March 24, 2009 6:51 pm by donald
By now, it’s pretty clear that the Big East has won this argument; the Big East has 5 teams amongst the Sweet Sixteen, the ACC has two. But I thought you all might be interested in how an ACC fan saw it before the tournament. Yes, even us Big East bloggers are friends with people from the ACC.
My friend Matt and I ranked the teams in the ACC and Big East respectively and wrote what we thought would happen between the ones that made the NCAAs. Here’s how he saw the matchups:
- Louisville vs UNC – Before I start, I’m going to sound like Lou Holtz. Carolina will not win the national championship. Furthermore, I would not be surprised if they don’t make it to the final four. I’ve watched this team probably more than any other (due to my location) and they never really looked unstoppable at any time this season like they did at times last year.
Okay, with that out of the way, this would be a classic match-up because the teams match up very well (evidenced by their game in elite eight last year). Both teams have tremendous athletes, both teams like to run, both have explosive guards, both have big guys who can bang around and both have coaches who have won it all. But in the end, my edge goes to Louisville for one simple reason: defense. Carolina doesn’t play any, they just try to outscore you. Louisville won’t play the physical defense like a UCONN or a Pitt, they defend you with speed and pressing. While Ty Lawson negates a lot of that on his own, he’s asked to do much for UNC to win. Louisville’s athleticism won’t shine on offense like it might in a Big East game, because UNC can match them. Instead Louisville shines on defense. In a revenge of last year’s elite eight, Louisville beats UNC in a close game that comes down to the last minute.
- Pitt vs Duke – Unlike past years where Duke was overrated in their NCAA seeding, this Duke team is a legit #2 seed. After Coach K benched Greg Paulus about ¾ through the season and started freshman Elliot Williams at the shooting guard, there was a marked improvement in this team. Williams gives Duke a longer, more athletic defender (which the Devils clearly needed since Paulus was getting burned constantly), and offensively it allowed Jon Scheyer to shift to the point guard and shoot over a typically smaller opponent (he was the ACC tournament MVP). While Duke is also the best defensive team in the ACC, they lose this game given their lack of inside presence. Kyle Singer has become a very good player, but his strength is his outside game, not his inside. DeJuan Blair would have a field day inside and would force Duke to collapse. Against teams with big inside presence, (UNC, FSU) Duke has struggled. The only way Duke wins this game is if they get hot from the 3 point line. They have shooters in Singler and Scheyer, but Duke has to have a better than average shooting night from 3 in order to win. But to be sure, Duke’s ability keeps them in this game and it’s a close one all the way to the end. But if they played this game 10 times, Pitt wins eight of them, all close.
- Uconn vs Wake – Very early in the season, I told some writers on this board that I thought Wake was the team to watch in the ACC and perhaps the Country. I looked like a genius in early January when they beat UNC and were ranked #1. But then I looked like Steve Carrell on “The Office” when they lost at home to Virginia Tech…then to NC State (who didn’t even make the NIT)…and then to Maryland in the ACC tournament (a team that doesn’t start anyone over 6’7”).
I’m convinced that Wake is one of the most athletic teams in the Country. The problem is that they are all freshman and sophomores. The talent on this team is just sick with NBA Lottery picks in big man James Johnson and the only guard yet to make Ty Lawson look confused: Jeff Teague (sophomores). Al Farouq-Aminu and Ish Smith (freshmen) make up another dynamic duo that can wreck havoc on both ends of the floor with their respective size and speed. But, again, they’re all freshman and sophomores and they play like it. Wake looks unstoppable at times and completely lost at others, sometimes all in the same possession!
UCONN wins this one easily because of their versatility, tenacious defense, but mostly better basketball IQ. Though I’m not a fan of his, Jim Calhoun definitely has the coaching edge over Dino Gaudio which helps and UCONN wins this game by a comfortable 10-15 points if not more.
- Villanova vs FSU – Tony Douglas is the best guard in this tournament that you’ve never heard of. He can do it all, including matching Scottie Reynolds, shot for shot. FSU wins this game because of their inside game through Soloman Alabi. He’s a freshman 7 footer with athleticism and big upside (Big East fans – picture a younger, faster, Hasheem Thabeet with one or two offensive moves). Past that, you couldn’t pick out any of FSU’s players, but Leonard Hamilton finally has a good mix of players who are playing like a team. They have adequate size at their power forward in Uche Echefu, and a good backup scorer in Derwin Kitchen.
Yes, Nova has that 4 guard lineup, yes Scottie Reynolds can play with the best of them, but FSU has Tony Douglas and a balanced inside-outside game and they can play defense. FSU wins this one by 5-10 points.
- West Virginia vs. Boston College – Oddly enough, this is the hardest game for me to call. Which BC team shows up? Play absolutely unreal and beat UNC at Chapel Hill and Duke at Duke? – Done. Follow it up with a loss at home to Harvard, and a bad loss to NC State? – Done. I think of BC like a 4 year old. They don’t seem to care about anything at times, they have outbursts, they have temper tantrums, they do things that excite you and make you proud, then they do the worst thing at the worst time and make an unbelievable mess. Tyrese Rice is the engine that makes this team go and his play matches the description above.
Now contrast that against WVU. They don’t have any “bad” losses on their schedule, but they don’t have any “good” wins. They mostly win the games they should, and lose the games they should. I guess with Bob Huggins, the players do whatever it takes to make sure they never have to face a practice after a “bad” loss. Da’Sean Butler is the main force for WVU.
This one is a total crapshoot. I’m not convinced that West Virginia is that good, but then again, I can definitely say the same for BC. I’ll take BC purely on the fact that Rice can get hot and BC knows how to win big games. I can’t say the same for WVU.
- Marquette vs Clemson – obviously the X-factor is Marquette losing Dominic James. Though Clemson looks like they are slumping coming into the NCAAs, they do have some talent. Early on, I thought they could be a dark horse to make a real run in the tournament, but I don’t see that happening the way they are playing now. Marquette is much like Villanova playing small ball.
But Clemson has the ability to play inside with Trevor Booker and Raymond Sykes and you can bet in this game, they will. While no one would mistake Booker and Sykes for Shaq and Garnett, they are serviceable inside guys who can get it done. Clemson also matches up favorably on the perimeter with Devonte Stitt and Terence Oglesby (a player I’ve come to hate because he always hits backbreaking shots). The only thing against Clemson is that they’re not a real deep team, and yes they’re slumping right now. Without Dominic James and a great game from its “forwards by committee” I don’t see Marquette winning this game.
- Syracuse vs Maryland – I’ll confess my bias right up front that I’m a Maryland alum. But I’ll also admit that, Gary Williams has pulled the ultimate smoke and mirrors trick this year and somehow snuck his team into the NCAAs. This team looked miserable early in the season and yet managed to finish 7-9 in the ACC. All this with no significant minutes coming from a player bigger than 6’7” and a lot of players who wouldn’t start for other ACC teams.
I could go on for pages about how unbelievable it was that Maryland came on late, how Gary Williams should be coach of the year for the job he did with the talent he had, but frankly – there’s no way they win this game. Syracuse has talent (Johnny Flynn, Devendorf, Harris) and the 2-3 zone has given Maryland’s offense problems this year. While Maryland’s guards Greivas Vazquez and Eric Hayes have come on strong lately, their season stats reveal that they’re not great 3 point shooters. Given Syracuse’s length, they give Maryland fits. The only way Maryland wins is if this game goes to 8 overtimes and Syracuse players submit to dehydration.