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February 9, 2007
Best matchup: Virginia backcourt vs. Virginia Tech backcourt: Virginia's Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds are playing better than any backcourt duo in the nation. Then again, Virginia Tech fans might argue that Singletary and Reynolds aren't even the best guards in the Commonwealth. Just a few weeks ago, Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon were winning praise for the Hokies' fast start in conference play. Saturday's Virginia-Virginia Tech game should depend on which team gets better performances from its standout guards.
Worst matchup: Virginia vs. Longwood: Poor Longwood. The Lancers have struggled through an 8-18 season as they continue their transition to Division I. They're coming off an 18-point loss to Florida Atlantic. Now they have to play one of the nation's hottest teams on the road Tuesday. This one could get ugly.
The pressure is on: Duke: The Blue Devils are stuck in the middle of the ACC standings with a 5-5 conference record after losing three consecutive games by a combined total of nine points. Now they must go on the road for games with Maryland and Boston College. If they don't win at least one of those games, the Devils could have a tough time earning their 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Upset alert: Connecticut vs. Georgia Tech at the Georgia Dome: Georgia Tech's freshman-laden lineup fares much better in front of a friendly crowd, but playing at the cavernous Georgia Dome on Sunday could remove much of the home-court advantage the Yellow Jackets typically enjoy at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Connecticut has won two in a row to reassert itself and could pull off a mild surprise in a game both teams must win to have any chance of earning an NCAA at-large bid.
Who's hot: Boston College forward Jared Dudley has shot 80.6 percent (29 of 36) while averaging 29 points and 10 rebounds per game during the Eagles' three-game winning streak. ? Boston College guard Tyrese Rice has 32 assists and eight turnovers in his last five games. ? Georgia Tech guard Javaris Crittenton has averaged 23.5 points and 6.5 assists during the Yellow Jackets' two-game winning streak. ? Virginia guards J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary have combined to average 43 points per game during the Cavaliers' seven-game winning streak. ? North Carolina forward Brandan Wright is shooting 65.1 percent (41 of 63) over his last seven games. ? North Carolina guard Ty Lawson is averaging 16.4 points and 5.4 assists in his last five games. Lawson has shot better than 50 percent in each of those games.
Who's not: North Carolina State forward Brandon Costner has shot 32.7 percent (17 of 52) in his last five games. ? Virginia Tech guard Jamon Gordon has shot 29.4 percent (15 of 51) in his last five games. ? Miami guard Anthony Harris has shot 22.2 percent (4 of 18) overall and 11.1 percent (1 of 9) from 3-point range in his last two games.
Must-see TV: Duke at Maryland (Fox Sports Net, Sunday, 5 p.m.): The Duke-Maryland rivalry has featured plenty of memorable games over the last several years, but rarely have they faced each other in the regular season when both teams had so much at stake. Duke is trying to end a three-game skid that has dropped its ACC record to .500. Maryland can forget about earning an NCAA Tournament at-large bid if it drops this game. Both teams are so desperate for a victory that this game should feature the intensity of a postseason battle.
Key stat: North Carolina freshman forward Brandan Wright owns a field-goal percentage of .643 to lead the ACC. Sam Perkins of North Carolina owns the ACC freshman record with a field-goal percentage of .626 in 1981.
Bench bonus: Virginia reserve forward Adrian Joseph shot 5 of 7 and scored 13 points Tuesday in a 69-65 victory over Maryland. ? Clemson guard K.C. Rivers came off the bench and tallied a team-high 17 points Wednesday in a 71-58 triumph over Florida State. ? Miami guard Jack McClinton has scored in double figures off the bench each of his last four games. Although McClinton hasn't started in the Hurricanes' last five games, he still leads the Hurricanes in points (16.0) and minutes (30.6) per game.
They said it: "We can't get down. If we get down, we're not deserving of winning. You cannot get down about losing, especially in the way we've lost. We've lost three really tough games that we've played winning basketball in. It's different if you have a team that is not playing hard. That's never been the case for these kids.." ? Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on Wednesday after a 79-73 loss to North Carolina.
Injury update: Florida State guard Toney Douglas is out indefinitely after fracturing his right hand Wednesday in a 71-58 loss to Clemson. ... Season-long injury problems caused Miami to dress just seven scholarship players Wednesday for a 75-68 loss to Boston College.
Worth noting: Duke altered its starting lineup for Wednesday's game with North Carolina. The Blue Devils opened the game with Mike Paulus, Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, David McClure and Brian Zoubek. Josh McRoberts and DeMarcus Nelson came off the bench for the first time all season, though both entered the game less than four minutes after the opening tip. ? Duke has lost three in a row for the first time since 1999, though the Blue Devils' last three-game skid spanned two seasons. The Blue Devils lost to Connecticut in the 1999 NCAA final, then dropped their first two games of the 1999-2000 season. ? Virginia's seven-game conference winning streak is its longest since the Cavaliers won 11 league games in a row in 1981-82. That team finished 30-4, falling to Alabama-Birmingham in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. ? Boston College forward Jared Dudley was named the ACC player of the week after averaging 25.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in victories over Hartford and Virginia Tech. ? North Carolina State forward Brandon Costner was named the ACC freshman of the week. Costner averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds per game as the Wolfpack defeated Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
Freshman to watch: Georgia Tech guard Javaris Crittenton. Georgia Tech's fortunes rest on how well their point guard is playing. Crittenton averaged just 7.0 points per game and shot 23.9 percent (11 of 46) during a four-game losing streak that dropped the Yellow Jackets' conference record to 2-6. Crittenton has since averaged 23.5 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 steals per game while shooting 61.5 percent (16 of 26) to help Georgia Tech win twice in a row.
Something you may have missed: Clemson super sub K.C. Rivers ended his slump Wednesday against Florida State in a performance that signaled the Tigers also might regain their early-season form. Clemson got off to a 17-0 start in part because Rivers emerged as the Tigers' leading scorer. Rivers scored in double figures in each of his first 18 games. The sophomore guard then averaged just 7.4 points per game over the Tigers' next five contests, with Clemson going 1-4 during that stretch. Rivers finally regained his footing Wednesday by scoring a team-high 17 points in a 71-58 triumph over the Seminoles.
RPI watch: The ACC entered Thursday as the only conference with eight teams ranked in the top 40 in the RPI. Those seven teams are: No. 2 North Carolina, No. 13 Duke, No. 21 Clemson, No. 22 Florida State, No. 27 Boston College, No. 30 Virginia, No. 36 Virginia Tech and No. 37 Maryland. Georgia Tech was 57th in the RPI as of Thursday.
ACC teams outside the top 100 are: No. 107 North Carolina State, No. 138 Wake Forest and No. 171 Miami.