The new ACC Tournament format means there will be games on Wednesday for the first time in history. Here is a look at the first round’s matchups:
#12 Wake Forest vs. #13 Notre Dame, 1:00 p.m.
This is a matchup of a pair of teams disappointed to even be playing on Wednesday in the first place. Wake Forest started the year 4-3 in the ACC, before a midseason 7-game losing streak ruined their chances for an NCAA or NIT bid and their chances for an ACC Tournament bye. Notre Dame defeated Duke on the opening weekend of conference play, but has struggled mightily since, going 5-12 in the ACC after the win, with only one win over a team not in the conference’s bottom third. The Deacons won the only regular season meeting between the two teams back on January 25, although that was at home, where they play much better. The Deacs have not won an ACC Tournament game under coach Jeff Bzdelik (they haven’t even been close), while his counterpart Mike Brey has a nice postseason résumé. And I think Notre Dame has a better shot at pulling some upsets and making a deep run than Wake Forest does. I also think this game will be close, and the Irish have done better in close games than the Deacons have. The winner of this game will play Pittsburgh in the second round on Thursday.
Notre Dame 66, Wake Forest 64.
#10 Miami vs. #15 Virginia Tech, appr. 3:30 p.m.
This matchup has some intrigue because, although Virginia Tech was clearly the worst team in the ACC this season, struggling to a 2-16 record in conference play, they won both of their meetings against Miami. In December, in Coral Gables, the Hokies won 61-60, in overtime. In February, in Blacksburg, the Hokies won 52-45. However, Miami is playing better now than they were at the time of either of those meetings, and coach Jim Larranaga tends to have his teams peak at the right time. In addition, its hard for any team to beat another team three times in a season; it will only be that much tougher for Virginia Tech to beat a team three times. Judging by the pattern of the two previous meetings, this should be a close, low-scoring game, with the winner advancing to play NC State on Thursday.
Miami 52, Virginia Tech 46.
#11 Georgia Tech vs. #14 Boston College, 7:00 p.m.
Georgia Tech enters this game coming off of their first back-to-back conference wins of the season, over Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Boston College, since their upset over Syracuse, has lost four out of five. Like Miami and Virginia Tech, these two teams have already met twice this season. Georgia Tech won both meetings, by scores of 68-60 and 74-71. While I don’t see Georgia Tech firing coach Brian Gregory, Boston College’s Steve Donahue could be coaching for his job in this game after a very disappointing season. The Eagles are also trying to avoid a horrific piece of history; unless they win a game in the ACC Tournament, the Eagles will match the 2010-11 Wake Forest team for the worst overall record by an ACC team in the last 25 seasons, at 8-24. Should they beat Georgia Tech and then lose in the second round, they would be 9-24 and avoid the dubious distinction. However, although the Eagles have some motivation for this game, and although it will be hard for Georgia Tech to beat Boston College a third time, the Yellow Jackets are peaking at the right time, and while that may not mean they will win the tournament, they should get out of the first round and advance to play Clemson on Thursday.
Georgia Tech 64, Boston College 60.