So no Duke-Syracuse III, after all.
That's okay. The third in a series rarely delivers. I loved The Godfather. And I thought Godfather II was even better. But Godfather III was one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Same with the Alien series - Ridley Scott's original is a classic. James Cameron's sequel was even better. But the third entry in the series was a stinker.
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There are exceptions (Toy Story? The Star Trek series?), but the rule of thumb in the film industry is that while one sequel often justifies the hype, the third in the series is usually a disappointment.
We can thank N.C. State for the fact that we don't have to see if Duke and Syracuse can play a game to live up to that first overtime meeting in the Carrier Dome or the sequel in Durham when Jim Boeheim lost his mind.
Instead of the hot new rivalry, Duke and N.C. State will renew one of the ACC's oldest and most honored rivalries - a game between the two schools that have always cherished the ACC Tournament. It was Duke athletic director Eddie Cameron and N.C. State coach Everett Case who nurtured and defended the ACC Tournament in those early days when every other school in the league wanted to end the tourney and send the league's regular season champion to the NCAA. And it was Vic Bubas, who played and coached under Case, who guided Duke to its first basketball glory.
Duke and State met in the first three ACC Tournaments with the Wolfpack winning every time. But after a seven year gap, one of Bubas' best teams beat Case in Reynolds en route to the 1963 ACC championship. Over the years, Duke has won a majority of the meetings with the Pack, holding a 14-9 edge in tournament meetings (including a 6-3 edge in the semifinals). But State is on a winning streak - the Pack won the last meeting in 2007 in Tampa.
"We love to be facing anybody in the semis," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. "I've coached a lot of games and I'm not surprised to be facing N.C. State. They're playing great basketball. T.J. Warren, the last few weeks has been phenomenal and that's no exaggeration. He's unbelievable."
Warren was the dominant player in N.C. State's 66-63 quarterfinal victory over Syracuse. The 6-7 sophomore not only led all scorers with 28 points, he added eight rebounds and put the defensive clamps on Syracuse star C.J. Fair, who scored nine points on 3-of-16 shooting.
The hard-luck Wolfpack - whether the hard luck was due to their own bonehead plays or to the officiating conspiracy that haunts the State fan base - finally pulled out a close win over a top team. And Syracuse, which made a living pulling out cliffhangers during the regular season, couldn't cash in the final seconds against N.C. State.
The chances were there, but cool-as-ice freshman point guard Tyler Ennis picked up a charging foul and missed a driving shot in the final 90 seconds and the 'Cuse missed two 2-pointers and four game-tying 3-pointers in the final 15 seconds - none of them close.
That sends N.C. State into the semifinals against a Duke team that beat the Pack 95-60 in Cameron.
The Blue Devils had to survive a late collapse against Clemson in Friday's final quarterback game. The Devils led by 13 with just over 10 minutes left, but just like the game at Littlejohn, the Devils struggled down the stretch.
This time it was more a defensive collapse than an offensive shutdown. Clemson, which scored 34 points in the game's first 30 minutes, scored 28 in the last 10. Duke scored enough to stay ahead until the final seconds, when Rasheed Sulaimon missed a tough driving shot and Rod Hall converted a fastbreak layup to give Clemson a 62-61 lead with 7.4 seconds.
Duke didn't hesitate - without a timeout, Rodney Hood took the inbounds pass and rushed the ball up the court … in contrast to a similar situation at Notre Dame, when he took his time bringing it up. This time he was racing toward the basket, when he was flattened by K.J. McDaniels with 3.8 seconds left.
The sophomore coolly stood at the foul line and connected on both free throws to give Duke the lead. After the game, Krzyzewski was full of praise for his transfer star, but he did say one odd thing:
"I wish we had him for more than one year," he said.
Clemson had a final chance after a Duke timeout. Hall took the inbounds pass and rushed towards the other basket and plowed into traffic, losing the ball. Tiger coach Brad Brownell wanted a foul call, but nothing was forthcoming.
"Announcers are going to say it wasn't a pretty game," Krzyzewski said. "But to me, it was a great game."
It was Krzyzewski's 54th ACC Tournament win and the 92nd for Duke. The Blue Devils lead the conference with 92 wins and 19 ACC titles. UNC is second in both categories (90 wins and 17 titles), but N.C. State is third in both categories - 69 tourney wins and 10 titles.
The semifinal matchup extended another streak. During the break between Friday's sessions, several writers talked about the possibility that Syracuse and Clemson could both win. Had that happened, it would have been the first time in ACC Tournament history that a Big Four team failed to make the semifinal round.
Instead, Duke and State will both be there - giving the Big Four 150 of 244 semifinal spots in the 61 ACC Tournament (61.5 percent). And the winner is guaranteed a spot in the finals, meaning that the Big Four will be represented in 60 of 61 championship games (missing in 1990).
VIRGINIA 64, FLORIDA STATE 51
Virginia returned to the ACC Tournament semifinals for the first time since 1995 - breaking the longest drought in the ACC (at least excluding the three newcomers). Every other league team has made at least one semifinal appearance since 2007. In fact, every team except Boston College has now made a semifinal appearance since 2010.
The Cavs had little trouble with an FSU team that showed none of the fire that might have been expected for a team fighting for its NCAA life. The Seminoles were the only ACC team considered on the bubble by most national bracketologists - but the tame loss to Virginia almost certainly kills that hope. FSU is now 19-13 and is likely headed to the NIT for the second straight year.
Virginia (26-6) still has its sights set on the second ACC title in school history (1976 was the first) and is certainly jockeying for a good NCAA seed. The Cavs are in a battle to earn the favored placement in Raleigh next week.
Virginia will face Pittsburgh today at 1 p.m. in the first semifinal. The Cavaliers faced the Panthers just once in the regular season, pulling out a thrilling 48-45 win in front of the Oakland Zoo when Malcolm Brogdon nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer
For Virginia, the chance to reach the ACC finals is a big deal. The Cavs may have ended their semifinal drought, but the program hasn't been in the finals since losing to UNC in 1994. Virginia Tech, which has never played in the finals, is the only ACC team that has gone longer without an appearance in the finals.
PITTSBURGH 80, UNC 75
The Pitt Panthers were treated to an old-fashioned ACC Tournament experience as a Greensboro Coliseum packed with UNC fans (and how did the baby blue score so many courtside seats - like ALL of them?) and some typically bizarre ACC officiating turned what should have been a Pitt rout into a dramatic last-second thriller.
Actually, I thought there were two games going on. Pitt was battling UNC and Karl Hess was dueling officiating partners Raymond Styons and Brian Dorsey. Hess blows a mean whistle, but they had him outnumbered two to one and in the end, they called 32 fouls on UNC, while Hess was able to call just 26 fouls on the Panthers. I know that's not really true, but it seemed that way to me.
Pitt took a 4-0 lead and never trailed. The Panthers were up by 20 with eight minutes left - thanks to senior Talib Zanna, who played one of the great games in ACC Tournament history. The burly forward finished with 19 points and 21 rebounds. Those 21 boards are tied for the most any ACC player has had in a tournament game other than Tim Duncan (who had 23 and 22). He also had 10 offensive rebounds, tying the tournament record (although that one merely goes back to 1985, when offensive rebounds were first measured).
At one point midway through the second half, Zanna had single-handedly outrebounded the UNC team, 17-16.
It should have been an easy win for the Panthers, but three factors combined to make things close:
(1) Marcus Paige, who was pulled from the game early in the second half with cramps, staged his usual late-game explosion. He scored seven points in the game's first 28 and a half minutes. He scored 20 more in the last 11 and half minutes.
(2) Pitt went frigid from the foul line - and with whistles blowing every few seconds, that was nearly fatal. The Panthers hit just 14 of 32 second-half free throws.
(3) Lamar Patterson played one of the worst games of his Pitt career … at least the most boneheaded. The senior wing hit a few shots (although he was just 4-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-8 from the foul line), but he also turned it over six times - usually on "what-was-he-thinking" plays. He also committed a number of dumb fouls.
Pitt contributed with some strange behavior against UNC's fullcourt press. When Pitt attacked the press and took it to the basket, the Panthers frequently scored. But all too often, Pitt would make the inbounds pass, then the receiver would cover up and wait for the double-team to arrive.
UNC never got closer than three points and never had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead. Pitt was able to hang on - helped when Paige fouled out with 25 seconds left.
But it was a win - a big win, even though Pitt (25-8) was almost certainly in the NCAA field before beating the Tar Heels. UNC (23-9) will also be in the field, but the loss to Pitt makes it very unlikely that the Tar Heels will get to start their NCAA journey in Raleigh.
ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Duke's Jabari Parker has earned first-team All-America honors on the first three teams that I've heard announced - US Basketball Writers, The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
I'm fairly certain that while he won't win national player of the year honors - Creighton's Doug McDermott has that locked up - Parker will make most, if not all, of the major All-America first teams. He'll be the only ACC player this year to earn consensus All-America honors.
So why was Parker beaten out for ACC player of the year?
The difference between regional and national perception is always interesting. Twice in ACC history, Duke players have won national player of the year honors, while losing ACC player of the year to Maryland players. Johnny Dawkins was the Naismith winner in 1986 … but Len Bias was ACC POY. Jason Williams swept every major national player of the year award in 2002 … but Juan Dixon was ACC POY.
At least Bias and Dixon were - like Dawkins and Williams - consensus first-team All-Americans.
Parker is the 12th ACC player to earn consensus All-America honors (at least I'm assuming he will) and lose ACC player of the year to a non-first team All-American. It happened to one player twice.
That was UNC's Tyler Hansbrough, who was a three-time consensus All-American. He lost the 2007 ACC POY award to Boston College forward Jared Dudley. He won the 2008 ACC POY award. And he lost the 2009 ACC POY award to teammate Ty Lawson.
The complete list of consensus first team All-Americans to lose the ACC honor to non-first-teamers:
- 1967 - Bob Verga of Duke lost to UNC's Larry Miller
- 1972 - Bob McAdoo of UNC lost to Virginia's Barry Parkhill
- 1976 - Maryland's John Lucas lost to UNC's Mitch Kupchak
- 1977 - UNC's Phil Ford lost to Wake Forest's Rod Griffin
- 1987 - UNC's Kenny Smith lost to Clemson's Horace Grant
- 1988 - UNC's J.R. Reid lost to Duke's Danny Ferry
- 1991 - Georgia Tech's Kenny Anderson lost to N.C. State's Rodney Monroe
- 1993 - Duke's Bobby Hurley lost to Wake Forest's Rodney Rogers
- 2007 - UNC's Tyler Hansbrough lost to BC's Jared Dudley
- 2009 - UNC's Tyler Hansbrough lost to UNC's Ty Lawson
- 2014 (anticipated) - Duke's Jabari Parker lost to N.C. State's T.J. Warren
You can throw in South Carolina's John Roche over UNC's Charles Scott in 1968 and 1969 - Scott barely missed consensus first-team All-America honors both years, but he had far more All-America credentials than Roche.
In hindsight, most of these awards make some sense. But how did Kenny Smith - who led UNC to an undefeated ACC season lose the award to Grant? And how did McAdoo, who led UNC to the title, lose to Parkhill?
Just one player from Greensboro, N.C., is starting in the ACC Tournament this week - Florida State sophomore Montay Brandon.
There are 11 North Carolinians starting in the tournament. FSU, N.C. State and Virginia each start three native Tar Heels - Brandon and Ian Miller (Charlotte) at FSU; Akil Mitchell (Charlotte) and Anthony Gill (High Point) at Virginia; T.J. Warren (Raleigh) and Tyler Lewis (Statesville) at N.C. State.
Also starting are North Carolina natives Dez Wells (Raleigh) at Maryland; Garrius Adams (Apex) at Miami; Kennedy Meeks (Charlotte) at UNC; Jarrell Eddie (Charlotte) at Virginia Tech; and Codi Miller-McIntyre (Concord) at Wake Forest.
A RECORD FOR FUTILITY
North Carolina missed its chance to set a unique record in this tournament.
The Tar Heels had lost three straight championship games in a row- to Duke in 2011; to FSU in 2012; and to Miami last season.
No team has ever lost four straight championship games.
In fact, the only other team to lose three straight was Maryland in 1972 (to UNC); 1973 (to N.C. State); and 1974 (to N.C. State).
But after the quarterfinal loss to Pitt, UNC doesn't have to worry about a fourth straight title game defeat.