ACC tournament preview

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy,Terps,University of Maryland

Teams to watch

Favorite

Duke is seeded No. 2 but enters as the favorite because of history and the presence of Ryan Kelly. With the 6-foot-11 senior, the Blue Devils are 18-0. Without him, they are 9-4. In addition, Duke has won the tournament 10 of the last 14 years. Six of its last eight ACC championships have come as the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. The last three times the tournament has been played at Greensboro Coliseum, the Blue Devils have won.

Defending champ

Thanks largely to Michael Snaer, Florida State has won its last 13 games decided by four or fewer points. Two of the wins came on the final two days of the tournament last year as Snaer was MVP. In the last two seasons against ACC foes, Snaer has made six game-winning shots, including a floater with 4.4 seconds left last week against Virginia. The other five buzzer beaters have occurred within the last 2.6 seconds.

No. 1 seed

History is not on the side of regular-season champion Miami. The last top seed from outside North Carolina to win the ACC tournament was Georgia Tech in 1985. The non-Carolina top seeds that came up short were Maryland (2002), Georgia Tech (1996) and Clemson (1990). Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes have lost three of their last five, including a 15-point defeat at Wake Forest and a home loss to lowly Georgia Tech.

Preseason No. 1

N.C. State opened the year ranked No. 6 and was picked to win the ACC but enters as the fifth seed. It's not hard to imagine the Wolfpack pulling it together, especially since it is the lone team from the state of North Carolina on its side of the bracket and its most important player, point guard Lorenzo Brown, is healthy. When Brown went out with an ankle injury, N.C. State lost consecutive games to Virginia, Duke and Miami.

Long shot

Looking for a contender seeded in the bottom half? Why not young Boston College, which enters on a three-game winning streak? The Eagles have the ACC's top scoring freshman in guard Olivier Hanlan (14.6 ppg) and the top scoring and rebounding sophomore in 6-8 forward Ryan Anderson (15.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg). Freshman point guard Joe Rahon (10.1 ppg, 3.6 apg) is grasping the offense, and leaping 6-7 sophomore Eddie Odio is disruptive.

Dark horse

For the last two months, observers have waited for Maryland to achieve liftoff as its talent-laden 10-player rotation develops cohesion. But the Terps have put together back-to-back wins only once since ACC play began. As the Terps enter the ACC tournament a consensus choice for the wrong side of the NCAA bubble, few teams have as much to gain and the wherewithal to pull it off.

- Kevin Dunleavy

Thursday's schedule

No. 8 Georgia Tech vs. No. 9 Boston College

When » Noon

Where »

Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum

TV » ESPNU

Five days later, the teams meet again. Boston College (15-16) was a 74-72 winner when they played Saturday in Chestnut Hill, going on a late 12-0 run to erase a double-digit deficit. Georgia Tech (16-14) is a week removed from a 71-69 victory at Miami in which freshman guard Chris Bolden scored a career-high 21 points. Both teams have lost their last two ACC tournament games by at least 16 points. The winner will face No. 1 Miami (24-6) on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals.

No. 5 N.C. State vs. No. 12 Virginia Tech

When » 2 p.m.

Where » Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum

TV » ESPNU

Both prefer to run, so when they met Feb. 16 in Raleigh, N.C., it was a 90-86 shootout won in overtime by the Wolfpack. Despite underachieving this season, N.C. State (22-9) likely has clinched an NCAA berth. Virginia Tech (13-18) boasts the national scoring leader and ACC player of the year in senior guard Erick Green (25.4 ppg) but gets miniscule production from frontcourt starters Cadarian Raines (6.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and C.J. Barksdale (5.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg). The winner will play No. 4 Virginia (21-10).

No. 7 Maryland vs. No. 10 Wake Forest

When » 7 p.m.

Where »

Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum

TV » ESPNU

Maryland (20-11) won both meetings between the teams as Mark Turgeon improved to 4-0 against the Demon Deacons. One of the wins came in his ACC tournament debut last season. Wake Forest (13-17) is led by senior guard C.J. Harris (15.3 ppg) and junior forward Travis McKee (13.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg). Maryland counters with sophomore guard Dez Wells (12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and sophomore center Alex Len (11.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg). The winner will play No. 2 Duke (27-4) Friday night in the quarterfinals.

No. 6 Florida State vs. No. 11 Clemson

When » 9 p.m.

Where »

Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum

TV » ESPNU

Florida State (17-14) probably needs a run to the finals to receive consideration for an NCAA at-large bid. The only path to the NCAA for Clemson (13-17) is to win the ACC tournament. The Seminoles won both regular-season meetings by a combined eight points. Michael Snaer beat Clemson with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the second meeting Jan. 24. The Tigers enter with little mojo, losing their last six games. The winner will face No. 3 North Carolina (22-9).

- Kevin Dunleavy

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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