Look for the contenders to separate themselves from the pretenders during Day 2 of the ACC tournament.
Only four teams from the conference seem to be locks for an invite to the NCAA tournament (Virginia, Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina). With none of those teams in action Thursday, it will be a good chance to see what the rest of the ACC has to offer.
More importantly, it will be a good chance to see who else is deserving of a berth.
Here are the matchups in store for Thursday:
|12 p.m. ET||No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 Florida State|
|2 p.m. ET||No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Wake Forest|
|7 p.m. ET||No. 7 NC State vs. No. 10 Miami|
|9 p.m. ET||No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech|
How Will Maryland Punch Ticket in ACC?
For 61 years, the Terrapins have called the ACC home. In that same time, the team has recorded three ACC tournament wins, five ACC crowns, 24 NCAA tournament appearances and one NCAA title.
You can bet that Maryland would love nothing more than to bolster those numbers before officially departing to the Big Ten next season.
Thus far, the split has been far from pleasant—traditional rivals such as Duke and North Carolina refused to travel to the Comcast Center. Still, the Terps were able to capture one last memory in their final home ACC tilt, halting then-No. 5 Virginia’s 13-game winning streak with a 75-69 win on March 9.
As head coach Mark Turgeon said following that victory, per ESPN’s Heather Dinich, this win meant a lot to the program:
Today wasn't just an ordinary game. You can tell by the cameras in here. You can tell by the fans. It was a lot of things -- last ACC game, last regular-season game, Senior Day, playing a top-five team in the country that had already wrapped our league up. Just a tremendous team. We always play for Maryland, but today we played for former players, former coaches, all our fans. I made the comment today that there's probably a lot of Maryland fans who haven't watched all year that might have tuned in to watch because it's the last ACC game we ever play in.
On Thursday, Maryland will begin its final ACC tournament by taking on Florida State.
At 17-14, with an RPI ranking of 66 and losers of four of their last seven, the Terps pretty much have to take down the tournament to earn a place in the NCAA tournament. The team would have to get through the Cavaliers (again), North Carolina and then most likely Duke or Syracuse in the finals.
Given that Maryland is just 1-3 against those teams, such a task is easier said than done. Then again, nobody saw the Terps upset over Virginia coming.
Needless to say, this is a team to keep an eye on.
Pittsburgh Looks to Stamp Invite to the Big Dance
Don’t be fooled by the Panthers’ 23-8 record or RPI ranking of 44.
Although 24 wins got the team into the NCAA tournament last year, it might not do the trick with a strength of schedule ranking of just 79. Especially when Pitt went 0-5 against the top four teams in the ACC, 6-8 against RPI top-100 teams, recorded just one win against a top-50 team and has lost four of its last seven games.
Even with all that said, it could very well take just a win against Wake Forest on Thursday to pretty much lock up an at-large bid for the Panthers.
Fortunately for Pitt, the Demon Deacons shouldn’t be all that tough of an opponent. The team has dropped nine of its last 12 games and is just 6-12 in conference play—including a 80-65 loss to the Panthers on Jan. 11.
Pitt leading scorer Lamar Patterson had himself a game in that January matchup, pouring in 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting. If he can keep up his recent hot streak—21.0 points per game over the last five contests—another Panthers win shouldn’t be an issue on Thursday.
However, if the team could follow that up with a victory over North Carolina in the next round, that would all but secure Pitt’s place in the tournament.
Can Anyone Stop T.J. Warren?
Warren has made it look easy thus far.
In 30 games, the sophomore has averaged 24.8 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 53.2 percent from the field. He’s topped 40 points twice and gone over 30 nine times this season.
For his efforts, Warren shocked the country when he was named the ACC Player of the Year over favorite Jabari Parker of Duke, via TheACC.com.
At 19-13, North Carolina State pretty much needs to win the ACC tournament to earn a berth into the Big Dance. That means even more pressure will fall on Warren in the coming days.
But believe it or not, the Durham, N.C., native only seems to be getting better as of late, pouring in 34.0 points per game over his last five contests—including back-to-back 40-point efforts in his last two outings.
DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony put Warren’s performance into perspective:
T.J. Warren has scored 83 points in his last 77 minutes of action. Just a sophomore. Guess who our next video scouting report will be on?— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 10, 2014
Miami could pose somewhat of a threat in slowing Warren down. The team ranks No. 10 in the nation in points allowed (59.3 PPG) and have held three straight opponents under 60 points.
Still, in two contests against the Hurricanes, Warren dropped 27 and 20 points respectively.
Will Thursday’s meeting prove any different?
Unless otherwise noted, all stats, rankings and RIP/SOS information are courtesy of ESPN.com.