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March 2, 2007

ACC Breakdown: Duke-UNC as big as ever

Weekly ACC Update
Team Conf. Overall
Virginia 11-4 20-8
North Carolina 10-5 24-6
Virginia Tech 10-5 20-9
Boston College 10-5 19-9
Maryland 9-6 23-7
Duke 8-7 22-8
Georgia Tech 7-8 19-10
Clemson 6-9 20-9
Florida State 6-9 18-11
NC State 5-10 15-13
Wake Forest 4-11 13-15
Miami 4-11 11-18
Standings as of 3/1

Best matchup: No. 14 Duke at No. 8 North Carolina (Sunday). All the drama and intensity that comes with this historic rivalry makes this game a must-see event even for mild college hoops fans. There will be plenty at stake in this rematch. The Tar Heels are fighting for a shot at the ACC regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the league tournament. The Blue Devils could significantly boost their seeding in the NCAA Tournament by knocking off a top 10 team on the road. There's also a revenge factor. The Blue Devils led for most of the first meeting before falling 79-73 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Worst matchup: N.C. State at Maryland (Saturday). The Terps probably wish they could just skip this regular-season finale. A win won't give them a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament, nor would it provide much of a boost to their RPI. Plus, the Wolfpack have emerged as a dangerous and much-improved team over the last month.

The pressure is on: Clemson. Which ACC team got off to a 17-0 start in the 2006-07 season but missed the NCAA Tournament? The Tigers are in danger of becoming the notorious answer to that trivia question. After losing nine of their next 11 they need to get hot in the ACC Tournament to reach the big dance. How many games must they win in Tampa, Fla., which is hosting the event for the first time? That depends largely on how the Tigers fair at No. 21 Virginia Tech on Sunday.

Upset alert: Virginia at Wake Forest (Saturday). The Cavaliers pulled away in the second half for an 88-76 win over the last-place Demon Deacons on Jan. 21, but don't expect a similar result in the rematch. The young Demon Deacons have improved since, winning four of their last eight games, including victories over Georgia Tech, Clemson and Miami. They'll also have the extra motivation of sending lone senior Kyle Visser (their leading scorer and rebounder) out on a good note in his final home game.

Who's hot: Maryland's D.J. Strawberry is averaging 17.4 points over his last five games and has shot 60 percent (37 of 61) from the field over that span. That offensive spark has powered the Terps to a six-game winning streak Over Georgia Tech's last seven games Javaris Crittenton is averaging 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell is averaging 21.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists over his last two games.

Who's not: Brian Asbury, Miami's second-leading scorer (11.6 ppg), was held to a combined 11 points in losses to Virginia Tech and Clemson Virginia's Mamadi Diane, who averages 10.2 ppg, scored a combined 10 points and shot 3 of 13 (23 percent) in his last three games.

Must see TV: No. 14 Duke at No. 8 North Carolina (4 p.m. EST, Sunday, CBS)

Key stat: The last seven meetings between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels have been decided by seven points or less.

Bench bonus: Maryland junior Bambale Osby played a pivotal role in the Terp's 89-87 upset of North Carolina last week. Osby came off the bench to score 11 points and grab nine rebounds.

They said it: "I'm not ready to say this team is playing as well as anybody in the country. But I'm telling you right now, this team is playing very well. And if we do enough to get into the tournament, I'm very confident that we'll be successful in the tournament." Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt Tallahassee Democrat

"I love when the crowd is on me. They were trying to make me mad. They were talking about the president of Venezuela. I love it. It was so nice. I've got three more years, and it's going to be fun. They might be worried about me now." Maryland freshman Greivis Vasquez after scoring 13 points, dishing out a career-high 12 assists and grabbing nine rebounds in the Terps' 85-77 win at Duke. Washington Post

"(Maryland is) playing as well as anyone. They are as good as we have played. No question. I think they could go against anybody." Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski Washington Post

Injury update: FSU guard Toney Douglas' status for the Seminoles' game against Miami Saturday remains questionable. Douglas has missed nearly a month with a broken hand.

Worth noting: Boston College's Jared Dudley has scored in double figures in 34 consecutive games. Dudley leads the ACC in scoring (19.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg). The last player to lead the league in both categories was UNC's Antawn Jamison in 1997-98. Virginia Tech is 3-0 versus top 5 teams. Florida State's Al Thornton ranks in the top 10 in the ACC in four statistical categories: second in scoring (19.2 ppg), sixth in free throw percentage (81 percent) and seventh in rebounding (7.2 rpg) and field-goal percentage (52 percent). North Carolina's Roy Williams, who has an overall record of 517-129, owns the highest winning percentage (.800) of any active coach at the Division I level with at least 10 years of experience.

Freshman to watch: Wake Forest's Ishmael Smith hasn't received near the publicity as many of the league's other highly touted freshmen, but he has dished out six or more assists in his last four games and leads the league in assists (5.8 apg).

RPI watch: The ACC remains the highest-rated conference according to the RPI and the only league with nine teams ranked in the top 55 of the RPI. Four of the teams boast schedules that rank among the 10 toughest, including Duke (No. 3), North Carolina (No. 6), Maryland (No. 7) and Boston College (No. 9)

More Conference Breakdowns: Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC | Pac-10 | Big East



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