NCAA tournament

ACC takes big stage

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Two years ago, the ACC placed seven teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the first time. The record haul proved fool's gold.

Seven league teams made the field again this season. But can they avoid repeating the wreckage of '07, when for the first time since 1979, only one ACC squad, North Carolina, advanced to a regional semifinal?

Answers begin to emerge today, and here's an assessment of each team's prospects, along with odds of surviving this weekend to make the Sweet 16.

Boston College

Could be a weekend of contrasts for the Eagles. Opening opponent Southern California, surprise winner of the Pacific 10 tournament, is sleek; potential second-round foe Michigan State is Big Ten-burly.

Hunch is that Boston College's ACC seasoning and point guard Tyrese Rice's savvy will carry the Eagles past the Trojans but no farther.

Odds: 30 percent.


Oliver Purnell has shown his coaching chops everywhere — 2008 and '09 mark the Tigers' first back-to-back winning ACC seasons in 42 years — except the NCAA tournament, where he's 0-4, including 0-1 with Clemson. Guard play is paramount in March, and Demontez Stitt, K.C. Rivers, Terrence Oglesby and Andre Young are too sloppy with the ball.

First-round opponent Michigan is superbly schooled in the spread by John Beilein. Potential second-round foe Oklahoma is simply too good, though OU's Blake Griffin, the presumptive national player of the year, versus Trevor Booker inside would be worth twice the price of admission.

Odds: 25 percent.


The Blue Devils have lost to a lesser seed in four consecutive NCAA tournaments and could again in Round 2 against Texas. This is far from Rick Barnes' best Longhorns squad, but led by guard A.J. Abrams, it does have the size and athleticism that troubles Duke.

This assumes, of course, that the Devils defeat 15th-seeded Binghamton in today's first round. Last season Duke was lucky to escape another 15, Belmont. But after winning the ACC tournament, these Gerald Henderson-led Devils appear more NCAA-ready.

Odds: 60 percent.

Florida State

Must confess that I've been in the tank for the Seminoles since catching them in-person last month at Virginia Tech. Their defensive length and Toney Douglas' all-around game should be enough against Wisconsin, setting up a must-see second-round encounter with Xavier.

The Musketeers return the core of their 2008 regional final roster and will not go quietly. But should FSU prevail, its next opponent likely would be Pittsburgh — the Panthers defeated the Noles 56-48 three months ago in Tallahassee.

Odds: 55 percent.


The too-small Terps are the ACC's lowest seed — 10th in the West. But Gary Williams' teams have won eight consecutive first-round games, and this year's opponent, California, also is guard-oriented.

Given the criticism showered on Williams this season, some deserved, advancing one round would be quite an accomplishment. Just don't expect anything more from Greivis Vasquez and friends. A second-round bridge abutment awaits in the form of Memphis.

Odds: 10 percent.

North Carolina

The sky-blue crowd can only hope this isn't 1984 redux. That's the year point guard Kenny Smith's broken wrist wounded a team — Michael Jordan, Brad Daugherty and Sam Perkins were other starters — that opened the season 21-0 before losing to Arkansas and later to Indiana in a regional semifinal.

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