch. He is a gifted athlete and a prolific scorer. Though, it seems that the lack of depth
Dwayne Collins, Miami -- Senior, 6'8 238lbs Forward Collins sat out the season finale against Florida State, but is likely to return against Wake Forest. The Hurricanes need Collins. He was averaging 12 points per game and 7.8 rebounds. His eFG% is an out of this world 61.4%, meaning he earns his keep cleaning everything up around the basket. He is one the best offensive rebounders in the country, ranking 20th in the nation in OReb%.
Twelve Names You Likely Don't Know (But You Should)
These players may be familiar to you, hopefully many of them won't. These are some of the lesser known players who could have a significant impact on their teams' success in post-season play. Some are the number two player on the team, some are the second player off the bench, but you might be hearing their name a lot in the next few days.
Brian Zoubek, Duke -- Senior, 7'1 260lbs In tournament play, teams have to play possession basketball and not waste any opportunities. Zoubek is the best offensive rebounder in the country with an OReb% of 22.2%. His game play has picked up significantly in the past few games and will help the Blue Devils immensely. He only plays about 17 minutes a game, but he pulls down 7.3 rebounds per game.
Jordan Williams, Maryland -- 6'9 245lbs Freshman Williams has become a key inside presence for the Terrapins. Maryland is a relatively tall team, but have a great group of hybrid players. Williams has brought size and toughness to the paint. He has an O/DReb% of 12.9 and 22.5% respectively, playing him in the top 100 in the country for both stats. Plus, he doesn't turn the ball over and generates a lot of blocks. In a conference that has a lot of good front court players, Williams will be key to the Terps success.
Michael Snaer, Florida State -- 6'5 200lbs Freshman Florida State's highly regarded recruit is finally developing into the type of player that Florida State fans expected. He is one of the best off the ball defenders that Florida State has and has shown significant improvement as the season has gone on. He is a big guard that is happy to attack the rim. Many are saying he could develop into a Toney Douglas like player, but only bigger.
Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech -- Junior, 6'7 230lbs Forward Allen is Virginia Tech's workhorse in the middle. He's averaging 12.1 points per game while pulling down 7.3 boards per game and is particularly efficient on the defensive glass. Like Delaney, he'll get you in foul trouble early and is more than happy to steal the ball. He has a steal% of 4.0, which is excellent for a big man.
Devin Booker, Clemson -- Freshman, 6'8 235lbs Forward This is not a typo. Devin is Trevor's taller, younger brother, who quietly made major strides at the end of the year. He has an offensive rating of 101.2 and has an OReb/DReb% of 10.2 and 18.1. He only averages 11.5 minutes per game. But if big brother Trevor is in foul trouble, Devin needs to have a big game for the Tigers to move on in the tournament.
Ishmael (Ish) Smith, Wake Forest --Senior, 6'0 175lbs Guard Ish doubled his production from last year. He's averaging 13.3 points per game with six assists. He is one of the best distributors in the country and is having a great senior season for Wake. He has been consistent night in and night out for Wake and will need to continue his double digit point performances for to prevent Wake from being one and done.
Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech -- Freshman, 6'2 187lbs Guard You already know about Derrick Favors, so why not learn about the Yellow Jackets' speedy freshman guard. Udofia surprised a lot of 'experts' with his early season success. Udofia started 25 games this year, but his minutes have significantly decreased of late, likely due to Iman Shumpert re-emergence. Shumpert is another name with which you should be familiar.
Corey Raji, Boston College -- Junior, 6'6 218lbs Forward Imagine BJ Raji but smaller. Yes, this is the BC's football star's younger brother. Corey is extremely efficient on the offensive end with an ORating of 117.1. His eFG% is an outstanding 53.8% and he's getting a lot of work done on the offensive glass, which is likely contributing to his high eFG%. He's the Eagles third leading scorer.
Larry Drew, North Carolina -- Sophomore, 6'2 180lbs Guard One of the biggest criticisms of the Tarheels this year has been their lack of leadership and depth at the guard position. Larry Drew must have a good game and stay out of foul trouble for the Tarheels to have any success. Dexter Strickland isn't ready quite yet and Marcus Ginyard is not a true point guard. Drew can be effective and is a very quick guard. Without him, the Tarheels struggle.
Javier Gonzalez, North Carolina State -- Junior, 5'11 175lbs Guard Gonzalez is an undersized guard that isn't afraid to mix it up with the big guys in the paint. He's scoring 10 points per game and averages 3.8 assists. He's most effective when he can penetrate the paint and dish the ball to Scott Wood, who is the Wolfpacks' best three point shooter.
Mike Scott, Virginia -- Junior, 6'8 239lbs Forward Scott is the second leader scorer for the Cavaliers. He is also their leading rebounder. Outside of Landesberg and Scott, the scoring is few and far between for Virginia. Scott gets all of his work done inside the paint.
James Dews, Miami -- Senior, 6'4 209lbs Guard Dews has attempted as many three point shots as he has two point shots. He is averaging 11.7 points per game and is shooting 39% from deep. Look for Dews or Adrian Thomas to try and shoot the long ball against Wake. unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the Demon Deacons are one of the best teams in the country at defending the three.
Duke has the opportunity to add another ACC Championship to its storied history. However, Maryland has showed that they are the real deal. A final match up between the two schools could be a great close to conference tournament season on Sunday. Any team in the 3 to 7 range could end up in the finals. It will all depend on if any of these teams can score on a reliable basis. The ACC boasts some of the best defenses in the nation, so the could certainly be any number of upsets. It may not make for the most exciting basketball but it will keep interesting.
The Bracket (Adapted from theacc.com)
|Game Matchup||Time (EST)
|Opening Round: Thursday, March 11|
|#8 BC vs. #9 UVA||Noon||RAYCOM|
|#5 Wake Forest vs. #12 Miami||2 p.m.||RAYCOM|
|#7 GTech vs. #10 UNC||7 p.m.||ESPN2|
|#6 Clemson vs. #11 NC State
|Quarterfinals: Friday, March 12|
|#1 Duke vs. BC/UVA Winner||Noon||ESPN2|
|#4 VTech vs. Wake/Miami Winner||2 p.m.||ESPN2|
|#2 MD vs. GTech/UNC Winner||7 p.m.||ESPN2|
|#3 FSU vs. Clemson/NC State Winner||9 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Semifinals: Saturday, March 13|
|Semifinal 1||1:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Semifinal 2||3:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Championship Game: Sunday, March 14|
|Championship Game||1 p.m.||ESPN|
TrueCubbie blogs about the Florida State Seminoles at Tomahawk Nation