ACC Tournament review and preview: One step closer to UNC-Duke III
The ACC Tournament quarterfinals delivered the drama for the afternoon session, then saw 2 of the ACC”s hottest teams shine in the evening session.
Here are 4 takeaways from Thursday’s quarterfinals and a look ahead to Friday’s semifinals.
Duke survives, but shows its warts
Thursday’s first game was the most interesting.
Playing without star Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse pushed top-seed Duke to the limit, leading the game at halftime (despite trailing by as many as 10 in the first half) and taking the lead on a Jimmy Boeheim tip with just 2:58 remaining in the game. The Blue Devils would score the game’s final 10 points, thanks to a monstrous Mark Williams block of a Jimmy Boeheim 3 and more solid work by Williams to help Duke own the glass late.
Jimmy Boeheim was magnificent in defeat, scoring 28 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, and plucking 3 steals. He shot 6-for-9 from deep and did anything and everything he could to keep his Dad from suffering his first losing season in 46 years as Syracuse’s head coach.
The Orange simply didn’t get enough stops, which was the theme of their disappointing season.
As for Duke, they played tentatively against a bad zone defense, moving the ball slowly, refusing to consistently attack the soft spots of the zone and passing up open looks to make sure their stars got contested ones. Duke attempted 32 3-pointers and only made 34% of them, numbers that show just how erratic shot selection was for the Blue Devils Thursday afternoon. Against better teams — like the one they’ll play Friday — Duke will have to be both more aggressive (in attacking the rim) and more patient (in finding a good shot). Otherwise, this team can be had and Coach K’s last stay in March will be shorter than expected.
On the bright side, Duke survived and advanced, and did so because veterans showed up.
Williams didn’t score in the first half, but finished the game with 15 points and a season-high 16 rebounds. His three blocks, including the massive one of Boeheim late, all seemed to come at times when Syracuse had momentum. He also added this flush on a rim run to remove all doubt.
A Giles-esque running of the floor in Brooklyn from Mark Williams pic.twitter.com/FL85JReN6U
— The Brotherhood (@BrotherhoodCBB) March 10, 2022
Wendell Moore Jr., the team captain who was magnificent in November and December only to fade in league play, re-emerged. He poured in a team-high 26 points, and demanded the ball on a night when Paolo Banchero shot just 3-9 from the field and emergent star AJ Griffin was a non-factor (4 points).
And then there’s Jeremy Roach, who was one of the few Blue Devils underclassmen unbothered by the Orange’s zone. He finished the game with 19 points, hitting 5 of his 10 shots from deep, including the dagger from the left with just a minute ago.
“The guy who really turned it around for us was Jeremy,” Krzyzewski told the media after the game “Jeremy had a sensational game.”
Role players stepping up? That’s a formula that works in March.
Getting more from the stars will be essential beginning Friday.
Virginia Tech looks like an NCAA Tournament team
The night session packed less of a dramatic punch, but it was impressive watching Mike Young’s offense run away from Notre Dame in the first half and never look back. The Hokies made seven of their first eight shots and led by double digits 6 minutes into the game. Though Notre Dame clawed back, cutting the margin to as little as four, it never led.
The Hokies have won 11 of 13 and may have the best starting 5 outside of Durham in the league.
Virginia Tech’s starters posted 68 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, 7 steals and 3 blocks on Thursday, and glue guy Justyn Mutts’ line was a coach’s dream: 11 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Talk about impacting the game in every possible way.
Computers love the Hokies, who rank 27th nationally in KenPom adjusted efficiency. The issue has always been one about quality wins vs. bad losses — but the win over Notre Dame gives Virginia Tech another feather in its cap as Selection Sunday nears.
A win over UNC, whose length and athletic guards have bothered Virginia Tech in 2 Tar Heels wins this season, would resolve any doubt.
Miami provides Brooklyn’s daily buzzer-beater
Earl Grant and Boston College almost kept their Cinderella run through the ACC Tournament alive Thursday afternoon, pushing Jim Larrañaga’s Hurricanes team to the brink in a back and forth affair that featured double-digit lead changes and two teams that shot over 50% from the field.
In the end, the Hurricanes made one more play and avoided a disastrous resume defeat in the process.
The “one more play?” A buzzer-beater for the second straight day in Brooklyn.
JORDAN MILLER. GUTS. GO CANES. pic.twitter.com/1fyRDegNVJ
— Canes Access (@CanesAccess) March 10, 2022
Next up for Miami is top-seed Duke, who the Canes upended in an epic game at Cameron Indoor in January.
Yes, North Carolina is now the favorite
The Tar Heels won their 6th straight game in impressive fashion, hardly breaking a sweat in a 20 point win over Virginia.
The win likely bursts Virginia’s bubble, but the Tar Heels’ dominance is the story.
The Tar Heels have won 6 straight games, and their defense has been dramatically improved in that stretch. Thursday, they limited Virginia to just 13 first-half points, holding the Hoos to 34% shooting from the field on the evening. As always, the Tar Heels flexed their muscle on the glass, with 46 rebounds to Virginia’s 35, but it was their ability to build a huge lead and keep it on a night they shot only 26% from deep and 38% from the field overall, that speaks to the improvement of Hubert Davis’s basketball team.
After clobbering Duke to close Coach K’s Cameron Indoor tenure, the Tar Heels won’t be afraid of Duke in a potential Round III final. And they’ve already bullied Virginia Tech twice.
Make no mistake: This is the ACC Tournament favorite, and a team that has gone from bubble squad to second-weekend type team in the past 2 weeks. Impressive stuff from Hubert Davis.
Duke vs. Miami: A rematch of one of the ACC’s better regular-season games, played in Durham all the way back in January and won by Miami, 76-74. The Hurricanes are one of the only teams in the country with a better backcourt than Duke. And Charlie Moore, who had 18 points and an astonishing 7 steals in the first meeting, is playing even better basketball in March. This game smells like an upset, but the Blue Devils tend to find a way in the ACC Tournament, and it is difficult to imagine Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin playing poorly on consecutive nights.
Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina: A must-see TV meeting of two of the hottest teams in the country. A win eliminates any bubble doubt for Virginia Tech, which is remarkable when you consider the Hokies were 11-10 and not even close to the bubble midway through ACC play. North Carolina is playing for a top-6 type regional seed and perhaps a bit of geographical protection when the bracket is released Sunday night.
Tar Heels won the 2 regular-season meetings, including a 65-57 rock fight in Blacksburg in mid-February. The Hokies had their worst shooting night of the season in that game, connecting on just 5-of-26 3-point attempts. North Carolina’s athletic guards and wings, notably Caleb Love and Leaky Black, really bothered Virginia Tech’s smaller backcourt snipers.