Its Carolina - Duke (or Duke - Carolina); its Tobacco Road; its #2 vs #3; its also the return of Dick Vitale to college basketball. I really liked North Carolina in this game until Ty Lawson got hurt. The Tar Heel point guard was wearing a walking boot on Monday and said the injury was "bad" after the FSU game on Sunday. Carolina's offense is largely predicated on two things: Tyler Hansbrough scoring inside and the speed of their fast break and secondary break (led by Lawson). This loss is magnified because of the earlier loss of backup PG Bobby Frasor for the year. This means senior Quentin Thomas will be handling the PG duties with Marcus Ginyard spelling him. Thomas has not done much really in his first three years, but has played fairly well against Duke in his career.
Everyone says the way to hurt Duke is inside, which would seem like a big advantage for the Heels with Hansbrough. I think North Carolina needs to match Duke's outside shooting ability and keep the game flow fast. Roy Williams has more depth than Mike Kryzewski even with Lawson's injury and a high scoring game fits North Carolina's style. Despite all of the clamor about Duke running the Phoenix Suns' offense they still depend on 3's to get their points in bunches, not fast breaks. I think the injury to Lawson may be too much for the Heels to overcome considering how well he has run their offense this year. Oddsmakers have North Carolina as the favorite, but I like Duke in a barn burner by 3-7 points.
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Georgia Tech played Maryland at home last Saturday like the Yellow Jackets play most road teams - they let the other team get out to an early double-digit lead and then fought their way back only to come up short at the end. Paul Hewitt's team goes back on the road where they have won their last two, but Winston-Salem has not been kind to the Jackets. Wake Forest is 12-0 at home this year and are playing great defense there allowing opponents just 40% shooting from the field. I think for Georgia Tech to win they have to get out to a good start and ride the back of Matt Causey. Wake will this one at home with good defense and taking care of the ball on offense.
Prediction: Wake Forest
Both teams come in struggling in ACC as of late - FSU has lost their last 3, Miami their last 2 and the two are a combined 4-11 in conference play. The Hurricanes hold a clear advantage on the glass averaging 6 more rebounds per game than the Seminoles, but the Noles average about 3 more steals per game largely due to their athletic backcourt. On talent, FSU should win this game, but Leonard Hamilton is still searching for his first NCAA bid in Tallahassee. Miami has played pretty well at home losing only to North Carolina in ACC play. I like Miami by 4-8 points.
The Tigers have been a tough team to figure out. It is very evident that they play much better at home than on the road like most good, but not great teams. Virginia has really struggled this year, definitely more than I thought. They led rival Virginia Tech for most of the game last weekend, but were overtaken in OT. The Cavaliers are still searching for a reliable second scoring option behind Sean Singletary. I like Clemson's offensive balance with the inside play of James Mays and Trevor Booker combined with KC Rivers and Terrence Ogelsby on the outside. Clemson will win this one of the road by 2-7 points.
Season: 34-7 (83%)
ACC: 16-4 (80%)