The Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament starts today in Greensboro, North Carolina. Duke and Miami are the favorites and can strengthen their case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a tournament championship. North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia are projected in the field of 68. Virginia is on the bubble and needs one or two wins to get in.
Duke- Duke is arguably playing the best basketball in the country with the return of Ryan Kelly (14.6 ppg, 53% 3pt). The Blue Devils have not lost a game this season with the senior in the lineup. He gives Duke another 3 point threat and stretches the floor, opening up driving lanes and post feeds. Mason Plumlee (17.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg) has played at a high level all year, provides a post-up threat and a presence on the offensive/defensive glass. Seth Curry (17.1 ppg) provides a big time shot maker, and is comfortable making plays in close games and at the end of the shot clock situations. Duke faces the winner of Maryland/Wake Forrest on Friday. Maryland beat Duke earlier this year in College Park.
Miami- The Hurricanes won the regular season, but come into tournament play losing three of their last five. Miami still has an outside shot of a number one seed with a tournament championship. First team All-ACC guard Shane Larkin (13.7ppg, 4.4 apg) has played superb all season and creates matchup problems with his quickness and ability to make shots. Kenny Kadji (13.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg) can stretch the defense with his three point range, and post up smaller defenders with his size on the block. Miami holds offenses below 40% FG shooting, led by defensive POY Durant Scott (12.9 ppg, 1.6 spg). Miami faces the winner of Georgia Tech/Boston College on Friday. The Yellow Jackets beat the Hurricanes on their home floor March 2nd.
Best of the Rest
North Carolina – The Tar Heels have found success changing their lineup and going small with James McAdoo (14.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg) at the five spot. Carolina has won six out of their last seven. Reggie Bullock (14.2 ppg) and PJ Hairston (13.6 ppg) three point shooting will be needed if North Carolina plans to make it to Sunday. Freshman guard Marcus Paige (4.6 apg) has shown improvement towards the end of the season. North Carolina plays the winner of Clemson vs. Florida State on Friday.
North Carolina State- The Wolfpack has not lived up to the hype going into the season. Many experts had State winning the ACC and making a run to the Final Four. The talent and athleticism is there to match up with anyone in the country on a given night. The Wolfpack needs PG Lorenzo Brown (12.5 ppg, 7.0 apg) and F C.J. Leslie (14.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg) to play at a high level to make a run. Richard Howell (12.6 ppg,10.7 rpg) earned 1st team All ACC honors, and led the ACC in rebounding. State opens up against Virginia Tech on Thursday.
On the Bubble
Virginia- The Cavaliers sit on the NCAA bubble, and need 1 or 2 more wins to ensure an at large bid. Virginia hangs it hat on its pack line defense, leading the ACC in scoring defense (54.5 ppg) and holding opponents to 38.8% shooting. Guard Joe Harris (17 ppg) made first team All-ACC and leads the offensive attack. Virginia faces the winner of North Carolina State/Virginia Tech on Friday.
Maryland- The Terps have a talented club that could be a tough out. Maryland has wins over Duke and North Carolina State in league play. 7 footer Alex Len (11.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) is a talented big man who can score on the block. Len can disappear for stretches, and has averaged nine points in his last five games. Xavier transfer Dez Wells (12.2 ppg) leads the Terrapins in scoring and is a solid defender. Maryland leads the ACC in rebounding margin and defensive fg percentage. Maryland plays Wake Forest on Thursday. The Terps are 2-0 vs. the Demon Deacons this year.
Players to Watch
Erick Green Virginia Tech G – Player of the Year in the ACC and leads the nation in scoring (25.4 ppg).
Michael Snaer Florida State G – The senior guard has hit multiple game winning shots in his career. The Noles’ come into Thursday’s game vs. Clemson winning three of their last four.
Ryan Klaas is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball and covers the ACC.