Boston College faces Wake Forest in the first round of the 2011 ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. on Thursday at noon. On Tuesday, we broke down the bottom half of the ACC teams, and today we'll take a look at the top part of the conference, starting with the obvious.
Boston College Eagles (19-11, 9-7 ACC)/Tournament Seed: No. 5
After winning 12 of its first 15 games and three of its first four conference games, Boston College fell into a rut that it never truly recovered from. In the Eagles' next 11 games, they were unable to establish a winning streak of more than one game. In addition, BC dropped three games in a row to conference opponents Florida State, Duke and UNC.
However, BC finished the season on a strong note, winning four of its final six games, including two solid victories over Virginia Tech and Maryland. The Eagles closed out the regular season with three straight wins over Virginia, the Hokies and Wake Forest.
"Just finished up a good week for our program," said Boston College head coach Steve Donahue following his team's 84-68 win over the Demon Deacons on Sunday. " We won obviously a very big road game for us at Virginia Tech where I thought we played very good basketball for 40 minutes, then came home against Wake on Senior
Day, executed very well on the offensive end, were able to beat Wake here (on Sunday)."
The Eagles' solid finish kept them firmly on the bubble for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Many speculate that if BC can defeat No. 12 seed Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tourney and put up a good showing against Clemson in the second round, it will receive an at-large bid for the big dance.
"I'm probably the least informed about those kinds of things," Donahue said about the science of Bracketology. "Joe
Lunardi is a friend of mine, probably since seventh grade. I don't read his stuff. For me it's just not conducive to me producing a good practice, having my head clear about what I'm doing."
"I imagine my players, like all kids, are on the Internet doing those things. But it's not something that we focus on the team. We try to do certain things each and every day based on how we're playing, what we can do better, how we can work on our skills, and try to attack it that way rather than worry about all the things that could be going on in college basketball."
Reggie Jackson is the Eagles' lead on the court. The junior point guard leads the team in scoring (18.3 points), assists (4.5 APG) and steals (1.1 SPG). Joe Trapani is second in scoring (14.4 PPG) and leads BC in rebounding (7.2 RPG) while Corey Raji is third in scoring (12.7 PPG) and second in rebounding (6.6 RPG).
Boston College ranks 86th in the country in scoring (72.1 PPG) and 65th in team field goal percentage (46%). In addition, the Eagles are 37th in the nation in team assists (15.2 APG) and 298th in rebounding (32.2 RPG).
Virginia Tech Hokies (19-10, 9-7 ACC)/Tournament Seed: No. 6
The Hokies have been coined "America's bubble team," as they are seemingly always on the bubble come NCAA tournament time, at least in the past few seasons. This year is no different, as Virginia Tech has had its high moments as well as its embarrassingly low ones.
Clearly, the Hokies' shining high point is their 64-60 win over then top-ranked Duke. However, Virginia Tech closed out the regular season with two straight losses, against BC and Clemson.
"We have a small margin of error but we found a way to win nine league games and 19 [overall] games which I'm really proud of, but now we start a new season," said Hokies head coach Seth Greenberg. "We need to approach it that way. We need to be as fresh as we can mentally, as fresh as we can physically and I look forward to the challenge."
Virginia Tech will meet No. 11 seed Georgia Tech in its first round game on Thursday at 9 p.m. Malcolm Delaney, who was named to the All-ACC First Team, is the Hokies' leading scorer (18.8 PPG) and is second in the ACC in scoring. Jeff Allen is second in scoring (13.8 PPG) and leads the team in rebounding (10 RPG).
The Hokies rank 113th in the nation in scoring (71.1 PPG) and 74th in field goal percentage (45.6%). In addition, Virginia Tech is 173rd in the country in assists (12.8 APG) and 176th in team rebounding (34.9 RPG).
Clemson Tigers (20-10, 9-7 ACC)/Tournament Seed: No. 4
Clemson tied Boston College for fourth place in the ACC regular season standings, but the Tigers held the tiebreaker, which earned them a No. 4 seed and a first-round bye entering the ACC tourney. The Tigers boast a very impressive 15-2 home record but were 5-8 on the road. Clemson closed out its season with a 70-59 loss to Duke followed by a 69-60 win over Virginia Tech.
"Guys are coming off of a very demanding week," said Clemson first-year head coach Brad Brownell. "We lost a
hard-fought game at Duke, but proud of the way our guys responded on Senior Day, played at a very high level against a good Virginia Tech team, came away with a nice win - Fortunate through some tiebreakers to get the fourth seed and have an extra day off. Looking forward to being a part of my first ACC tournament."
Clemson had solid seasons from Demontez Stitt (14.1 PPG) and Jerai Grant (12.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG). The Tigers are ranked 211th in the county in scoring (67.6 PPG), 185th in rebounding (34.8 RPG), 175th in assists (12,8 APG) and 156th in field goal percentage (43.9%).
The Tigers will face the winner of No. 5 seed Boston College and No. 12 seed Wake Forest in the quarterfinals on Friday at 2 p.m.
Florida State Seminoles (21-9, 11-5 ACC)/Tournament Seed: No. 3
The Seminoles had the most road wins (8) or any team in the ACC to go along with a 12-3 record at home. Florida State finished the regular season with a rough loss to North Carolina, 72-70, and a 72-62 win over North Carolina State on Sunday.
"I'm personally proud of our kids bouncing back from a disheartening loss to Carolina during the week," said Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton. "Our guys got off to a good start at North Carolina State. Like all ACC teams do, they made a run there at the end of the game. Our guys showed a lot of patience, I thought, and poise in a road game against a team that was very hungry for a victory. We were able to come away with a much-needed victory against North Carolina State on Sunday."
With the win, Florida State has now five of its final seven games heading into the ACC Tournament.
"We're looking forward to going to the ACC tournament, seeing whether or not now we can start over in this brand-new season and see if wecan continue to keep improving in the post-season," Hamilton said.
The major question surrounding Florida State is whether or not leading scorer and rebounder Chris Singleton (13.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG) will be available for the Seminoles second-round ACC Tournament game against the winner of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech on Friday night at 9 p.m.
"I think he's obviously made tremendous improvement in his rehab," Hamilton said. "He's getting awful close. I don't know whether he will be ready for Friday, but I don't know that he won't. He's awful close. He's been doing some non-contact stuff that looks very promising. He hasn't had any setbacks, hasn't had any pain. We're going to proceed optimistically but cautiously. We feel like he's going to be close. We'll evaluate that at that particular time."
Florida State ranks 141st in scoring (69.9 PPG), 181st in field goal percentage (43.5%), 204th in assists (12.5 APG) and an impressive 17th in team rebounding (38.9 RPG).
Duke Blue Devils (27-4, 13-3 ACC)/Tournament Seed: No. 2
No one should be surprised to see Duke have a successful season, especially since the Blue Devils are coming off of a season in which they won their fourth NCAA Tournament championship. However, it is rather surprising that Duke came in second place in the ACC standings behind archrival North Carolina.
Despite the second-place finish, the Blue Devils have two things going for them that UNC does not: Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. Smith, the ACC's Player of the Year, led the league in scoring (21.6 PPG) and assists (5.2 APG).
"He's a guy that every day imparts some guidance to his teammates," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said about Smith. "Not just how he talks, but how he looks. He's been pretty poised, I think, the entire year. He has the face of a winner, then he has the words that a winner should speak."
Krzyzewski is also very complimentary about Singler, a senior who averaged 17.1 points and 6.6 rebounds this season. "The first thing is he always leads by example," Krzyzewski said. "In other words, he works every play and works every day."
The Blue Devils, who were a perfect 17-0 at home in the regular season, are ranked 10th in the nation in scoring (81.2 PPG) and 39th in field goal percentage (46.7%). In addition, Duke is 25th in the country in rebounding (38.4 RPG) and 62nd in assists (14.6 APG).
Duke will play the winner of Maryland and N.C. State in a quarterfinal match-up on Friday at 7 p.m. (ACC Network/ESPN2).
North Carolina Tar Heels (24-6, 14-2)/Tournament Seed: No. 1
Alas, we reach the best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference: the Tar Heels from the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels finished the regular season with a perfect 15-0 home record and an impressive 7-3 road mark. UNC closed out the regular season with seven straight wins, including an 81-67 win over Duke on Saturday to claim the regular season ACC title (and the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament).
"It was a great day for us on Saturday," said legendary North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. "It's been a fantastic run by our club down the stretch here. We're ecstatic to be the regular season champions, and looking forward to playing in the tournament. We know it's going to be a big-time challenge for us, but we're anxious and looking forward to playing."
The Tar Heels received solid contributions all across the board this season. Tyler Zeller was UNC's leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points on 54.1% shooting. John Henson led the team in rebounding (9.7 RPG) while Zeller was second, averaging 7.1 boards. Freshman sensation Harrison Barnes averaged 14.1 points for UNC.
North Carolina led the nation in team rebounding this season, averaging 42.7 boards per contest. Also, the Tar Heels were 20th in scoring (77.3 PPG), 97th in field goal percentage (45.2%) and 27th in assists (15.5 APG).