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ACC Roundup - A Tight Night Indeed

The conference remains supremely competitive

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Virginia Tech
Jan 22, 2020; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Tyrece Radford (23) hits the game winning basket against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second overtime at Cassell Coliseum. 
Michael Thomas Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve talked a lot about the perception that the ACC is weak and there is some truth to it. However, the competitive desire of the conference isn’t weaker in the slightest and Wednesday night is a good example: four ACC games were decided by a total of ten points: Louisville survived Georgia Tech by 68-64, Syracuse won at Notre Dame 84-82 and Pitt survived a BC comeback 74-72.

And then there was UNC and Virginia Tech.

No Thursday Night ACC Action

Wednesday’s Results

  • Louisville 68 Georgia Tech 64
  • Syracuse 84 Notre Dame 82
  • Virginia Tech 79 UNC 77
  • Pitt 74 BC 72

ACC Standings

The Hokies extended UNC to double overtime before winning on a last half second shot by Tyrece Radford who got Jeremiah Francis alone and, in the immortal words of Phi Slama Jamma’s Benny Anders, took it to the rack and stuck it.

Well he didn’t dunk on him. But he didn’t have to. It was clear from the look on his face that Francis, who has been getting over a knee issue since high school, knew he was trapped and couldn’t hope to stop Radford, and as soon as the shot fell through, he was clearly devastated.

It wasn’t his fault. His teammates all knew that he was not sound and they left him alone on an island in the middle of the lane. For Radford, it was just a bit of lagniappe, a gift that fell into his lap.

For some reason the Hokies called a timeout with 0.4 left but it didn't matter: they intercepted the inbounds pass. And right after that, Garrison Brooks fell to the floor in a frustrated heap, inconsolable in defeat.

And why wouldn’t he?

It’s fun to make fun of UNC - the Heels are alone in last place, have lost six straight ACC games and are struggling in every sense.

But Brooks is sort of a tragic hero.

As the team sinks collectively, he rises individually.

You couldn’t possibly ask for more effort or character.

He played 48 minutes, shot 11-18, 6-8 on free throws, 13 rebounds and a total of 28 points.

In general, Armando Bacot has struggled since Cole Anthony got injured and he fouled out of this one. If he hadn’t, UNC might have had someone in the post when Radford drove.

To put UNC’s struggles in perspective, four starters played at least 45 minutes including Andrew Platek, who played 49, despite the fact that, as the AP’s Hank Kurz put it: “It was an especially difficult night for guard Andrew Platek, who was jeered whenever he touched the ball with chants of ‘Airball. Airball’ after a poor shot early and seemed somewhat affected. The junior had at least two more airballs to the delight of the crowd and then had a rushed attempt to beat the shot clock rejected by the 6-foot-1 Radford in the second half. Platek finished 2 for 11 from the field.”

UNC only went seven deep and the bench was Francis (23 minutes) and grad student transfer Christian Keeling.

After the game, Roy Williams, who is still tied with Dean Smith on the all-times wins list (since the Yale game on Dec 30th), said “[y]es. I think we’re getting better, but I also think we made so many just silly plays and didn’t do what we needed to do to make a winning play.”

Wins aren’t necessarily going to get easier.

Miami is on Saturday and at least it’s a warm trip. Both teams are horribly thin right now so it’s going to be a battle of attrition.

After that though is a trip to bloodthirsty Raleigh, where State would dearly love to bury years of frustration with the Heels, a winnable home game against BC, then a road trip to Florida State followed by Duke at home.

UNC would probably be favored against BC and anything is possible in the Duke-UNC rivalry, but realistically, there’s a strong chance UNC emerges from that brutal stretch 1-4.

Georgia Tech really took it to Louisville and held the Cards in check for 30 minutes. Louisville is a solid, well-coached team though and they eventually got it together and caught Tech at the 11:10 mark of the second half.

By the 4:45 mark, Louisville was up nine. Tech fought back though and was within one on a James Banks dunk with 1:23 left.

Malik Williams made three free throws in the last :23 to ice the game.

Still an impressive night by the 8-11 Yellow Jackets who took a Top Five team to the wire on the road.

Syracuse’s backcourt trio of Joe Girard, Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes accounted for 51 of the Orange’s 84.

Notre Dame was down eight with :43 left and nearly pulled that off. Damn good comeback.

As usual, John Mooney had a double-double with 21 points and 13 boards. He’s done that every game this year but two. Last time he came up short: November 21st.

In Pittsburgh, BC pushed the Panthers to the limit before falling on a late shot by Ryan Murphy. The Eagles finally got Nik Popovic back and the big man got 14 minutes which is bound to be good news for Boston College.

It wasn’t a freakishly good game by Pitt but it’s a win and Pitt is learning how to do it even when it’s not easy.

And for all the talk about the ACC’s post-season fortunes, Louisville, FSU and Duke are already in. Virginia is struggling but they’ll probably pull themselves together enough to make the field.

The surprises though are Virginia Tech, NC State and Pitt. We think the Hokies have a great shot at the tournament and State and Pitt aren’t all that far behind though State’s chances are better right now than are Pitt’s. The fact that we’re even discussing the possibility points to the spectacular job Jeff Capel is doing.