People who don't live the ACC sometimes don't realize just how cutthroat this
league is. But consider: the conference has Duke, Wake, Tech, and
UNC ranked. Of those, Wake is on a four-game losing streak, Tech is in 3rd
place with two road losses, and UNC is tied with Wake for fifth, but Wake gets
the tiebreaker on account of their sensational win over UNC, which must seem
like a hundred years ago now.
|Wed||1/28/04||NC State||@||UNC||7:00 PM||ESPN|
|Thu||1/29/04||Maryland||@||Wake Forest||7:00 PM||espn2|
|Sat||1/31/04||Virginia||@||Wake Forest||2:30 PM||RJ|
|Sun||2/1/04||Savannah St.||@||FSU||2:00 PM||get real|
|Sun||2/1/04||NC State||@||Maryland||2:00 PM||FSN|
Virginia and Clemson are already reduced to spoilers.
This week's games will likely be no exception, and some will be absolutely critical. Right now, everyone except Clemson and Virginia have legitimate
NCAA hopes, but taking seven would be unprecedented. As for Sunday's
games, Wake could have made life easier by beating FSU, of course, but
that didn't happen. And while it wasn't pretty, Maryland
did win at Clemson.
Take a look at what's coming: Tech probably has nothing to worry about
with Clemson, but on Wednesday, it's State and UNC. State could go to 5-1
in the ACC, giving them a big cushion for Sendek's traditional late-season
meandering. If UNC wins, they go to a tie for fourth place with FSU.
Lose, and they fall to a tie with UVa for eighth place.
Florida State comes to Durham on Thursday with some nice scalps under their
belt and room for one more. For Duke, it wouldn't be a crippling loss, but
for FSU, it might be their ticket to the NCAAs. If they beat three Top 10
teams, they could go .500 the rest of the way and make it. So for the 'Noles,
this is their tournament bid. Devils, beware!
The UNC-Clemson game, following the State game, has interesting implications.
If UNC wins both games, then they move to 4-3 in the conference and potentially
as high as fourth place. If they lose both, though, they end up in eighth
place and their season is in big trouble.
In our judgment, Maryland is improving as fast as anyone in the ACC, and
that's bad news for Wake, who is not. If Maryland wins, they move to .500
in the ACC, and Wake goes to 2-4. If Wake wins, the same records occur in
reverse. Whoever loses starts to feel tournament pressure, because 2-4 is
not a good recommendation. Fortunately for Wake, though, they follow
Maryland with UVa. Win both, and they are back in play at 4-3. Lose both,
and start looking for hotels in New York. They could deal with a
split. But UVa is sitting at 12-5 and 2-4 - hardly a disgrace. The
pressure on them to win this game will be enormous.
On Saturday, Duke and Tech play. If Duke comes in at 6-0, and we fully
expect Tech to beat Clemson and come in at 4-2, Tech could be playing for a
share of second place. If they beat Duke and UConn, they'll get a really
decent seed, too.
Finally, on Sunday State visits Maryland. If they beat UNC, they'll go
in at 5-1, as mentioned earlier. 6-1 would be huge. But if they come
out of the week at 4-3, and 11-6, things just got dicey.
With the exception of Duke and Clemson - and if Duke loses both games, you
could add Duke to the list - this weekend is critical for almost
everybody. Expect to see a lot of heroics and a lot of hearttbreak between
now and the Super Bowl. This should be one of the best weeks of the