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February 23, 2007
Best matchup: No. 5 North Carolina at Maryland (Sunday) ? There's plenty at stake here. Another loss could cost the Tar Heels a shot at a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Terrapins could lock up a spot in the field of 65 for the first time in three seasons by pulling off an upset. The well-balanced Terps, who have won four in a row, will be counting on a big performance from senior guard D.J. Strawberry (14.7 ppg, 2.2 spg). The Tar Heels have learned to lean on freshman power forward Brandan Wright (14.9 ppg), who has scored in double figures in all but two games.
Worst matchup: Duke at St. John's (Sunday) ? The Blue Devils relish playing in New York City - where they have a strong fan base - but this is not the time or the place for a trip north for a nonconference game. The Blue Devils, who still need a couple more quality wins to land a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament, have too much to lose here. Facing St. John's (15-13, 6-9 Big East) won't help their RPI, yet they remain a dangerous matchup. The Red Storm pulled off upsets of Syracuse and Notre Dame in January.
The pressure is on: Clemson and Georgia Tech. Both programs face must-win situations on the road on Saturday. The reeling Tigers, who have lost eight of their last ten games after starting the season 17-0, must beat Boston College to remain on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Same goes for the Jackets, who head to No. 19 Virginia. The Jackets finish up their regular-season schedule by playing host to the Tar Heels and Boston College.
Upset alert: Miami at Clemson (Wednesday) ? The Hurricanes have improved of late, winning two of their last three games with victories over N.C. State (80-65) and Virginia (68-60). Clemson has been on a steady downward spiral since its 17-0 start. As usual, the Hurricanes will be counting heavily on guard Jack McClinton. A streaky shooter, McClinton is capable of taking over games.
Who's hot: Georgia Tech's surge back into the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid can be credited to the improved play of Javaris Crittenton. The Jackets have won five of their last six games, and over that stretch the freshman point guard has averaged 20.1 points and 2.5 steals a contest ? Don't blame Florida State's recent fall on Al Thornton. The senior forward is averaging 21.8 points and 10.2 rebounds during FSU's current five-game losing streak. Thornton put together double-doubles in recent losses to Virginia and Maryland ? North Carolina's Brandan Wright has scored in double figures in five of his last six games, including a career-high 24-point outing in a 83-64 win over N.C. State on Wednesday.
Who's not: Florida State has struggled since the loss of guard Toney Douglas (13.1 ppg), who broke his hand in a 71-58 loss to Clemson on Feb. 7. Douglas hasn't played since, and the Seminoles lost their next four games. The Seminoles have fallen into ninth place in the ACC standings ? Boston College fell from first place into fourth due to a three-game losing streak which was capped by a lopsided 79-62 defeat at Virginia Tech on Wednesday ? N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe, who had been suffering from flu-like symptoms for days, had to be taken to a hospital at halftime of the Wolfpack's 83-64 loss to UNC. He was released Thursday morning and is expected to join the team for its road trip to FSU.
Must see TV: North Carolina at Maryland (Sunday, 5:30 pm EST, FSN) ? This matchup creates plenty of intriguing storylines. Do the Tar Heels deserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? Does Maryland finally have an NCAA Tournament-caliber squad again? Can the Terps slow down the inside duo of Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright?
Key stat: N.C. State put on a remarkable shooting clinic in its 81-56 upset over Virginia Tech last week. The Wolfpack made nine of its first 10 field-goal attempts, shot 69 percent in the first half and finished 66 percent from the field, the third-highest percentage in school history.
Bench bonus: The Tar Heels used 12 players in their 83-64 win over N.C. State and six reserves scored at least one basket ? Wake Forest freshman guard Anthony Gurley nearly tripled his average of 6.4 points a game, scoring a season-high 24 points despite not starting in a 75-61 loss to Georgia Tech.
They said it: "We didn't have coach (Sidney Lowe) out there with us. In the second half, it was like we didn't have anybody to turn to. We came unraveled. It was like being in a pickup game against an organized team." ? N.C. State guard Gavin Grant on the Wolfpack's 83-64 loss to North Carolina. The Tar Heels led 41-40 at the half. - Raleigh News and Observer
"College basketball is all about young people's emotions. When they don't have it, they are not too good. When they have, they are good. I wish that was mentioned more. It's how games are won and lost." ? Virginia coach Dave Leitao - Charlottesville Daily Progress
Injury update: It doesn't look like Florida State guard Toney Douglas, who suffered a broken hand earlier this month, will be returning anytime soon. Douglas participated in the Seminoles' shootaround before their loss to Maryland on Wednesday. He said he still experienced some pain and would have to work on some "game-like situations" before he returned, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Freshman to watch: N.C. State's Brandon Costner deserves to be in the mix for the ACC Freshman of the Year award. After redshirting last season, the versatile forward is leading all freshmen in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg) ? Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez was selected the league's co-player of the week along with teammate D.J. Strawberry last week. Vasquez has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, including a 15-point, 11-assist performance in an 82-66 win over Clemson.
RPI watch: The latest RPI rankings give the impression that the ACC can still land a record nine teams in the NCAA Tournament despite the recent struggles of Clemson and Florida State. Nine teams rank among the top 50, including the Tigers (No. 35) and the Seminoles (No. 41).