With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror, the next big event on the sports stage is college basketball’s season-ending tournaments.
Since 1997, college basketball’s 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 the Big East (UConn, Syracuse). Over the next few weeks, we will examine some of the top hoop teams in each conference.
This week, the ACC.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has another talented team that is just three years removed from a national title, one that is flexing its ACC muscles again. This is a veteran team led by 6-10 senior Mason Plumlee (18.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg), and 6-11 senior Ryan Kelly (12.8 ppg, 5½ rpg) up front, while senior G Seth Curry (16 ppg) runs the break.
They like the uptempo game, 13th in the nation in scoring (80 pg), 21st in shooting 48% as team. Duke beat No. 3 Kentucky (75-68) as -4 chalk, beat No. 2 Louisville (76-71) in pick ‘em and beat No. 4 Ohio State (73-68) as -6.
In a win against the Buckeyes, Duke shot 47% and allowed .338% shooting. They trailed 31-23 at the half but Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon scored all 17 of his points in the second half.
The Wolfpack are staying alive with a frontcourt that is one of the best at offensive rebounding in the ACC, led by 6-8, 250-pound senior Richard Howell (13 ppg, 11 rpg) and 6-9 junior C.J. Leslie (15 ppg, 7 rpg). NC State shoots 51% from the field as a team, third in the nation and they like to run, 79 ppg (9th in country). The Wolfpack is on a 17-7-1 ATS run.
NC State lost to Oklahoma State (76-56) as -10 favorite, lost 79-72 at Michigan as a +5 dog, but beat rival Duke (84-76), then lost two of three at Maryland (51-50) and at Wake (86-84). The Wolfpack stand 8-3-1 ATS against the ACC and on a conference run 11-4 OVER the total.
Where did these guys come from? The Hurricanes are all about defense, allowing 58 ppg in ACC play (third), 36.9% shooting (second) and just 30% from long range (third) for Coach Jim Larranaga. That’s why they started 13-2 under the total! The Canes are physical up front, led by 6-5 senior Durand Scott (14.6 ppg), 6-11 senior Kenny Kadji (13 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and 6-10, 250-lb senior Julian Gamble (6.5 ppg, 5 rpg).
“The U” lost to Florida Gulf Coast (63-51) in their second game, lost to No. 4 Arizona (69-50) and to Indiana State in OT (57-55), but crushed No. 1 Duke (90-63). Miami held Duke to 29% shooting, 4 of 23 from 3-point land, while shooting 57%. The defeat was the third worst for a No. 1 team. Miami is home this week and has a manageable schedule until a March 2 rematch at Duke. Think the Cameron Crazies will be up for it?
The Tar Heels have a powerhouse offensive team that is running and gunning again for Roy Williams, tops in the nation in rebounds and one of the best scoring teams. It’s a young team with 6’9” sophomore James McAdoo (14.7 ppg, 8 rpg) and 6’7” junior Reggie Bullock (14 ppg, 5.8 rpg), while” a pair of guards average over 4 assists in freshman Marcus Paige and senior Dexter Strickland.
But can they play any defense? Indiana burned them (83-59) as did Butler (82-71), plus Virginia and Miami topped them by slowing the pace down. Despite all that offense, the UNDER is 25-12 in the Tar Heels’ last 37 road games against a team with a home winning percentage of greater than .600.
The Cavaliers are getting it done with a terrific one-two punch of 6-8 junior Akil Mitchell (12 ppg, 9 rpg) and 6-6 junior Joe Harris (15.3 ppg). Virginia plays good defense, tops in the ACC in points allowed (51 pg), as well as third in field goal shooting defense (37%).
On offense they are second to Duke, shooting 39.7% from long range. The Cavaliers are 8-0-1 ATS in their last nine home games and 24-10 UNDER the total at home. Virginia has beaten North Carolina (61-52) but has the rematch coming up next week on the road.
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Reach him at [email protected]