There is a game tonight with high stakes in the conference race. Longtime rivals will be going at it in what the national media considers one of the biggest games on the sports calendar. Two teams rich in history, close in proximity and filled with animus toward each other. A game so big, a national sports network considers it one of the linchpins of it’s “Rivalry Week.”
Of course, I’m talking about the Florida State-Boston College game. While that game is also of some importance, what with the Seminoles trying to hold on to first place in the conference race, while BC tries to avoid the cellar of same, there can only be one game that fits the description I gave above. No, it’s not Wake Forest vs. Virginia either.
That game is Duke-North Carolina. The Blue Devils come in to the Smith Center off their second home loss of the conference season, an overtime defeat at the hands of Miami. I can’t say I remember a time when the Florida schools walked into Cameron Indoor Stadium and snatched away victories in the same season, if ever. That said, Duke faces a challenge against a North Carolina team that is beginning to get the look again of a national championship contender. The Tar Heels survived a battle against Maryland on Saturday, holding off the Terps 83-74. A Duke loss will put them two games behind North Carolina (and Florida State, should it win at Boston College) in the conference race. Can the Tar Heels use their imposing front line and high powered offense to defeat Duke’s strong perimeter play? Will Carolina defend enough to secure a victory?
Elsewhere, Maryland gets the week off to a good start with a 64-62 win at Clemson, getting their first road conference win in the process. The Terps continue their season of beating the lesser conference teams while struggling with the stronger teams. Florida State keeps the winning streak going with wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia. The win over the Cavaliers was a defensive struggle, but the Seminoles had just enough offense to win.
For the Miami Hurricanes, a big week beckons. The ‘Canes bring a four-game win streak into this week’s matchups against Virginia Tech and Florida State. If the Hurricanes can beat the Seminoles, chatter about their tournament chances will grow. The Duke win put them in the picture; a win over a first-place team riding a long win streak of their own would most certainly enhance their tournament resume. North Carolina State gets a breather this week, with only one game on the schedule-a road game against Georgia Tech. The Wolfpack’s top seven players are logging a lot of minutes; they can use the extra days off to rest up for the stretch run.