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March 16, 2006

Atlantic Coast Conference still strong

by Payal Patnaik, Online Editor-in-Chief
Never underestimate the ACC. Although the Big East is probably the strongest conference this year, the ACC has a tradition of excellence in basketball. Not only is the conference one of the most experienced in NCAA basketball history, but the top three teams, Duke, UNC and Boston College, are all forces to reckon with. These three teams have the potential to make the Final Four with their strength and experience, although anything is possible with college ball.

Duke
Fresh from being crowned ACC champ for the 16th time in the school's basketball history, Duke earned the number one seed in the Atlanta region. Duke had a strong season with a few close shaves, although the Blue Devils did not end their season very admirably. Duke is unquestionably a formidable force in the NCAA - no one likes to see the team on its playing schedule. Between Mike Krzyzewski and his strong players, Duke has it all. Strong guards, strong insides, strong three-pointers - these elements will certainly make Duke better than many of the other teams, including those of the Big East.


North Carolina
No one knew what to expect from North Carolina this year. The team won the NCAA Tournament last year but did not have any returning players who led the team. With a fresh squad of talented youngsters, ACC Coach of the Year Roy Williams assembled a squad that managed to pull off a phenomenal season.

With a fresh team and a fresh start, Williams has managed an amazing feat. Not only has his team beat Duke, but it also placed second in the ACC. If the team performs as it has this season, then UNC has a good chance of beating UConn and advancing to the Final Four. The only challenge standing in their way is the Huskies, and UNC can have a chance at winning that game with an experienced coach, a talented and enthusiastic team and a strong bench.

Boston College
Boston College. Boston College. Boston College. What a team. Because the team had a slow start at the beginning of their season, losing to lower seeded teams like Maryland and Georgia Tech, the Eagles earned their spot as fourth seed in the Minneapolis region. Fresh from the Big East, Boston College has many Big East seasons behind it as well as new experience from the ACC. The main obstacle in Boston College's path to the Final Four is Villanova, which beat Boston College last year and broke the Eagles' perfect record mid-season. Villanova has definitely improved this season, but Boston College can beat the team if they are focused and play hard since they were conference companions just a year ago. Boston College came close to beating Duke just last week at the ACC championship, putting up a good fight that previewed BC's capabilities.

The Deal
Although the teams below the top three teams of the ACC have been wavering between amazing and mediocre, the top three teams will definitely make a good showing at the tournament. The predictions we make about the outcome of the tournament may be just as good as a number generator, but if the ACC teams play out and utilize their championship experience, three ACC teams could make the Final Four.

The ACC definitely should have had more spots on the NCAA bracket this year. The conference, typically one of the best conferences in NCAA Division I ball, earned only four spots on the bracket - the same amount as a smaller conference like Missouri Valley, which earned four tournament berths. MVC teams have won only one game in the NCAA tournament since 2002.

Smaller conferences earn just the same amount of spots as the ACC, but hardly deserve that many spots in comparison to good teams like Florida State and Maryland. The Southeastern Conference is definitely a weaker conference than the ACC, yet the conference earned six bids to the Big Dance. The ACC, with only four bids, should have sent more teams to the ACC than the Southeastern Conference.

Florida State could have taken the place of a team like Air Force, which has not won a game against a top 50 team this entire season. Although Florida State lost in the first round of the ACC playoffs, the team still deserves a spot on the bracket. They won the first nine out of ten games in their season and dethroned Duke once.

Maryland could have earned another spot on the NCAA Tournament as well, although a first seed in the National Invitational Tournament is a small compensation. Maryland was occasionally ranked during the season, indicating that the team was still considered in the top 25 of college ball, a feat that has not been accomplished by many other teams in the tournament. Both Florida State and Maryland would have done well in the NCAA tournament and should have been invited to the Big Dance.

The ACC is rebuilding and recuperating from losing many talented players from last year. But you cannot count this conference out. The ACC traditionally does well in the tournament, and although the conference may not be the strongest this year, the top three ACC teams will go far. The Big East may have earned a lot of spots in the Big Dance, but the ACC still has a shot at earning three spots in the Final Four. That feat may, perhaps, be the only saving force for the ACC since too many people have been discussing the weakness of the conference.

But you never know what Air Force might have under its hatů



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  • Michael Bushnell on March 16, 2006 at 5:32 PM
    whys the SEC weaker than the ACC? all 6 teams from the southeast that got in deserved bids. you can argue that maybe the ACC deserved a 5th bid instead of one to someone like utah state or air force, but the selection folks got the SEC right.
  • meer on March 16, 2006 at 10:19 PM
    By winning the ACC tournament, Duke closed its season "not very admirably?" The Blue Devils earned the #1 overall seed in the tournament based solely on their conference tournament dominance. Going in, UConn had a stranglehold on the #1 overall berth, but slipping up against Syracuse left Duke with the opportunity. They pounced and go in a serious force.

    Also, I don't really understand the Air Force reference at the end.
  • =>) on March 16, 2006 at 10:37 PM
    go air force! w00t
  • . on March 16, 2006 at 11:46 PM
    the tournament was postseason meer. they ended the season dropping to number three, losing two of the final games of the season.
  • dude (View Email) on March 17, 2006 at 8:18 AM
    Nice. But three final four spots? Impossible.
  • (View Email) on March 19, 2006 at 5:46 PM
    haha NC LOST
  • NICK WARREN on March 21, 2006 at 2:04 PM
    GO UCONN BABBBY
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