2009 ACCT Preview and Analysis

Another year, another preview from me. If you are interested in my track record, click here and here.

1. North Carolina

Realistic Chance to Win? Absolutely. Once again, the Holes are the most talented and best-coached team in the ACC. Like most championship teams, they also have a fantastic “glue guy” in Danny Green, who scores, passes, rebounds, and defends well. In a year when the league is even stronger than usual, UNC finished 13-3 after an inauspicious 0-2 start. The team best-suited to beat them (Wake Forest) is in the other half of the bracket.

Toughest Obstacle(s): Six teams are capable of beating UNC (Wake, Florida State, Boston College, Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Miami). Why? Because they have a dominant scoring point/combo guard – something that has killed them all season. Despite the media ludicrously voting him “honorable mention” for all-defensive honors, Ty Lawson plays absolutely no defense. Wayne Ellington is no better. With Marcus Ginyard, this is an invincible team. Still, I doubt UNC will lose on Friday to an opponent on short rest, and it’s not likely that Wake Forest makes it to the finals. So, it’s probably up to Florida State in the semis to keep Roy and company from cutting down the nets once again.

2. Wake Forest

Realistic Chance to Win? Yes and No. Yes, because they are clearly the second most-talented team in the league, with great depth to boot. They actually have fewer matchup troubles within the top tier than anyone. The Deacs also have two legitimate “take over the game/tournament” star players in James Johnson and Jeff Teague. What’s not to like?

Toughest Obstacle(s): Themselves. Although extremely talented, the Deacons struggled against the middle and lower tier ACC teams all year. Their focus tends to wander, and they make lots of really stupid mistakes (I’m especially looking at you, Jeff Teague). That kind of inconsistency makes it hard to win 3 games in 3 days, no matter what the matchups are. One also has to wonder how relatively untested head coach Dino Gaudio will fare – he went out on Thursday last year (causing his team to surprisingly tumble off the NIT bubble), and he faces real expectations for the first time in the ACC’s ultimate pressure cooker. Even making it to Saturday is no sure thing, against a desperate team that has had success against Wake this year (either Maryland or NC State).

3. Duke

Realistic Chance to Win? Yes. Duke is more athletic than in recent years, with Gerald Henderson taking charge of the team and Greg Paulus back in a bench role. If Kyle Singler and John Scheyer are shooting well, this is an extremely difficult team to beat. Duke should be favored to beat any ACC team other than UNC or Clemson (the Devils still have nightmares about this year’s beatdown in Littlejohn) – and both of those teams are in the other half of the bracket. Duke also caught a break when they slipped down to the #3 seed, as their Friday game against Boston College or Virginia should not be a problem. Coach K seemed to catch his second wind down the stretch, and will be highly motivated to bring a title back to Durham.

Toughest Obstacle(s): Size, inability to beat UNC. Only the Terrapins are smaller than the Blue Devils, and that means rebounding can be a challenge (though Duke is better in that department this year), especially when legs start getting tired. That also means outside shooting is crucial for Duke, and it’s hard to stay hot for 3 games in 3 days. I also think UNC would beat them 9 times out of 10 on a neutral floor, since the Devils lack a dominant slasher at the point and struggle to defend the Heels in the lowpost.

4. Florida State

Realistic Chance to Win? Surprisingly, Yes. The Seminoles have the league’s best player (offensively and defensively) in Toney Douglas, along with size, athleticism, and depth – all great elements for a tourney run. Defense and rebounding tend not to slump, and both are team strengths. They are playing with great confidence, and recently came within a hair of beating Duke in Cameron. Their regular season performance against likely Friday opponent Clemson was second only to UNC. I think Florida State is perfectly positioned to upset North Carolina on Saturday – not that they will be favored. They would be underdogs in the final against Duke, but playing with nothing to lose.

Toughest Obstacle(s): The weight of expectations. It has been ages since Florida State came into the ACC tournament with an NCAA bid well in hand, and a realistic shot to cut down the nets. Leonard Hamilton scuffled on the periphery of breaking through for many years, and I’m not convinced that he’s ready to complete the leap just yet. One also worries about the lack of a real secondary scorer. Still, the Noles feel like last year’s Clemson to me.

5. Clemson

Realistic Chance to Win? Extreme Longshot. Clemson has talented upperclassmen in Trevor Booker and K.C. Rivers, the depth to make a solid run, and confidence from getting to last year’s final and breaking a really long streak of futility. I can’t say enough great things about their coach, Oliver Purnell – a class act who has Clemson on track for long-term success in the ACC. He will likely surpass Rick Barnes’ record of success in Tiger Town.

Toughest Obstacle(s): A perfect storm nightmare draw. On Thursday, Clemson faces the hometown Yellow Jackets – a physical team with nothing to lose. Clemson will likely survive, but perhaps with some bruises as they head into Friday play against a Seminole team that beat them twice. If they somehow get over the hump against FSU, they run smack into UNC – a team that destroyed Clemson in their only meeting of the season. Because Clemson’s defense has tailed off a bit this year, they can no longer put enough pressure on the Tar Heels to force them out of their comfort zone. Maybe next year, Oliver – or maybe the NCAAT will provide more opportunity for redemption.

6. Boston College

Realistic Chance to Win? No. Tyrese Rice is a great player (but slumped in the second half), and Al Skinner is a great coach. BC is one of only two teams (Wake being the other) to beat both Duke and UNC this year. They managed a first round win last year despite losing 12 of their last 13 regular season games – so it would be unwise to dismiss them completely. Rakim Sanders is improving, but is he really ready to lead this team to ACC glory?

Toughest Obstacle(s): Athleticism, lack of a secondary scorer or lowpost threat. The alarm bells rang out at full volume over the last week of conference play. NC State shut down Rice in the second half, and the Eagles promptly fell apart. Then, BC needed a last-second shot to beat last-place Georgia Tech at home on Senior Day – even with an NCAA bid on the line. Realistically, this is an Eagle team that played way over its head all year, and should go home no later than Friday night. A Thursday upset is not out of the question, either.

7. Maryland

Realistic Chance to Win? No. As I noted earlier this season, Gary Williams is harder to kill than an army of cockroaches. The instant you count his Terps out, they storm back with a vengeance. But in the past several years, Maryland has not been able to break out of the middle of the pack. Greivis Vasquez is the kind of player who can dominate an ACC tournament, and he is no doubt licking his chops to square off against NC State – a team he absolutely torched a few weeks ago in Raleigh.

Toughest Obstacle(s): Size, no secondary scorer. Playing four guards, you would expect a team to have multiple plus scorers on the floor. But you’d be wrong. Gary Williams relies on Vasquez to produce the lion’s share of offense, while hoping that a host of role players make a decent percentage of their three-point attempts. It’s not the formula needed for 4 wins in 4 days, but don’t rule out a trip to the semifinals – which Maryland needs to go dancing.

8. Virginia Tech

Realistic Chance to Win? Extremely Extreme Longshot. It’s been a season of torture for the always animated Seth Greenberg. Multiple losses in the closing seconds, including a 60-foot prayer to lose to Xavier. The Hokies have three star-caliber offensive players in Malcolm Delaney, A.D. Vasallo, and Jeff Allen – but they never seem to put it together at the same time. Maybe it happens this weekend – but there’s a tough road ahead.

Toughest Obstacle(s): Consistency, ability to finish, tough draw. At this point, the Hokies’ failure to close out games has to be in their heads. They also play an equally desperate Miami team on Thursday, only to turn around to play a dominant UNC team on short rest. The Holes led wire to wire in a hard-fought game in Blacksburg last week, so it’s hard to predict a Friday upset. The NIT awaits.

9. Miami

Realistic Chance to Win? See Virginia Tech above. This team has a dominant player in Jack McClinton, plus good size in the lowpost. They certainly are capable of beating UNC, but on short rest? Don’t bet on it. Once again, the Canes are dangerous if their complementary players are hot from behind the arc. Last week’s loss in Atlanta probably burst their NCAAT bubble (absent a run to the semis).

Toughest Obstacle(s): No secondary scorer, inside scoring, tough draw. To the list of challenges facing Virginia Tech, add one more – health questions surrounding McClinton’s knee. Without him playing at close to 100%, Miami is an extremely ordinary team.

10. NC State

Realistic Chance to Win? No. NC State certainly played better in the second half, closing out at 4-4. But without a return to the form Costner showed as a freshman in the ACC tourney, there’s no realistic chance for a miracle in Atlanta. The firepower and consistency just aren’t there. Hopefully, the Pack can build some optimism with at least an opening round victory. State should match up well with Maryland (dominant frontcourt advantage), but played awfully in a home loss earlier this season. A run to the semifinals isn’t out of the question, but this team has no shot against UNC or Duke. Fortunately, the Holes are in the other half of the bracket, preventing many Wolfpack heart attacks.

Toughest Obstacle(s): Ballhandling, defense, lack of a “go to” guy. Javi Gonzalez has rocketed from unplayable to adequate, but the Pack still turns the ball over quite a bit. It’s also hard to make a deep tourney run playing matador defense, which the Pack almost always does (save for adequate defenders in Courtney Fells and Ben McCauley). And if the Pack is in a nailbiter down the stretch, who does it turn to for the big shot? You know the drill by now, we’ve talked about this shit all season.

11. Virginia

Realistic Chance to Win? No Chance in Hell. Dave Leitao is the only coach in the ACC with a legitimate chance to get fired after the season. Fortunately, his contract probably saves him in such a crappy economy. Forgotten senior Mamadu (sp?) Diane has played more and better of late, taking some pressure off freshman Sylvan Landesberg – but it’s hard to see where enough offense will come from.

Toughest Obstacle(s): Talent and coaching. Other than that, everything looks great in Wahooland! The Cavs are capable of the occasional upset, and #6 seed Boston College offers an inviting target. Still, no reason to pack for a long weekend – Duke would absolutely throttle Virginia on Friday.

12. Georgia Tech

Realistic Chance to Win? No Chance in Hell. Yes, they are the home team – but a team doesn’t win 2 games in a 16-game regular season, then turn around and win 4 games in 4 days. You couldn’t sell that script in Hollywood, let alone see it happen in reality. But the Jackets could use their physical style of play and loose attitude to knock off Clemson on Thursday. Stranger things have certainly happened.

Toughest Obstacle(s): Ballhandling, shooting, stupidity, coaching. Georgia Tech has athletes, but most of them are fundamentally unsound and not getting any better. An early N&O “Rim Shots” column noted that their best offensive play is a missed shot (so that Gani Lawal can get an offensive rebound and a putback). That’s pretty sad. In Iman Shumpert, you get to see what it would be like to take a linebacker off the football team and start him at point guard. They do rebound well, so you can’t say I didn’t say anything nice. 🙂

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

08-09 Basketball General

44 Responses to 2009 ACCT Preview and Analysis

  1. RickJ 03/10/2009 at 2:49 PM #

    North Carolina is an overwhelming favorite to win the ACC tournament. The current odds have you betting $10.00 on them to win $5.71 – an amazing figure when you consider they have to win three straight games.

    The same $10.00 wins $180.00 if you take Florida State.

  2. Tar Heel Fan 03/10/2009 at 3:09 PM #

    I don’t think Lawson will play. I think Roy will decide the NCAA Tournament is the bigger prize(and it is), sit Lawson and let the whatever happens, happen.

  3. Alpha Wolf 03/10/2009 at 3:11 PM #

    I wouldn’t say that State couldn’t beat Duke, the first half of the game in Durham says otherwise.

    I would say, however, that I wouldn’t bet a used golf tee on it happening.

  4. travelwolf 03/10/2009 at 3:12 PM #

    i think that if carolina doesn’t win the tournament, they should fire Roy Williams (of course, since he’s a pretty good coach, i’d like to see them fire him for no reason at all!)

  5. packnwilm 03/10/2009 at 3:13 PM #


  6. wufpup76 03/10/2009 at 3:28 PM #

    THF, on Roy’s call in show he made it sound as if it wouldn’t be a shock if Lawson didn’t play Friday, and if he did his minutes would be limited.

    That would be a really big deal to a desperate Miami or VT club.

  7. Mike 03/10/2009 at 3:36 PM #

    I dont want to jinx anyone, but I think we can make it to the finals. I think we received a very fortunate draw.

    Md has owned us for whatever reason, but that Vazquez 3 pointer will change things. We will be ready and vengeance will be ours.

    This takes us to Wake, and we have proven we can beat Wake. My opinion (FWIW) is we should have won in WS also.

    Dook is beatable, as evidenced by the first half against them in Cameron, and this was before we started playing better. I’m not saying it is guaranteed, I am just saying we have a shot.

    Sunday finals against UNC or FSU – FSU could whip them again (OK I know what the scoreboard says but FSU beat them). I think UNX is a bad match up for us but who knows. We can beat FSU and should have beaten FSU.

    Now, having said that, is anyone as UNexcited as me for a Thursday ACC Tournament? Working hard for me, only game I care about is 7PM. The others plain stink. Maybe I am just an ACC purist but the thought of VT/Mia and BC/UVA put me to sleep. Clem/GT is old school but should be a snoozer.

  8. zahadum 03/10/2009 at 3:40 PM #

    Speaking of Lawson, can someone explain to me how this sentence makes any sense:

    Lawson is the 12th Tar Heel to win ACC Player of the Year honors and the 13th selection overall for Carolina.

  9. Wolf-n-Atl 03/10/2009 at 3:41 PM #


    If we could wide open 3 pointers when we wanted to, we would have won that game and others.

  10. WTNY 03/10/2009 at 3:43 PM #

    Re: Lawson

    Roy will probably pull one from the playbook of “The Nose” — hint that Lawson won’t play all week and then start him, dealing VT/Miami a psych blow from the get-go.

  11. wufpup76 03/10/2009 at 3:47 PM #

    “Roy will probably pull one from the playbook of “The Nose” — hint that Lawson won’t play all week and then start him, dealing VT/Miami a psych blow from the get-go.”

    ^The Holes have never been short of their “Willis Reed” moments.

    “It’s a miracle I tell ya!!”

  12. Ed89 03/10/2009 at 4:42 PM #

    ^^^Speaking of Lawson, can someone explain to me how this sentence makes any sense:

    Lawson is the 12th Tar Heel to win ACC Player of the Year honors and the 13th selection overall for Carolina.

    Somebody won it twice – Larry Miller.

  13. Wolf Dog 03/10/2009 at 5:20 PM #

    At Rams Club gatherings and other events, Roy has made his feelings known he thinks the regular season should decide the ACC Champ and is not big on the conference tournament. He understands it brings in the dough but it wears out the team before the NCAA and risks getting players injured. His remarks really irked many UNC alum so he has toned down speaking his mind about it the last couple of years. I think since Roy has a one number seed wrapped up, he will ease up for the ACCT. Doesn’t mean they still might not win it but I bet lots of bench players log more minutes than usual.

  14. highstick 03/10/2009 at 6:00 PM #

    Screw Roy, who does he think he is, Ev Case? Young punk!

  15. 61Packer 03/10/2009 at 6:18 PM #

    I have a question about tv coverage Thursday night. Outside the ACC network area, ESPN is televising the ACC Tournament to the rest of the country. During the tournament, ESPN’s signal is blacked out here in the ACC market while our local network carries the games, all except the State-Maryland game. ESPN2 will carry that game Thursday night, but in the past, I’ve seen ESPN games that were still in progress suddenly go black, because their coverage had run over into the local network’s time frame.

    A possible scenario would be that the Wolfpack game, if it lasted beyond the 9:30 time slot when local coverage of the BC-UVA game began, would be blacked out, plus the local network would not be able to show us the end of the State game because only ESPN would have the right to show it. A few years ago, ESPN had a doubleheader, the first being between 2 non-ACC teams, to be followed by Duke-Carolina. When 9pm came, with the other game in the final seconds and undecided, Direc TV blacked out the finish of that game, because the local network had the rights to the Duke-UNC game. It was insane, because ESPN was not going to leave a game hanging until it ended, so we couldn’t possibly see any of ESPN’s Duke-UNC coverage. As crazy as that sounds, I saw it happen more than once. Does anyone know what will happen to our ESPN2 signal here if State and Maryland are still playing at 9:30? Will they black us out?

    It’s annoying that we are the only one of the 11 tourney games that isn’t on the local network, which means we probably won’t get the widescreen HD pic that the local network will have for the other games; I’m betting that ESPN2 will show this one in reduced width. It just sucks being a State fan.

  16. MrPlywood 03/10/2009 at 7:17 PM #

    I know about the CNN cover jinx. Is there an ESPN jinx? From the .com:

    “Team that could bust the bracket: North Carolina State (13). The 10th-seeded Wolfpack won four of their last eight ACC games after a brutal start and still have three key players from State’s run to the tourney final a couple years ago. This is the last chance for a couple of them to do something significant in a red uniform. Upset Maryland in the first round and inconsistent Wake Forest is waiting in the second.”

  17. packpowerfan 03/10/2009 at 7:31 PM #

    Here is a blurb that Ol’ Roy had about Lawson, after he legitimately stole the ACC POY from Toney Douglas:

    “He’s had a big-time year,” Williams said. “If you throw out those first two games, his stats are just really off-the-charts impressive. He’s gotten better in every phase of the game and made some big-time, big-time shots.”

    Using Roy’s logic, if we throw out all of Courtney Fells’ games EXCEPT two, then he should be POY.

  18. nikemike 03/10/2009 at 7:36 PM #

    Thanks for the summary. I thought you did a great job.

    One semi-off topic question for everyone: Am I crazy to think that McCauley is actually a horrible defender? This is the second or third time in recent days that I’ve seen Fells and McCauley singled out as our only “adequate” defenders. I agree on Fells–I think he’s adequate because he fluctuates equally between brilliant and abysmal. He’s adequate several times a game, if only on his way to something better or worse.

    And I would have agreed with that assessment on Ben in his earlier iterations. But this year’s Ben is terrible on the defensive end, IMO. I’ve never seen a post defender so susceptible to one or two horrifically basic moves–the spin towards the lane, the drop step to the baseline. Maybe it’s Ben’s habit of letting his guy go once he knows he’s been beaten. I guess that’s wise, but it drives me crazy to see McCauley’s man get so many uncontested lay ups. I guess Ben never made it to Campbell’s basketball camp when he was 12–Billy Lee covered these moves in the first five minutes of his talk each year before sending everyone off to do the Indiana drill.

    I think Ben’s grown up a lot this year, and I appreciate his leadership and effort. I’m glad he had a big senior night–he deserved it. But I can’t remember a State player who has so frequently made me want to throw the remote control. (And before you offer the obvious counterpoint to that statement, just know that I watch Costner play with what can only be described as a bemused detachment.)

    What am I missing?

  19. john of sparta 03/10/2009 at 7:37 PM #

    going with the longshots.
    betting $1 to win $50.

    Pack wins one game.
    FSU wins it all.

  20. MA Wolfpack 03/10/2009 at 8:01 PM #

    Nikemike, McCauley is a good defensive rebounder and good at rotating on defense. He is not a good defender once his guy catches the ball in the post and has him one on one. In Ben’s defense, he knows his limitations so normally he does not foul and focuses on getting the rebound if there is a miss. If he had more athletic ability, then he would try to contest more shots.

  21. graywolf 03/10/2009 at 8:30 PM #

    Take a look at our last game against Maryland and Miami. I don’t think we are playing on Friday. Call me what you want but I’ve been a Wolfpack fan a long time and I’ve see this happen too many times. Hope I’m wrong.

  22. Greywolf 03/10/2009 at 10:40 PM #

    MA Wolfpack
    March 10th, 2009 at 8:01 pm
    “McCauley is a good defensive rebounder and good at rotating on defense. He is not a good defender once his guy catches the ball in the post and has him one on one. In Ben’s defense, he knows his limitations so normally he does not foul and focuses on getting the rebound if there is a miss. If he had more athletic ability, then he would try to contest more shots.”
    Yes, what is said about Ben here is a good description of a smart player getting everything he can out of his abilities. Only gives up 2 points when the foul would be about a 70 percent chance for 3 and positions himself for rebounds.
    The pack doesn’t have the athletic leaper because those types weren’t recruited before JJ. I’d like to see a 2-star, 6-9, bruiser with a good work ethic brought in every year or so and developed — someone who could give a higher skilled big man a breather without costing us on defense. This type banger who can elevate would be a real asset against The Listener. Then again I guess everybody is looking for this guy.

  23. Defenestrator 03/11/2009 at 5:52 AM #

    Not to go off topic, and not sure if it has been mentioned yet, but UNCG is claiming we have a game with them in the Greensboro Coliseum next year?

    “For the 2009-2010 season, UNCG has scheduled non-conference home games in the Coliseum with N.C. State, Princeton and East Carolina.”


  24. BJD95 03/11/2009 at 6:50 AM #

    I consider McCauley an adequate defender because he stays in proper position most of the time. Makes smart plays. His man usually doesn’t completely blow up.

  25. zahadum 03/11/2009 at 7:22 AM #

    Ed89, all I can say is doh! Definitely should have figured that out myself, especially since I’m old enough to have actually seen L. Miller play.

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