Although we thought that the final day of ACC regular season basketball might be a letdown, it was far from it. Syracuse got some footing with the win over Florida State, Virginia made a remarkable effort to take Maryland into overtime, and TJ Warren exploded against BC.
Good news for the 'Cuse: Jerami Grant is back. Limited by back pain recently, Grant scored 16 and pulled down eight rebounds. Tyler Ennis also had 16 points and four assists, statistically negated by four turnovers.
But the game was for CJ Fair. The senior forward took over after halftime, scoring 15.
For the first time in awhile, Syracuse won going away, beating FSU by 16, 74-58. Syracuse still has depth problems - a seven-man rotation is tough in a weekend tournament (with a bye, Syracuse won't play until Friday) is tough. But at least Grant gets a chance to rest before then, which will be good for the Orange.
Meanwhile, TJ Warren pretty much exploded for State, scoring 42 points on 14-23 from the floor (and 14-17 from the line). It was a magnificent performance which overshadowed a great game by B.C.'s Olivier Hanlan, who racked up 29.
The bad news? Warren singlehandedly outscored the rest of his team, 42-36. That's just not healthy.
On the one hand, it worked, but the other players need to step up as well. That's not happening, and that's a problem. If not now, then next year when Warren is likely to be in the NBA.
But still: it was a magnificent performance. Add that to his 41 point outburst against Pitt on Monday, and State fans are going to howl if he's not, finally, the ACC Player Of The Week.
But the headliner was in College Park. Maryland won, but barely. The game was pretty much in hand before Virginia got to the line down 64-61 with three seconds left.
Malcolm Brogdon hit the first and missed the second intentionally. Maryland's Evan Smotrycz reached over a Virginia player for the rebound but knocked it out of bounds.
London Perrantes then made an absolutely perfect pass to Anthony Gill with one second on the clock. Gill jumped, caught and released a perfect shot.
In the Maryland huddle, Mark Turgeon told his team they'd play the best five minutes of the season.
Maybe yes, maybe no, but it was enough to win. It was, we're sure, the sort of a game where team and fans really felt like a win must happen.
With Sunday's games out of the way, the ACC Tournament looms.
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With the bigger conference, the tournament is now a five-day affair.
We're not expecting much on Wednesday, either competitively or from fans. As a matter of fact, anyone who wants to get in would do well to hang around outside and wait for Wake Forest to lose the 1:00 game (we expect they will). Or Notre Dame, makes no difference: the losers are going to be ready to sell. If not that game, just wait for one of the next ones. It should be a buyer's market, too.
The real tournament will start on Thursday.
We would expect Notre Dame, Miami and Georgia Tech to advance, which would mean on Thursday, we'll see Maryland vs. FSU, Pitt vs. Notre Dame, State vs. Miami, and Georgia Tech vs. Clemson.
If Maryland makes it past Florida State (the teams split in the regular season), the prize is a rematch with Virginia in the quarterfinals, and we'll be very surprised if the Cavs aren't in a mood to punish.
The other Thursday games will be interesting: Pitt should be better than Notre Dame or Wake, certainly with some rest.
Miami could conceivably beat State, but we can't see Virginia Tech doing that, let alone winning two in a row.
If State advances, the Pack gets another shot at Syracuse after very nearly toppling the Orange in the Carrier Dome.
And we expect to see Clemson beat whoever wins, likely the Yellow Jackets, which would set up a rematch with Duke.
Like Virginia's rematch with Maryland, Duke would no doubt relish another crack at the Tigers.
We're not sure yet just what to think - we'll be looking for the next couple of days - but here's one thing to go on. Which teams are deepest?
We'd say it's Duke and Virginia.