Welcome to the ACC, for your safety this month you may want to avoid the state of North Carolina, let me explain.
This year college basketball has been massively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the middle of the flames is Duke and North Carolina basketball, two teams that are blue-blood programs in the sport. Both teams are usually locked with the top 4 of the ACC, and March Madness tournament locks. Instead UNC is a 9 seed in Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracket, NC State has seen their last game against Virginia Tech postponed, and Duke is the lowest ranked team in the ACC tournament out of the three schools. Anarchy? Nope. Just College Basketball (Thanks Jon Rothstein).
So now that we have established some safe ground, let’s try to preview the ACC tournament.
Here is a tweet from Jon Rothstetin with the bracket for the ACC.
The 2021 ACC Tournament Bracket. pic.twitter.com/RtVNFO9mee
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 7, 2021
This format is solid, and it lends itself to see a sleeper team or two wreak havoc on other teams, which is super important for March. It’s better than the WCC, which I wrote about a couple of days ago.
Team to watch: Florida State Seminoles
The Florida State Seminoles are probably the most normal thing in college basketball this year, let me explain.
The Seminoles, led by head coach Leonard Hamilton, have been their usual good, but quiet team. The Noles have true talent; guys like M.J Walker, RaiQuan Gray, and Scottie Barnes are all scoring more than ten points and even have some NBA potential in there. Yet the DNA of the Seminoles, depth, is what makes the Noles consistently one of the best teams in ACC.
The Noles have nine players that average 14 or more minutes per game, which makes them a hard team to truly prepare for. This style makes them a team to watch for a couple of reasons. First, they are just good and have talent, but none of it really feels forced. This depth also makes the conversation about Florida State players in the draft process super interesting, as none of the Florida State players are trying to or have been given the responsibility to take over games, but it also limits film. Patrick Williams is a perfect example of this, the 6th man on the team last year that was taken 4th overall by the Chicago Bulls. He shined in the role that he was given, and the limited amount of information helped to show away some of his weaknesses.
Yet, the lack of a superstar has seen the Noles be very human. An example of this is their most recent game, which was a 10 point loss to a less than stellar Notre Dame team. While M.J Walker’s poor shooting performance didn’t help, Neither Raiquan Gray or Scottie Barnes could pick up Walker and win a game like this, which makes them all the more interesting. The Noles have the group talent and gameplan to win this tournament, but this is a very human team that lacks a true superstar. If they play well in the ACC tournament, this can be a jumpstart to a deep tournament run, but a lack-luster ACC tournament could be a reason to sound the alarm on the Seminoles.
Sleeper Team: Syracuse Orange
I feel like I’m outdoing myself here, but I am going to give you a sleeper team that is also needing a good ACC tournament run to make the big dance. The Orange are a team that is made for March, and have one of the better coaches son’s we have seen in awhile.
The Orange are led by Jim Boeheim, who is a legendary figure in the world of college basketball. The leading scorer for his team is his son, Buddy Boeheim, who is averaging around 15 points per game. While this situation feels like it reeks of nepotism, Buddy can play, and has been key in some of their big wins, like when he dropped 26 on the UNC Tar Heels to sneak out a huge win.
After a win against Clemson, a reporter asked a question that Jim Boeheim didn’t like much, and at the end of the comment he poked at the reporter’s height and experience. While the comment he made was absolutely unprofessional and I do not condone in any way, it made sense that Boeheim’s first attack was at that reporter’s height, because that is something his teams are known for. The Orange run a classic 2-3 zone on defense, which is one of the oldest and most common schemes in the game. While the 2-3 zone is very common in elementary, church leagues, or other lower levels of the game, the Orange and Jim Boeheim have mastered it by having very athletic and longer guards.
This is what makes and breaks Syrcause’s chances, because they have the talent and firepower to win games, but if a team breaks down the 2-3 zone, they can defeat the Cuse. With the Orange also being one of the last four teams out in Joe Lunardi’s bracket, a good run in the ACC tournament can be the reason we see the Cuse dancing, or the height of the moment could be too much for the Orange and an early loss deflates their chances.
Tournament Winner: Virginia Cavaliers
The reigning March Madness champs have the number one seed in the tournament, and while it may seem like a cop-out, I like them to bring home some silverware. The Cavs are a tough team to gauge in March, but defense wins championships, and the Hoos have that in abundance.
The Cavs hold teams to 60.1 points per game on average, which is tied for 4th best in the nation, and is the best out of any power 5 team in the country. Because Virginia has the ability to get stops, they also more times than not get to control the tempo in games, and have the ability to throw teams off rhythm. The Cavs’ usually play man defense, which is harder to gameplan than if they were to play a zone *cough* Syracuse *cough*. Good defense is hard to game plan against, and when you know the teams you play in conference, it makes me feel a bit more confident with Virginia’s chances.
Yet like all of the ACC, the Cavs have some important flaws, the biggest being a less than stellar offense. While the Cavs have a top five defense, they have a below top 200 offense. The Cavs average 68.5 ppg, which ranks them 277th in the NCAA in that stat, and while I think they can get away with this offense during in-conference play, the Hoos will need guys like Jay Huff and Trey Murphy III to help Sam Hauser in both the ACC tournament and the big dance.
A simple request: Longer Coach press conferences
With everything that has been going on, everyone has tensed up in one way or another and college coaches are no different. The ACC has seen Boeheim, Coach K., and Roy Williams have some very sassy answers with reporters this year, so let’s take advantage of this. Coach K. earlier this year talked down a student reporter, in which he tried to relate talking about the next game after a loss to talking about the next test after failing an exam. Roy Williams said this after a loss to Marquette, “Well if I’d known we were going to lose, God almighty, I wouldn’t have scheduled the game. Come on. You can’t operate in damn hindsight. God almighty. If you told me we were going to lose? Yeah, we wouldn’t have played the game. If you told me we were going to beat the Lakers I would’ve scheduled them.” And we mentioned the comments Boeheim made earlier. While I hope some more great answers come out of this tournament, I hope that they do not target the reporter at that moment. All three of these coaches have had hard seasons, but some of the quotes that have come out have been pretty interesting to say the least.
Edited by Tyler Kading