Georgia Tech-Duke Preview
Another ACC tournament title would be nothing new for Duke, but
it has been four years since the fourth-ranked Blue Devils entered
the field of 65 as a top seed.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, will settle for seeing its name
anywhere in the bracket.
A No. 1 seed could be Duke’s prize if it can claim its
conference-record 18th tournament title Sunday afternoon in
Greensboro, while the Yellow Jackets’ first postseason ACC
championship in 17 years would remove the worry about possibly not
hearing their name called.
The Blue Devils (28-5) have won eight of the past 11 ACC
tournament titles, including a 79-69 triumph over Florida State
last year in Atlanta.
That was only good enough to earn Duke a No. 2 seed on selection
Sunday, the third straight season coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team has
fallen short of the top line in the NCAA tournament. It hasn’t
advanced past the regional semifinals since 2006.
Additionally, Duke’s last three Final Four appearances since
1999 have come as a top seed.
Now, with Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse expected to be No. 1
seeds, it appears the Blue Devils are in contention with Ohio State
and West Virginia for the remaining top spot.
While it would be tough to deny Duke a No. 1 with both the ACC’s
regular-season and tournament titles, Krzyzewski’s team was
preparing for Georgia Tech (22-11) just minutes after knocking off
Miami 77-74 in Saturday’s semifinal – its 16th win in 17 games as
the ACC tournament’s top seed.
“We are playing for a championship tomorrow,” forward Lance
Thomas said. “That is all we are thinking about.”
Duke is likely looking at a third straight No. 2 seed if it
can’t beat the Yellow Jackets, but its vast ACC title game
experience figures to give it a leg up on a team that hasn’t played
in one since 2005 – when it lost to the Blue Devils.
“We have been there, but if anything that just helps us knowing
how tough it is,” all-conference guard Jon Scheyer said after
scoring 16 points against the Hurricanes.
Georgia Tech will certainly have its eyes on Scheyer, as the
senior guard averaged 23.0 points and 6.5 assists in two
The Yellow Jackets won 71-67 in Atlanta on Jan. 9 behind 21
points from Gani Lawal, but Duke got revenge a few weeks later.
Kyle Singler, who had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists
against Miami, scored a career-high 30 points in an 86-67 win at
Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 4.
“Duke is a great team, a very talented team but we feel like
going into this game we are worried about what we do,” Lawal said.
“Not to be cocky or arrogant, we feel like if we establish
ourselves inside out like we did at Tech, we will have some good
Lawal and freshman Derrick Favors, the Yellow Jackets’ two
leading scorers, have taken a Georgia Tech team that came into the
ACC tournament on the bubble into one that could make its first
NCAA appearance since 2007 even with a loss Sunday.
Favors had a game-high 17 points Saturday and Lawal added 12
points and 10 rebounds – his 12th double-double – in a 57-54
semifinal win over North Carolina State.
Rather than worry about his team’s bubble status, Yellow Jackets
coach Paul Hewitt was only thinking of winning the program’s first
ACC tournament title since 1993.
“We’ve got a chance to make ourselves a lock tomorrow,” Hewitt
said, “and that is the mindset we have right now.”