(SportsNetwork.com) - The 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament gets underway on Tuesday, March 10 at the Greensboro Coliseum and runs through Saturday, March 14, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
The tournament field is down one team, as Syracuse enacted a self-imposed postseason ban on itself for NCAA violations and will not take part in 2015.
For the second season in a row, it is the Virginia Cavaliers that won the ACC regular-season championship and Tony Bennett hopes that history will repeat itself in the tournament as well, as the top-seeded Cavs picked up last year's tourney title, the team's second all-time. It was yet another banner year for Virginia, which went 28-2 on the season, with a 16-2 league ledger. The team placed guard Malcolm Brogdon (13.3 ppg) on the All-ACC First-Team. The Cavaliers now have two tournament titles to their credit.
Virginia's regular-season title didn't come without a fight though, as No. 2 seed Duke (28-3, 15-3) and No. 3 seeded Notre Dame (26-5, 14-4) made it a sprint to the finish line. Newcomer Louisville (24-7, 12-6) struggled a bit in the month of February, but got a big win in the regular-season finale over Virginia to earn the No. 4 seed.
Duke is the winningest team in this event, with 19 tournament titles and a 93-42 tournament record. The Blue Devils certainly have the roster to add to those numbers, starting with ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor (17.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg). Other Blue Devils that received All-ACC honors are Quinn Cook (second team), Tyus Jones (third team) and Justise Winslow (honorable mention).
Notre Dame is still seeking its first ACC Tournament win, after getting bounced in its only game played last year. The Irish certainly have the personnel to rectify that, starting with All-ACC First-Team selection Jerian Grant (16.8 ppg, ACC-best 6.7 apg). Pat Connaughton (12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg) earned third-team honors.
Louisville is participating in its first ACC Tournament, but that shouldn't be a problem, as the Cardinals have big wins over powerhouses North Carolina and Virginia under their belts. Louisville made some roster moves in the second half of the season, but stalwarts Terry Rozier (17.0 ppg) and Montrezl Harrell (15.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg) remain. Both players earned all-conference second-team honors.
The four top seeds will receive double-byes into Thursday's quarterfinal round. The next six seeds get the first day off and will participate in Wednesday's second round.
Earning the No. 5 seed, North Carolina (21-10, 11-7) finished just outside the top four. The Tar Heels earned some big wins this year, but went a collective 1-5 against the top four teams in the conference. UNC was led by All-ACC Third-Team selection Marcus Paige (13.5 ppg). North Carolina trails only Duke in terms of ACC Tournament success, with an impressive 90-43 record in the event, with 17 tournament titles, the last of which came in 2007.
Miami-Florida (20-11, 10-8) picked up the No. 6 seed by virtue of wins in three of its last four games down the stretch. The Hurricanes failed to land a single player on the All-ACC teams, although three players were tabbed honorable mention in Sheldon McClellan (14.8 ppg), Angel Rodriguez (12.3 ppg) and Tonye Jekiri (8.5 ppg, ACC-best 10.2 rpg). Miami owns just one ACC Tournament crown, earning it in 2013.
NC State (19-12, 10-8) picked up the No. 7 seed despite tying Miami in conference play. The Wolfpack came on strong late, with wins in five of their last six games and will reach the 20-win mark with their next victory. The Wolfpack have a winning record in this event at 69-51 and have won 10 tournament titles, although it has been a while since their last championship (1987).
The three other teams that avoided first-round action are No. 8 seed Clemson (16-14, 8-10), No. 9 seed Florida State (16-15, 8-10) and No. 10 seed Pittsburgh (19-13, 8-10), all of which finished tied in the conference standings.
The Tigers and Seminoles will meet in the second round on Wednesday. Clemson limps into the postseason with losses in four of its last five games. The Tigers are led by sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame (13.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg). Clemson has never won this event and has a record of just 18-61 all-time.
Florida State has a losing record in this even as well at 14-22, but the team did win the 2012 ACC Tournament. The Seminoles struggled with consistency for a good portion of this season, but they were able to enter the postseason on a positive note, ending a three-game slide with a 61-52 win over Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale. Freshman point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (14.4 ppg) was All-ACC Honorable Mention.
Pittsburgh is another team that struggled to produce on a regular basis. The Panthers aren't carrying much momentum into the postseason with losses in three straight to end the year. Sophomore Michael Young headlines the team after earning all-league honorable mention. Pittsburgh is participating in just its second ACC Tournament, going 2-1 in the event last year.
First-round begins on Tuesday with action 12th-seeded Boston College taking on 13th-seeded Georgia Tech.
Three of those teams were under new management this season and it was noticeable. Boston College (12-18, 4-14), under Jim Christian, was competitive at times, but wasn't able to consistently win. The team is led by All-ACC First-Team selection Olivier Hanlan, who paced the conference in scoring at 19.4 ppg. Boston College is just 7-9 all-time in this tournament.
Georgia Tech (12-18, 3-15) doesn't have a first-year coach, but the Yellow jacket struggled nonetheless, winning just three conference games all season. The team enters the postseason with a four-game losing streak in tow. Georgia Tech will also be without its best player, as Marcus Georges-Hunt broke his foot and is done for the year. Georgia Tech has won this event three times, but the last title came in 1993.
Closing out first-round action will be 11th-seeded Wake Forest (13-18, 5-13) against 14th-seeded Virginia Tech (10-21, 2-16) on Tuesday.
Danny Manning is the new man in town in Winston-Salem and his team showed glimpses of strong play, but struggled down the stretch with losses in five of the last six games. Wake Forest is 43-57 all-time in this tournament. Its fourth and last tournament title came back in 1996.
Buzz Williams has taken over at Virginia Tech and it will obviously be a work in progress with the Hokies, who finished in the league basement with just two conference wins in all. The Hokies come into the postseason cold, with a seven-game losing streak. Their only win since the end of January came at home against Georgia Tech (65-63).
When all is said and done, it would be a shock not to see teams like Virginia, Duke or Notre Dame still standing come the weekend. The Cavaliers are a little banged up though, and that gives a team like Duke, which is clicking on all cylinders, a slight edge in this event.
Sports Network Predicted Champion: Duke