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ACC weekend: Duke, UNC heat up for stretch run

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Mason Plumlee (5) enjoys a moment with his Duke teammates during their 98-85 victory Thursday against NC State (Source: ACC Digital Network) Mason Plumlee (5) enjoys a moment with his Duke teammates during their 98-85 victory Thursday against NC State (Source: ACC Digital Network)

(RNN) – The top team in the Atlantic Coast Conference continues to dominate as two familiar contenders round into form.

At the midway point of ACC play, Duke and North Carolina are playing their best ball of the season, and appear fully recovered from earlier slip-ups. Another team vying for the regular season crown is Virginia, which has arguably the best defense in the nation.

They all still remain behind Miami, who has not lost since Dec. 25. The Tar Heels get a chance to gain ground Saturday when they go head to head with the Hurricanes.

Florida State Seminoles at Wake Forest Demon Deacons, noon ET Saturday

On Tuesday, FSU (13-9, 5-4 ACC) won another one-possession game after a game-winning basket from Michael Snaer. The senior took advantage of a no-call from the referees after it looked like he pushed off a Georgia Tech defender, drove to the basket and laid it in as time expired for a 56-54 victory.

However, the biggest development from the game may have been the play of 7-footers Boris Bojanovsky and Kiel Turpin, who chipped in 10 points apiece. If one or both could score like that every game, it would provide a much needed interior source of offense.

The Demon Deacons' (10-12, 3-7) season has derailed after dropping four straight games – including three by 20 or more points. On Tuesday, they turned the ball over 21 times to UNC.

However, the team has remained competitive at home this season, beating N.C. State and hanging with Duke until the final minutes. Freshmen Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas have big-game potential, and Wake can contend when those two play well.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Virginia Tech Hokies, 1 p.m. Saturday

The Jackets (12-9, 2-7) came close to pulling off their first two-game win streak of the ACC season but fell short to Florida State on Tuesday. Like Wake, the team has multiple first-year players earning heavy minutes, so the output has been inconsistent.

Georgia Tech has allowed no more than 63 points in its last four matchups, but that threshold could be tested by a high-scoring Hokies offense. Robert Carter Jr. and Daniel Miller need to establish early on they can score from the low post.

Virginia Tech's (11-11, 2-7) offense runs through Erick Green, who averages more than 25 points per game. Their troubles come from a lack of scoring balance, and teams have been content to let Green get his while shutting down everyone else.

The Hokies have dropped five straight, including a 60-55 contest Thursday against Maryland. The one bright side for them lately has been the play of Cadarian Raines, who has scored in double digits each of the last three games.

North Carolina Tar Heels at Miami Hurricanes, 2 p.m. Saturday

UNC (16-6, 6-3) has won six of its last seven, and James Michael McAdoo has upped his scoring and offensive rebounding while cutting down on the turnovers. P.J. Hairston rejoined the Heels on Tuesday after missing time with a concussion, taking part in an 87-62 mauling of Wake Forest.

The team is in the top-10 nationally in points (seventh), rebounds (third) and assists (second), and that was with point guard Marcus Paige playing hesitant much of the year. His more relaxed, aggressive play he's shown lately could take them to an even higher level.

Miami's (18-3, 9-0) roster is a coach's dream: They are deep, defensive-minded, big, fast and experienced. The starting lineup has four seniors, and several other upperclassmen have been contributing off the bench.

The ‘Canes have been winning on the road, but they have won big at home. Their 72-50 victory Tuesday over Boston College was the third straight they had by 22 or more points. Kenny Kadji continued his uptick in offense with 16 points and added eight rebounds.

Virginia Cavaliers at Maryland Terrapins, 1 p.m. Sunday

UVA (16-6, 6-3) would be in the midst of a six-game win streak if not for a power outage on offense the last eight minutes of the Georgia Tech game. The shooters came back in a big way Thursday against Clemson though, and the Cavaliers rolled to a 78-41 win.

Joe Harris shoots 46 percent from long distance, and the team averages 15 3-point attempts per game. If the Wahoos can get Akil Mitchell involved in the paint too, they can generate enough points to keep winning.

The Terrapins (17-6, 5-5) have revived their hopes of an NCAA tournament bid after winning two in a row. They pulled out a close victory Thursday at Virginia Tech, gaining a rare conference road victory.

Alex Len can affect a game as much as anyone on the court most nights. The 7-foot-tall sophomore is an elite shot blocker and can post double digit totals in points and rebounds.

North Carolina State Wolfpack at Clemson Tigers, 1 p.m. Sunday

The Pack (16-7, 5-5) remains winless on the road against the ACC after the 98-85 defeat Thursday to Duke. They were dealt a tough blow when point guard Lorenzo Brown went down with an ankle injury at Virginia, as he did not play for key matchups against Miami and the Blue Devils.

Richard Howell played well again in the most recent loss, with 23 points and nine rebounds. He has been the only constant for an NC State team that most did not expect to be treading water in the middle of the conference standings.

Clemson (12-10, 4-6) lost its first two conference games of the year. Then it won the next two. Then it lost the next two but won the two after that, only to lose its last two. Trends may not help much against a struggling but skilled Wolfpack.

No one scored more than one basket in the first half at Virginia, and the Tigers could only get 10 points in the period. Leading scorer Devin Booker and others should find more success against NC State's defense; there biggest problem will be keeping up with their opponent.

Duke Blue Devils at Boston College Eagles, 6 p.m. Sunday

Mason Plumlee's ACC Player of the Year campaign is back in full swing after he dropped in another 30-point effort for Duke (20-2, 7-2) against NC State. He accounted for 32 points against Wake Forest on Jan. 30.

He, Quinn Cook and Seth Curry combine for an effective inside-out game, with Plumlee scoring in the paint and the other two firing 3-pointers. The Blue Devils were 10 for 10 from behind the arc in the first half of Thursday's win.

BC (10-12, 2-7) has plenty of young talent on the team, although much of its season has showcased more of the "young" part. Sophomore Ryan Anderson leads the team in scoring and rebounds, but the Eagles don't have much of an inside presence beyond him.

The team relies on the 3 to score a large percentage of its points. If Joe Rahon and others find the range, they can be competitive. If not, they can fall behind a rolling Blue Devils squad quick.

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