In retrospect, Duke's win over Virginia looks better and better, and it's value goes up with every Virginia win.
If you'll remember, Duke essentially controlled UVa until the Cavs mounted a highly impressive comeback. Duke won, but not by much in the end, though the Devils dominated the first 36 minutes or so.
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Since then, Virginia has resumed a tremendous run in the conference: other than the narrow Duke and Pitt scores, UVa has won everything by double digits.
About that Pitt score: the programs very much mirror each other, each getting talent usually less than elite and relying on solid defense to win.
Well, something had to give, and it was Pitt as Malcolm Brogdon hit a huge three with time running out to break a tie and clinch the game.
Thing is, no one had faith in the play Tony Bennett called. Brogdon said it never worked in practice, and even in this game they screwed it up, setting one pick too many. Big deal: it worked beautifully.
With the win, Virginia is solidly in second and moreover, the schedule is very, very kind the rest of the way: BC, Georgia Tech, Maryland twice, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Miami and Syracuse.
There's a reasonable chance UVa gets to March 1st at 15-1 in the conference.
Syracuse, meanwhile, still has to go to Pitt, Duke and Virginia. We wouldn't expect Maryland or FSU to beat the 'Cuse, but we wouldn't rule it out, either.
The loss also puts Pitt's season into perspective. As usual, it's a tough well coached bunch, but with minimal success against top flight opponents. Pitt still has to go to Miami, where the 'Canes are weak but brilliantly coached. Syracuse comes to town, followed by UNC on the road and FSU at home. Then there are road games against BC, Notre Dame and Clemson. A home game with State is squeezed in between the Notre Dame and Clemson road trips.
Call us crazy, but ending the season at Clemson is no great bargain.
Like Virginia, Duke's stretch run is pretty favorable. Duke gets UNC twice, as usual, but otherwise it's Wake, BC on the road, Maryland at home, to Tech, Syracuse and Virginia Tech at home, followed by Wake and the second UNC game, in Durham.
It's going to be hard for anyone else to break into the top four unless someone tanks. Clemson and Maryland are still up and down. UNC may have stanched the bleeding, but the Heels still have the pair with Duke, and trips to Pitt, to Tallahassee and Raleigh.
State is still up and down, Wake has road issues to say the least, and FSU is not as tough as the 'Noles once looked.
It's almost inconceivable for Georgia Tech or Notre Dame to make a move and is totally so for Miami, BC and Virginia Tech.
So most likely it's the top four, UNC and whoever holds up between Clemson, Maryland and Wake Forest.
On Monday, Notre Dame gets another chance to start a recovery. Unfortunately it's at Syracuse, so the best hope for the Irish is that Syracuse is still sort of hung over from the extraordinary Duke game.
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