UNC-Duke rematch highlights final weekend in ACC
A look at five things to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference this week:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 14 North Carolina at No. 4 Duke. There’s always plenty on the line when these two get together – pride, revenge, and seeding for the ACC tournament. North Carolina (23-7, 13-4) can claim the No. 2 seed with a win and some help while preseason league favorite Duke (23-7, 12-5) can do no better than the No. 3 seed. The Blue Devils are smarting from a pair of recent road losses – including a 74-66 loss at UNC two weeks ago – while the Tar Heels are trying to become the first visitor to win at Cameron Indoor Stadium since they did it in the 2012 finale.
LOOKING AHEAD: The first 15-team ACC tournament begins Wednesday, and the league’s bubble teams have some work to do to play themselves into the NCAA field of 68. Florida State (18-11, 9-8) appears to have the best resume for an at-large berth, and two wins – the second of which would come against a top-four seed – would help immeasurably. Said coach Leonard Hamilton: ”We seem to be learning a little more, how to play together.”
PLAYER TO WATCH: Maybe Florida State’s Aaron Thomas will join Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan and Georgia Tech’s Trae Golden and become the next guard to will his team to an upset of Syracuse. Thomas has scored in double figures in 10 straight games and had 24 earlier this week in a win over BC. A big game this weekend would give a boost to the Seminoles’ bubble chances – as well as their ACC tournament seeding. Florida State could climb as high as the No. 6 seed and slip as far as No. 9.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Duke’s loss at Wake Forest dropped the Blue Devils to 4-5 in true road games – the first time since 2002-03 that they finished under .500 on the road, and just the sixth time that’s happened in Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 34 years at Duke. None of those teams went on to advance past the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: Three top 10 teams are in the field at the ACC women’s tournament – no other conference can make that claim – and No. 2 Notre Dame is the team to beat after capping a perfect debut season in the league by beating No. 13 N.C. State. No. 8 Maryland hung with the Irish in a four-point loss while No. 10 Duke, the defending champion, has lost two of three and is still trying to figure out how to play without any healthy true point guards.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.