ACC tournament: Sunday preview

ATLANTA – Florida State hasn’t looked at any of the film from its 33-point victory over North Carolina on Jan. 14.

“When you get big blowout wins like that, it’s probably not the best idea to go back and watch; you might get a sense of comfort, or forget that we have to play hard – or what got us that 33-point lead,’’ forward Bernard James said. “So we just put that one behind us, and chalked it up to Carolina not being ready.”

He knows the Tar Heels will be this time.

The Seminoles downright embarrassed the UNC two months ago, beating the Tar Heels on the boards, holding them to 37 percent shooting. The 90-57 rout marked the most lopsided loss of the Roy Williams era, and it was so irritating/befuddling/maddening that Williams and most of the team left the court early – leaving three walk-ons and two reserves to finish the game.

Since then, the Tar Heels have lost only once, to Duke on a buzzer-beater.

Since then, the Seminoles have lost three times, but won three games with last-second heroics.

"We can't necessarily worry about the games that we've played prior to this game coming up,’’ FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Each game takes on a different personality and I'm sure the team that we played in Tallahassee will not be the team we play on Sunday."

UNC will be competing for its first ACC title since 2008; FSU will be vying for its first ACC title, period.

A few things to watch in the 1 p.m. EST showdown at Philips Arena:


The ACC Defensive Player of the Year sat out Saturday’s semifinal victory over NC State after spraining his left wrist during Friday’s quarterfinal win over Maryland.

His status will once again be a game-time decision – and his potential absence will hurt.

James, a former Air Force sergeant and all a member of the ACC’s All-Defense team, is a load for anyone to handle, and if Henson can’t go, James would probably match up with UNC’s James Michael McAdoo. The Tar Heels freshman has been more confident and aggressive lately, but got he into foul trouble during Saturday’s game against the Wolfpack.


One of the reasons FSU was so successful against UNC last time was Deividas Dulkys, who shot 8-for-10 from behind the 3-point arc and scored a career-high 32 points.

The Seminoles senior hasn’t approached anything close to that since (with 12 points being his high), but you get the point: UNC (which also lost to Duke at home when the Blue Devils shot 14-for-36 on 3s) can’t afford to let an opposing team get hot.

The Seminole to watch: Michael Snaer. He’s shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point land for the season, and buried two of those aforementioned game-winners this season.


One of the reasons UNC lost so badly – and looked so listless in doing so – in the last meeting, according to players, was that they bought into their own preseason No. 1 hype and didn’t compete as hard as necessary. That shouldn’t be a problem Sunday.

The last time UNC was looking for revenge was last weekend, when it went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and pasted the Blue Devils, building a 24-point lead by halftime en route to the ACC regular-season title.

FSU, though, has plenty of motivation, too. Lots of folks wrote the Seminoles off when they lost to two Ivy League schools, then opened the ACC season with a 20-point defeat at Clemson. Since then, they’ve beaten UNC and Duke, but winning the league tournament would prove that the conference is more than a two-team league.

“This has been our goal since the beginning of the season, and we want to accomplish it,’’ Dulkys said.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.