ATLANTA — It has been hard to miss, but Boston College coach Steve Donahue is as aware as anyone of C.J. Leslie's second-half surge for N.C. State.
Leslie, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged more than 17 points in the Wolfpack's past 10 games, and Donahue cited his improvement Wednesday.
"I think he's as talented as anybody in the league, for sure," Donahue said. "I think he's made incredible strides, not only from last year, but the middle of the season on, just so confident.
"With his size, he's hard to guard. He can go off the dribble, he's got a great feel for the game. Very difficult - it's a hard matchup for our guys, no doubt about it."
A second-team all-ACC selection, Leslie had 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting in N.C. State's first win against Boston College and was 5-for-12 for 13 points in the second, on Feb. 1. The 12th-seeded Eagles and the fifth-seeded Wolfpack will face off again today in the first round of the ACC tournament (2 p.m., WRAL, ESPNU).
Leslie wasn't the only Wolfpack player who impressed Donahue.
"They have a lot of different pieces," he said. "They have a good point guard. They have an outstanding shooter in (Scott) Wood, a power player in (Richard) Howell. They have (DeShawn) Painter who can come off the bench and make shots. (C.J.) Williams does all those things. Offensively, they're as talented a group as you're going to find."
N.C. State has already beaten Boston College twice, but with its postseason fate on the line, the Wolfpack knows it can't afford a slip-up today.
"We are worried about Boston College," Williams said. "Boston College beat Florida State. Other people want to talk about other things, but we have to worry about them and not look ahead."
GEORGIA HOMECOMING: The tournament in Atlanta is a homecoming for N.C. State guard Lorenzo Brown, who grew up in Roswell, Ga., and for forward Howell, who's from nearby Marietta.
Both are hoping for a better statistical outing than their first trip to Philips Arena this season, a 61-52 win against Georgia Tech on Feb. 9. Brown had 10 points, with four assists, and Howell had eight points and six rebounds.
Howell, the team's leading rebounder, has struggled with foul trouble throughout the conference schedule. He had 10 rebounds but played 18 minutes in Sunday's win at Virginia Tech because of three fouls in the first half.
Howell fouled out of five ACC games but did not in the first 18 games of the season. Howell, who's tied for second in the ACC in rebounding with 9.3 per game, said it has been a frustrating stretch.
"I have to keep playing aggressively," he said. "I can't let it affect the way I'm playing."
Williams is looking forward to another game at Philips Arena. He had 15 points, on 6-of-11 shooting in the win over the Yellow Jackets.
"You want to feel comfortable in the gym, and I got a good feel about playing here," Williams said.
He has scored eight points in each of the past two games but was slowed against Miami on Feb. 29 after inadvertently getting hit in the back of the head by Miami forward Reggie Johnson while going for a rebound.
Williams said he didn't suffer a concussion and he's 100 percent for today's game.
37 AND COUNTING: Duke radio play-by-play announcer Bob Harris will work his 37th ACC tournament this week. Harris has called more than 1,200 Duke games and all four of the Blue Devils' national championship wins, but there's nothing like the ACC tournament, he said.
"Absolutely, it's still special," said Harris, 69, who grew up in Albemarle and became the voice of the Blue Devils in 1976.
Harris worked his first ACC tournament in 1976, Virginia's only league title. He considers Duke's win in 1978, under coach Bill Foster - in snowy Greensboro - to be one of the most memorable highlights of his career.
MISSING IN ACTION: Several key players will be missing from this week's tournament. Duke forward Ryan Kelly won't play because of a foot injury he suffered in practice Tuesday.
Georgia Tech will be without leading scorer Glen Rice Jr., who has missed the past five games with a suspension, and coach Brian Gregory said his best player won't play against Miami tonight.
Virginia Tech forward Victor Davila has missed the past six games with a groin/hip injury and won't play against Clemson tonight.
Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon has missed two games with a foot injury and will not play Friday.