Five ACC teams entered the weekend on the bubble, but only two — Maryland and North Carolina State — lacked a signature victory. On Saturday, both teams came very close to notching road wins over top 10 teams, but each came up on the short end of the stick. There is still time remaining, but the Terrapins and Wolfpack each missed huge opportunities to collect NCAA Tournament case-making victories.
For 40 minutes, Maryland gave eighth-ranked Duke all it wanted at Cameron Indoor Stadium. In a game that went back and forth in the second half, Dez Wells’ trey with under three minutes to go broke a 64-64 tie and gave Maryland a three-point lead. Unfortunately for the Terrapins, they would not score again.
Wells and Charles Mitchell each had looks in the final minute that would have given Maryland the lead, but the potential winning shots went awry. In the end, Jabari Parker’s 23-point effort delivered the Blue Devils 69-67 as Maryland fell to 14-12 on the year and just 6-7 in ACC play.
Four of Maryland’s final five games will be home including showdowns against Syracuse and Virginia. If the Terrapins have any realistic shot at earning a NCAA bid, the Terps will likely have to finish at least 4-1 and make some noise in the ACC Tournament.
Perhaps an even more gut-wrenching loss over the weekend was the one suffered by N.C. State to top-ranked Syracuse. Like Maryland, the Wolfpack also entered Saturday on the bubble, but without a key victory.
Against the #1 team in the country at the Carrier Dome, the Wolfpack led by as many as five in the second half before having the ball and a 1-point lead in the game’s waning moments.
It looked as though N.C. State would have a chance to extend its 55-54 lead at the foul line, but a critical turnover by Anthony Barber set up the second straight dramatic victory for the Orange. Forward C.J. Fair’s layup with seven seconds to play on a pass from freshman Tyler Ennis — Tuesday’s hero against Pittsburgh — gave Syracuse a 56-55 lead.
The ACC’s leading scorer T.J. Warren has a desperation look to win the game, but his shot went awry and the Wolfpack fell to an even 6-6 in conference play and 16-9 on the season. Syracuse on the other hand, remained perfect at 25-0.
Despite the loss, N.C. State remains in much better shape than Maryland with a better overall record and a RPI just outside the top 50. A road victory on Saturday against the nation’s top-ranked team however, would have done wonders for the Wolfpack’s overall resume’.
The remaining schedule for N.C. State is fairly manageable. North Carolina State has games remaining with Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College. The Wolfpack will also have a road game against Pittsburgh and home date with rival North Carolina on the slate. If N.C. State can notch one of those two victories and beat the teams it should, the Wolfpack could have a very promising NCAA resume’ that has 20 wins and a key victory heading into the ACC Tournament.
It was also a tough weekend for ACC bubble teams, Clemson and Wake Forest. Despite 24 points from K.J. McDaniels, the Tigers came up on the short end of a 63-58 score against #17 Virginia at home. Wake Forest may have seen its tournament hopes dashed as it fell at home to Florida State 67-60. With the game tied at 55, FSU closed the game on a 12-5 run which may have salvaged the season for the Seminoles.