- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

A look at things to watch this week in the Atlantic Coast Conference:

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: North Carolina State at No. 9 Louisville. The Wolfpack (14-11, 5-7) could use another big win to strengthen an NCAA tournament resume that has taken a hit. N.C. State has lost six of eight since upsetting Duke, including Wednesday’s 51-47 loss to No. 2 Virginia, though it has another shot against the Cardinals (20-4, 8-3). “We might as well just hang up our stuff and go home if we’re not going to keep dreaming and believing we can make the tournament,” guard Trevor Lacey said after Wednesday’s loss. As for Louisville, it’s in the midst of six straight against unranked teams before finishing against No. 10 Notre Dame and the Cavaliers.

LOOKING AHEAD: The latest installment of the fiercest rivalry in college basketball awaits Wednesday when No. 12 North Carolina (18-6, 8-3) visits No. 4 Duke (21-3, 8-3). Those teams, plus Notre Dame and Louisville, each have three conference losses so the winner will have a leg up in the chase for the No. 2 seed in the league tournament behind probable top-seed Virginia.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor continues to show why he’s among the top candidates for the Naismith Award as the nation’s top player. The big man who regularly generates matchup problems has reached double figures in all 24 games, has scored at least 20 points nine times, leads the league’s freshmen with an average of 17.2 points and is third in the conference with a 9.5 rebounding average. He’s one of nine players nationally shooting better than 60 percent (66.5) heading into Saturday’s game against Syracuse.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: The ACC’s five ranked teams - Virginia, Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and UNC - have one thing in common: Their average scoring margin is in double figures. The Cavaliers lead the league with an average margin of plus-16.9. Thirteen of 15 league schools have scored more points than they’ve allowed this season, with Virginia Tech (minus-0.8) and Boston College (minus-1.2) as the outliers.

ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: There’s a familiar face climbing the ACC standings: Duke. The Blue Devils (18-6, 9-2) have won five straight entering Thursday night’s visit to Virginia to vault to No. 11 nationally - giving the ACC four teams among the nation’s top 11. Duke plays three straight road games, including Monday’s visit to No. 4 Notre Dame, before its regular-season finale at home against No. 17 UNC.

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Compiled by AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Raleigh, North Carolina.


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