It’s easy to understand why the first round of the current ACC Tournament format doesn't always draw big crowds, but it’s a shame a lot of people didn’t go to Tuesday games. Because that ended up being a great day of basketball - and the drama didn’t stop there.
Let’s start on the court.
The Georgia Tech-Florida State game was really fun. Florida State held a consistent lead for much of the game. It wasn’t always a huge lead but you got the sense that they were better - until the end.
Tech tied the game at 60-60 and had the ball back for the last shot after FSU missed a three. Lance Terry tried for a dunk and missed and Javon Franklin got fouled on the follow with 0.3 left. He hit the first free throw and missed the second intentionally and that was ballgame: fun, taut and with a superb ending. Florida State’s season thus ends and the Pastner era at Tech continue for at least one more game.
Incidentally, Franklin had 19 rebounds against FSU, which is spectacular or a 6-7 player.
Georgia Tech now advances to play Pitt, a team that defeated the Yellow Jackets twice.
It’ll probably be three.
Georgia Tech’s margin for error is very thin. This team got seven minutes from the bench, all from Jalon Moore. They play Wednesday at 2:30 which is going to be tough. Pitt’s physical play will make that even tougher.
The second game wasn’t very eventful: BC took it to poor Louisville, winning by 18 though much of that came quite late and, impressively, without Quentin Post. Post has been really surging lately but hurt his ankle in BC’s regular season finale. We know it’s Louisville in a historically bad season, but nonetheless, Earl Grant’s talk of culture is taking hold. Remember he’s only in his second year and he didn’t inherit great players. One of his best recruits, Donald Hand, Jr., is out for the year too.
But they’re playing really hard and if you don’t match that, you’re going to be in real trouble.
BC will play UNC on Wednesday and while UNC has more talent, there’s not much question about which team plays harder on a game-by-game basis. UNC will surely play hard Wednesday because their season ends if they don’t, but as Grant said, it’s become a habit for the Eagles. You can’t really quantify that advantage but it’s there. It’s why UNC beat Michigan in 1993 and why George Mason took out UConn in 2006. It’s also why Saint Peter’s did so well last March.
In the nightcap, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech put on a flawed but wonderful game. Notre Dame wanted to play as long as possible of course but they weren’t going anywhere unless they won this tournament. Virginia Tech is on an NIT trajectory as of now but they could conceivably win this (again). Unlikely, but not impossible.
Notre Dame had a five point lead with 5:27 to go but Grant Basile scored three points, one on a basket and then a free throw shortly after that to make it 58-56.
Cormac Ryan hit a sharp jumper in the lane to make it 60-56 then Basile scored again to make it 60-58.
Marcus Hammond pushed Notre Dame back up by four before Rodney Rice banged home a three to cut the lead to one at 62-61.
Ryan then kicked off an odd sequence of events.
First, Pedulla lost the ball off of his own foot then Ryan picked it up and headed downcourt.
Unfortunately he didn’t look behind him to see where Pedulla was and he stole it right back. It was like the Battle of the Terriers.
Ultimately Pedulla got the ball to Justyn Mutts for an easy basket to take the lead back at 63-62.
Then Trey Wertz got fouled and the refs kicked off a long review. When they came back down the mountain, they upheld the foul but tagged Matt Zona with a technical.
So Wertz hit both of his free throws and Pedulla split his and the game was tied 64-64 with :42 left to play.
Mutts scored with :32 left and then Ryan missed a layup. Notre Dame fouled Pedulla and he made one of two to give the Hokies a 67-64 lead with :10 left.
But when Hammond took a three, Mutts snuffed and the Irish got it back. Nate Laszewski took a three and missed as time expired.
Thus ends Mike Brey’s career at Notre Dame, but on the bright side, it may have been one of the best press days in recent memory.
First there was someone who appeared to be a student reporter asking Louisville’s Kenny Payne, essentially, if his staff knew what it was doing and if he was worried about being fired. Payne was clearly irritated but never lost his composure.
But in many ways, Brey’s performance was better. He chose his words carefully, but still ripped the officiating and said more than he normally would because he was “no longer part of the ACC.”
Here are fuller comments:
“I’ll be very honest now that I’m not in the league anymore. I think that last play, if you have an ‘A’ officiating crew and that was not an ‘A’ crew, you say, ‘basketball play.’ And we shoot the free throws and play basketball. I think we got a little over analyzation on that part of it. Look, Virginia Tech made plays, but I don’t think that was handled right. Now, we had some turnovers and made mistakes too, but I think you go ‘basketball play’ in a great game and you shoot the free throws and you let the game play out. That’s a big-time crew.”
He made a number of other comments, including saying that despite his recent trip to a local bar to take some shots with fans, he’s not a big whiskey guy. But, he said, he also received a bunch of bottles from people after that and that he might open “one tonight.”
He also talked movingly of being the Notre Dame coach for 23 years and what that meant to him.
All in all, it was a tremendous performance by a guy who is as willing to be himself as anyone in his profession. He’ll be missed.
So while you wouldn’t usually say this, it’ll be tough for Wednesday to top Tuesday.
Wake and Syracuse kick things off at noon with a rematch of the season finale in the Dome. We’ll take Wake here for the rematch and that it’s basically a home game.
We’ll go with Pitt over Georgia Tech because we expect the Yellow Jackets will have tired legs and Pitt will rough them up.
Who would have ever dreamed that UNC would only be six games better than BC now? We’d love to see the Eagles pull it off but UNC always has a big advantage in Greensboro. But we could easily seeing BC just playing harder and exposing UNC, once again, as a team with uncertain desire. And keep this in mind: there is absolutely no pressure on the Eagles.
NC State and Virginia Tech play in the nightcap. The Pack won the only game so far this year, 73-69 back in early January.
State has changed a lot since then. The Pack started Ebenezer Dowuona at the time. DJ Burns has since gone from a bit of a cult figure to a real pain in the ass for opposing teams and we’re not sure Basile or Mutts can defend him.
And stopping State’s backcourt is not easy either.
Virginia Tech is a tough out but if State brings it like they can, they’ll win.
One interesting thing here: it’s going to be tough for Basile to guard Burns...and for Burns to guard Basile. The game could turn on how that plays out.
Wednesday’s ACC Action
- Wake Forest vs. Syracuse || 12:00 PM || ESPN
- Georgia Tech vs. Pitt || 2:30 PM || ESPN
- Boston College vs. UNC || 7:00 PM || ESPN2
- Virginia Tech vs. NC State || 9:30 PM || ESPN2