The ACC Tournament has a certain luster that is unmatched by any other conference tournament. It’s hard to put your finger on why it is so special, but if you’ve been lucky enough to attend an ACC Tournament, you know the feeling. ACC fans can expect another exciting weekend as the tourney goes back to its roots in Greensboro, N.C., this year. Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s tournament.
Best Player: Nolan Smith, Duke
Smith is the obvious choice for ACC Player of the Year after a stellar senior season in which he led the conference in scoring and was second in assists. He is nearly impossible to guard and has single-handedly won games for the Blue Devils this year. Duke’s ancillary players are nothing to scoff at, but Smith makes this team go.
Best Coach: Mike Kryzewski, Duke
The Blue Devils have won nine of the last 12 ACC Tournament championships under Coach K’s leadership. Say what you will about the super-villain of the conference, but he knows how to win games in the tournament.
Player with something to prove: Demontez Stitt, Clemson
Stitt has been to the NCAA Tournament every year of his career, but Clemson’s senior guard has never been the team’s focal point. Now he is, and he wants to show the nation that he can be the leader that gets the Tigers to the Big Dance.
Coach with something to prove: Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech
Selection Sunday isn’t in perfect form unless Greenberg can be found lamenting his team’s omission from the NCAA Tournament field. After an upset of Duke two weeks ago, it seemed Virginia Tech had finally escaped the bubble. Losses to Boston College and Clemson, however, dropped the Hokies back to familiar territory. Greenberg’s squad needs a good performance in Greensboro to avoid more heartbreak this season.
Best first round matchup: No. 8 Virginia vs. No. 9 Miami
The Cavaliers are one of the hottest teams in the ACC and quietly won four of their last five games. The Hurricanes love to shoot the three, and they are dangerous if they make shots. Both of these teams played No. 1 seed North Carolina close earlier this season, and the winner of this game will get another shot at the Tar Heels.
First round upset: No. 10 N.C. State over No. 7 Maryland
The Terrapins are uninspired after tossing away their NCAA Tournament hopes with three straight losses to end the season. The Wolfpack, on the other hand, is full of youth and wants to assert itself as a future force in the ACC. N.C. State freshman C.J. Leslie has had a good year, but he can disappear in games from time to time. Look for him to show up in this one.
Best possible second round matchup: No. 4 Clemson vs. No. 5 Boston College
This is the ultimate bubble game, in which the winner likely locks up an NCAA Tournament bid and the loser is left sweating it out on Selection Sunday. Clemson won the lone regular season matchup 77-69, but Boston College is playing good basketball right now. The Eagles can’t match the Tigers in the post, but Reggie Jackson can cause problems for Clemson defenders on the perimeter. The winner of this game would likely get a shot at North Carolina for a much-needed resume win.
Best storyline: The Bubble
Clemson, Boston College and Virginia Tech have made themselves at home on the bubble, but they will all have the opportunity to earn their way to the Big Dance this weekend. The Eagles and Hokies need to win their opening round games and probably at least another game to feel any measure of confidence. A win in its second round game (likely against Boston College) would probably be enough for Clemson to feel comfortable.
Darkhorse: Georgia Tech
It seems like every year a lower-seeded team makes an inexplicable run in the ACC Tournament. Georgia Tech has won its last two games and has nothing to lose in Greensboro. Its first round opponent, Virginia Tech, has everything to lose and might be playing with nerves rather than confidence. The Yellow Jackets have enough talent to spur an upset here, and they would then face a Florida State team without its best player in the second round.
The winner: North Carolina
The Tar Heels are the most complete team in the conference, and they haven’t lost since Feb. 9. They have the best frontcourt in the conference with Tyler Zeller and John Henson, and freshmen Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall are finally putting it all together. North Carolina would likely face Duke in the championship game, and the Tar Heels simply have too much in the post for the Blue Devils to handle.<!--EndFragment-->