The ACC had a very respectable showing in the first round of the NCAA tournament which concluded late Friday night. The ACC has struggled in recent years outside of North Carolina in the tournament so this is a good step in the right direction. Unfortunately, two of the four teams that advanced now have to play either the one or the two seed in their brackets in round two.
Duke 73, Arkansas Pine-Bluff 44
The goal for Duke here was to get an easy first round win and be able to rest down the stretch. The Devils were clearly the more talented team, as a one seed should be, and never really had to worry in this one. Kyle Singler led the Blue Devils with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Duke takes on California in round two who pulled what most people would say was a mild upset in beating Louisville. Duke will be favored but a really bad shooting game could mean a loss, especially if Cal is shooting the ball as they did against Louisville. Prediction: Duke
Maryland 89, Houston 77
The fourth seeded Terrapins got 21 points and 17 rebounds from Jordan Williams to put away the Cougars down the stretch. This was a one point game at halftime but Maryland's overall talent level won them the game late as the Cougars wore down. Up next for the Terps is a match-up with always tournament ready Michigan St. This is not a vintage Spartans team (Maryland is the four seed and Michigan St. the five) but Tom Izzo always has his team ready to go in March. Maryland will have to play really well to win. I don't see them having much of an answer for Kalin Lucas. I picked Michigan St. in my bracket to advance to the Sweet 16 so I will pick them here. The ACC really needs Maryland to advance however, as they are definitely the second best chance for the conference to get multiple teams in the round of 16.
Wake Forest 81, Texas 80 OT
Ish Smith hit a 17 foot jumper with 1.7 seconds to go to give the Deacons a first round win that most considered to be a mild upset. The game was back and forth throughout. Wake now has the unenviable task of playing the first seeded Kentucky Wildcats in round two. The one thing going for Wake is that they are an experienced, older group for the most part while Kentucky is one of the youngest teams in the country, albeit very talented. If Wake can hang close and put some game pressure on the Wildcats it could get interesting. Prediction: Kentucky
Georgia Tech 64, Oklahoma St. 59
Georgia Tech pulled another mild upset for the ACC in round one beating the seventh seeded Cowboys in the Midwest region. GT got 14 points from Gani Lawal and 12 from Derrick Favors to advance to round two. GT played great defense in limiting OSU to just 59 points, when their season average was 74.3. Up next for the Yellow Jackets is the second seeded Ohio St. Buckeyes. This will be a tough test for Paul Hewitt's team and they will be the underdog. Ohio St. will have the best player on the court in Evan Turner. GT does have a ton of talent however, and should make this a game. Prediction: Ohio St. - this could be a mild upset alert type of game though and I believe is the ACC's third best chance (over Wake beating Kentucky) for a multiple ACC sweet 16.
Missouri 86, Clemson 78
The Tigers are sent home in the first round yet again. Oliver Prunell is still yet to win an NCAA tournament game while at Clemson. Clemson struggled all year with consistency and it bit them again here. I still say they press too much and teams get used to seeing it as the game wears on and it leads to Clemson giving up too many easy baskets. Missouri's press was much more effective (forced Clemson into 20 turnovers where Clemson only forced 9) and was the difference in the game.
Gonzaga 67, Florida St. 60
FSU fell way behind early (down 16 at halftime) and made a great run but it was just too much to overcome (got as close as 4). FSU played decent defense on the usually high scoring Bulldogs for much of the game but couldn't muster enough on the offensive end, which has kind of been their story all year. This season overall was a step in the right direction for the FSU basketball program though.