ACC Men's Basketball Tournament: A look at each NC team
It’s March, which means the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament is here.
And while it’s not being held in the Tar Heel State this year — and instead in some faraway place called Brooklyn, New York — many North Carolinians are sure to be interested.
There are plenty of compelling storylines. For starters, it’s the last ACC Tournament for longtime Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Since arriving in Durham in 1980, Krzyzewski led the Blue Devils to 15 ACC Tournament titles. He’ll aim to make it a 16th, as Duke enters the tournament as its top seed.
North Carolina is the tournament’s third seed, and it’s the first for Hubert Davis as head coach. As a player for Dean Smith, he was a member of two Tar Heel teams that won the tournament.
Wake Forest — led by the ACC’s Coach and Player of the Year in Steve Forbes and Alondes Williams — are the tournament’s fifth seed. The Deacs are enjoying their best season in more than a decade in Forbes’ second-year on the job and aim to make some noise at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
N.C. State is the lowest seeded team in the tournament field this season, entering it on a four-game losing streak.
Here’s a closer look at each team as the tournament gets underway this week in New York. Next year, the tournament returns to Greensboro.
- Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (42nd season)
- Record: 26-5 (16-4 ACC)
- Last ACC Tournament Title: 2019
- Top Player: Paolo Banchero (17.1 points per-game)
- Buzz: After falling to rival UNC in Coach K’s home finale, Duke is ranked No. 7 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll. The Blue Devils have real aspirations to send the 75-year-old Krzyzewski out on a high note. Their goals include winning not just the ACC, but the NCAA Tournament too. Their roster mixes talented freshmen with seasoned veterans. Banchero was voted ACC Rookie of the Year and to the All-ACC First Team, while teammate Wendell Moore Jr., a junior, made the All-ACC Second Team. Other key players on the team include AJ Griffin — who shot a sterling 48.3% from three-point range this season — and 7-foot-1 Mark Williams, who led the ACC in blocked shots and was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
RESULTS: The Blue Devils topped Syracuse in Thursday's quarterfinals, 88-79, behind 26 points from Moore. Williams added 15 points and 16 rebounds.
Then, on Friday, Duke got a 80-76 victory over Miami in the semifinals, powered by 21 points from Griffin and a 21-point, 18-rebound effort from Banchero.
NEXT GAME: In the championship match, the Blue Devils will take on seventh-seeded Virginia Tech. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
- Coach: Hubert Davis (1st season)
- Record: 23-8 (15-5 ACC)
- Last ACC Tournament Title: 2016
- Top Player: Armando Bacot (16.6 points per-game)
- Buzz: It wasn’t always a sure thing that the Tar Heels were going to make the NCAA Tournament in their first season without Roy Williams. Following a home loss to Pitt on Feb. 16, many experts projected North Carolina to be on the outside of the tournament bubble. But since then, North Carolina finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak, including spoiling Krzyzewski’s farewell game at Cameron Indoor Stadium this past weekend. North Carolina is 25th in the AP Top 25 Poll this week and head to Brooklyn with some real momentum on their side. Bacot finished second in ACC Player of the Year voting and leads the ACC in rebounds with 12.4 per-game. The Tar Heels have also been powered by the playmaking abilities of Caleb Love, who averages 15.7 points and 3.7 assists per-game.
RESULTS: The Tar Heels beat Virginia in the semifinals Thursday, 63-43. Brady Manek led UNC with 21 points and seven rebounds.
UNC was ousted in the semifinals though, upset by seventh-seeded Virginia Tech, 72-59. Darius Maddox and Keve Aluma combined for 38 points for the Hokies.
- Coach: Steve Forbes (2nd season)
- Record: 23-8 (13-7 ACC)
- Last ACC Tournament Title: 1996
- Top Player: Alondes Williams (19.2 points per-game)
- Buzz: Wake Forest is having its best season in more than a decade and one of its best ever. Its 13 ACC wins this year tied a program record, its 16 wins at home tied a program record, and its 10-win ACC turnaround (the Deacs won just three ACC games last season) is the best in the history of the ACC. Wake’s 23 overall wins are its most since 2009. On the court, Williams was second in the ACC in scoring and led the conference in assists with 5.26 per-game. One of the Deacs’ best skills this year is their ability to score. They were second in the league in scoring offense with 79.5 points per-game, and led the league in field goal percentage, knocking down 48.9% of their shots. Wake enters the tournament having won three of its last four games.
RESULTS: Wake Forest lost in its first game of the tournament, falling in the second round to Boston College on Wednesday, 82-77. Williams had 17 points, while Jake LaRavia had 21 points and seven rebounds.
- Coach: Kevin Keatts (5th season)
- Record: 11-20 (4-16 ACC)
- Last ACC Tournament Title: 1987
- Top Player: Dereon Seabron (17.3 points per-game)
- Buzz: N.C. State is currently enduring its worst season of Keatts’ tenure. The Wolfpack’s 11 regular season wins is the least they’ve had since 1994. Down the stretch, N.C. State lost 10 of its last 11 regular season games. Despite their record, they’ve shown some fight. They beat Virginia Tech and Virginia in the ACC slate, and took a then-ranked No. 1 Purdue team to overtime back in December. Seabron was voted to the All-ACC Second Team and as the conference’s Most Improved Player. He led the Wolfpack in scoring, rebounding and assists. The good news for State is that Seabron is just a sophomore and figures to be back next season, where the Wolfpack will aim to be more competitive. A win or two in Brooklyn could give them some momentum heading into next season.
RESULTS: The Wolfpack's stay in Brooklyn was a short one, as they fell 70-64 to Clemson in the first round. Seabron finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Jericole Hellems had 13 points.