ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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ACC Weekend Preview #10

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 7th, 2014

It’s the final weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of March 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features some important matchups that will determine seeding in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Saturday – North Carolina (23-7, 13-4 ACC) @ Duke (23-7, 12-5 ACC) – ESPN (9:00 PM)

Marcus Paige Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina's Winning Streak. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige’s Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina’s Winning Streak.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#8) Duke 80-72 (#23) North Carolina

nc-duke

While neither of these teams have played their best basketball lately, North Carolina has managed to keep winning (12 straight) while Duke took a bad loss on Wednesday at Wake Forest. In that one Duke collapsed down the stretch, much like they did in earlier ACC road losses at Clemson and North Carolina. On the other hand, the Tar Heels have made enough plays to win three straight close games against teams with losing conference records. North Carolina’s improved offense has dipped lately, having its two worst offensive efficiency games during the winning streak in the last two contests. But the Tar Heel defense has remained solid, holding four of their last five opponents under 1.00 points per possession. Duke is mired in a team wide shooting slump which continued with a miserable 6-of-27 effort from three on Wednesday night. And unlike many Blue Devil teams of the past, the defense is not elite enough to overcome such shooting woes. Duke has been unbeaten at home since losing at the end of the 2012 season to North Carolina. If they want to stay unbeaten at home this year, the Blue Devils probably need to have a comfortable lead late. If it comes down to team toughness and resiliency, the Tar Heels may have the edge.

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ACC M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 5th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. John Gasaway: Virginia is playing as well as anyone in the country. The Cavaliers have the second best efficiency margin in the country, trailing only American cupcake-feasting Louisville. Duke is fifth in efficiency margin behind Louisville, Virginia, Florida and Arizona. North Carolina has been elite over its 12-game winning streak (and has shot the ball incredibly well), which should make for an exciting rematch in Durham this weekend to close out their season.
  2. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Not mentioned in that elite bunch? Syracuse, which continued its regression in the worst kind of way by losing at home to Georgia Tech last night. Jerami Grant missed the game, which put the Orange on their heels inside. Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita were offensive no-shows (along with Trevor Cooney), which left CJ Fair and Tyler Ennis to try to cobble together a win. Big ups to Georgia Tech which looks much more dangerous with Robert Carter back in the lineup.
  3. Tomahawk Nation: Moving our focus back to the bubble, it’s time to again point out the obvious flaws in the RPI. If Florida State had scheduled a Division II school (which doesn’t count) instead of Leonard Hamilton’s alma mater, Tennessee-Martin, its strength of schedule would improve a whopping 14 spots from #42 to #28. That’s incredibly stupid. There are a lot of other fun hypotheticals in here that show how close the Seminoles are to the right side of the bubble, but your big takeaway should be that a sport where margin of victory stats are available for every game should take them into account.
  4. Baltimore Sun: It’s becoming increasingly clear that Seth Allen‘s injury may have derailed Maryland’s season. The Terrapins are just starting to click with him back at 100 percent and the Terps still aren’t a great team, but they are significantly improved. Last season, Allen’s potential always shined through, but he seemed to be a year away. Unfortunately his injury set him back. I’m not sure what Maryland’s ceiling is going forward, but don’t bet against the Terrapins making the NCAA Tournament in the Big Ten next season.
  5. Yahoo Sports: Tell me if this story sounds familiar: ACC team racks up more than 20 wins and a decent statistical profile, but it also nabs a bottom 15 percent non-conference schedule where they lost their only chance at a good win. Now add in no sparkling conference wins. What do you get? 2009-10 Virginia Tech and 2013-14 Pittsburgh. I think the Panthers are a better team (certainly the advanced stats say so), but boy they are leaving themselves some work to do in the ACC Tournament if they keep this up.

EXTRA: Trying to decide on an all-ACC team? Here are 20 of the top contenders (with sortable stats) from Backing the Pack‘s Austin Johnson.

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College Basketball by the Tweets: Tom Izzo, Marcus Paige, TV Ted and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on March 4th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Congratulations, everyone, we’ve made it to the month of March, which some people are unofficially just straight up calling “Izzo.”

I guess if you’ve reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 16 years, including six Final Four appearances as the head coach of one team, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

Marcus Paige

There’s perhaps no non-freshman player in the country who has improved as much as Marcus Paige since November. The slender point guard is the clear-cut leader of this year’s Tar Heels, and his play against Triangle rival NC State last week proved as much.

And then a few nights later, Paige sealed a victory for UNC on the defensive end.

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ACC Weekend Preview #9

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 28th, 2014

It’s the next to last weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 26, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features a battle for first place, with the winner likely headed to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro as the top seed.

Saturday – Syracuse (26-2, 13-2 ACC) @ Virginia (24-5, 15-1 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title. (Photo: VirginiaSports.com)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title.
(VirginiaSports.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Virginia 58-53 (#10) Syracuse

Syr-Va

This match-up will probably decide the ACC regular season title. Virginia could be the least publicized 15-1 major conference team ever. With Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina getting most of the national attention, the Cavaliers have methodically taken care of business and rolled through conference play. They also seem to be on the upswing, winning their last two games by over 20 points after three straight single-digit victories. Malcolm Brogdon continues to be a model of consistency. It’s almost unreal to look at his game-by-game scoring totals. Not only has he scored in double figures in every ACC game, but he has scored in the 12- to 17-point range in 14 of the 16 games. And in the other two contests, he had 11 once and — you guessed it — 18 in the other. The good news for Syracuse is that Jerami Grant is expected to play in the game. The sophomore missed the entire second half of Monday’s contest at Maryland with a lower back issue. In that game, the Orange won another nail-biter, bringing their record in close games (decided by five points or less) to a rather fortunate 6-1. For Syracuse to get Virginia in a close one, it better shoot much better than the team has lately. In the last four games, the Orange have averaged an extremely low effective field goal percentage (39.0). That doesn’t match up well with Virginia’s league-best defense.

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ACC M5: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 25th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. GoHeels.com: It may get a little dusty, so make sure to grab the tissues before reading Adam Lucas’ story on Meredith Stapleton‘s trip to see North Carolina beat Duke. Sometimes sports fandom eclipses the event itself. This qualifies. It’s a moving and expertly written story that captures exactly what the game meant for one fan among over 20,000 others.
  2. Sports Illustrated: Seth Davis talked with Tony Greene, the referee who made the controversial call in the Syracuse-Duke game before ejecting Jim Boeheim. Unsurprisingly, officials around the country sent messages of support to him afterward. That doesn’t mean he got the call right, though. Davis and Greene don’t discuss the call itself, although he lauds Greene for his demeanor after ejecting Boeheim. That said, how many refs act differently? Their job is to keep their cool, especially after throwing someone out.
  3. Baltimore Sun: Speaking of Boeheim, he was in top salty form after the Orange eked out a win last night at Maryland. After the game, Mark Turgeon noted that he thought a foul should have been called with under 10 seconds left that would have sent the Terrapins to the line down one. Boeheim had this to say: “They shot 27 free throws. If anybody is going to complain about the officiating, I’m going to complain. And I think I did enough of that Saturday. Five times that we saw them going to the basket that there was no foul and there was a foul called five times. You want to talk about one play? I’ll talk about five times. If they didn’t turn it over 18 times, they wouldn’t have had to worry about that.” Unfortunately for everyone in attendance, he didn’t drop the mic.
  4. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: If Pittsburgh is going to take its program to the next level, Jamie Dixon needs better players. There’s no denying that he’s a great coach and one of the best developers of talent in the ACC. But you just can’t win it all without five-star recruits. Interestingly, it appears Dixon is doing his best to bring more life to his recruiting. Whether that’s because of the rule changes, conference realignment, or at the athletic department’s behest, we’ll never know.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: Good look at foul differentials across the ACC. North Carolina had the biggest road-home swing, with a -24 foul differential on the road and an equal and opposite number at home. Syracuse, unsurprisingly has the best home differential. Maryland is the worst at home and on the road. One thing I’d like to see removed from the analysis is garbage-time fouls, which likely skew away splits (where you’re more likely to be losing at the end of games).

EXTRA: I’ll leave you with this, courtesy of Bomani Jones.

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RTC Bracketology: February 24 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) on February 24th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries. 

This weekend was supposed to clear up the NCAA Tournament picture, but it didn’t really help much at all. However, a couple of things are obvious right now. Florida had moved to my No. 1 overall seed with Syracuse’s loss to Boston College last week and another Gators’ win over the weekend did nothing to change that. Syracuse‘s second straight loss moved the Orange down to the No. 3 overall seed, and Duke, despite a Thursday loss to North Carolina, remains a solid No. 2 seed.

The movement in this week’s bracket involves Wisconsin, which is a common theme this year. It seems like the Badgers have been on every protected seed line over the course of the last month. The Badgers are now back at a No. 2 seed, and if they can win the Big Ten Tournament, they might still have an outside shot at a No. 1 seed.

Moving down the bracket, the bubble is a headache waiting to happen. Actually, it’s a headache happening right now, as I type this. I haven’t changed the teams at the bottom of my bracket very much lately, because I still feel firm in the best at-large resumes and nothing lately has really changed anything.

If you want an example of how crazy it is around the bubble cut line, look at Arizona State.  A week after beating Arizona, the Sun Devils were blown out by Utah on Sunday night. Yet, I still have the Sun Devils as a No. 8 seed. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, which may have the worst profile of any consensus top 30 team in history, continues to slide after a bad loss to Florida State. Seeding the Panthers is a  huge guessing game right now. Will the committee seed them based on their profile, which clearly makes Jamie Dixon’s team one of the last teams in or out of the field, or based on the way most observers view the team (not including this one): As a Top 25 team that has had a few bad breaks, like the last second Syracuse buzzer-beater? I’m guessing it will be somewhere in the middle right now.

The complete bracket is after the jump:

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ACC M5: 02.24.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 24th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. WRAL Sports Fan: What a game. Before we even get to the controversial call, Syracuse and Duke on Saturday night was another evenly-matched contest in one of the best atmospheres of the season. One thing that is lost in the early season tournaments that are increasingly drawing better lineups is the raucous home environments. Moving forward, I thought the call should have been a block (especially under the new rules), but it was a closer decision than many gave it credit for. To me Rodney Hood was set (his feat “shuffled,” but didn’t go anywhere), but he never quite got squared up with CJ Fair. A tough 50/50 call was bound to go against the Orange late there, but it’s unfortunate that it somewhat overshadowed a second terrific game. So with that said, let me second Adam Gold in saying that the ACC has to find a way to make this happen twice a year (and go ahead and queue up the same piece with North Carolina and Louisville for next season).
  2. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Oh, and there was Jim Boeheim‘s rant that resulted in his ejection. It was epic. It was a perfect “10” in photoshop-ability. He also embraced it after the game, saying “I thought I got out there pretty good. I was quick; I stayed down; I didn’t get injured.” It was Boeheim’s first ejection in a non-preseason game, and to be clear, I don’t blame him for losing it. I don’t think he was “making a point” to the league or its officials, but I also don’t think the two techs cost his team the game either. Long story short: enjoy the meme.
  3. Sports Illustrated: Lastly, here’s a good preview from Pete Thamel that looked at the relationship between Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim. Other than their penchant for salty press conferences, age, and  significant figures in the wins column, there aren’t all that many similarities between Coach K and Boeheim. But their differences also probably help each other somewhat. Boeheim pointed to Krzyzewski’s ability to teach mental preparation. My guess is that Krzyzewski has learned some things beyond the intricacies of the 2-3 zone from Boeheim too.
  4. Washington Post: It’s always a treat when John Feinstein writes on the ACC. This time, he writes about Virginia and the 180 that the team did after Tennessee took them behind a woodshed in Knoxville. The Cavaliers now sit in control of their own destiny in sole possession of first place in the ACC. Likely favored to win the (increasingly unbalanced) ACC regular season title, they will almost certainly get a double-bye in next month’s ACC Tournament. The one big test remaining for Tony Bennett’s team — Syracuse at home — will also be a chance to confirm to the Selection Committee that this team is as good as its record.
  5. Tomahawk Nation: Leonard Hamilton‘s team has revived its NCAA chances with a win at Pittsburgh yesterday. Meanwhile, the Panthers likely earned themselves a very uncomfortable position on the bubble. One surprise is how much success that ACC teams are having at Pittsburgh this season, a school known for its great home-court advantage. Part of that may be that this team has over-performed against mediocre and poor teams. Regardless, we should have plenty to talk about with the NCAA Tournament bubble in this league during the last couple of weeks of conference play.
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ACC Weekend Preview #8

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 21st, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 19, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday – Syracuse (25-1, 12-1 ACC) @ Duke (21-6, 10-4 ACC) – ESPN (7:00 PM)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski's Teams Played a Classic Three Weeks Ago. (Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski’s Teams Played a Classic Three Weeks Ago.
(Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#5) Duke 70-65 (#9) Syracuse

Syr-Du

A little of the shine came off this weekend’s national spotlight game, when Syracuse suffered its first defeat of the season Wednesday night, and then Duke stumbled Thursday night in Chapel Hill. It wasn’t surprising that the Orange finally lost one, given all the narrow victories they’ve had lately, but it is shocking that the culprit was Boston College, and also that the loss happened in the Carrier Dome. The fact that average teams keep taking Syracuse to the wire is probably of bigger concern right now. It’s quite possible that this depth-shy Syracuse team is starting to wear down a bit. Even though they play a zone defense which uses less energy than man-to-man, the heavy minutes played may be affecting the Orange’s starters. In ACC play, Syracuse has four players logging over 35 minutes per game. Duke also looked like a tired team Thursday. The Blue Devils’ normally high powered offense had no juice in the second half of that game, going a stretch of almost nine minutes without a field goal. Much of the credit should go to North Carolina’s defense and the outstanding Smith Center crowd, but when Duke did get an open look, they usually came up short -probably due to tired legs. So, we should not expect either team to repeat the offensive display from the first meeting, when each scored at an astounding rate – both over 1.30 points per possession. With their fourth game in eight days, the Blue Devils may have to depend on the Cameron Crazies and a bunch of minutes from the bench, to get over the energy hump.

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North Carolina Streaking With Six Wins in a Row

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 16th, 2014

North Carolina continued its climb up the ACC standings, bursting into fourth place with a 75-71 win over Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige led the way as the Tar Heels held a lead for the entire second half and withstood a furious Panthers’ rally in the closing minutes. For North Carolina, which started ACC play with three straight losses, this wasn’t just its sixth consecutive victory, but it’s probably the best win of the Heels’ recent streak. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, continues to tumble in the opposite direction, losing four of their last six games after starting conference play 6-1.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Was On Fire - Making 5 Threes Versus Pittsburgh. (Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Was On Fire, Making 5 Threes Versus Pittsburgh.
(Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

Pittsburgh got off to a good start in the first half, leading 18-11 after nine minutes of play. The Tar Heels began to chip away at the lead, finally catching and passing the Panthers late to take a 35-31 lead into the locker room. North Carolina didn’t shoot well in the first stanza (40.6%) but the Heels collected nine offensive rebounds and attacked the basket well enough to put Pittsburgh in foul trouble. In fact, three Pittsburgh starters including star Lamar Patterson, played fewer than 10 first half minutes due to early foul difficulties, and Jamie Dixon was forced as a result to switch to zone defense for long stretches. North Carolina’s underrated defense forced 10 first half turnovers and held Pittsburgh to only 0.89 points per possession.

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The RTC Podblast: Mock NCAA Selection Committee Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 14th, 2014

It’s Friday, it’s Valentine’s Day, and that means it’s time for another tearjerking edition of the RTC Podblast. As we head into a holiday weekend (bookended!) and the countdown of only four weeks until Selection Sunday, the guys are ready to focus on the selection of the field for the 2014 NCAA Tournament. To help us with that task, FoxSports.com‘s Reid Forgrave (@reidforgrave) joined us for this week’s Rush the Takes, as he is currently participating in the NCAA’s mock selection committee exercise in Indianapolis. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts, and some of the revelations from Forgrave on how teams like Pittsburgh and Wichita State are being evaluated is certainly interesting.

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast/podblast on iTunes so that you’ll get all of the episodes immediately downloaded to your listening device.

  • 0:00-8:22 – Syracuse Continues To Prove Themselves
  • 8:22-12:55 – Pitt Continues to Drop Chances
  • 12:55-14:38 – The Surprising Postponement of Duke-UNC
  • 14:38-15:45 – Quick Takes on Tuesday Action
  • 15:45-29:28 – Rush The Takes With Reid Forgrave
  • 29:28-37:00 – Weekend Preview
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ACC Weekend Preview #7

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 14th, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 12, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features four games that involve the top eight teams in the standings.

Saturday – Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4 ACC) @ North Carolina (16-7, 6-4 ACC) – CBS (1:00 PM)

Roy Williams Has The Tar Heels Pointed In The Right Direction. (Photo: USAToday.com)

Roy Williams Has The Tar Heels Pointed In The Right Direction.
(Photo: USAToday.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#27) North Carolina 69-68 (#15) Pittsburgh

Pit-NC

Pittsburgh is coming off that emotionally crushing last second loss to Syracuse on Tyler Ennis’s 35 footer Wednesday night, making the Panthers o-for-4 in games against the top three teams in the league. With no more opportunities for a huge signature win, this game on the road against the red-hot Tar Heels looks like Pittsburgh’s last chance for a regular season win that may impress the NCAA Selection Committee. The Syracuse game was the second time the Panthers lost at home on a last second three pointer, with the other delivered by Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon. But don’t feel too sorry for Pittsburgh – they also have two overtime wins over ACC bottom dwellers Miami and Virginia Tech. Not only has North Caroliona won five straight conference games, but they have been impressive doing so, winning all by double digits. The Tar Heels have even begun to show improvement from the free throw line. They have only bested the 73 percent mark in four games all season, but three of those have been in their last four outings. With Wednesday’s weather related cancellation of the Duke game, North Carolina should be the fresher team physically for sure. But the current mental state of the Pittsburgh team is what may swing the game in the direction of the Tar Heels. After Wednesday’s major disappointment, the toughness and resiliency of the Panthers will be tested.

Stat Watch. Tempo will be very important in this one, with Pittsburgh (61 possessions per game) preferring a slower pace and North Carolina (67 PPG) wanting to speed things up. North Carolina hopes that being the fresher team shows up on the boards, where both teams normally excel. If Pittsburgh loses that battle, it will be awfully hard to see them winning, unless they have an unusually good shooting performance against the stout Tar Heel defense.

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