2007 ACC Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/07/2007
It's not an excuse, and there will be other reasons why and how and when, but Tyler Hansbrough breaking his nose has killed any hope of North Carolina winning the national title. That's right: a bush league play from a program that has been given more free passes for cowardice and crooked behavior than Ted Kennedy or Bill O'Reilly has ended the Tar Heels' championship aspirations.
The death of a dream; what's more tragic?
Sounds crazy right? I know Hansbrough is still going to play. He'll be suiting up at this weekend's ACC Tournament at the St. Pete's Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. He's been fitted for a protective mask.
But there's something deeper and more sinister at work. When North Carolina saw its leader sprawled out on the floor, covered with a combustible mix of his own blood and sweat, with tears and fear bearing down on him like some starved and fanatical falcon, the Tar Heels were forced to stare down into that cold, cruel abyss of their own mortality. That's a harrowing moment in anyone's life, and few ever fully recover.
But that is the then. The ACC Tournament is the now. Here's my take on how it all shakes out down in Tampa:
North Carolina - In perhaps the toughest conference in the country the Tar Heels posted an eye-popping +18.6 scoring differential. They dominate the boards (+8.4 rebounding edge) and shoot a stellar 50 percent from the field. Depth isn't an issue, as this club routinely goes 10 deep. They should win two or three games, but the problem is covering the monster lines they've been facing. The Tar Heels are just 1-5 ATS recently.
Virginia - The Cavs earned a share of the regular season title based in part because of a beneficial schedule and a dominant home court advantage. With Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds, Virginia has the best backcourt in the nation. But over the course of three days you would have to expect that those two would wear down. The pair has taken 46.1 percent of the team's shots, and if they get tired legs then I'm not sure who will pick up the slack.
Maryland - They're big, bad and focused. Along with Louisville I think the Terps are the hottest team in the country right now. Solid in all facets of the game, the Terps have the size, speed and skill to do a lot of damage in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments. Mike Jones is the X-Factor. When he's hitting from the outside they're tough to beat. Also, keep an eye on the freshman point guard Greivis Vasquez. We'll see if his inexperience costs this team at some point.
Virginia Tech - Inconsistency has plagued this club the entire season. They're 7-6 SU and 6-7 ATS since mid-January, putting together back-to-back wins three times and back-to-back losses twice. They swept North Carolina, so they clearly have the talent to get hot and win this tournament. They were just 2-3 SU on neutral courts, with losses to George Washington, Southern Illinois and Western Michigan. I think they would have a big advantage in the semifinals if their opponent were Virginia.
Georgia Tech - Tech has won seven of nine, with their only losses at Duke and at Virginia. They're playing outstanding ball right now and have seen their odds of entering the Big Dance grow exponentially. They need a convincing win over Wake Forest and then they would have a date with up-and-down Virginia Tech. The problem is that the Jackets have only won one road game over the past two years.
Boston College - For the first half of the conference schedule the Eagles were the top team in the ACC. But then they lost center Sean Williams and hit the wall in mid-February while losing four of their last five games. B.C. isn't going to the Final Four, but they are a prideful and experienced bunch that could make an inspired run to an ACC crown. With all the attention that Jared Dudley will get, I say look out for Tyrese Rice.
Clemson (-1.5) vs. Florida State - This is essentially an elimination game because whoever loses will have no chance at making the NCAA Tournament. The winner will still most likely have to upset UNC in the next round to punch a ticket. Clemson is underrated, despite their late swoon, and their success depends on how their guards shoot. FSU will welcome back Tony Douglas. They were 2-5 without their point guard, and though he may be rusty I think just his presence will give this team confidence.
Maryland (-12.5) vs. Miami - Gulp. Miami is just decimated from injuries and suspensions. The Terps are a wrecking crew right now. Don't disregard the potential look-ahead situation for Maryland, but I will be shocked if the Terps don't win this one with ease.
Duke (-9.5) vs. N.C. State - It will be interesting to see how the Blue Devils respond to the negative press that's lingered from the program this week. They'll be without starter Gerald Henderson and the Blue Devils already have a short bench. Duke is just 1-6 ATS in their ACC Tournament opener over the past seven years.
Georgia Tech (-10) over Wake Forest - This is more of a "can't lose" than a "must win" game for the Yellowjackets. They're playing great ball and have covered in four of the past six against Wake. The Deacons are an awful team, but not so awful that they couldn't make this one interesting.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
If any wackiness occurs in this tournament, I suspect it will happen at the bottom of the bracket between Virginia, Duke, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. I think Maryland will "upset" Boston College in the second round and set up a classic match-up with North Carolina. I also think that it would behoove teams like Maryland and Virginia not to make the finals of this tournament and risk burnout for next week's Big Dance. It's easy to say that North Carolina will win this tournament, but I actually think that whoever emerges from the lower portion of the bracket will end up cutting down the nets. Unless it's Duke. If UNC gets another shot at Duke it will be a bloodbath.
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