Duke and Miami have to be considered the major favorites in the ACC tournament, but the conference has a few intriguing lower-seeded teams that could make some noise in Greensboro, N.C.
The Blue Devils are my pick to win the ACC and NCAA tournament, but here is a look at three unheralded teams in the conference and the stars that need to shine if they want to knock off Duke or any of the other higher-seeded teams in the ACC tournament.
N.C. State—C.J. Leslie
Going only on talent, Leslie is one of the five best players in the conference. The lanky forward has shown the ability to score and rebound effectively against the best teams.
He is averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, but if the Wolf Pack want to reach the ACC conference final, they will need more from Leslie. As the senior leader, the team needs him to raise his level of play when the stakes are highest.
When N.C. State knocked off Duke on Jan. 12, Leslie scored 25 points in the game. It was his second-highest point total of the season and his highest in conference play.
It's true—the Blue Devils were without Ryan Kelly for that game. But this is still the type of production N.C. State needs from Leslie if it is going to be a factor in the conference tournament.
Florida State—Michael Snaer
Who won the MVP of the ACC tournament in 2012? That's right, it was Snaer.
He spearheaded the team's late-season surge that led to winning the conference tournament. Snaer averaged 18 points per game and made 9-of-12 from three-point range during the Noles' three-game run.
He led his team over Miami, Duke and North Carolina en route to the crown.
But without Bernard James and Luke Loucks, who were both seniors in 2012 and are now playing professionally, Snaer has had to carry most of the load.
He is the team's leading scorer at 14.5 points per game, but that was only good enough to get the team a No. 6 seed. If the Noles plan to accomplish anything remotely close to 2012's run, they'll need Snaer to be just as good or better.
Many project the 7'1" Len as a lottery pick in the NBA draft, but he has performed a few disappearing acts in big conference games.
Len had just 10 points and five rebounds against North Carolina in a 10-point loss on Jan. 19. He produced only eight points and 10 rebounds against Duke in the teams' first matchup, and had just eight points and seven boards against North Carolina in the second meeting.
That said, he had a much stronger game against Duke on Feb. 26, when he had 19 points and nine rebounds in a 83-81 win over the Blue Devils. The question is: Which Len will the Terrapins see in the ACC tournament?
If they plan on advancing, it needs to be the Len that held his own against Mason Plumlee in late February. With his size, rebounding and ability to score around the basket, he could be a weapon that no other ACC team has an answer for.
If he is a non-factor, the Terrapins will be as well.
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