Best matchup: North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough vs. Duke forward Josh McRoberts: The improvement of McRoberts has helped Duke turn things around after dropping its first two ACC games. The sophomore forward headed into Thursday night's meeting with Virginia having averaged 16.5 points and 12 rebounds over his last two outings. McRoberts faces perhaps his toughest test of the season Wednesday when he likely will have to match up against Hansbrough, one of the top big men in the nation. Hansbrough leads the ACC in rebounding and averages 19.6 points per game. Duke doesn't have nearly as much frontcourt depth as North Carolina, so the Blue Devils probably won't win unless McRoberts makes things difficult for Hansbrough.
Worst matchup: Wake Forest vs. Winston-Salem State: Wake Forest's inexperienced roster could use a bit of a vacation from the grueling ACC schedule. That's exactly what the Demon Deacons will get Tuesday when they play host to Winston-Salem State, which owns a 4-20 record (2-20 against Division I teams) and is coming off a loss to Florida A&M. Last month, Winston-Salem State lost 97-46 to a Georgia Tech team that lost to the Deacons on Tuesday.
The pressure is on: Maryland forwards Ekene Ibekwe and James Gist: Maryland's impressive RPI rating (No. 29 as of Thursday) indicates the Terrapins still have a good chance of reaching the NCAA Tournament - even after losing five of their first seven ACC games. That could change if Maryland slips up Saturday night at Wake Forest. The Deacons' best chance of pulling the upset is if they get a huge game from Kyle Visser. The center collected 26 points and nine rebounds Tuesday in a 75-65 victory over Georgia Tech. Ibekwe and Gist will have the challenge of containing Visser this weekend.
Upset alert: Virginia Tech at Boston College: You could argue a Virginia Tech victory Saturday wouldn't constitute much of an upset, but Boston College is the probable favorite as the home team. The Eagles are undefeated at home in ACC competition this season. Then again, going on the road doesn't seem to bother Virginia Tech. The Hokies are 3-1 in ACC road games and won at Duke earlier this season. Virginia Tech suffered a disappointing home loss to North Carolina State on Wednesday and wants to avoid falling into a tailspin. The Hokies' experienced guards will make sure that doesn't happen.
Who's hot: Virginia guard J.R. Reynolds has averaged 28 points per game in the Cavaliers' last four outings. ... Florida State forward Al Thornton is averaging 24.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in his last three contests. Thornton has shot at least 50 percent from the floor in 12 consecutive games. Florida State guard Jason Rich has shot 67.6 percent (23-of-34) in his last four games. Maryland forward James Gist is shooting 80 percent (20-of-25) and averaging 24.5 points per game in his last two outings. Boston College guard Tyrese Rice has 22 assists and only four turnovers in his last three games. He had a career-high 13 assists Wednesday in a 94-60 triumph over Hartford. Boston College forward Jared Dudley has scored at least 11 points in every game this season. Over the last two years, he has scored in double figures an ACC-leading 27 consecutive times. North Carolina guards Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson are averaging a combined 30.7 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game in their last three contests.
Who's not: Georgia Tech guard Javaris Crittenton has shot 23.9 percent (11-of-46) during the Yellow Jackets' four-game losing streak. Virginia Tech guard Jamon Gordon has shot 28.2 percent (11-of-39) overall and 12.5 percent (1-of-8) from 3-point range in his last four games. Virginia Tech center Coleman Collins has failed to make a basket in two of his last three games. Collins shot 0-of-5 and was held scoreless Wednesday in a 70-59 loss to North Carolina State. Miami forward Dwayne Collins has more fouls (nine) than points (six) or rebounds (six) in his last two games.
Must-see TV: North Carolina at Duke (ESPN, Wednesday, 9 p.m.): The two regular-season meetings between these rivals always provide some of the most memorable moments of the year. North Carolina is the better team this year, but Duke's home-court advantage could neutralize the Tar Heels' superior talent.
Key stat: Virginia guard Sean Singletary averages 18.90 points per game and is second in the ACC scoring race to Boston College's Jared Dudley, who has collected 18.94 points per game. Singletary is aiming to become the first Cavalier to win the ACC scoring crown since Jeff Lamp averaged 22.9 points per game in 1979.
Bench bonus: Georgia Tech guard Anthony Morrow hasn't started a game all year, but the junior guard still has scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games. Morrow has averaged 15.5 points per game in the Jackets' last two contests. Tyler Roche scored 12 points to lead a 31-point outburst by the Boston College bench Wednesday in a 94-60 rout of Hartford. Roche had scored just six points all season before that game.
They said it: "I think they're the best team in the country. They come at you in waves." -Miami coach Frank Haith on Wednesday after the Hurricanes' 105-64 loss to North Carolina.
Injury update: North Carolina State forward Engin Atsur returned to the lineup last week after missing much of the season with a hamstring injury. Atsur has played in eight of the Wolfpack's 20 games. Duke forward David McClure played Thursday's game with Virginia despite hyperextending his left knee Sunday in a victory over Boston College.
Worth noting: Virginia's 68-66 overtime victory over Duke on Thursday ended the Cavaliers' nine-game losing streak in that series. ... Clemson is the only ACC team that has used the same starting lineup in every game this season. Clemson guard Vernon Hamilton needs two more steals to move into a tie with North Carolina's Derrick Phelps for 10th place on the ACC's all-time career list. North Carolina forward Brandan Wright leads the conference with a field-goal percentage of .588. He is attempting to become the third freshman ever to lead the conference in that category. North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough needs eight more points to become the 23rd player in ACC history to reach the 1,000-point mark before the end of his sophomore season. Georgia Tech's Kenny Anderson owns the ACC career record in that category by scoring 1,497 points in his first two seasons North Carolina's freshman class is averaging a combined 44.6 points per game, which ranks it third in ACC history. Duke's 1982-83 freshman class holds the record with a combined 52.9 points per game, though the Blue Devils only went 11-17 that season. North Carolina State forward Brandon Costner leads all ACC freshmen in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (8.0).
Freshman to watch: North Carolina guard Ty Lawson. The freshman point guard has averaged 15.3 points and 5.3 steals per game in his last three contests. Lawson scored 18 points with eight assists and only one turnover Saturday to outplay All-America candidate Mustafa Shakur in the Tar Heels' 92-64 victory at Arizona.
Something you may have missed: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski needs only two more victories to become the eighth coach in NCAA history to win at least 700 games at one school. The only coaches to reach that plateau are North Carolina's Dean Smith (879), Kentucky's Adolph Rupp (876), Mount St. Mary's Jim Phelan (830), Western Kentucky's Ed Diddle (759), Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (741), DePaul's Ray Meyer (724) and Texas-El Paso's Don Haskins (719).
RPI watch: The ACC entered Thursday as the only conference with seven teams ranked in the top 33 in the RPI index. Those seven teams included No. 2 North Carolina, No. 5 Duke, No. 21 Clemson, No. 24 Florida State, No. 29 Maryland, No. 30 Boston College and No. 33 Virginia Tech. The only other ACC teams in the top 100 were No. 48 Virginia and No. 62 Georgia Tech.