ACC Basketball

ACC Tournament, Round One Predictions

The first round of the new super duper Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament is upon us. The excitement is in the air, no one can get enough, everyone who is anyone is talking about it…no, wait. That’s HBO’s True Detective. This is the ACC Tournament. None of these teams will still be playing this weekend. Let’s just get on with it.

AP Photo/The Winston-Salem Journal, Bruce Chapman

AP Photo/The Winston-Salem Journal, Bruce Chapman



The first game of the afternoon features two teams that can point to a home victory over the Duke Blue Devils as arguable the highlight of their season. For Wake Forest, they are what most people thought they were going to be. They finished 6-12 in conference, which sadly is the high point of Jeff Bzdelik’s depressing four-year run as Wake coach. At the very least, if they can beat Notre Dame Wednesday, they’ll finish above .500 for the first time ever under the current management.

As for the Fighting Irish, talk about a Waterworld-type season. Actually, that’s probably a little harsh…to Kevin Costner. Boom. Thank you, I’ll be here all week. All terrible jokes aside, Notre Dame’s first season in the ACC was the kind of flop only Marcus Smart could appreciate. They were expected to run with the big dogs in the league, but instead stumbled to just six conference wins.

Of course some will point to the suspension of Jerian Grant as to why things went south so bad. Yes, he was the team’s top scoring option, but that’s like blaming Vince Vaughn’s career nose-dive on The Watch. Sure that played a part, but it was already headed in the wrong direction thanks to home loses to Indiana State and North Dakota State.

PREVIOUS MEETING: Wake Forest beat Notre Dame, 65-58 at home back in late January.
Thanks to the fact that Devin Thomas couldn’t miss a shot (21 points, 10-11 from the field), the Demon Deacons led the Irish for all but four minutes. Notre Dame out-rebounded Wake, turned the ball over less and shot 20-29 from inside the arc, but they couldn’t hit from deep if their life depended on it (2-16).

I’ve seen prison riots go more smoothly than Notre Dame’s entrance into the ACC and it’s hard to find a legit reason the bleeding will suddenly stop now, but if there is one guarantee this season, it’s that the Demon Deacons won’t win a game away from Joel Coliseum. In fact, I’m starting to think it’s in head coach Jeff Bzdelik’s contract, since Wake Forest is 2-11 away from Winston-Salem, dropping 21 of 23 road/neutral games dating back to last year.


Photo credit: Robert Portal

Photo credit: Robert Portal



Last year Jim Larranaga won 29 games and earned ACC Coach of the Year, which was impressive, but let’s face it, he had a team full of 29-year-old-ish seniors and Barry Larkin’s kid. Hell, Jackie Moon could have finished above .500 with that squad. However, I will go on record and say that this season was by far the more impressive coaching job by Larranaga. The old man lost just about everyone from last season who played a minute, scored a point, grabbed a rebound, dished out an assist and probably handed out towels too, then proceeded to refill his roster with a handful of oft-injured underachievers, a couple of transfers, some rookies, including a Belgium point guard and somehow managed to not finish 0-31. In fact, the Hurricanes won seven conference games and nearly pulled off upsets against Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Maryland.

Virginia Tech was projected to be at or very near the bottom of the ACC this season and they didn’t disappoint. They pulled out just three ACC wins, which means they actually took a step back from last year’s last place team. Again though, this was about as shocking as an M. Night Shyamalan twist ending; the recent stuff, not The Six Sense or Unbreakable, those movies rocked. Six of James Johnson’s top nine players were either freshmen or sophomores and most of their skill levels would have more in common with the employees at my local McDonalds than actual McDonald’s All-Americans.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS: Virginia Tech beat Miami on the road, 61-60 (OT), back in early December, then at home a month ago, 52-45.
In what has to be the strangest storyline in the ACC, the Hokies have just two total wins in conference and both came against their old football rivals. What gives? Well, the Hurricanes aren’t known for their shooting. According to KenPom, they’re 250th in 2P%, 247th in 3P% and 247th in FT%. I’m no mathematician, spending most of my time in “special schools,” but even I know those numbers are not good and they only got worse when facing the Hokies. In their two meetings, The U shot just 31% from the floor and 22% from three against Virginia Tech. Rion Brown, the Hurricanes best player shot so bad during these contests, I started to question if he had money on the Hokies. In two games, he’s hit just 8-31 shots.

While the Hurricanes still couldn’t hit a basket if you lowered the rim three feet and widened it by a foot, a Jim Larranaga team is always a well-coached team. The Hurricanes avoid giveaways, attack the glass, block shots and force turnovers, you know, the little things that puts a team over the top at neutral sites.


Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports



Both the Yellow Jackets and the Eagles were expected to be a team on the rise heading into the year. Now nobody was going to confuse them with the Duke’s or Carolina’s of the world, but the N.I.T. surely looked like a real possibility, with an outside shot at an actual tournament bid.

For Brian Gregory and Georgia Tech, injuries really took there toll. A handful of players missed games this season, including Robert Carter Jr. He was expected to be the meat and potatoes guy inside as a sophomore, but instead missed 10 games and hasn’t looked 100% until just recently. They also lost freshman Travis Jorgenson for the year before the season even started and Jason Morris was knocked out before the season could end.

As for Boston College, seriously, what the hell? They showed flashes last season with a young squad and Steve Donahue’s team was expected to make a nice solid leap forward as his young kids grew into men. But then something happened…the season started. They opened up competition by dropping their first three games and never recovered. They’ve won two games in a row just once, way back in late November and one of those wins came against Sacred Heart, a team’s whose greatest achievement was a Division II championship back when Ronald Reagan was president.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS: Georgia Tech won both meetings, the first, 68-60 at home on January 21, then 74-71 on the road 22 days later.
In their first meeting, The Yellow Jackets nearly blew a 15-point halftime lead in Boston, until Trae Golden scored eight of his game high 24 points in the final 2:16. In the rematch in Atlanta, Golden sat out with an injury, but Marcus-Georges Hunt had no problem playing the role of hero, hitting a game-winning three with 0.7 on the clock.

Georgia Tech is finally getting healthy at the right time. They’ve rolled off two straight W’s, including one in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. Inside, Daniel Thomas and Robert Carter have gone into beast mode. In their last four, they’ve combined to average 28.8 points, 16 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. As for Boston College…well, what can I say? If a player like Sacramento’s Demarcus Cousins watches you play and says, “man, those guys need to play better D,” then you know you have problems. According to KenPom, the Eagles are 291st in defensive effective FG%, 341st in defensive turnover %, 318th in defensive rebounding, 325th in defensive 3p%, 289th in defensive blocks…you know what, I could go on, but I think you get the point.


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