Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
RALEIGH, NC (WMBF) - This week, Coastal Carolina joins Duke, Virginia, Tennessee and several other big name schools at PNC Arena for a weekend of games as the NCAA Tournament is off and running. TomorrowMore >>
Chants take the floor for a practice in Raleigh before taking on top-seeded Virginia Friday night.More >>
(RNN) – How come no one is talking more about Maryland as a contender for the ACC Tournament championship?
No, seriously. That's not a joke. They're a few years removed from that national championship (a decade, to be more exact), and they understandably don't get the same hype as Duke or Miami.
But let's take a step back and check out what they've done. The Terrapins (20-9, 8-8) have their first 20-win season in three years and sit at sixth in the conference standings. They are in the top five in the ACC in scoring and defense and third in the nation in rebounds. They also are among the nation's leaders in field goal percentage defense.
They flat out dominate offensively in the paint. You can look up the box score for any game. It is almost a certainty Maryland will win that battle, and most of the time it isn't even close.
But this is perhaps Maryland's most impressive stat: The bench outscores opponents' benches by an average of about 23 points per game. They can go 10-deep in the rotation and get quality production from every player.
Consider this. Their leader in assists (Pe'Shon Howard) plays 21 minutes per game. One of the best outside shooters in the ACC (Logan Aronhalt) plays 13 minutes per game. Their second-best rebounder (Charles Mitchell) plays 16 minutes.
There's a trend here. Are you picking up on it?
It is not unthinkable that Maryland can make a run in the conference tournament and make even more noise once the Big Dance rolls around.
After going back and forth between trying hard to win and trying almost as hard to lose, North Carolina (21-8, 11-5) now has the formula for success. The Tar Heels get to test their smaller lineup and five-game winning streak against a sold-out road crowd and the trees standing in the frontcourt.
Even with four guards on the floor, it's a given the Heels' offense will run through forward James Michael McAdoo. That means he doesn't get much help until Roy Williams sends in the cavalry.
The Terrapins seem to have gotten a handle on their biggest problem this season – turnovers. But UNC's added quickness can test that.
The game tips off Wednesday at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Boston College at Clemson, Tuesday 7 p.m. EST
If Clemson (13-15, 5-11) had an offense, man, what a team they'd be.
The two leading scorers – Devin Booker and K.J. McDaniels - are also the two best defenders. That's a problem because they work too hard on both ends of the floor to remain consistently effective.
The Tigers are obviously a defense-first team, but the lack of a dynamic scorer has hamstrung them all season. McDaniels is expected to miss the game with a sprained ankle. That won't help, either.
Boston College (13-16, 5-11 ACC), on the other hand, has all the scoring you could want. However, their ability to stop people was questionable until they held Virginia to 52 points in a win Sunday.
The key to that game (and the last third of the Eagles' season) was Eddie Odio. He made a couple of plays that allowed BC to go on a 7-1 run with 1:38 left, and he played all 40 minutes. In the last 10, games when he plays 29 minutes or more the team is 3-0. When he plays less, they are 1-6.
Virginia Tech at Duke, Tuesday 7 p.m. EST, ESPNU
In case you forgot, Mike Krzyzewski recruited some guy named Ryan Kelly to play forward for Duke, and he's not too bad.
Foot injury. What foot injury?
Kelly's career-high outburst of 36 points against Miami was impressive, but that 6'11" body is more valuable on defense. Opponents scored almost 10 points more per game against Duke (25-4, 12-4) after Kelly went down in January.
Erick Green is showing no signs of slowing down, but the Hokies (13-16, 4-12) have only wins against Florida State and Clemson to break up a winless stretch since late January.
It is unfair to say Green doesn't get any help, but it is completely fair to say he doesn't get help when he needs it. Robert Brown and C.J. Barksdale are the only other players who have scored double digits in more than one conference win this season. Combined, their scoring average is seven points per game.
Georgia Tech at Miami, Wednesday 9 p.m. EST, ACC Network
The Hurricanes (23-5, 12-2) can still win the regular season title, but they had better perform as expected because Duke is playing a wallflower (Virginia Tech) and a schizophrenic (North Carolina) the last two games.
Georgia Tech (15-13, 5-11) is not the scariest team in the world, but it also isn't a team you want to catch when you're having a bad day.
The Yellow Jackets have the fourth-best scoring defense in the conference, and they're not going to give Miami many opportunities to get their hands on missed shots, either.
Miami's advantage is the game is in Coral Gables, and there is some other obvious motivation.
But, the Yellow Jackets are 2-1 in their last three road games, soooo…
Wake Forest at NC State, Wednesday 9 p.m. EST, ACC Network
Will the real Wake Forest please stand up?
The Deacons (12-16, 5-11) have scored some impressive wins against conference teams this year, including against Miami and formerly ranked NC State.
The rest of the time they have fallen flat on their faces (44 points against Clemson, really?). Of course, those lofty wins have come at home where this team is 5-3 in ACC play this season, including wins in their first three conference home games.
And then we have NC State (21-8, 10-6), who hasn't exactly played up to par but been solid in the last six games by going 5-1.
How in the world does a team with five players that score 12 or more points per game not have a ranking and sole possession of first place in the conference?
Well, let's just compare the Wolfpack's games to NASCAR races – high-paced, exciting, and the last two minutes tell you all you need to know.
Four of NC State's conference losses were by three points or less. Missed free throws, bad clock management and turnovers were factors in all those games.
Oh by the way, one of those losses was to Wake: 86-84 on Jan. 22.
Virginia at Florida State, Thursday 9 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Joe Harris vs. Michael Snaer and Jontel Evans vs. Devon Bookert. That's pretty much all you need to know.
The backcourt battle between these teams will provide one of the most exciting matchups in the league this week as well as a perfect contrast on how to run a game.
Harris (6'6", 223) is more like a forward who can play shooting guard, and he almost never forces a shot. He's learning to find more opportunities in Virginia's team-first system, as evidenced by his 22 points per game average since Jan. 29. For comparison, his average for the season is 17 ppg.
Snaer (6'5", 202) has a size disadvantage, but he can take over a game at the drop of a hat. Just ask Clemson, Maryland or Georgia Tech, who all lost on a last-second shot by Snaer.
Evans is a guy you can overlook because (A) he's only 5'11", (B) he opts to pass far more than shoot and (C) there's little chance he will make a mistake that could cost Virginia the game.
Bookert is also a guy that doesn't get much hype because he's still a freshman and he just cracked the starting lineup a few weeks ago. But the better his decisions, the better chance the Seminoles have at winning.
The Cavaliers (20-9, 10-8) got their 20th win against Duke last week, but a little more padding won't hurt their NCAA Tournament resume.
At this point Florida State (15-14, 7-9) is an afterthought in the conference, but a good showing against the Wahoos at home would send a nice little shockwave.
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