By: Tim Van Blarcom, Feature Writer
The 2014 ACC Tournament kicks off Wednesday in Greensboro, NC. This will be Maryland’s last ACC tournament, and last games as a member of the ACC, as they join the B1G conference next year. Maryland finished the year 9-9 in the ACC and are the 8th seed in the ACC tournament. Maryland finished the regular season 1-8 against teams currently seeded above them (vs Virginia their only win), and 8-1 against teams currently seeded below them (at Florida State their only loss). While their is usually a small contingent of Maryland fans at the ACC tournament, the rest of the ACC fans will surely be united against Maryland to send them out of the conference early. “ACC” chants will be plentiful.
Maryland is coming off of a stunning upset victory over Virginia at home last Sunday and hope to bring that energy into the tournament. Realistically, Maryland needs to win the ACC tournament to get into the NCAA tournament but at least one win should secure them a spot in the NIT tournament for a second straight year.
The favorite in the ACC tournament is #1 seed Virginia although there are plenty of ACC teams looking to make an impact. #2 Syracuse hopes to have F Jerami Grant fully healthy so they can return turn the ship around after a handful of late losses, #3 Duke cannot be counted out with Coach K and freshmen star Jabari Parker, and #4 North Carolina went a 12-game winning streak before an ugly loss to Duke to finish the regular season. #5 Pittsburgh and #6 Clemson are both mature, gritty teams that could provide some excitement early on. #7 North Carolina State also deserves a mention as forward T.J. Warren has been smoking hot and scored 40+ points in their last 2 games.
With a first round bye, Maryland will face #9 Florida State first thing on Thursday. Maryland split games with Florida State this year, losing by 24 at Tallahassee but winning by 12 in College Park. Florida State’s Aaron Thomas and Ian Miller make an effective guard tandem for Florida State and Maryland witnessed first hand how good a shooting team they can be. Maryland will need to be aggressive defending spots beyond the arc to slow them down. Seth Allen scored 32 points for Maryland in their win against Florida State at home but Maryland should push their scoring in the paint to be effective early on.
A win in the second round would set the stage for a rematch against #1 Virginia in the quarterfinals. Maryland had all of the intangibles and home field advantage when they beat Virginia in OT last Sunday. In Greensboro, Maryland will have neither. Virginia is still the top defensive team in the country and will be looking to avenge their loss. Maryland will need to come out shooting hot, limit their turnovers, and use a healthy dose of the press that proved to effective in disrupting Virginia’s offense.
With another win against Virginia, Maryland would most likely face either #4 North Carolina or #5 Pittsburgh in the semifinals. Maryland went 0-3 against the two in the regular season and would need to continue a high level of play to defeat either. A goodbye win against North Carolina in the ACC tournament would be especially gratifying for Maryland as the ACC did not schedule a home game against North Carolina for mysterious reasons.
In what would be an ACC Championship game of the ages, Maryland would most likely face either #2 Syracuse or #3 Duke. Maryland lost on last second shots against both of these teams and definitely wants another crack at Duke before they leave for good. If Maryland faces Duke in the ACC Championship game for their last game ever in the ACC, it would be one of the greatest college basketball games ever.
#12 Wake Forest over #13 Notre Dame
#10 Miami over #15 Virginia Tech
#11 Georgia Tech over #14 Boston College
#8 Maryland over #9 Florida State
#5 Pittsburgh over #12 Wake Forest
#7 NC State over #10 Miami
#6 Clemson over #11 Georgia Tech
#1 Virginia over #8 Maryland
#5 Pittsburgh over #4 North Carolina
#7 NC State over #2 Syracuse
#3 Duke over #6 Clemson
#1 Virginia over #5 Pittsburgh
#3 Duke over #7 NC State
#1 Virginia over #3 Duke