Fantastic day of ACC hoops yesterday, with three games coming down to the final play, two of which had a negative effect on this writer's predictions.
UNC up-ended Virginia Tech 79-76 in a game that illuminated what Carolina is missing when Ty Lawson is on the bench.
FSU needed a perfectly designed inbounds play to knock off scrappy Georgia Tech 64-62.
Maryland's Greivis Vasquez continued his stellar play with a 22-point performance in a 75-64 upset of poor-shooting Wake Forest.
Duke caught fire from downtown, shooting 45 percent from outside the arc in a very hotly-contested one-point win over Boston College, 66-65.
Now, onto the Semifinal breakdowns...
North Carolina vs. Florida State
Why the Tar Heels Should Win
Without Ty Lawson, the Chapel Hill gang is without question a different team, but fortunately for them, they have the pieces to fill in what's missing. Backup PG Bobby Frasor played a solid 37 minutes and UNC crashed the boards, out-rebounding the Hokies 41-30.
They will try to do more of the same today and rough up the 'Noles when possible, particularly since Hansbrough has a knack for getting to and converting from the line. He was 10-10 in yesterday's contest, contributing to his 28 points.
Wayne Ellington should be solid again, but if Danny Green doesn't contribute from outside more than yesterday (2-13 from the floor) then this will be a tall order, as FSU's Echefu and Alabi provide a much stiffer task inside than the Hokies did yesterday.
Why the 'Noles Should Win
Toney Douglas, Toney Douglas, Toney Douglas—possibly the most beloved team leader in the sport right now and the definition of an unselfish leader.
With his team down one yesterday, he provided the decoy for teammate Derwin Kitchen to drive to the hoop and convert the conventional three-point play. It was mentioned on the broadcast that his teammates break their huddles with "TDT" for "Toney Douglas Time," the senior point guard, along with his Coach of the Year Leonard Hamilton, really have their team believing they can go places this March.
Without Lawson, I expect UNC to do everything in their power to switch up defenders on him and prevent him from having another huge game. With Alabi and Echefu inside occupying UNC's Hansbrough and forward Deon Thompson, Douglas should have a big day.
Douglas finished second to Ty Lawson in POY voting for good reason; the guy is good. He should run the FSU offense in a game that will probably be a little more of a slowed down, half-court pace, mainly due to the absence of Lawson. I think this plays to FSU's advantage, but expect a tight contest like we saw in UNC's 80-77 win at Tallahassee in February.
Florida State 68, UNC 64
Duke vs. Maryland
There is no love lost between these two teams - not a bit. There will be no post-game communal dinner, no Saturday night cocktails, no Sunday brunch amongst the fan bases. But, if you want some pure college basketball rivalry, then watch this one as you will not be disappointed.
Why the Blue Devils Should Win
As mentioned in yesterday's column, Coach K has implemented some lineup changes late in the season to get his team more prepared for a postseason run. Out goes Greg Paulus, in comes Elliot Williams to provide better defense. Jon Scheyer is now running the point and David McClure gets increased minutes for even more defense. Beyond that, this is the time of year where special players shine and Kyle Singler is just that.
Singler went for 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 blocks as he put the team on his back for a win against BC last night and I would expect him to try and do the same today. The increase in defensive intensity will certainly help this time of year.
Why the Terps Should Win
That sound you hear is me patting myself on the back for calling Greivis Vasquez' big weekend. Hey, I have to take advantage of the few times I am correct. His near triple-double was impressive in beating Wake Forest but his ability to get teammates involved with 9 assists is what will make the difference in the next two rounds.
Eric Hayes has benefited from this unselfishness two games in a row and the Terps' defense held Wake to an abysmal 29% shooting from the floor, something they will try to duplicate against the Dukies. Maryland was beaten soundly by Duke twice this year so revenge may play a role in the conference tourney as it always seems to do.
I'm in a coin-flip scenario here. Duke beat them up twice this year but my gut has been telling me Vasquez and Maryland have some tricks up their sleeve. The Duke defense came up with some big stops last night against BC's Tyrese Rice when it mattered, and should step up again against Greivis and Company. But, I still think Maryland is playing as if they need this one for the dance, and that motivation goes a long way.
Maryland 78, Duke 76
Check back tomorrow for the Finals Preview...