NCAA tournament 2011: Sizing up the ACC
This week, I'm going to offer quick snapshots of the six power conferences and non-BCS leagues so you can get a big-picture overview as we head toward the stretch run of the regular season.
Conference rank: 5
NCAA tournament bids: 4-6
Locks: Duke, North Carolina
Probable: Florida State
Bubble: Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Clemson
Most likely to fade: Boston College. The Eagles have overachieved throughout. And while they snapped a three-game losing skid against Virginia Tech, they play four of their last seven on the road.
Sleeper: Florida State. The most hard-to-figure team in the ACC, the Seminoles can play exceptional defense and are capable of beating Duke. But let's not forget the Seminoles have also lost at Auburn. Can you trust them?
Player to watch: Nolan Smith. The Duke senior guard can become the first ACC player to lead the league in scoring and assists.
Most impressive coaching job: Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg and Boston College's Steve Donahue. Donahue began his tenure with some players - namely Reggie Jackson - but depth was a concern. The Eagles weren't expected to be in the mix for an at-large bid. On the other hand, Greenberg was expected to have the second-best team in the league. But he's wound up with a different roster, one that has been depleted by injury and illness. And the Hokies are still in position to reach the NCAA tournament.
Biggest disappointment: North Carolina State. Many considered this a make-or-break season for Coach Sidney Lowe. Well, the season has been a disaster. The Wolfpack has won one game since Jan. 9.
Most compelling story line: How low can they go? The ACC has been most everyone's punching bag this season. While the league is down - and not even Duke is what most thought it would be because of the Kyrie Irving injury - North Carolina's run is giving the league a second team to make a potential tournament run. To get a sense of the league's strength, forget the number of bids. Watch the seeding. Duke will be a high seed, but after that ... can UNC get a top-four seed, can any other team earn a single-digit seed?
| February 7, 2011; 12:02 PM ET
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