ACC Tournament review and preview: Hokies crash the party. But can they keep Coach K from hanging another banner?
Friday night’s ACC semifinals in Brooklyn may have deprived college basketball of one more Duke-North Carolina meeting in the Mike Krzyzewski era, but that doesn’t mean they failed to deliver a terrific championship matchup.
Here are 3 thoughts on Friday’s ACC Tournament semifinals and Saturday night’s ACC Championship.
Duke’s lottery picks saved the day in a classic semifinal against Miami
We wrote Friday at Saturday Road that Duke’s March fortunes were aided by the play of their role players on Thursday, but they would need their lottery picks, namely Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin, to beat better teams in March.
Both Banchero and Griffin answered the bell Friday night against Miami.
Banchero scored 18 points, added 11 rebounds and dished out 4 assists in helping Duke avenge their January loss to the Hurricanes. In the process, he showed why he’ll be a top-5 pick in the NBA Draft, scoring in a variety of ways and seemingly coming up with a bucket whenever the game appeared in the balance.
Paolo Banchero showed what makes him the potential No. 1 pick with an outstanding all-around performance leading Duke to the championship of the ACC tournament. 18 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and quite a few highlights demonstrating his impressive skill-level and versatility. pic.twitter.com/YNktu7wk4s
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 12, 2022
As for Griffin, he led Duke with 21 points, shot 4-for-6 from long range, and added 7 rebounds. When Griffin hits jump shots, Duke is almost unstoppable offensively.
Duke needed everything from their stars Friday night in an exceptionally well-played college basketball game. Miami showed the Selection Committee it is absolutely an NCAA Tournament team, shooting 47%, dishing out 17 assists on 31 made baskets, and getting 24 from star guard Kam McGusty, who was an efficient 11-for-19 from the field.
Duke trailed periodically throughout the game but never lost its composure, and in the end, won the game with defense, blocking 8 Hurricanes shots and bodying Miami on the glass with a 40-31 rebound edge.
They’ll send Coach K to one last ACC Championship game as a result — his 22nd. He’s seeking his 16th title.
Virginia Tech is dancing and dangerous
In late January, the Hokies were left for dead: 10-10 after a loss to Miami and 2-7 in the ACC. The NIT seemed a stretch, let alone the NCAA Tournament.
All Virginia Tech has done since is win 12 of its past 14 games, including finally getting the better of Hubert Davis’ North Carolina team, who one writer (cough, cough) dubbed the ACC Tournament favorite Friday morning. (Oops!)
The Hokies’ offense has been the envy of all computer metrics most of the season, but it was stifling defense that did in North Carolina on Friday night. Virginia Tech held North Carolina to a season-low 3 3-pointers, as North Carolina shot a putrid 3-for-26 (11.5%) from deep. That made all the difference on a night when Virginia Tech shot 9-for-20 from deep, paced by 20 points and 4-of-5 3-point shooting from Darius Maddox off the bench.
Maddox will rightly be on the all-tournament team, and his ability to score softens the blow of nights like Friday, when neither of Virginia Tech’s starting snipers, Storm Murphy and Hunter Cattoor, are on fire from the perimeter.
The Hokies NCAA Tournament fate is no longer in doubt after Friday’s win: Mike Young’s team will be dancing for the 2nd consecutive season. Last year’s trip ended in a heartbreaking loss to Florida in overtime. They’ll be a tougher out this season.
Duke is the favorite, but this is an excellent championship matchup
Virginia Tech wasn’t competitive in their first matchup with Duke, but that game was played in December when the Hokies were hovering around .500.
Saturday night’s championship game will be different.
The Hokies are one of the nation’s hottest teams and playing with a tremendous amount of self-belief. If you believe KenPom, these are the 2 best teams in the ACC, with Duke ranked 9th and Virginia Tech 25th in the KenPom efficiency rankings.
Two matchups that will define this game? Will Virginia Tech’s offensive scheme and execution get open looks for their shooters, or will Duke’s athletic guards frustrate the Hokies shooters?
Finally, the duo of Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts battling inside against Mark Williams and outside-in against Paolo Banchero. Aluma is a crafty, smart, veteran player, the kind of guy who has given Banchero trouble this season. Mutts, who is only 6-7 but plays anywhere on the floor for Young, is Virginia Tech’s leading rebounder. He gives up a ton of size to the likes of Mark Williams and Banchero. Can he still compete on the glass?
The Hokies did a great job of rebounding as a team against North Carolina, only losing the rebounding battle by four. They’ll need to compete in that department Saturday night as well to have a chance.