There's more on the line in Greensboro this week than just the ACC tournament title.
Fifth-ranked Duke and No. 6 North Carolina are playing for the possibility of a No. 1 seed come NCAA Selection Sunday. Boston College, Virginia Tech and Clemson are competing for an NCAA berth, period.
"I think our guys are in as decent a place as you can be, when you know you need to win games," Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said. "But we've got a lot of company."
Jerry Palm, owner and editor of collegerpi.com, projects that four to six teams from the ACC will make the 68-team NCAA tournament field. The Blue Devils, Tar Heels, and Florida State are locks. "The ones in question are BC, VT and Clemson, for the moment - in that order," Palm said in an e-mail Monday.
The Eagles, projected to finish 10th in the preseason ACC poll, have won their last three games to bump their record to 19-11 (9-7 ACC) and were ranked 42 in the RPI as of Sunday, according to realtimerpi.com. Virginia Tech (19-10, 9-7), injury-diminished the entire season, earned a strong résumé boost when it beat then-No. 1 Duke on Feb. 26; but it then fell two steps back by losing its final two games, against Boston College and at Clemson. It ranks 66th in the RPI.
The Tigers (20-10, 9-7) have won three of their last four, earning the fourth seed in the ACC tournament and a first-day bye. They are ranked No. 55 in the RPI.
"We've had a bunch of games where they [the local media] have asked me if they're a must-win, and it seems like we've been doing must-wins all through February and into March," first-year Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "... Our guys are aware of what they're doing, and what [ESPN bracketologist] Joe Lunardi thinks - I think everyone involved with college basketball is. ... It's not something we go around talking about, 'Hey, we need to win this game to stay in.' "
UNC and Duke, meanwhile, don't have to win to make the NCAA tournament; but how far they go this week will have an impact on their seeding.
"I don't pay attention to those things; I think it's a useless waste of my time, because all my thinking on it has no bearing on it, so why waste the time even thinking about it?" UNC coach Roy Williams said. "But there's no question, you would like to have the best seed you possibly can."
And for the Tar Heels, who have won seven straight games to win the regular-season league title, that seed could be a lot better than anyone expected a month ago.
Ohio State, Kansas and Pittsburgh - ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in this week's Associated Press poll - appear to have a bear hug on three of the NCAA's No. 1 seeds. But the fourth No. 1 is back up for grabs after BYU, Purdue and Duke (to UNC) lost over the last week.
Fourth-ranked Notre Dame - led by Ben Hansbrough, the little brother of former UNC All-American Tyler Hansbrough - looks like a frontrunner right now, although its RPI (9) ranks behind San Diego State (3), Duke (5), UNC (6) and the Boilermakers (8).
The Blue Devils, Palm wrote in an e-mail, ultimately have a better chance than UNC of earning a No. 1, "because they've had a better overall season, but I wouldn't rule either out. It will likely take an ACC tourney title for either one [to get it]."
Which just adds another prize to the end of the week.
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said star forward Chris Singleton, who missed the last five games of the season with a foot fracture, is "awful, awful close" to returning.
"I don't know that he'll be ready for Friday, but I don't know that he won't," Hamilton said. "... He's been doing some non-contact stuff that looks promising. We're going to proceed optimistic, but cautious."
The Seminoles have gone 3-2 without Singleton, one of the top defenders in the country.
Seventy-five members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association voted for this year's All-ACC basketball teams, which were announced Monday. A breakdown of the voters, by state, was not immediately available, but it's notable that half of those eligible to vote (60) hail from the state of North Carolina, which boasts only a third of the ACC schools.
Virginia has 21 eligible voters, followed by Florida (17), South Carolina (13), Maryland (3), Massachusetts and Tennessee (2 apiece), and Alabama and Washington, D.C. (1 apiece).
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