Around the ACC: Weekend Preview, March 9-10

Can Brian Gregory's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets provide an encore from their upset win over Miami?
Can Brian Gregory’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets provide an encore from their upset win over Miami?

Georgia Tech vs Boston College: The Eagles will put their only two-game winning streak in ACC play this season on the line against Georgia Tech, with the Jackets coming off an upset of Miami in Coral Gables.

As always, you have to fear the hangover for Georgia Tech.  After Wake Forest defeated the Hurricanes, they lost at Florida State, 76-62.  Last weekend, we saw a similar scenario with Virginia, losing to Boston College after knocking off Duke.  Can the Yellow Jackets re-focus their energy towards beating Boston College after their exciting win?

The winner of this game will claim the eighth seed in the ACC Tournament, while the loser will be the ninth or tenth seed.  If the loser gets the ninth seed, then this game will also serve as a preview of ACC Tournament first round action.

NC State vs. Florida State: The Wolfpack is one step away from claiming a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament. That step? Defeat the same Florida State team in Tallahassee that beat Virginia on Thursday.

Florida State has eight wins in ACC play this season, and four of those eight have involved a Michael Snaer game-winning basket in the closing seconds. He worked his magic again Thursday to put away Virginia.  The senior will be looking to finish his career in Tallahassee on a high note, as well.

Florida State has struggled rebounding this season, and they will face one of the most tenacious rebounders in the conference in NC State’s Richard Howell.  If the Seminoles are unable to keep Howell off the boards, he will easily record a double-double simply on rebounds and put-back baskets.

Clemson vs. Miami (FL): On February 17, Clemson took Miami to the wire before ultimately losing 45-43 in Littlejohn Coliseum. That began a five-game losing streak for the Tigers, but also foreshadowed the current Hurricane stumble.

In that first meeting, Jordan Roper scored 19 points for the Tigers.  Clemson will need a similar performance from Roper or another guard to give Miami a fourth loss in five games.  Big man Devin Booker will likely have his hands full with Reggie Johnson, Julian Gamble, and Kenny Kadji in the post.

Speaking of Johnson, he has been largely absent during this cold spell for Miami.  Johnson is 4-for-19 shooting with 11 points and 16 rebounds in the last four games. In the previous Clemson game, Johnson scored only two points, making one of four shot attempts.  Miami really needs him to pick his game back up to be a contender in the postseason.

Duke and North Carolina will renew their rivalry Saturday evening.
Duke and North Carolina will renew their rivalry Saturday evening.

Duke vs. North Carolina: The Tar Heels’ last loss came at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 13. Now, they hope to avenge that defeat on senior night in the Smith Center.

North Carolina debuted its four-guard lineup in that loss to the Blue Devils, which has sparked a run that has brought them to third in the ACC standings.  However, head coach Roy Williams will have to choose one of his guards to defend Ryan Kelly this time around, presumably P.J. Hairston.

This potential Hairston-Kelly matchup would be electric. Hairston scored 22 points in the Heels’ last contest, while Kelly has scored 54 points in two games since his return from injury.  At 6’11”, Kelly’s size could provide some issues for the UNC defense. Can they afford to put a bigger body on him at the expense of their offense, or can Hairston contain Kelly enough to stay on the floor?

Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest: Just as the gods intended, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will meet in Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum to close the regular season with the 12th seed in the ACC Tournament on the line.

It will be senior day at the Joel, of course, where this team has beaten Miami, NC State, and Virginia.  Senior C.J. Harris is shooting 40.7% from three-point range, and will be facing a Hokie defense that has allowed 141 three-pointers in ACC play, 27 more than any other team.

This will also be Erick Green’s last chance to make his case for ACC Player of the Year. While he isn’t the gunner type (like you’d normally expect from the nation’s leading scorer), it will be interesting to see how he finishes a strong senior season.

Maryland vs. Virginia: Should NC State lose to Florida State, then the fourth seed (and the last first-round bye in the ACC Tournament) will be decided in the very last regular season game of the season.  Virginia would need a home win against Maryland to bump the Wolfpack to Thursday in Greensboro.

Of course, this will also be a critical game for both teams to keep diminishing NCAA Tournament hopes alive. After Virginia’s loss Thursday to Florida State, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi listed Virginia as one of the last four teams in the brackets, with Maryland on the outside looking in.

When these two teams met in College Park, Virginia defeated the Terrapins 80-69 behind 22 points from Joe Harris.  Harris made only one three-pointer on six tries against the Seminoles.  Another player in contention for ACC Player of the Year, a big night from the junior might be enough to earn him the honor in the eyes of voters.  Almost certainly, a poor showing like the one Thursday will end his shot at the award.

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