March Madness 2008: ACC

Zack Rosenblatt (’09)/ Eastside Staff

ghjhgghjgOn November 5, there were 341 different schools competing at the Division I level. In a just a few days, on March 16, that number will be reduced to 65. And the most exhilarating games college basketball has to offer will commence.

Conference tournaments are wrapping up, and Selection Sunday is, well, on Sunday. I’ve chosen some teams from each conference that I believe have a shot at being a part of the 65 team field announced on Sunday.

First Up- the ACC

ACC-

Duke:
– 26-4 (13-3 ACC)
– 4-2 vs. Top 25

• Key Player- Greg Paulus, PG- 11.0 ppg, 3.4 apg
Duke goes as Paulus does. The teams point guard and leader is the key to Duke’s success, and with a very young roster Paulus will be expected to maintain his leadership role and end Duke’s streak of early exits in the tournament.

• Best/Worst Case Scenario- Final Four/Sweet Sixteen

• Outlook- An extremely talented bunch. Last years team experienced an early exit (a rarity at Duke) in the first round last year, but with most of last years roster returning, in addition to an impressive freshman class, these Blue Devil’s are equipped for a deep run into the tournament. The difference maker on this team is unquestionably freshman Kyle Singler, an inside-outside threat who poses a tough match-up for any opponent.

North Carolina:
– 29-2 (14-2 ACC)
– 2-1 vs. Top 25

• Key Player- Ty Lawson, PG- 12.9 ppg, 5.5 apg
Tyler Hansbrough probably will win the player of the year awards, and deservingly so, but their speedy point guard will be vital to a championship run. Injuries have plagued Lawson this year, and if he’s not at 100% the Tar Heels are in big trouble. With no viable backup point guards on the roster, having Lawson around is huge. His lightning quick speed reminds me of recent Illinois point guard Dee Brown with his ability to get up and down the floor so quickly.

• Best/Worst Case Scenario- Final Four/Sweet Sixteen

• Outlook- The Tar Heels have dominated their way through the first 31 games of the season, and the mere presence of forward Tyler Hansbrough gives the Tar Heels a chance on any given night. Wayne Ellington might have the best outside shot in the ACC, and Danny Green is a solid starter who does a little bit of everything. But looking closely, I find myself believing the Tar Heels to potentially be upset early on. Looking past the fact that they only have six viable players and their point guard not being healthy, their schedule this year was not the hardest. The ACC is not what it used to be, and with the exception of three teams, their non-conference schedule was just average.

On The Bubble:
Virginia Tech
– 19-12 (9-7 ACC)
– 0-3 vs. Top 25
Their ACC tourney win against Miami (Fl.) helped their case, but a mediocre non-conference record, along with virtually no “quality” wins, Virginia Tech needs to pull a major upset on UNC if they want their name called Sunday. An NIT berth is likely.

Miami (Fl.)
– 22-10 (8-8 ACC)
– 2-2 vs. Top 25
That early 12 game win streak is not so great when you consider Virginia Commonwelth was the toughest opponent. Looking past their weak non-conference schedule, it looks like they have done just enough to get into the tournament. The February upset over Duke certainly helps their case, but losing to Virginia Tech by 14 in the ACC tournament is not so great. I feel they’ve done enough to get in the tourney, but with just average talent (at best) I don’t see them making much noise.

Clemson:
– 22-8 (10-6 ACC)
– 0-3 vs. Top 25

• Key Player- Terrence Oglesby, G- 10.6 ppg, 42% 3-Point
K.C. Rivers and James Mays get all the pub, but this long range shooting specialist is a big reason why Clemson was able to be successful throughout the season. In the beginning of the season he proved that he has the shooting ability to change the outcome of a game, and without him Clemson would be where they are every year, on the bubble or eliminated completely. Excluding the Ole Miss game, in 7 losses Oglesby averaged just 6 points per game, compared to almost 12 per in Clemson’s wins.

• Best/Worst Case Scenario- Elite Eight/1st Round

• Outlook- Clemson may be one of the surprise teams in this tournament and advance more then expected, but they also could get eliminated in the first round. Inconsistency has been a problem that’s plagued Clemson in recent years. The Tigers won their first 10 games to open the season, then followed that with 5 losses in their next 10. If they want to do well they need to remain consistent in what they do. Every one of the five starters averages at least 10.5 ppg, lead by junior K.C. Rivers with 14.5 per game. Their inside-outside game is among the best around, James Mays and Trevor Booker are solid down low and having three other players with the ability to hit three (Oglesby, Rivers, and Cliff Hammonds). I see this balanced Tiger squad winning a game or two, possibly more.