The ACC’s battle royal of a regular season has ended. All 12 of the teams, their handlers, cut men and UCF officials convene in Greensboro.
The final seedings and even the identity of fourth team with a Thursday bye was not decided until the last minute of the last game Sunday night. Ratings for the Clemson- Wake lid-closer must have been particularly high in Florida. The ‘Noles had laid claim to the third and final opening day easy draw with a very close win over the Canes. While veteran FSU broadcaster Gene Deckerhoffer had claimed that the win clinched an off Thursday for the ‘Noles, it wasn’t until 18 hours later that it finally came to pass.
Saturday’s second game between Maryland and the Hoos began with Tony Bennett singing that star player Sylven Landesberg had decided to head to the NBA. Or so it seemed, as indications were that Landesberg had ceased attending class, what seems a sure sign that the Hoos’ leading scorer had decided against returning to the Grounds for his junior year. As they had shown earlier in the year when their star missed a game due to injury, or indifference, the Hoos were perfectly capable of losing without him. Actually, they played Maryland much tougher with their star not in the building than they had in any of the games Landesberg attended, unlike his recent scheduled classes. Without his best player around to ensure his team would again lose badly and the Hoos making an improbable run at the Terps, Bennett took matters and his suit coat into his own hands, dumping it on the playing floor, thereby earning a technical and enabling Maryland to put the game away.
Saturday’s third brawl saw Virginia Tech win its latest gang fight, knocking out Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Unlike FSU, Tech did indeed clinch a first-round bye in the ACC get-together and leap off the NCAA bubble and onto the solid ground occupied by those already in. In a game that had announcers from several networks remarking on the physical nature of the fracas game, Tech’s Malcolm Delaney was able to avoid Lani Gawal forearms, for the most part, and lead the Hokies to the vital win.
Saturday night saw the latest edition of the Greatest Rivalry Ever. The second Duke-Carolina match-up of the year sure won’t produce any video-for-the-ages, such as Jeff Capel hitting a half-court shot or blood pouring from the face of Tyler the Good. When Dick Vitale is reaching for his filler material by the first television time out, it is safe to assume that the game is probably not going to achieve Instant Classic status anywhere other than Methodist Flats.
For some reason, ACC officials decided to actually play the Fredo-NC State game rather than simply flip a coin to determine the winner. The only thing on the line for this clunker was whether the Pack could avoid a last-place tie with the Canes, which they did. Considering how State looked most of the season, avoiding last place has to be considered a minor miracle for El Sid’s bunch.
By the time Clemson and Wake Forest tipped off at 6 pm Sunday, it was obvious that the Deacs’ Chas McFarland was sick and tired of hearing about how physical was the multi-Tech game. He decided to give a demonstration of exactly why he is considered the ACC’s version of the hockey enforcer. McFarland knocked around Clemson’s Trevor Booker, dropping Clem’s star to the floor a couple of times and the Tigers to Thursday’s 9 pm Tournament dog game, which will be played after most of the fans attending this week’s ACC shindig have decided to sample Greensboro night life.
The ACC Tournament will get under way at noon Thursday with Fredo facing the Hoos. The high quality of this exciting match should have fans ordering one more Bloody Mary at the Hooter’s nearest the Coliseum. The non-loser will get served up to Duke early Friday. The second game of Thursday’s first session will have Wake Forest playing the Canes. While Frank Haith’s bunch looks a lot like a dangerous team capable of causing anybody trouble, Wake is already in the NCAA unless they are not. It would perhaps behoove the Deacons to remove all doubt and set up a rematch of McFarland trading punches with Jeff Allen.
Thursday night’s first game will see Georgia Tech playing North Carolina in perhaps the first day’s most intriguing game. The Paul Hewitt death march is in full voice in Atlanta. To avoid AD Dan Radakovich having to figure out how to come up with the cash to pay yet another coach to not coach, it would be in Hewitt’s best interest to actually win another game. For his part, Ol’ Roy is famous for his disdain of the ACC affair, preferring to concentrate his concentration on the upcoming NCAA. He might feel a little different about that this year. Getting his team to actually show up for this game would certainly be a step in the right direction.
By 9:20 or so Thursday night, Clemson and NC State will conclude the day’s action. Few fans will still be hanging around to watch it and the possibility does exist that there will be more excitement outside in the parking lots as Carolina fans peddle their tournament books at fire-sale prices. Or, depending on how well Ol’ Roy’s crew bounces back from the embarrassment at Duke, the Heels will be looking to buy them.
Attempting to predict winners in the Tournament is usually an exercise in futility. It does seem safe to assume, however, that the ACC Tournament Champion will not be playing Thursday. History teaches that winning four games in as many days is a tall order bordering on impossible. Let’s give the Thursday nods to Fredo and Wake Thursday afternoon, then Carolina and State that night. The Tar Heels and Wolfpack will create at least some buzz around Greensboro. On Friday, all four of the bye boys win. That would be Duke, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Florida State. On Saturday, Duke beats Tech on a TKO while Florida State screws up the third Coach K- Gary Williams game of the year. On Sunday, Duke wins the ACC, as is their habit.
- Posted by Jim at 06:54 am
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