2011 ACC Tournament Preview: Breaking Down the Biggest Storylines
Site: Greensboro Coliseum—Greensboro, N.C.
Dates: March 10-13
Format: ACC Tournament Bracket
Overview: One of college basketball's most exciting traditions gets under way later this week as 12 teams collide in Greensboro, N.C. for the 2011 ACC Tournament.
North Carolina captured the top seed with a win over Duke on Saturday night in Chapel Hill, but a lot of questions still remain unanswered, including a few open spots still to be claimed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The Duke Blue Devils are vying for their third ACC title in a row and looking for a little momentum heading into the Big Dance. Carolina is trying to keep their rival from winning its third straight ACC title. And more than a few teams are trying to get off the bubble and into the field of 68.
Here's a look at some of the top story lines and predictions going into the ACC's biggest basketball weekend of the year.
Which Kyle Singler Will Show Up for the Blue Devils?
Kyle Singler has been doing his best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impersonation since the second half of the ACC season started. Since the first meeting against North Carolina at the beginning of February, the normally sharp-shooting Singler has hit only five three-pointers in eight games.
During that skid, his three-point shooting percentage has slipped to just 16 percent.
In some games, however, Singler has managed to get to the line to pad his numbers. In Duke's loss against Virginia Tech, Singler went 9-for-10 from the foul line.
Besides Duke's porous defense against UNC Saturday night, their inability to find a third reliable scorer—Nolan Smith and Seth Curry combined for 50 of the Blue Devils' 67 points—has been their most glaring weakness.
But if Singler can shake off his shooting slump and continue to draw fouls, Duke may be able to get back on track, set up a rematch with the Tar Heels and potentially lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Which Bubble Teams Will Make Their Case?
If it's March, that means Virginia Tech's on the bubble.
But the Hokies aren't the only team playing for their tournament lives this weekend in Greensboro. While UNC, Duke and Florida State are locks for the NCAA Tournament, Clemson, Boston College and Virginia Tech need to put up strong performances to solidify their place in the tournament field.
Boston College faces Wake Forest in the first round on Thursday. Look for a repeat of Sunday night's performance, where the Eagles dominated Wake Forest, 84-68. That will set up a game in the quarterfinals against Clemson, with both teams gunning for a semifinal matchup with top-seeded North Carolina on Saturday.
Virginia Tech, the perennial bubble team, squares off against 11th seed Georgia Tech on Thursday night. Those two teams split their regular season conference games, and there's really no telling what kind of team will show up for Seth Greenberg.
If the Hokies lose in the first round, their chances for making the Big Dance probably go down the tubes, as well.
Will Kendall Marshall Continue His Stellar Play?
Kendall Marshall has been the glue that has brought the Tar Heels' team together and given them yet another regular season championship. Against Duke on Saturday, Marshall got the job done yet again, scoring 15 points and dishing out 11 rebounds to power UNC over Duke for the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament.
If history is any indication, Marshall may just add another level to his game. He's stepped up in the biggest games of the year since he was inserted into the starting lineup, turning the Tar Heels into legitimate Final Four contenders.
Can Florida State Stop the Tobacco Road Streak?
Make no mistake, the state of North Carolina has a stranglehold on the ACC Tournament.
Duke and North Carolina have won the last six tournaments in a row. Add in Wake Forest, and Tobacco Road has claimed an astounding 18 out of the last 20 ACC Tournaments.
Florida State seems poised be the out-of-state spoiler this year after an impressive 11-5 conference record, including a win over Duke. The Seminoles came just short of taking down top-seeded North Carolina, as well.
The team can improve their chances if they're able to get forward Chris Singleton back from a broken foot in time for the tournament. Singleton went down against Virginia on Feb. 12.
Can Maryland Pull off Another Improbable Run?
In 2004, Maryland entered the ACC Tournament as the No. 6 seed.
"No worries," said Gary Williams, leading his Terrapins to upset wins over Wake Forest, N.C. State and Duke to capture the conference crown and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
But that was seven years ago.
Maryland will need more than that this year, as they find themselves having to win four games instead of three thanks to the conference expansion that took place since their improbable run to the championship. That, and the fact that Maryland has won only three ACC Tournament games in the past six years, means the Terrapins will probably need a lot of luck to make it out of the quarterfinals.
Carolina's the hottest team in the ACC coming into the conference tournament. But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has won nine out of the last 12 conference championships.
This one could go either way, but look for Sunday's final game to be a rematch between conference front-runners Duke and North Carolina, with Duke taking home the crown once again thanks to their tournament experience, the neutral court and the leadership of 12-time tournament winner Krzyzewski.