The ACC Tournament kicks off today. The Tigers know going into this tournament that their only shot at the NCAA tournament is to make a miraculous run to the title. Here is the schedule of today's game:
8 Maryland vs 9 Wake Forest @ Noon
5 NC State vs 12 Boston College @ 2:30
7 Clemson vs 10 Virginia Tech @ 7:00
6 Miami vs Georgia Tech @ 9:30
Clemson was unfortunate to get Virginia Tech for a 3rd time this season. Each of the previous 2 games came down to the wire with each team winning at home. I expect much of the same in tonight's game. If Virginia Tech had been lucky enough to pull off a win at home against NC State the last game of the season then we would've been fortunate to face Wake Forest for a 3rd time. The same Wake Forest team that we blew out twice already this season. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many others, Virginia Tech is a superior team to Wake Forest. But an early season blunder down in Winston Salem cost Virginia Tech the tiebreaker. So here we are.
Just because this tournament is ACC title or bust as far as the NCAA tournament goes, the NIT is still a realistic option. I've seen mock NIT brackets that put Clemson in the tournament, but I've seen more that put Clemson on the outside looking in. Fortunate for Clemson I've seen many that actually include Virginia Tech in the tournament, so picking up a win over VT and taking the season series 2-1 would go along way towards pushing VT out and nuzzling our way in. I think it's far from a done deal that if we beat VT that we'd be in, but lets at least start there and see what happens. As you may already be aware, the post season tournaments have expanded greatly over the years, so there's always a chance at one of the less prestigious CBI or CIT tournaments. However, those tournaments get a lot less air time than the NIT and usually select more mid majors than the big name schools.
Back to the ACC tournament. We ended up on Duke's side of the bracket. After watching UNC turn it on late in the year and completely demolish Duke the last game of the season, if we can get past VT I'd much rather face Duke than UNC. While Duke is a good team, I think they are far from elite. They rely way too much on their outside shot and have struggled defensively all year. I'm not saying we are going to knock them off. But they are more susceptible to an upset than UNC, in my opinion. That's also a healthy tidbit when you fill out your NCAA brackets this year....beware of sending Duke too far. Depending on the matchup I think they could be a 2nd round or Sweet 16 casualty.
As for tonight's game, the key is to control Erick Green. As he goes VT goes. VT, much like most non-elite teams, lack an inside scoring presence. They do have perimeter scoring threats though, led by Green. It will be interesting to see how Brad Brownell chooses to defend him. He is a good tough shot maker. His shooting stroke comes from way behind his head, so it's difficult to disrupt or block. As long as Marquis Rankin isn't on the court I don't think Brownell has any option but to put Young on Green. The key is for Young to get up in Green's shorts and keep him from getting into his shooting motion.
A lot of people like VT to steal this win tonight. However, Clemson should have more motivation, as it looked like VT had all but packed it in against NC State in their last game. Either way, I expect a very competitive game. The team that executes down the stretch and knocks down their free throws will come out victorious. Lets hope it's the good guys.