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Finally, the greatest time of the year has arrived, and this time we get an actual tournament with no Covid issues (knocks on wood). Some may argue Conference Tournament week is better than the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Growing up in North Carolina, there is nothing better on earth than when the teacher would wheel in the TV to watch the ACC Tournament in class. The only thing more meaningful than that is leaving school early to hit the Greensboro Coliseum to watch the best conference tournament in person. It's a shame the tournament is in Brooklyn this year, but it's still the ACC Tournament. So let's get into it!
The excitement when this game tips off will be tremendous. You finally get that first glimpse of the court, watching college basketball during school or a workday, and it truly does not matter who plays in this opening game. It will always be fantastic. They split the season series, each team winning on their home courts. John Hugley should have a solid game against the Eagles. In their first matchup, he dropped 32 points in a two-point win. Earl Grant should not have to worry about losing his job after one year at Boston College. On the other side, Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel may be on the hot seat and have his Panthers squad playing desperate basketball. This desperation leads me to believe that Pitt will win this game, but it will be very close.
Let's get one thing out of the way, you've heard me on the podcasts for weeks claiming Kevin Keatts should probably be fired, and then the reports coming out of Raleigh saying AD Boo Carrigan has agreed to keep Coach Keatts for at least one more year. In his defense, it was brutal losing potential ACC DPOY Manny Bates and playing an entire season without a center and inexperienced players. But the performances were terrible, and when Manny Bates went down, it almost seemed inevitable that State would finish at the bottom of the ACC. This game should be the best one in the tournament's opening round. ACC's most improved candidates are leading both teams, Clemson's PJ Hall and NC State's Dereon Seabron. Clemson won the sole meeting between the two in Raleigh by five points, led by PJ Hall's 20 point performance. Dereon Seabron also had a phenomenal game leading the Pack with 27 points. This game should be very similar; with the lack of size on both teams, it will come down to guard play and having guys like Seabron and Hall putting up solid numbers. This one will be tight, too, but Clemson has played decent basketball with the return of PJ Hall. NC State has looked abysmal lately while playing some horrid defense. Clemson should win this one, but it will be tough for the Tigers.
What a terrible season for all these teams playing on Tuesday of the ACC Tournament, and these two teams are no exception. Kast guest head coach Josh Pastner (listen to the interview if you haven't already) is going into this tournament as the reigning ACC Champs, which feels like forever ago. It was always going to be a long season for the Yellow Jackets, losing ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright and team leader Jose Alvarado. Michael Devoe has had a solid year, and Jordan Usher is a solid player, but besides that, it has been brutal. Louisville has gone through a peculiar year. With the midseason firing of high-priced coach Chris Mack, having the lowest attendance numbers in years, it's been a long season for the Cardinals. They played in Atlanta earlier this season, and Louisville won by just three points. There's a ZERO percent chance we see full chalk on Tuesday, and this is where the upsets begin. Georgia Tech will play desperately for their coach and senior and leading scorer, Michael Devoe. You also want two things going into a tournament game, experience, and coaching. Pastner has proved he can win ACC Tournament games before, and they have a leader in Devoe who you can rely on when you need big shots.
Hungry dogs run faster. I love all the underdogs in these matchups. You can get some solid value and if you don't feel well about some of these teams, take the points. The total is so low in the BC Pitt game, and I think we see a decent amount of fouls called. We have seen this NC State team give up an average of 91 points per game in their last three games. I also believe NC State can put up high scores and give up big scores. Louisville vs. Georgia Tech, I would play Georgia Tech ML. I don't feel comfortable with the total of 134, but I like the Yellow Jackets winning in this one. For my future, obviously I think Duke is going to win this tournament only having to win three games. But -137 to win the ACC Tournament does not excite me. There are two futures I would place that are worth it, and those are UNC +900 and Wake Forest +650. Both teams are playing some of their best basketball right now and have reasonable paths to the title in a weaker ACC this season. Even if one of these teams make it to the title game you have a fantastic opportunity to hedge if you choose to. The worrisome thing for the Tar Heels is whether they have the depth to play three games in three days. Their starters did not sit for one second in the second half of the Duke game and that will have to change if they want to win this tournament. For the Demon Deacons, they have to play one extra game which will hurt their stamina but they have a solid path. If you're able to get to a semi final with Wake and UNC both playing in it then you will win money. Wake would have to beat Pitt or Boston College and then Miami. The Tar Heels just need to beat the winner of Virginia vs Georgia Tech/Louisville which those should be locks. But like I mentioned before, Duke winning the tournament at -137 is still a decent bet but I am not willing to take on that kind of juice to win three games when they will probably be around that number in the final anyways. Lastly, another team to watch out for is Virginia Tech. They are currently at 12/1 on the Barstool Sportsbook and they have caught fire lately. 2021 ACC Coach of the Year Mike Young has his team on the wrong side of the bubble this year but don't be surprised if we see the Hokies make a run to the ACC title game. They have to defeat the winner of NC State vs Clemson, then play Notre Dame who has not been at their best in recent games, and more than likely play the worn out Tar Heels in the semifinals. Expect the Hokies to play desperate and play with house money in Brooklyn.