Firstly, a hearty congratulations to SFN favorite Beejay “King Hippo” Anya on being named the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year, and First Team all-defense. Not bad for a guy who doesn’t play 20 mpg, right? Quality, not quantity. And the jolly giant sure as hell changes the game when he enters.
Secondly, kudos to Trevor “No Nickname” Lacey for pulling in Second Team all-ACC honors for his solid all-around game. He can be maddening at times, but let’s be honest – that’s only because he’s so immensely talented and we’ve seen him carry us on his back.
A pox on the media for not putting Cat Barber on the Third Team, nor rightly naming him DPOY. It’s clear they didn’t watch all of our games, and just read stat lines. A damned shame.
Anyhoo – the preview! Forward, Glorious Red Army!
Realistic Chance to Win? Absolutely. With robot-like efficiency, Bennett’s Cavaliers mowed through the league at a 16-2 clip for a second straight year. If they likewise blitz the conference tourney, one would be foolish to clutch one’s pearls.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Duke, boredom. The Devils have been scorching hot ever since coming to life late in Hooville, and when they are hot, the Cavs lack a 5th gear to run with them. I’m not sure anyone else presents a similar challenge to Wahoowa if they are playing with focus and precision. But having already won the ACCT, their “show me” challenge is the NCAAT, and they know it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hold back just a little in anticipation of the weeks to come. One might also note that State bothered them quite a bit in each matchup, and would have won with even marginal shooting performances.
Realistic Chance to Win? Absolutely. Duke beat the Hoos in Hooville, and right now, look like the only team capable of giving Calipari’s bunch a run for their money. Much like their likely Thursday night sparring partner, they are playing their best hoops at the best possible time. Coach K has to be pleased, though he will never admit it.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Depth, health, Thursday. Arguably, State is their toughest matchup in the entire league, and lo and behold…State only has to get past a reeling Pitt team that State beat by 20 (when State was playing horribly) to get to the Devils. Then again, Coach K would presumably like that calculus – win the whole thing, or one and done. Either way, he’s a 1 seed. Cut the nets or get some rest.
3. Notre Dame
Realistic Chance to Win? Some, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I still believe the Irish are a paper tiger. They are too small, too finesse-y, too likely to be run out of the gym by an athletic squad. But if they get hot, they can make a run.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Duke, Miami, State. The bracket did them no favors. Miami will be quite hungry on Thursday, and don’t be surprised to see the Canes pull the so-called upset.
Realistic Chance to Win? Not really. They can physical their way through a few rounds, but eventually, they have to KFC Failure Pile in a Sadness Bowl (h/t Patton Oswalt) into a few baskets, don’t they? Tired UVA vs. tired Louisville could be some kind of ugly in the semis, although the regular season finale matchup was surprisingly watchable.
Toughest Obstacle(s): UVA. Wahoowa plays a similar style, but generally more effectively. That makes it hard to leverage matchups, and it’s hard to see the FSU/Clemson winner knocking out the Cavs for Pitino’s bunch. Hopefully we at least get to see the Colonel Sanders suit.
Realistic Chance to Win? I want to say no, but they drew the weak half of the bracket. They will hope State beats Duke, UVA plays unfocused with their eyes on the NCAAT, then who knows? They certainly have SOME talent, even if Roy has been somewhat at a loss as to what to do with it this season.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Inconsistency, effort, ability to handle top teams. Basically, they need help. Even though they are in the half of the bracket where that COULD happen, that’s never a good thing.
Realistic Chance to Win? I will surprise you and say yes. They are officially my dark horse. The Canes have certainly proven themselves capable of handling Duke, and should State upset the Devils on Thursday, would be susceptible to a letdown Friday night. Larranaga is a good tournament coach.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Consistency. Miami has to win 4 games in 4 days, and they are in “pray for Dayton” territory because they have shown nothing close to that level of consistency in 2014-15. But they couldn’t have asked for a better draw, from their standpoint.
7. NC State
Realistic Chance to Win? Yes indeed. I am not certain what to expect, as playing with a gun to one’s temple can really wear a team down. State can come out relaxed, and play great, or drained, and go home “one and done.” But if they do get past Pitt (who may have packed it in, now that they need to win the ACCT), State will certainly be up for the Devils. Then you get to the semifinals, and anything goes. My gut says the State/Duke winner will face UVA in the finals, and be the slight favorite.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Low-post scoring, emotional fatigue, ever present threat of NC State Shit. Plus, you know, playing the second-hottest team in the nation on Thursday night. Not exactly a cakewalk, even if the Pack matches up well. The most important thing is that State won’t play Wake, FSU, or Clemson, thus avoiding the possibility of a late, ugly loss for its resume. Pitt is reeling, but still respectable, meaning State really can’t fall below the 10 line at this point. It’s nice to be able to breathe for a change.
Realistic Chance to Win? No. Clemson is a bruising, physical team, your proverbial “tough out.” But they also have VERY little skill, and are not long for this tourney world. It’s not like they are going to out-physical UVA, who also has skill/talent.
Toughest Obstacle(s): UVA, offense. Another year in the wilderness for Tigger basketball.
9. Florida State
Realistic Chance to Win? No. See #8 above.
Toughest Obstacle(s): See #8 above. Enjoy the Geneva Convention violation that is this Wednesday mash-up. They should have a tractor pull at halftime.
Realistic Chance to Win? Nope. This is a slightly upgraded version of Clemson/FSU, but only slightly. They could beat State if State is flat or flighty, but the run ends there. The NIT awaits.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Offense, athleticism. Pitt doesn’t have enough of either, and if State doesn’t easily dispose of them, then Duke surely will.
11. Wake Forest
Realistic Chance to Win? No Chance in hell. Here begins the death march of the Tuesday teams. The dropoff is quite severe. Danny Manning did an excellent job in making his outmanned squad quite competitive at home, but they are still quite outmanned.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Talent, defense. Wake can score ok, but they are a sieve defensively. And they really don’t have the athletes to hang with Miami, let alone anyone in the upper tier in a tourney setting. Making it to Wednesday would be a solid start for the rebuild.
12. Boston College
Realistic Chance to Win? No chance in hell. One really, really good player and lots of flotsam. Hanlan could annoy the hell out of the Holes in a way the Bees certainly would not, so hopefully they make it through Tuesday.
Toughest Obstacle(s): Athleticism, depth. The Eagles are a long way from competitiveness in the ACC, as much as I would like to see them end Roy’s ACCT prematurely.
13. Georgia Tech
Realistic Chance to Win? No chance in hell. Poor Georgia Tech. Saddled with so very many bad contracts. Brian Gregory may be stuck in the ACC basement forever, hanging around in games but never winning them. And they’re probably STILL paying Paul Hewitt. Ouch.
Toughest Obstacle(s): All things basketball-related.
14. Virginia Tech
Realistic Chance to Win? No chance in hell. Buzz Williams shocked everyone by taking the VPI job. Given how badly Marquette sucked this season, maybe he knew he was staying one step ahead. Time will tell if he suckered the castrated turkeys or not. In his inaugural season, he made his talent-challenged bunch plucky. But they bad.
Toughest Obstacle(s): All things basketball-related besides pluck.