by Robert Ferringo - 03/06/2006
Hey did you hear about some team named Duke? I guess they're pretty good. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't know about them though. They're never on TV and no one ever really talks about them.
The ACC Tournament will begin on Thursday, March 9 and runs until Sunday, March 12. The games will be held at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. As per usual, the Blue Devils will be the favorites to cut down the nets and earn a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
Now I know what you're thinking - what about the back-to-back losses? Yes, I'll admit that the Blue Devils have shown some weakness over the last two weeks. Their aura was blasted after two unathletic and uninspired performances against Florida State and North Carolina, and now they have media members leaping off the bandwagon like rats off the Titanic.
Regardless, Duke is still the class of this conference and should be a steep favorite in Greensboro. They have a week to step back and regroup, and they should be fresh and determined by the time of the Friday quarterfinal. Coach K gets to dust off the Disrespect Card - which hasn't been seen around the Duke Campus since about 1984 - and convince his team that somehow they are underdogs despite their No. 1 seeding.
But wait, he actually can use that for a motivational advantage as well. No top seed has won the ACC Tournament since 2000.
To say that Duke has owned the ACC Tournament lately is being generous to the rest of the league. The Blue Devils have made it to the finals in each of the last eight years. With the exception of 2004, they have won the tourney every year since 1999. Basically, they own it.
Now, I hate the Blue Devils with a passion (more on that later), but despite their recent stumbles, I would still say that the Blue Devils are 2/1 to win the ACC championship and lock up a top seed in the NCAA's. But just for the fun of it, here's a rundown on the teams fighting for the right to lose to them in the 2006 ACC Tournament finals:
North Carolina State (21-8, 10-6) - They run a modified Princeton offense, and with five players in double figures they can score from all angles. They are an excellent free throw shooting team, which makes them tough to come back against.
The trouble with N.C. State has been its defense. They try hard, but they're just not very quick or athletic on that end. Also, the Wolfpack were just 2-4 in their last six games, including a three-game losing streak. They are definitely susceptible to The Upset because they have had trouble beating teams (Ga. Tech, Clemson, Wake) that they're allegedly much better than.
A victory over either Florida State or Wake Forest in the quarters should set up a meeting with Duke. That game is the Wolfpack's last best chance to prove that they're capable of a Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight run.
Boston College (24-6, 11-5) - Very quietly, the Eagles have had an outstanding year. They are 13-2 over the last two months, with their only losses coming against Duke and on the road versus Virginia. The Eagles have won five of their last six conference road games, by an average of four points, which proves they know how to grind out victories away from the Northeast. Craig Smith (17-9-3) and the versatile Jared Dudley (16-7-3) provide the power for the Eagles.
B.C. will play either Maryland or Georgia Tech in the quarters. It will probably be Maryland, and the Terps actually beat the Eagles 73-71 in their only meeting. But that game was in College Park and Maryland still had Chris McCray on the roster.
North Carolina (21-6, 12-4) - I would have bet that the Tar Heels wouldn't even make the NCAA Tournament this season. Needless to say, they've been more surprising than finding out that Howie Mandel is not only still alive, but he's hosting his own show.
The key has been Tyler Hansbrough. Likely the National Freshman Of The Year, Hansbrough has averaged 19 points and 7.5 rebounds this season. What I like about UNC is that they play with a lot of heart, they have a deadeye three-point specialist (Wes Miller) and they don't have any bad losses. They are 10-1 since Jan. 28, with wins over Arizona and Duke.
The Tar Heels have to avoid a letdown after their momentous upset of the Blue Devils on Saturday. Virginia Tech or Virginia awaits UNC in the quarters, and then a possible rematch with Boston College in the semis. The Eagles beat the Tar Heels in the Dean Dome in their one meeting, and are a tough match-up for UNC because of their interior presence and length on the perimeter.
Florida State (19-8, 9-7) - In some ways, getting screwed at Cameron Indoor against Duke a few weeks ago was the best thing that could have happened to the Seminoles. It put them on the national map and entered them in the bubble discussion, and also forced ACC officials to reconsider the kid gloves that they use on Duke. The Seminoles solidified their claim that they are NCAA-worthy with that striking home victory against the Blue Devils, and then backed it up with a road victory at Miami.
The Seminoles have drawn a favorable road in the ACC Tournament. They will begin with a first-rounder against the worst team in the league, Wake Forest. A win there and FSU will take a shot at a reeling NC State crew. If FSU wins both of those games that would set up a rubber match with Duke. In a lot of ways, the Seminoles control their own destiny.
Miami (15-14, 7-9) - I've taken some huge scores (straight up win at UNC) and some bad losses with the Hurricanes (at Virginia) this season. However, I haven't given up on them as a sleeper in the conference tournament. The reason: guard play. March is all about the backcourt and no team in the ACC can match the triumvirate of Guillermo Diaz (17.3 ppg), Robert Hite (16.3) and Anthony Harris (11). I think they're a dangerous team and could give Duke a good run in the quarters.
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The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's college basketball picks service.