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ACC Roundup - Pitt Gets A Huge Win, While Notre Dame Is In Trouble

Pitt’s win over Virginia is a big deal

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Pittsburgh
 Jan 3, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers guard Nelly Cummings (0) celebrates with the PITT student section after defeating the Virginia Cavaliers at the Petersen Events Center.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The ACC is not the best conference in the country at this point - that’s the Big 12 - but the competitive nature of the league remains unbelievably powerful. Take Tuesday night for instance.

BC popped Notre Dame 70-63, Syracuse just barely beat forlorn Louisville 70-69 and Pitt took down Virginia, 68-65.

It looked for much of the game like a normal Virginia game: keep the score low, force minor mistakes critical for the opponent while minimizing your own and defend hard enough that the opponent is weakened going into the closing minutes - and then their tired mistakes will be even more magnified.

Didn’t work against a suddenly tougher Pitt. The Panthers came back and built a five point lead at 60-55 with 3:59 to go. Virginia did tie it at 60-60 but Pittsburgh went up 66-62 with :17 left and held on to win 68-65.

Virginia is unbelievably good in these situations - normally. Tony Bennett coaches the last two minutes of a game as well as anyone.

So it’s a major deal for Pitt - and for Jeff Capel.

Remember, he has been under a lot of pressure for a while now. Today though, Pitt is 11-4, 4-0 in the ACC and may be ranked next week. It’s an impressive turnaround.

Reece Beekman, who has been limited by a hamstring injury, played 36 minutes, scoring 12 points. Kihei Clark led the way with 17 although he fouled out.

Jaylen Gardner was just 2-7 for four points.

Blake Hinson and Nike Sibande had 16 each for the Panthers. Fede Federiko had eight points and 11 rebounds for a solid presence in the lane (Pitt was again without John Hugley).

Last year, this outcome would have been laughable. This year, it’s going to fuel the Pete in a big way. Next up for Pitt: Clemson at home followed by a trip to Duke.

Things are not looking good for Mike Brey’s Irish. Boston College has a pulse to be sure, but it’s a team with less talent than most ACC teams. And Notre Dame has some decent, experienced players.

But it didn't matter Tuesday.

The Irish jumped out to a 10-2 lead and led until 1:43 in the game when BC finally went in front, 62-61.

And they just owned it from there, outscoring the Irish 8-2 in the closing stretch and, more broadly, a late 17-4 run.

Earl Grant needs better players, but he’s shown in multiple ways now that he can compete in this league.

Notre Dame may be in real trouble. They’re just 8-7, 0-4 in the ACC and 1-5 in their last six games and 3-7 in their last 10.

Finally, Louisville didn’t beat Syracuse, but the Cardinals competed, and that’s progress.

This was the kind of game where everyone was standing up at the end.

It was a tight game most of the way and, in a bit of rare good news, Louisville managed to have the lead at times.

Joe Girard, who finished with 28, and Judah Mintz, who had 16, both hit key free throws late.

Girard’s came with :17 left and put Syracuse up 70-67.

Louisville called a timeout and then fouled three straight times, finally putting Durham native El Ellis on the line. He hit both, with a Syracuse timeout in between.

Then he stole the ball from Mintz and went for the winning shot but he turned the ball over and Jesse Edwards picked it up as the clock ran out.

That’s great for Louisville of course, but what about Syracuse?

Not to rag on the Cardinals, but they’ve lost to some pretty bad teams this year. Joe Girard had five turnovers and Mintz had four.

As positive as the near miss is for Louisville, it’s not really an exciting win for the Orange. More like a dodged bullet.

Wednesday’s ACC action sees Miami at Georgia Tech, Wake Forest at UNC and Clemson at Virginia Tech.

All three are interesting in different ways. Just how good is Miami? We don’t think Tech will win here but getting a better idea about Miami is a plus. Wake is looking up and UNC? It’s a home game but this team is distinctly underperforming. And while Clemson and Virginia Tech are both 11-3, but the Tigers are 3-0 in the ACC while the Hokies are 1-2.

It should be a good game and, like Miami, we’ll get a better idea of where Clemson really stands.

Wednesday’s ACC Action

  • Miami @ Georgia Tech || 7:00 PM || ESPN+
  • Duke @ NC State || 7:00 PM || ACCN
  • Wake Forest @ UNC || 9:00 PM || ACCN
  • Clemson @ Virginia Tech || 9:00 PM || ESPNU

ACC Standings