In The Hunt For No. 1

Led by the national player of the year, North Carolina captured its second straight Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title to earn the top seed in the conference tournament in Charlotte. A strong showing in their league tournament would likely be enough to give the top-ranked Tar Heels the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament in the Charlotte-based East Regional.

Tyler Hansbrough and defending ACC tournament champion North Carolina look to move closer to a No. 1 seed as they play ninth-seeded Florida State in the quarterfinals on Friday at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made North Carolina -14 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 86% of bets for this game have been placed on North Carolina -14 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

The Tar Heels (29-2) have spent 13 weeks atop the AP poll and expected to be a top seed in the NCAA tournament, but a slip up in the conference tournament could cost them.

"It's something that I continue to have mixed emotions about," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said of the ACC tournament. "But it's a wonderful, wonderful thing and we have to play. So, by golly, we're going to do the best we can possibly to win it."

Last year, the Tar Heels were the top seed in the conference tournament and were rewarded with the No. 1 seed in the East Regional after winning it. North Carolina has won 16 ACC tournament titles, but has not won back-to-back conference tournament championships since 1997-98.

The Tar Heels won their third regular-season championship in four years with a 76-68 victory at then-No. 6 Duke on Saturday. North Carolina, which has won eight straight games, held its rival without a point over the last 5 1/2 minutes and closed the game on a 10-0 run.

Hansbrough finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds while surpassing the 2,000-point mark for his career, and on Tuesday he was named the national player of the year by Sporting News.

The 6-foot-9 Hansbrough led the ACC in scoring (23.1 points) and rebounding (10.5), and was also the unanimous choice as conference player of the year.

"I feel like you're either getting better or you're not,'' the junior said. "I'm always the guy trying to get better. ... Those little things, it seems like they stay with me and it's one of those driving factors.''

Hansbrough is averaging 17.6 points and 10.8 boards in five career games against the Seminoles (19-13), and had 22 points and a career-high 21 rebounds in the Heels' 84-73 overtime victory in Tallahassee on Feb. 3.

North Carolina also defeated Florida State 90-77 at home on March 4, and outrebounded the Seminoles 95-52 in the two meetings. The Heels are the top rebounding team in the nation at 44.5 per game.

North Carolina has won eight straight over Florida State, and 19 of the last 22 meetings. The Heels beat the Seminoles 73-58 in last season's quarterfinals, and have won all three meetings versus them in the ACC tournament.

"We have a tremendous opportunity against what is considered the No. 1 team in America," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. "That's the way we have to look at it, and what we have to focus on is what we can control."

Florida State advanced to the quarterfinals with a 70-60 victory over Wake Forest in the first round on Thursday. The Seminoles have won five of their last six games after winning just two of their previous 10.

Senior Jason Rich almost single-handedly put away the game by scoring 15 of the Seminoles' 17 points - including 10 straight - during one 4 1/2-minute stretch midway through the second half. Rich finished with 22, and matched a career high with 27 points in the loss at Chapel Hill last week.

This is the Seminoles 12th appearance in the quarterfinals, but they have not advanced to the semifinals since 1992 - their first season in the ACC.

The winner of this game will face the winner of fourth-seeded Virginia Tech and fifth-seeded Miami in Saturday's semifinals.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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