Saturday, March 16, 2013

ACC Tournament Semifinals Predictionz

By Spencer Pyke

Day two of the 2013 ACC Tournament provided a near upset, a huge upset and two blowouts as four teams were left standing when all the dust settled. Top seeded Miami and upset minded Maryland are still alive, while North Carolina and North Carolina State look to set up a rematch of the 2007 Championship Game. Heading into the weekend, only one thing is guaranteed, top shelf collegiate basketball.

#1 University of Miami vs. #5 North Carolina State University – 1 pm Saturday

Scott Wood knocked down seven three pointers en route to 23 points Friday afternoon as #5 North Carolina State upset #4 University of Virginia in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. 

Behind Wood, who did not take a shot from inside the arc, State eliminated Virginia in the quarterfinals for the second straight year. Forward TJ Warren finished with 18 points on 9 of 11 shooting while CJ Leslie pitched in a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards. State, who was picked to win the conference prior to the season, is finally playing the ball that many assumed they would all year, and that does not bode well for any opponent in their remaining matchups. 

Despite a slow start against Olivier Hanlan and Boston College, top seeded Miami was able to escape the eighth seeded Eagles, 69 – 58.  Although Shane Larkin led three double figure scorers with 20 points, the Canes did not open up their tournament run as emphatically as many assumed they would.  The Eagles actually kept the Hurricanes in check until about a minute and a half left in regulation before the veteran laded Canes pulled away. Alongside Larkin, senior Kenny Kadji had a solid afternoon, finishing with 15 points and 11 boards.

These two programs only met one time this season, with Miami inching out a come from behind victory on the road with a Reggie Johnson tip in at the buzzer.  It was one of the top regular season games of the ACC Conference slate, so it is only fitting a spot in the Championship is on the line in the rematch.

Image: Reggie Johnson game winner against N.C. State - Source - Ethan Hyman

While Miami struggled from deep in their opener, big men Johnson and Julian Gamble were held to limited minutes as Miami adjusted to the Eagles smaller line up.  With all five Pack starters having played over 60 minutes in two days, and a leg injury hampering Richard Howell, expect Miami to reap the benefits of their fatigue late in the contest.  North Carolina State will bring it, but the top seed will pull away late in a close one. 

Miami 80 – North Carolina State 76  

#7 University of Maryland vs. University of North Carolina – Saturday 3 pm

In case anyone thought Dez Wells was not legit after his opening round performance, he reiterated his opening statement Friday, exploding for a career high 30 points to lead Maryland’s upset of second seeded Duke. Nick Faust, Alex Len, Jake Layman and Seth Allen all finished with ten points, but the story of the night was Wells, who went a perfect 10 – 10 from the charity stripe and 9 – 13 from the field. 

Maryland, who finished the season with two consecutive losses, is now looking to get back to the ACC Championship for the first time since winning it all in 2004.  In order to do so, they must win their third game in three days against the surging North Carolina Tar Heels.

The Tar Heels avenged last year’s Championship game defeat with an 83 - 62 victory over reigning champ, Florida State.  The win was the Heels eighth double digit victory in their last nine wins as Roy Williams and the Heels look to get back to the ACC Championship for the third consecutive year.  The only negative from Friday’s win was an apparent hand injury to PJ Hairston, which could affect his availability in tomorrows contest.

Heading into the semifinal, North Carolina upended Maryland twice this season, most recently last Wednesday in College Park, 79 – 68. In that contest, the Terps were dismal from beyond the arc and, from the looks of things, have found their way out of that slump through two tournament games.

Every year an unexpected program gets hot come tournament time and this year that team could very well be Maryland.  But it could also very well be North Carolina.  With both squads running a four guard lineup for the majority of the game, expect a fast paced, high scoring affair. 

Although the Heels running away from the Noles was not surprising, it was reassuring.  Wells performed well in both games against the Heels this season, but his supporting cast was sub-par both times out.    Expect the trends to continue Saturday afternoon, no matter Hairston’s availability.

North Carolina 80 – Maryland 72