Tuesday was a wonderful day, the kind of basketball ACC fans like to see in March. Everett Case would have been thrilled.
Toss in a bit of controversy and it was a great day.
The controversy came in Syracuse’s stunning win over Florida State. Remember the Orange came in losing four straight and two of those in excruciating ways. We thought that Florida State had shown a lot of character recently and that would lead them past Syracuse.
Not even close.
Led by Cole Swider, the ‘Cuse blew the doors off of Florida State. FSU now has Anthony Polite, Caleb Mills and Ray’Quan Evans back.
Buddy Boeheim’s...well whatever you want to call it, he hit Wyatt Wilkes in the stomach and it staggered him. The ACC chose to suspend him so he’s out against Duke.
No matter what happens Thursday, it was a magnificent outing for Syracuse Wednesday.
Then Boston College, a team that has shown immense character this season, and they did again against heavily favored Wake Forest, winning 82-77 in overtime.
There’s really no reason why they should have won except they played harder and deserved it, which, really, is the only reason anyone should ever win.
For his part, Wake’s Steve Forbes lamented the loss saying, “we were in control of our destiny...and now we’re not.”
It’s part of building a program. We hope Wake makes it to the NCAAs but if not, the program has still shown immense improvement and that will probably continue.
And then there was the evening session.
Virginia Tech’s win over Clemson wasn’t easy because for the last few weeks, Clemson has shown the heart of a champion. We have no idea how they kept winning, first without Hunter Tyson, then without both Tyson and rising star PJ Hall and then without Hall.
They were magnificent. Clemson fans would know better than us but as far as we can remember, given the challenges, this was the fines stretch of basketball in Clemson history. People should be really proud of that team. If it was us, based on what he did in dire circumstances, we’d give Brad Brownell an extension.
It makes what Virginia Tech did even more impressive.
Down two in overtime with seconds to go, Mike Young pulled Keve Aluma and went with a small lineup of shooters, making it clear he was playing for the win, not a tie.
And in a play that will go down in ACC history, Darius Maddox gave it to him, hitting a three that fell through the basket as time ran out. What a gutty play and how much trust did Young have to call for it?
Finally, in the nightcap, Louisville once again fell to their nemesis Virginia. Whether it was Rick Pitino, David Padgett, Chris Mack or now Mike Pegues, Virginia has tormented Louisville.
And after getting up off the mat after a dreadful collapse over the last several weeks of the season to take it to Georgia Tech, Louisville was almost able to pull it off again against Virginia.
Until they weren’t.
The thing about playing Virginia is that it’s exhausting. You play all that time and, as we saw Tuesday, if it’s a close game late, Virginia is usually going to win.
Not surprisingly, they did.
Kihei Clark hit a layup with 5:22 left and Malik Williams got a three with 4:53 to go.
Louisville would not score again until the 1:57 mark to tie the game up 45-45. Virginia hit the next four points and by the time Malik Williams scored with :06 left to cut the score to 49-47, it was too late.
Jayden Gardner hit a pair of free throws with :04 left then El Ellis hit a ridiculously long three at the buzzer to make the final score 51-50.
If Gardner had missed his free throws, maybe Louisville could have pulled off a miracle. Maybe.
But when Virginia sucks you in, you’re in trouble.
Give Louisville credit for getting some self-respect back in Brooklyn though.
On Thursday, we like Duke over Syracuse, but expect a serious game from the Orange. BC has shown wonderful heart but Miami is tougher than Wake Forest. Virginia Tech and Notre Dame is a fascinating matchup. We’ll take the Hokies in an upset.
Finally, UNC vs. Virginia. That’s a tough one. UNC is certainly playing better. Thing is, Virginia is too. Tony Bennett has had plenty of time to think about how to keep Armando Bacot from devastating his team again - Bacot had 29 points and 21 rebounds in Chapel Hill and shot 12-18 - and Brady Manek had 19.
That’s 48 of UNC’s 74 points in a 26 point victory.
Both teams are quite different now so we’ll see how things play out.
- Syracuse vs. Duke || 12:00 || ESPN
- Boston College vs. Miami || 2:30 || ESPN2
- Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame || 7:00 || ESPN2
- Virginia vs. UNC || 9:30 || ESPN