Two of the biggest upsets in Women's ACC Tournament history occurred yesterday within five hours of each other. Today, No. 7 Wake Forest and No. 9 N.C. State will see if they can keep their dream alive and make it to Sunday, where they would have the chance to do the unthinkable and win the ACC Championship.
The N.C. State Wolfpack will take on the No. 4 seed Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 11:00 a.m. in the first semifinal. Following that game, the Deacs will take on the No. 3 seed Maryland Terrapins at 1:30 p.m. (or thirty minutes after the conclusion of the first game).
While it is improbable that either team will continue their run, after yesterday, anything is on the table, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a Wake Forest-N.C. State final tomorrow (and I'm sure Greensboro wouldn't mind that either). The Deacs and the Wolfpack have played inspired, physical basketball the last two days and have refused to back down against the nation's elite. Their reward is a trip to the weekend in Greensboro and perhaps a memory that will last a lifetime tomorrow afternoon if the dominoes fall in the right way.
Click through the jump for more of a preview for each game.
For Wake Forest, yesterday may have been enough to get the Deacs into the NCAA Tournament. Head Coach Mike Petersen certainly thought so as he pleaded with the media to ask him about their NCAA Tournament chances. From there, he took it himself and launched into a two minute impassioned speech about what Wake Forest had done over the past month and a half and wondered out loud who else matched up with the Deacs resume.
N.C. State is a little less certain to make the tournament and likely needs to win the ACC Tournament to make the Big Dance this year. That fact does nothing to diminish an extremely unlikely 75-73 upset over the No.1 seed Duke Blue Devils yesterday. The Wolfpack becomes the first No. 9 seed to ever make the ACC semifinals, as well as sending Duke to the first ever loss by a No. 1 seed in the semifinals.
No. 9 N.C. State vs. No. 4 Georgia Tech
N.C. State made it to the semifinals by knocking off the No. 8 seed Florida State on Thursday (74-71) and then stunning the Duke Blue Devils 75-73 yesterday afternoon. Georgia Tech had a bye to yesterday afternoon and then took care of UNC when a Brittany Rountree 30-footer fell just short to give the Yellow Jackets a 54-53 victory.
While it may not seem like the Pack has a chance at face value, they played the No. 15 Yellow Jackets very close in both games this season. They lost on Jan. 2 in Raleigh 76-66, and then nearly defeated GT on Feb. 2 before falling in overtime 75-68.
The Yellow Jackets have been a force to be reckoned with lately though, as they have not lost since dropping a 64-56 game on the road at Maryland on Feb. 6.
For the Wolfpack to have a chance, they will have to shut down Sasha Goodlett inside and conversely get Bonae Holston the ball inside for some easy buckets. If N.C. State can do that, it will open up the three point line for sharpshooters Marissa Kastanek and Emili Tasler to drain the deep ball.
Fatigue could also play into things today for N.C. State. They have played two straight days under extreme pressure to win and have also played two fairly high possession games for both scores to be in the 70's. This could take a pretty big toll overall with the physical guards that Georgia Tech has, particularly Dawnn Maye.
I think this game will be closer than people think, but I believe Georgia Tech will begin to pull away in the second half as the legs become too tired for N.C. State. If Coach Kellie Harper can come up with a plan to combat and motivate the players to overcome this, then the Pack have a chance, but I see Georgia Tech just wearing them down and coming out with a 10-12 point victory.
No. 7 Wake Forest vs. No. 3 Maryland
Wake Forest got to Semifinal Saturday by defeating No. 10 Virginia Tech, 80-74 on Thursday night. The Deacs then knocked off the No. 2 seed Miami Hurricanes 81-74 in a shocker last night.
No. 3 Maryland has had an easy go of things so far in Greensboro. They got the bye that the 1-4 seeds get and then dismantled No. 6 seed Virginia in the last game of the night on Friday. This allowed the starters to get plenty of rest, and nobody played more than 26 minutes, which could be a huge factor considering Wake Forest has already played two up-and-down games.
If the Deacs are going to keep this one close, they have to do a better job of containing the inside game of Tianna Hawkins and Alyssa Thomas than they did when the teams met on Jan. 19. Maryland won that game 86-58, but it was actually closer than the score indicated. The game was tied at 37 at the halftime break, but the Deacs wore down in the second half as Thomas and Hawkins combined for 34 points and 35 rebounds.
Hawkins set the Maryland school record with 24 rebounds in that game, a record that had stood for over 34 years. There is no doubt that Coach Petersen has challenged the inside duo of Lindsy Wright and Sandra Garcia to not allow that to happen again today. Then again, I'm not sure if Secily Ray would let them the way that she has been playing the past two days.
It will take a complete team effort for the Deacs to defeat the Terrapins today in Greensboro. While yesterday was a huge win for the program, today would solidify the Deacs in the NCAA Tournament if they could get the win. On the offensive end, Wake Forest probably needs to be a little more fluid and play some better team ball. Yesterday was great with the guards breaking down Miami on the perimeter, but I doubt Douglas, Boykin and Thomas will be able to get to the basket as well as they did yesterday.
Another thing to look at is the legs. Wake Forest essentially plays "40 Minutes of Hell," and that doesn't necessarily translate to the ACC Tournament very well. I expect Coach Petersen to continue to rotate early because the Deacs can definitely go 10-11 deep if necessary. Erin Hall, Millesa Callicott and Dearica Hamby will need to get more minutes than yesterday and be productive in their time out there.
As much as it hurts me to say this, I think the Deacs are going to hit a wall today. It's not just because the legs will be shot (I don't think that will be as big of a problem as N.C. State), I just think that Maryland is an outstanding team that will wear an opponent down.
If the Deacs can get off to a hot start again then I think we can hang around, but if Maryland comes out on fire then Wake could be in a world of trouble. I think Maryland will take a 7-9 point lead into the half and the Deacs will give it one last gasp to cut it to 3-4 before Maryland stretches it back out. I sincerely hope Coach P and the team prove me wrong once again.
Finally, if you are reading this right now and are not planning on heading to the Greensboro Coliseum (if you are within a reasonable driving distance), then I question why you are even reading this website. The Deacs absolutely deserve your support, and today is the biggest game of these girls career. This could be the difference between the program's second NCAA Tournament berth and another WNIT berth.
So get out there, cheer loud, and bring home a Wake Forest victory to get us into the finals!