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February 15, 2008

Duke should not look past Wake Forest

» MORE BREAKDOWNS: Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Virginia Tech at North Carolina
Florida State at Maryland
Clemson at NC State
Virginia at Boston College
Miami at Georgia Tech
Duke at Wake Forest
Clemson at Florida State
North Carolina at NC State
Virginia Tech at Maryland
Duke at Miami
Virginia at Georgia Tech

Best matchup: Duke at Wake Forest. Do not view this is as another easy "W" for Duke. The young Demon Deacons may be the only team in the league with the personnel to match up with the Blue Devils on the perimeter. Freshman Jeff Teague and sophomore Ishmael Smith rank among the quickest guards in the nation. Teague is a great defender who should frustrate Duke point guard Greg Paulus. Wake should also get a boost from the return of its third-leading scorer, L.D. Williams (10.1 ppg), who played his first game since breaking his right hand in the Deacons' 78-70 win over the Seminoles on Friday night. This matchup also pits two of the league's top freshmen against one another: Wake's James Johnson and Duke's Kyle Singler. Both are 6-foot-8 forwards who are inside-outside scoring threats.

The pressure is on: N.C. State. The Wolfpack are on the verge of falling off the NCAA bubble with home games against Clemson and North Carolina on the horizon. The rivalry game with the Tar Heels has extra meaning since the Wolfpack suffered a humiliating 93-62 loss in the Dean Dome on Jan. 12. The Tar Heels dominated from the start, opening a 43-13 lead at the half. Just making the rematch competitive won't be enough. Previous Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek, despite taking the school to five consecutive NCAA Tournaments, never was able to win over the fan base, mostly because of his struggles against archrivals Duke and UNC.

Upset alert: Florida State over Maryland. Slowing Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez is the key to stopping the Terps and the Seminoles have someone capable in Toney Douglas. One of the best perimeter defenders in the ACC, Douglas leads the league with 2.8 steals a game. The Seminoles also have the size and frontcourt depth – their rotation features three players 6-9 or taller – to match up with Maryland's James Gist and Bambale Osby, the top inside duo in the league.

RPI watch: The ACC remains atop the league ratings, with Duke (second) and North Carolina (fourth) leading the way. Clemson has climbed to 24th. N.C. State's loss to Maryland proved costly as the Wolfpack fell from 37th to 47th. The Terps have risen to 51st, an increase of more than 60 spots from two months ago. Miami (40th) remains well inside the top 50. Virginia has slid to 140th, and the Cavs are the only league team outside the top 100.

Key stat: Virginia point guard Sean Singletary has scored in double figures in 45 consecutive games, a streak that dates to December of last season.

Freshman to watch: Virginia Tech's J.T. Thompson has emerged as one of the ACC's best reserves. Thompson, a 6-6 power forward from Monroe, N.C., has scored in double-figures in five of his past six games and is shooting 64.2 percent (27-of-42) from the field over that stretch. Thompson put together his best game when the Hokies needed it most. With starter Jeff Allen (also a freshman) serving the second of a two-game suspension during a road game at Boston College on Jan. 26, Thompson scored a career-high 14 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, numbers that led the Hokies to an 81-73 win.

Who's hot: North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough is averaging 28.0 points and 14.8 rebounds over his past four games. … North Carolina's Deon Thompson is averaging 11.7 points and 5.8 rebounds over his past six games. … Miami's Jack McClinton is shooting 96.6 percent (28-of-29) from the line in ACC games. … Duke's Singler is 15-of-28 (53.5 percent) from 3-point range in his past four games. … Wake Forest's Jeff Teague is averaging 17.4 points over his past five games.

Who's not: Duke's Gerald Henderson is shooting 29 percent (9-of-31) from the field and averaging 8.5 points over his past four games. … Virginia's Mamadi Diane is shooting 14.2 percent (2-of-14) from 3-point range and averaging 7.0 points over his past four games.

Worth noting: Florida State guard Isaiah Swann (11.8 ppg) suffered a torn ACL in his knee in the Seminoles' win over Miami and likely will miss the rest of the season. … North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson has missed three consecutive games with a sprained ankle. … There already have been 10 overtime games in the league this season. One more will tie the league record set during the 2005-06 season. … North Carolina's Hansbrough has attempted a league-high 257 free throws, nearly 100 more than the next-highest total; NC State's J.J. Hickson is second with 166 attempts. … Georgia Tech has won three consecutive road games in the ACC after losing 17 of their previous 18 road games in league play. … NC State has won six games by three points or less. …Duke has the nation's third-longest winning streak at 12 straight. … Georgia Tech's Anthony Morrow has made at least one 3-pointer in 31 games in a row.

» MORE BREAKDOWNS: Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.



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