In Thursday’s ACC Tournament action, Duke survived a glorious game from Syracuse, 88-79, Boston College took Miami to the last possible second before falling 71-69 in overtime, Virginia Tech sent Notre Dame home 87-70 and UNC just destroyed Virginia, 63-43.
We’ll just say a few more words about Syracuse here. You can read Jim’s comments and listen to the DBR Podcast Crew break that game down and we had a few words besides.
We’d just like to reiterate how much we admire what they accomplished in that game and how very well they played. Obviously it would have been bad to lose it. But to lose to a team that showed that much heart?
There are worse things in the world.
In his post-game comments, Jim Boeheim said it wasn’t all about son Buddy being suspended, and they might have lost by 20 if he had played. And he’s right: who knows?
That’s a total what-if. We’ll never know. But we do know those guys played with as much heart as BC has, and that’s saying an awful lot.
Funny story. We were thinking about what to say if Syracuse pulled off a shocker and thought back to a time long ago and far away, not all that long after we started DBR.
Working at a startup has advantages, and the one we worked at then allowed you to wander in on the weekends and do what you liked. So one Saturday, a colleague from Spain was sitting in a chair in the boss’s doorway, watching TV. We didn’t know it at the time, but he was watching the World Cup, Spain vs. Great Britain. Suddenly he jumped up, roared in dismay and shouted: “I SH*T ON THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND!” And then: “I need to call my father. He’s about to jump off the roof.”
We wouldn’t have said that about Syracuse because we respected the effort too much. But we’d like to think it would have been as funny. Probably not. More like his dad, actually.
Incidentally, this is the first losing record for Syracuse in something like 51 years. Duke can’t say that. UCLA can’t say that. Kentucky can’t say that. Kansas can’t either. Neither can Louisville. It’s pretty impressive.
Back to Boston College.
We’ve seen some brilliant team play in this tournament, notably Clemson. What the Tigers did without key players at the end of the seasons is truly stunning.
But Boston College came into this season with minimal expectations. Remember? It was supposed to be a train wreck.
But Earl Grant kept coaching and building. BC came into the tournament just 13-20. But he has taught his team to play hard as hell and they came within one basket of an 11-19 team that came to Brooklyn and won three games.
Like Clemson and Syracuse, his team deserves a special level of respect.
Nonetheless, Miami beat that team and moves on to play Duke. They showed some great heart as well.
Virginia Tech is not far behind, if it is at all. The Hokies have really come on. We thought they had a shot against Notre Dame, but did we expect them to dominate the Irish for most of the game?
Mike Young’s team played brilliantly, as it has since losing three straight in late January. Since then, only Duke has won more games in the ACC. The Hokies finished the stretch run of ACC play 9-2. In Brooklyn, Virginia Tech passed on the sure thing against Clemson, going instead for a very risky three as time ran out.
They followed that up with a highly impressive win over Notre Dame. The Hokies just ripped the Irish early and credit Notre Dame for a steady second-half comeback that saw them cut the lead to four with :48 left. Storm Murphy was brilliant down the stretch and Virginia Tech made the right plays to put the Irish away.
So Friday night it is Virginia Tech vs. UNC and Duke vs. Miami. We’ve talked a lot about Duke-Miami in our preview so hit there for that if you haven’t. As for Virginia Tech-UNC?
One of the reasons we were worried about Syracuse, aside from their immense emotional advantage, was that it’s really hard to beat a team three times in a season. They know what’s coming.
UNC beat Virginia Tech the first time, 78-68 in Chapel Hill and 65-57 in Blacksburg.
In the first game, Armando Bacot had 14 points and 20 rebounds; in the rematch he had 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Controlling him obviously is key and Brady Manek makes that tougher because he moves outside and is an excellent marksman. Virginia Tech’s best chance is to win on threes, but they didn’t do that in either prior game. In Chapel Hill UNC hit 10-25 (Manek was 4-8) to Virginia Tech’s 7-18 and in Blacksburg the Tar Heels hit 8-22 to 5-26 for the Hokies.
So far in Brooklyn? Against Clemson the Hokies hit 12-28 and against Notre Dame, 7-19 but also shot 57.4 percent.
Fatigue may play in too since Virginia Tech has played two games to UNC’s one.
Most importantly though, as Clemson, BC, Syracuse and the Hokies have shown, you have to play with heart. Even so, UNC has an enormous advantage with Bacot and Manek.
Small thing to keep in mind: Mike Young, Keve Aluma and Storm Murphy beat UNC when they were at Wofford.