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Teams hope to make case for NCAA field

It didn't take long for March to get mad in the ACC.

On the first of the month, both Duke and North Carolina erased double-digit deficits to get crucial road victories. One day later, Clemson came back from 20 points down to stun Maryland.

College basketball's ultimate month certainly came in like a lion to the ACC, but with a single week left in regular-season play, many teams are hoping it doesn't go out like a lamb.

No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke are locks for the NCAA Tournament. After the traditional powers, nothing about postseason play is certain.

"The big thing we're concerned about right now is just playing well the next 40 minutes," Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said. "It's redundant and boring, but everyone wants to get caught up in talking about the NCAA Tournament, and the best way to answer those questions is to win games."

Greenberg's Hokies (17-11, 8-6 in the ACC) have seemingly come from nowhere to plant themselves within reach of the big dance. Virginia Tech followed up a three-game losing streak with three straight wins, including a comeback win at Maryland.

That was the first of two devastating home defeats for the Terrapins (18-12, 8-7). Sunday's 73-70 loss to Clemson was their third in four games. Maryland rebounded from a poor start to the season to climb back into the ACC race, but this recent slide may leave the team home for the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons.

"It's just like a boxer," Maryland head coach Gary Williams said. "How many times does he get up after being knocked down? We've been knocked down a few times this year. [Sunday] night was a good example of that. We've come back, so I'm feeling today that we can come back.... This is a chance to prove how tough you are."

The Terrapins close the season at Virginia, the team Miami escaped Saturday in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes (20-8, 7-7), despite a midweek loss at Clemson, are one of the hottest teams in the conference, winning five of their last six. That stretch includes home victories over Duke and Maryland that came after Miami lost six of its first eight in conference.

Those undulations during the course of the season are all-too familiar to other coaches in the ACC.

"The roller coaster we've been on is no different than anyone else in our league," Greenberg said. "That's ACC basketball. Excluding one or two schools, there's no smooth sailing. It's going to be a journey, it's not a destination. There's going to be potholes and roadblocks and detours, and it's how you handle [them] that's going to determine whether you have a chance in March."

Greenberg and his conference colleagues are all hoping to survive the ACC Tournament, fittingly scheduled during the Ides of March, and advance to the NCAAs.

"The motivation is we're playing better, we have opportunities out there potentially if we're able to be successful.... That this team in March is in the discussion to have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament," Greenberg said. "Obviously, you set a goal at the beginning of the season, and you still have a chance to fulfill that goal. That's exciting."


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