Everyone knows the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is not as strong as past seasons. With that being said, no conference in the nation has as good a chance to win a National Championship as the ACC. The ACC’s chances in the NCAA Tournament rests solely on three solid contenders.
Why an ACC Team Will and Will not Win the NCAA Tournament
Duke Blue Devils
Why Duke Will Win the NCAA Tournament
The Blue Devils have one of the best duos in the country in Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. They are the co-favorites to win ACC Player of the Year and have plenty of skill to carry the team. There has yet to be a player to stop Carey and his patented drop step. The only way to contain him so far has been to front him or send multiple defenders, and even then he still will carve out a double-double. Jones is as steady as they come. He is uber clutch and will have his hands in everything the Blue Devils do going forward.
Duke has their own version of a death lineup that can cause astronomical problems. Jones, Stanley, Moore, and Carey can play with either Jordan Goldwire, Alex O’Connell, or Joey Baker and it is very difficult to guard. This lineup has shooting, play makers, and talent galore. The only issue is Carey has to be out of foul trouble for it to work since he is the only true paint presence. This is the lineup that will carry Duke to a National Championship.
Why Duke Will Not Win the NCAA Tournament
They really struggle to manufacture points when Carey is on the bench, which has happened more frequently as of late due to foul trouble. Realistically, the offense is several contested mid-range jumpers by Jones, or Stanley or Moore weaving their way through defenders for contested layups.
The defense has undoubtedly taken a step back. With recent, inexcusable losses to Wake Forest, North Carolina State, and Clemson, as well as wins over North Carolina and Syracuse, Duke has given up 79 plus points in each, including multiple 90 point games. With the exception of North Carolina State, the other teams will not play in the postseason and have all had major struggles offensively at times. Most of these issues come from a lack of a true rim protector. Carey has blocked plenty of shots, but his minutes are quite low and there is no depth behind him.
Lastly, the lack of a defined third option could hurt the Blue Devils. The torch seems to be passed each game between Hurt, Moore, and Stanley, which can be a good thing, but it can also lead to those players being passive. Moore is more of a play maker than scorer. Hurt struggles to go by defenders. Stanley does not attack enough.
Cassius Stanley has really impressed people this year. He can attack off the bounce and has been a solid shot maker. He needs to be the third option. When things are going south for the Blue Devils, Stanley typically makes a play with his energy.
Florida State Seminoles
Why Florida State Will Win the NCAA Tournament
Trent Forrest. The dude just wins. He has a 6-3 record in the NCAA Tournament and runs the team to near perfection. He has the ability and the players around him to lead this team to Atlanta.
When talking about the Seminoles, the first thing mentioned is always depth. They always play at least ten guys and each one has a unique ability to affect the game. Devin Vassell, M.J. Walker, and Patrick Williams all have played big games this year and will continue to do so moving forward.
Florida State is excellent at forcing turnovers. They are 17th in the nation in turnovers forced. The Seminoles are super long and have guards that are always in the passing lanes getting deflections and steals. Florida State is one of the few teams that can really switch every position, more or less eliminating ball screen offenses.
Leonard Hamilton is criminally underrated. He continues to have Florida State drastically exceeding expectations and playing well in March. When tournament time begins, no one wants to see the Seminoles. He has built a successful culture and sticks to his guns. This may be the year he finally breaks through.
Why Florida State Will Not Win the NCAA Tournament
Depth is a blessing and a curse. With Florida State, there can be confusion as to who is the guy. If the Seminoles are in a close game, who is going to take that last shot? History would probably say Walker or Vassell, but Forrest might be the better option. As long as the roles are clearly defined, this depth can work.
Turnovers have been a problem. As with all teams, turnovers are a killer. Florida State can get caught up in the game and play too fast at times, leading to careless shots and turnovers. These poor decisions keep opponents in the game and make them beatable. However, they do force plenty of turnovers themselves.
Second chance opportunities have also hurt Florida State. Although they are a good offensive rebounding team, they are poor at cleaning the defensive glass. This means opponents get several chances to score and, at the very least, run some clock.
As long as Florida State makes good decisions and values possessions, they should be in as good a position as any to have success in Atlanta.
Why Louisville Will Win the NCAA Tournament
They have a bonafide star in Jordan Nwora and plenty of experience. Nwora is as good as anyone in the country. He can score the ball at all levels and has developed as a defender. Louisville will play through him early and often.
The Cardinals are an elite three point shooting team, thanks in large part to Nwora and sharpshooter Ryan McMahon. Three-point shooting teams can sometimes fall in love with the long ball, meaning one poor performance leads to an early exit. However, Louisville shoots an average amount of threes and makes plenty of them. That is a great recipe for success.
Louisville is excellent on the defensive end. They only allow opponents to shoot 38.9 percent from the field which is top 20 in the nation. The Cardinals are built similar to Florida State on the defensive end. They are very long and have great rim protection. Malik Williams and Steven Enoch play an important role here. It is also helpful that both are skilled on the offensive end.
Coaching is helpful. As with the two aforementioned teams, Chris Mack is a winner. He took Xavier to new heights and already turned the ship around in Louisville. With his experience and talent in the coaching realm, the Cardinals are set up for success. No offense to Xavier, but Mack is finally playing with a full deck, so to speak.
Why Louisville Will Not Win the NCAA Tournament
While Nwora is a star, he has struggled in big games this season. Louisville has played better than expected when Nwora throws up a donut, but that will not be sustainable when things heat up in March. If Louisville loses, Nwora most likely will not play his best.
Although Louisville is excellent defensively, they do struggle to create turnovers. Turnovers are important because they create easy opportunities in transition. The Cardinals inability to create turnovers means Louisville will be susceptible to a hot shooting team or a prolonged offensive cold spell.
The reason Louisville struggled at points this season was due to their guard play. It seems that David Johnson and Lamarr Kimble have turned this around, however, they still have some holes. Johnson is a young guard that does not have much experience on big stages, although his performance against Duke may negate that. Kimble has shot the ball well recently, but is not known as a shooter. If he goes cold, the Cardinals become much easier to defend.
ACC Title Chances
The ACC is admittedly down in terms of depth this year. While they may only get five teams into the tournament this year, they have three teams that can win a National Championship. If you had to bet on a conference to win a championship this year, the ACC would receive plenty of bets.
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