The ACC tournament bracket looks a bit different this year. The University of North Carolina, steeped in college basketball tradition, is at the very bottom rung as the No. 14 seed. And the top seed is not Duke, Louisville or Syracuse.
It’s Florida State University, 26-5 overall and 16-4 in the ACC. The Seminoles are the league’s regular-season champion for the first time in history and enter the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed. FSU has a first-round bye and awaits the winner of Wednesday’s noon game between No. 9 University of Miami and No. 8 Clemson.
“We’ve coined our own phrase: ‘we’re new bloods,’” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We’re not going to catch up with the 80 years that were before us. We’re fighting for our spot and our position, the hierarchy of the most-respected programs in the history of college basketball.
“It’s important for us because we get a notch on our belt. And we have to enjoy this. But we think we’re just getting started.”
Leonard Hamilton is Coach of the Year
Hamilton, the 71-year-old former UM coach, was named ACC Coach of the Year for the third time in his career. When he took over the FSU program 18 years ago, the Seminoles had won a combined 33 games the previous three seasons.
He turned the football school into a basketball power. The Seminoles are 124-48 during the past five seasons and were undefeated at home this season.
Before this season, he challenged his players to be standing atop the ladder cutting down nets at the end of the ACC season. They were. Their 80-62 win over Boston College last Saturday sealed their historic title, and Hamilton was the last one up there, snipping the final piece of net.
“Needless to say, I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team,” Hamilton said after the game. “These guys have bought into the unselfish spirit that has allowed them to be successful. And I’m so proud of them. …
But Hamilton and his team are not finished.
“I just feel that there’s more enjoyment out there that I don’t want to miss,” Hamilton said with a grin. “I want to milk this thing for all I can. You know you get an orange and you want to [squeeze] all the juice out of it? I want to keep [squeezing] the juice out of this orange.”
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Duke, Louisville, Virginia could win
Joining FSU as tournament favorites are Duke, Louisville, and defending NCAA champion Virginia, which ended the season with eight wins in a row. Duke and Louisville struggled on the road recently. The Blue Devils lost three in a row away and Louisville lost the last four road games.
FSU won six of its last seven, and its RPI is 3 compared to Duke (9) and Louisville (11).
Miami (15-15, 7-13 ACC) is expected to be without leading scorer Chris Lykes, who suffered facial injuries in the Mar. 4 loss to Virginia. The Hurricanes are coming off a 69-65 overtime win over Syracuse in their regular-season finale. Freshman Isaiah Wong scored 18 points with nine rebounds. Senior D.J. Vasiljevic had 17 points, and Kam McGusty added 13.
“The regular season is one season, you put it behind you,” said UM coach Jim Larranaga. “The post-season, ACC tournament and beyond is like a whole other season. You never know when things will click – like Isaiah Wong. Who’d have dreamed in early January this is the player we’d have in early March. Sometimes that happens for a team, too.”
2020 ACC TOURNAMENT
▪ When: March 10-14
▪ Where: Greensboro Coliseum. Greensboro, North Carolina.
▪ TV: First round on ACC Network. Second round, quarterfinals, and semifinals on ESPN or ESPN2. The championship game will be on ESPN at 8:30 pm on Sat. Mar. 14.
▪ Defending champion: Duke beat Florida State 73-63 to win the 2019 ACC championship.
Tuesday’s first found
No. 12 Wake Forest vs No. 13 Pittsburgh, 4:30 p.m. (ACC Network)
No. 11 Virginia Tech vs No. 14 North Carolina, 7 p.m. (ACC Network)
Wednesday’s second round
No. 8 Clemson vs No. 9 Miami, noon (ESPN)
No. 5 NC State vs. winner of No. 12 Wake Forest/ No. 13 Pittsburgh, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 7 Notre Dame vs No. 10 Boston College, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 6 Syracuse vs. winner of No. 11 Virginia Tech/No. 14 North Carolina, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 1 Florida State vs. Winner of No. 8 Clemson/ No. 9 Miami, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN/2)
No. 3 Duke vs. TBD, 2:30 pm (ESPN/2)
No. 2 Virginia vs. winner of No. 7 Notre Dame/ No. 10 Boston College, 7 p.m. (ESPN/2)
No. 3 Louisville vs. TBD, 9 p.m. (ESPN/2)
Teams TBD, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. (ESPN/2)
Teams TBD, 8:30 pm (ESPN)