2014 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament Preview

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at the teams best suited to make a run in the ACC's annual conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C..

For a select few squads this week represents the last chance to audition for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. For others, it's the final opportunity to build a resume´ worthy of an at-large selection to the Big Dance and for others still it's one last hurrah for the senior players on underachieving teams.

Conference tournaments also make for an amazing week of television for fully-crazed basketball junkies desperately itching for the Ides of March.

We take a look at the field and break down the most likely 2014 ACC Tournament Champions.

The Favorites

The top teams in the ACC have all had some troubles down the stretch. Regular season champions Virginia lost to Maryland Sunday in College Park, Duke dropped a tough game at Wake Forest last week and Syracuse has lost four of its last six games after starting the season 25-0.

Still, it appears likely that the tournament champion will come from the top handful of teams.

North Carolina (23-8, 13-5 ACC) had won 12 consecutive games before a loss to Duke in the regular season finale and the Tar Heels enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. First Team All-ACC sophomore guard Marcus Paige (17.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) runs the show for Roy Williams' club and junior James Michael McAdoo (14.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG) holds down the interior.

UNC has a good draw facing a likely match up with 5-seed Pittsburgh (23-8, 11-7 ACC) in the quarterfinals. Pitt has lost four of its final seven games including a 75-71 decision against Carolina February 15.

Top-seed Virginia (25-6, 16-2 ACC) is just as hot, having won 13-straight before the loss to Maryland. Guards Maclolm Brogdon (12.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG), Joe Harris (11.4 PPG) and ACC All-Freshman selection London Perrantes (3.8 APG) lead the way on offense and the Cavaliers rank first in the country in scoring defense (55.4 PPG).

UVA will face the winner of Maryland-Florida State in the quarterfinals. You can bet the Cavaliers will be highly motivated for revenge if it's Maryland, but either way Virginia can make a case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament if the Wahoos can win the ACC Tournament.

Duke (24-7, 13-5 ACC) is extremely talented as usual but not without flaws. First team All-ACC selection Jabari Parker (19.2 PPG, 9 RPG) is the best freshman in the nation and rare transfer Rodney Hood (16.5 PPG, 4 RPG) creates nightmares for defenses.

As usual, Duke has a strong shooting team ranked 20th in the land in three point field goal percentage (39.3%). The biggest issue is in the paint where the Blue Devils are just 159th in total rebounds. Teams with size that attack the post can give Duke fits, that is if you can prevent the terrific outside shooting.

Syracuse (27-4, 14-4 ACC) is trending downward as of late but things may be looking up slightly. Sophomore forward Jerami Grant (12 PPG, 6.8 RPG) returned from a back injury in the Orange win over Florida State Sunday. Grant has become a big playmaker complementing the play of First team All-ACC forward C.J. Fair (16.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and ACC All-Freshman guard Tyler Ennis (12.4 PPG, 5.5 APG).

The Orange don't wow you offensively (247th in scoring) but Jim Boeheim's vaunted zone defense is a problem for any opponent and is tough to prepare for in a tournament setting.

The Underdogs

The second tier of teams has a chance to make some noise too.

5-seed Pittsburgh (23-8, 11-7 ACC) has had a strange season. The Panthers were 18-2 after a win over Maryland January 25, but have gone just 5-6 with four of the victories coming in overtime or double-overtime down the stretch.

When forward Lamar Patterson is healthy and scoring things go well. The 6'5" senior averaged 17.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 4.5 APG for Pitt this season. 6'9" senior Talib Zanna led the Panthers in the post with 12.5 PPG and 8.3 RPG.

Pitt shouldn't have much trouble with the winner of Wake Forest-Notre Dame which would set up a game with North Carolina. The Panthers lost by only four points in Chapel Hill back in mid-February so a win there isn't unthinkable. I don't see Pittsburgh winning the tournament but a win over UNC would certainly improve the Panthers' NCAA Tournament seed.

The team where one could argue I lose the plot a bit comes next.

I think N.C. State has a run in them. The Wolfpack won't win the whole thing, but there are a number of things in State's favor.

T.J. Warren is the ACC player of the Year. He led the ACC in scoring with 24.8 PPG this season while also pulling down a team-high 7.1 RPG. Sophomore guard Tyler Lewis has done a nice job running the offense and State is a team desperately in need of some big wins.

At 19-12 overall and 9-9 in ACC play, the Wolfpack are on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament right now. State should win its first game against the winner of Virginia Tech-Miami, but playing either of those teams will likely hurt the Wolfpack's RPI and strength of schedule. A win though would set up a rematch with Syracuse in the quarterfinals.

In the only meeting this season, N.C. State left the Carrier Dome with a disappointing one point loss to the Orange. A Syracuse-N.C. State game would be Friday night at 7 p.m. and there would no doubt be far more Wolfpack fans in attendance than Orange. Other fans always support the upsets at these tournaments and ACC supporters wouldn't mind seeing the new kids on the block head back to upstate New York before the weekend.

I think Virginia will win the tournament based on outstanding defense and talent. People have been reluctant to give UVA the credit it deserves this season but they are a legitimate threat to make a run to the Final Four.


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