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March 12, 2008

Duke, UNC could meet yet again

TITLE CONTENDERS

North Carolina: Tyler Hansbrough is a national player of the year candidate, and he is surrounded by a talented supporting cast, including two of the top guards in the nation in Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. That trio leads a high-scoring offense that averages 89.7 points. Lawson, who has been working his way back from an ankle injury, will be coming off six days of rest coming into the tourney. The Tar Heels also have a favorable draw, not having to face Duke or Maryland the only teams to beat the Tar Heels in league play until the title game under any scenario. The Tar Heels are playing for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and a chance to play in the East Region, whose first four rounds are in Raleigh and Charlotte.

AT A GLANCE
DeMarcus Nelson and Duke would love another shot at North Carolina.

WHEN: March 13-16 (title game on ESPN at 1 p.m. EDT)
WHERE: Bobcats Arena, Charlotte.
EXPECTED NCAA BIDS: 4-6. North Carolina, Duke and Clemson are NCAA Tournament locks. Miami isn't quite as safe, but it would take a number of surprises in the league tournaments to keep the Hurricanes out of the field of 65. Virginia Tech and Maryland are on the bubble. The Terps may need to get to the tourney final to have a shot at an at-large bid. The Hokies, who won both of their meetings against the Terps, need at least one tourney win and maybe two.

TOURNEY SCHEDULE
FIRST ROUND - THURSDAY
No. 8 Wake Forest vs. No. 9 Fla. State, noon
No. 5 Miami vs. No. 12 N.C. State, 2 p.m.
No. 7 Ga. Tech vs. No. 10 Virginia, 7 p.m.
No. 6 Mary. vs. No. 11 Boston Coll. 9 p.m.
SECOND ROUND - FRIDAY
No. 1 No. Carolina vs. No. 8/9 winner, noon
No. 4 Va. Tech vs. No. 5/12 Winner, 2 p.m.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7/10 winner, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 6/11 winner 9 p.m.
SEMIFINALS - SATURDAY
Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 1:30
Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 3:30
FINAL - SUNDAY
Semifinal winners, 1 p.m., ESPN

Duke: Built around a deep crop of diverse guards, the undersized Blue Devils create matchup problems for virtually every opponent on the perimeter. Coach Mike Krzyzewski often uses a four-guard lineup where all five players can put the ball on the floor. That includes freshman forward Kyle Singler (the ACC Rookie of the Year), who pulls opposing big men away from the basket with his quickness and ability to knock down 3-pointers. The Blue Devils need to win the tourney to lock up a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Anything less and they probably will receive a No. 2.

SLEEPERS

Clemson: The well-balanced Tigers showed how dangerous they are in their two meetings with North Carolina, losing to the Tar Heels on a last-second 3-pointer in overtime, then falling in double-overtime in the rematch. Five Tigers average at least 10 points, including sixth man/3-point specialist Terrence Oglesby (10.6 ppg). The Tigers are 14-1 when Oglesby scores in double figures. The Tigers have locked up an NCAA bid and are playing for seeding at this point.

Virginia Tech: The youth-laden Hokies, who start two freshmen and have three others playing significant minutes, are playing their best ball entering the tourney. The Hokies have won four of their past five games, with the lone loss coming by one point at Clemson. The Hokies are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives and probably need another quality win meaning they want to face Miami and not NC State in the quarterfinals to have a shot at an at-large bid.

Maryland: No team has been more inconsistent, but the Terps are capable of beating anyone when they play well, as evidenced by their 82-80 upset of North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Jan. 19. The key is getting steady production from athletic big man James Gist. The Terps need at least two wins to reach the NCAA Tournament, meaning they need to get past Boston College and Clemson. The Terps went 1-2 against those teams in the regular season, splitting two meetings with BC and giving up a late lead in a 73-70 loss to Clemson.

FILLING OUT THE FIELD

Boston College: Tyrese Rice is one of the elite guards in the nation, but he doesn't have enough help for the Eagles to make a deep run in this tourney. Rice scored 46 points against North Carolina recently and the Eagles still lost by 10.

Florida State: Veteran guards Toney Douglas, Jason Rich and Ralph Mims make up one of the league's top backcourts, but getting past Wake Forest in the first round will be difficult. The Seminoles lost both their regular-season meetings with Wake.

Georgia Tech: The Jackets are better than their 14-16 record indicates, having won three of their last four games. But a deep run in this tourney is highly improbable. The Jackets haven't won more than three games in a row all season.

Miami: The Hurricanes are 27th in the RPI and look to be in good shape for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but they are a long shot to win this tourney. The Hurricanes are the fifth seed, meaning they must win four games in four days, which never has been done in this event.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack has gone from the first day of the tournament to the title game twice, including their shocking run as a No. 10 seed last season. But that looks extremely unlikely this season. The Wolfpack are the coldest team in the league, having lost eight in a row.

Virginia: The Cavs may be the most dangerous team that plays in the first round. They have won four of their last six games, including an impressive 91-76 triumph over Maryland in their regular-season finale. If star guard Sean Singletary gets hot, a deep run is possible.

Wake Forest: James Johnson and Jeff Teague form one of the best freshman duos in the nation and make Wake capable of pulling an upset or two. Johnson and Teague combined for 50 points in the Deacons' 86-73 shocker over Duke on Feb. 17.

MORE: Rivals.com Daily Bubble Watch | Drive for 65: Forecasting the Field | Play Tourney Pick'em

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



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