Sports

ACC Tournament Predictions (A Warm-Up for the Big Dance)

The 2013 ACC Tournament Schedule. Courtesy of The News & Observer
The 2013 ACC Tournament bracket. (Courtesy of The News & Observer)

By Sam Killenberg

In a perplexing ACC season, accurately predicting the winners of the conference tournament is next to impossible–but I’m going to try it anyway.

Either Duke or Carolina has won at least a share of the ACC’s regular season each of the last nine years, but on Saturday Miami clinched the outright title with a win against Clemson. The ‘Canes will have to face a field of teams that feature tourney locks Duke and UNC looking to tune up before the Big Dance, as well as a trio of bubble teams looking to make a statement that they belong in the field.

But top teams can’t sleep on low seeded squads this year. Boston College, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Clemson each own at least one victory over one of the league’s top four teams. Upsets could derail or alter postseason hopes in Greensboro for an unwary team.

This tournament will also feature the last 12-team field for the ACC. Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh will join the ACC next season. Maryland will depart in 2014, to be replaced by Louisville. Money-driven conference realignment has frustrated Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who spoke out against it on his radio show.

“This is an assault on tradition,” said Krzyzewski. “Our thing is based on all the right values: loyalty, honesty, tradition. Doing things the way we’re doing it now, based on money… takes away from the academic missions and the innocence that an academic institution has.”

With all this in mind, here are my picks for the 2013 ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina.

NC State senior Richard Howell is an All-ACC 1st Team selection (Courtesy of IndyWeek.com
NC State senior Richard Howell is an All-ACC 1st Team selection (Courtesy of IndyWeek.com)

Thursday, March 14 (First Round)

8 Boston College vs. 9 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Sam’s Pick: Georgia Tech
The Jackets were able to gut out a tough win against Miami in Coral Gables. Then they dropped the last game of the season to Boston College. Look for Tech to have revenge on their minds when they take on the Eagles.

5 NC State vs. 12 Virginia Tech, 2 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Sam’s Pick: NC State
The Wolfpack’s season has been puzzling, inconsistent, and, at times, disappointing. Despite the efforts of the nation’s leading scorer and ACC Player of the Year Erick Green, NC State should take care of business against the Hokies.

7 Maryland vs. 10 Wake Forest, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Sam’s Pick: Wake Forest
Maryland wants to get into the Tournament. A resume-building second win against Duke, their potential second round opponent, would all but punch their ticket to the Dance. But the Terps have a habit of overlooking teams, and Wake has enough weapons to pull the upset.

6 Florida State vs. 11 Clemson, 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Sam’s Pick: Florida State
The Seminoles quite simply have too many weapons for Clemson to handle. Michael Snaer will find a way to extend his senior campaign.

UNC's PJ Hairston hopes to shoot the Tar Heels to a strong postseason finish. (Courtesy of The News and Observer)
UNC’s PJ Hairston hopes to shoot the Tar Heels to a strong postseason finish. (Courtesy of The News and Observer)

Friday, March 15 (Second Round)
1 Miami vs. 9 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Sam’s Pick: Miami
Georgia Tech’s buzzer-beating win in Coral Gables was quite possibly the upset of the season. Don’t expect a repeat performance in Greensboro. ‘Canes advance.

4 Virginia vs. 5 NC State, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Sam’s Pick: NC State
Virginia has suffered a three-game hangover after beating Duke and now finds itself back on the wrong side of the bubble. The Cavs struggle scoring at times: the Pack is 13th best scoring team in the nation. With a home crowd behind it, NC State will advance to take on Miami.

2 Duke vs. 10 Wake Forest, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Sam’s Pick: Duke
With Ryan Kelly, the Blue Devils have been a spectacular 18-0. Duke is 2-0 against Wake Forest on the season, and the Deacons haven’t even faced the Kelly-led Devils yet. Duke romps into the semis.

3 North Carolina vs. 6 Florida State, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Sam’s Pick: North Carolina
UNC’s smaller lineup didn’t work against Duke, but it will be effective against the Seminoles. Without a “stretch four” forward like Ryan Kelly, Florida State will have more trouble with the scoring tandem of Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston on the perimeter.

First Team All-ACC center Mason Plumlee leads a hot Duke team (Courtesy of Zimbio.com)
First Team All-ACC center Mason Plumlee leads a hot Duke team (Courtesy of Zimbio.com)

Saturday, March 16 (Semifinals)
1 Miami vs. 5 NC State, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Sam’s Pick: NC State
Despite NC State’s inconsistency, the Pack is a team that knows how to win in March. The postseason experience gained in last season’s Sweet 16 run, plus the advantage of local fans, will give Mark Gottfried’s team the edge over a Miami team in a late season slump.

2 Duke vs. 3 North Carolina, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Sam’s Pick: Duke
It’s hard to pick Duke to go 3-0 against the Heels in a single season. If the Heels didn’t have revenge on their minds in last Saturday’s flop in the Dean Dome, they are sure to be gunning for the hated Dukies in the ACC semifinals. But the Devils are simply the superior team this season. Duke’s senior leaders, who have won two tournament titles already, will take advantage of their experience and beat Carolina in the most exciting game of the tournament.

Sunday, March 17 (Finals)
5 NC State vs. 2. Duke, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Sam’s Pick: Duke, 79-70
The Devils are one of the hottest teams in the nation right now. While rematch with Miami would have made for great viewing, NC State is a tough, seasoned tournament team that was able to pull the upset over Duke in Raleigh this January. The teams’ third meeting will make for a competitive final in Greensboro, but Duke’s tournament experience will prove too much for the Pack. The Blue Devils will win their record 20th ACC tournament crown and celebrate in Greensboro en route to a well deserved #1 overall seed.

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