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Aaron Schoonmaker

Repeat epic unlikely, UNC-NC State meet in tourney with more on the line

Posted May 18, 2014

June 16, 2013 - Omaha, Nebraska, United States of America - June 16, 2013: Shortstop Trea Turner #8 of North Carolina State turns a successful double play as North Carolina's Brian Holberton #10 is forced out in action during Game 3 of the 2013 Men's College World Series between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and North Carolina Tarheels at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE. North Carolina State defeated North Carolina 8-1.Michael Spomer/Cal Sport Media (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

— North Carolina and North Carolina State played five times a year ago. A diamond buzz in the Triangle reached a fever pitch in their third meeting, however, in the ACC tournament – even before the teams squared off in Omaha.

Over the course of 18 innings, spanning more than six hours, in front of 11,392 fans at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the Heels and Pack participated in a modern-day epic. The game came to a close just before 2 a.m. and when it was all said and done, UNC walked off the field as 2-1 winners of quite possibly the greatest baseball game ever played in the state, let alone the series’ history.

Fast forward 360 days.

The teams will again meet in the ACC tournament -- this time in Greensboro and this time as underachieving clubs just trying to make pool play in the newly expanded ACC.

NC State, which excited their fanbase before the season started with notions of a ‘parade in Raleigh,’ seemingly did everything they could to miss the ACC tournament. They lost five of their first six conference series’ including getting swept in three straight. At 13-17 in ACC play, the Pack have wandered in as the No. 10 seed.

UNC took the middle-ground approach this year. They were swept at Duke but got a home sweep against lowly Virginia Tech. Every other conference series went 2-1 one way or the other. Those kinds of results left a Tar Heels team with sky-high expectations at 15-15 in conference play and the No. 7 seed.

Now, throw the past three and a half months out the window. Every pitch of every inning of every game is suddenly meaningless. Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. is all that matters to the blue- and red-clad rivals.

Neither is a lock for the NCAA tournament.

NC State, entering the week at No. 59 in the RPI, undoubtedly has more work to do than UNC (47) to earn an at-large bid, making Tuesday a must-win. But UNC is facing just as tough of a task. They are bouncing on the same tourney bubble and could certainly use the win just to be a 3-seed in a tough southern region.

Then comes the question of match-ups. Do the teams bump up their Friday starters to win a play-in game? Do they battle with mid-week starters to keep rhythm and trust their bats?

Personally, I do not think there is room in the NCAA field for both teams, making Tuesday’s game pivotal. And this time, if they play 18 innings, the game should be finishing up right as the 9-to-5ers leave the office.

Blue Devils Dancing?
Duke is the grass-and-dirt version of a conundrum.

At 16-14 in conference play, and with 32 wins on the year, Duke has earned their way to the No. 4 seed in the ACC. Conventional wisdom would say that is an automatic NCAA tourney bid coming from in the nation’s third toughest conference (behind the SEC and Big 12). After all, the ACC typically gets 6-plus teams into the field.

Not so fast.

Because of a lackluster non-conference schedule, the Blue Devils entered last week at No. 84 in the nation in RPI – behind other North Carolina schools UNC, High Point (51), Western Carolina (57), NC State, Campbell (70) and East Carolina (71).

That puts Duke – the fourth best team in the third toughest conference – only seventh best in their own state, according to the RPI.

Simply put, 0-3 in the tourney will not get the Devils into a regional. Two wins are almost certainly needed – preferably over No. 5 Clemson and No. 1 Miami.

How Many Will Get In?
I have seen forecasts that have five ACC teams making the field and I have seen as many as eight.

Entering the final week, seven ACC teams were in the top-50 in the national RPI. All 10 that made the conference tournament field reside in the top-90. That said, let’s look logically.

Virginia, Miami and Florida State are locks – and will all likely host. But that’s just three.

Maryland (31) and Georgia Tech (34) are likely in. All they need is one tourney win, in my opinion. That’s five.

Then the next grouping has Clemson (46), UNC, NC State and Duke. I have to believe that these four teams will battle for two spots at the most. And at best, they will be No. 3 seeds in undesirable regions.

Wake Forest: I’m sorry, you will have to win-out to have a chance.

This leaves me to believe six or seven teams will make the field and one of the Triangle three will be watching.

Tournament Schedule
Hope to see everyone in Greensboro. Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, May 20
Game 1: #7 North Carolina vs. #10 NC State, 11 a.m.
Game 2: #8 Wake Forest vs. #9 Georgia Tech, 3 p.m.

Wednesday, May 21
#4 Duke vs. #5 Clemson, 11 a.m.
#1 Miami vs. Game 2 Winner, 3 p.m.
#2 Florida State vs. Game 1 Winner, 7 p.m.

Thursday, May 22
#3 Virginia vs. #6 Maryland, 11 a.m.
#4 Duke vs. Game 2 Winner, 3 p.m.
#1 Miami vs. #5 Clemson, 7 p.m.

Friday, May 23
#2 Florida State vs. #6 Maryland, 11 a.m.
#5 Clemson vs. Game 2 Winner, 3 p.m.
#3 Virginia vs. Game 1 Winner, 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 24
#1 Miami vs. #4 Duke, 11 a.m.
#6 Maryland vs. Game 1 Winner, 3 p.m.
#2 Florida State vs. #3 Virginia, 7 p.m.

Sunday, May 25
ACC Championship, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)

13 Comments

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  • PackFanUpInHere May 19, 2014

    View quoted thread


    him being a LOCK as a top 5 pick, got ya JEALOUS, tiny???

    #TuckThatEnvyAway,PansyFan

    :)

  • lewiskr45 May 19, 2014

    View quoted thread


    And throws 250+ in those two games, tearing up his elbow even more in the process.

  • baldchip May 19, 2014

    GO PACK!!! Kick …. and take names.

  • Jeanne Gunn May 19, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Thought the same thing, B. Strange season.

  • Tar Heel born and bred May 18, 2014

    Let's not forget what made this matchup possible: UNC was penciled in as the six seed until Clemson, trailing 9-4 in the bottom of the ninth against BC, came back to win 10-9. It just seems these two were destined to meet.

  • Doc Holliday May 18, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Judging from his run support, that ain't happening. In his 7 losses, the 'Pack scored 2 runs total. He can't do it by himself. ERA is rock solid though, 2.01

  • 4tarheels May 18, 2014

    Let's go HEELS!

  • 123skipjack May 18, 2014

    This is easy...Rodon pitches the opening game and wins. Rains for 4 days and he pitches the next game. Same scenario each time and off to the CWS.

  • Doc Holliday May 18, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Yep....with both of 'em making it to the CWS last season and expectations running high at the start of the season, it has definitely been a disappointment for both. Thought both teams would have played better than they have.

  • KT smakt your mother May 18, 2014

    View quoted thread


    You'll be happy when kerliner gets whipped? Odd for you, Sharkeisha, but glad you chose the right side for once.

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