ACC Tournament Previews: Semifinal Saturday

No. 1 North Carolina (28-4) vs. No. 5 NC State (22-11), 1:00 PM, ESPN/ACC Network/ESPN 3

When Calvin Leslie is as dialed in as he was against Virginia on Friday, there's no chance of stopping him.

Whether John Henson plays or not for North Carolina (he injured his left wrist yesterday), NC State will be a very tough out for the Tar Heels. The Wolfpack has as much momentum as they have had all year long. Their cautious optimism that preceded the first two Carolina games has been replaced by a steady confidence. Guys like senior C.J. Williams have never beaten North Carolina, and this is his last chance. “I haven’t had an opportunity to beat them yet. We need to get this one tomorrow,” Williams said. “I really feel like we’re coming in with a lot of momentum. I think we’re ready to play them toe-to-toe.”

Key to the game: C.J./Calvin Leslie. If Calvin shows up for 40 minutes – heck, even 25 minutes – like he did against Virginia, State might win by double digits. He was dominant on both ends against Virginia, but he could seemingly score at will against a very good Cavalier defense. He made 9-of-11 shots and pulled down 14 rebounds in just 31 minutes, and after picking up two quick fouls in the first half, he didn’t pick up any more. Leslie likely won’t have to face his old nemesis John Henson, but even when Henson did play in the last meeting Leslie had 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting and added 12 rebounds. The only difference was he fouled out in just 29 minutes. He’ll have to stay out of foul trouble, but he certainly proved he could do that yesterday.

Random stat: North Carolina held Maryland to 38.7% shooting on Friday, marking the ninth time in the last 14 games the Tar Heels have held an opponent under 40% shooting. Carolina is 19-0 when doing that this season. NC State has shot 50% or better in four of its last five games.

Prediction: NC State 79, North Carolina 74


No. 2 Duke (27-5) vs. No. 3 Florida State (22-9), 3:00 PM, ESPN/ACC Network/ESPN3

Ian Miller has been much more consistent lately for Florida State.

For a team that supposedly loves this event more than any other, Duke didn’t play very well against Virginia Tech last night. A performance like that against a Florida State team that seems to be playing very well will get the Blue Devils sent home. But it’s hard to imagine Duke playing that badly two games in a row. Still, a win over Duke in this event would be huge for the Florida State program.

Key to the game: Each team’s x factor: Ian Miller and Andre Dawkins. Florida State’s Ian Miller has had some great games this season followed by some no-shows, but head coach Leonard Hamilton clearly trusts him more than ever now as his minutes keep going up. He was the difference against Miami, getting to the basket at will and scoring 18 points in 28 minutes. He hasn’t been much of a factor against Duke in either game this year, but the Blue Devils struggle to defend quick guards.

For Duke’s Andre Dawkins, it’s been literally feast or famine for him in seemingly every game this year. And lately, it’s been a lot of famine. He had 13 points at Boston College on February 19 and then 22 at FSU on February 23, but since, he has three points in four games and has shot 1-of-12 from the floor (1-10 from three). Duke can win without him playing well, but it would be much, much easier if Dawkins could give them consistent production off the bench.

Random stat: The season fittingly ends for Virginia Tech: the Hokies went 12:42 of game time in the second half against Duke with just one field goal.

Prediction: Duke 77, Florida State 71


Last week: 9-3

Season: 139-48 (68-28 ACC) (7-1 ACC Tournament) 


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2 responses to “ACC Tournament Previews: Semifinal Saturday”

  1. David Gallagher says :

    I disagree with your statement about “whether or not” Henson plays. If he does play, which is doubtful, I think he makes a huge difference. UNC, while strong in the front court, is certainly better with Henson, a first-team All ACCer, in the lineup. I think UNC can win whether or not he plays, but I agree that NC State has a much better chance if he does not.

  2. Jordan Rogers says :

    I can’t help but notice in your UNC/NCSU “Keys to the game” that you fail to mention that Richard Howell had recently changed his name to Richard Fowell. Although in hindsight, you would have had a much more accurate prediction.

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