There are three big questions that probably have to be asked in advance of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament:
1) Which Miami team will show up - the one that got off to a 13-0 start in conference play, or the one that lost three of its last five games?
2) Now that Duke has Ryan Kelly back in the lineup, are they going to be unbeatable?
3) Will North Carolina be able to bounce back from a rough loss to Duke and be a factor with its revamped, cat-quick lineup?
Here is the setup:
Atlantic Coast Conference Championship
Defending Champion: Florida State
The Hurricanes were being talked about as a possibility for the #1 spot in the country when they won their first thirteen games in the ACC, especially since they had manhandled Duke 90-63 on January 23. Things started to get a little tense, however, as Miami had close calls with both Clemson (45-43) and Virginia (54-50), then lost to Wake Forest. They showed a lot of moxie in losing a decision to a fired-up Duke squad in the rematch at Cameron Indoor Stadium, then lost to Georgia Tech the next time out. So they had to beat Clemson in the season finale to clinch the ACC title, which they did, and they go in as the #1 seed and a first-round bye, set to play the winner of a game between Boston College and Georgia Tech. However, BetAnySports currently has Miami listed at (+340) to win the ACC Tournament, behind Duke.
Miami's roster has a real veteran presence, with seniors like Kenny Kadji (a 6'11" forward from the Cameroon), Durand Scott, Trey McKinney-Jones, Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson all playing key roles. Some observers believe that is one of the factors that plays in the Hurricanes' favor, and they are probably right. But this is their first time in the spotlight on this stage, and not all of the parts are functioning correctly, Johnson, a bull of a man (6'10, 290) has been lousy lately; he has made just four out of 20 shots over the last five games, scoring only twelve points over that period.
Duke is currently listed as the favorite at BetAnySports at -110 to win the tourney. Duke has not lost a game with Ryan Kelly in the lineup this season. And he returned from a foot injury in style, to say the least, scoring 36 points against Miami (with seven three-pointers). He didn't catch fire again but did go 8-for-16 in his next two games, and he is a critical element to the Blue Devils spacing out enemy defenses. Seth Curry, Quinn Cook and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon can also hit the three-pointer, which opens things up a little for Mason Plumlee (59% FG's, 17.3 ppg) down low. Sulaimon has been a hot-and-cold proposition; he scored 27 points against Boston College on February 24, but only 17 points in his four games since.
North Carolina took it on the chin from some teams lately, such as Butler, Indiana and Texas, and teams like Miami and Duke have been a bit to much for them to handle, but the Tar Heels made some progress as the season moved forward; in fact, they had won six straight games going into the regular season finale against Duke, which turned out to be a bitter disappointment for them, as they got off to a 14-0 deficit and found themselves outshot by a 55%-34% margin in a 69-53 defeat. Coach Roy Williams takes the floor much of the time with four guards, and one of them is freshman Marcus Paige at the point. He leads the team with 4.6 assists per game, but is only a 33% shooter. James Michael McAdoo, a cousin of former NBA MVP Bob McAdoo, is the leading scorer (14.6 ppg) and the guy they count on to provide points from close range, but he is playing through a bulging disk in his back and that is something that could flare up in an event that demands play on back-to-back days.
There are other teams that could pull some surprises. North Carolina State, which has spent a lot of the season in the Top 25, is one of them, and they have beaten Duke and North Carolina, although the season-ending loss at Florida State was a downer. They also hold some value at +1000 at BetAnySports to win the ACC Tourney. Maryland (+4000) has yielded just 38% from the floor (10th in nation) and their +9.4 rebound margin is fourth best in the country. Virginia (+900) is a team that has potential to frustrate opponents under fundamentally-sound coach Tony Bennett. They turn the ball over just 10.9 times a game, hit three-pointers with some accuracy (39.5%) and play at a very deliberate pace, allowing just 54.4 points a game (ranking fourth in the country). Florida State is the defending ACC champion, but coach Leonard Hamilton did not have much luck with his club this season and they are longshots at 125-1; in fact, they allowed a very ordinary (for them) 43.5% from the field, and they would have to duplicate last year's title effort to get into the Big Dance. That isn't likely to happen.
For All of your tournament futures head to BetAnySports for the best in NCAA Basketball betting.
Read more gambling insights from Charles J right here at OSGA.