ACC semifinal Friday features Duke-UNC Pt. 3
Posted March 10
In this storied rivalry between Duke and North Carolina, the Tar Heels are riding a 20-year, five game ACC Tournament losing streak against their cross-town foe. North Carolina hasn't beaten Duke in the ACC Tournament since 1998, and the Tar Heels haven't won both the final game of the year against Duke and the postseason meeting since 1972. I guess it's difficult to beat a team twice in a week or something; more often than not, the team that wins that final regular-season meeting has lost the ACC Tournament one. But either way, it'll be interesting to see that theory put to the test.
Oh, and in the other semifinal, we have a super sexy affair happening as Florida State and Notre Dame tangle for a third time.
This should be fun, everyone. Buckle up.
NO. 14 DUKE (25-8, 11-7) VS. NO. 8 NORTH CAROLINA (27-6, 14-4)
Time: 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: WRAL-TV and 99.9 FM The Fan
The formula didn't get any different for these two teams in the less-than-a-week span since their last game. Duke is still a team that needs to either make three-pointers or get to the foul line. North Carolina is still a team that needs to get offensive rebounds and make three-pointers as well. Although sneakily, North Carolina hasn't rebounded that well lately while on offense. They have four of their 10 lowest percentage performances in the last eight games (including two of the nine lowest against Duke, it's worth pointing out). Carolina didn't need to get offensive boards against Miami, but they still rebounded just a third of their misses, their third-lowest percentage in a win this season.
But Mike Krzyzewski perhaps said it best after the last meeting: both of these games have been competitive and close and have come down to a few plays here or there and which team can make them.
I don't know why this game would be any different. I know it's Duke's third game in three days, but as Rick Pitino inferred, Duke's players are in good shape and should be able to power through, on adrenaline if nothing else. Adrenaline and energy certainly pushed Duke past Louisville Thursday, and Louisville fueled that by their own mistakes and hubris. North Carolina made mistakes in the first meeting that they lost, but the Tar Heels were much steadier in the rematch at home. They could still play a good game and lose to Duke, of course, but they can't hep the Blue Devils out with mistakes and a lack of poise.
Jayson Tatum. The freshman is arguably the most obvious NBA star on Duke's team right now, the beautiful and well-rounded game of Luke Kennard aside. When he's on, he can do things on offense that other players just can't guard, especially on this level. And he seems to be getting more and more confident. In the ACC Tournament alone, he's averaging 22.5 points on 16-of-30 shooting (just 2 of 9 from three, but 14 of 21 from two). In the last meeting with North Carolina, he was more or less a non-factor, finishing with 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting and playing just 30 minutes, his fewest since Duke's win at Wake Forest on Jan. 28. But in the first meeting with UNC, he was a huge factor, particularly in the second half as he finished with 19 points on 5-of-14 shooting and nine rebounds. He could be the difference in this game one way or the other. He struggled from two-point range against UNC last time, but the Tar Heels would still probably prefer to see him shooting jumpers than attacking the basket.
HERE'S A GUY
Isaiah Hicks. He's not the best player on North Carolina's team, but as we're into the postseason, he may be the most important. When he plays well (or plays at all, hello foul trouble!) he turns North Carolina from a good team into a great one. He sneakily had the seventh-best offensive efficiency rating in ACC games, but he played just over half of UNC's available minutes because of fouls. He still hasn't played over 30 minutes in a game since suffering that hamstring injury that kept him out of the first Duke-Carolina meeting this year (a game that the Tar Heels lost). In the second meeting, he was a revelation, scoring 21 points (his most since Jan. 14) on 7-of-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds and just two fouls. In fact, in the last two games, he's picked up three fouls TOTAL after getting at least three fouls in the five games immediately following his return from the hamstring injury. If he stays on the court, he's always going to give Carolina a great chance. Period.
Duke Win: Oh yay Duke won. They have their fourth game in four days headed into the postseason like the Big Tournament. Wait is this even good?
North Carolina Win:
North Carolina Loss:
North Carolina, 84-77. Much like Notre Dame against Virginia, Carolina in that third game against Duke might be due.
NO. 22 NOTRE DAME (24-8, 12-6) VS. NO. 16 FLORIDA STATE (25-7, 12-6)
Time: 9:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: WRAL-TV and 99.9 FM The Fan
These two teams split their season series home and away, and both were great games – for a little while. Notre Dame ended up pulling away from Florida State at home for an easy win, but in Tallahassee, Notre Dame was one of the few ACC teams able to keep it within single digits. That's probably because they were 15 of 21 from three (71.4 percent). Interestingly enough, they were just 7 of 22 from three in the rematch that they won handily, and they were just 5 of 17 from three in last night's quarterfinal win over Virginia. So maybe Notre Dame's formula should be to actual NOT hit threes. Hmm. Okay, not really. But I would suggest the Irish take good care of the basketball, as Florida State will seek to force turnovers and disrupt Notre Dame into making bad decisions. FSU can make their lives difficult with their size inside, but the Seminoles are going to have to do that without fouling and make good decisions on offense, too. This game really should be fun.
Notre Dame Win:
Notre Dame Loss:
Florida State Win:
Florida State Loss:
Notre Dame, 83-79. I just see the Irish having a bit of an edge in the poise/experience department.
Overall: 112-53 (96-44 ACC)
Last week: 11-3