The game between Maryland and Virginia Tech on Saturday was the best game of the year in the ACC. However, the most important game of the year will come on Wednesday when Duke visits College Park - -- and that's regardless of what happens in Charlottesville on Sunday between Duke and Virginia.
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In fact, an upset by Virginia would make the game even more important because sole possession of first place would be on the line.
But back to Blacksburg.
This was Maryland's third sensational game in a row: the dual buzzer beaters against Georgia Tech, the sensational comeback against Clemson, and now the double-overtime thriller in Blacksburg.
We said after the Georgia Tech buzzer beaters that that was the sort of the game that could help the team develop a sense of destiny. Nothing has happened since to change our opinion. Maryland is playing with immense confidence, and no one is playing with more than Greivis Vasquez.
Vasquez finished with 41 points, surely a career-high, seven rebounds, six assists, and two steals.
Yet there are some issues here: while we believe Maryland is playing with excellent chemistry, the fact is that Vasquez took 33 shots, making 13. Freshman Jordan Williams took 13 himself; no one else took more than eight. It's pretty obvious how you should attack Maryland. But saying it is one thing and doing it's another.
For Virginia Tech, Jeff Allen had a superb game, finishing with 25 points on 10-23 from the floor and 15 rebounds. That's not the same guy we saw the other night in Cameron.
Malcolm Delaney, who by the way played all 50 minutes (Vasquez pulled 48), finished with 27. Dorenzo Hudson finished with 21. JT Thompson finished with 15.
All for naught, as Maryland survived and in so doing may have hurt Tech's NCAA chances. Are the Hokies a solid team? Without doubt. However, their pathetic nonconference schedule has to be overcome by a solid finish in the ACC, and that's still in doubt.
And even as far as the ACC goes, the unbalanced schedule hasn't necessarily helped Tech. Consider: they lost to UNC, currently number 11 in the ACC, barely beat a mediocre Boston College 63-62, lost to Miami, and lost badly to Boston College. Maryland was a chance to counter some of that, as was Duke, but Tech was not up to either challenge.
With Tech now in fourth place, and with the burden of their nonconference schedule, their upcoming game against State takes on a disproportionate importance. If they blow that, Seth Greenberg may finally go certifiably insane because it may well be the final blow. After that, they get to deal with Georgia Tech in Atlanta which won't be easy either.
It was a bit of a different situation in Winston-Salem as UNC broke through for the first time since beating State on the 13th and winning for only the second time since January 26th.
Some of the flaws we've become accustomed to this season were still there for UNC including some wildly stupid turnovers, and part of Wake Forest's problem was that, unable to get much going from the inside players, their guards had to come through.
Didn't happen. Ish Smith: 5-21 L.D. Williams: 3-13. C.J. Harris: 0-3 Gary Clark: 2-7. Ari Stewart, regarded as strictly a guard here for the purposes of discussion: 6-16.
Carolina held Al-Farouq Aminu to just seven points. Tony Woods had eight and David Weaver and Chas McFarland combined for five.
For Wake Forest, it must have been painful watching L.D. Williams make stupid play after stupid play. There's only so much you can do when you're 6-4 driving on much bigger players. Smith had the same problem.
Still, Wake was in this game until the end and with a couple of breaks, could have made things very interesting in the last 30 seconds.
With the loss, Wake Forest is in a tie with Virginia Tech for fourth. However, Wake's nonconference schedule, which is not necessarily a world-beater itself, will earn a lot more credibility. Their win at Gonzaga will count for a lot, and a credible performance against Purdue will help as well.
The other two games Saturday were not nearly as interesting. State beat Miami 71-66, which is good for State but pretty meaningless at this point. The best thing for State is it that they had some adversity yet still won on the road.
And while it would have been a bad loss for Georgia Tech to lose to Boston College, it probably wasn't going to happen in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech had lost three of four prior to this game and so really needed to win. They had a great game from Iman Shumpert, who finished with 24 points, 6 steals and he caused a ton of frustration for the Eagles, who were close again at 73-68, but not close enough.
On Sunday, there's another interesting game as Clemson takes on Florida State. If the Tigers win, they force a four-way tie for third with FSU, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. In that scenario, any of the four could fall quite quickly, but none are in more danger than Virginia Tech.
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