Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013 ACC Tournament First Round Predictionz

By Spencer Pyke

After a 2013 regular season where no clear cut favorite jumped out amongst the others, “Championship Week” looks to be a great precursor to the NCAA Tournament. And what better way to prepare than with one of the best conferences of them all, the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last season, we watched Florida State make a Cinderella run through Greensboro en route to their first conference championship. This year, we could see yet another first time winner in Miami, a traditional champ like Duke, or perhaps another team out of left field like, dare I say, Florida State.

#9 Georgia Tech vs. #8 Boston College – Thursday at Noon

Two young programs kick off the tourney, as ACC Rookie of the Year, Olivier Hanlan (pictured), and the Eagles of Boston College look to win their fourth game in a row and second straight over the Yellow Jackets. After being blown out by Duke and North Carolina State on the road to end February, the Eagles are unbeaten in March, knocking off a popular Virginia side, Clemson and Georgia Tech.  While the freshman Hanlan leads the way, sophomore Ryan Anderson and fellow freshman Joe Rahon have both contributed significantly, averaging double figures.

Image: Olivier Hanlan / Source: AP

After a big win over Miami, the Yellow Jackets fizzled in their season finale on the road at BC. While Marcus Georges-Hunt leads Tech in scoring, the x-factor will be big man Robert Carter, Jr. After a quiet game in their latest loss, Carter needs to step up and match the level of play of BC’s Anderson, who has been on a tear as of late.
While both programs are young, and are unlikely to advance into the weekend, this will be a highly competitive game to set the tone for the tournament. As mentioned, BC’s Olivier Hanlan was Rookie of the Year, but expect the fellow rookie, Rahon, to have a great day as the Eagles move on: Boston College 68 – Georgia Tech 65.

#12 Virginia Tech vs. #5 North Carolina State – Thursday 2 pm

In the second game of the tournament, ACC Player of the Year, Erick Green (pictured, ball-in-hand), and the last place Hokies take on #5 seed North Carolina State. After being selected as one of the favorites to win the conference, State had a rather disappointing campaign in the regular season and missed out on a first round bye after a loss to Florida State in their season finale.

Image: Erick Green / Source: Rob Kinnan USA Today Sports

Although the Hokies finished in last place, Green is the real deal. I watched him drop 30 on Miami in person, and ever since was certain that he was the only person to deserve POY over Shane Larkin.  But while Green is a certified game changer, he is partnered with a lackluster supporting cast.

Led by CJ Leslie and Richard Howell, the Wolfpack finished 11 – 7 in the ACC, winning six of their last seven after a slow start to the season. While Leslie and Howell get a lot of the credit, Lorenzo Brown, who averages 12.5 points per game to go along with seven assists, is the piston that makes the State motor hum.

While Green is a feel good story and the Hokies pushed State to overtime in their only meeting this season, Tech just doesn’t have enough around their star to pull off the upset: N.C. State 67 – Virginia Tech 56

#10 Wake Forest vs. #7 Maryland – Thursday 7 pm

Nothing like two squads limping into “Championship Week” only to face off against each other in the first round. In the third game of the evening, Wake enters the tourney having dropped 10 of their last 14, and the Terps enter after dropping five of their last eight.

Thanks to a video game-like day from CJ Harris, Wake was able to upset a sleeping Miami team a few weeks back, but that game was more about Miami’s lack of energy than Wake’s success. Harris and Travis McKie are two above-average players for the Deacons, but that is pretty much all Wake has to work with.

Fortunately for Wake, Maryland does not tout a plethora of talent either. Dez Wells has been lights out for the Terps all year, averaging 12 points, four boards and three dimes a game, and I expect him to continue to kill the game against Wake.

Even though Maryland has defeated Wake two times this season, I am picking Maryland for a different reason: Alex Len (pictured). The 7’1” center from Ukraine is a big reason why Maryland is one of the top rebounding teams in the country, grabbing eight boards a game to go along with 11 points.

Image: Alex Len / Source Johnathan Newton – Washington Post

The best part about Len? No other seven footer in college basketball has more grace -- except maybe that Canadian WCC Player of the Year bro, Kelly Olynyk, for Gonzaga. How is this possible? In his early years, Len’s parents had him do gymnastics and not only did he participate, he excelled. Fortunately for the Terps, Len got too tall for gymnastics, and was introduced to basketball: Maryland 64 – Wake Forest 59

#11 Clemson vs. #6 Florida State – Thursday 9 pm

The nightcap of the opening round of the ACC Tournament gives us last year’s champion, Florida State, and Mr. Game Winner himself, Michael Snaer (pictured) against Clemson. Snaer continued his “clutchness” this past week with yet another game winner, his sixth agaisnt ACC teams in the last two seasons, this time against Virginia.

Snaer is undoubtedly the leader of the Seminoles, but he also receives help from junior forward, Okaro White. White is a force to be reckoned with down low, averaging 12 and six per contest, and will be key if FSU wants to experience just a bit of the success they did in Greensboro last year.

Image: Michael Snaer / Source: Getty Images

Due to the talent of Devin Booker, Milton Jennings and KJ McDaniels, Clemson cannot be overlooked and should give the Noles a knuck for their buck. But these are two programs heading in opposite directions. The Tigers have dropped six in a row and nine of their last ten while the Noles ended the season with big time wins over Virginia and North Carolina State. Although Clemson competed with Florida State in two meetings this year, I expect the Noles to take a close one: Florida State 71 – Clemson 65.

That's it for the first round. Today's winners will face off tomorrow against bye earners #1 Miami, #2 Duke, #3 UNC, and #4 UVA. Keep it locked on for second round, semifinals and finals coverage of the 2013 ACC Tournament.