Photo courtesy of Robert Willett/Florida State athletics
And then there were two.
We have reached Championship Saturday at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, and while it’s not exactly the way we thought we’d get here, we still have a fantastic match-up taking place at the Greensboro Coliseum.
The fourth-seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will continue their quest as an underdog for an ACC title, while No. 2 Seed Florida State will try to halt the Cinderella story and instead, claim back-to-back ACC titles.
Game Day Information
When: Saturday, March 13, 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
PXP: Dan Shulman
Analyst: Jay Bilas
Line: Florida State -4
Just Keep Stinging’
In what is almost certainly the most unconventional and simplest route to the ACC Championship in Tournament history, head coach Josh Pastner and the Jackets (16-8, 11-6 ACC) find themselves gift-wrapped into the ACC Championship with a nail-biting 70-66 win over 13th-seed Miami. Georgia Tech was given a free pass in the semifinals after top-seeded Virginia was revealed to have a positive COVID-19 test, and had to withdraw from the tournament. It should head to Vegas with that luck.
Just when we think we’ve seen it all in this 2020-21 college basketball season, the impossible seems to happen. Arguably the projected favorite in Greensboro was forced to leave “Tourney Town” on Friday, and now will be losing sleep over whether or not it’ll be able to compete in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Georgia Tech has had a great season though, and it’ll be a part of the first ACC Championship that doesn’t include a school named North Carolina or Duke since 1996. It’s also the first title game that doesn’t include a school from the state of North Carolina since 1990.
The Yellow Jackets are set to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2010, and have arguably been the hottest team in the league dating back to Feb. 12. They haven’t lost a game since then and have rattled off seven straight victories in the past month.
They’ll likely achieve their highest seed in the “Big Dance” since 2005 when they were a No. 5 seed. Georgia Tech will be seeking its first ACC title since the Bobby Cremins era in 1993.
A big reason for the ‘Ramblin Wreck’s Success? That responsibility goes to ACC Player of the Year, Moses Wright. Wright violently turned it on late in the season to take home the award.
Wright leads the team in three of the five major categories. He averages 17.5 points per game, and a solid eight boards per contest.
ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Jose Alvarado, is elite as well on both ends of the court for Georgia Tech. He averages 15.4 points per game in 37 minutes for the Yellow Jackets. Alvarado made a key hustle play down the stretch to help the Yellow Jackets preserve their quarterfinal victory over Miami on Thursday.
This team is pesky for sure, and can turn teams over like crazy. If they do just that against Florida State. Georgia Tech has a chance of walking out of Greensboro with an ACC championship under its belt, and the right to say it has the most bizarrely won ACC title in league history.
Florida State (16-5, 11-4 ACC) got a little bit of a break as well, getting the league’s first ever triple bye into the ACC semifinals. However, the difference is that the Seminoles would’ve been favorites in that quarterfinal match-up with 10th-seeded Duke. Following a positive COVID-19 test from Duke, FSU was thrust in the semifinals where it defeated North Carolina on Friday night, 69-66.
It’s been an outstanding season down in Tallahassee for Leonard Hamilton and the Seminoles. They’ll look to cap it off with their second straight ACC title, and first ACC Tournament title since 2012. Florida State was deemed league champions last year after winning the regular season crown and the tournament was canceled due to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19.
The ‘Noles have traditionally been a bigs school in years past, and while they still boast talented guys down low, it’s a fair argument to say their guard play has been the key this season.
M.J. Walker leads the team averaging 12.9 points per game, and is a threat from all areas of the floor. Meanwhile, the Jackets certainly can’t forget about ACC Freshman of the Year, Scottie Barnes, who averages 10.5 points while leading FSU is assists and steals. Guard Anthony Polite averages better than nine points per game and shoots a solid 44% from three-point range. Polite had the trey that put FSU ahead for good against the Tar Heels in Friday’s semifinal.
Georgia Tech absolutely can’t forget about the guys down low either. RaiQuan Gray is crazy athletic for a big, as he puts up 12.1 points per game, while adding almost seven rebounds per contest. Balsa Koprivica, who averages 9.2 points, also can’t be ignored down low. The sophomore from Serbia led the Seminoles with 17 points and 11 rebounds as the key factor in Florida State’s win over North Carolina in the ACC semis.
So Alvarado vs. Walker. Defensive Player of the Year vs. a guy who can shoot the lights out of the Greensboro Coliseum? Yes, please.
Gray vs. Wright down low all evening long? Absolutely.
This seems like one of those instances where Georgia Tech steals the nation’s hearts and wins the ACC title.
The problem? The Seminoles were our pick to win the ACC coming into the tournament.
There are a couple of reasons why. When the Seminoles play well, they’re a match-up nightmare for anyone in the ACC. They can be one of the more athletic teams in college basketball. They can play fast, they can slow their pace, and they can play their game. FSU rarely plays into the opponent’s hands.
The fact that it has extremely good guard play and interior threats down low doesn’t hurt, either.
The ‘Noles are extremely good at home, not so good on the road, and from what we’ve seen in the small sample size so far, seem to be decent on a neutral court. They can break out the home whites again too if they want, just for luck.
Florida State will be able to spread the floor against the Yellow Jackets, control the tempo, and will avenge a regular season defeat as it’ll walk out of Greensboro with the program’s third ACC title.
Prediction: (15) Florida State 73, Georgia Tech 65