It was an exciting end to the ACC women’s basketball regular season, so one should expect the ACC Tournament to be just as exciting. It will be held in Greensboro, North Carolina, where a few teams have had some success (ie NC State, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest over the last four years).
Let’s take a look at the four teams who received byes into the Friday quarterfinals:
#1 Duke. The Blue Devils lost their first and only conference game at Miami on Thursday night. Three games prior to that, they lost All-ACC guard Chelsea Gray for the season. They have not played really well over their last two games, though they overcame 29 turnovers in Sunday’s win over North Carolina.
The Blue Devils will play at 2pm ET on Friday against the winner of 8 NC State-9 Clemson. Last season, Duke was the first ever one seed to lose to an eight seed. Guess who that eight seed was? The Wolfpack. The Blue Devils beat the Wolfpack in their lone meeting this season in Raleigh (67-57). In that game, Haley Peters recorded a double-double: 18 points and 11 rebounds. For the NC State, Kody Burke and Marissa Kastanek scored in double figures by making 11-of-23 shots. Their teammates went just 7-for-33. This season, Duke beat Clemson twice, as the Tigers only averaged 45.5 points in the two losses.
Players to Watch: Elizabeth Williams, Tricia Liston, and Peters. For Duke to reach the ACC finals, they need these three to become more consistent. Williams has had trouble finishing on shots around the basket. Over her last two games, Liston has been virtually non-existent. Peters has been inconsistent all season long.
Keys to Victory: The bench. It is that simple. Duke has not received a ton of offensive production from their bench all season with Liston in the starting lineup. The bench is not that big to begin with, but they will need production from them to be victorious (especially if anyone gets into foul trouble).
#2 Maryland (14-4). They won the coin toss and will play the winner of 7Georgia Tech-10Wake Forest on Friday at 6pm ET. The Terps lost 2-of-3 to end the regular season. They won at GT this season (66-57), as three Terps recorded double-doubles: Alyssa Thomas (28 points, ten rebounds), Tianna Hawkins (16 points, 14 rebounds), and Alicia DeVaughn (11 points, 12 rebounds). Maryland did commit 24 turnovers in that game, 17 by those three. All-ACC player Tyaunna Marshall scored 18 points in the loss, as eight GT players scored. MD beat Wake twice, with the most recent coming in Sunday’s finale.
Maryland’s Chloe Pavlech and Katie Rutan during warmups during the 2013 season.
Players to Watch: Everyone in the conference knows what All-ACC players Thomas and Hawkins can do. But the players to keep an eye on are guards Katie Rutan and Chloe Pavlech. Both have great outside shots, but both will need to take the pressure off the expected scorers.
Keys to Victory: The Terps need production from their bench, a bench that usually consists of two, maybe three players. That production will need to double if any of the starters get into foul trouble. For MD to be successful, they will also need to limit the turnovers and take care of the basketball.
#3 North Carolina (14-4). They lost both to Duke and the coin toss on Sunday evening. The Tarheels are an atrocious free throw shooting team, so no matter how good their defense is, free throw shooting could be the end of them. They will play the winner of 6Virginia-11Boston College on Friday night at 8pm ET. They beat UVA, 71-60 in their only meeting, as they forced 24 turnovers. The Tarheels beat BC twice, with the Golden Eagles only averaging a little more than 50 points in both losses.
Players to Watch: Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Xylina McDaniel are the Tarheels’ All-ACC performers, but Krista Gross may be the difference maker. She has quietly put together a solid second half (four out of eight games she scored in double figures).
Keys to Victory: They need to put the ball in the basket. They have the tendency to go ice cold from the field and I already mentioned their struggles from the free throw line. They also need to stay out of foul trouble.
#4 Florida State (11-7). The Seminoles are a terrible road team (five of their seven losses), so playing away from Tallahassee could be a struggle. They also have not been playing well (lost four of their final six games). FSU plays the winner of 5Miami-12Virginia Tech on Friday at 11am ET. They beat Miami twice by wide margins in both (and shot over 50%). The Seminoles split their series against VT, as they were blown out by the Hokies just three games ago.
Players to Watch: The entire starting five. FSU doesn’t have much of a bench (getting the theme), so they rely heavily on their starters, especially Leonor Rodriguez, Alexa Deluzio, and Natasha Howard (who are All-ACC first teamers).
Keys to Victory: FSU needs to get off to a hot start. They cannot afford to come out flat because it will be a tough climb back. They also need to be consistent. Even though they have three 1st teamers, all three of them have had cold streaks.
Now to the rest of the field…
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