Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
RALEIGH, NC (WMBF) - This week, Coastal Carolina joins Duke, Virginia, Tennessee and several other big name schools at PNC Arena for a weekend of games as the NCAA Tournament is off and running. TomorrowMore >>
Chants take the floor for a practice in Raleigh before taking on top-seeded Virginia Friday night.More >>
(RNN) – Take a good look. The ACC has provided the best combination of quality basketball and conference stability in the nation for more than a half-century.
But things will be changing soon. This is the last 12-team tournament in the foreseeable future because of all the movement in college basketball.
We have the Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame flavors to add to the ACC stew next season, and the possibility the tournament will move north of Washington for the first time.
So enjoy this year's spectacle while it lasts. We can't promise much, but we guarantee you will either hate the new brand or you will love it.
Numbers in parentheses indicate tournament seeding and previous tournament championships. All times Eastern.
Georgia Tech (9, 3) vs. Boston College (8, 0) noon Thursday
Boston College (15-16, 7-11) has the most dangerous weapon you can give a team this time of year: confidence.
The Eagles have won three straight, including the season finale against Georgia Tech, and done it in impressive fashion. They started the winning streak by knocking off Virginia on a buzzer beater by Joe Rahon and outscored Georgia Tech 12-0 to finish the game and win by two.
Rahon is the team's third-leading scorer, but he has carried BC down the stretch. He and Eddie Odio have provided invaluable hustle for a team that is barely getting any production from its bench.
The Yellow Jackets (16-14, 6-12) don't have as much mojo going into this first-round game, but they are the basketball equivalent of a crafty, left-handed pitcher. They won't overpower you, but they have a lot to throw at you and they can beat you backdoor if you get overconfident.
Georgia Tech needs everyone in the frontcourt to have big games to give them a chance, but particularly 6'8", 245-pound freshman Robert Carter. Why, you ask?
Consider his lines the last four games: six points, 23 minutes against Boston College (loss); 12 points, 2-for-4 from outside against Miami (win); eight points, five fouls against NC State (loss); 19 points, 10 rebounds, 4-for-4 on free throws against Maryland (win).
Virginia Tech (12, 0) vs. NC State (5, 10) 2 p.m. Thursday
Here we have tons of scoring from an entire team (NC State) vs. tons of scoring from a single player (Erick Green). Something has to give, and the law of averages says it's likely not the team with five players that average 12 or more points per games.
NC State (22-9, 11-7) has unquestioned talent to go along with its questionable chances at advancing in this tournament. They're a no-doubt lock to make the NCAA Tournament, but let's all be honest, the Wolfpack could use a little redemption.
It's not a good sign that the best two games point guard Lorenzo Brown has played in the last three weeks have been losses (Florida State, North Carolina). It's an even worse sign that after starting the season 3-0 in games decided by five or fewer points, NC State is 3-5 in those games since Jan. 16.
Virginia Tech (13-18, 4-14) has more going against it this season than for it. Surrounding Green are forwards who are undersized (Jarell Eddie) and inconsistent (Cadarian Raines) and a backcourt partner that often has to defer to the country's leading scorer (Robert Brown).
They couldn't pull it together for most of conference play, and it would be just shy of a miracle if they advanced.
Wake Forest (10, 4) vs. Maryland (7, 3) 7 p.m. Thursday
Last week I unabashedly gave my endorsement to Maryland as a contender for the ACC championship. After two consecutive losses, I still believe that. It could be pride or common sense, but either way, it's hard to ignore the Terrapins.
The past two games have been an either-or deal for Maryland (20-11, 8-10 ACC). They either have impact games from the starters and get nada from the deepest bench in the conference, or they get tons of production from the reserves and the starters lay goose eggs.
This team is built to get contributions from all the guys in the rotation. Without that, they're toast.
A win over a struggling Virginia Tech team to close the season isn't the ideal form of momentum, but Wake Forest (13-17, 6-12) will take what it can get.
Freshman forward Devin Thomas has put the team on his shoulders here and there and he has been solid the past three games (averaging nearly 16 points, nine rebounds). The Deacons need more of that. They also need another freshman, guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, to stay calm and run the floor.
Clemson (11, 0) vs. Florida State (6, 1) 9 p.m. Thursday
While his team has been in the midst of a six-game losing streak, sophomore point guard Rod Hall has been compiling assists and unassertively guiding the offense. He is virtually a nonfactor in the scoring column every night, and there is no reason to think he will make an impact on this game or the tournament.
That's exactly why you need to keep your eyes on him. He's a solid 6'1", 210 pounds, physical and smart. These are the types of players that step up and make a difference in win-or-go-home situations. And goodness, Clemson (13-17, 5-13) needs him about as bad as a candy addict needs a root canal.
We can sum up Florida State's chances by adapting a famous phrase from UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma: "We have Michael Snaer, and you don't."
Snaer has sunk four game-winning shots for the Seminoles (17-14, 9-9 ACC) this season, bringing his total to six in the past two seasons. Any player who is feeling it like he is always poses a threat.
The surrounding cast needs to do its part, though. After all, no one has ever made a 10-point shot to win a basketball game.
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