Day one of the 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament is in the books. Here is a look back at Wednesday’s action:
#12 Wake Forest 81, #13 Notre Dame 69
Wake Forest senior Coron Williams scored a season-high 25 points, hitting 3 three-pointers, and sophomore Devin Thomas added 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Deacons grabbed their first ACC Tournament win since 2007, back when Skip Prosser was the coach in Winston-Salem. The Deacons led wire-to-wire, leading by double digits for a large portion of the contest. The loss ends a disappointing, under-achieving season for Notre Dame, who had one at least one game in each of their last five conference tournaments in the Big East before losing their inaugural tournament game in the ACC. Junior Pat Connaughton led the Irish with 19, and senior Eric Atkins had 13 points and 7 assists in his final collegiate game.
#10 Miami 57, #15 Virginia Tech 53
The defending ACC champions, Miami, beat Virginia Tech for the first time in three tries this season to advance to the second round. While Hokies senior Jarell Eddie led all scorers with 16, and senior Rion Brown led the Hurricanes with 15, the spotlight shined on Miami senior Erik Swoope, who scored 14, including the go-ahead basket with 2:42 remaining and a pair of game-clinching free throws, as well as a pair of monster dunks in the first half. Swoope scored nearly ten points better than his season average, making sure the game would not be his last in a Miami uniform. Freshman Davon Reed added 14 off the bench for the Canes. The Hokies shot just 26% in the second half, leading to a season-ending loss with a 9-22 record.
#11 Georgia Tech 73, #14 Boston College 70, overtime
Robert Carter Jr.’s double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds led Georgia Tech to their third win over Boston College this season. The win came, in a bizarre game, without the benefit of a field goal in the final 5:28 of regulation and with only one in overtime, as the Yellow Jackets scored most of their late points from the free throw line. Tech blew a 13-point advantage over the final eight minutes of regulation, as the Eagles stormed back, led by Patrick Heckmann’s strong perimeter play, as he led all scorers with 21 points. The game was delayed briefly in the first half due to a power outage in the Greensboro Coliseum, before Georgia Tech picked up their first ACC Tournament win since the semifinal round in 2010.
With that, here is a preview, and prediction, for each of the matchups in the second round:
#8 Maryland vs. #9 Florida State, 12:00 p.m.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the Terrapins and Seminoles, after the Seminoles won 85-61 on January 12, and the Terrapins won 83-71 on February 8. Both teams will be playing their first game of the tournament, and both teams want a shot at top-seeded Virginia, who the winner will play Friday. Florida State wants the shot because they currently sit on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and could use a so-called résumé win. Maryland wants another shot at a team they just upset on Sunday, as they want to prove it was no fluke and they need the win to join the Noles on the bubble. These are two very even teams, and both are playing very well right now, so this matchup should come down to the wire. Considering Maryland beat Virginia in their last game, and Florida State lost by 16 to Syracuse in theirs, I think Maryland ekes one out to extend their final ACC season by at least one more day.
Maryland 60, Florida State 58.
#5 Pittsburgh vs. #12 Wake Forest, appr. 2:30 p.m.
Wake Forest enters the second round after beating Notre Dame on Wednesday, and will play an opponent playing their first ever ACC Tournament game for the second consecutive day. This time the opponent is Pittsburgh, who beat the Deacons in Pittsburgh, 80-65, in the season’s only meeting on January 11. Wake seemed to play with more purpose and effort on Wednesday than they had for most of the season, with their win over Duke being an exception. However, they will be playing on consecutive days for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend, and will be playing a team that hasn’t played since Saturday (Miami and Georgia Tech face the same dilemma). While Pitt’s purpose and effort has also sagged at times in the second half of the season, they have still been a very competitive team, and still have basketball left when they leave Greensboro, with an almost certain NCAA bid on the way. The moderate level of discrepancy between the teams in player talent and coaching will also show itself here. Wake will shine early, but fade late, and Pittsburgh will advance to play North Carolina on Friday.
Pittsburgh 74, Wake Forest 65.
#7 NC State vs. #10 Miami, 7:00 p.m.
Both Mark Gottfried of NC State and Jim Larranaga of Miami are known as coaches who get the most out of their players, particularly when it comes to tournament time. Both of Gottfried’s previous NC State teams have made appearances in the ACC semifinals, with the 2012 edition also running to the Sweet Sixteen, while Larranaga won the ACC Tournament with Miami a year ago, and took 11th-seeded George Mason to the Final Four back in 2006. So, we know this rematch from last year’s semifinals should be well-coached and well-played. This is the third meeting between the teams this year, with the road team winning both previous matchups. The Wolfpack won in Coral Gables on February 8, 56-55, while the Hurricanes won in Raleigh on March 1, 85-70, although that game was much closer than it sounds. One thing a team needs to do to win games in several consecutive days to win the tournament is conserve energy. However, while NC State watched from their hotel on Wednesday, Miami had to use a lot of physical and emotional energy to get past a bad Virginia Tech team in the first round. While they won’t necessarily be “out of gas” in this game, State will have “fresher tires”, both mentally and physically, which will allow them to survive and advance to play Syracuse in the quarterfinals.
NC State 63, Miami 56.
#6 Clemson vs. #11 Georgia Tech, appr. 9:30 p.m.
The nightcap of Thursday’s action features the I-85 rivalry between Clemson and Georgia Tech, after Clemson won both regular season meetings. On February 4, the Tigers won one of the most defensive ACC games of the shot clock era, 45-41, at home in Littlejohn Coliseum. February 22 in Atlanta, there was a little more offense, with the Tigers winning 63-55. While I’ve mentioned fatigue as a factor for the teams that won on Wednesday and have to play on Thursday, that will be even more of a factor for Georgia Tech, who needed overtime to dispatch Boston College. I’ve often heard the theory that, in the situation when one team has played a game in the arena (like Georgia Tech) and the other has had a bye (like Clemson), the team that has already played has gotten familiar with the surroundings and “gotten the butterflies out”, and often jumps out to a good start. However, considering the Yellow Jackets only made one field goal for the last 10:28 of their win over the Eagles, relying on free throws for the victory, they don’t have much momentum to work with, and may still have those shooting woes on their mind while playing the nation’s third best scoring defense. Clemson is also coming off an overtime game, although theirs was a loss back on Saturday to Pittsburgh, so they will be ready to get that behind them, and will also be ready for a rematch with Duke, who they beat back in January.
Clemson 58, Georgia Tech 51.
For what it’s worth…
My first round record: 2-1
Tournament Total: 2-1