UNC-NC State Part II, Redick Chases Hemric, Maryland, Florida State, Miami All Looking for Life After the ACC Tournament
North Carolina at NC State, RBC Center, Raleigh, NC, 9:00 PM
As though a rivalry game is not already highly charged, Boston College's loss to Virginia last night added a new dimension to this matchup. UNC is now in sole possession of third place in the conference and a win tonight would move them into a tie for second in the loss column with NC State which they would win by virtue of having swept the season series. UNC would then need to beat Virginia and Maryland at home and find a way to beat Duke in Durham to secure the second seed in the ACC Tournament. If BC were to beat NC State on Saturday and UNC were to lose at Duke after beating UVa and MD, then it would create a three way tie for second and based on the tiebreaking procedure BC would received the #2 seed, UNC #3, and NC State #4. Of course this scenario is fragile and could derail at any point. Needless to say the team that wins tonight would be in a great position.
Other keys to the game include the health of Illian Estimov, NC State's senrior forward who sat out the Va Tech game Saturday with a sprained ankle. Another significant factor is the Tyler Hansbrough-Cedric Simmons matchup. Simmons played with foul trouble in the earlier meeting in Chapel Hill which UNC won 82-69. Hansbrough had a monster game against Ga Tech last week scoring 40 points, containing him is important but not debilitating even if he goes off for another big game. The X factor is the guard play on both sides. UNC is enjoying much improved guard play and seems to be taking better care of the basketball as a opposed to most of their games earlier this season. How well the UNC guards and small forward Reyshawn Terry shoot from the perimeter in support of Hansbrough. NC State guards would do well to force UNC guards into turning the ball over and limiting their ability to get the ball inside thus forcing permiters shots which UNC is woefully inconsistent at hitting.
Besides the rivalry aspect, UNC senior forward David Noel is on record in the news with comments on the nature of the NC State crowd and their tendency to be mean spirited. This is a needless distraction but seems to be overblown by the media who need something more to talk about than the actual matchup. NC State is due for a win in the series, the Estimov injury is question mark, and UNC is playing well. The January meeting was close until NC State stop scoring for the last three minutes. My bet is they actually finish the game this time. As much as I will hate it, UNC is due a loss at this point, lest we forget that they are still a work in progress.
Prediction: NC State 74 UNC 69
Duke at Georgia Tech, Alexander Memorial Colisieum, Atlanta, GA, 7:00 PM
Duke has returned to #1 in both polls. Not much here except J.J. Redick's pursuit of Dickie Hemric as the all time leading scorer in ACC history. I expect Duke to come out and pretty much handle the Yellow Jackets from the beginning. Redick needs 30 and despite is faux modesty in the post game interview Sunday, I think he will nail 30 and take the top spot.
Prediction: Duke 87 Georgia Tech 69
Maryland at Florida State, Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL, 9:00 PM
For all the talk of a "must win" game in Raleigh tonight, this one between the two 6-6 schools in the middle of the standings actually qualifies as such. Both Florida State and Maryland are in desperate need of wins to position themselves for a NCAA berth. And if anything last night's win by Virginia to move the Cavs to 7-6 with two wins over ranked opponents puts even greater pressure on these two schools. Absent a big quality win over the next two weeks I honestly think one of these teams needs to go 9-7 to make the Big Dance. Maryland has more credibility and has been ranked at points during the season. They have a win over BC but also lost to Clemson and Temple. If Maryland can get to 7-6 they face road games at UNC and UVa with a home game against Miami in between. There is a strong possibility they can pull of 2 of those 3 and get to 9-7 assuming they win tonight, though heading to UVa at 8-7 and UVa being 7-8 could provide us with a winner goes dancing game. Florida State is a little like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect. They almost beat UNC in Tallahassee and for all intents and purposes got ripped off in Durham by suspect officiating. A loss tonight will pretty much do them in unless they can reel of two road wins against Miami(who they lost at home to 84-78) and Virginia Tech which is a tough place to play. The big "if" for FSU is the coming home game against Duke which will no doubt be a highly charged rematch of the earlier slug fest at Cameron. If FSU wins tonight, and steals one from Duke, that kind of quality win might push them in even at 8-8, though if they beat Duke, I would expect them to then beat VT and get to 9-7 and the NCAA's. The key for Maryland is good guard play and ball handling. FSU is a physical squad and with a good inside presence. Maryland needs to get out of the gate or they might find themselves in a hole from which they cannot escape.
Prediction: FSU 79 Maryland 76
Virginia Tech at Miami, BankUnited Center, Miami, FL, 7:00 PM
No offense to fans of either school, but the greatest fault I have with the new ACC is that you get more games which we really could care less about. Well, maybe I am being too harsh on Miami. The Hurricanes are actually in the best position of any of the aforementioned teams to get to 9-7. Of course if they did it would wreck FSU and Maryland's hopes but with their guard play they could get to 9-7. I expect they will have little trouble tonight with the Hokies especially if Diaz, Hite, and Harris are hitting their shots. A win tonight for the Canes will set up a potential(assuming Maryland wins) battle to see which team can get to 8 wins and some standard of credibility with the NCAA Selection Committee.
Prediction: Miami 88 Va Tech 65
Clemson at Wake Forest, Lawrence Joel Colesieum, Winston-Salem, NC, 7:00 PM
Cellar Dweller Game. Wake Forest is trying to avoid going 1-15 in the new ACC. Rumor has it that the players at Wake have pretty much shut it down because Skip Prosser may be ready to go home to coach Cinncinati. Clemson plays well at times and but Wake played fairly well against UNC on Sunday in a loss and will probably muster the effort to pick up a win here.
Predicition: Wake Forest 81 Clemson 68
1. Duke 13-0
2. NC State 10-3
3. UNC 8-4
4. BC 8-5
5. UVa 7-6
6. Maryland 6-6
Florida State 6-6
8. Miami 6-7
9. Clemson 4-8
10. Va Tech 3-9
11. Ga Tech 3-10
12. Wake Forest 1-11
Standings Based on Predictions
1. Duke 14-0
2. NC State 11-3
3. BC 8-5(by virtue of tiebreaker)
4. UNC 8-5
5. FSU 7-6(by virtue of tiebreaker)
6. Virginia 7-6
7. Miami 7-7
8. Maryland 6-7
9. Clemson 4-9
10. Va Tech 4-10
11. Ga Tech 3-11
12. Wake Forest 2-11