Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tournament Overview: Atlantic Coast

No big surprise: Duke and Carolina are overwhelming favorites. The ACC is like the American League East: with two giants that enter every season as the Teams To Beat, and more often than not everyone else is just fighting over third place. Sure, every once in a while the Devil Rays or the Terps will break through, but the window always seems to close mighty quickly. I don't know if anything can be done about it--or even if anything should be done about it--but it sure is frustrating for everyone else.

TAPE likes Miami by 4 points in Thursday's opener (69.8 to 65.8 in 64.6 possessions). The first game on Thursday is usually played to a disinterested and mostly-empty arena, so the Hurricanes should feel right at home. Virginia Tech tends to rely on the energy of the crowd--either soaking in the supportive crowd in Cassell or feeding off the negative energy on the road--so the Hokies could have trouble getting motivated. If it's a close game, though, Tim Brant will inevitably start talking about all the close losses the Hokies have experienced this year and how they're a real tough-luck case. Don't buy it. Sure, they've lost some heartbreakers, but Tech is 7-7 in games decided by 5 points or less this season. So yes, Tim, the Hokies do know how to win a close one.

Clemson should beat Georgia Tech by 12 points (80.1 to 68.2 in 74.4 possessions). Paul Hewitt's defense invites opponents to shoot three-pointers, and Clemson, who hit 38% of their threes on the season, will be happy to shoot from distance. TAPE thinks that Clemson will make 9 three-pointers. On the flip-side, the one thing Clemson's defense does really well is force turnovers, while the Yellow Jackets are really bad (#299 in the country bad) at taking care of the ball. TAPE sees 21 turnovers for the Wreck.

Maryland should be 1½ points better than N.C. State (68.8 to 67.4 in 65.2 possessions). State has big advantages in shooting, rebounding, and getting to the free throw line, but Maryland's defense will turn the Wolfpack over on nearly a quarter of their possessions. If State takes care of the basketball they'll win.

In the nightcap, TAPE likes BC by 4 over UVa (74.8 to 70.7 in 68.2 possessions). Virginia has already played spoiler to the Hokies and the Terps, and even though the Eagles are almost certainly going to be in the field of 65, the Wahoos could at least make them sweat a little bit on Sunday. The difference in this matchup comes down to shooting. If UVa can slow down BC's clusterflex offense they'll have a good chance of offering themselves up as the sacrificial lamb for Duke on Friday night.

Here's the full matchup table:

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