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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

ACC tournament preview: Will the title game be a Duke-Miami rubber match?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Duke guard Quinn Cook (Getty Images)

The Dagger will be previewing this week's eight marquee conference tournaments. Here's our look at the ACC tournament:

ACC Tournament
Dates: March 14-17
Site: Greensboro Coliseum
Top four seeds: 1. Miami 2. Duke 3. North Carolina 4. Virginia
Draw: Click here

Best draw: Miami's well-deserved reward for its outright ACC title was landing on the opposite side of the bracket from Duke and North Carolina. That's especially important this season since the Tar Heels and Blue Devils will likely have plenty of fan support in their home away from home in Greensboro. Miami still will probably have to survive bubble team Virginia or talented but erratic NC State in the semifinals, neither of which would be easy. But all things considered, the Hurricanes have to be very satisfied with their draw.

Worst draw: For a Maryland team that underwhelmed in league play and probably has to win the ACC tournament to get an NCAA bid, the draw could not have shook out less favorably. Just to even make the title game, the Terps will have to survive Wake Forest in the first round, become the first team to beat Duke with Ryan Kelly in the quarterfinals and probably upset crowd favorite North Carolina in the semifinals. Good luck, Terps. Enjoy the NIT.

[Related: The Dagger picks every conference tournament winner]

Three players to watch:

• Shane Larkin, G, Miami — The all-conference point guard led Miami to its first ACC title by averaging 13.7 points and 4.4 assists.

• Mason Plumlee, F, Duke — Showed flashes of his early-season dominance since Ryan Kelly returned and improved Duke's spacing on offense.

• Michael Snaer, G, Florida State — He has six last-possession game-winning shots in the last two seasons. Does Snaer have any heroics left for Greensboro?

Bubble implications: With Miami, Duke, North Carolina and NC State each bound for the NCAA tournament, the question is whether the ACC will get a fifth team to join them. The team with the best chance is Virginia, which has a highly unusual profile featuring a handful of marquee wins and a handful of puzzlingly bad losses. To atone for those losses to seven sub-100 RPI schools, Virginia is probably going to have to beat NC State or Virginia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals. That would at least give the Cavaliers hope on Selection Sunday, but it might take a title game appearance for them to be assured of hearing their name called.

Projected champ: Miami clobbered Duke in Coral Gables when Ryan Kelly was hurt and nearly toppled the Blue Devils in Durham after he returned, yet my pick is still Coach K's team right now. Not only are they unbeaten with Kelly in the lineup, they'll be playing in Greensboro in front of what's likely to be a friendly crowd. It would be a mini-surprise if Miami and Duke don't get their ACC title game rubber match, but if anyone is going to jump up and upset one of them, it might be NC State. The talent is certainly there for the Wolfpack to put together a run in Greensboro. The question is if they can play with enough consistency to win four games in four days.

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