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ACC trots out 4 more teams in Friday NCAA action

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After coming up empty on Thursday, the ACC will try to get at least one of their teams into the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. Oregon ended Duke’s season in the West Regional, while Villanova routed Miami in the South Regional. Former ACC stalwart Maryland was sent home by Kansas in the South.

The conference has better odds on Friday. Two of the tournament’s top seeds will be in action.

Virginia takes on fourth-seeded Iowa State in the Midwest Regional in Chicago, while North Carolina squares off with fifth-seeded Indiana in the East Regional in Philadelphia. In the other games, Notre Dame faces Wisconsin in the East and Gonzaga tangles with Syracuse in the Midwest.

The most compelling game of the night is North Carolina and Indiana. Las Vegas odds makers have installed the Tar Heels as 5.5 point favorites over the Hoosiers.

Indiana will be facing one of college basketball’s premiere programs for the second consecutive week. On Saturday, they eliminated Kentucky, owners of eight national championships. North Carolina has won five, as have the Hoosiers.

These programs have a history of meeting in big games. Indiana defeated North Carolina for the 1981 NCAA championship in a game played in Philadelphia.

Their last meeting in the NCAA Tournament was the Hoosiers’ shocking upset of the top-ranked Tar Heels in the 1984 East Regional semi-final. This was the final college game for Michael Jordan.

Indiana, who has not reached the Elite 8 since 2002, leads the all-time series, 8-5. North Carolina looks for their first Elite 8 appearance since 2012. The game is scheduled for 10 p.m.

As six and seven seeds, Notre Dame (21-11) and Wisconsin (21-11) were not supposed to make it this far, but they wind up facing each other in Friday’s first game from Philadelphia.

While these programs have played each other 28 times, there is little recent history. Notre Dame defeated Wisconsin five years ago, but their last meeting before that was 1968.

Despite the fact Wisconsin, last year’s national runner-up, has won 13 of its last 16 games, the Irish have been installed as 1-point favorites on Friday. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 18-10.

Virginia and Iowa State play the first game from Chicago. The Cavaliers (26-7) finished as runner-up to North Carolina in both the regular season and the ACC Tournament.

They come into Friday night’s game as winners of seven of their last eight games with the only loss coming against North Carolina in the ACC title game. Virginia is a 5-point favorite.

The Cyclones (23-11) finished fifth in the Big 12 regular season and are only 7-6 in their 13 games since February 1. Their offense had better be ready for the clamp-down defense deployed by Virginia Coach Tony Bennett.

Iowa State leads the all-time series 2-1. They have never met in the NCAA Tournament.

The final game from Chicago features two other teams few thought would reach the Sweet 16. The 10th-seeded Syracuse Orange squares off against the No. 11 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs.

With coaches like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Gonzaga’s Mark Few involved, perhaps it should not be a surprise they find themselves on the same court. The Orange (19-13) tied for ninth in the ACC regular season. They lost five of their last six games prior to the NCAA Tournament, but rolled over Dayton and Middle Tennessee State in the first two rounds.

Gonzaga (26-7) tied for the regular season West Coast Conference title, and then won the post season tournament to earn the automatic bid. The Bulldogs throttled sixth-seeded Seton Hall and third-seeded Utah to reach the Sweet 16. Gonzaga is a 4-point favorite to make it to the Elite 8 for the second straight year.

The two schools have met only once, but it was in the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse routed Gonzaga 87-65 in the second round in 2010.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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