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ACC Roundup- Is Louisville Coming To Life?

The records don’t show it but both Louisville and Notre Dame have really toughened up lately.

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Syndication: The Courier-Journal
 Louisville guard Hercy Miller (15) kept his eyes open on defense as the Louisville Cardinals hosted the Clemson Tigers at the KFC Yum Center Saturday evening. Louisville defeated Clemson, 83-73 for their fourth win of the season. Feb. 18, 2023
Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal and USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK

In Saturday’s ACC Action, Notre Dame fell to Virginia, 57-55, Miami knocked off Wake Forest 96-87, BC took Florida State 75-69, Georgia Tech took out a stubborn Florida Tech 79-56, Virginia Tech upset Pitt 79-72 and Louisville...well, let’s talk about Louisville.

There’s no doubt that the Cards have had a tough year, but the last three games? Louisville took Miami to the last few minutes, nearly upset Virginia and Saturday beat Clemson by 10.

There are a couple of things to mention about Louisville here: first, and unambiguously now, Kenny Payne has not lost his team as it once seemed he might. In fact, ignore the record and focus on the sharp improvement. It speaks very well of Payne as a leader. What we’re seeing from his team in the stretch run of the ACC season is as impressive as anything else that’s happened this year.

Clemson on the other hand is really skidding fast. The Tigers have lost four of the last five and of those four, only Miami is a top-flight ACC team. You have to give Brad Brownell and the Tigers credit for overcoming a number of injuries - PJ Hall, Brevin Galloway and Chase Hunter all had serious injuries while Alex Hemenway has been dealing with plantar fasciitis since December.

Seen in that light, Clemson has had a solid year, but the committee doesn’t care and this loss hurts.

Like Louisville, Notre Dame seems to have emulated the Tin Man and found its heart. After nearly coming back at Duke, the Irish almost pulled off another comeback at Charlottesville. Notre Dame got the last shot, a three to win, but Dane Goodwin missed at the buzzer and instead of winning by one, Notre Dame lost by two. Like Louisville, the Irish have toughened up lately.

After his red-hot performance at Duke, by the way, Goodwin shot just 5-13 at Virginia.

Florida State got clobbered last time by Clemson, losing by 40, and against hard-working BC, FSU fell behind by 19 early and never caught up. They cut into it periodically but never got closer than four.

FSU has lost seven of its last eight ACC games. People are constantly asking 78-year-old Jim Boeheim about his retirement plans, but no one seems to ask 74-year-old Leonard Hamilton that question. And while its not entirely his fault - injuries have really hurt FSU the last couple of seasons - his last three teams have been 18-7, 17-14 and so far this year, 8-20. That’s a much sharper decline than Boeheim has had.

Georgia Tech had to struggle with Florida Tech for part of that game. Who cares? Who schedules a D-II team in February? Waste of time for them and for everybody else.

Virginia Tech has had a tough year in many ways but remains a dangerous team and we saw it again Saturday as the Hokies knocked off Pitt.

The Panthers have been hot from three point range lately but not here: Pitt shot just 3-18 from behind the line and Blake Hinson, who has been so good lately, was held to 1-8 and just four points. He also fouled out in 25 minutes.

Federiko Federiko picked up three in less than half a minute. Nelly Cummings also had four. Ultimately all the starters had at least four fouls except for Jamarius Burton, who had three.

Pitt did rally, cutting the lead to seven late, but it wasn’t their day. Our guess is that it’s Pitt’s turn to complain about the officiating.

Grant Basile had 22 to pace the Hokies and all the starters hit double figures except for Michael Collins.

So after Saturday, Virginia has emerged as the first-place team, Miami is a half-game behind, Pitt is third, Clemson still fourth and NC State and Duke are both 10-6 with the Pack having the tiebreaker.

Which means Sunday is a bit of a dilemma for Duke fans.

UNC visits NC State Sunday afternoon, and if State wins, Duke will be in sixth place. But if UNC wins, Duke will move up to fifth.

On the other hand, that kind of means pulling for UNC. And a win over State would be a major coup for UNC’s tournament hopes, which is not something we can ever remember saying before.

On the other other hand, a win by State would be crippling for UNC’s post-season hopes.

For Duke fans, it’s pitting what’s in our best interests vs. a good dose of schadenfreude.

As noted Friday, UNC’s Caleb Love said this about NC State: “I wouldn’t even say it’s a rivalry. It’s just another game.”

In Chapel Capel Hill, that’s probably a general consensus. The focus is on Duke and has been for decades now.

That’s not the case in Raleigh, where sad, sullen State fans long to take out UNC, and they very much consider the Tar Heels a rival. This is such a red meat statement that you have to think Hubert Davis called Love on it and made him promise more free Love.

Bada bing!

Speaking of Davis, here is an eminently reasonable column from a UNC site arguing that it is too soon to judge Davis. A lot of UNC fans, just like a lot of Duke fans, mindlessly demand excellence, if not perfection without comprehending the intense work that produces such results We don’t normally advocate that Duke fans emulate anything about UNC fans, but in this case, we really recommend it.

Sunday’s ACC Action

UNC vs. NC State || 1:00 PM || ESPN

ACC Standings