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ACC numbers show the mighty have to fall to rise up

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Georgia Tech's Robert Carter Jr. may have a freshman superlative from the ACC in his future this year. (Source: ACC Digital Network) Georgia Tech's Robert Carter Jr. may have a freshman superlative from the ACC in his future this year. (Source: ACC Digital Network)

(RNN) - Another week, another big shot in college basketball is upended by a conference foe.

It's lonely at the top, especially when you are losing your first conference game of the season.

Miami (23-4, 14-1 ACC) felt this way on Feb. 23, falling to Wake Forest (12-15, 5-10) for its first ACC loss. The loss could have been a show of weakness by Miami just in time for the conference tournament.

The Hurricanes joined the ranks of top-5 teams that lost to unranked opponents, something that has happened 19 times this year. The parity in the ACC, and in all of college basketball, could be foreshadowing to some wild tournament outcomes.

This week's one big question

Will Miami and Duke meet again in the Final Four? Their game on Saturday could be the most watched ACC contest of the year, but Miami and Duke (24-4, 11-4 ACC) are different teams than the ones that met in January, when Miami won 90-63.

Their encore at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday could end one of two ways.

The first - Miami could wrap up the ACC regular season crown and continue a stellar season playing through controversy at one of nation's toughest college basketball venues.

Miami is the best road team in the conference, with 10 victories away from Coral Gables. It would be an even tougher feat to accomplish at a place where the home team has won 92 of its last 97 games, according to STATS, LLC.

Unfortunately, postseason experience is not on the Canes' side. Veteran play has gotten this team as high as No. 2 in the rankings, the best in school history. What the seniors on this team do not have is NCAA tournament experience, something that may hurt their chances of making their way down the bracket.

The second - Duke can continue to overachieve as they've done all year and motor through the end of a season looking forward to a No. 1 seed in the national tourney.

And Duke would like to redeem itself from a double-digit defeat against Miami on Jan. 23. Since being defeated by Virginia on Thursday, Duke might be primed to return home and capture a victory.

There is a very good chance the two meet in the ACC tournament. The likelihood of a Duke-Miami meeting in Atlanta for the Final Four is a long shot, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Stat of the week

Maryland: The ACC's favorite opponent at home - The Terrapins (19-9, 7-8 ACC) are 2-6 on the road in conference play.

Inconsistencies have been the tune to Maryland's ACC swan song. The Terrapins lead the ACC in rebound margin with 39.8 per game, but were out-rebounded by Tech on Wednesday. They have been out-rebounded by conference opponents three times this season.

Their road record is a different story from their home record of 16-2. Maryland must have a strong conference tournament, and probably win the whole thing, to make the national tournament.

With three games remaining on their regular season schedule, Maryland will travel to Wake Forest on Saturday, play UNC at home March 6 and go to Virginia on March 10.

ACC in the AP Top 25

No. 3 Duke

No. 5 Miami

ACC Player of the Week

Georgia Tech (15-12, 5-10 ACC) isn't having their best season.

One glimmer of hope for the future of Ramblin' Wreck basketball may be in freshman forward Robert Carter Jr.

Against Maryland on Wednesday, the young talent posted his fourth double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Carter, Jr. is second on the team in total points (273) and points per game (10.1).

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