GREENSBORO – Four quick observations from the second ACC tournament semifinal Saturday, which UNC won, 79-76, after holding off a frantic Maryland comeback:
1. The best sign for North Carolina was that P.J. Hairston started the game and showed no obvious ill effects from the eight stitches he took on his left (non-shooting hand) Friday. The rotation on Hairston’s shot looked normal, he made about nine three-pointers in a row during pregame warmups and in the real game he finished with 13 points (although his shooting was off in the second half).
2. Maryland (22-12) is definitely good enough to be in the NCAA tournament and I would give the Terps a bid, but it’s questionable whether they will get in with that 8-10 regular-season conference record. Even with Dez Wells (30 points in the upset over Duke) having an off game compared to his first two here in Greensboro, the Terps still stayed toe to toe with UNC. Maryland had a chance to tie on the final possession, but Logan Aronhalt airballed a deep three-pointer and UNC smartly ran out the clock.
3. Tournament officials had to be happy with North Carolina’s win. With N.C. State and Duke already out by the time the Tar Heels played, UNC represented the last chance at an in-state team in the final. If Maryland and Miami had met for the ACC championship in Greensboro, there would have been some yawning gaps in Sunday’s crowd.
4. One thing Saturday didn’t have: lead changes. There were exactly zero in Miami’s 10-point win over N.C. State and only one in the UNC-Maryland game (following a 2-0 Maryland lead). Although the second game was very close, this won’t go down as one of the most scintillating Semifinal Saturdays.