Thursday, March 8, 2012

ACC Preview: Terps make Wake, Eagles fall, Tech tallies, and Miami Cruises

Spencer Pyke

The Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament begins Thursday afternoon, and with 13 overall National Championships (five since 2001), history could repeat itself in 2012 as there are a handful of teams in the ACC that could be cutting down the nets come April…

#6 Miami vs. #11 Georgia Tech – Thursday at 9:00 pm  
UPDATE: MIA wins 54 - 36 
In the night cap of the first round, #6 seed Miami takes on #11 seed Georgia Tech.  Miami routed Tech in the only meeting between these two programs back on Jan. 24, 64 – 49, and should not have much trouble this time around either.

Miami will rely on three juniors to set the tone against the Yellow Jackets as they did in the first game.  Guard Durand Scott leads Miami in points per game but only scored six in the win over Tech back in January.  Alongside Grant is forward Kenny Kadji who had a monster game against Tech with 21 points and eight boards.  Kadji will look to have another big game against the Yellow Jackets mediocre front court alongside fellow big man Reggie Johnson, who missed a large part of the season due to suspensions and injury, but is a certified game changer when on the court.

If Tech has any chance at pulling off the upset they will need an all-star like performance from Junior guard Mfon Udofia, who tallied 14 points and three boards against Miami earlier this season.  The burden lay heavily on Udofia after starting guard and leading scorer Glen Rice Jr. is still suspended due to violation of team rules.

Miami has had an up and down season under new Head Coach Jim Larranaga in large part to injuries and suspensions; but when this team is full strength they are a force to be reckoned with as Duke and Florida State discovered earlier this season.  Miami, like N.C. State, needs a strong showing in the tournament to boost their tournament chances.  The Canes will grab the W with relative ease, setting up a rematch with rival Florida State Friday evening.

North Carolina State vs. Boston College – Thursday at 2:00 pm 
UPDATE: NC State wins 78 - 57 
The second game of the first round pits #5 seed North Carolina State against #12 seed Boston College.  This may be the closest game to a lock in the first round - I’ve been wrong before - as the Wolf pack defeated BC in both matchups this season and will look to do the same with relative ease in Atlanta.   The Eagles finished at the bottom of the conference standings while N.C. State finished just shy of a first round bye.

N.C. State is 13th in the nation in APG led by sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown, who averaged nine assists in the two games against the Eagles this season.  Expect Brown to find junior forward Scott Wood all afternoon after Wood dominated BC this season averaging 18.5 a game, six points higher than his season average.

NC State #15 Scott Wood told reporters in January that losing games was worse than having an unfaithful wife, even though he's never been married. College kids, so rash! Then again, it is the South.

N.C. State is considered one of the bubble teams that could still use some resume boosting, and a solid run through the ACC Tournament would do just that.  N.C. State will advance past BC, setting up a great quarterfinal matchup with University of Virginia on Friday.

Clemson vs. Virginia Tech – Thursday at 7:00 pm 
UPDATE: Tech wins it 68 - 63
In perhaps the most exciting game of the first round, #7 seed Clemson takes on #10 seed Virginia Tech.  Both programs need a conference championship to go dancing - but that’s why they play the ball games, you never know what could happen. This will be the third meeting between the two programs since Feb. 4 and second in the last eight days.  The two squads split the season series with each team winning on their home court and both games were decided by two points.

Senior guards Andre Young and Tanner Smith both averaged 12 points a game for the Tigers against Tech this season and will look for even more offensive input in order to keep the ball rolling in their final season.  If Tech wants to pull off the upset they will need a huge day from junior guard Erik Green, who averaged just over 15 points a game this season, but did not play well in either game against Clemson.

Heading into the tournament Clemson has won five of their last seven while Tech is amidst a four-game skid.  Don’t let Tech’s 4 – 12 conference record fool you, with 11 of their last 15 games having been decided by five points or less, the Hokies have gained late game experience which is key come tournament time.   This one will come down to the wire like their first two meetings and I am going with the upset.  Hokies live to fight another day.

Maryland vs. Wake Forest – Thursday at noon
UPDATE: Terps Win 82 - 60
The opening game of the tournament features #8 seed Maryland against #9 seed Wake Forest.  The Terps knocked off the Demon Deacons in their only contest of the season back on Jan. 11, 70 - 64.  In that game, Maryland’s back court was just too much for Wake as sophomore Terrell Stoglin and senior Sean Mosley both finished in double figures.

Maryland  Senior Sean Mosley received more than a dozen scholarship offers and collected 2,933 points in high school, the second most in Maryland high school history, but chose to stay close to home for college.

If Wake wants to avenge that loss, they will need big time performances from sophomore forward Travis McKie and junior guard C.J. Harris.  Harris leads the team in points per game but shot poorly from the field against Maryland in route to just ten points.  McKie on the other hand exploded for 25 points and seven boards and will look to do the same this time around.

Despite Wake’s dismal 4 – 12 record in conference play, this game is no sure thing for the higher seed.  All eyes will be on Stoglin and Harris as the two stars will have the ball in their hands down the stretch.  Both programs ended their respective seasons quite bleakly and the winner moves on the face #1 seed North Carolina, so it’s not getting any easier.  Stoglin averaged 21 plus all season and has been rather hot despite his team’s recent woes; he’ll have a big day as the Terps advance.

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