A Huge ACC Weekend

IS MIAMI READY TO TAKE CONTROL OF WIDE OPEN ACC RACE?

College basketball fans and sports bettors know that the ACC race usually isn't all that wide open. It's either Duke, or North Carolina, or the combination of Duke and North Carolina who are dominating the field year after year. But, here in January of 2013, we're dealing with real possibility that somebody other than one of those two is going to win the league...and then make the most noise during March Madness.

Here's what the top of the standings board looks like heading into this weekend's showcase showdowns...

ACC STANDINGS
Miami 5-0
NC State 4-2
Duke 3-2
North Carolina 3-2
Florida State 3-2
Virginia 3-2
Maryland 3-3
Wake Forest 3-3

Miami and NC State already have straight up wins over Duke, which could help in tie-breakers down the road. Of course, the Blue Devils dropped both of those games on the road, which means they'll have a chance to get revenge in Cameron Indoor.

What's notable about those standings RIGHT NOW is that most of those teams play EACH OTHER this weekend. There's a chance for both Duke and North Carolina to right their ships. There's a possibility that both Miami and NC State will fall back to the pack. You'll be watching these games through the weekend, so let's take a brief look at each...

MARYLAND AT DUKE (1 p.m. ET on CBS)
You know that Duke will be in a huge bounce-back spot here after suffering that humiliating loss to Miami a few nights ago. The question is...did that result rock their confidence so badly that they can't recover? Remember, this was a team that was already shaken entering the season because they lost to lowly Lehigh last year in a 2-15 game in their Dance opener. The media wants you to think of them as a power, and had them #1 in the country before that trip to Miami. Nobody's under any illusions now that Duke is a true superpower. Maryland has played some big teams this year, but knows that a win here would be the breakthrough result the team needs to rise to the next level. What happens in the ACC race if Duke falls to 3-3 out of the gate?! Can Maryland recover from a 3-4 start after so many pundits had eyed them as a darkhorse at the start of the season?

NORTH CAROLINA AT NC STATE (7 p.m. on ESPN)
This is the big prime time game of the week. Normally it's the Tar Heels who are the marquee team in the matchup. Right now, with the Wolfpack having already defeated Duke, and North Carolina playing below recent norms...it's CAROLINA who's the darkhorse hoping to make a statement. There were some TV announcers who said NC State was the best team in the ACC after they beat Duke. That struck some as far-fetched at first. But, given Duke's horrible showing at Miami...it's certainly conceivable that State has risen above their Tobacco Road rivals in a way that's going to matter all season. JIM HURLEY sees this as a very important litmus test for both teams. Can NC State thrive under these higher expectations? Can Carolina score a big road victory when they couldn't even beat Miami of Florida in Chapel Hill?

FLORIDA STATE AT MIAMI (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET on ESPNU)
Miami will have the luxury of knowing what both Duke and NC State have done by the time this game tips off. Though, they have enough concerns about focus already considering the celebration after their peak performance against the Dukie's earlier this week. That was a fantastic performance from a team hitting on all cylinders. This game vs. their state rival has "letdown" written all over it. Of course, that Wednesday boxscore has "Best in the ACC" written all over it too!

You can see why we've chosen to focus on the ACC this weekend! The six most important programs in the current race are playing each other...in games that will certainly have tournament intensity because everyone involved realizes their importance. What you learn this weekend will help you pick winners through the rest of the league race...through the ACC tournament...and through the Big Dance.

Here's how the respected computer rankings we've been using this year currently have these six TV teams rated. We'll tell you in advance that NETWORK'S own proprietary rankings have Duke lower than this...which happens every year (and makes us money!) These are the rankings heading into the weekend from Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy.

ACC IN THE COMPUTERS
Duke: #6 in Sagarin, #5 in Pomeroy
Miami: #15 in Sagarin, #14 in Pomeroy
NC State: #20 in Sagarin, #40 in Pomeroy
North Carolina: #28 in Sagarin, #49 in Pomeroy
Maryland: #47 in Sagarin, #60 in Pomeroy
Florida State: #56 in Sagarin, #85 in Pomeroy

Again, Duke flunked the eyeball test the other night, and doesn't currently have true top 10 talent. They have the kind of talent that can lose to Lehigh in the first round or get routed by Miami if the treys aren't falling and friendly officials aren't helping out. What most jumps out at us there is the big difference between the two computer methodologies. Sagarin's approach LOVES the ACC (a problem from the past rears its ugly head again), while Pomeroy's number is too enthusiastic about Duke, but knocks everyone from NC State downward to places that would insult their fans.

We can tell you this...if the computers CAN'T agree on the ACC, you know that oddsmakers are having trouble getting a read on the conference as well!

If you're already in the early stages of your Bracketology estimates, remember that it usually takes at least a top 45-50 finish to be comfortable of an at-large bid. Florida State's on the wrong side of the bubble at the moment. Maryland and North Carolina aren't immune from dropping into bubble danger either. So much at stake this weekend even though it's still just the last Saturday and Sunday in January.

JIM HURLEY is very much in synch with this league right now, and is looking forward to this big weekend schedule. As we write this, it's not certain yet whether or not those ACC TV matchups will make the final ticket. That will be determined in the early hours of Saturday morning. You can purchase the final qualifiers right here at the website with your credit card.

Other big Saturday matchups we're looking at:
Syracuse at Villanova
Louisville at Georgetown
Minnesota at Wisconsin
New Mexico at San Diego State
Temple at Butler

There's so much depth this year amongst the top 40-50 teams, that every Saturday is going to feel like its own Dance! You're going to watch WALL-TO-WALL BASKETBALL from the first game to the last. WATCH WHILE YOU WIN with JIM HURLEY!

If you're ready to commit now to all hoops through March Madness, or the NBA playoffs, you can do that on line...or by calling us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. The Super Bowl is now a week away. Super Bowl Sunday can be added to any basketball program for a nominal charge.

Back with your tomorrow for more basketball coverage. Sunday's schedule is loaded in both the NBA (Miami at Boston, Oklahoma City at the LA Lakers, Atlanta at New York), and the colleges (Michigan State at Indiana, Michigan at Illinois, and you already know about FSU/Miami). Your HARDWOOD HEAVEN will continue each and every day right here in the NOTEBOOK thanks to JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

21
Aug

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