Conference tournaments began earlier this week with the Patriot League holding their quarterfinals Tuesday. They have their semifinals and title game Friday and Sunday respectively on Navy’s campus. The ACC Tournament will be the second tournament that kicks off beginning with the semifinals tonight and the title game Sunday afternoon in Chester, PA.
This is the second year of a “new” ACC, with the only subtraction coming in the form of Maryland going to the Big Ten. So with five teams in the conference this year, Virginia, who went winless in conference play, will play Penn Saturday at 7:30. This game won’t affect Penn at all, as they are currently sitting outside of the Ivy League Tournament. If they want to make it, Brown has to lose to Dartmouth Saturday. Virginia should be safely in, so this game should only play a part about seeding and whether or not they will host a first round game.
Now let’s talk about the teams that will play in the ACC Tournament, first with Notre Dame. The #1 team in the nation clawed back against North Carolina last week at Arlotta Stadium after having a two-minute locked-in penalty and scoring three goals in the process to win by a single goal. Notre Dame’s only blemish came early in the season with an OT loss at Denver. They look like a team that is poised for a run at the national championship.
The number two seed is North Carolina, who also looks like they might win it all this year for the first time in over twenty years. UNC has an explosive attack and deadly midfielders that will cause havoc against any defense that they face. Steve Pontrello’s status is still unknown after missing last week at Notre Dame. They’ll be coming out angry and wanting to play a full 60 minutes compared to last week.
UNC’s opponent will also come out looking for revenge. Syracuse lost to UNC 17-15 about two weeks ago at Fetzer Field after falling behind early and pulling Bobby Wardwell at halftime. Wardwell will be in the cage Friday but will need to make saves on low shots, which has been his weakness the entire year. Better shooting early also has to be different, as the Orange didn’t test Kieran Burke early in their first meeting. Randy Staats is now 100% and Henry Schoonmaker should play.
The two-time defining national champions will look to pull off a huge upset against Notre Dame. Duke hasn’t had the season that they had the past two years, but have players such as Myles Jones, Deemer Class, and Justin Guterding to make another run into May. They lost 15-10 to Notre Dame at home a few weeks back, but maybe the Blue Devils can pull something out of their sleeve and have some luck of their own.
I think any of these teams can take the tournament, including Duke. The winner will more than likely take the top seed in the NCAA Tournament, since there is no AQ for winning the ACC due to the number of teams in the league.