Duke has been undefeated in every game star Ryan Kelly has played this season. (Gerry Broome/AP)
March 14-17 (Greensboro, N.C.) | Bracket
Just as everyone predicted in the preseason, Miami is the conference's regular-season champ and the 1-seed Duke may enter the NCAA tournament as the modest favorite to win the national title. Yeah, none of that actually was predicted, but both teams are very deserving of those designations. If Miami can take down this tournament title, too, the Hurricanes would have a very legitimate shot for a No. 1 seed themselves in Sunday's announced bracket, although you wonder if the Sunday final will have an impact on that possible mobility, leaving the committee with very little time to work through bracketing.
Key Matchup: No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 5 NC State (possible quarterfinal)
Virginia, which will be one of the most debated teams whether the Cavaliers actually get in or not, should want NC State to advance past a first-rounder with Virginia Tech. Beating the Hokies would do nothing to help, but beating NC State might -- might -- be enough to squeak the Cavaliers into the field of 68. It will depend on what happens in other leagues the next few days.
Team to Watch: NC State
This smells like the type of situation where the Wolfpack can put a couple good games together and pop into the final, all the while maybe improving their seed to get out of a possible 8/9 game scenario. The Pack have been inconsistent all season, but the ACC record is a little deceptive. There are numerous close losses in there. Whether that's just bad luck or says something more about the team (a la Florida), we'll have to see now that the chips are down.
Hottest Storyline: Duke as nominal national title favorite?
Well, they're unbeaten with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, so it's not crazy, even though there will be no definitive favorite this season. The Blue Devils love winning this event, and they have a nice potential "make our point" path in front of them. Avenge a loss at Maryland in the quarters, beat arch rival North Carolina in a semifinal and then win the rubber match with Miami in the final. They look like they will be the 1-seed in the East and have a Philadelphia/Washington, D.C. path, which is also favorable.
The Pick: Duke
The Blue Devils are starting to click on many cylinders again, with different guys capable of hurting you on any night. Kelly's presence also is a matchup problem for Miami if that's a possible final. It puts Kenny Kadji in a blender in terms of helping defend the post or getting out to the perimeter to guard his man. Having the event in Greensboro certainly never hurts their chances, either.