College Sports

Title should come down to Duke vs. UNC

Barring a couple of upsets, the ACC regular-season championship will come down to what most figured it would -- Duke vs. North Carolina.

The No. 6 Blue Devils travel to Virginia on Wednesday and the No. 1 Tar Heels host Florida State tonight. If each does as expected and wins, they'll head into Saturday's 9 p.m. matchup at Duke with the title on the line.

The winner gets the championship and the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament, which begins on March 13 at Bobcats Arena. It'd also be a chance for the Tar Heels (27-2, 12-2 ACC) to avenge their earlier loss to the Blue Devils (25-3, 12-2) this season or for the Devils to make it a clean sweep.

No matter what happens this week, the two teams are locked into the Nos. 1-2 spots for the tournament. The bracket is set up so the top two seeds could play each other for the tournament championship.

If Duke and UNC hit that scenario, it'd be the 10th time in ACC history and first since 2001. The Tar Heels hold a 6-4 lead but Duke has won the last two.

And if the Blue Devils win on Saturday, they'd have a chance for a rare three-peat, provided they also beat UNC for the ACC tournament title. In the past 20 years, the two teams have played each other three times in a season nine times. Only three times has one team swept the other in three games -- all by Duke (1988, 1999, 2002).

• FUEL TO THE FIRE:? Several days after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and UNC coach Roy Williams reportedly were sparring at each other through the media, Krzyzewski defused the situation.

"No one has asked me anything and I really haven't paid much attention to it," Krzyzewski said.

The comments in question occurred during a postgame radio show, when Krzyzewski was talking about an injury to Nolan Smith and reportedly said, "Unlike other schools, we don't release our injuries." That was interpreted by some media sources as a jab at the Tar Heels, who have been a walking hospital ward most of the season.

Williams, after he was informed of it, replied that Krzyzewski needed to mind his own business and coach his own team.

On Monday, Krzyzewski said he never said the phrase, "unlike other schools." He said he was just referring to Smith and never directed a comment toward the Tar Heels.

"If I wanted to tweak somebody, I'd do it in front of all of you guys," Krzyzewski said. "All that is so stupid, just stupid. That's about all I can say."

Williams said he and Krzyzewski did not discuss the matter.

"If we had talked, it would be a private thing, but we have not talked," Williams said. "I'm focusing on playing Florida State tonight and Duke on Saturday."

• LATE PUSH: Last weekend's games featured some stellar performances from players on bottom-half teams that could affect voting for the all-ACC awards.

Sean Singletary, the ACC's third-leading scorer, scored a career-high 44 points for last-place Virginia but the Cavaliers still lost to Miami. A big reason why was Hurricanes sharpshooter Jack McClinton, who hit his career high with 34 points.

The Cavs (13-13, 3-10) played Georgia Tech (12-15, 5-8) on Monday. Miami (20-7, 7-7) is trying to strengthen its bid for the NCAA tournament and plays Boston College and Florida State this week.

Singletary and McClinton's accomplishments were each trumped by BC's Tyrese Rice, who poured in an incredible 34 first-half points against UNC. He finished with a career-high 46, just four points from tying the conference record for an ACC game, but the Eagles still lost.

Rice is behind only UNC's Tyler Hansbrough on the scoring charts, but since his team has fallen to 13-14, 4-10, it's a question whether his contributions will show up on the first-team All-ACC list. Rice has averaged 23.4 points in ACC games this season.

• NO COLLAPSE THIS TIME: As coach Oliver Purnell has built his Clemson program into a contender, he's been dogged by late-season collapses the past two years.

Doesn't look like it'll be three years.

The No. 24 Tigers (21-7, 9-5) all but final-stamped their NCAA tournament bid over the weekend with a thrilling win at Maryland, overcoming a 20-point deficit in the second half and finding freshman Terrence Oglesby for the game-winning 3-pointer with less than three seconds to go. Clemson seems all but assured of finishing in the top four of the ACC, although the third-place Tigers host fourth-place Virginia Tech (17-11, 8-6) to close the regular season.

A top-four finish would mean Clemson gets a first-round ACC tournament bye and play on the second day. The Tigers haven't played on an ACC tournament second day since 2005 and only twice since 2001, and have only reached one ACC championship game (1962).

"We're not thinking about March right now," began Purnell before correcting himself. "It is March, so I'll take that back. We're trying to secure a bye in the ACC tournament. That's a huge advantage for us."

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