College Basketball Nation: 2012 ACC tournament


ATLANTA — Florida State forward Bernard James has a simple message for those who dare to doubt his basketball team.

“You should be a believer now,” he yelled as the last specs of championship confetti floated down around him from the Philips Arena ceiling.

Guard Ian Miller wasn’t so reserved with his response.

“I guess they believe now,” he said.

“If they don’t, tough luck because we’re getting a ring for this one.”

It’s hard not to believe in this FSU team after the Seminoles knocked off top-seeded North Carolina 85-82 in the ACC tournament final. The Seminoles captured their first ACC tournament championship and became the first team since Georgia Tech in 1995-96 to beat both Duke and North Carolina twice in the same season.

The same team that lost 6 of 10 games from the end of November to the beginning of January, suffering losses by 20 and 18 points along the way, went 4-1 against Duke and North Carolina, proving that FSU’s successes were no accident.

“This is not a fluke,” Miller said. “You can’t win a championship on a fluke. Today, by winning this championship, our coaches told us it ain’t a fluke no more. People know we’re real now.”

Added James: “We silenced a lot of the doubters who say we don’t belong in the same breath as Duke and Carolina.”

Sunday, FSU stood alone, again, but only because it was above Tobacco Road’s giants.

[+] EnlargeMichael Snaer
Bob Donnan/US PresswireGuard Michael Snaer and the Seminoles will be a tough force in the NCAA tournament.
Now, the Seminoles, turn their attention to the NCAA tournament and are looking to take their high-flying act to the top of the college basketball mountain.

“We have five or six more wins until the national championship,” Miller said. “We’re trying to get there now.”

The notion of FSU making such a run in the craziest of months is no longer laughable. This team is legit. It went from trouble to tremendous in a few months and now has tons of momentum to thrive off of.

Plus, it’s going to be hard for teams to keep up with the Noles. FSU’s up-tempo offense frustrated its victims throughout the ACC tournament. UNC, which desperately wanted to slow things down, was left zonked after its uncomfortable foot race.

With such a deep bench, FSU was able to keep its motor going and the legs churning.

“We were all coming off a third day of playing so we wanted to impose our will and try to let them know that they couldn’t outrun us,” forward Xavier Gibson said.

That sort of thing will come in handy during the Dance.

This team can shoot, too, with guards like Michael Snaer (ACC tournament MVP), Luke Loucks and Deividas Dulkys lighting it up from the floor. The Noles shot just under 60 percent against the Heels and shot no worse than 42 percent during its current five-game winning streak.

FSU is also hot from beyond on the arc after hitting 25 of 49 3s in the ACC tournament.

With as fast, physical and athletic as the Noles are, this will be a formidable group for any team to face in the coming weeks. Physically, this team is ready, but players want to make sure that once the celebration of Sunday’s win has subsided that this team is in the right frame of mind for another championship run.

“We can’t get satisfied with this,” James said.

For as sweet as Sunday’s win was, this team is still hungry.

“The ACC was just to let people know that we’re not a game, there’s no jokes no more,” Miller said. “We wanted to make a statement and today we did that.”

ATLANTA -- Florida State survived a vicious rally and a last-second 3-point attempt from top-seeded North Carolina to capture its first ACC tournament championship with a 85-82 win Sunday.

With the win, the Seminoles became the first team since Georgia Tech in 1995-96 to beat both Duke and North Carolina twice in the same season.

The Seminoles' up-tempo offense was too much for the Tar Heels to handle for most of the afternoon, but it also helped that FSU shot 58.9 percent from the field (33-of-56).

UNC matched FSU well in the second half, but a nine-point halftime deficit was too much for the Heels to overcome. Florida State also connected on 11 of 22 3-point shots, including four from both Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys.

Four Seminoles players -- Snaer, Dulkys, Luke Loucks and Ian Miller -- were all double-digit scorers.

Without forward John Henson, who was out with a sprained left wrist, UNC failed to have a consistent down-low presence on both ends of the floor.

Turning point: With UNC down one with 10 seconds left, point guard Kendall Marshall chucked a deep 3 that rimmed out and was rebounded by Dulkys. He was fouled and converted two free throws to put FSU up three with five seconds remaining.

Key player: Snaer scored a team-high 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting and hit 4 of 5 3-point attempts. He was also named the tournament MVP.

Key stat: Florida State shot 58.9 percent from the field Sunday and hit 11 of 22 3s.

Miscellaneous: This was North Carolina's ACC-leading 31st appearance in the ACC tournament championship game. ... Since Dulkys scored a career-high 32 points in the regular-season win over UNC, his best point total had been 14 points. He scored 16 Sunday. ... UNC's P.J. Hairston hit three 3s Sunday. Since hitting four against Monmouth on Jan. 1, Hairston had made only eight 3s heading into Sunday. ... FSU's Bernard James recorded five blocks. ... Both teams each scored 40 points in the paint. ... FSU's bench outscored UNC's 28-14.

What’s next: FSU's tournament chances were never in doubt, but with the win, it earned an automatic bid to the Big Dance. Now, the Noles will sit back and wait for their seeding fate. FSU could now be seriously considered for a No. 3 seed. UNC likely locked up a No. 1 seed with Duke's loss to the Noles on Saturday, but there could be some worry with Missouri capturing the Big 12 championship Saturday night.

UNC's John Henson won't start

March, 11, 2012
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ATLANTA -- North Carolina freshman James Michael McAdoo will start his second straight game, in place of forward John Henson, in Sunday's ACC tournament championship game.

Henson, who missed Saturday's ACC semifinal game after spraining his left wrist on Friday, will be in uniform but will only play in an emergency situation against Florida State, a school spokesman said.

Henson -- the ACC Defensive Player of the Year who sustained the injury when he tried to break a fall after he was fouled -- was on the Philips Arena court about an hour before tipoff on Sunday. For about 15 minutes, he tested his taped left wrist by dribbling, catching and shooting, before returning to the locker room. He returned for a second warm-up before the team its decision.

ACC tournament: Sunday preview

March, 11, 2012
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ATLANTA – Florida State hasn’t looked at any of the film from its 33-point victory over North Carolina on Jan. 14.

“When you get big blowout wins like that, it’s probably not the best idea to go back and watch; you might get a sense of comfort, or forget that we have to play hard – or what got us that 33-point lead,’’ forward Bernard James said. “So we just put that one behind us, and chalked it up to Carolina not being ready.”

He knows the Tar Heels will be this time.

The Seminoles downright embarrassed the UNC two months ago, beating the Tar Heels on the boards, holding them to 37 percent shooting. The 90-57 rout marked the most lopsided loss of the Roy Williams era, and it was so irritating/befuddling/maddening that Williams and most of the team left the court early – leaving three walk-ons and two reserves to finish the game.

Since then, the Tar Heels have lost only once, to Duke on a buzzer-beater.

Since then, the Seminoles have lost three times, but won three games with last-second heroics.

"We can't necessarily worry about the games that we've played prior to this game coming up,’’ FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Each game takes on a different personality and I'm sure the team that we played in Tallahassee will not be the team we play on Sunday."

UNC will be competing for its first ACC title since 2008; FSU will be vying for its first ACC title, period.

A few things to watch in the 1 p.m. EST showdown at Philips Arena:

WILL UNC’S JOHN HENSON PLAY?

The ACC Defensive Player of the Year sat out Saturday’s semifinal victory over NC State after spraining his left wrist during Friday’s quarterfinal win over Maryland.

His status will once again be a game-time decision – and his potential absence will hurt.

James, a former Air Force sergeant and all a member of the ACC’s All-Defense team, is a load for anyone to handle, and if Henson can’t go, James would probably match up with UNC’s James Michael McAdoo. The Tar Heels freshman has been more confident and aggressive lately, but got he into foul trouble during Saturday’s game against the Wolfpack.

3-POINTERS

One of the reasons FSU was so successful against UNC last time was Deividas Dulkys, who shot 8-for-10 from behind the 3-point arc and scored a career-high 32 points.

The Seminoles senior hasn’t approached anything close to that since (with 12 points being his high), but you get the point: UNC (which also lost to Duke at home when the Blue Devils shot 14-for-36 on 3s) can’t afford to let an opposing team get hot.

The Seminole to watch: Michael Snaer. He’s shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point land for the season, and buried two of those aforementioned game-winners this season.

THAT COMPETITIVE FLARE

One of the reasons UNC lost so badly – and looked so listless in doing so – in the last meeting, according to players, was that they bought into their own preseason No. 1 hype and didn’t compete as hard as necessary. That shouldn’t be a problem Sunday.

The last time UNC was looking for revenge was last weekend, when it went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and pasted the Blue Devils, building a 24-point lead by halftime en route to the ACC regular-season title.

FSU, though, has plenty of motivation, too. Lots of folks wrote the Seminoles off when they lost to two Ivy League schools, then opened the ACC season with a 20-point defeat at Clemson. Since then, they’ve beaten UNC and Duke, but winning the league tournament would prove that the conference is more than a two-team league.

“This has been our goal since the beginning of the season, and we want to accomplish it,’’ Dulkys said.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.


ATLANTA -- About 45 minutes after Florida State's thrilling 62-59 win over Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton shared a special moment with one of his most well-respected counterparts.

While standing outside FSU's locker room, Hamilton was greeted by a smiling Mike Krzyzewski, who had just watched Hamilton's Seminoles best his Blue Devils in a tournament he basically owns. Coach K congratulated Hamilton and praised his team.

As Hamilton delivered his thanks, Krzyzewski briefly paused, giving Hamilton one last look that read, "Hell of a team."

That look was nothing new for Hamilton. He's been getting it from opposing coaches for a few years, it's just taken those outside of the ACC some time to acknowledge them.

Interestingly enough, national respect isn’t exactly flowing for the third-winningest ACC program over the past seven years.

A Florida State team that won a school-record 12 conference games during the regular season and is line for a top-4 seed in this year's NCAA tournament shouldn't be overlooked like it is.

"Because we have not been at the top -- been No. 1 or No. 2 -- we haven't gotten a lot of recognition," Hamilton said. "We've been moving our program along for quite some time, it's just that you guys have just started to notice."

[+] EnlargeFSU's Leonard Hamilton
Paul Abell/US PRESSWIRELeonard Hamilton and the Seminoles are looking for their first ACC tournament title on Sunday.
As FSU prepares to capture its first ACC tournament title (in only its second championship appearance), it does so in a totally different place than it was months ago. FSU has won 17 of 20 games and is looking to take the season series against tournament top seed North Carolina -- an improbable thought midway through the season.

FSU struggled to find itself and players say there was a disconnect between guards and bigs. Forward Bernard James said selfishness ruled at times, destroying the "team" and leaving individuals.

"We'd go out and try to make spectacular plays one-on-one and that didn't work for us and that's why we got drummed by teams early in the season," James said.

Drummed as in losing by 18 to Florida and 20 to Clemson and losing 6 of 10 games from the end of November to the beginning of January.

The Clemson whooping changed everything, James said. Players and coaches gathered shortly after to speak candidly about how things weren't working. Slackers were called out and even coaches received constructive criticism from players.

Guards were told they were shooting too much and big men were called lazy in the ultimate open forum.

"Everybody knew what the other guy next to him was thinking," James said. "We identified our problems and everybody worked toward fixing them. That's what brought us to the point we are now."

Two games after the catastrophe at Clemson, FSU pounded UNC 90-57. Two games later, the Noles shocked Duke at Cameron Indoor.

Now, Florida State is a win away from breaking new ground … again.

Even if FSU loses Sunday, it's obvious that the Noles aren’t going away in the ACC. Behind the UNC-Duke current, FSU has been tirelessly working to demolish the notion that the ACC is a two-team league.

"At Florida State, we haven't thought that way in a long time," James said. "It's been about four or five years since they thought that the ACC was a two-team conference.

"This year, we've put ourselves in a really good position to show the rest of the world that the ACC is not a two-team conference."

Added forward Xavier Gibson: "We're coming in there and breaking Tobacco Road up a little bit -- mixing it up -- and that's what we came to do."

A win Sunday will likely bring more onto FSU’s bandwagon, but the Seminoles aren't worried about that because they don’t have time to worry about impressing outsiders.

For Hamilton, it’s all about getting the best out of his players and making sure they play and win for themselves.

"We have to consistently keep doing it and maybe we'll crack into that area that you guys call respect," he said.

ATLANTA -- Out of the corner of his eye, North Carolina senior Justin Watts saw someone doing jumping jacks under the basket.

He didn’t know who it was, and with about three seconds left and his team leading NC State by two points Saturday, he didn’t really care: “All I knew was that I had to get there -- fast.”

So sprinting harder than several teammates had ever seen him sprint before, the 6-foot-5 athlete cut off NC State junior Scott Wood’s pass to an open DeShawn Painter, grabbed the ball, and threw it to the other end of the Phillips Arena court.

“JWatts probably made the biggest play of the game,’’ North Carolina coach Roy Williams said after his team survived one last desperation play to beat the Wolfpack 69-67; the Tar Heels advanced to their 31st ACC tournament title game, where they will play Florida State on Sunday.

It was probably the biggest play, and game, of Watts' career, too.

Many will credit UNC’s 13th straight victory over rival NC State to point guard Kendall Marshall’s 8-foot bank shot with 10.2 seconds left -- a controversial play that had Wolfpack fans (and coach Mark Gottfried) screaming “charge!” after the sophomore put a shoulder into State’s Alex Johnson on his drive toward the hoop.

[+] EnlargeUNC's Justin Watts
Paul Abell/US PRESSWIREA late steal by Justin Watts had he and his Tar Heel teammates smiling.
But even Marshall gave the kudos to Watts, who played four different positions because forward John Henson (sprained wrist) was sidelined and so many others were in foul trouble.

“He does so many things that so many people might not notice, might not appreciate,’’ said Marshall, who finished with 12 points and 10 assists. “But hopefully … people can see how big he came up for us in this game.”

Indeed, when Marshall picked up his second foul, Watts -- a natural wing -- spent some time at point guard.

“I was just catching and pitching ahead; I wasn’t trying to do much,’’ said Watts, who had played only one other (short) stretch this season at the ‘1.’ “When you’ve got guys to throw it into like [Tyler] Zeller and Harrison [Barnes], they make you look a lot better than you are."

And when UNC freshman James Michael McAdoo (making his first career start with Henson sidelined) picked up his fourth foul, Watts found himself playing power forward and guarding 6-8 star forward C.J. Leslie.

“He’s taller than me, so I just tried to use my quickness to stay in front of him,’’ Watts said.

That became key with 8:35 left, when Watts slid in front of Leslie to draw Leslie’s fourth foul (the second of three infractions for which the Wolfpack sophomore was called in a 91-second span, resulting in his fouling out). It was another whistle that had Wolfpack fans screaming furiously.

“In terms of calls, I think the final [tally] was something like 23-19, so you can’t really complain that was lopsided,’’ Barnes (16 points), who drew the fifth foul on Leslie (22 points), said. “They were calling it pretty tight, but for good reason -- you don’t want to let UNC-NC State get out of hand.”

It was a frenetic battle, though, one that saw 15 lead changes, one coat-shuck (by Gottfried), and several rare possessions of zone defense by the Tar Heels.

Zeller led UNC with 23 points, but he too credited Watts for doing so many important things in the victory. The reserve made only 1 of his 4 shots, but also had four rebounds, an assist and three steals -- including that key, racing grab in the final seconds.

“He fills so many roles for us,” Williams said. “A tremendous leader, a tremendous young man, tremendous versatility. He’s been asked to do so many things this year … JWatts is not selfish. He cares about our team, and that’s an admirable quality to have. It’s a quality that’s going to be good for him the rest of his life.”

Asked why he’s so willing to fill so many roles, Watts, who tends to shun the spotlight, explained his reasoning: “I’ll do whatever it takes to help my team win.”

Perhaps that’s why, after the Wolfpack couldn’t convert on a desperation play with 1.2 seconds left, Watts grabbed the game ball -- the same one he had swiped not long before -- and briefly pressed it to his lips.

“I was kissing the ball because it bounced our way a couple of times,’’ he said. “I appreciate that ball.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

ATLANTA -- There wasn't a dull moment when Duke and Florida State got together for a chance to meet North Carolina in the ACC tournament final. But with both teams down to their last breath, Florida State guard Luke Loucks drained a deep 2 with 11.9 seconds left, giving the Seminoles a 62-59 lead. Duke's Seth Curry's half-court launch rimmed out right at the buzzer, preserving the Seminoles' win.

Florida State took the season series against the Blue Devils, advancing to the ACC title game for the second time in school history. Both times have come in Atlanta.

Turning point: Having Mason Plumlee foul out with a minute left hurt Duke in the post. It also sent Loucks to the line, where he hit two free throws to make it 60-57. His winning shot took care of the rest.

Key player: While Loucks was clutch for the Noles late, guard Michael Snaer put on another show against the Blue Devils. He led FSU with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, grabbed four boards, dished six assists, blocked two shots and had two steals.

Key stat: Duke turned the ball over 16 times Saturday. In the two previous games against the Seminoles, Duke turned it over 11 and 10 times, respectively. FSU scored 19 points off those turnovers.

Miscellaneous: Loucks set the FSU school record for career games played with 132 when the Seminoles played Miami on Friday. He made it 133 against Duke. ... With Austin Rivers' 17 points, he recorded his team-leading 29th double-figure scoring game for Duke. ... The loss ended Duke's streak of three consecutive ACC tournament championships. ... FSU dominated the paint, outscoring Duke 34-24. ... FSU also won the bench battle 18-9. ... The game featured eight ties and 10 lead changes.

What’s next: Duke is headed home and will likely come out of this weekend as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Florida State will take on top-seeded North Carolina on Sunday for a shot at its first ACC tournament championship. A win for the Seminoles might propel them to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, but it appears the Noles have secured at least a No. 4 seed.

ATLANTA -- On Friday, the talk concerning North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall was all about his ability to pass the ball. On Saturday, it was all about his clutch, calm demeanor, as he sank a bank shot in the final seconds to give UNC the 69-67 win over NC State.

The win moves UNC into Sunday's ACC championship game.

UNC struggled for most of the day to stop NC State in the paint without John Henson, who was out with a sprained left wrist. The Heels moved to a zone defense midway through the second half, which helped contain NC State's offense, especially inside.

NC State eventually adjusted to UNC's zone, but lost top post presence C.J. Leslie with eight minutes remaining after he fouled out. That allowed UNC to work the paint more and helped the Tar Heels execute their zone more efficiently.

Before fouling out, UNC forward Tyler Zeller scored a game-high 23 points.

NC State never backed down and had chances to reclaim the lead with under a minute left, but turned the ball over twice before Marshall's game-winning jumper.

Turning point: UNC rarely plays zone, but the Tar Heels moved to it with a little more than 13 minutes remaining in Saturday's semifinal. It helped UNC slow down NC State's offense without Henson down low. It also helped that Leslie fouled out with 8:03 left after collecting three fouls in the span of a minute and a half.

Key player: UNC guard Reggie Bullock only scored five points, but he was all over the court. He grabbed seven rebounds and dished six assists, but really helped the Tar Heels on defense. He shut down NC State sharpshooter Scott Wood, who was held to two points on 1-of-6 shooting, and smothered him on a potential game-winning 3-point shot that Wood failed to even take. He also kept things under control for UNC late in the first half when he hit two straight buckets and grabbed a couple of rebounds.

Key stat: Neither team could get much going at all from the outside as they combined to shoot 8-of-31 from beyond the 3-point line. UNC hit five 3-pointers, while NC State hit just three.

Miscellaneous: UNC has now won 13 straight over the Wolfpack. ... The loss dropped NC State to 5-6 in the ACC tournament as the No. 5 seed. ... Despite fouling out, Leslie continued his tournament tear with 22 points, seven rebounds and two steals. ... With James Michael McAdoo dealing with foul trouble, UNC's Justin Watts played both point guard and power forward.

What’s next: The Tar Heels await the winner of the Duke-Florida State game. A win over Duke would lock up a No. 1 seed for UNC in the NCAA tournament. If the Blue Devils don't make it, the Heels will likely clinch a top seed before the day is over. As for the Wolfpack, Friday's win over Virginia was huge as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned. While NC State is probably still on the bubble, its ACC tournament showing has it in much better shape than a couple of days ago.
ATLANTA -- North Carolina forward John Henson, who sprained his left wrist on Friday, will not play in Saturday's ACC tournament semifinal against NC State, a team spokesman said about 25 minutes before tipoff.

The junior was injured with 14:59 left the first half of the top-seeded Tar Heels' quarterfinal win against Maryland, when he was fouled driving to the basket, and tried to brace his fall. Henson immediately starting shaking his wrist, and asked to come out of the game after he missed his second free throw.

After going to the locker room to have his wrist examined and re-taped, he re-entered the game with 8:06 left in the first half. But he lasted only 40 seconds, grimacing in pain when he tried to catch a hard pass from point guard Kendall Marshall.

Tests at halftime were negative, but the team said after the game that the ACC Defensive Player of the Year's status for Saturday would be a game-time decision

Freshman forward James Michael McAdoo, who tied his career high with 14 points against the Terrapins, is expected to start in place of Henson.

ACC tournament: Saturday preview

March, 10, 2012
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ATLANTA -- North Carolina and Duke are still vying for a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

NC State is trying to solidify a spot in the field of 68.

And Florida State – which has already secured a spot in the NCAAs – would like to become only the second team not named UNC or Duke to win the ACC tournament in 16 years.

A quick preview of today’s NCAA semifinals at Philips Arena:

No. 1 seed North Carolina vs. No. 5 seed N.C. State, 1 p.m. EST

Will he play or won’t he play? The status of UNC forward John Henson’s left wrist -- which he sprained in the first half of his team’s quarterfinal win over Maryland on Friday -- hasn’t reached the scrutiny level of “Ty Lawson Toe-Gate,” circa 2009 (when the starting point guard sat out the entire ACC tournament, and part of the NCAAs, en route to a national title).

But give it time.

Official word Friday was that the 6-foot-11 junior would test his pain threshold Saturday morning to see if he would be able to play against the Wolfpack. But frankly, it would make sense to be cautious with the ACC’s leading rebounder, blocker and defender. UNC, after all, has wrapped up an NCAA tournament berth, and it’s just a matter of whether it ends up with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

If Henson doesn’t play, it opens up more room in the lane for NC State forward C.J. Leslie, who has come on particularly strong of late. He’s averaging 18.9 points and 11 rebounds over his past seven games -- including 19 points and 14 rebounds in Friday’s quarterfinal victory over Virginia.

“He [Henson] is a great player -- first-team All-ACC, defensive player of the year; we want him to play,’’ Wolfpack guard C.J. Williams said. “We don’t want to give a team an excuse, 'Oh, we didn’t have one of our best players.' He’s definitely a matchup problem for us, with his length and his size … but we want him to play.”

The Tar Heels beat their in-state rivals in both matchups this season.

No. 2 seed Duke vs. No. 3 seed Florida State, approximately 3:30 p.m. EST

Duke, which lost to Florida State on its home court in January, offered up a little bit of payback last month, when it beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee, Fla.

Guard Andre Dawkins was 6-for-12 for 22 points that game, with all six of those made shots being 3-pointers.

Since then, however, he’s made only 1 of his 12 shot attempts over his past four games. Not a good stat for the Blue Devils, especially since they are also missing forward Ryan Kelly for the ACC tournament because of a foot injury.

The key for FSU will be to limit Duke’s outside scoring while taking advantage of the Devils’ thin depth inside.

And if it’s close at the end, they have a couple of clutch options in Michael Snaer and Ian Miller, who have both buried game winners this season.

“We know we have a tremendous opportunity to do something great,’’ Snaer said. “My team is really confident in our abilities, and we’re playing like it. We’re playing together. … We know how important this game is to us, and to our program and to the history of our program. And I can’t wait for it to get started.”
ATLANTA -- Chants of "We want Duke" started with a little more than a minute remaining in Friday night's ACC second-round finale.

But they weren't for Miami.

The chants of "N-I-T" from giddy Florida State fans just before the final two free throws of the game, however, were.

It was a harsh way to leave Philips Arena -- and Atlanta -- for the Hurricanes, who lost 82-71 to Florida State in the quarterfinals, but the verbal shots taken by the rival fan base could be heartbreaking clues to Miami's postseason fate.

Entering the ACC tournament, the Hurricanes, who sit at 19-12 on the season, needed to make some sort of run. Step 1 was completed Thursday with a 54-36 victory over Georgia Tech. It was a game that ended with Miami's offense clicking and led to thoughts of a classic second-round matchup with FSU.

However, at Miami's pregame meal three hours before tip-off, coach Jim Larranaga dropped a bombshell when he told his players that starting guard, and leading scorer, Durand Scott was out for the game. The school later said he was ruled ineligible for receiving impermissible benefits.

So Miami, which had dealt with its fair share of distractions and adversity all season, entered Friday night's contest down arguably its best player.

As much as the Canes fought, they didn't have enough. Missing Scott, there wasn't that consistent lane presence, that suffocating defender or that calming effect on the court. Freshman guard Shane Larkin said Miami tried to fill Scott's role by committee, but it just couldn't.

Because of that, Miami is once again on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA tournament.

[+] EnlargeJim Larranaga
Paul Abell/US PresswireMiami coach Jim Larranaga saw his team's NCAA tournament fate bounce of its control and into the committee's hands.
"The selection committee does a great job of analyzing everybody's resume and their body of work throughout the entire season," Larranaga said. "I don't think it comes down to one game. We've played enough that if we do get selected, I think we can make a run in the tournament.

"That's out of our hands. Those are not things we can control."

What Miami did control was another off shooting night in the first half. The Canes shot under 30 percent in first frame in back-to-back games and couldn't get out of the hole they dug in the first 20 minutes.

Mistakes and miscues helped the poor shooting effort, and Larkin said it was hard to stomach just how close he thought his team had come to securing a tournament bid.

"We tried to fight through [adversity] again, like we have all year, but it just wasn't enough tonight," Larkin said.

"I still think we're a tournament team. You never want to leave that decision to the committee."

But Miami did, and now the question is if the NCAA will take a look at what the Canes have done considering their situation. They played without center Reggie Johnson until December because of a knee injury and were without senior guard/forward DeQuan Jones for the first 10 games because of an NCAA investigation into recruiting allegations.

Then Scott's situation arose and Miami failed to overcome its latest bout with misfortune.

Miami's loss could be other bubble teams' gains. Now, one of those other bubble teams could slip past the Canes in the pecking order.

Miami won't truly know anything until Sunday, and you can bet that the countdown to Selection Sunday will be torturous.

"You wish you could write a letter to the NCAA pleading your case," Larkin said. "There's nothing you can do now. You just sit here and wait and the agony of knowing that you had a chance to put yourself in there, like permanently without no doubt, it's tough."

Video: Florida State's Bernard James

March, 10, 2012
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After Florida State's 82-71 victory over Miami, Edward Aschoff caught up with FSU forward Bernard James, who had 14 points and 7 rebounds against the Canes.


ATLANTA -- Florida State took the season series with Miami and advanced to the semifinals of the ACC tournament with an 82-71 victory Friday.

The Seminoles out-ran, out-muscled and outplayed the Hurricanes in the first half, outscoring the Hurricanes by nine and connecting on 7 of 12 3-pointers. FSU got a bit sluggish to start the second half, but never let its lead dip below three points in the second frame.

For the second consecutive game, Miami was awful shooting the ball in the first half, but unlike their first-round win over Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes were unable to go on a scoring spree in the second half, allowing FSU to keep a consistent lead.

One reason for Miami's shortcomings offensively was the fact that the Canes were without leading scorer Durand Scott, who was ruled ineligible before the game for receiving impermissible benefits.

Turning point: Poor first-half shooting doomed the Hurricanes. Miami shot 28.1 percent from the field (9-of-32) to Florida State's 42.9 percent (12-of-28). In the second half, Miami started hot, but never gained a lead against the Noles, who outscored Miami by two in the second frame.

Key player: Michael Snaer kept FSU moving throughout the game. He led the Noles with 8 points at the half and finished with a game-high 20. He hit 5 of 7 shots, including going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also had 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block.

Key stat: FSU's defense frustrated Miami all night, especially in the paint. FSU altered a number of attempts and blocked 10 Miami shots in the process. FSU also turned the ball over 11 times after turning it over 33 times combined in the first two games against the Canes.

Miscellaneous: This was the first meeting between the two schools in the ACC tournament ... Miami held Georgia Tech to a tournament-low 36 points in the first-round game, but gave up 36 points to the Noles by halftime. ... FSU forward Bernard James dislocated his finger early in the second half, but he returned with 9:37 remaining. ... The last time FSU was in Atlanta for the ACC tournament, the Seminoles played in the championship game for the first time in school history. The Noles lost to Duke; FSU plays Duke on Saturday.

What’s next: With the win, FSU is still in the hunt for a No. 4 seed or better in the NCAA tournament; the Seminoles are likely a 4 or 5 seed right now. A win over the Blue Devils on Saturday and the Noles could be in a fight for a 3 seed if they were to win the championship game Sunday. Miami is back on major bubble watch. The Canes entered the tournament on the outside looking in and while they helped their cause with a victory Thursday, the Canes will surely be sweating it out until Selection Sunday.

Video: Duke's Miles Plumlee

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
10:53
PM ET


After Duke's 60-56 victory over Virginia Tech, Robbi Pickeral caught up with Blue Devils forward Miles Plumlee.
ATLANTA -- Miami will be without its leading scorer against Florida State in the second round of the ACC tournament.

The school announced Friday that junior guard Durand Scott was ruled ineligible for receiving impermissible benefits.

Here's the statement from Miami:
The University of Miami has declared men's basketball student-athlete Durand Scott ineligible for receiving impermissible benefits and is immediately seeking his reinstatement from the NCAA.

Scott was averaging 12.9 points per game and scored 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the Hurricanes' 54-36 victory over Georgia Tech in Thursday's first-round game. He also grabbed seven rebounds and two steals.

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