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Thursday February 2nd

Eight ACC teams to watch in the 2018 ACC Tournament

<p>North Carolina guard Kenny Williams (24) shoots a 3-pointer during the first half on Feb. 27 at the Smith Center.</p>
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North Carolina guard Kenny Williams (24) shoots a 3-pointer during the first half on Feb. 27 at the Smith Center.

Last year's NCAA Tournament featured nine ACC teams. North Carolina and Duke — the conference's powerhouses — have two national championships apiece since 2009. 

The ACC is reputably the toughest conference in men’s basketball, and it will likely continue to uphold its reputation in 2018. ESPN's Bracketology with Joe Lunardi predicts that nine of its teams will earn a bid to play in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday.

This year, Virginia is the top team in the ACC and the NCAA, and it will look to bring home the school’s first men’s basketball national championship. 

Here is a rundown of eight ACC teams that could win the ACC Tournament Championship in Brooklyn, where North Carolina will look to win its second title of the kind in three years.

Virginia (28-2, 17-1 ACC)

Virginia is the top seed heading into the ACC Tournament in Barclays Center — even after averaging 67.3 points per game this season, which ranks 13th in the ACC. 

The Cavaliers were picked to finish sixth in the ACC preseason poll, but they now sit atop both the ACC and the NCAA. Virginia’s only conference loss came against its in-state rival, the Virginia Tech Hokies, by one point, 61-60, in overtime on Feb. 10.

The defense-minded Cavaliers are led by senior forward Isaiah Wilkins, who is the 2018 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Wilkins is averaging 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game thus far this season.

Sophomore guard Kyle Guy leads the team’s offense with 13.9 points per game and with 74 made 3-pointers. Redshirt senior guard Devon Hall is another Cavalier player to know, who is averaging 11.9 points per game. 

Virginia’s success this season wasn’t expected, but the Cavaliers have proven that they shouldn’t be overlooked.  

Duke (25-6, 13-5 ACC)

Duke was the ACC preseason favorite, but it secured the No. 2 seed for the ACC Tournament after beating North Carolina, 74-64, to cap off its regular season. 

The Blue Devils have a balanced offensive attack with 85.1 points per game — which leads the ACC. Duke’s starting five all average double-digit points per game.

First-year power forward Marvin Bagley III, the 2018 ACC Player of the Year, leads the team with 20.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Grayson Allen, Duke's lone senior, is an emotional leader for the team and is averaging 15.5 points per game. He'll look to use his experience to guide the Blue Devils through March.

Duke is young and can appear to be inexperienced at times, but when the Blue Devils mesh together, they are scary. If 6-foot-11 Bagley continues to dominate — like he did in the second half against UNC — Duke will be hard to take down.

Miami (22-8, 11-7 ACC)

Miami went 11-1 during non-conference play at the beginning of the season, which included a win over then No. 12 Minnesota. Miami finished in a four-way tie for third place in the ACC but won the tiebreaker. 

The Hurricanes' biggest win of the season was a 91-88 victory in Chapel Hill against UNC on Feb. 27. Senior guard Ja’Quan Newton buried a half-court runner as time expired to ruin the Tar Heels' senior night.

In the beginning of February, Miami struggled with three consecutive losses against ACC opponents, including a loss to top-ranked Virginia. However, the Hurricanes turned things around and ended the season with four straight wins. 

Clemson (22-8, 11-7 ACC)

Heading into February, the Clemson Tigers had only lost three ACC games. However, Clemson proceeded to drop three of its seven games against ACC opponents, and then lost its final regular season game against Syracuse to finish 11-7 in conference play.

The Tigers, who were picked to finish 13th in the ACC preseason poll, have defied the odds to finish 9 spots ahead of that ranking come the start of the ACC Tournament.

Clemson ranks 11th in the ACC in points per game with 73.2 points per game. The Tigers' worst loss of the season came on Jan. 23 against Virginia in a 61-36 loss. The Tigers lost to the Wolfpack earlier this season, 78-77, and may have the chance to avenge that loss in Brooklyn.

Clemson will likely have to put more points on the board to win the ACC Tournament for the first time, but the Tigers have already shown that they shouldn’t be counted out in the ACC with their top-5 finish in conference play.

N.C. State (21-10, 11-7 ACC)

The Wolfpack are the fifth seed in the ACC Tournament. They're ranked fourth in the ACC with 81.0 points per game, behind three teams that the team took down in the regular season.

N.C. State senior guard Allerik Freeman leads the Wolfpack offense with 15.3 points per game. Freeman has scored in double-digits for the Wolfpack in the past seven games. 

Torin Dorn, a junior guard from Charlotte, follows behind Freeman with 13.8 points per game. In N.C. State’s 95-91 overtime win against UNC, Freeman and Dorn scored a combined 49 points.  

With five wins against top-25 opponents during the season, N.C. State is a tough competitor and will look to win its first ACC Tournament Championship since 1983.

North Carolina (22-9, 11-7 ACC)

The Tar Heels, the defending national champions and the only ACC team to advance past the Sweet Sixteen in 2017, were picked second in the ACC preseason poll and had a chance to secure the No. 2 seed heading into the ACC Tournament with a win at Duke on Saturday. North Carolina ended up securing the sixth seed in the ACC Tournament.

The Tar Heels are ranked second in the ACC with 83 points per game and lead the ACC in rebounding with 42.7 rebounds per game. Senior point guard Joel Berry II leads UNC’s offense with 17.8 points per game, and junior forward Luke Maye, a Wooden Award finalist, is right behind Berry with 17.7 points per game. Both were named to the 2018 All-ACC first team on Sunday.

North Carolina, which is coming off of two rough losses against Miami and Duke to end the regular season, will likely enter the ACC Tournament with vengeance.

Virginia Tech (21-10, 10-8 ACC)

Virginia Tech is the only ACC team to finish where it was expected to according to the ACC preseason poll. After posting a 10-8 conference record, the Hokies are the seventh seed going into the ACC Tournament.

Virginia Tech leads the ACC in field goal percentage with 50 percent, and in 3-point percentage with 39 percent. Junior guard Justin Robinson leads the team on offense with 13.8 points per game and scored in double-digits in the team’s big wins over North Carolina, Virginia and Duke.

The Hokies have shown that they can keep up offensively, but they're in the ACC's bottom four for rebounding, steals and blocks per game. However, with four wins over top-15 ACC opponents (including top-ranked UVa.), along with its explosive offensive production, Virginia is a dangerous team to meet in March.

Syracuse (19-12, 8-10 ACC)

Although Syracuse didn’t finish above .500 in ACC regular season play, the Orange earned big wins over Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson.

Syracuse lost three of its last four regular season games, but finished on a high note with a 55-52 win over No. 18 Clemson. First-year Oshae Brissett was named to the 2018 All-ACC Freshman team on Sunday after averaging 14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game during the regular season. Tyus Battle was named to the All-ACC second team after averaging 20 points per game.

As head coach of the Orange, Jim Boeheim has led the Orange to 32 NCAA Tournament appearances. With Boeheim at the helm, Syracuse has the potential to be an upset team in March.


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