ACC Teams Open NCAA Tournament Play

CJ Leslie and the Wolfpack open against Temple.
CJ Leslie and the Wolfpack open against Temple.

#2 Duke vs. #15 Albany
12:15 PM ET, CBS

This 2-15 game thing didn’t go so well last year for Duke. The Blue Devils will look for redemption this season, opening the NCAA Tournament against the Great Danes of Albany.

If Albany is going to reprise the role of Lehigh, they will likely have to do so from beyond the arc. The only player above 6’6” for the Great Danes is junior center John Puk, who averages just 5.4 points per game. Meanwhile, the team’s two leading scorers, Mike Black and Jacob Iati, make 37.5 percent and 41.0 percent of their three-point shots, respectively.

Unfortunately for Albany, that may just be exactly what Duke hopes to see. While Maryland’s 8-for-20 from three-point range will be fresh in the minds of Blue Devils’ fans, Duke has actually been one of the best teams in the nation at defending the perimeter. Duke opponents make only 29.6 percent of their three-point attempts. For Albany to win, they will have to make three-pointers against a defense that recently held North Carolina’s potent four-guard lineup to 1-of-14 beyond the arc in Chapel Hill.

#8 NC State vs. #9 Temple
1:40 PM ET, TBS

NC State will open against the Temple Owls. Temple rattled off seven straight wins to conclude the regular season (including an 84-76 win over five-seed Virginia Commonwealth) before losing in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.

Temple will be looking for a big game from Khalif Wyatt. The senior guard averages 19.8 points per game for the Owls, which earned him A-10 Player of the Year honors. In a win over Syracuse in December, Wyatt scored 33 points. In the win over VCU, he had another 30. He’s more than just a shooter, though: Wyatt has been awarded 226 free throws this season, averaging 7.1 per game. It makes him an incredibly efficient offensive player, and one NC State will have to slow down to win.

The key for NC State, as is often the case, will be to stay out of foul trouble (which may be a challenge with Wyatt attacking the basket). With the Wolfpack’s shallow bench, having Lorenzo Brown, CJ Leslie, or Richard Howell on the bench drastically hurts NC State’s productivity. In what should figure to be a close game, at least if NCAA seeds are to be believed, NC State can’t afford any missed opportunities.

#2 Miami vs. #15 Pacific
2:10 PM ET, TNT

Pacific, winner of nine of its last eleven games, will meet Miami in Austin, Texas for this round of 64 game.

While Pacific is larger than many of the teams we have previewed this week (see: both of Maryland’s NIT opponents, Albany), the Tigers still have a disadvantage in size against the Hurricanes. Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble, and Reggie Johnson should present some mismatches for Miami to exploit.

Also like Albany, Pacific will need success from long range to spring the upset. As a team, the Tigers shoot 39.1 percent from three-point range. Three of Pacific’s top seven players make at least 40 percent of their three-point attempts, and two other players are in 37-39 percent range. Since it is a collection of talented shooters, rather than one spectacular player, on the Pacific offense, Miami will have to maintain a disciplined defense to prevent open looks.

#8 North Carolina vs. #9 Villanova
7:20 PM ET, TNT

Five times, the Tar Heels and Wildcats have met in the NCAA Tournament. Four times, the winner has gone on to win the National Championship. While that trend may not hold with the winner likely facing No. 1 seed Kansas, it provides a nice backdrop for this game.

Villanova has struggled to defend three-point shooters this season, allowing 36.8 percent from beyond the arc (300th in the nation). In that sense, it seems like a cruel twist that the Wildcats, so reliant on the three during some of their most successful seasons under Jay Wright, faces a North Carolina team that utilizes four guards rather than a traditional big man. This could be a good shooting night for Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston, and company.

Villanova averages 26.3 free throw attempts per game, most among NCAA Division I teams. This makes up for shooting only 41.5 percent from the floor as a team, as they are able to carve ruts to the charity stripe for easy points. This, along with limiting turnovers (the Wildcats average 16 per game) will be Villanova’s hope for knocking off the Tar Heels. After all, UNC is a lot more likely to go cold from three-point range than guys like Ryan Arcidiacono (82.4 percent free throw shooter) at the line.

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