Talking points going into the semifinals of the ACC Tournament on Saturday:
• Barring complete wipe-outs today, North Carolina and N.C. State should have played their way out of those dreaded NCAA 8th and 9th seeding starts.
And if both win today in Greensboro -- the Wolfpack over Miami at 1 p.m. and the Tar Heels over Maryland in the second game -- it's difficult to see either getting seeds lower than 5th or 6th when the NCAA field is announced Sunday.
• Duke's loss to Maryland on Friday eliminated any chance of the Blue Devils going off as the overall No. 1 NCAA team.
The Devils can still hope for a No. 1 regional seed somewhere, but a No. 2 is more likely. If there's an upside, Duke should be the overall top No. 2 seed, which usually means a bracket slot with the overall weakest No. 1, which could be Kansas or Louisville if both win today.
• UNC coach Roy Williams faces a tough call on the status of star shooter P.J. Hairston (bruised left shoulder, stitched-up left hand), just as State coach Mark Gottfried faces with Richard Howell (bruised left thigh).
Friday's quarterfinals ended with Hairston in the role of a bloodied Ides of March victim after the late-game injury against Florida State. With eight stitches between two fingers, there's an obvious danger to exposing him to a big, physical, intensely motivated Maryland defense.
Howell's availability likely hinges entirely on getting the left leg loose enough to allow mobility.
• Gottfried also faces a defensive strategy decision against the top-seeded Hurricanes.
Boston College used a match-up zone and some backcourt pressure to disrupt Miami's half-court offensive sets.
But since it was in the first game Friday, Miami coach Jim Larranaga and his staff had ample time to devise counter tactics.
State used a fair amount of zone defense at times during regular season, but Gottfried prefers man-to-man.
Either way, the more important issue is for Howell and C.J. Leslie to avoid foul trouble.