Silver Chips Online starts the ACC tournament off 0-1. Our prediction that Clemson would breeze by Florida St. was proved wrong yesterday despite the Tiger's half-time lead.
Tim Picket led all scorers with 22 points and helped the Seminoles win, 72-61. Florida St. dominated the second half and burst in from the break with a 20-1 that put them in the drivers seat the rest of the way. The Seminoles were aided by Clemson's abysmal second half performance that included no field-goals the first 8:44 of the half.
In a day that featured several upsets in other conference tournaments, including a stellar victory by UCLA over top ranked Arizona, this relatively minor surprise was pushed to the wayside. Still, this was a big win for Florida St. which now faces top seeded Wake Forest in the first round at 12:00 pm on March 14.
ACC Tournament Predictions
#8 Clemson vs. #9 Florida St. – Clemson's last win came on February 22 against none other than Florida St. Despite the fact that the Tigers have since gone on a four game slide, don't be surprised when they pull away from the Seminoles in the second half. Clemson's senior star Edward Scott averages 18 points per game and he'll be looking to finish off his career with style. Clemson is fourth in the ACC in three-point percentage and sixth in rebound, better than Florida St. in both categories, so expect the Tigers to shoot a lot of threes and go up for second looks after misses.
Outcome: Clemson wins
#1 Wake Forest vs. #8 Clemson – Last time these two teams met, Clemson stuck with Wake Forest most of the way, but ultimately the Demon Deacons pulled away. With perhaps the best player this year in Josh Howard, Wake Forest should have no problem pushing the Tigers to the wayside. The Demon Deacons have dominated the boards nearly every game this season and Clemson has no one who can stop Vytas Danelius from pounding the ball inside. Clemson need to sink a high percentage of their three-pointer attempts if they want to stay in the game.
Outcome: Wake Forest wins
#2 Maryland vs. #7 North Carolina – North Carolina has shown flashes of greatness this season, most recently shining after pulling off an upset at home against Duke. However, the Tar Heels have had more lows than highs this season after starting off 7-3 with Sean May before he suffered a season-ending injury. As a result, UNC has no inside presence and Maryland took advantage of this weakness last time the two teams met. Ryan Randle scored 14 points in just 25 minutes to help the Terps roll to a 40-point victory. UNC has limited offensive options and while Rashad McCants' excellent three-point shooting will help, it won't be enough.
Outcome: Maryland wins
#3 Duke vs. #6 Virginia – Virginia has been one of the year's biggest disappointments. The Cavaliers were picked to finish high in the conference but instead they find themselves below .500 and without an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. Things aren't going to get any better because Duke presents a challenge Virginia just isn't ready for. If freshman shooting-sensation J.J. Redick is on target and Dahntay Jones pumps up the team with a big dunk, Virginia may be buried in one of Duke's infamous runs early on. Virginia's MVP, Travis Watson, will be slowed down by Duke's most improved player, Shelden Williams, on the inside. With their top scorer hindered, Virginia will be going home early.
Outcome: Duke wins
#4 NC State vs. #5 Georgia Tech – The Wolf Pack finished off their regular season with a win at Clemson sandwiched between to crushing home defeats against two of the ACC's top three teams. NC State is the definition of team with a season on the brink. Had the team won just one of the two close games it lost against Maryland and Wake Forest, NC State would have had a very good shot at an NCAA at-large bid. As things now stand, the Pack is in serious danger of missing the tournament and most likely need to win the ACC Tournament to get the automatic bid or not go to the big dance at all. That said, NC State, aided by its renewed sense of urgency should be able to take care of freshman star Chris Bosh and Georgia Tech. As long as Julius Hodge doesn't have to carry the team on his back like he has some nights, the Wolf Pack's superior offense and defense, both statistically in the top half of the league, should seal the deal.
Outcome: NC State wins
#1 Wake Forest vs. #4 NC State – Wake Forest is long overdue for an upset. This match-up should change that. Wake Forest ended the regular season with a six game win streak but in those wins the margin of victory was just 6.5 points. During that streak, every game but the last has been against teams in the bottom half of the conference, including narrow four-point victories against Virginia and Florida St. The season closed with a six-point win over the Wolf Pack. NC State will be looking for revenge and the team has more to play for than the Demon Deacons. The Pack needs to rack up as many wins as it can to get to the big dance and coach Herb Sendek is well aware of this. He'll have his team ready to go and he won't have to lean as heavily on Julius Hodge for points. Lately junior guard Scooter Sherrill has stepped up his game, scoring well over his season average 10.2 points per game in three out of the last four contests. If this game comes down to free-throws, NC State has a slight advantage as the top free-throw shooting team in the ACC.
Outcome: NC State wins
#2 Maryland vs. #3 Duke – This game features two teams that stumbled badly at the end of the season. Both the Terrapins and the Blue Devils lost their last regular season games to bottom-feeders Virginia and North Carolina respectively. Strangely, Duke lost to the very team Maryland blew out by 40 points while Maryland had the season series with Virginia swept by the Cavaliers, a team Duke went 2-0 against. In their first meeting, Maryland blew-out Duke 87-72, but Duke got the better of Maryland down the road, edging out the Terps 75-70 after a hard fought game that the Blue Devils none-the-less led most of the way. The Maryland-Duke series has turned into quite a rivalry over the past several years and both teams will be fighting hard to win this year's rubber-match. While Duke has the advantage of playing relatively close to home, Maryland has the advantage of senior leadership, something Duke has sorely missed this season. Duke has arguably the best player of the two teams in Dahntay Jones, however Maryland could easily overwhelm him with their terrific backcourt-duo of Drew Nicholas and Steve Blake. This game could really go either way, but if the game comes down to the final minutes as everyone expects it to, the outcome favors Maryland because of the poise and confidence Blake exudes. Still, don't be surprised if Duke pulls out the win.
Outcome: Maryland wins
#2 Maryland vs. #4 NC State – Once again, this game could boil down to seniors. NC State has just one senior on the team and 11 underclassmen. Not only does this affect them in terms of leadership, it means the Wolf Pack will probably be exhausted by this point in the tournament because of the imited experience it has had. NC State got to the ACC championship game in 2002 only to be defeated by Duke and while Julius Hodge will be looking for redemption, it's unlikely he'll find it this year because this team lacks the talent it had last year. In particular, the Pack will miss their ACC all-star, Anthony Grundy. Maryland in the meantime, has players to, if not match the performance of, at least do justice to the position once held by ACC player of the year Juan Dixon. If the Terps make it this far, they shouldn't have a problem with NC State. Maryland should dominate on the boards and sink NC State in the second half when Steve Blake generally hits big three-pointers. That said, NC State has a propensity for sticking with good teams and in fact nearly beat the Terps in their last regular season meeting which they lost, 68-65. Still, Maryland should come out on top to score its first ACC title in quite some time.
Information from ESPN.com contributed to this report.
KC Costanzo. Keith "KC" Costanzo is one of the brand-spanking-new editors-in-chief of <i>Silver Chips Online</i>. His responsibilities include maintaining the journalistic integrity of the paper and making sure no one spontaneously combusts due to the stress of deadlines. KC enjoys late night frisbee games and long hours … More »