With the ACC tournament's new format, Thursday is a very exciting day with four competitive games on the docket. In Session 1, Maryland and FSU start the action at noon. This is the only game that does not include a team that played on Wednesday. Both team are unlikely to make the NCAA tournament, but are fighting for a top spot in the NIT. The winner here has to face #1 seed UVA, who just lost to Maryland.
With the new ACC Tournament format, we now have an extra day of basketball, but Wednesday was a somewhat slow day with mostly mediocre teams playing in 3 games. With that over, the battles will really start to heat up with four competitive games games scheduled, including our Clemson Tigers in the last game of the day.
#9 Florida State and #8 Maryland start the action at noon. Florida State still has an outside shot at an NCAA tournament bid, but more likely will be playing for a top seed in the NIT. Maryland, is an NIT team, but a win here could be the difference between starting the NIT at home or on the road. They split games earlier this season--each winning at home.
By virtue of beating the Fighting Irish, Jeff Bzdelik's #12 seeded Demon Deacons will battle #5 seeded Pittsburgh. Pitt is hands down the better team, but they have not been playing great as of late. They closed the season 5-6 and would have lost to Clemson if not for a blown defensive play, a bad in-bounds pass, and a close call on the buzzer beater all going their way in the final seconds. Still, KenPom is giving Pittsburgh a strong 80% chance of victory. This one will tip after the FSU/Maryland game (~2:00pm) and close out the first session. The winner faces the #3 Tar Heels in a de facto road game Friday.
Starting the second session at 7:00 is #10 Miami v. #7 NC State. This should be a fun one for a few reasons. Aside from looking like a competitive matchup, it features the ACC POY from NC State, T.J. Warren. Warren leads in the conference in scoring at 24.8 PPG and has been efficient in doing so with a Ortg of 115.2. Miami counters with a low tempo, defensive oriented team that utilized zone defense at times. They've held ACC opponents to low 2P% all season, but have been burned from 3 at times. It should make for an interesting matchup as the ACC best scorer goes up against Larranage's defense. NC State will be battling for a chance to start the NIT at home while Miami still needs more wins to crack the NIT field. The winner of this one takes on Syracuse Friday so no matter who you're pulling for today, you'll be cheering for the winner of this game come Friday.
Finally, after the conclusion of the NC State/Miami game, (~9:00pm) Clemson faces Georgia Tech who beat Boston College last night in a game that couldn't have gone any better for Clemson. Tech blew a 13 point lead and was forced to play an overtime period. Despite going 9 and a half minutes without a field goal, the Jackets converted a clutch 3-point play that gave them a 2 point lead and then made 4 free throws to close it out. Both teams looked bad for most of the night. Neither team shot well, and once building a lead, Tech's defense and dominance on the glass disappeared.
BC head coach Steve Donahue now faces a tough offseason on the hot seat. He was very successful at Cornell building up the program to its climax in his final year when they won 29 games. In his 4 seasons in Chestnut Hill, he has won 21, 9, 16, and 8 games. To make matters worse, he has no incoming commitments in the class of 2014 and there are rumors that star player, Olivier Hanlan may make the jump to the NBA. It's not a sure thing, but I wouldn't be completely shocked if he is gone within the week.
As for the winners, the Ramblin' Wreck returns to the Greensboro Coliseum less than 24 hours after their OT win. Anytime it's win or go home you expect them to play hard, but we'll hope they come out fatigued after the quick turn around and shooting as poorly as they did on Wednesday. It'll be the third time we face GT this season and a chance for a three-peat which would add a special stamp to a season which will be remembered mostly for a group that bought in to their coach's gutty, blue collar philosophy and over-achieved. Additionally, it's a chance to extend our win streak over GT into double-digits. As for NCAA tournament hopes, Clemson is all but eliminated. They'd surely need to win this, then beat Duke, and likely would still need to win another after that, but this game still has major ramifications for seeding in the NIT. A loss very well could knock Clemson down to a #5 seed which would start on the road at the #4 seed. A win should ensure a 1-4 seed and at least one home game if not better. At this point a run to the Madison Square Garden is the goal and winning this is step one.
All games on ESPNU