Three persons of interest in the ACC Tournament this week at the Greensboro Coliseum:
•Marcus Paige: If North Carolina's freshman point guard has a bad tournament, so will the rest of his team.
The third-seeded Tar Heels (22-9, 12-6) just cannot operate successfully for long stretches with Dexter Strickland moving over the point, meaning the 6-foot, 157-pound Paige could be facing the most physically demanding weekend of his career.
Paige generally has had a successful rookie season but has frequently struggled against taller, more experienced point guards.
In Friday's final quarterfinal game, Paige shouldn't be overmatched against either opposing point man -- Florida State freshman Devon Bookert (6-2, 180) or Clemson freshman Jordan Roper (5-11, 165).
But if the Heels have to play Duke in a Saturday semifinal, he'll face the defense that limited him to eight total points and seven assists in the two regular-season games.
There are several keys to Carolina's post-season hopes, but no or no one more important than Paige.
•Ryan Kelly: Can the Duke forward's right foot survive three games in three days if it comes to that?
The senior from Raleigh Ravenscroft has played in three games since returning from the early-season injury -- Miami (Feb. 28), Virginia Tech (March 5) and UNC (Feb. 9), meaning there was ample recovery time between each game.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski no doubt will space out Kelly's playing time more than in the three previous games. But in Friday's 7 p.m. quarterfinal against either Maryland or Wake Forest, the second-seeded Blue Devils ( 27-4, 14-4) likely will need a lot of minutes from Kelly and Mason Plumlee. Maryland, which defeated Duke by two points on Feb. 16, has as much size as any team in the conference.
•Jeff Bzdelik: Will Greensboro turn out to be the Wake Forest coach's last stand?
The guess here is yes and especially yes if the Deacons (13-17, 6-12) absorb a third loss this season from Maryland (20-11, 8-10) in Thursday's 7 p.m. first-round game.
Bzdelik, 60, has won only 10 ACC games in his three years and the majority of his 40 conference losses have been one-sided.
One possibility that must have crossed Wake athletic director Ron Wellman's mind is Miami's Jim Larranaga, recently selected as league coach of the year.
The top-seeded Hurricanes (24-6, 15-3) are likely to land on some sort of NCAA probation, meaning players could be allowed to transfer with penalty. If Larranaga would move to Wake, perhaps sophomore playmaker Shane Larkin might tag along.
Other likely names on Wellman's list are 34-year-old Archie Miller, the former N.C. State guard who has a 38-26 record through two seasons at Dayton, and N.C. Central's LeVelle Moton, once a standout at Raleigh Enloe High.
Moton, 38, is ready for a top-tier job and almost certainly would upgrade Wake's regional recruiting.
Wednesday, July 23 2014 1:22 AM EDT2014-07-23 05:22:18 GMT
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