2019 ACC Championship Tournament Preview
The ACC is a dog-eat-world type of a conference. It is home to some of the best teams, head coaches, and players in college basketball. The conference is always packed with top talent and championship contenders. This year, the ACC is even more loaded than usual.
Which ACC teams will emerge as dark horses and win this year’s conference championship? Nitrogen Sports Blog takes a look at what might go down in ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament 2019.
2019 ACC Tournament breakdown
If you think you’re looking at the odds for the NCAA tournament, you have to double check that you’re not looking at the ACC tournament odds. Three of the nation’s top four teams play in the ACC this year. The Virginia Cavaliers, the North Carolina Tar Heels, and the Duke Blue Devils have all hovered around the top of the rankings this year.
Now the Atlantic Coast Conference rivals will have to fight it out not only for the conference title but for a top seed in the Big Dance.
Favorites: Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Cavaliers
Duke was hyped as the top contender in college basketball all the way back to the preseason. The Blue Devils are known for performing well this time of year, thanks in large part to their talent-rich roster and a Hall of Famer head coach in Mike Krzyzewski, who has said that his team will be firing at maximum capacity.
Still, winning the ACC Tournament is going to be easier said than done even for a team like Duke. The Blue Devils may have to get past the Tar Heels in order to get to the tournament finals, and those who’ve followed college basketball this year are well aware of the fact that Duke was defeated twice by North Carolina in the regular season.
The very good news for Duke is that star freshman Zion Williamson is reportedly set to return to action in the team’s opening game in the ACC tourney. Williamson, who has sat out the last five games (six if you count the first meeting with North Carolina in which he didn’t last more than a couple of minutes) due to a knee injury, is second on the team with 21.6 points per game.
Duke also has RJ Barrett, another freshman and a likely top-five pick in this year’s NBA Draft to lead the Blue Devils.
As for the Virginia Cavaliers, they will enter the tournament with a better record and higher rank than the Blue Devils. But the return of best prospect in the country will put Duke over the top.
Nevertheless, Virginia’s defense is going to make life hard for any team that crosses its path. The Hoos allow the least points per game (54.6) in the nation while letting opponents shoot just 37.4 percent from deep — third best in Division I basketball.
And have we mentioned already that Virginia is the defending ACC Tournament champion?
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Dark horse: Louisville Cardinals
After facing a tumultuous off season, the Louisville Cardinals were able to come together under new head coach Chris Mack.
The Cardinals had a decent regular season in 2019, finishing sixth in the ACC with a 10-8 conference record. They could have had a better slate if not for a late-season cold spell, having lost four of their last five games. Louisville will have to face some of the highest ranked teams in college basketball if it wants to cut down the nets in the ACC Tournament this year.
But after racking up wins against North Carolina, the Michigan State Spartans, and the Virginia Tech Hokies, the feat seems within reach.
Jordan Nwora is a player that can take over a game for Louisville. He had a 23-point outburst in a near-upset of the Blue Devils and a 17-point outing in a loss to Virginia. Nwora has carried Louisville on his back to several victories and the Cards will need him to put up a better show in the tournament.
Louisville has a first-round bye and will meet in the second round the winner of the matchup between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Long shot: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Since the ACC is so packed with talent, even teams near the bottom of the conference can make some noise this month.
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have shown they can play well against powerhouses. They even came within inches of upsetting Duke in a 71-70 loss in Durham earlier this month.
In addition to that, Wake Forest pulled off a shocker back in January when Danny Manning’s boys took down the then No. 17 NC State Wolfpack in Winston-Salem, 71-67. Success could ride on the shoulders of their point guard.
Despite living in his father’s shadow, junior guard Brandon Childress has answered the call to step up and run the show for Wake Forest. Childress leads the team with 14.7 points to go with 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds per contest. His dad Randolph is a current associate coach for the Demon Deacons. Brandon will have a tough task in front of him to live up to his father’s legacy as an ACC champion, but Wake Forest has come on strong and could be a March spoiler.
Virginia beats North Carolina in the ACC Tournament finals, 70-66.
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