Sunday, March 11, 2007

ACC Semis

Carolina was the prohibitive favorite to win this tournament (I think about 3:2 odds), and they've played like it so far, blowing out FSU and now BC. Defense has been the key so far - the two opponents have scored just 114 points on 130 possessions, and made just 36 of 110 shots. Brandan Wright has looked every bit the freshman of the year, turning in a dominant 20 point, 5 rebound, 2 block performance, and totally shutting down any inside scoring for BC. Carolina also should be well rested for the finals - their game against BC was only 59 possessions, slowest of the season for UNC, and a full 7 possessions slower than the previous low in conference play (66, also against BC).

Where UNC has propelled themselves into the finals on the strength of field goal defense, the Pack have gotten here on a ridiculously hot shooting stretch. In the second halves of the Duke and Virginia games, State shot a combined 35 of 50 from the field - that's 70%! Their hot shooting continued through the first half of the Virginia Tech game, and although they faded a bit in the second half, their efg% was still at .600 for the game. Their EFG% over the past 3 games - a ridiculous .623. State needs their shooting to stay hot, because they're still not getting offensive rebounds (a whopping 0, yes 0, against Virginia Tech) and turning the ball over (22% in the three games). Yesterday, State was the beneficiary of a big disparity at the free throw line. The Pack scored 16 more points at the stripe than did the Hokies, in large part because NC State shot 86%, while Tech could manage only 42% (much scorn will be heaped on Markus Sailes and his 1-6 performance, but even without Sailes' efforts, the Hokies still shot just 54% from the line).

It's been a truly magical run so far for Sidney, his red coat, and his short-handed band of misfits. The odds are not good it will result in a championship. Atsur came up hobbled during play, and was very clearly not as mobile on his leg as he had been in the earlier rounds. Gavin Grant limped into the press conference. Courtney Fells has spent time on the sideline in each game with wraps on his thighs, and apparently has an elbow problem. And shooting the ball at a .623 EFG% clip seems unsustainable, particularly against a Tar Heel defense that held opponents to .391 EFG% in their two tournament games. Also, the numbers on the conference season so far say that Carolina wins this game 19 out of 20 times. My brain says Carolina, probably in a walk. But my heart is with Sidney Lowe and the Pack, and I'll be rooting for that 5%. (As a side note, an NCSU win probably guarantees the ACC 8 teams in the field. I know Georgia Tech isn't completely safe, but they seem to be on the right side of the bubble in the collective estimation, and FSU is seemingly on the wrong side. If NCSU steals a bid from Florida State, then it's a push. If FSU wasn't going to get in anyway, then a Pack win is good for the conference).

No comments: