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February 25, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

A Three-Horse Race

With just under two weeks remaining in the regular season, No. 13 Wake Forest leads No. 9 Duke and No. 14 Maryland by half a game. Last week did nothing but jumble the top of the standings with all three teams jockeying to reach the winner’s circle.

Last Monday, the Terrapins and Demon Deacons played their snow-delayed game, negating the need for a showdown only days before the conference tournament in March. Instead, over 14,000 determined fans broke out their snowshoes to fill Maryland’s Comcast Center to wreak havoc on the visiting team.

Maryland dominated Wake Forest from start to finish, blowing out the Deacons 90-67. Maryland out-shot Wake 50 percent to 35 percent from the field. The Terps out-rebounded the Deacons 40-20, which is an amazing feat considering Wake is leading the ACC and nation in rebounding margin. Maryland does not receive enough credit for its rebounding prowess; it is second in the ACC behind Wake in rebounds per game.

Senior forward Ryan Randle led the charge to the glass by grabbing thirteen rebounds. He contributed thirteen points as well. Senior guard Steve Blake has been turning up his scoring recently and led the Terps with 21 points. As a team, Maryland sank 90 percent of its free throw attempts, which is crucial for a team to be able to do come March.

The combination of senior leadership, strong rebounding, interior scoring, a solid point guard and good depth makes Maryland worthy of a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But it doesn’t add up to a victory at Duke.

The Terps traveled south last week to attempt to sweep Duke. They beat Duke 87-72 at the Comcast Center on Jan. 18. But no such luck in Durham. Playing just two days after swarming Wake Forest, Maryland could not muster another victory over the ACC’s elite. Duke outlasted the Terps 75-70.

Duke’s freshman forward Shelden Williams played huge for the Blue Devils by grabbing eleven rebounds, which helped Duke out-rebound the aforementioned second-place ACC rebounding team. Senior guard Dahntay Jones filled his role as lead scorer by racking up 21 points to lead all scores.

Maryland played close, but could not hit the crucial shots when they were absolutely necessary. And Duke proved it will not let the ACC regular season title go uncontested. Duke and Maryland each have three conference games remaining, while Wake Forest has four games left. The Blue Devils and Terps must hope that Wake Forest slips up in one of those games, allowing for a chance to steal the division title.

Bubble Trouble

The Virginia Cavaliers had an absolutely devastating week. They lost at home to Clemson, 73-64. That’s a season sweep for the Tigers against the Cavaliers. Then the Cavaliers traveled to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest Sunday and lost 75-71. So Virginia is in the midst of a four-game losing streak with four games remaining.

Remember that the selection committee is willing to drop a major conference squad that finishes below .500 in conference play in favor of a mid-major team that tears apart its conference competition. So Virginia really needs to win at Florida State and hold down home court against Georgia Tech and Maryland to finish 8-8.

But at least Virginia isn’t in North Carolina’s predicament. The Tar Heels dropped another ACC game at Maryland last week to fall to 4-8 in conference play. To reach 8-8, the Tar Heels must win at Wake Forest and defeat NC State, Georgia Tech and Duke in Chapel Hill. At least three of those four games are in Chapel Hill, but that’s a tall order of business for a team that just is not playing well. Freshman forward Sean May potentially will not return before the end of the regular season because his broken foot is being tenderly nursed back to health.

Clemson Jumps Into The Mix

Clemson senior guard Edward Scott single-handedly carried the Tigers back into the middle of the ACC pack. In the Tigers win at Virginia, Scott dropped 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a fantastic performance. His encore was a 29 point, six assist performance in a 74-60 win at home against Florida State. With a pair of Scott-inspired victories, Clemson now sits at 5-7 in the ACC, tied with Georgia Tech for fifth place. Clemson finishes with three out of four games on the road against Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech while hosting NC State in between.

ACC Player of the Week:

Clemson’s Edward Scott easily captures the award after two sensational games last week that propelled the Tigers to two victories. Scott averaged 30.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5 assists in two wins over Virginia and Florida State.

ACC Rookie of the Week:

Georgia Tech guard Jarrett Jack submitted the best rookie performance last week, scoring nineteen points while dishing out eight assists in the Yellow Jackets’ loss to Wake Forest. Jack has played very well lately, scoring in double figures in six of the last seven games while still placing near the top of the ACC pack in assists.

ACC Coaches’ Clipboard:

It’s do or die time for Virginia and North Carolina. The Cavs’ Pete Gillen and the Tar Heels’ Matt Doherty must find the winning formula now because neither team can afford to lose a single ACC game the rest of the way. Good luck!

ACC Game of the Week:

NC State hosts No. 14 Maryland in the week’s matchup most likely to influence the standings at the top. If NC State wants to make a late run toward the conference title, it must beat the Terrapins in Raleigh.

Other Great Games This Week:

Tuesday: North Carolina vs. NC State
Wednesday: Georgia Tech vs. Duke
Saturday: No. 13 Wake Forest vs. Clemson
Sunday: No. 9 Duke at St. John’s

     

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