Since we’ve had drama every day in the ACC Tournament so far, let’s go straight to the most dramatic development Thursday, namely the end of UNC’s season at the hands of Virginia.
The general consensus is that UNC needed a solid run in Greensboro to get an NCAA bid. The Heels are very unlikely to get that bid now after losing 68-59 to the ‘Hoos.
In fairness to UNC, Armando Bacot’s injury gutted the inside game. And Virginia’s defense is a huge pain in the tuchus.
Still, UNC never should have been in this position. Let’s just imagine that UNC had managed to beat Iowa State, Alabama and Indiana in November instead of losing three in a row. Losing to Virginia would just be what happened before getting ready for March.
People are going to be talking about what happened to this team for a long time. Was it Hubert Davis’s fault? Bacot’s? RJ Davis and Caleb Love?
For his part, Bacot offered the News & Observer’s Andrew Carter a pretty damning assessment, saying that “[r]eally, the story of this year was just talking about last year. I think it was just an overdue, long hangover.”
Seems about right.
Still, with the game slipping away and down 61-55 with 1:19 left, the Heels were looking for a shot and, almost on queue, Love took a ridiculously long three.
As we’ve said before, the guy clearly has an instinct for the clutch and somebody had to shoot it. Why not him?
But why that shot? Surely UNC could have worked for something better. But love him or hate him, that’s Caleb. You get what you get.
The question now is, assuming the committee stiffs the Heels as expected, will UNC accept an NIT bid?
Incidentally, one of the more fun things to do at times like this is to head over to Twitter and catch up on ICMeltdown. It’s a compilation of inchoate rage and bile that’s far more entertaining than anything on TV outside of tournament basketball. Here’s one about Hubert Davis to get you started: “He’s had 3 good weeks out of roughly 36 weeks as a coach. For 33 weeks it’s been and absolute directionless train wreck....”
So far they’ve turned on their coach and wished a bunch of players would leave. Good times!
We honestly thought Wake would take Miami and they almost did - but waited too long to strike.
We thought that Wake would come out and clamp down defensively. Didn't happen: Miami shot 31-59 overall and 6-19 from deep. Wake’s three point shooting kept them from getting blown out and late it helped cut the lead down from 17.
The Deacs had it down to six with 3:17 to go and then hit two big treys and could have conceivably won the game if Davien Williamson’s last second three had gone in, which would have made him an ACC legend since he took Syracuse out on a buzzer beater the night before.
Most players are lucky to get one, but two? Not easy.
We were impressed with Wake’s comeback and also Miami’s inability to stop it. By the way, if you missed it, Kevin Durant tweeted Thursday about Demon Deacon Cameron Hildreth, a guy we have raved about at times. He liked his spectacular spin move in the lane.
Now that brings us to Clemson, and the thermonuclear second half that the Tigers put together to utterly crush the Pack. We thought State would win, but didn't think either team would pull off a blowout.
This game was still close as the second half began, but then Clemson just started to eat the Pack alive behind a a 20-4 early second-half run.
We said a couple of things about this game that were basically right: first, you don’t get two great games in a row. Why? Easy. Because a great game means you are at your peak and no one stays there for long.
And second, we thought that Clemson’s perimeter would rough up State’s thin guards. Terquavion Smith was never going to shoot 11-13 like he did against Virginia Tech. Not against that defense.
But Jarkel Joiner took a beating too, shooting just 3-12.
Still, we thought State would fight back and they didn’t, or couldn’t.
So Friday evening, Duke faces off against Miami at 7:00 while Clemson and Virginia tangle in the nightcap. You can check out our comments on Duke-Miami, but we expect a brutal defensive game from Clemson and Miami.
We’d feel better about Virginia’s situation if Ben Vander Plas hadn’t broken his hand in practice Wednesday. He’s out for the season.
Too bad because he was a useful counter to Hunter Tyson, who has been terrific all season.
These teams played in Charlottesville on February 28th and Virginia eked out a win, 64-57. And guess what: they did to Clemson’s guards what Clemson just did to State’s guards.
Virginia can probably control the interior to some extent defensively even without Vander Plas but you know Tony Bennett really would rather have him. He had essentially benched Kadin Shedrick, who hasn’t seen the court since the loss to UNC in
Chapel Capel Hill on February 25th. In the last 11 games, he’s gotten single digit minutes in six, and not necessarily eight or nine either.
But Bennett has no choice now and will have to use Shedrick against Clemson’s Dynamic Duo of Tyson and PJ Hall.
There's a reasonable chance that whoever wins here is going to enter the Finals pretty beaten up, which could be a break for either Duke or Miami, as neither is likely to emerge as worn down as the other finalist will be.