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ACC Weekend: Wahoos' last stand

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If the Cavaliers take care of business, they'll have a lot more to celebrate after the final buzzer sounds against Syracuse. (Source: Matt Riley/VirginiaSports.com) If the Cavaliers take care of business, they'll have a lot more to celebrate after the final buzzer sounds against Syracuse. (Source: Matt Riley/VirginiaSports.com)

(RNN) - The irony of Virginia's nickname is almost too perfect.

The Cavaliers - who have been in the ACC for half a century - are the last line of defense between the proud, old guard of their highly-thought-of league and those newcomers, Syracuse.

But really, was there that much animosity and regional pride?

Sure you could count the obvious resentment from coaches after the "house that New York street ballers built" (AKA, the Big East) came crumbling down in a heap. And you might recall certain choice words Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had about moving to the ACC early last year… and more choice words he had about the ACC's scheduling philosophy.

Then you consider that before Miami's amazing run last year, 1997 was the last time any school other than an original charter member (Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest) won the regular season. From 2004 to 2012, at least a share of the title every year went to one of those Carolina schools that wear a shade of blue.

The Orange (26-2, 13-2) can back up their coach's wit by walking out of John Paul Jones Arena with a win Saturday, but they can't lock up a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, at least not yet.

That privilege belongs to the Cavs (24-5, 15-1), who need to beat Syracuse and eight days later need to simply show up on time for the bus to Maryland to win the regular season title outright.

It looks like an easier proposition now than a month ago. One thing the Orange showed during their case of the hiccups against Duke and Boston College (and even in a close win over Maryland) is they will give up big shots.

C.J. Fair is the anecdote for any poor shooting stretch because he can score at will in the paint, but the Wahoos specialize in demoralizing post players.

By the way, Virginia will honor seniors Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris for their last career home game. So obviously, they will not be very excited to play. Yeah, right.

Saturday games (all times eastern)

No. 19 North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 2:30 p.m.

Call this matchup a "Tale of Two Pities." It's hard not to feel bad for the Tar Heels (21-7, 11-4) because that turnaround complete with 10-game winning streak leaves them short of winning the regular season, no matter what happens from this point forward.

But that doesn't matter. They're getting into the NCAA Tournament and playing their best basketball at just the right time.

If Miami hadn't graduated so much talent from last season's roster, the Hokies (9-18, 2-13) likely wouldn't have a single win in the ACC this season.

Let's politely chalk this one up as No. 11 for the streaking Heels.

Pitt at Notre Dame, 2 p.m.

Remember when the Panthers (21-7, 9-6) were a hot team that gave Syracuse all it could handle? No, not two weeks ago - think about mid-January when Pitt was on the fringe of a national ranking and looked like one of the best defensive teams in the country.

This is still a good defensive team, but five losses and a few dismal offensive performances later, and their initial splash in the ACC is flat. Still, there are few inside-outside combos more enjoyable to watch than Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson.

Someone dare to argue against Eric Atkins shooting the ball more. Every time he has scored at least 16 points in the month of February, the Irish (15-14, 6-10) have won. He scores less, and the team loses.

Well, somebody has to pass the ball.

Also on deck

Miami at NC State, noon

Boston College at Wake Forest, 4 p.m.

Sunday games

Maryland at Clemson, 1 p.m.

Georgia Tech at Florida State, 6 p.m.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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