Cleat Geeks

Tourney Talk: ACC


Once again, the Atlantic Coast Conference has put itself in position to bring home another National Championship and prove why it’s the best in the nation. Even with the absence of Louisville from postseason play, the ACC still has five or six real contenders, as proven its own conference tournament. Let’s take a look.

Teams to watch:

North Carolina (27-6; 14-4)

Photo by; Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by; Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

My all-time favorite basketball program, the Tar Heels put themselves in prime position for their first Final Four run since 2009, when they defeated Sparty in the National Championship, thriving with Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough. In fact, this year’s team sparks striking similarities to the Roy Williams’ ‘09 crew, with an all-around point guard in Marcus Paige and huge paint presences that can score in Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson. And Johnson is arguably the best player in the game this season, as he’s averaging a double-double every game (16.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG), something Hansbrough couldn’t do. Plus, Marcus Paige overcame a mid-season shooting slump and proved he’s playing his best basketball with a huge game against Notre Dame last night. Also note that the Heels didn’t lose a game this season by more than six points (four if you discard disciplined Louisville), and only dropped one at home in a thriller versus Duke. Watch for the Heels next week as they’ll look like an unstoppable force through the first two weekends.

Virginia (26-6, 13-5)

uvabasketballThe Cavaliers are another team of a very select bunch that looks primed for next week’s tournament because they’re playing their best ball of the season at the best time.  The Cavaliers’ last loss was three weeks against an electric Miami team, yet UVA proved last night that they’re not the same team from just 18 days ago, defeating the Canes in an impressive performance.  Malcolm Brogdon leads the pack with 18.8 PPG; 7-footer Mike Tobey poses severe matchup problems in the post while shooting 58% from the floor; Anthony Gill puts up 13 a game while leading the team in rebounds; and junior London Perrantes is a major perimeter threat, shooting nearly 50% from downtown.  The Cavs excel defensively while creating problems both outside the arc and in the paint.  Those sound like the makings of a title-bound team.  Don’t expect UVA to lose early this year.

Miami (25-7, 13-5)

MiamiMascotAlthough the Canes might not be grabbing a 2 or 3 seed after last night’s loss against Virginia, they pose a serious threat come next week.  They’re offense has been clicking lately, with four players averaging double figures.  Their one problem: all four of those players are guards.  Miami can easily spread teams and run them out of the building, but with multiple losses to unranked teams in the last month, they are too inconsistent to rely on.  Led by Sheldon McClellan, the Canes should have the offense necessary to advance in March Madness, but Virginia also proved that they can be shut down late in the game. Don’t expect too much from Miami, but if their offense stays consistent they should see the Elite Eight.

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Dark Horse:

Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7)

The Fighting Irish are a very intriguing pick to upset a team or two next week.  With a quarterfinal win against Duke, they became the only team to ever beat UNC/Duke five straight times.  However, that streak came to end when they were dismantled by the Heels last night.  Yet, they made Duke look sick down the stretch, tiring the Blue Devils out and holding them scoreless for almost seven minutes late in the game.  If UND can play how they did on Thursday or one month ago against Carolina, they will scare the high seeds.

Other Notes:

Duke just doesn’t have that same spark that led them to the crown last year and, unless they turn around their performance, don’t have any hope in defending their title. They looked awful in the most important moments of the game against Notre Dame  Every mid-major champion should be drooling to get a shot at the Blue Devils.  Don’t be surprised to see them knocked out very early.

Championship Preview (Tonight 8PM):

North Carolina is playing its best basketball at the perfect time, proving themselves with an absolute dissection of the the Fighting Irish. They’re one of the most talented squads in the sport and produce equally impressive offensive numbers. Yet, the Cavaliers looked just as good last night against a thriving Miami team, and although they don’t match up as well offensively, UVA is one of the best defensive minded teams in the country. Watch as the #1 ranked scoring defense among Power 5 teams (UVA – 59.6 OPP PPG) takes on the #2 ranked scoring offense in the Power 5 (UNC – 82.9 PPG). Needless to say, this should be good.

Prediction: UNC’s offense is slowed but still too powerful for the Cavaliers.

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