March 11, 2011
By Wes Durham
“Who is ready for the upset today?”
After four games yesterday, the quarterfinals open Friday at noon, with the top four teams during the regular season getting a taste of the action. Your first reaction might be “ho hum”, but if recent history means anything today, it’ll be anything but normal today in Greensboro.
In the first 52-years of the conference, only five times did a “lower seed” (#7 or #8, in the old six, seven, and eight-game formats) make it to the semifinals. The last time was in 2003, when in Matt Doherty’s final year at Carolina, the seventh-seeded Tar Heels beat #2 Maryland in the quarters, 82-74, to advance to Saturday.
Since the conference expanded (2005), it has happened seven times, including three-times alone in last year’s event. #12 Miami, #11 NC State and #7 Georgia Tech all made the semifinals, with the Jackets beating the Wolfpack to earn a spot in the Sunday finals.
If the bracket holds to form, the top four-seeds will go to the semifinals for the first time since 2008, and only the third time since 1995.
12 Noon, #9 Miami v. #1 Carolina (ACC Network)
The Tar Heels are trying to win the regular season and the tournament title together for the 10th time. They pulled the “double-double” under Roy Williams in both 2007 and 2008. Roy Williams eighth team has been the story of the second half in ACC play. The old term, “addition by subtraction” comes into mind, since Larry Drew quit the team, rookie Kendall Marshall has rejuvenated Carolina into their 14-2 league mark.
The Tar Heels needed a deep three-pointer from Harrison Barnes to beat the `Canes, 74-71, on January 26, in Coral Gables. But the power of the Heels is inside with both Tyler Zeller and John Henson. Carolina has improved their perimeter shooting in the last couple weeks, primarily behind sophomore Leslie McDonald and the rookie star, Barnes.
Had Virginia not their composure in the final minutes of regulation, they would be playing Carolina today, in a match-up of styles. But instead, the Cavaliers had 7-turnovers in the final minute of play and blew an 11-point lead in regulation, then lost to Miami, 69-62.
The win by the `Canes was their 9th of the ACC season by 5-points or less and OT. Malcolm Grant led Miami with 16 points, but needed 16 field goal attempts to get it. Miami also advanced going 8-16 at the free throw line. Carolina is not a great free throw shooting team (66%), but Miami will need to be sharp there in order to pull the upset.
One the interior matchup should be interesting. Carolina touts Zeller and Henson and Miami counters with Reggie Johnson and reserve Julian Gamble. Johnson posted eight points and six rebounds against Virginia, but wasn’t a factor until overtime.
2:30 p.m., #5 Boston College v. #4 Clemson (ACC Network)
Rookie head coach Steve Donahue saw his Boston College team hit 10 3FG in their opening round win over Wake Forest (81-67). Now for the heavy lifting, as the Eagles move on to meet #4 Clemson. The Tigers won the only meeting of the regular season, in a 77-69, decision at Littlejohn Coliseum on February 8.
Head coach Brad Brownell’s rookie season at Clemson saw the Tigers go 5-3 in the ACC’s second half. They have gone six straight games under 50% from the floor, and have gone 3-3 in that time, but their opponents haven’t hit 50% of their shots in the last 11 games. Expect the Tigers to defend the 3-point line against BC, in a similar fashion to what they did in last week’s loss at Duke. The Blue Devils won by 11, but only hit 42% of their shots at home.
Reggie Jackson and Demontez Stitt is the showcase matchup. Stitt has been in double-figures for eight straight games, and is averaging nearly 16 points per game over that span. Jackson hit six 3-pointers in the win over Wake yesterday, and combined with his teammates have shown they can change the landscape of the tournament with their shooting.
7 p.m., #2 Duke v. #7 Maryland (ACC Network)
The two teams that advanced from the night session on Thursday, led wire-to-wire in their first round wins, and now must take the next step.
Maryland wasn’t sharp on either end of the floor, but NC State was inconsistent as well. That was enough to allow Maryland to post the win and set up a third game against Duke this season. The Blue Devils swept the regular season set, 71-64 in Durham, and then a more convincing 80-62, win at College Park, five weeks ago.
The Terps didn’t break 40% from the floor in either game. Duke won the rebound margin in both games as well, and that means something with Jordan Williams cleaning up inside for Maryland.
Duke tends to limit their depth in the postseason. The longer timeouts give Mike Krzyzewski a chance to play his five, six or seven guys most of the game. That means foul trouble and the opposing teams depth could be a factor. Maryland can run a lot of guys at you, but Duke clearly has the experience factor on its side…and Nolan Smith.
9 p.m., #3 Florida State v. #6 Virginia Tech (ACC Network)
The last game of the quarterfinals could boil down to “hand-to-hand combat” with Florida State and Virginia Tech. Their only meeting of the season, was in early January at Blacksburg, where the Hokies won a 71-59, game.
Florida State is in the tournament, but Virginia Tech is trying to secure its spot. The Hokies throttled Georgia Tech on Thursday night, never letting the Jackets threaten in the game. The trio of Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Erick Green, could be plenty to win the game against the Seminoles.
FSU forward Chris Singleton worked out on Wednesday during their Coliseum practice. It’s doubtful that Singleton will play Friday night, but if he’s ready to come back, it might be interesting to see what kind of issues that would cause for Seth Greenberg’s team.
It’s hard to project this game, but for Virginia Tech, the result could mean whether there name is called on Sunday night or not…again.