Friday's action produced a lot of sluggish play; other than Clemson, no team looked particularly impressive in winning in the quarterfinals. But as the stakes get higher, the teams will almost certainly be more focused and ready to play.
Here is a look at what will happen in Charlotte on Saturday...
No. 4 Virginia Tech (19-12, 10-7) vs. No. 1 North Carolina (30-2, 15-2)—1:30 ET
Virginia Tech spoiled my perfect day yesterday with one of its ugly wins, a 53-49 decision over Miami. The Hokie defense stifled the Hurricanes from the outset, offsetting an atrocious offensive performance that will certainly be inadequate against the high-powered North Carolina Tar Heels.
North Carolina didn't play particularly well, either, in its 82-70 win over Florida State. It is clear that Ty Lawson is not 100 percent, no matter what Roy Williams tells people; his ability to get to the rim is crucial to the success of the offense. Williams was clearly upset at the lack of foul calls made for Tyler Hansbrough; watch to see if that changes in this one, as VA Tech's defensive style is conducive to a high number of fouls.
This game could get chippy, as North Carolina beat the Hokies by about 1000 the last time they met in Chapel Hill. Seth Greenberg's team has a physical presence that, if established, can change the way a team plays offensively. Still, Hansbrough inside and the plethora of perimeter weapons should provide enough offense to propel the Tar Heels to the title game.
PREDICTION: UNC 71-65
No. 3 Clemson (23-8, 11-6) vs. No. 2 Duke (27-4, 14-3)—4:00 ET
Clemson played its best game of the season in the nightcap on Friday, an 82-48 win over Boston College. Without shooting the ball particularly well, the Tigers forced 22 turnovers and held Tyrese Rice to only 15 points. When the pressure defense is working like that, there aren't many teams who can beat Clemson on a neutral floor.
Duke leapt out to an early lead against Georgia Tech but couldn't put the Yellow Jackets away until the end. That lack of a killer instinct could come back to bite the Blue Devils against the Tigers. When they are hitting outside jump shots, Duke is a difficult match up for any team.
Duke will challenge Clemson tremendously defensively with its ability to spread the floor. But I like the Tigers against any team in the country when they play with the same intensity that they did last night.
PREDICTION: CLEM 85-82
Early prediction for the championship game: Clemson over North Carolina 80-75
Come back later for my "Keys to the Championship"—should be a great day of basketball!
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