The weekend in 30 seconds
Maryland takes its NCAA tournament hopes - and the life-support machine they're attached to - to Wake Forest for a noon tip Saturday ... Duke seeks redemption against Miami at Cameron ... Clemson and Virginia Tech meet in one of the most irrelevant ACC games you'll ever encounter ... Sunday begins with UNC hosting Florida State in a game CBS might regret agreeing to broadcast nationally ... And it ends with N.C. State traveling to Georgia Tech, where the Wolfpack seek to improve their road ACC record to 3-5.
- Andrew Carter
No. 3 Duke
vs. Miami, 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Mason Plumlee proves coach K's point
Mike Krzyzewski has repeatedly said that no ACC player is as important to his team as Mason Plumlee is to Duke. And when you look at Plumlee's performances in Duke's most recent losses, Krzyzewski appears right.
In Duke's two losses to unranked teams - at Maryland Feb. 16 and at Virginia Thursday - Plumlee was a combined 4-of-12 for 14 points and 10 rebounds. Throughout this season, he has averaged 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Against the Terrapins, when Plumlee went 2-for-7 from the floor for a season-low four points, exhaustion was the key factor (though Alex Len certainly had something to do with his struggles). Duke was finishing a swing of three games in six days and had won close games against Boston College and North Carolina earlier in the week. Plumlee played 38 minutes against the Eagles and 35 against the Tar Heels before playing 33 against the Terrapins.
"We're playing on fumes, and I think you can tell that in Mason," Krzyzewski said after the loss. "I thought he looked exhausted the whole game."
Against Virginia, Plumlee was swarmed by a double team whenever he touched the ball in the post. His five shot attempts were one more than his season-low of four, which came in only 25 minutes at Florida State. Plumlee played all 40 minutes against the Cavaliers.
"He's been great," Krzyzewski said after the Maryland game. "We'll keep him. We believe in him."
And Duke needs him.
- Laura Keeley
at Georgia Tech, 6 p.m. Sunday, ESPNU
Lorenzo Brown at home vs. Yellow Jackets
N.C. State beat Georgia Tech 83-70 on Jan. 9 in Raleigh with 21 points and 10 assists from junior point guard Lorenzo Brown. Brown, who's from Roswell, Ga., enjoys going back to his home state. The Wolfpack went 3-1 last season in Atlanta, with a win over the Yellow Jackets in the regular season and then two wins in the ACC tournament.
The Yellow Jackets are back in their on-campus home after playing last season at Philips Arena. Tech started 0-5 in ACC play and has gone 5-5 since with home wins over Wake Forest, Virginia and Maryland. The Jackets struggle to produce points (63.5 per game, which ranks No. 267 nationally) but has held opponents to 60.3 points per game, which ranks No. 39 nationally.
The Jackets are coming off a 78-68 home win over Maryland on Wednesday. It was only the third time they scored at least 70 points in ACC play. They've been held under 60 points six times, including four of the past five games. Joe Giglio
vs. Florida State, 2 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Smaller lineup helps Strickland
Dexter Strickland broke away down the court for a one-handed dunk during the second half at Clemson on Thursday night. Moments later, he repeated the sequence. Both of those plays helped the Tar Heels maintain a comfortable lead during their 68-59 victory.
The Heels were sloppy but Strickland wasn't. He finished with 16 points - a season-high for him in an ACC game - and also had four assists. Since UNC went to a smaller starting lineup three weeks ago, Strickland has played like he used to play, before the season-ending injury he suffered last season.
He said he is more confident now. Physically, he's fully healed from the injury. Another change has benefitted Strickland's game, too: He's taking better shots.
"Earlier in the season I tried to prove to everybody that I could shoot, and I was taking bad shots and stuff like that," Strickland said. "And now I'm just playing my game - just being aggressive."
UNC's smaller lineup has allowed Strickland more room to penetrate. He has taken advantage.
- Andrew Carter
vs. Maryland, Noon Saturday, WBTV
A lot on the line for Deacons
It's a big weekend for the Deacons (12-15, 5-10), and not just because it's Senior Day and former Wake Forest player and NBA All-Star Chris Paul will have his jersey retired at halftime. The Deacons have a chance to break out of a three-way tie for eighth with Georgia Tech and Clemson in the league standings. They can also set themselves up for the final week of the regular season, which features a rematch at N.C. State and a home finale against Virginia Tech. The Terrapins (19-9, 7-8) have their own motivation - they've been mentioned as a "bubble team" to make the NCAA Tournament with wins over Top-25 teams Duke and N.C. State. But they've hurt their cause with losses to Georgia Tech, Boston College and Florida State in the past month.
- Bill Kiser
at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. Saturday, SPSO
The Tigers (13-14, 5-10) have the perfect opportunity to break out of their recent slump (three straight losses) heading into the final week of the regular season. While the Hokies (12-16, 3-12) have the nation's leading scorer in Erick Green (24.9 points per game), that's failed to translate into wins with any regularity. Virginia Tech has lost 10 of its past 11 games (the lone bright spot was a 10-point win over Florida State on Feb. 24), relegating them to the bottom of the ACC standings.
- Bill Kiser
Player to watch
Shane Larkin, Miami, guard, sophomore
Larkin, one of the front-runners for ACC player of the year, has masterfully directed the Miami offense to a 14-1 ACC start. For the year, he has averaged a13.4 points and 4.3 assists per game, but he bettered those marks last time against Duke, scoring 18 and dishing out five assists. Larkin has played a critical role in several of the Hurricane's close wins, most notably against Virginia, when he found an open Reggie Johnson under the basket for a game-winning layup. He'll get a chance to showcase his talents in Cameron on Saturday.
- Laura Keeley