By Mychal Hunter
As a blogger and a podcast owner the chaos that is the ACC this year has been nice, there has been no shortage of topics. However, when it comes to picking games in March this season has led me to the conclusion that any of these teams could lose on the first weekend. The exception is possibly UVA but we have seen them fall short before.
There are few things more frustrating than watching as many games as I do only to burn my bracket after the first couple rounds while some housewife that chose winners based on the architecture of the home cities of schools goes 30-2 in the round of 64. Today I am going to talk about why the ACC will not hoist the title this year.
- Virginia: As mentioned above we have seen this story before. Traditionally, Virginia plays very good defense and while this year they look to have a bit more offensive ability than in past years they are still relying on relatively young perimeter players. Ty Jerome and DeAndre Hunter have been fantastic for the Cavaliers all season but the tournament is a completely different animal. Something else to take note of: In Virginia’s two tournament games last year, Devon Hall, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome combined to go 6-27 from the field.
- Duke: This may be a bit of a reactionary take but last night the Blue Devils did not look great. In fact, down the stretch the looked downright scared as the crowd in Cassell became nothing short of rabid. Trevon Duval is not a good free throw shooter as a lead guard and most crowds outside of North Carolina will more than likely be happy to see the Blue Devils lose. Grayson Allen has been better and Marvin Bagley is back but the Devils have shown this year that they are capable of losing games away from Cameron to inferior opponents such as St. Johns and Boston College.
- North Carolina: The Tar Heels are probably my pick to advance the furthest in the 2018 tournament. This four out lineup they are currently deploying has been nicknamed the Death Lineup by Tar Heel fans and has been incredibly effective. What happens when they have a game where the triples aren’t falling though? What happens when they run into a team like Cincinnati or Arizona that has a really athletic front court that can neutralize Luke Maye? I like the Tar Heels but I have some reservations.
- Clemson: This one speaks for itself. Since the Dante’ Grantham injury the Tigers are basically a three point shooting team. They don’t show a ton of interest in letting Eli Thomas establish himself in the paint offensively, instead choosing to work open Marcquise Reed and Gabe Devoe. While those shooters are certainly above average, any game where those two aren’t hitting or get into foul trouble and it could be an early day for Clemson.
- Virginia Tech: As shown last night and a couple weeks ago against Virginia, there is no team in the country the Hokies can’t beat. Though Virginia Tech seems to get up for the big games, they typically play way down to their competition and are wildly inconsistent outside of Justin Robinson. The lack of front court depth is obviously a concern here and the second that Kerry Blackshear inevitably gets into foul trouble the Hokies might be toast. Then again, he went up against the best front court in the country last night and only logged two fouls. Ahmed Hill also needs to find himself if this team is going to make it to the second weekend.
- Miami: There are some teams that I feel like I don’t need to explain my trepidation, Miami is one of those teams. While Lonnie Walker IV is going to be one of the top 15 most talented players in the tournament field, Miami has not been a team that has earned a ton of faith throughout the season. Having narrowly escaped two losses against Boston College and actually dropping a home game to Syracuse, the ‘Canes are a team that falls into the box of chocolates column, you never know what you’re going to get.
- NC State: Right now I have as much faith in the Wolfpack as anyone else in the conference. They have it all, guard play, shooting, talented size and tremendous coaching. But for every player on this team this success at the collegiate level is brand new and they won’t have the friendly confines of PNC Arena to make them feel safe. Six of the Pack’s nine losses have come on road or neutral courts this season, their upside is high but an early exit would not shock me.
- FSU: I assume FSU is still in the dance but they are definitely dancing with uncertainty already. They should at the very least go 1-1 in their final two games, combine that with a win in the ACCT and I think they are home. Inconsistency is again the name of the game here. While PJ Savoy and Trent Forrest have been great lately for the ‘Noles, Phil Cofer has been pretty bad in first halves recently. If FSU falls behind early in the tournament it may prove to be very difficult to dig themselves out of a halftime deficit, especially since their defense has suspect lately, giving up over 80ppg in their last 4.
Those are the eight teams I think will definitely be dancing. There are of course a trio of other programs that could sneak in.
- Syracuse: Every time there is a blind resume’ test including this team I always pick them to go dancing and that is the reason why the “quadrant” system is flawed. I don’t believe the Orange are a tournament team and definitely won’t be putting faith in a team that basically has two shooters and a great zone. The eye test people, watch Syracuse and tell me how they win a game at the prom.
- Louisville: They needed a career high from Quentin Snider and a season high from Dwayne Sutton to defeat Virginia Tech. They have disappointed all season and while they have a very capable front court they don’t seem to utilize it very well offensively. A hot shooting Deng Adel and Quentin Snider might get them past the first round but first they have to actually make it to the dance.
- Notre Dame: Will Bonzie be back? Will he be 100% or even 90%? His injury has led to the emergence of Martinas Geben if you are looking for a silver lining. They are the most likely of this trio to be asked to the prom I think but they will need to show the committee that they belong during the ACCT. How will Colson’s foot hold up potentially playing two games in three days? Even if they do make it in there will be a period needed for rust removal and conditioning. The tournament is a poor time of year to work out your issues.