ACC Bubble Watch

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It is never too early to start thinking about the BIG DANCE, and with conference schedules right around the corner, let’s take an early look at how many ACC teams have a chance to dance this year.   

OUT

Boston College – The Eagles’ actually played a decent non-conference schedule and had some nice wins against power conference schools in Auburn and Penn St (without Tim Frazier), and they played Baylor tough. But losses to Bryant and Harvard show where this team is at. However, an NIT birth would be a great success for a young team with only one upper classman in the 8-man rotation.

Player to watch – Olivier Hanlan. The 6-4 freshman guard is averaging 12 points a game and 5 trips to the foul line, and has become a nice complement to Ryan Anderson.

Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons played UConn tough at the Paradise Jam Tournament, but they do not have any signature wins in non-conference play. Wake’s best win was against William & Mary at home. It will be another long season for the team from Winston-Salem.

Player to watch – Travis McKie. The 6-7 junior power forward is averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds for the Demon Deacons.

Florida State – The Seminoles have nice wins over BYU and at St. Joseph’s, but were demolished by Florida and lost to a bad Mercer team at home. The defending ACC Champs will need to make a Cinderella run in Greensboro this year to go dancing.

Player to watch – Okaro White. The junior forward is shooting over 50 % from the field, and makes half his shots beyond the arc while averaging close to 13 points a game.

BUBBLE

Clemson – The Tigers played a tough non-conference schedule this year with games against UTEP, Purdue, South Carolina, Gonzaga, and Arizona. With their best win coming at the Gamecocks, however, they lost to all three perennial tourney teams and thus don’t have a huge win that sticks out. Clemson will need to finish above .500 in conference play and have a big road win to make into the tourney.

Player to watch – K.J. McDaniels. The 6-6 sophomore guard is leading the team in scoring, steals and blocks.

Georgia Tech – The Yellow Jackets have wins over St. Mary’s, a bad Georgia team, and a bunch of cupcakes. But if they can win their remaining non-conference games and go 11-7 in conference play, Tech could earn a bid back to the tourney for first time in 4 years.

Player to watch – Marcus Georges-Hunt. The 6-5 freshman swing-man, is leading the team in scoring and grabbing close to 5 rebounds a game.

Virginia Tech – The Hokies are back in their normal spot; after a down year last season, Seth Greenberg once again has Virginia Tech as everyone’s favorite Selection Show live feed. The boys’ from Blacksburg should win 20 games, and have a great win over Oklahoma St and a nice win over Iowa. However, the Hokies have a bad loss at home against Georgia Southern. As usual, the drama will be high in Hokie country come March 17th.

Player to watch – Eric Green. Green has put himself in early contention for player of the year in the ACC,  putting up 25 points per game and dishing out nearly 5 assists. The 6-3 guard is getting to the line close to 9 times a game, while shooting 90% from the charity stripe.

Miami – The Hurricanes have a great win over Michigan St,  and a solid win over a previously undefeated Charlotte team. The senior-laden team should be dancing come March, but the Canes did not leave much room for error after the bad loss to Florida Gulf Coast, and play only 28 games this season.

Player to watch – Reggie Johnson. The 6-10, 300 pound center will need to continue to stay healthy and out of foul trouble for Miami to go far this year. He is averaging close to a double-double this season but in the loss to Gulf Coast, he only scored 6 points on 2 for 7 shooting.

IN – ROUND OF 64

 Virginia – The Cavaliers will be dancing this March, but it will end well before midnight. Tony Bennett’s squad plays great defense, but they just can’t score. Their losses to traditional Colonial Conference powers Delaware and George Mason are a good indication this team does not have the firepower to play late into March.

Player to watch – Akil Mitchell. The 6-8 forward scores 13 a game, and averages 9 rebounds a game for Virginia.

IN – ROUND OF 32

Maryland – The ACC turncoats do not have a significant win on the season, but played Kentucky tough at Rupp and should have 12 wins before conference play starts. If the Terrapins can win 10 games in conference, they should get a top-8 seed and mange one tourney win.

Player to watch – Dez Wells. The 6-5 sophomore from Xavier is averaging 12 points game for the Terps while grabbing close to 5 boards a game.

IN – ROUND OF 16

NC State – The talented but poorly coached Wolfpack have a few decent wins: UConn, Cleveland State, and UMass. But in both of State’s tough early season tests, the Pack flunked miserably with losses at Michigan and at home against Oklahoma St. This team is way too talented and deep not to win a few games come March, but something just is not right in Raleigh.

Player to watch – Rodney Purvis. The freshman guard was supposed to put NC State on top of the ACC this season, but has been unable to find his shot, shooting only 60 % from the line and 44 % from field. However, Purvis is the type of player that can dominate a few tourney games, which will make the Wolfpack dangerous come March.

North Carolina– The Tar Heels will make the tourney this year but have a long way to go to reach Atlanta. UNC was blown out at Indiana, and was losing to Butler by 30 before making a late second half run to make it look close. This is an atypical UNC team that plays from the outside in, with only one real low-post threat in James Michael McAdoo. UNC will go as far as its trio of outside shooters (PJ Hairston, Reggie Bullock, and Leslie McDonald) take them.

Player to watch – Brice Johnson. The freshman forward has an Antawn Jamison-type game with a quick release and a variety of post moves, and could give UNC their second post threat. Johnson is averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds a game while shooting a team high 63% from the field.

IN- FINAL FOUR

Duke – The Blue Devils have been the early surprise of college basketball, with great wins at Kentucky and Louisville, while beating Ohio St at home. Duke should be number one and undefeated when conference play starts in January. Duke has a veteran squad with three senior starters led by national player of the year candidate Mason Plumlee, and one junior in their top 6. But Coach K’s stubbornness in not developing a bench will be this team’s undoing in Atlanta, with his 6-man rotation and no front court depth behind Plumlee.

Player to watch – Rasheed Sulaimon. The 6-4 freshman guard has given Duke a huge lift this season. With senior Andre Dawkins out for the year, Sulaimon is scoring 12 points a game and grabbing 4 rebounds to help Duke off to a hot start.

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