What: ACC Tournament Semifinals
Where: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
When: Saturday, March 10th, 1:00 PM
TV: ESPN and ACC Network
Records: UNC 28-4, 14-2 ACC; NC State 22-11, 9-7 ACC
ACCT Results: UNC-def. MD 85-69; NCSU-def. BC 78-57, def. UVa 67-64
There are two basic questions to be asked about this game.
1. Will John Henson play or be effective if he plays?
2. Will NC State have a letdown game following the big win over Virginia?
NC State is still fighting for an NCAA berth so it stands to reason the Wolfpack will be motivated to continue to play well as they did versus Virginia. That is unless they think they have done enough and based on comments from NCSU players after the game I do not think that is the case. There is no doubt UNC is going to see NC State play its best basketball on Saturday in hopes of securing an at large bid. With Miami losing to Florida State and having Durand Scott suspended by the NCAA, all of sudden the Hurricanes are a lot less viable as an NCAA Tournament team.
On the question of whether Henson plays, it is possible UNC can win this game without him. It won't be easy but it is doable. That is not meant as disrespect for NCSU however James Michael McAdoo is capable of making up for some of the points and rebounding production Henson gives you as he did versus Maryland. The problem is the defensive equation changes and scoring becomes much easier around the basket without Henson on the court. UNC can compensate by continuing to get scoring from Reggie Bullock and for Harrison Barnes to go Black Falcon Mode as he did last year providing his minor ankle injury from Friday is really minor. Of course if UNC is to win without Henson the real money is on Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller to get it done.
At this stage of the season UNC has little control of what the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee does with the seeding. If Henson does not play and UNC loses it is not clear how the committee will treat that loss though conventional wisdom is they will give UNC a pass on it. In that scenario UNC also needs Duke to lose to ensure the Blue Devils do not get greater consideration on the #1 seed line.
I still would love to see UNC win the ACC Tournament but I also know decisions will be made for the good of the greater goals. Still, just once I would love to see the Heels find a way to get it done despite playing shorthanded. Could that be today?
UNC 78 NCSU 76