March 12, 2011
By Wes Durham
– When you see eight games in two days it can leave things a little blurry at the end, but in this case things are just getting more competitive. Now the ACC finds itself with a semifinal Saturday that features the top two teams and two teams trying to match the staying power of those powers.
Tyler Zeller was the hero early for Carolina in their win over Miami, then close to midnight, Erick Green’s jumper gave Virginia Tech a one-point edge, then high-definition technology helped preserve it for the Hokies.
1 p.m., #1 Carolina v. #4 Clemson
The Tar Heels never led Miami until the last shot in Friday’s quarterfinal, but that was good enough to advance. Carolina looked anything like the top seed in the tournament or a team that had been rolling through the conference in the last month of the regular season.
Rookie Harrison Barnes was sensational, but Miami’s 2-3 zone flustered point guard Kendall Marshall and the Heels into early turnovers and a poor shooting first 30-minutes. With Miami up 21 points, Carolina rallied in part because of Barnes getting some perimeter help. Leslie McDonald joined Marshall in knocking down three-pointers and in the end, loosened up the Miami zone.
The Heels can expect more zone today from Clemson, who doesn’t play much of it, but will likely have to resort to some today. Brad Brownell, the rookie head coach of the Tigers, has Clemson back to the semi-finals for the first time since a run to the finals in 2008.
Guard play seems to be big in the post-season, and Clemson has a senior in Demontez Stitt, who poured in 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in its win (70-47) over Boston College on Friday. The Tigers were also huge on the glass winning the rebounds by a 39-26 margin.
Carolina won both of the regular season contests, but needed a late stand to prevail, 64-62, at Clemson in mid-February. It didn’t help that the Tigers shot a combined 34 percent from the field in the two games.
With Reggie Bullock sidelined, Carolina needs to be more consistent shooting from the perimeter. Any deviation from that makes the Heels vulnerable against a team that plays zone.
3 p.m., #2 Duke v. #6 Virginia Tech
The secret for Duke in their quarterfinal win over Maryland was never letting the Terps take the lead in the second half. Try as they did, Maryland could never get over the hump against the Devils. Maryland was aggressive at both ends of the floor, but couldn’t seem to get free throws down or make the critical stop on defense.
That combined with the fact that Kyle Singler went back to being, well…Kyle Singler, helped the Blue Devils reach the semifinals for the fourth straight time. Nolan Smith went down in the final six minutes of the game, but Duke promptly went on a run to seal the win. Smith’s toe and its status will be key in today’s matchup.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech hopes to capture its magic of two-weeks ago, when it beat the Blue Devils in Blacksburg. Last night’s win over Florida State might have pushed the Hokies into the NCAA Tournament, but a final win over Duke might not hurt either.
For Seth Greenberg’s team to win, they’ll have to get a better shooting performance from Malcolm Delaney (16 pts., 5-16 FG, v. FSU) and Erick Green (7 pts., 2-13 FG). The inside play of Victor Davila was critical in the win two weeks ago and will be again on Saturday afternoon.
Duke is in a unique spot in the semi finals. Rarely do the Blue Devils draw an opponent who they lost to in their only meeting of the season. That’s the case Saturday and would have been the case, whether it had been the Hokies or Seminoles.
Randy Waters and I will have the call of both semifinal games and the title game on Sunday. In Atlanta, you can listen to “790 The Zone”. Tony Castricone and Adam Witten anchor our coverage from Greensboro.