Saturday, March 10, 2012

ACC Semifinals Preview/Predictions

Spencer Pyke

After two days and eight games, the ACC Tournament is down to its last four programs, all of which were in the top five in the conference standings at the end of the regular season. Will someone besides Duke or UNC hoist the trophy for the first time since 2004? Or will the powerhouses continue to keep order intact? Here are today’s semifinal match ups…

1:00 pm - #1 North Carolina (27 – 4 / 14 – 2) vs. # 5 N.C. State (21 – 11 / 9 – 7)

C.J. Williams (center) and N.C. State look to upset top seeded UNC, who may be without big man James Henson (left)
Ethan Hyman - AP

The Tar Heels take on the Wolf Pack today at 1:00 pm after defeating them in both match ups this season by double figures. Both programs are amidst winning streaks as State has won their last four games and Carolina their last eight.

North Carolina State upset Virginia yesterday and in doing so solidified their chances for a bid to dance. North Carolina on the other hand, yesterday may have lost one of their impact players for the rest of the season, Jim Henson, to a wrist injury.

C.J. Leslie averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 boards in two games verse the Tar Heels this season and alongside Scott Wood will look to avenge their two defeats at the hands of Carolina.

Wood did not have an impact in either game as he averaged just seven points. That will have to change if State wants to secure a spot in the ACC Championship this afternoon.

Lorenzo Brown has continued to play well in the Tournament, but it's improbable that he, Leslie and Wood have what it takes to knock off the number one seed Baby Blue Argyles.

Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller both averaged 17.5 against the Pack this season, so the injury to Henson should not have that large of an effect on today’s game. Sophomore guard Kendall Marshall averaged just over 14 game against State this year, seven points higher than his regular average, which does not bode well for the Pack who will not keep up with the fire power of the Heels.

Prediction: State keeps it close in the first half, but the Tar Heels will advance back to the ACC Championship.

3:00 pm - #2 Duke (26 – 5 / 13 – 3) vs. #3 Florida State (21 – 9 / 12 – 4)

Michael Snaer, who hit the game winning three pointer against Duke earlier this season, looks to stay hot today after going 4 - 5 from downtown last night
Getty Images

In a highly anticipated rubber match (the two programs split their season series with each team winning on the road), Duke meets Florida State with a spot in the ACC Championship Game on the line.

Florida State had an answer last night for everything Miami threw at them, shooting an impressive 56% from beyond the arch. If Seminoles sharp shooters Michael Snaer, Luke Loucks and Deividas Dulkys continue to stay hot, the Blue Devils are going to have their hands full this afternoon.

Duke yesterday barely escaped a Virginia Tech team that was fighting to keep their season alive. Austin Rivers led the way for the Blue Devils, but as a whole the team was dismal from long range, going 5 – 26. Rivers averaged just fewer than 20 a game against the Noles this year, and will need his teammates step up around him in order to advance.

Cold feet from beyond the arch is the last thing the lukewarm Blue Devils need against red hot Florida State’s athleticism. If Duke doesn't come out firing on all cylinders, they will have a tough time beating FSU in the paint down the stretch.

One game separated the two squads in the ACC regular season standings. The Seminoles looked impressive last night under ACC Coach of the Year Leonard Hamilton and I expect them to continue to shoot well today and on into tomorrow.

Prediction: It shouldn’t be considered one, but I am going with the upset here.

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