Saturday, March 13, 2010

5 things to watch in ACC semis

GREENSBORO -- One of the most unusual ACC tournaments of history is unfolding as the weekend dawns at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Seeds 2 through 6 have been eliminated before the semifinals. But the No. 12 seed (Miami) and the No. 11 seed (N.C. State) remain. As the Wolfpack prepares to meet No. 7 seed Georgia Tech and top-seeded Duke tries to eliminate Miami, here are five things to watch in the ACC semifinals:

1. N.C. State's motivation. Before Georgia Tech met Maryland in the semifinals, we mentioned that the Yellow Jackets would be motivated for the game because they'd lost on a heartbreaking, Cliff Tucker buzzer beater at Maryland.

Sure enough, Georgia Tech built a big lead at the start and held on to eliminate No. 2 seed Maryland. But now N.C. State has the motivation against the Yellow Jackets.

Remember, when these teams met in Atlanta on Feb. 6 N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe was infuriated when referees didn't call a foul on Julius Mays' 3-point attempt just before the buzzer. Mays missed, and Georgia Tech held on to win 73-71.

In the postgame news conference Friday night, N.C. State point guard Javi Gonzalez mentioned the Wolfpack's poor start in that game at Georgia Tech. There's no doubt that Gonzalez, Lowe and the rest of them are eager for another shot at the Yellow Jackets.

2. Great Scott. Miami freshman point guard Durand Scott gave Duke fits with his penetration as the Hurricanes raced out to a 12-point halftime lead on Feb. 17.

Duke ultimately won that game, but ought to be wary of Scott's forays into the lane again. Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said the Hokies' failure to guard Scott, and his ability to make difficult shots, were keys as the Hurricanes won in the quarterfinals.

Duke junior guard Nolan Smith almost certainly will draw the assignment on Scott and needs to keep him out of the lane at all costs.

3. Javi's defense. Gonzalez's defense in the second half against a suspect Florida State backcourt had a significant impact on N.C. State's win in the semifinals.

He pressured the ball, forcing Florida State to start its offense farther out than it wanted. He turned steals into fast-break baskets. And now he has another opportunity to decide a game with his defense.

Georgia Tech's ball handlers are shaky, and that's putting it mildly. The Yellow Jackets committed 25 turnovers and Maryland had 16 steals in the Georgia Tech quarterfinal win.

If Gonzalez can get Iman Shumpert to cough up the ball again, he might be able to negate high-rising Georgia Tech freshman forward Derrick Favors' impact on the game.

4. Driving the gaps. This is a junior-high fundamental basketball tactic that many teams forget when they're playing against a zone like the one Miami has used to win two straight games in this ACC tournament.

It's difficult to beat a zone by driving all the way to the basket, so offenses sometimes don't even try. They pass around the zone and then hoist up 3-point jumpers.

The way to beat a zone is to drive into the gaps between defenders and force two or three of them to converge on you. Then you pass to the teammate who's left open for an easy shot when the defense collapses.

Duke did this in the second half on Feb. 17 at Miami but not in the first half. The guess here is that the Blue Devils won't make the same mistake again.

5. Freshmen vs. veterans. Scott and Reggie Johnson have led Miami in scoring in their two games.

Favors and Scott Wood (N.C. State) also have been team scoring leaders in games in this tournament. All these players are freshmen.

There's only one team remaining in this tournament that hasn't been counting heavily on freshmen to do its scoring. That's Duke. The Blue Devils rely on juniors and seniors.

That may be why they're the No. 1 seed, and still the favorite to win the tournament.

Ken Tysiac


704Champ said...

I can't disagree with any of your points Ken. Go Pack!

Anonymous said...

As much as I hate to say it, you might as well hand Duke the trophy this morning. With the teams left in the tourney I can't see any way they lose...

Anonymous said...

If Duke plays like they did yesterday I would not hand them anything just yet!

Anonymous said...

Not to mention, NC State has beaten Duke already this season. And pretty easily at that. As it is proven year after year, anything can happen in the ACC! I love it.

Anonymous said...

I am a UConn fan living in Charlotte and I have just become a Pack Wagon fan !!!! GO STATE