A look at things to watch this week in the Atlantic Coast Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 9 Florida State at No. 11 North Carolina. The Seminoles (16-1) are halfway through a remarkable stretch of six straight games against ranked opponents, and they’re sitting at 4-0 in ACC play for the first time after Tuesday’s win against No. 7 Duke. Now comes Saturday’s visit to the Tar Heels (15-3, 3-1). Led by Justin Jackson (17.7 points), UNC is coming off two straight wins against instate ACC opponents since the return of junior swingman Theo Pinson, who had missed the first 16 games following October foot surgery. “We understand them, they understand us,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said Thursday. “We realize that positioning at the top of the ACC is at stake.”
LOOKING AHEAD: Tuesday’s game between Pittsburgh and North Carolina State is a big one for two teams hoping for NCAA Tournament bids. Both enter the weekend at 1-3 in the ACC, with the Panthers hosting Miami on Saturday under new coach Kevin Stallings. The game is part of a much-needed three-game homestand for N.C. State after losing road games by 18 at Miami, by 51 at UNC and 74-66 at a Boston College team picked to finish last in the league.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell has found a good rhythm entering a weekend visit from No. 7 Duke. The 6-foot-3 sophomore had three straight 20-point games before finishing with 15 points in Wednesday’s win against Pitt, and his three steals left in him in a tied for the ACC lead in steals (2.2 per game) as of Wednesday’s games.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: No. 19 Virginia knew offense wouldn’t come easily after losing Malcolm Brogdon to the NBA. And so far, the Cavaliers have one player averaging in double figures entering Saturday’s game at Clemson: senior London Perrantes at 11.3 points per game. Virginia is 14th in the league in scoring (69.5 points) — an average hindered by its methodical pace — yet the Cavaliers are second in shooting percentage (49.4 percent) and tops in field-goal percentage defense (37 percent).
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: The ACC is up to seven teams ranked in the AP Top 25 with N.C. State’s debut at No. 23 this week. And No. 9 Louisville is in the middle of a tough few days, first by visiting No. 7 Florida State on Thursday night then hosting No. 14 Miami on Sunday. That’s one of two weekend games featuring two ranked ACC teams, the other being No. 12 Duke’s visit to N.C. State.
Compiled by AP Basketball Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, North Carolina.