Hey, I'll take three out of four predictions any day of the week. I was able to hit in yesterday's column on all but the supposed Clemson blowout but at least I mentioned that Georgia Tech had been playing with 'heart'. Right, that's what it was, heart...not Lewis Clinch and Gani Lawal putting up dominating performances...but I digress. In addition to the Yellow Jackets advancing, Viriginia Tech. Maryland, and BC all move on to the quarterfinals in what should be a fantastic day of ACC hoops, even if Player of the Year Ty Lawson is out for the duration of it. On to the breakdowns...
Why the Hokies Should Win:
As mentioned in this column yesterday, the Hokies have a well-balanced team and they proved it further yesterday, with Malcolm Delaney leading the way with 17 points (thanks to his 14-15 effort at the charity stripe) and A.D. Vassallo chipping in with 14 points and 8 boards. Their 14-0 second half run put Miami away and now they will be looking for revenge following last year's last-second, heartbreaking ACC tourney loss to the Tar Heels, which effectively eliminated them from contention in the NCAA tournament. The Hokies are still fighting for a berth this year and this must-win against the No-1 squad in the nation will go a long way to helping their resume even further - a possibility made more likely with the absence of Ty Lawson. Add to that a little competitive juice from coach Seth Greenberg whose older brother Brad recently advanced his school (Radford) to the field of 65.
Why the Tar Heels Should Win:
The loss of Ty Lawson for this tournament is huge - there's no tiptoeing around it. But, they still have ACC legend Tyler Hansbrough who would love to go out with yet another banner to hang in the Dean Dome. Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Deon Thompson also have the ability to fill it up and, honestly, the depth of this team is often staggering to watch. Does this tournament mean that much to the Heels? Probably not. They may very well be more focused on getting Ty Lawson healthy within a week and cutting down nets of a different nature in Detroit. That said, this team can beat anyone, anytime, anyplace even without a key cog missing from the machine.
Time to start mixing it up. I think the Hokies, particularly the senior Vassallo, are desperate to avenge last year's loss which came in the last seconds. They are a talented, well-coached team who can not afford to miss out again on an opportunity to advance to the dance,
Virginia Tech 69, North Carolina 66
Why the Yellow Jackets Should Win:
Well, it IS another home game? Obviously, not my best work yesterday predicting them to get blown off the floor. My lazy family dogs show more effort than Clemson did yesterday but credit to Tech for getting it done. Lawal and Clinch were monsters yesterday so there's no reason to doubt their ability for a second day in a row. Coach Paul Hewitt has had a tough season but we're not all THAT far removed from him making a surprise appearance in the national championship game against UConn - the guy can coach. Plus, GT played FSU tight at Tallahassee earlier this year.
Why the Seminoles Should Win:
ACC Coach of the Year Leonard Hamilton has put FSU in an unfamiliar position this season...on the right side of the bubble. The Noles are finally a lock for the dance after a decade-long absence led by ACC first-teamer Toney Douglas, an absolute game changer with a ton of experience on the court. Douglas led the league in scoring in conference games - averaging 23.1 points, scoring 20 or more points in 13 of 16 ACC contests. With 6'9 forward Uche Echefu and 7'1 freshman shot-blocking machine Solomon Alabi patrolling the inside, the Noles have an inside presence to match their senior point guard's abilities.
FSU has been in every single one of their eight losses and have managed to earn some respect from those of us accustomed to watching them fold at year's end. With their balance, the Noles have 'the look' to me this postseason.
Florida State 64, Georgia Tech 55
Why the Terps Should Win:
Greivis Vasquez poured in 17 points and 10 boards yesterday while teammate Eric Hayes put up a career high 21 points as they handled NC St in Round 1. Vasquez also announced a bit of interesting news, he's going to test the NBA waters and go to pre-draft camps to see if he can make the leap. Apparently, he's tired of his teammates mailing it in since January (7-8 out of their last 15).
Why the Demon Deacons Should Win:
Jeff Teague made a case earlier in the season for player of the year not just in the ACC, but the country, as Wake ascended to the No-1 national ranking after starting off the season 16-0. Super frosh Al-Farouq Aminu and sizable forward James Johnson both average over 13 points and 8 boards for another very well-balanced team. The Deacs have earned their Top-10 ranking and will be a force throughout the rest of March.
These teams played to a 2-point Wake win just 10 days ago and I expect a similarly tight matchup again. No offense to Dino Gaudio, but he is outgunned by Gary WIlliams in a close postseason matchup, G-Will being the owner of a national championship ring. This could be a nice showcase of Teague vs. Vasquez trying to outdo each other and Greivis is the more desperate player. I know how good Wake is but I'm going with the upset here.
Maryland 75, Wake 73
Why the Eagles Should Win:
BC fans can breathe a lot easier after last night's handling of Virginia assured them 'lock' status for this year's NCAA tournament. They also saw yet another brilliant performance by athletic sophmore wingman Rakim Sanders, who crushed the Cavs with 25 points and 7 rebounds. His potential to take over games is a great asset this time of year especially when ACC 2nd team guard Tyrese Rice is running the show. The Eagles also got a great game out of soph center Josh Southern, who seems revitalized towards the end of the year. Continued contributions from forwards Corey Raji and Joe Trapani will have BC looking a lot more dangerous to their opponents both this and next weekend.
Why the Blue Devils Should Win:
It must be odd for Duke fans to watch their team rip off 25 wins every year, be a perennial Top-10 ranked team, receive glowing reviews from every announcer that ever set foot on a basketball court, and yet listen to opposing fans and pundits tell them they stink. However, despite the RPI of 2 and a 25-6 record, this 8-year dry spell is unsettling for the Cameron Crazies and the lineup changes towards the end of the year may signify a certain one-initialed coach feels equally concerned. On the positive side, they are consitently the best-coached, most fundamentally-sound team in the land and Kyle Singler could be in THE league right now so there is more than enough to work with on the court. But, with no legititmate inside presence, Singler and guards Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson will need to catch fire for them to do anything in this or any other tournament.
The Eagles ended a brutal 0-for-ACC streak against the Dukies just three weeks ago beating them 80-74 in Chestnut Hill. That game proved that BC, indeed, has the talent to match Duke, at least this season. Coach K will not want to let one get away with some of the other big squads possibly getting knocked out earlier in the day but BC's Rakim Sanders' next-level play might be an X-factor that no one accounted for this week.
BC 80, Duke 79