By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 2001
WHEN/WHERE: Today-Sunday; Georgia Dome, Atlanta.
TV/RADIO: Game 1 -- Florida State-Clemson, 7 p.m. today, ESPN, Ch. 32; Game 2 -- North Carolina-FSU/Clemson winner, noon Friday, ESPN, Ch. 32; Game 3 -- Virginia-Georgia Tech, 2:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN2, Ch. 32; Game 4 -- Duke-N.C. State, 7 p.m. Friday, ESPN, Ch. 32; Game 5 -- Maryland-Wake Forest, 9:30 p.m. Friday, Ch. 32; Games 6 and 7 -- Semifinals, 1:30 and 4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN, Ch. 32; Game 8 -- Championship, 1 p.m. Sunday, ESPN. FSU game(s) will be on WWBA-AM 1040; WZHR-AM 1400; WAMR-AM 1320.
FAVORITE: North Carolina. Although the Tar Heels have lost three of five, including a shocker at Clemson and the season finale at home to Duke, they have the kind of depth and talent in guard Joseph Forte, an unanimous first-team All-ACC pick, and center Brendan Haywood, to string together three wins in three days. Being the No. 1 seed helps, but much will hinge on UNC playing defense as it did during its 18-game winning streak and not like it did in its three recent losses. Eighteen breakdowns led to 31 Duke points.
DARK HORSE: Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a loss to Florida State on Feb. 28, but they have an inside threat in former Lakeland Kathleen star Alvin Jones, a first-team All-ACC pick, and a potent perimeter game with guards Tony Aikens and Shaun Fein. If they can win Friday against Virginia, expect the locals to gobble up tickets from the departing teams, which could give them a home-court advantage. More than 40,000 tickets have been sold per session, which will mean an NCAA-record attendance for a conference tournament.
LOCKS FOR NCAA TOURNAMENT: North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, Virginia and Wake Forest. After sending just three teams to the NCAA each of the past two years, the ACC has re-emerged as a deep, powerful league. Duke, UNC, Maryland and Virginia are ranked in the Top 12 and Wake Forest is No. 22. No other league has that many in the poll.
ON THE BUBBLE: Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets seemingly should be a lock for an at-large bid. They've beaten non-conference powers UCLA and Kentucky as well as Maryland, Wake Forest and Virginia (twice). But at 16-11, they might need one more win to secure a spot.
WHAT FSU HAS TO DO: The Seminoles enter the ACC with a two-game winning streak, which includes the regular-season finale at Clemson, tonight's opponent. FSU won both regular-season meetings against the Tigers to finish eighth instead of last in the league. The chances of FSU winning more than once are slim.