With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, the next big event on the sports stage is college basketball’s season-ending tournaments.
Since 1997, the national champion has come from several different conferences: the Pac 10 (Arizona), SEC (Kentucky and Florida), Big 10 (Michigan State), the ACC (Duke, Maryland, North Carolina), Big 12 (Kansas) and Big East (UConn, Syracuse).
Over the next few weeks, we’ll examine some of the top hoop teams in each league, starting this week with the ACC.
North Carolina: Fifth-year coach Roy Williams has one explosive offense. The Tar Heels average 92 points with a deep rotation that runs right at opponents. 6-9 senior Tyler Hansbrough (21.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) leads in scoring and rebounding, while junior guards Wayne Ellington (14 ppg) and Ty Lawson (15 ppg) have been outstanding.
There is strong depth up front with 6-5 senior Danny Green (13 ppg) and 6-8 junior Deon Thompson. But after a sizzling start, they stumbled in losses to BC and Wake during a 4-7 ATS run. UNC has two home games this week, but next week plays at Duke.
Duke: Coach Mike Krzyzewski has another talented team that is flexing its ACC muscles again. This is an athletic team behind junior wingman Gerald Henderson (14.8 ppg, 5 rpg) and 6-8 sophomore Kyle Singler (16.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg). This is not a great rebounding team, as Coach K is back to a more guard-oriented attack with Henderson and 6-5 junior Jon Scheyer.
While everyone thinks of Duke as a run-and-gun, three-point team, the defense has allowed just 60 ppg. Sharp bettors have taken notice, with the Blue Devils on a 7-1 run under the total. That included a tough 70-68 last second loss at Wake Forest in a showdown for first place in the ACC. The rematch is Feb. 22 at Duke.
Wake Forest: Sophomore guard Jeff Teague is the second leading scorer in the ACC, averaging 21 points, 4 rebounds and 3.8 assists on the season. The Demon Deacons (10-5 ATS) are loaded in the frontcourt behind 6-9 sophomore James Johnson (13.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg), 6-9 freshman Al-Farouq Aminu (12.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and 7-foot junior Chas McFarland (9.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg). Wake held Duke to a season-low 33 percent for the game with Aminu getting 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Virginia Tech: The Cardiac Kids! Seth Greenberg’s Hokies have been living on the edge, beating Wake by 7, BC by 8, Virginia by 3 and needing OT to win at Miami last week. They have a frontcourt that is more hard working than tall, led by 6-7 sophomore Jeff Allen, the team’s top rebounder (14 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and 6-6 senior A.D. Vassallo (18 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Tech shot 50 percent in an upset of then top-ranked Wake Forest, but also lost by 25 at Duke.
Clemson: The Tigers are about offense, averaging close to 80 ppg, with a strong 1-2 backcourt punch of 6-5 senior K.C. Rivers (13.8 ppg) and sophomore Oglesby (13 ppg). The frontcourt is experienced behind 6-7, 240-pound junior center Trevor Booker (14 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and 6-9 senior Raymond Sykes. Clemson has been criticized in recent years for a weak schedule, and that’s been the case again. The Tigers were 16-0 before losing to Wake and North Carolina by double digits.