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Friday, March 9, 2012
ACC tournament: Friday preview

By Edward Aschoff

ATLANTA -- There was no intense fanfare awaiting Virginia Tech when the Hokies set foot in Atlanta for the ACC tournament earlier this week. The excitement surrounding the tournament's No. 10 seed paled in comparison with that of a North Carolina, Duke or even Florida State.

But for a team that entered with just 15 wins and an unsatisfactory 4-12 conference record in the regular season, the Hokies sure do feel confident entering the second round of the ACC tournament.

"We've been talking about it for the two days that we've been here. We're like, 'Unpack your bags, we're going to be here a while,'" senior guard Dorenzo Hudson said after Virginia Tech's thrilling 68-63 win over Clemson in the first round. "We're trying to advance in the tournament."

The Hokies advanced after outrunning No. 7 seed Clemson in Thursday's track meet. There were 11 lead changes and 10 ties, but clutch free throws and solid defense kept the Hokies afloat.

What might have been even more impressive was that Virginia Tech had only seven healthy scholarship players available, with freshman guard Marquis Rankin sitting out the game because of a knee injury he suffered in a ball-screen drill in Tuesday's practice.

The lack of manpower didn't stop the Hokies, and, as they prepare for Friday's bout with No. 2-seeded Duke, they aren't ready to quit.

Guard Erick Green, who had a game-high 24 points in 34 minutes Thursday, said he's fatigued but will get over it.

"I'm tired," he said, "but I'll be ready to go."

It's not hard for this team with nothing to lose to get pumped for Friday's game. This is the same Duke team that squeaked by the Hokies less than two weeks ago in a 70-65 overtime win. And this is the same Virginia Tech team that had 10 more points in the paint, two more second-chance points, four more points off turnovers and three players with 16 points the last time these two hooked up.

Late-game sloppiness and getting beat on the boards cost the Hokies. Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said it comes down to finishing on offense and defending the post on defense. Nixing those pesky spread ball screens would help, too.

"If we can do all that," Green said, "we can win."

Marshall going for greatness

North Carolina is in Atlanta to claim the title as the ACC's best (again) and grab a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But before any of that can happen, the Heels might have to deal with a little bit of history -- good history.

Sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall needs just five assists to break Craig Neal’s ACC season record of 303. He'll get his chance early, as UNC takes on Maryland in the opening game of the second round Friday.

Marshall registered 24 assists in two contests against the Terps, including tying a season high of 16 the first time around.

Miami looks to frustrate FSU
The Hurricanes went from awful to awfully good against Georgia Tech on Thursday, but now have to stay in the awfully good category if they want a chance at defeating archrival Florida State. These teams split the regular-season series, and each enters on a two-game winning streak.

This is a pretty even match on paper, but what the Miami players are concerned about is FSU's height. Freshman guard Shane Larkin described it like this: The guards stand 6-foot-4, and everyone just gets bigger from there. Miami loses in the size department, but it might win in speed and decision-making. In the first two games, FSU recorded 33 turnovers, allowing Miami to score 34 points off of them. Miami forced 20 Georgia Tech turnovers Thursday.

Thin Cavaliers could end NC State's season
Virginia sat back and watched as NC State manhandled Boston College on Thursday. It was good rest for a team that is down to seven scholarship players. The bad news is that the Wolfpack are on a mission to get into the NCAA tournament, and the Cavs are in the way.

If not for that one-point Virginia victory back in January, these teams would be swapped in the bidding process. Virginia, which won 22 games and spent time in the Top 25, appears to be a tournament lock, but NC State's chances are still up in the air.

The key for NC State is to stop forward Mike Scott. He's averaging 17.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and dropped 18 points on the Wolfpack in January.

For Virginia, it's all about containing and contesting shooter Scott Wood, who is shooting 42 percent on 3-pointers and has hit 13 of 26 3s in his past three games.

"For us, the answer is to continue to win, and I don’t know if that’s one game, two games, three games," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "I know if we win this tournament, we get to go. And our guys have come over here, and that’s our goal -- to win the tournament."