Tough Tar Heels

It was another tough weekend for the ACC bubble teams. NC State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Miami all had chances to help or cement their chances. Only NC State and Georgia Tech helped themselves. The Hokies and Hurricanes both really needed to finish with a bang, but lost golden opportunities.
Virginia Tech came out flat in Raleigh and got blasted by the Wolfpack. On the flip side, the win was just what NC State needed; their loss earlier in the week to UNC didn’t so much hurt them as it cost them an opportunity to make a statement. The win over the Gobblers helps, but I think State will still need to either steal one against Wake next weekend or make a deep run in the ACC Tournament. Of course, a win in Charlottesville on Wednesday is a must (but not a gimmie).
For the Hokies, I think the loss puts them in a situation where they’ll need to win a few tourney games. They have to go to Clemson and have Maryland at home. A sweep would put them at 9-7, but their RPI would still be terrible. Like I’ve said, they are a team that the committee is going to be arguing about for a while (unless they lose both).


Georgia Tech traveled down to South Beach and got a critical road win. The loss kept them solidly on the high side of the bubble, and effectively knocked Miami off it. The Canes have only one game left – at Duke. Yes, they could make quite a statement by winning in Cameron, but come on. Ain’t happening. They’re NIT bound unless they can get to the ACC finals.
Wake Forest whacked Virginia in a game that really had little suspense. It got chippy at times, with Elton Brown smacking Chris Paul to the ground with an elbow to the back after the whistle. The refs said nothing about it, but Dan Bonner (a UVA alumnus) went ballistic, saying Brown should have been ejected. I think Bonner was overreacting (he probably has the same irrational hatred of Brown that many UVA fans have), but the game did get rough after that. A few minutes later, in a play unlike any I’ve seen before, Erick Strickland got trapped just behind the backboard by two Cavaliers. He didn’t have a good enough angle to shoot and was close to a five second call. He wasn’t falling out of bounds, but he used the old playground ploy of throwing the ball off the defender. He went Randy Johnson right to Jason Cain’s groin. The play worked, as the ball screamed out of bounds off of Cain’s nuts, but it was pretty surprising that it didn’t result in some punches. Otherwise, the game was pretty meaningless.
The two most interesting games of the weekend were Duke at St. Johns and Carolina at Maryland. St. Johns is no power, but the Big East has had a strange domination over the ACC this year. The Johnnies themselves have beaten two ACC teams, NC State and Virginia Tech. Duke played by far their worst game of the year, but still managed a close, ugly win. It really was a poor offensive performance by the Blue Devils, but I’m not going to jump to any conclusions and say it was a precursor to an early NCAA flameout.
In contrast to that stinker in Madison Square Garden, the UNC at Maryland game was great, great stuff. It might have been the best conference game I’ve seen all year. Maryland fans are no doubt upset at the outcome, but they have to be happy with the way their team played. The Heels were running and gunning, with Sean May dominating inside, but they couldn’t put the Terps away. The lead would get to 10 and then dwindle to 2 – grow to 8 and dwindle to 1. Maryland actually managed a one point lead late and had it tied with under two minutes, but couldn’t quite pull off the upset. It wasn’t a loss that hurt Maryland in the computer rankings, but a win would have helped a ton.
For both teams though, the game showed great things. If Maryland can bottle that effort (and they can’t) they could have a late-year run like last year. For the Heels, it was the first time all year that I’ve seen some toughness and spunk in a close game. In fairness, it was only their second close game of the year, but still they looked good and they didn’t even have Rashad McCants. If the Heels can keep up that poise and effort, they’ll breeze to the Final Four.
And now on to my computer ratings table. You’ll see that it’s pretty similar to last week. The big three didn’t do much except that Duke moved a bit closer to a #1 seed. That’s kind of irrelevant right now though, since they still have to play in Chapel Hill. Lose that game and they’ll get a #2.
Of the bubble teams, as I mentioned, Maryland did themselves the most harm. They dropped about seven spots, but are still in pretty solid shape. They can’t afford any more slips though. A loss at Virginia Tech would put them in a dicey situation.
Georgia Tech held serve for the week, sliding up slightly. Like Maryland, they can’t really afford to slip too much. They travel to Wake and host Clemson this week. Split those games and they are in.
NC State also stayed about where they were, which isn’t too good for them. They need to move up. They have to win in Charlottesville, and they probably need to beat Wake Forest also. If they lose to Wake, I’d say they need at least one ACC tournament win to get in.
Everyone else is out right now. Virginia Tech could still play their way in, as I said above. They need to beat both Clemson and Maryland to be in the conversation. I think a 9-7 conference record would be their best counter-argument for the computer ratings which don’t favor them.
Ratings as of 2/28/2005:

Team prev/cur Pomeroy Sagarin Greenfield RPI

Avg.

Trend
Carolina (24-3, 12-2) prev 71.44 (2) 95.18 (1) 96.334 (2) .6480 (8)

3.25

up
cur 71.31 (2) 96.02 (1) 97.012 (2) .6521 (7)

3

Wake Forest (24-4, 11-3) prev 67.66 (4) 92.54 (4) 94.341 (3) .6694 (2)

3.25

down
cur 67.79 (3) 92.50 (4) 94.669 (3) .6561 (4)

3.5

Duke (21-4, 11-4) prev 66.71 (6) 92.47 (5) 92.272 (7) .6555 (6)

6

up
cur 66.87 (4) 92.87 (3) 92.861 (5) .6513 (8)

5

Georgia Tech (16-9, 7-7) prev 60.42 (28) 85.72 (24) 85.554 (30) .5777 (43)

31.25

up
cur 60.39 (26) 85.51 (24) 85.922 (29) .5760 (43)

30.5

Maryland (16-10, 7-8) prev 60.35 (31) 85.62 (25) 86.275 (28) .6034 (22)

26.5

down
cur 59.75 (32) 84.61 (27) 85.040 (35) .5798 (38)

33

NC State (16-11, 6-8) prev 59.50 (37) 83.03 (39) 83.867 (48) .5513 (82)

51.5

up
cur 59.75 (33) 83.24 (37) 84.012 (45) .5452 (89)

51

Miami (16-10, 7-8) prev 55.55 (80) 81.88 (51) 82.611 (59) .5681 (53)

60.75

side
cur 56.14 (72) 81.88 (51) 82.749 (58) .5605 (62)

60.75

Clemson (14-13, 4-10) prev 56.70 (68) 80.18 (71) 80.712 (85) .5371 (95)

79.75

up
cur 57.40 (55) 80.82 (66) 81.736 (67) .5385 (100)

72

Virginia (13-12, 4-10) prev 54.73 (91) 80.44 (67) 81.907 (65) .5666 (57)

70

down
cur 54.37 (94) 79.85 (72) 81.648 (69) .5621 (59)

73.5

VA Tech (14-11, 7-7) prev 55.19 (87) 79.35 (79) 81.762 (68) .5349 (100)

83.5

down
cur 54.52 (92) 78.71 (89) 81.340 (75) .5277 (117)

93.25

FSU (11-17, 3-11) prev 55.71 (76) 78.46 (93) 79.586 (97) .5183 (135)

100.25

down
cur 54.67 (90) 77.28 (106) 78.676 (112) .5087 (150)

114.5

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