The ACC Tournament is always wide-open, but this year things could get even crazier than normal.
If ever there was a season for an underdog to make some noise, this is it. Contrary to the portrayals of the national media, the ACC is still a very strong conference.
No, there haven't been many consistently ranked teams outside of Duke, but there is tremendous balance from top to bottom.
All but two teams (Virginia and Boston College) have winning overall records, and even a team near the bottom of the standings like N.C. State has a win against regular season co-champion Duke on their resume.
This year’s tournament is wide open, so it stands to reason that almost every team has at least a decent shot of making some noise and potentially winning the ACC Tournament crown.
The Hokies are no different. We’ve heard plenty about Tech’s weak non-conference schedule, but all that matters this week is the success against ACC opponents.
Virginia Tech finished tied for third place with Florida State after posting a 10-6 ACC record.
Duke is the media’s prohibitive favorite to win the tournament. The Blue Devils were ranked highly all season long, though to be fair, rankings in college basketball mean little to nothing.
In Tech’s only meeting with Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, neither team played its best but it was a competitive game until the closing minutes when Duke pulled away.
Maryland is also the regular season co-champion, and the Hokies played a marvelous game against the Terrapins in Blacksburg two weeks ago.
ACC player of the year Greivis Vasquez (19.6 PPG, 6.3 AST, 4.6 RPG) exploded for a career-high 41 points—33 coming in the second half—and the Terps prevailed 104-100 in double overtime.
The other top team Tech lost to was Florida State in a 63-58 loss in Tallahassee. The Hokies trailed by 13 with 2:29 remaining and mounted a furious comeback, closing to within four points before ultimately falling short.
Tech has yet to defeat one of the top teams in the ACC this year, but they only played the top three once, with two games on the road.
The Hokies proved they can play with the cream of the ACC crop, and so with a first round bye they sit poised to make a run in the conference tournament.
The first game will find Tech matched up against either Wake Forest or Miami, two teams Tech defeated during the regular season.
Let’s do the unthinkable and, for the sake of this column, assume the Hokies win that game.
That would set up a rematch with the Duke Blue Devils in the tournament semi-finals.
This is a matchup the Hokies desperately want. As stated above, the first game was a hard-fought one but neither team brought its A game on that night.
The one knock on Duke is that they’ve struggled away from Cameron Indoor Stadium, with all their losses coming on the road this season. Tech knows it stands a much better chance against the Blue Devils on a neutral court.
A win in that game may seem like a stretch, but remember the Hokies were a Tyler Hansbrough jumper away from beating the eventual national champions and advancing to the ACC championship game last season.
Once again, for the sake of the column, we’ll assume a victory here to look at my theoretical championship game featuring Virginia Tech and Maryland.
Clearly, Maryland is capable of beating any of the best teams in the conference and that’s largely due to their balanced scoring. Aside from Vasquez, Maryland has three other players averaging double-figure scoring in Landon Milbourne, Eric Hayes, and Sean Mosley.
Forward Jordan Williams leads the team in rebounding (8.3 RPG) and guys like Dino Gregory and Adrian Bowie can provide a nice lift off the bench for the Terrapins.
For my money, based on depth and recent performance, I think the Terrapins are the favorites right now to win the ACC Tournament.
It’s for that reason that I can’t pick Tech to win the ACC tournament. It could certainly happen though, as N.C. State’s magical 1983 run to the ACC title and eventually the national championship show.
In the meantime, settle in for what should be a great tournament.