So if that’s the case, let’s just pack it in and call off the 60th Anniversary of the greatest of all college basketball tournaments. Just tell everyone there is no need to show up later tonight for tomorrow’s festivities and Thursday’s games to begin in Greensboro, N.C. Mail the trophy up the road to Durham and let’s be done with it once and for all.
That’s just silly.
This particular sports writer watched his first ACC Tournament at age six in 1979 and hasn’t missed one since. Hear this loud and clear. From years of experience, something nutty could happen.
No doubt the top four seeds are deserving based on their regular season performance. The Virgina Cavaliers are the surprise team for sure, taking the fourth slot. No one had them as a viable contender to begin the season, but the Cavaliers can defend better than anyone in the ACC and that always makes for an interesting out during March Madness. The fact they are No. 4 and still a Bubble Team is silly. This is the ACC and if you finish the regular season in the top third of the conference, you deserve an NCAA Tournament berth.
As far as the other top seeds in 2013, the Miami Hurricanes are looking to prove they are not a fluke and would love another shot at the Blue Devils in the Championship game. But, if the Canes draw anyone except Duke, it could lead to an upset. With the North Carolina Tar Heels scheduled to face Duke in the semi-finals if both teams can get that far, that might very well be the game of the weekend. No matter how dominant the Blue Devils looked against UNC last weekend, it is hard to beat any team three times in a season and twice in a week.
So, what team can steal the show this year?
No one has more to gain with a big run this weekend than the North Carolina State Wolfpack. State was picked by a lot of those “experts” to win the ACC in the preseason. At times, the Wolfpack have looked like a National Champion. Sometimes, they’re like a losers bracket champion in a church league. Which Wolfpack team shows up will be the story of the tournament. If they can find a way to get past ACC Player of the Year, the Virginia Tech Hokies‘ Erick Green, State can win the whole thing.
Here is how the ACC Tournament should play out. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will advance against the Boston College Eagles for a rematch with Miami, but the Hurricanes will get their revenge and advance. The aforementioned spoiler in NC State will win a thriller, maybe even a buzzer beater, against the Hokies and find a way to put up 80 in beating the Cavaliers to advance to Saturday as well.
So far so good right? Sounds like an exciting tournament to this point! But all that gibber jabber just sets the stage for the real story of the weekend.
The Maryland Terrapins is the true dark horse in this year’s event. The Terps would love nothing more than to burst some bubbles and make the NCAA’s Big Dance as the ACC Tournament representative. In doing, Maryland would have to beat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Duke, UNC and possibly NC State–the original Tobacco Road powers and grandfathers of the conference they formed and shaped alongside Maryland.
Sounds like the Basketball Gods want the Terps to shake things up this weekend! That is exactly what will happen. Maryland goes out with a win the ACC Tourney by knocking off Wake, Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State in the Title Game.
Brackets are busted everywhere and the bubbles of many a Mid-Major Conference will be burst.
So enjoy the greatest basketball tournament on the face of the earth. As it has been for the past 60 years (and 34 of this guy’s 40 years), it will not disappoint!
M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.
Follow him @woodysmalls.