ACC Edition—Are they IN….or OUT?

Put it in Stone…

· UNC – The depth is showing by their two easy wins since losing defensive stopper Dexter Strickland. As Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston provide a more potent outside touch from the shooting guard spot and James Michael McAdoo continues to improve, this is a scary team to match up with in March and April.
· Duke – This Blue Devil team does what Coach K teams always do. They win the games they should and they shoot the 3-pointer as good as anyone. They have quality wins and barring a late season slide should be a 1 or 2 seed come the NCAA tournament. If the brackets fall their way and Mason Plumlee gives them the production he did against Maryland, Coach K could be heading back to the Final Four.
· Florida State – This might be controversial but I am basing this on a projection for this Seminole team through the rest of the year. They endured 6 early season losses but they are now playing as good as any team in America. They are the only team that can boast beating UNC (by 33) and Duke (in Cameron) within 8 days of each other. They are contenders for the ACC Championship and with the physical defense they play will be a nightmare matchup in the Big Dance which could propel them one step farther than the Elite Eight appearance from a year ago.

Unless they fall apart, they should be in…

· Virginia – The style is boring for the enthusiasts that love the breakneck pace of the UNC’s of the world, but for Tony Bennett, it’s like listening to the smooth jazz sounds of his namesake (the other Tony Bennett). UVA is a tough minded bunch let by Mike Scott, who in my opinion is overlooked in the discussion of top players in the ACC, which will not back down from anyone. They are like playing an Ivy League team with Division I talent. They proved in Cameron Indoor Stadium that they are a team to be reckoned with and as long as they win 10 games in the conference they should be in.

Could play their way in…

· NC State – I loved the hire of Mark Gottfried for the Wolfpack. He brought instant credibility to the program. The biggest hurdle for the Wolfpack is their best win to date is over a Texas team that in essence isn’t that good. They need to win the games over the weaker part of the conference and spring at least 1 upset of Duke, UNC, or FSU. 11 conference wins is a must to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.

Outside looking in…

· Maryland – Talented but very young. The future is bright but just not enough experience to make their way into the NCAA tournament this year. NIT will be great experience for the Terps.
· Clemson – Only win that really matters is the win over FSU, so the goal for the Tigers needs to be keeping their record above .500 so they can qualify for the NIT.

Sleeper Team…

Miami – The Hurricanes have played half the year without their best low-post player, Reggie Johnson. This is a team that is filled with guys that can put the ball in the basket. Coach Larranaga has been improving this team as the year has gone along and now that they are healthy they could be pretty dangerous. Durand Scott is very athletic and along with the shooting of Dequan Jones, Malcolm Grant, and Shane Larkin, they could make a run through the rest of the regular season and into the ACC tournament. If the selection committee takes into account the games missed by Johnson and Jones, then the Canes will be right in the mix.

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Joshua Caudill