(Compare to our preseason preview here)
- The Virginia Machine: The Cavs rolled through the ACC in stunning fashion, winning the league by four games and nearly assuring themselves of the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their defense eventually settled just below KenPom's all-time best, but along with a skilled backcourt, it's certainly enough to propel them to plenty of March victories.
- Breaking News - Kevin Keatts Rocks: In his first year at NC State, Kevin Keatts oversaw a 7-win improvement in the Wolfpack's conference record, and with massive wins over Arizona, UNC, Duke, and Clemson, they look like a near-lock to be back in the Field of 68.
- Brad Brownell's Seat Cools Down: Despite losing all-league player Jaron Blossomgame to graduation last year, Clemson rode a hot start to the season to a third-place ACC finish. Donte Grantham's torn ACL likely limits the Tigers' ceiling, but Brownell's breakthrough year should give him a little more security heading into the offseason.
- Pittsburgh Takes the Year Off: For some reason, the Panthers elected not to participate in ACC play this year, allowing all of their opponents a free victory. Hopefully they come back next year!
The ACC Tournament will be played over 5 days at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn (give me Greensboro or give me death), with the title game being on Saturday night.
What to Watch:
- Can Notre Dame make a run and put gigantic pressure on the committee? With Bonzie Colson back, the Irish (a fringe bubble team, if you ignore their injuries) can demonstrate they are a different team given their current roster construction. A run to the semi finals (which would include wins over Virginia Tech and Duke) might be enough, but reaching the title game feels like the safest bet for Farrell, Bonzie, and the boys. Unless you're a fan of a team they're playing against, you should be cheering for this team - they play beautiful offensive basketball, and it would be tough for the seniors' careers to end without an NCAA Tournament appearance due mostly to injuries.
- Will the other bubbly teams get the wins they need? Louisville, Syracuse, and Florida State all could use a win (though the 'Noles are slightly safer). The Cardinals likely need a win over Virginia to feel good about their chances - remember when that had that locked up at the Yum! Center, only to choke it away in the final second? And Syracuse probably needs to beat UNC on Wednesday to feel safe themselves, while a bad loss to Wake Forest might be a death knell in their chances.
Who Will Win:
- Virginia - The Cavs have just been so far and away the ACC's best team that I'd feel uncomfortable picking anyone else. A couple slight concerns - Kyle Guy's MCL sprain, along with the complacency of knowing they might still earn the #1 overall seed even with a quarterfinal loss (I think it would take a Villanova Big East tournament title, including beating Xavier a third time).
If Not Them, Then:
- Duke - Loaded with talent, the Blue Devils won 6 of their final 7 and seem to have realized they can't play man-to-man. The Blue Devils probably still have a chance at a one seed if they win the tournament, so it will be interesting to see if they can get hot like they did in last year's event.
- Notre Dame - That's right, baby - I think the Irish have a fighting chance with Bonzie back and seemingly playing as though he never missed time. The (obvious) worry is the difficulty of winning 5 games in 5 days, but the senior-laden Irish have the talent to pull off the unexpected.