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Carter: Stage is set for conference tournaments

Editor’s note: Andrew Carter is one of the AP Top 25 college basketball poll voters.

THE WEEK THAT WAS …

DUNKS:

▪ Some North Carolina fans might have been annoyed by it, or worse, but it was a classy move for coach Roy Williams to honor Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for his 1,000th victory. Williams and UNC recognized Krzyzewski before Duke’s 84-77 victory at the Smith Center on Saturday night. Part of the motivation behind the gesture was to show appreciation for how Krzyzewski and Duke joined UNC in honoring Dean Smith before the first game between these teams. Both displays were a nice reminder that there are far more important things than wins and losses and rivalries.

▪ N.C. State endured probably the worst conference loss of any team in the ACC this season in that ugly defeat at Boston College on Feb. 28. The Wolfpack could have gone one of two ways after that, and it responded with two victories that should secure N.C. State’s place in the NCAA tournament. The Wolfpack won a close one at Clemson and finished off Syracuse and now enters the ACC tournament with victories in five of its past six games.

BRICK:

▪ You can use any number of excuses – the timing wasn’t right, he didn’t want to detract from the players in their final game of the season – but Jim Boeheim took the coward’s way out Saturday when he blew off his news conference after Syracuse’s loss at N.C. State. Boeheim knew questions would be coming about an NCAA ruling that hammered his basketball program and instead of facing those questions he chose to hide. Not a good look but, then again, neither was committing the kind of violations that led to such harsh sanctions.

THE TOP 10

Each week I’ll share the top 10 teams on my ballot for The Associated Press top 25 poll. Let’s get to it:

1. Kentucky (31-0); last week: 1

The Wildcats finished the season undefeated and largely untested, and things shouldn’t be all that much more difficult for them in the SEC tournament.

2. Duke (28-3); last week: 2

Bad news for people who love to hate Duke: The Blue Devils are only getting better entering the most important part of the season.

3. Virginia (28-3); last week: 3

First a broken finger, then an appendectomy for guard Justin Anderson. It’s unclear whether he’ll be back for the ACC tournament.

4. Arizona (28-3); last week: 4

The Wildcats still are very much in play for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but they might be on the outside looking in given the strong finishes at Duke and Villanova.

5. Villanova (29-2); last week: 5

Villanova closed the regular season with 12 consecutive victories and it hasn’t lost since Jan. 19 at Georgetown.

6. Wisconsin (27-3); last week: 6

For a while the Badgers seemed a favorite to be a No. 1 seed, but now they need to win the Big Ten tournament and for teams like Duke, Arizona and Villanova to lose early in their tournaments.

7. Kansas (24-7); last week: 7

The Big 12 tournament shouldn’t lack for drama given that the top five teams in the league all are separated by two games in the standings.

8. Gonzaga (30-2); last week: 8

The Bulldogs are out of the conversation to enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed, but they should be a No. 2 as long as they don’t falter in the West Coast Conference tournament.

9. Maryland (26-5); last week: 10

A victory against Nebraska on Sunday night would give the Terrapins more wins than they ever have under coach Mark Turgeon, who’s in his fourth year.

10. Notre Dame (26-5); last week: 12

Virginia and Duke are the headliners in the ACC tournament, but don’t be surprised if Jerian Grant pulls a Randolph Childress and carries Notre Dame to the championship game Saturday.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The ACC tournament will start Tuesday – a day earlier than ever – in Greensboro, where Boston College and Georgia Tech will play at 1 p.m. in front of what’s sure to be a crowd of hundreds at the Greensboro Coliseum. Twelve games and four days later, we’ll have a champion crowned after a prime-time Saturday game.

Will it be Virginia in a repeat? Duke? Can North Carolina right itself and make a run? Will N.C. State continue to play like it has the past two or three weeks (game at Boston College not withstanding)?

Answers are forthcoming.

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