ACC Tournament Ready to Tip Off

For college basketball fans March is the best month of the year, and the good news is it’s finally here! For some fans it could come as a relief to finally be done having to watch a disappointing team all season, while others are nervously excited about their team’s chances to be crowned champions. The ACC Tournament will begin in Greensboro and will run from Tuesday to Saturday. The tournament is known to be unpredictable, and this year is expected to be no different. Let’s take a look at why each team, from the favorites to the cinderellas, has a chance to make a run this year.
No. 15 – Louisville
Why they can win: Guard El Ellis has been a surprise star for this Louisville team. Top ten in the league in both points and assists, Ellis is a dynamic creator for himself and his teammates. He will be one of the tournament’s best players when he has the ball in his hands.
Why they cannot: The team around Ellis lacks the talent to beat the ACC’s top teams day after day. Outside of Ellis the team doesn’t have another player who averages double digit scoring, nor another player who is near the playmaker that Ellis is. The team also struggles to take care of the ball, as they are far and away the ACC’s leading team in turnovers per game.
No. 14 – Notre Dame
Why they can win: Nate Laszewski has had an excellent season for the Irish, being one of the best free throw and three point shooters in the ACC. If him and supporting cast Dane Goodwin, Trey Wertz and Cormac Ryan get hot they’re capable of scoring with any team in the conference.
Why they cannot: They lack a true big man and will not have the size or depth to compete with teams that have heavy interior presence. The lack of depth makes it difficult for them to stay in the game if any starters fall into foul trouble.
No. 13 – Georgia Tech
Why they can win: After starting the season just 1-12 in ACC play, the Yellow Jackets finished the season by going 5-2 in their last seven games. They are one of the hottest teams in the conference and there is not a higher seeded team that wants to see them in the tournament this year.
Why they cannot: The Yellow Jackets are dead last in the ACC in free throw percentage. In games that come down to the wire they only have a few players that can be trusted to take care of business at the line.

No. 12 – Florida State
Why they can win: The Seminoles offense can come from a variety of different players as they have four players on the roster who average double digit points per game. They have also had seven different players on the team lead them in scoring in an individual game, showing offensive depth that is important in a tournament where you lose and you’re out.
Why they cannot: The Seminoles are the ACC’s worst defensive team and they’re in the bottom five of ACC offenses, totaling the second worst average scoring margin in the league. They are also just 2-9 over their last 11 games and will need a quick turnaround if they hope to make noise in the tournament.
No. 11 – Virginia Tech
Why they can win: The Hokies started the season 11-1 and were a nationally ranked top 25 team in the middle of December. At that point, the Hokies were hit by the injury bug and the team has yet to return to form. If the reigning ACC Tournament champions can return to their level of play from early in the season they will be a formidable opponent for any team.
Why they cannot: While injuries were a major issue for the Hokies at the beginning of ACC play; the team finished the season just 7-7 since they got healthy. They have managed an upset win or two, but generally have beaten up on bad teams and lost to good teams over that stretch of 14 games. The Hokies are hoping for lightning to strike twice in a row, but the challenge this year is even greater as they are the 11 seed and will have to win five games in five days.
No. 10 – Boston College
Why they can win: The Eagles have shown at times this year that they are capable of playing with anyone in the conference. Big man Quentin Post has shown an incredible ability to get it done in the paint and knock down shots from anywhere. Makai Ashton-Langford and Jaiden Zackery have developed strong chemistry in the backcourt and have the ability to provide a great spark offensively.
Why they cannot: Outside of Post, the Eagles lack anyone else that can make a significant impact inside against the rest of the big men in the conference. Due to a recent injury Post is now questionable to play in the tournament and the Eagles don’t have anyone who can serve as a suitable replacement for what he does.
No. 9 – Wake Forest
Why they can win: Transfer Tyree Appleby finished runner-up for ACC Player of the Year and the Deacons have had other key pieces emerge as contributors throughout the season to compliment Appleby. His scoring ability is paired with an elite ability to distribute the ball and create excellent shot opportunities for his teammates, creating one of the most formidable offenses in the conference.
Why they cannot: Wake was severely weakened down the stretch as they lost sharpshooter Damari Monsanto to a season ending injury. Unless a surprise candidate emerges and finds a way to make up for Monsanto’s scoring production, they will be without a key contributor to their offense.
No. 8 – Syracuse
Why they can win: Their offense is very well balanced between frontcourt and backcourt, Joseph Girard is one of the best shooters in the ACC and big man Jesse Edwards is averaging a double-double, providing great rebounding and interior scoring for the Orange.
Why they cannot: Besides their three main scorers the production significantly drops off, leaving the team vulnerable if any of them are having an off-night. They will likely need an unexpected player or two to step up if they hope to win four games in four days.
No. 7 – North Carolina
Why they can win: The Tar Heels are loaded with talent and experience, and despite being labeled as one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball history, the fact remains that they still have four of the starters from last year’s national championship run. The leader of that group is senior Armando Bacot, who has cemented himself as one of the best big men in Carolina history. His ability on the boards and potential to take over a game inside makes him the most likely player who could lead the Tar Heels on a championship run.
Why they cannot: They entered the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and seemed to most experts to be poised for another title run, but unfortunately for the Tar Heels this season has gone dreadfully wrong. Despite the immense amount of talent on the roster, several players who were supposed to be key contributors have fallen woefully short of expectations this season while no one has stepped up in their place.
No. 6 – NC State
Why they can win: The Wolfpack are the ACC’s best team at forcing their opponents to turn the ball over, largely thanks to their aggressive and quick defenders on the perimeter. They are also among the ACC’s best teams at taking care of the ball, and combining those two stats, the Wolfpack have the best turnover margin in the conference.
Why they cannot: For having the number two scoring offense in the league, the Wolfpack are a very average offense in the half court as their shooting percentages at all levels are average, or worse. The Wolfpack get a significant number of easy baskets per game thanks to the turnovers they force, but if their opponents can take care of the ball then the Wolfpack may struggle to score.
No. 5 – Pittsburgh
Why they can win: The Panthers have been easily one of the biggest surprises in the ACC this season; most picked them to finish near the bottom of the pack, but they find themselves coming to Greensboro as the five seed. Opponents have had to deal with four offensive threats in their lineup; Blake Hinson, Jamarius Burton, Nelly Cummings and Greg Elliott have all shown they can score at rapid pace, creating a unique challenge for defenders.
Why they cannot: The Panthers have had a tendency at times to fall into foul trouble throughout the game and obviously your stars cannot have an impact if they’re being kept off the court. If Pittsburgh goes up against a team that is aggressive offensively, they could find themselves in foul trouble.
No. 4 – Duke
Why they can win: The Blue Devils took a while to get healthy, but they are closing the season as the ACC’s hottest team, having won their last six games of the season. Duke is also the best rebounding team in the conference, mostly thanks to the play of standout freshman Kyle Filipowski, graduate transfer Ryan Young and the rapidly improving freshman Dereck Lively II.
Why they cannot: The Blue Devils rank in the bottom three in the ACC in turnovers per game and three point percentage. If opponents can limit Duke’s inside scoring, the Blue Devils are likely to have difficulty taking care of the ball and scoring from the perimeter.

No. 3 – Clemson
Why they can win: The Tigers have a starting lineup good enough to compete against anyone in the conference. Big men PJ Hall and Hunter Tyson have been outstanding this season and both provide the unique element of being able to shoot the three efficiently, causing this team to be a nightmare to defend at times. Guards Chase Hunter and Brevin Galloway have stepped up in big ways as well this season and produced greatly in the backcourt to complement Hall and Tyson.
Why they cannot: This team ranks second to last in the ACC in offensive rebounds, limiting the number of easy second chance opportunities they get every game. If opponents can force them to shoot below their average, the Tigers are unlikely to make up for it by putting back their own misses.
No. 2 – Virginia
Why they can win: The Cavaliers are traditionally one of the strongest defensive teams in the ACC, and while this year’s team isn’t as strong as they have been in the past they still rank among the conference’s best defenses. Throughout the year this team has displayed tremendous depth; no single player stands out on the stat sheet as elite, but having nine quality ACC players is a valuable trait that is not found in many other ACC teams.
Why they cannot: This team has nobody that stands out as an elite offensive contributor, a weakness that has been exposed recently as the Cavalier offense has been shut down in multiple games over the past few weeks. Additionally, they have been a below average free throw shooting team this season and don’t have a player who is great at rebounding

No. 1 – Miami
Why they can win: The Hurricanes are the ACC’s top ranked offense, and it’s not particularly close. The team has four double-digit scorers on the roster, led by the ACC’s best guard trio of ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong, Nigel Pack and Jordan Miller, along with big man Norchad Omier, who leads the conference in field goal percentage.
Why they cannot: For as great as their offense is, the Hurricanes defense is incredibly inconsistent from game to game and just average overall. One night they held Duke to just 59 points in a blowout victory, then less than a week later they barely escaped against Louisville as they surrendered 85 points to the league’s worst offense. The Hurricanes will likely need a streak of defensive consistency they haven’t had all season if they hope to come away as champions.

Sports Staff Picks: Daniel – UNC, Dylan – Duke, Holden – Miami, Matthew – NC State, Ryan – UNC