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North Carolina knocks off Miami, advances to face Duke in showdown for a No. 1 seed?

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NEW YORK — Theo Pinson finished with career-high 25 points, 11 boards and three assists and Cam Johnson chipped in with 13 points as North Carolina, the No. 6 seed in the ACC tournament, knocked off No. 3 seed Miami, 78-65, in the last quarterfinal of the ACC tournament late on Thursday night.

The story of the game, however, isn’t the game itself.

It’s what the game sets up: A matchup between Duke and North Carolina, the two Tobacco Road rivals, with so much more on the line than just a trip to the ACC tournament title game.

“I know about the rivalry. I’ve been here four years,” Pinson said. “It’s a big time game.”

It always is. It’s the best rivalry in the sport. Whether the game is played in the Dean Dome, in Cameron Indoor Stadium or in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it is an event.

But what makes this iteration of the rivalry so interesting is the context. Just like last season, there could be a No. 1 seed on the line.

Here’s where the two currently stand: North Carolina is, according to Bracket Matrix, a website that tracks the consensus for all of the bracketologists, armchair or otherwise, the second No. 2 seed right now. Duke just so happens to be the first No. 2 seed, one slot in front of the Tar Heels and one spot behind Kansas, who is the fourth No. 1 seed as of today. Xavier and Villanova, who are on a track to face-off in the title game of the Big East tournament, are both slotted as No. 1 seeds as well.

“Everybody and their momma’s going to be watching the game tomorrow, I know that,” Pinson said. “And I’m going to be ready.”

At this point, the fourth No. 1 seed is probably Kansas’ to lose. If they win the Big 12 tournament, it’s hard to envision a scenario where they wouldn’t be a No. 1 seed. The same can be said for both Villanova and Xavier if they can get to Saturday’s Big East tournament title game. So this may all be for nought, but that shouldn’t diminish the game itself.

Duke is playing their best basketball of the season. Ever since they made the decision to go to a zone full time a month ago, they’ve played defense at a level that is on par with what Virginia, Cincinnati and Texas Tech have done this season. Grayson Allen has found his rhythm — and his confidence — again, which is to say nothing of the fact that Marvin Bagley III is back to being Marvin Bagley III; he had 33 points and 17 boards in Thursday night’s quarterfinal win over Notre Dame.

“One trend that I’m seeing that is a good thing for our team is our defense at the end of the year is the best that it’s been all season, and that’s the same thing that happened in 2015,” Allen said. “At the end of that year, by the time the tournament came around, we were one of the best defenses in the country.”

Just six days ago, these two teams squared off in Cameron Indoor Stadium, with the Blue Devils erasing a 10-point halftime lead to beat the Tar Heels.

And UNC?

They quietly have put together a season that is far more impressive that anyone is giving them credit for. Despite the fact that they lost the last two games of the regular season, North Carolina has the most Quadrant 1 wins of anyone this season with 12; Virginia and Kansas both have 10 after today.

We were in this same spot a season ago, too. UNC and Duke squared off in this same building, with Duke winning the semifinal matchup en route to an ACC tournament title that earned them the top No. 2 seed in the dance.

“Last year we lost this game that’s going to be played tomorrow,” Roy Williams said, before dropping in the dagger. “I think we kept playing. I think.”

“My memory’s not as good as it used to be.”

Duke lost in the second round to South Carolina.

North Carolina won the national title.

And tomorrow’s grudge match should have just as much as stake.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.

Report: Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson suffers another fracture in foot

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Bonzie Colson rushed back from a broken foot to try and help his Notre Dame team get into the NCAA tournament this season.

They were bumped out of the field when Davidson upset Rhode Island and earned the Atlantic 10’s third bid to the league tournament. The Fighting Irish were NIT bound, and in their second round loss to Penn State late last week, Colson reinjured the left foot that held him out of action for eight weeks.

On Wednesday, Yahoo reported that Colson suffered another fracture in the foot.

“I’m sitting there and he’s limping off and I’m going, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” coach Mike Brey said after the game. “Everything we’ve been through? I thought we were out of the woods with him.”

There was a poignant moment at the end of the game.

Colson’s injury came during the third quarter. He returned to the bench at Purcell Pavilion with ice on his foot after going into the locker room. With 30 seconds left and a loss imminent, Colson walked right past Mike Brey, said “I’m going in”, and finished his college career on the court.

Colson is a potential second round pick. He was an all-american last year and a preseason selection this year. He was averaging 19.7 points, 10.2 boards and 2.2 blocks when he was injured.