Duke-UNC rematch headlines final ACC regular-season weekend
A look at things to watch this week in the Atlantic Coast Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 3 Duke at No. 19 North Carolina. The first rivalry meeting lived up to the hype, with the Blue Devils (27-3, 14-3 ACC) rallying from 10 down in the final 4 minutes of regulation to force overtime and win 92-90. Now the teams meet in Chapel Hill in Saturday night's regular-season finale. The Blue Devils have won 10 straight games, while the Tar Heels (21-9, 11-6) are still chasing a top-four seed in next week's league tournament. Of note: the Tar Heels got freshman reserve guard Theo Pinson back this week from a monthlong absence due to a broken foot. Pinson could be needed to try and slow the Blue Devils' top-flight backcourt of Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook. ''The way we lost at Cameron, having a pretty commanding lead ... and just not making the plays makes this game feel even bigger to us,'' UNC guard Marcus Paige said.
LOOKING AHEAD: The ACC tournament uses a new schedule when it begins next week in Greensboro, North Carolina. The five-day event begins Tuesday and runs through a Saturday night finale - a departure from the traditional Sunday afternoon finish a few hours ahead of NCAA tournament announcements. ''My feeling is this will be the format moving forward,'' said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose Fighting Irish played a similar tournament schedule while in the Big East. ''You know, the best conference in the country should be showcased on Friday night and Saturday night.'' No. 2 Virginia (28-1, 16-1) is again the No. 1 seed as it chases a second straight title, while Syracuse will sit this one out due to a self-imposed postseason ban amid an NCAA investigation.
PLAYER TO WATCH: North Carolina State point guard Anthony ''Cat'' Barber has upped his game. He's scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games, scoring at least 15 in five of those, as his team makes its push for a fourth straight NCAA tournament trip. Barber and the Wolfpack (18-12, 9-8) close Saturday at home against Syracuse.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: The ACC is well-represented near the top of the NCAA's RPI rankings. Five teams are in the top 25 as of Wednesday's games: Virginia (No. 3), Duke (No. 5), UNC (No. 13), Louisville (No. 22) and Notre Dame (No. 25).
ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: The ACC women's tournament is underway at the Greensboro Coliseum. The tournament began Wednesday while the headliners - No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 7 Florida State and No. 10 Louisville - don't take the court until Friday's quarterfinals. It's the ACC tournament debut for the third-seeded Cardinals. The tournament runs through Sunday.
Compiled by AP Basketball Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, North Carolina.