Upstart FSU, seasoned Duke set for unlikely ACC championship match
ATLANTA -- There will be no Duke-Carolina III in the ACC tournament final, and that's just fine with
"I wouldn't say it is disappointing, because we don't play our season to beat them," the Duke junior said. "We play to win championships."
Duke is in position for a championship after topping a game Maryland squad, playing its third game in three days, 67-61 (
The bracket has unfolded nicely for third-seeded Duke, as No. 2 seed Wake Forest lost to Maryland and North Carolina bowed out in the semifinals. A Boston College-Maryland-Florida State road to the title looked unlikely before the weekend, but that is the road handed to Duke.
"When you go into a tournament, you can never look ahead, and you try to talk to your guys about that," said Duke assistant
Maryland, which felt like it clinched an NCAA bid Friday night, battled with Duke for 32 minutes with a disruptive defense that held the Devils in check. Finally, Duke put together a 9-0 run to push its lead to 56-43 with 5:35 to play, and Maryland didn't have the firepower to answer back. Duke won despite shooting just 36.4 percent from the floor, including a combined 6-for-26 from Henderson and
"The last two games, we haven't clicked well offensively," Collins said. "Our defense is back at a high level. I'd like to see our offense join it."
Things will not get any easier against a Florida State squad that has size inside and All-World
"I can't even count how many people were here for me," Douglas said. "My phone is going to be ringing off the hook."
Florida State was stung by North Carolina in late January when
"We've been waiting on this ever since they beat us on that buzzer-beater in Tallahassee," said
The North Carolina spin was that despite two shaky games in Atlanta this weekend, the Tar Heels are better because of the experience gained without Lawson on the floor and they are ready for the NCAA tournament. Coach
A reporter pointed out the Heels, who were also concerned with
"I've never found a silver lining in that," he said.
So it will be an unlikely final on Sunday between a team with 16 ACC titles and another with zip. It is the just the second time in 51 years the top two seeds are not around on Sunday, but the matchup should still be tight. Duke swept Florida State this year, but Singler said, "We could have easily lost both games."
"With their size, you are not going to get many layups," Duke coach