By JOEDY McCREARY
Rarely has the ACC women’s basketball tournament been this skewed toward the top.
Each of the top three seeds is ranked in the top 10 in The Associated Press poll. It’s the first time that has happened since 2007 and just the third time in the event’s history.
No. 5 Duke (24-4) holds the top seed. No. 7 Miami (25-4) is seeded second and No. 6 Maryland (25-4) has the third seed for the tournament that begins today in Greensboro.
Terrapins coach Brenda Frese said it reminds her of the 2006 tournament. Maryland lost to North Carolina in the ACC title game that year, then wound up joining the Blue Devils and Tar Heels at the Final Four and won the national championship.
“What I love is that this conference prepares you for the postseason and the NCAA Tournament,” Frese said. “You’re going to be in those battles every night in conference play. That’s exciting. … Obviously, the teams and the talent level and the coaching prepare you for March.”
In each of the past couple of years, the coaches entered the tournament praising the depth and parity in the league, only to wind up watching the same team — Duke — cut down the nets.
The Blue Devils have won it the past two years, and only two of their players — seniors Shay Selby and Kathleen Scheer — know how it feels to lose an ACC tournament game, falling in the 2009 championship game.
This year, Duke isn’t the only nationally elite team in the field.
Duke, Miami and Maryland combined for seven losses in conference play, and only two of those — Miami losing at North Carolina, and Maryland falling at home to Virginia Tech — came against one of the ACC’s other nine teams.
“So much diversity in the conference, such an unpredictable ACC Tournament,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “There’s no way anyone can predict who’s going to win the tournament, and that’s what makes it a great tournament and a great league.”
Meier’s Hurricanes have enjoyed the best season in the program’s history, but there’s one thing they haven’t done — beaten Duke, which has won all nine matchups between the schools, including a 74-64 win last week that clinched the top seed for the Blue Devils and locked Miami into the No. 2 seed. If the seeds hold, they’ll meet again with significantly more on the line.
Then again, Miami can’t afford to look too far ahead.
The Hurricanes have won just two ACC Tournament games since joining the league in 2004-05 and were the No. 2 seed a year ago when they were knocked off in the quarterfinals by North Carolina.
“It’s the ACC Tournament, and you’d better play your best game of the year or you’re not going to win,” Meier said. “Who really cares what you did in November and December and January if you can’t be special in March?”
While the Blue Devils have plenty of experience winning at the Greensboro Coliseum, one of their best players is preparing for her postseason debut. Center Elizabeth Williams, the league’s rookie of the year, is just the third freshman in league history to make the All-ACC first team.
She led the league with 102 blocked shots and, along with fellow all-ACC first-teamer Chelsea Gray, forms the one-two punch that helped Duke claim the No. 1 seed for the third straight yeare despite losing three starters.
“I never really thought what (Williams) would be relative to any awards or recognition, but I know her as a person,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Nothing would surprise me about what Elizabeth Williams can accomplish.”
Article source: HeraldSun - Duke Sports