NCAA Tournament: ACC opening round preview
No. 11 N.C. State (22-12) vs. No. 6 San Diego State (26-7)
When: 12:40 p.m.
Where: Columbus, OH
Fast break: If the Wolfpack is satisfied with being in the NCAAs and views it as enough of an accomplishment it will get roughed up. The Aztecs have been there and won’t be intimidated by playing an ACC team. That said, State has better players, now knows it can play with UNC and Duke, and armed with that confidence should make the plays it hasn’t made at crunch time to win this game.
Forecast: N.C. State, 70-67.
No. 10 Virginia (22-9) vs. No. 7 Florida (23-10)
When: 2:10 p.m.
Where: Omaha, NE
Fast break: Virginia invites opponents to shoot shots from the perimeter with its packline defense. But the problem here is that the Gators are known to rain 3s, and if they get hot can run out the Cavaliers. But, if UF struggles and UVa’s defense own the game, expect Mike Scott to take over. Virginia’s depth and the injury factor will hurt it as well. At least wing guard Joe Harris’ broken hand has had another week to heal.
Forecast: Florida, 68-59.
No. 14 St, Bonaventure (20-11) vs. No. 3 Florida State (24-9)
When: 2:40 p.m.
Where: Nashville, TN
Fast break: Quite often teams that surprisingly win power conference tournaments have a really tough time regenerating intensity and focus in the NCAA’s opening round, and they get clipped. The Bonnies are more than capable of beating FSU. They have a terrific future NBA player in 6-9 forward Andrew Nicholson, are rugged and athletic enough, and if it takes the Seminoles too long to get going, this could be a quick and shocking exit for the ACC champs. But these Noles are a veteran group, are driven by their loss to VCU in the Sweet 16 last year, and they have a few more wins in them.
Forecast: FSU, 68-55.
No. 16 Vermont (24-11) vs. No. 1 North Carolina (29-5)
When: 4:10 p.m.
Where: Greensboro, N.C.
Fast break: The Catamounts already have a little momentum after nabbing an NCAA win Wednesday night over Lamar. Its run will end here, as they just don’t have the length, quickness or skill to hang with the Tar Heels, John Henson or no John Henson.
Forecast: UNC, 92-65.
No. 15 Lehigh (26-7) vs. No. 2 Duke (27-6)
When: 7:15 p.m.
Where: Greensboro, N.C.
Fast break: The Mountain Hawks have a potential NBA guard in C.J. McCollum and they will shoot a lot of 3s. Duke’s perimeter defense has been an issue at times, so there is a recipe here for an interesting game. Add to that Duke likely will be without Ryan Kelly – The Blue Devils averaged 20 fewer points in the ACC Tournament without Kelly than when they had him – and they just look in some ways like a team that is hanging by a thread. Duke will win, but it could be really close.
Forecast: Duke, 74-66.
Andrew Jones’ record: 212-52