Thursday, March 12, 2009

5 things to watch Thursday at the ACC Tournament

Five things to watch Thursday during the ACC Tournament as the eight lowest seeds duke it out in first-round games:

1. N.C. State vs. Maryland’s 3-2 zone. During Maryland’s 71-60 win on March 1 at N.C. State, coach Gary Williams used a 3-2 zone to prevent the Wolfpack from getting the ball inside to Tracy Smith and Ben McCauley.

In N.C. State’s next game, Boston College used the same zone a few times but the Wolfpack figured out how to score against it. The key is having the guards drive into the gaps of the zone to get defenders to commit, then passing in to the post.

If Javi Gonzalez and Courtney Fells can figure out how to do that, Smith and McCauley can score over Dave Neal and Landon Milbourne inside.

2. Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert vs. Clemson’s full-court press. Shumpert, the Georgia Tech point guard, made the ACC’s all-freshman team because he averaged 5.1 assists per game. But he also averaged 3.9 turnovers per game, and committed four and nine turnovers in two losses to Clemson.

Shumpert gets going too fast against the Tigers’ pressing defense and makes careless plays. And when Clemson gets K.C. Rivers and Trevor Booker going on the break, it’s a difficult team to stop.

The Tigers could make this a runaway if they can take advantage of Shumpert’s inexperience.

3. Virginia Tech’s shooters vs. Miami’s zone. A.D. Vassallo shot 4-for-8 from 3-point range and Malcolm Delaney was 3-for-7 as the Hokies won in overtime on Jan. 25 at Miami in a game that might end up costing the Hurricanes an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Why does Miami play zone when it’s got a bunch of long, athletic defenders who can shut people down man-to-man? Who knows? But the Hokie shooters should be left open from long range and have a chance to capitalize.

4. Boston College’s Tyrese Rice vs. Virginia’s Sylven Landesberg. This meeting of point guards is the most interesting thing about an otherwise dreadful late-night game.

Both players excel at getting into the lane for baskets. Rice is a senior who uses his smarts and quickness, and Landesberg is a big-bodied freshman who relies on strength and athletic ability.

5. N.C. State’s Courtney Fells vs. Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez torched N.C. State for 33 points in the last meeting, and Fells will try to do a better job defensively after returning from a groin injury that kept him out Saturday at Miami.

This meeting features the day’s most interesting sideshow. Vasquez made a 3-pointer at the buzzer rather than holding the ball with an eight-point lead in the last meeting, but Maryland coach Gary Williams said his player had been upset with some inappropriate comments by N.C. State fans at the RBC Center.

- Ken Tysiac