This past week in the ACC was all about the bounce back, particularly at the top of the conference standings. The Duke Blue Devils, coming off a lossat home to the Miami Hurricanes that dropped them a game behind co-leaders North Carolina and Florida State, needed to regroup prior to facing the Tar Heels at the Smith Center last Wednesday night. With Austin Rivers hitting the shot heard ’round the country, Duke did bounce back, pulling itself back into a tie for first. They then followed that performance with a solid effort in defeating Maryland, keeping them in the running for the #1 spot.
Rivers’ shot not only was good for the Blue Devils; it helped the Seminoles as well. The same night that Duke roared back and snatched a victory away from the Tar Heels, the Seminoles were getting drilled in Chestnut Hill by a barrage of three-point baskets. The Boston College Eagles haven’t done a whole lot this conference season, but the young team performed the improbable in upsetting the Seminoles, in a game that temporarily dropped them from the conference lead. After Duke’s win, Florida State regained its hold on first place; holding a tie-breaker over both North Carolina and Duke. The ‘Noles then had a bounce back game of their own, defeating the Hurricanes 64-59 and snapping Miami’s five-game winning streak.
As for the Tar Heels, one can only imagine how heartbreaking it was to be leading your rivals by double digits throughout the second half, only to see it drift away in lost possesions, some dumb luck, and a killer buzzer-beating shot. Naturally, when the Tar Heels faced Virginia this past Saturday, the question was could the Heels come back from such a devastating defeat. Consider the question answered, as the Heels routed Virginia. Tyler Zeller, who had a terrible final two minutes after dominating much of the game against Duke, roared back with yet another solid performance against the Cavaliers, scoring twenty-five points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Looking ahead, Virginia looks to be on a downward slide after losing two straight to North Carolina and Clemson. The Cavaliers look to right the ship against Maryland on Saturday in a game that the Cavaliers need to win to avoid going to .500 in conference play. The Terrapins have yet to beat a team with a winning conference record; and the task against the Cavaliers gets harder with the loss of Pe’Shon Howard for the year. Teams will key on Terrell Stoglin, the conference’s leading scorer and see someone else can step up. North Carolina State, now sitting in fourth place in conference play faces a huge week-facing Duke at Cameron Indoor on Thursday night before hosting the Seminoles on Saturday. Winning either one of those two games would give the NCAA tournament profile a huge boost. The Hurricanes can get a big win of their own tonight, if they can defeat the Tar Heels at home. The ‘Canes follow that game with another home matchup against struggling Wake Forest. With four weeks to go before Selection Sunday, N.C. State, Miami and Virginia all have some work to do, but chances are running out.