And, here we go. The newly-expanded ACC kicks off its tournament in Greensboro on Wednesday. Becoming almost the poster-child for conference expansion, the ACC is 15 teams strong next year and will replace departing Maryland with incoming Louisville next year (which is a massive upgrade that even these Terrapin sycophants around me would have to admit). There were some down years across the league this year, but when Rick Pitino gets here, and some of the other solid programs rebound, this should be a pretty brutal league. That being said, all this talk of “best conference ever” and “head and shoulders above all other conferences” needs to stop. The ACC was again a total disappointment this year, finishing behind – by all accounts – the Big Ten and Big XII this year as far as conference power rankings, and by many accounts, they were behind the Pac-12, Big East, and/or even the American. The bottom of the league wasn’t atrocious, but they certainly weren’t “good,” and the bottom stretches up pretty high in this 15-team league. To have 9 teams worse considerably worse than Clemson is not exactly “best conference ever” material. Still, this tournament should be incredibly intriguing as we have the surprise regular season champ, UVA, up top, then the budding new rivalry between Syracuse and Duke lined up for a potential semifinal, and then the red-hot UNC set to possibly face the hollow resume of Pitt in the quarters. As much as I hate the ACC and all its pomp and elitism, it can put on a good show this time of year.
The CTC championship picks show no simply majority here in the ACC (which is a great sign for an interesting tournament). #3 Duke is the most popular pick here with 11 followed by #2 Syracuse with 7. So, if those two are to meet in the semifinals, it could go a long way to determining the 2014 CTC champion. Only 3 people went with top-seeded UVa. #4 UNC and #5 Pitt each saw two people taking them to win here in Greensboro. A bunch of upset picks, including strong support for BC winning a pair of games, and even a couple people taking Maryland to go to the semis in their last ACC hurrah. Caleb and Teddy shared the 2013 ACC title, so they will try and repeat this year. No one has ever won this conference more than once.
CHAMPIONSHIP (March 16th – 60 points)
#1 Virginia vs #3 Duke
The regular season champs versus the preseason favorite and the perennial champs. UVa only played Duke once – in Cameron – and gave them all they could handle, though the Devils prevailed. The Cavs have been more impressive in this tournament, however, as they handled FSU and played really well against Pitt. Duke was pushed to the brink by Clemson (and probably should have lost) and then took care of N.C. State. This should be excellent.
Chris, GrossSr, and Stri are the only 3 with the top-seeded Cavs. 11 people (Becks, Bry, Doogan, Gersh, GrossJr, J, Lohse, Mac, PapaCim, RDoc, Stritts) have the Blue Devils. J and Stritts have already clinched the ACC crown, no matter what happens on Sunday.
SEMIFINALS (March 15th – 40 points)
#1 Virginia vs #5 Pittsburgh
UVa, the top seed, made short work of a tough Florida State team in the quarters, showing how they won this conference in the regular season. Pitt led UNC big most of the way and then dealt with a furious comeback to beat cool off the Heels. Now, the two face off for a spot in the ACC championship.
Dave, Stumpf, Teddy, and WaTers have Pitt winning this game, including Stumpf and Teddy, who have them cutting down the nets on Sunday. 9 people (Becks, Chris, Doogan, GrossSr, J, Mac, PapaCim, Stri, Stritts) have UVa winning here, including Chris, GrossSr, and Stri, who have the Cavs taking this title.
#3 Duke vs #7 N.C. State
Well, we are deprived of a Round Three between Duke and Syracuse, but with the way the ‘Cuse is playing, it probably wouldn’t have lived up to the billing. Duke, themselves, is very fortunate to be here at all, as they probably should have lost to Clemson in the quarterfinals nightcap. The whole bubble world is rooting for Duke to continue their dominance in this rivalry.
No one has N.C. State winning this game. 10 people (Alexi, Caleb, Chris, Colton, Dave, Lazarow, Primm, Scoot, Stumpf, WaTers) have already lost this game. The other 15 all have the Dukies, including 11 (Becks, Bry, Doogan, Gersh, GrossJr, J, Lohse, Mac, PapaCim, RDoc, Stritts) with the Devils winning it all.
QUARTERFINALS (March 14th – 20 points each)
#1 Virginia vs #9 Florida State
The Cavs won their first ACC regular season since Ralph Sampson was at UVa. And, they won it convincingly. Granted, the unbalanced schedule aided them immensely (they only played each of the TOP SEVEN ACC teams once – they had all their doubles against the bottom of the league), but there is no denying a team that this team is an elite team in the nation with a legit shot at a #1-seed in the next tournament. They are incredibly balanced and incredibly well-coached. It is debatable whether or not they have the “star power” to make a deep run into March, and while most people would probably say that they don’t have a superstar on the caliber of a Jabari Parker or Tyler Ennis, I tend to disagree. We are not talking about NBA potential here, we are talking about an ability to take over a college basketball game, and I think that Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon are both able to dominate. They both have great size and immense skill sets. They play smart on both ends of the floor and never try to do too much. Harris, especially, is cold-blooded when the game is on the line. I really like this Cavs team and want to see them make a deep run. Their ACC tournament begins with a quarterfinal matchup against a huge and talented team that is desperate. FSU’s last-second win over Maryland on Thursday kept them in the bubble talk. A win here would cement their at-large candidacy, but they still have a shot if they lose…it all depends.
Alexi and Dave have already lost this game with Maryland. The other 23 all have UVa, including Chris, GrossSr, and Stri, who have the Cavs cutting down the Greensboro nets on Sunday (which would probably cement their 1-seed after ‘Nova’s loss on Thursday).
Virginia 64 – Florida State 51
#4 North Carolina vs #5 Pittsburgh
What an incredibly strange season on Chapel Hill. In fact, I’m not sure I can ever remember a season so bizarre. First of all, when the beat Duke in Chapel Hill on Feb 20, they became the first team in college basketball history to beat all four of the preseason Top 4 teams in the country – after having already beaten Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky. So, wow, what a season, right? Well, not exactly. This same team – in this same season – lost at home to Belmont, lost at UAB (in between the L’ville and MSU wins), and needed overtime to beat Davidson at home. What?!?!? Also, this bunch – right before reeling off 12 straight conference wins – became the first UNC team ever to go 0-3 and then the first to go 1-4 in ACC play. But, the important part is that they righted the ship in time for March, and they found a legit go-to guy on this team, Marcus Page. Now, the Heels are in the mix for this tournament and open with a quarterfinal matchup against a tough Pitt team that dismantled Wake Forest on Thursday. This could be the marquee win that Pitt needs.
6 people (Becks, Dave, PapaCim, Stumpf, Teddy, WaTers) have Pitt here, including 2 champions (Stumpf and Teddy) and 2 finalists (Dave and WaTers). The other 19 all have UNC here, including Lazarow and Lynch, who have them winning the whole thing. 10 others (Alexi, Bry, Caleb, Colton, Gersh, GrossJr, Lohse, Primm, RDoc, Scoot) all have the Heels reaching the finals. This is a pretty huge CTC game.
Pittsburgh 80 – North Carolina 75
#2 Syracuse vs #7 N.C. State
And, enter the Orange. The team that was #1 for so many weeks. The team that gave us two fantastic games in a budding rivalry against Duke. The team that showed up that freshmen point guards can succeed in major conference basketball. The team that always steadfastly defends the old school 2-3 non-trapping zone defense and shows us exactly how it is supposed to be played and how it doesn’t necessarily lead to a million made 3’s when played correctly (and by long athletes, of course). The team whose point guard is a national sensation, but whose small forward is CLEARLY their best player. And……the team that had completely taken on water since starting the season 25-0. Losses to BC, Duke, UVa, and Ga Tech in its final 6 games is not the Syracuse we knew just three weeks ago. One of the most interesting storylines in any conference tournament will be to see if this team has gotten it figured out again. If so, they are on the short list of national title contenders. If not, they might be lucky to make it to the second weekend. They open their first ever ACC tournament against an N.C. State team that survived Miami in the second round on Thursday.
J, Stritts, and Teddy all went for the big upset of N.C. State here (which would net them a cool 70 points). The other 22 all played it safe and went Syracuse for 20. 7 people (Alexi, Caleb, Colton, Dave, Primm, Scoot, WaTers) believe in the Orange enough to have them winning it all. Chris, Lazarow, and Stumpf have them going to the finals, but losing.
N.C. State 66 – Syracuse 63
#3 Duke vs #6 Clemson
This Blue Devil team looks just like a lot of the Blue Devil teams of recent years. Sensational in some aspects, but possibly not sensational enough to overcome some big and glaring deficiencies. They are, as usual, absolutely loaded on the wing. Jabari Parker is the real deal as a scorer, and Rodney Hood has lived up to all the Coach K hype coming into the season. Throw in Andre Dawkins (who, quietly, is in the top 5 on Duke’s all-time list of 3-pointers made) and Rasheed Sulaimon (who would be playing 35 minutes a night for basically any other team in the country) and this team comes at you in waves on the wing. But, they are very deficient in other areas – particularly on the defensive side. Quin Cook is a decent distributor of the ball and will make the open shot, but he’s far from dynamic and a borderline liability on defense. And, the bigs are – as has been the case for a while in Cameron – almost non-existent. And, don’t get me started on Jabari Parker’s defense. While it’s not quite enough to negate all the special things he does on offense, it seriously dampens their effects. I think this team is flawed, but in this day and age of college hoops, so is everybody else, so they are legit national title contenders. But, they wouldn’t be my first choice. They open the ACC with a Clemson team that is rough and tough and could give the Dukies trouble…again. The Tigers won 72-59 over the Devils back in early January.
All 25 people have the Dukies here in Greensboro with most taking them to get to the finals, and 11 (Becks, Bry, Doogan, Gersh, GrossJr, J, Lohse, Mac, PapaCim, RDoc, Stritts) taking them to win it all.
Duke 63 – Clemson 62
SECOND ROUND (March 13th – 10 points each)
#8 Maryland vs #9 Florida State
These Maryland people around me still think the Terps are on the bubble and maybe they are, but these people can’t be trusted. Haha, just kidding, everyone here from the beautifully Southern state of Maryland. Anyway, the Terps got a huge win over UVa to close out the regular season and, honestly, even I would have to consider them a potential bubble team if they can beat the Cavs again on Friday. But, to get there, they will have to get past a Florida State team that came out of the gates this year like gangbusters, but tailed off down the stretch. The Seminoles are very good and can beat anyone in the country, but they haven’t showed it of late and are in serious trouble of not making the tournament. I think it’s safe to say that this is a loser-goes-home game to open a nice day of ACC hoops in Greensboro. The winner here gets a shot at ACC champs, Virginia.
9 people (Bry, Caleb, Colton, Doogan, Gersh, J, Mac, Primm, Stritts) have the slight upset here with FSU. The other 16 have UMD, including Alexi and Dave, who both have them beating the Cavs on Friday.
Florida State 67 – Maryland 65
#5 Pittsburgh vs #12 Wake Forest
The Pitt Panthers are one of the more interesting at-large cases I can remember. They finished 5th in a major conference, were ranked in the Top 15 nationally at certain points in the season, are beloved by the tempo-free guys, and yet don’t have a single marquee win to speak of. And, I think that if they lose to Wake here on Thursday, they are not going to make the tournament. Yet, if they win the ACC tournament, they could make a case for a seeding as high as 3. A win here probably doesn’t guarantee them a spot (though a win on Friday over UNC probably would), but it would go a long way. The winner here does get the Tar Heels in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
No one has Wake here, but Bry, GrossSr, Lazarow, Lohse, and Lynch are all rooting for the Deacons because they had Notre Dame here, so they’re hoping to zero out this game. Two people who are certainly not rooting for Wake are Stumpf and Teddy, who have the Panthers winning the whole thing. Dave and WaTers have them in the finals. Becks and PapaCim have them in the semis.
Pittsburgh 84 – Wake Forest 55
#7 N.C. State vs #10 Miami (FL)
The Wolfpack, after not performing to expectations with an absolutely LOADED roster in 2012-13, have kind of overperformed with a very UNloaded roster in 2013-14. Then again it’s hard to call any roster unloaded when they have the ACC Player of the Year. T.J. Warren is an absolute beast and can (and has) single-handedly win ACC games. Miami, who barely survived Va Tech on Wednesday comes in with a style that can really bother N.C. State, as evidenced by the 85-70 Miami win two weeks ago in Raleigh. This is a dangerous spot for State. The winner here gets #2 Syracuse in the quarters.
An amazing 11 people (Becks, Caleb, Colton, Doogan, Gersh, GrossSr, Lohse, Lynch, Primm, Stumpf, WaTers) have the Hurricanes here, though none have them beating the ‘Cuse. J, Stritts, and Teddy have the most at stake here, as they have N.C. State upsetting the Orange on Friday.
N.C. State 67 – Miami (FL) 58
#6 Clemson vs #11 Georgia Tech
Brad Brownell has done a really good job at Clemson, but people don’t know it. I am not sure why everyone thinks this Clemson job is so keen and that they should be making the tournament every year – it never was before, so why is Brownell held to this standard? He is doing a lot with not that much (which may be his fault in recruiting, but it’s not like South Carolina is a hotbed of talent and it’s not like Clemson is this big destination for ballplayers, either). I love his style of play, and I think his Tigers teams win more games that I would otherwise expect them to every year. They are on the bubble again (though, they probably have to at least beat Duke in the quarters for even a little consideration). They open with a Ga Tech team that barely escaped an overtime game with BC on Wednesday with the winner earning a shot at Duke on their de facto home floor.
8 people (Becks, Gersh, GrossJr, GrossSr, Lazarow, Lynch, Mac, RDoc) went with a really great upset pick here with Ga Tech. Lohse, Stri, and WaTers all went with an even better one with BC, but they didn’t make it to the game to give them a shot. The other 14 people all have Clemson here. No one has Duke losing to any of these teams in the quarters.
Clemson 69 – Georgia Tech 65 (OT)
FIRST ROUND (March 12th – 5 points each)
#12 Wake Forest vs #13 Notre Dame
The Demon Deacons of Wake Forest were terrific at home this year, which is nice to see as maybe this historically solid program is coming back to relevance. They did have a back-loaded schedule that caused them to lose 9 of their final 11 games, though those two wins were against Duke and Clemson. Notre Dame is one of the most disappointing teams in the country this year, as they were in the preseason Top 15 in the country and they finished 13th in their conference. They still have a lot of talent, though, especially in that deadly backcourt. Would it surprise anyone if they made a little run? The winner of this game will get #5 Pittsburgh in the second round in what will be a very interesting game with the Panthers squarely on the bubble.
Only 6 people (Colton, Doogan, GrossJr, Stri, Stritts, WaTers) took the slight favorite, Wake Forest, with none of them taking the Deacons to beat Pitt. Not only did 19 people take ND here, but 5 of them (Bry, GrossSr, Lazarow, Lohse, Lynch) have the Irish beating Pitt in the second round.
Wake Forest 81 – Notre Dame 69
Wake Forest ends an incredibly disappointing season in South Bend with a convincing 12-point win over ND. The Deacons win their first ACC tournament game in the “Modern Era” of the CTC. Now, Wake will take their chances against a Pitt team that could really use another bubbly win.
Only 6 people got this one right, and 5 people lost a quarterfinalist here.
#10 Miami (FL) vs #15 Virginia Tech
Good move, Va Tech in firing Seth Greenberg. The great coach with a hard-to-like personality (who has turned into an incredibly likeable TV personality, ironically) was the best coach that that school has ever had and will ever have. And, they let him go and now they are a laughingstock. They open (and probably close) their ACC tournament with an underrated Miami team. Jim Larranaga’s retirement to Coral Gables actually had him doing some work last year in the shocking ACC title and 2-seed in the NCAA tournament. But, that entire team is gone and yet Larranaga has his boys still a little relevant, despite playing a hideously slow pace. The winner here gets a second round date with ACC Player of the Year, T.J. Warren, and #7 N.C. State.
Bry, PapaCim, RDoc, and Stri all went with the big Va Tech upset here, though no one has them beating N.C. State. Miami has a huge base of CTC support, as not only do 21 people have them winning here, but 11 people (Becks, Caleb, Colton, Doogan, Gersh, GrossSr, Lohse, Lynch, Primm, Stumpf, WaTers) actually have them beating State in the second round. None of the 12 have them then beating the ‘Cuse, though.
Miami (FL) 57 – Virginia Tech 53
A back and forth game ended up with the Hurricanes pulling it out late. Va Tech acquitted themselves somewhat well after a terrible regular season, but couldn’t pull it out. Miami now will take on T.J. Warren and the Wolfpack.
4 people missed a big upset, while 11 people keep alive a shot at a nice upset on Thursday.
#11 Georgia Tech vs #14 Boston College
If Notre Dame might not be the biggest disappointment in the country because they might not even be the biggest disappointment in their own league. Boston College was supposed to be very good this year, and they have been very bad. They started poorly, finished poorly and were really poor in between. The Eagles are 7-23 against D-I opponents. Of those 7 wins, they have 2 against lowly Va Tech, one 3-point home win over Florida-Atlantic, and an OT home win over Sacred Heart. Oh, and then there’s that team called Syracuse that they beat (what?!?). As for Ga Tech, they were okay – nothing special, but not terrible. The winner here will take on 6th-seeded Clemson in the second round.
By far the most important of the three ACC games for the CTC on Wednesday is the nightcap. 10 people (Bry, Dave, Doogan, Lohse, Primm, Scoot, Stri, Stritts, Teddy, WaTers) have the upset pick of BC. Lohse, Stri, and WaTers all have the Eagles winning again on Thursday over Clemson. Of the 15 people that have Ga Tech here, 8 of them (Becks, Gersh, GrossJr, GrossSr, Lazarow, Lynch, Mac, RDoc) have the Yellow Jackets winning again on Thursday. So, either 3 or 8 people are going to lose twice with this game. No one on either side has one of these teams beating Duke in the quarters.
Georgia Tech 73 – Boston College 70 (OT)
After blowing a 13-point lead late in the second half, the Yellow Jackets recovered and won this game in overtime on the backs of a couple huge plays by former Tennessee Volunteer, Trae Golden. Ga Tech now moves on to face #6 Clemson in the nightcap of the ACC second round quadruple-header on Thursday. BC’s nightmare season is now over.
Also over are Lohse, Stri, and WaTers hope for a surprise quarterfinalist. This was an important win for the 8 people that have the Jackets beating Clemson in the second round.
- #1 Virginia (3) – Chris, GrossSr, Stri
- #2 Syracuse (7) – Alexi, Caleb, Colton, Dave, Primm, Scoot, WaTers
- #3 Duke (11)
- #4 North Carolina (2) – Lazarow, Lynch
- #5 Pittsburgh (2) – Stumpf, Teddy
- R1 – #15 Virginia Tech (Bry, PapaCim, RDoc, Stri)
- R2 – #14 Boston College (Lohse, Stri, WaTers)
- QF – #8 Maryland (Alexi, Dave)
- SF – #5 Pittsburgh (Dave, Stumpf, Teddy, WaTers)
Previous CTC Champions
- 2008 – Bry
- 2009 – Doogan
- 2010 – Stri
- 2011 – Alexi
- 2012 – Primm
- 2013 – Caleb, Teddy