Duke looks like a title contender again, but is Miami a true threat?
March Madness is just getting started as the college basketball season shifts to the conference tournaments. Titles will be won, NCAA Tournament spots will be clinched or lost all over the country. Here’s what to watch in the Big 12.
Final: Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. (ESPN)
No. 8 Boston College vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech
No. 5 NC State vs. No. 12 Virginia Tech
No. 7 Maryland vs. No. 10 Wake Forest
No. 6 Florida State vs. No. 11 Clemson
Byes to the quarterfinals:
No. 1 Miami
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 4 Virginia
Full Bracket: (.pdf)
Other conference tournament previews:
Atlantic 10 | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC
THE FAVORITE: Duke
The Blue Devils did not win the ACC regular-season title, but Duke looks like the best team in the league at this point of the season. Ryan Kelly’s return to the lineup has made the Blue Devils much more difficult to guard, and the senior forward also adds a presence on defense. Duke is 18-0 with Kelly in the lineup, holding opponents to 37.9 shooting in games with Kelly. Duke’s opponents shot 45 percent with Kelly out.
DARK HORSE: Florida State
Florida State has been a disappointment this season, but this is still a talented team with some strong veteran leadership. The Seminoles evened their league record at 9–9 by beating Virginia and NC State in the final week of the season. The Seminoles aren’t the defensive team they’ve been in the past, but Michael Snaer is one of the nation’s best in crunch time. Snaer has hit six game-winning shots in the last two seasons.
ATHLON’S PICK: Miami
Don’t forget about the Hurricanes, the 2013 ACC regular-season champs. Just two weeks ago, Miami lost at Duke by only three points even though starting center Reggie Johnson failed to score a point. The ‘Canes snapped out of a late-season funk by defeating Clemson 62-49 thanks to 23 points and 12 rebounds from Kenny Kadji and a late burst from Shane Larkin. When Miami has all its pieces working, the Hurricanes are a Final Four threat.
Related: Top Buzzer Beaters for 2012-13 (so far)
NCAA TOURNAMENT LOCKS:
Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
The Cavaliers’ NCAA tournament case is one of the strangest for bubble teams. The Cavs are 4-2 against the top 50, including wins over Duke, North Carolina and NC State, plus Wisconsin on the road. Virginia also lost to three Colonial teams, including Old Dominion (5-25). Virginia’s late-season losses to Boston College and Florida State means the Cavs probably need to beat NC State and Miami in the ACC Tournament -- at least -- to be in the field.