Atlantic Coast Conference
Favorite(s)-Duke (27-4 14-4), Miami (24-6 15-3)
Duke has reemerged as the favorite in the ACC. The Blue Devils still have the best resume of anyone in the country, with wins over Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State in the non-conference. They “struggled” a bit when Ryan Kelly went down for a month going 6-2 but barely squeaking out games at Boston College and Wake Forest. But Kelly is back and Duke has its top 10 offense back with seniors Kelly, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee leading the way with 48.9 points a game and with guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon adding 23.9 points the Blue Devils can come at you from so many angles.
Miami may be the biggest surprise in the country in terms of unexpected success. The Hurricanes are ranked in the top 10 and have clinched the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament and regular season championship. All of this is coming from a team who lost to Florida Gulf Coast in the 2nd game of the year. They then went on to beat Michigan State and both Duke and North Carolina by 25+ points. A big reason they have been so successful is because they are old, they have 5 experienced seniors (Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, Julian Gamble, Trey McKinney-Jones and Durand Scott) as the backbone of their team. The group also contributes in the score sheet to the tune of 50 points and 27=6.6 rebounds, and running the show for this veteran team is sophomore guard Shane Larkin who leads the team in scoring and assists (13.7 and 3.8).
Contender(s)-North Carolina State (22-9 11-7)
The Jekyll and Hyde Wolpack go from beating #1 Duke to losing at Wake Forest, and that has been the season for N.C. State in a nutshell. They have the talent led by forwards Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie who combine for 27.6 points and 18.1 rebounds. They also have Lorenzo Brown at the point who racks up 7 assists a game, as well as a couple of talented freshmen in T.J. Warren and Rodney Purvis who add 21 points a game. But can N.C. State, who is 5th in the country in field goal percentage at 49.9% put it all together long enough to string some wins together.
Team likely to pull an upset-Virginia (21-10 11-7)
Pop quiz, who has wins over Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State and only lost to Miami by 4? The Virginia Cavaliers who enter the ACC tourney as the seed. Virginia, like Wisconsin likes to play slow down basketball. They are led by juniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell who combine for 30.1 points with no one else over seven.
3 Key Players-Reggie Johnson-Miami, Ryan Kelly-Duke, Joe Harris-Virginia
The Hurricanes senior center needs to be the beast he is capable of being, the kind of force he was prior to an injury forced him to miss 8 games. Before the injury Johnson averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds and since returning he is down to 5.75 and 6.4 rebounds. In the highly-anticipated rematch with Duke he went scoreless with five rebounds. If Miami is to be successful in post-season play he has to be a more active element.
Ryan Kelly may be the most important player in the country in terms of what he means to his team. With Kelly the Blue Devils are undefeated and in the month he missed with a foot injury the team went 9-4. It is not just his 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds that the team missed, it was his ability at 6-11 to shoot from the perimeter and stretch the opposing defense. He returned for the rematch with Miami where he poured in a career-high 36 points in the win.
For the deliberate Virginia Cavaliers junior guard Joe Harris is the catalyst. He leads the team in scoring at 17.3 points and is second on the team in rebounding at 4.0. Harris has shown the ability to come up big in big games averaging 25.2 points in the 5 games against Miami, N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke, including 36 in an upset of Duke on Feb. 28.
2013 ATLANTIC COAST TOURNAMENT
March 14-17 Greensboro, NC
#8 Boston College vs. #9 Georgia Tech
#5 N.C. State vs. #12 Virginia Tech
#7 Maryland vs. #10 Wake Forest
#6 Florida State vs. #11 Clemson
#1 Miami vs. #8/9
#4 Virgina vs. #5/12
#2 Duke vs. #7/10
#3 North Carolina vs. #6/11