By: Ethan Illers
The 2016 ACC Tournament is set to begin on March 8th in Washington D.C. as the ACC teams get ready to play for a guaranteed spot in the NCAA Tournament. The excitement is already building up, as the ACC is one of the premier conferences for college basketball. This year’s tournament will be very different however, as Louisville will not be participating due to a self-imposed postseason ban resulting in sex and recruiting scandals surfacing from the university.
Regardless, the games will be played and here’s my preview of the highly anticipated tournament.
The question that everyone is asking themselves is “Can North Carolina win it all?” If you ask me, the answer is yes. Will they? Probably not. This team is very unpredictable. Sure, they won 25 games this year and only lost six. But, some of the loses suffered by the Tar Heels were inexcusable. North Carolina could’ve very well beaten Texas in Austin, but lost by only two points with a final score of 84-82. Close game I understand. However, this game is something that could’ve been. It could’ve been a win but ended up being a loss because of poor decisions, costly mistakes and a lack of composure. Losing to Northern Iowa in late November by a final score of 71-67 is a prime example of how unpredictable and vulnerable this UNC team can be. This is, however, the same basketball team that was able to defeat the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium, a feat that is worthy of respect and raises a few eyebrows. Duke did beat UNC in Chapel Hill so it was nice to see the Heels flip the script on them. A lopsided victory over the Miami Hurricanes by a final score of 96-71 in Chapel Hill again shows just how dominant UNC can be, but the losses suffered early in the year leave me with second thoughts. The team is led by senior forward Brice Johnson, but he can only do so much since winning the championship will be a team effort.
I don’t know how to say this without being blunt-no team below the five seed has a shot to make it to the championship round and challenge North Carolina. Not Virginia Tech, not Clemson, not Pittsburgh, not Syracuse, not Georgia Tech, not Florida State, not NC State, not Wake Forest, and Boston College hasn’t won a conference game all year. What makes you think they’ll win a game in the tournament?
Let’s focus on the two through five seeds. At the two seed, we have the Virginia Cavaliers, a team with some horrible losses on the year to teams like Florida State by a final score of 69-62, Georgia Tech by a final score of 68-64, and George Washington by a final score of 73-68. Yet this is the same team that obliterated Villanova by a final score of 86-75, defeated Notre Dame by a final score of 77-66, clipped Miami 66-58, and defeated UNC twice by a final score of 73-53 and 79-74. I really like the talent on this team, led by redshirt-senior Malcolm Brogdon. He’s the workhorse of the squad and looks poised to have a great tournament.
Miami has some bad loses to Clemson, Northeastern, and NC State on the year. The Clemson and NC State defeats were very lopsided which causes concern. This team is very talented and has the potential to break out, led by redshirt-senior Sheldon McClellan.
Notre Dame is a very well rounded team, but they did lose to teams such as a surprising Monmouth squad. However, they did lost to Alabama, enough said. I like the depth of this Fighting Irish team, but they certainly have their work cut out for them.
Duke is a team that has so many question marks surrounding them. These question marks have came up ever since the beginning of 2016 with three loses in a row to Clemson, Notre Dame and Syracuse, forcing Duke out of the Top 25. Miami also defeated them in late January. However, the worst loss of the season came against Pitt by a final score of 76-62. With a good amount of wins (20) accompanied by abysmal losses, I don’t expect the Blue Devils to go all the way.
Okay, enough with the analyses. My prediction? UVA vs. UNC with UVA winning 76-69, giving the Cavaliers an automatic spot in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.