Saturday, March 14, 2009

5 things to watch in the ACC semifinals

Five things to watch in today’s ACC quarterfinals:

1. Nolan Smith vs. Dave Neal. On Feb. 25, Maryland forward Neal blindsided Duke guard Smith with a screen that Smith’s teammates said was legal, but nonetheless angered them.
Smith missed the next three games with a concussion before returning in Friday night’s quarterfinals. Now he gets another chance to play against Maryland and Neal in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.
“I just hope he doesn’t set another full-court ball screen on me,” Smith said. “But I’ll see it coming this time.”

2. Tyler Hansbrough vs. Solomon Alabi. There’s a reason Hansbrough was held to eight points during North Carolina’s 80-77 win on Jan. 28 at Florida State.
Alabi, Florida State’s 7-foot-1 center, is huge. He’s not a great shot blocker, but he moves his feet well so it’s difficult to get the ball up over him.
If point guard Ty Lawson doesn’t play because of his injured toe, the Tar Heels will need to get it into the post more than ever to create shot opportunities. It won’t be easy for Hansbrough and Deon Thompson to convert those shots over Alabi and 6-foot-9 forwards Uche Echefu and Chris Singleton.

3. Maryland’s defense. A well-played 3-2 zone has helped Maryland win its first two games in the ACC Tournament and possibly earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
The zone has helped the Terrapins compensate for their lack of height by making it difficult for opponents to pass into the post. Problem is, when they used it briefly against Duke on Jan. 25, the Blue Devils made four 3-pointers in four minutes.
Does Maryland coach Gary Williams keep going with what’s working, or change his strategy based on the opponent? Here’s guessing he plays Duke mostly man to man.

4. North Carolina’s bench. The Tar Heels got valuable minutes from Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and even Justin Watts during Friday’s quarterfinal win over Virginia Tech.
Coach Roy Williams even joked that if he were a smart coach, he would have played Zeller more after he had four points and three rebounds in four minutes. A lot of coaches wish they had that kind of bench at this time of year.

5. Weary legs. Duke’s Kyle Singler played 40 minutes on Friday.
North Carolina’s Bobby Frasor, who’s ordinarily a backup at point guard, played 37 minutes and admitted to being winded early in the game. Maryland is playing is third game in three days.
This is the time when all the wind sprints the players did last summer come in handy. This is not the time to get tired. – Ken Tysiac