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“You can’t rush a process,” Frese said. “You can’t say how quickly it’s going to come together, but I love the intangibles. … I just have never been one to (say), ‘We’re going to set these kinds of expectations.’ You have to grow into them.”

With the Tar Heels enduring a decidedly un-Carolina-like season, and Maryland also struggling, the power void atop the conference was filled by Florida State and N.C. State.

The Seminoles set a school record with 29 victories, made it to the NCAA’s regional finals for the first time and claimed a share of the regular-season title for the second straight year.

N.C. State, meanwhile, got hot at the league tournament, advancing to the title game as the No. 6 seed and reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since its inspirational run under late coach Kay Yow in 2007.

“Just the whole tournament experience for us was huge,” Harper said. “They know what they can do now, and they want more. As a coach, you couldn’t have a better mindset from your players. They got a taste. They want it again.”

The ACC’s newest coach also was waiting for her newest arrival.

First-year Clemson coach Itoro Coleman was due to give birth to her third child at any time. She said she’s been having contractions _ but they weren’t yet close enough to cause concern _ so she insisted on riding along during the 3-hour drive from South Carolina to central North Carolina.

“I’ve been labeled crazy. I could either come here and go through all this, or I would be back at home setting up for practice,” Coleman said with a smile. “If anything happens, there’s hospitals along the way.”