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Notes On The ACC Tournament & A Look At The NCAAs

The best part of the sports calendar is upon us.

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Mar 12, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard Malcolm Brogdon (15) shoots the ball over North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) in the second half during the championship game of the ACC conference tournament at Verizon Center.
Mar 12, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard Malcolm Brogdon (15) shoots the ball over North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) in the second half during the championship game of the ACC conference tournament at Verizon Center.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In Washington, the Tar Heels proved that they are worthy champions, putting major whippings on Notre Dame and Virginia.

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Both wins were keyed by UNC's defense which was exceptionally good. Marcus Paige, a player we admire and respect, did a brilliant job on Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon.

In fact, UNC played Virginia's game and beat them at it.

We honestly didn't think they could do that.

Having won both the regular season and the tournament, they are unquestionably the best team in the conference and one of the best three or four in the country.

The ACC Tournament should give them great momentum going into the NCAAs.

*****

There are a number of teams you know will be in despite not winning automatic bids a la UNC - Virginia and Duke, for instance.

In Like Flynn
ACC North Carolina (27-6)
America East Stony Brook (26-6)
Atlantic Sun Fla. Gulf Coast (20-13)
Big East Seton Hall (25-8)
Big Sky Weber State (26-8)
Big South NC-Asheville (22-11)
Big 12 Kansas (30-4)
Colonial UNC-Wilmington (25-7)
Conference USA Middle Tennessee (24-9)
Horizon League Green Bay (23-12)
Ivy League Yale (22-6)
MAAC Iona (22-10)
MAC Buffalo (20-14)
MEAC Hampton (21-10)
Missouri Valley Northern Iowa (22-12)
Mountain West Fresno State (25-9)
Northeast F. Dickinson (18-14)
Ohio Valley Austin Peay (18-17)
Pac-12 Oregon (27-6)
Patriot Holy Cross (14-19)
Southern Chattanooga (29-5)
Southland S.F. Austin (27-5)
Summit S. Dakota State (26-7)
SWAC Southern (22-12)
West Coast Gonzaga (26-7)

So who has a guarantee?

So far these teams:

For many fans, some of these teams are complete mysteries. that's not a knock on any team, it's just tough to know every team even by reputation. When you try and figure out who has great chemistry, who's on a roll, who's unhappy and all those factors, well...it's not possible.

For instance, we know very little currently about Stony 
Brook, Florida Gulf Coast, Weber State, Asheville, Wilmington, Middle Tennessee, Green Bay, Farleigh Dickinson, Fresno State, Austin Peay, Holy Cross, UT-Chattanooga, South Dakota State and Southern.

We do know that some of those schools have tremendous tradition - certainly Weber State, Fresno State, Austin Peay, Holy Cross and Chattanooga have wonderful histories.

Holy Cross is in at 14-19 after winning John Feinstein's favorite conference's tournament. Here's a tip: expect the Princeton offense.

The Crusaders are coached by former Princeton coach Bill Carmody, who also preceded Chris Collins at Northwestern.

*****

UNC wasn't the only team to have a great performance (or two) in a conference tournament. Texas A&M celebrated Billy Kennedy's contract extension by obliterating LSU and most likely killing any hope for an NCAA bid.

Kennedy got emotional when discussing his extension, perhaps because no one though he'd still be coaching.

Not because of his record but because he's battling early-stage Parkinson's disease. He's just 52. Managing his condition and his program simultaneously is a huge accomplishment.

People have already raised questions about Ben Simmons after a thoroughly mediocre season (in fairness the questions should go to his coach). Losing 71-38 is probably the final straw for Johnny Jones. At Duke, Joe Alleva never distinguished himself for his bravery and there's no reason to take on water for a failing coach, especially not after the Les Miles fiasco this fall.

And out West, Oregon beat Utah by 31, but at least Utah nearly doubled LSUs pathetic output. And bear in mind that Utah is a solid team as Duke learned last season and this.

*****

If you want a team to think about as a potential upset pick you could do worse than Steven F. Austin.

The Lumberjacks have made three straight tournaments, gave Utah a really tough game last year, losing 57-50 and have a tough, experienced core and a very good player in Thomas Walkup. He's a 6-4 senior who is a rugged guard in the mold of Jerry Sloan who also came out of a smaller conference.

We've said for some years now that early NBA departures give a real advantage to schools like S.F. Austin, at least in the early rounds.

*****

Seton Hall is not one of those teams. This Seton Hall team is perhaps not well-known nationally but it has certainly proved itself. The Pirates have beaten Xavier twice and Villanova in the Big East championship game. It also beat Providence and lost to Villanova earlier by just one. This is a team to watch.

*****

ACC fans have a long history with Maryland fading at the end of the season and fans finding fault elsewhere.

When the Terps left for the weaker Big Ten, one of parting comments/sentiments was that at least we won't have to get pushed around or ripped off by the ACC which favors the North Carolina schools anyway.

So it was interesting to see that Maryland's tradition of late-season swoons continues. The Terps did allow weak sister Nebraska to score 87 points Friday but on Saturday the Terps hung with Michigan State until the end.

But then the tradition of feeling victimized came back. Jake Layman got hit in the face but no foul was called. Melo Trimble caught a ball in the face, forcing him out of the game briefly. Rasheed Sulaimon flirted with a technical for jawing with Denzel Valentine. Layman and the Spartan's Eron Harris got called for a double technical. Mark Turgeon got one as well.

Then Deyonta Davis got a critical late block and Melo Trimble thought he was fouled twice on his final drive.

Offensive problems continue for Maryland's backcourt as Trimble and Sulaimon combined to shoot 5-25.