The ACC Tournament has always carried a lot of prestige and it means a lot to teams to win it. Of course teams have had different levels of success. Duke has won 21. UNC has won 17. Clemson, which was spectacular against NC State Thursday, hasn't won any yet.
Of course, ACC Tournament success does not equal NCAA success.
Take the 1991 Duke team. It lost to UNC by 22 before getting back to the Final Four for a rematch with UNVL, a team that had utterly crushed Duke in the 1990 championship game.
The 1991 rematch came on Saturday in the semifinals rather than the championship game but it was absolutely riveting as it became clear that Duke was not going to go away. And in the final minutes, with less than 2:20 on the clock, Vegas had clawed out a five point lead and a bit of breathing room.
Hurley didn’t care. He hadn’t forgotten the previous year and was itching for a chance to hurt Vegas. When the ball came to him he stepped up and took a three and nailed it to cut the lead to 76-74.
As Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had predicted, the undefeated Runnin’ Rebels had never had to deal with game pressure and crumbled when they faced it.
After that we saw Brian Davis covert a three point play, while laughing gleefully, and then Christian Laettner hitting two free throws to put Duke up 79-77.
UNLV had one last chance and gave the ball to star Larry Johnson, who inexplicably balked and passed out to Anderson Hunt, who took and missed a deep three.
Duke was gutty but Hurley’s three pointer was the garrote. Vegas knew it was dying after that.