First round action at the 2013 ACC Tournament got underway Thursday at the Greensboro Coliseum, with a full slate of four games. Results were as follows:
No. 5 Miami 45, No. 12 Virginia Tech 39
No. 8 NC State 56, No. 9 Clemson 45
No. 10 Wake Forest 86, No. 7 Georgia Tech 67
No. 11 Boston College 66, No. 6 Virginia 57
Another complete day of action in Greensboro begins at 11 a.m. Friday. By virtue of their win Thursday, the Hurricanes meet No. 4 Florida State. No. 1 Duke will then face off against the Wolfpack, followed by No. 2 Maryland against the Demon Deacons. In the nightcap, No. 3 North Carolina meets the Eagles. Semifinals will be Saturday, with the championship game at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Duke aiming to keep dreams of No. 1 seed alive
Following last week’s road loss at Miami, its first conference defeat of the season, Duke dropped one spot in the national polls to No. 6, switching places with California. Heading into Friday’s game against N.C. State, the Blue Devils (27-2, 17-1 in the ACC) find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes time for the NCAA selection committee to announce the tournament’s No. 1 seeds. The committee is almost assured to tab Baylor, Notre Dame, and Connecticut as top seeds. The final number one seed, in the Spokane regional, will likely go to either Stanford or California, depending on who performs better in the Pac-12 Tournament.
To have any sort of shot at a No. 1 seed, Duke must win the ACC Tournament title. Doubts are still fresh in everyone’s mind about what caliber team the Devils are without co-ACC Player of the Year Chelsea Gray, who is sidelined by a knee injury for the rest of the year. To win the title, Duke will likely have to defeat two ranked opponents, which would send a strong message to the committee. Anything less than a title would relegate the Blue Devils to a No. 2 seed, and an early-round exit could push their stock down even further.
It’s worth noting that Friday’s matchup against N.C. State is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal game, in which the ninth-seeded Wolfpack stunned top-seeded Duke, 75-73. In their only matchup of the 2012-13 season, Duke went to Raleigh and earned a 67-57 victory on Jan. 3.
Can a darkhorse team snatch the tournament crown?
Currently, the ACC is expected to send five teams to the NCAA tournament: Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida State, and Miami. But if none of those teams wins the tournament title, the conference’s automatic bid will go to the surprise winner, changing tournament calculus for the tournament committee and creating ramifications that could burst bubbles across the country. An unforeseen run by an N.C. State or Wake Forest to capture the title could push Miami out of the NCAA tournament if the ‘Canes go down to Florida State on Friday. A more likely scenario would be that the ACC would unexpectedly send six teams dancing, taking away an at-large berth for a bubble team in another conference. Of the three, N.C. State has the best chance of getting to the finals. The Wolfpack lost by just 10 to Duke earlier this year, and that was a Duke team fully equipped with the talents of Chelsea Gray. If N.C. State can get past the Blue Devils, they would face either Miami or Florida State, two good but beatable teams. Boston College has a chance to beat third-seeded North Carolina, but could have difficulties topping a very potent Maryland squad, which won twice this season against the last remaining darkhorse, its quarterfinal opponent Wake Forest, by a combined 37 points.
Virginia sees tournament hopes dashed by BC
After a strong start to conference play, the Cavaliers hit a rough patch, at one point dropping seven out of eight games, including losses to two of the ACC’s three worst teams. But with a win over Florida State in their regular season finale, Virginia had a chance at salvaging the season, if they could make a deep run in the ACC Tournament. Those dreams came to a halt Thursday night, as the sixth-seeded Cavaliers fell by nine at the hands of No. 11 Boston College. The Eagles had four players score in double figures, led by guard Kerri Shields’s 16 and Kristen Doherty’s 15. Boston College will go for its second straight upset at 8 p.m. Friday when it takes on No. 3 North Carolina.
Upset Special: Miami over Florida State
Florida State, losers of three of its past four contests, will benefit from the much-needed rest provided by a first-round bye, but the Hurricanes have come on strong near the end of the season. Despite an ugly six-point victory over No. 12 Virginia Tech, Miami has won five of its past six, including a critical home win over top-seeded Duke. The Hurricanes will also be looking to avenge two relatively lopsided losses to the Seminoles this season–they fell 86-65 in Tallahassee and 93-78 in Coral Gables. Look for big games from Miami guard Stefanie Yderstrom, forward Morgan Stroman and center Shawnice Wilson, who at six-foot-six has a three-inch height advantage over the tallest Seminole defender. With a victory, Miami could land inside the AP Top 25, and drastically improve its NCAA seed.