The first round of the ACC tournament didn’t provide very many surprises, but don’t expect that to be the case in the second round of action.
The lowest seeds in the tournament have been eliminated, leaving only the top eight squads in the conference to battle it out for the title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. As this season has taught us, there’s no shortage of parity in college basketball this year.
While all eyes will be on Duke and Miami as they prime for a potential showdown in the finals on March 17, there will be plenty of good basketball to watch throughout the conference tournament. Let’s take a look at a couple intriguing storylines for what could be the two best matchups to watch on Friday.
No. 8 Boston College vs. No. 1 Miami
Reason to Watch: Olivier Hanlan
Boston College didn’t exactly play well in the second half of the regular season, but finishing with three wins was enough to build momentum for the conference tournament.
The Eagles were faced with a tough matchup against Georgia Tech in the first round, but they breezed by the Yellow Jackets with little resistance in an 84-64 drubbing. Freshman guard Olivier Hanlan was the biggest reason for the easy first-round victory.
Hanlan accounted for almost half of Boston College’s points in the contest, contributing 41 points on 8-for-10 shooting beyond the arc. In total, the freshman was 14-for-18 from the floor, adding five rebounds, two assists and three steals to his impressive stat line.
Matchups pitting No. 1 seeds against No. 8 seeds typically aren’t all that compelling, and this second-round matchup could prove to follow that trend if Boston College can’t get another masterful performance from at least one of its starters. Still, what Hanlan did against Georgia Tech is reason enough to tune in for this matchup.
No. 5 North Carolina State vs. No. 4 Virginia
Reason to Watch: Strength vs. Strength
Second-round matchups in the middle of the tournament bracket can be some of the most entertaining postseason basketball to watch. Friday’s pairing between NC State and Virginia should be no different.
As expected, the Wolfpack dismantled Virginia Tech 80-63 Thursday, setting up a rematch with a team it fell to during the regular season in a defensive showdown in Charlottesville on January 29.
The then-No. 2 scoring defense in the country held NC State to just 37.7 percent shooting in that contest, and Joe Harris’ 22 points were enough to lift the Cavaliers to what would prove to be a critical regular-season matchup.
With four wins in its last five games, the Wolfpack is riding considerable momentum into the second round of the tournament. If Virginia hopes for a repeat performance on Friday, it will have to play the physical defensive basketball that earned the Cavaliers the No. 4 seed in the tournament.
Doing so won’t be an easy task, though. Senior forward Richard Howell and junior forward C.J. Leslie were outstanding against Virginia Tech on Thursday, combining for 37 points and 19 rebounds in the contest. With another 13 points apiece from T.J. Warren and Scott Wood, NC State proved why it is one of the most dangerous squads in the ACC tournament.
NC State is ranked 12th in the country in points per game (77.7), while Virginia boasts the No. 4 scoring defense (54.5 points allowed per game). If the Cavaliers defense can stand pat against the Wolfpack, this game may once again come down to Joe Harris on the offensive end.