ACC Tournament Bracket: Previewing Today's Biggest Conference Showdowns

Vaughn JohnsonCorrespondent IIMarch 9, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 11:  John Henson #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels battles for a rebound with Mike Scott #23 and Akil Mitchell #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers during play at the Dean Smith Center on February 11, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 70-52.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The ACC Tournament seems to be a two-team race between Duke and North Carolina, but that doesn't mean there won't be some excitement and upsets along the way.

The North Carolina/Maryland game is already underway, so we're going to preview the rest of today's games, which involve some teams who desperately need to pick up victories to enhance their NCAA Tournament resumes.

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has four ACC teams safety in the tournament in his most recent bracket - North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and Florida State. That means teams like Miami and N.C. State will have interesting games tonight.

Virginia (22-8) vs. N.C. State (21-11), 2 p.m./ESPN 2

The Wolfpack were listed as one of the first four out, according to Lunardi, so they are in dire need of win tonight over the Cavaliers.

In order for N.C. State to pick up the victory, the Wolfpack will have to contain Virginia forward Mike Scott, who is second in the ACC in scoring (17.9 points per game). That task will be given to C.J. Leslie and Scott Wood collectively. They didn't fair so well in the team's first meeting back on Jan. 28 when Scott scored 18 points and led to the Cavs to a narrow 61-60 victory.

If guard Lorenzo Brown scores more than the eight points he had in first match up, the Wolfpack could come out on top. If not, the Cavs will move on.

Duke (26-5) vs. Virginia Tech (16-16), 7 p.m./ESPN 2

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 16:  Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with teammate Seth Curry #30 as the Duke Blue Devils defeat the North Carolina State Wolfpack 78-73 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 16, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina.  (
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

This game seems pretty lopsided on paper. The Blue Devils are better than the Hokies in almost every statistical category.

But it's March and crazy things tend to happen. The Hokies seem well on their way to the NIT, but will definitely play hard and try to win the ACC Tournament and  an unexpected automatic bid.

In order to do that, the Hokies will have to keep Duke off the free throw line. In their meeting on Feb. 25, the Blue Devils got there 34 times, making 24. That played an integral part in Duke coming away with a 70-65 win in overtime.

On the flip side, the Hokies have to do much better than their abysmal 43 percent from the line. Other than that, Virginia Tech played Duke very close and shot a better percentage from field. If Virginia Tech can keep Duke off the line and make their own free throws, we may be in store for an upset. But at the end of the day, Duke may just be too talented and too motivated to lose to the Hokies.

Florida State (21-9) vs. Miami (Fla.) (19-11) 9 p.m./ESPN 2

This could be the most exciting match-up of the day.

The Seminoles and Hurricanes split the season series and both are in the thick of things for an at-large bid.

FSU is in a seemingly comfortable position having a four-seed in Lunardi's bracket. Things aren't as crystal clear for the Hurricanes, however. According to Lunardi's bracket, the 'Canes are among the first four teams out of the tournament.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 25:  Michael Snaer #21 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates after a three point shot against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the southwest regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Alamodome on March 2
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

That means the 'Canes are going to need more of the balanced scoring they had against the Seminoles during their last meeting on Feb. 26. Despite not having Reggie Johnson, four Hurricanes posted double figures in points.

On the flip side, the Seminoles posted only three. Guard Michael Snaer led the Seminoles with 20 points, but the next best scorers had 12 and 10.

For Florida State to win, the Seminoles need to have better balance on offense and cut the turnovers. FSU is ninth in the ACC in turnover margin.

It's too hard to pick a winner here, but it will come down to the last second with so much on the line, especially for Miami.