The ACC Tournament, along with the Big East Tournament, are the two most publicized and popular college basketball tournaments played after the season is over. Almost all college basketball tournaments have lost a bit of luster since the NCAA tournament has expanded, and it’s no longer a requirement to win your conference tournament in order to get a bid to the Big Dance. The result has been lower fan interest and lower ticket sales to a tournament that used to sell out right away.
Now, the larger, um…’BCS’ conference tournaments are important for teams who want to prove their seeding, or get off the bubble. Sometimes a ‘bubble’ team can blow their NCAA bid with a bad tournament showing. This year, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech went into the ACC Tournament hoping to get off of the bubble.
Watching Georgia Tech play live shows two things: one, Georgia Tech has some very talented players and a lot of size. Two, Georgia Tech is not using that talent nearly as much as they should. However, after scraping by UNC in the first round, Georgia Tech played better to beat Maryland (after blowing a 19 point lead) and advance to play NC State today in the semis.
However, NC State has come alive. As I sat and watched them outplay Clemson on day one, they had a large showing of fans rooting them against Clemson’s full court press. NC State suddenly looks like a team that understands their roles and understands Sidney Lowe’s offense. Not sure what has caused the sudden improvement, but the players are cutting well, moving the ball and passing the ball in the post at the right times. Horner is very active, moving in the paint to the perimeter, and really altering the defense. If any team has managed to show it really cares about winning the tournament, it’s NC State.
Duke played consistently and wasn’t challenged by Virginia, but even though I think Duke is the best in the ACC this season and I think they’ve already locked up a number one NCAA seed, I just don’t see them beating the top teams from the Big East. It’s unfortunate, but I just don’t think the ACC has the talent this year to match up. Maybe next year with Duke getting Irving and UNC getting Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall, but this year it remains to be seen. However, in the ACC, I expect Duke to win the tourney unless Georgia Tech suddenly figures out they have four or five NBA players on their roster (Sorry, Tech. But you know it’s true).
Finally, there’s Wake Forest. Wake probably blew their NCAA bid with their late season collapse and loss in the ACC tournament. It’s not official, but Wake just seemed to run out of steam down the stretch of the season.