ACC Tournament Second Round Recap; Quarterfinals Preview

The second day of the ACC Tournament has concluded, and while the top four teams in the conference have yet to play, the intensity certainly picked up with Thursday’s set of games.

#9 Florida State 67, #8 Maryland 65
Seminoles center Boris Bojanovsky had 12 points and 12 rebounds, for his first career double-double, and slammed home the game winning dunk in the final second to give Florida State the win.  6 of his 12 boards were on the offensive end of the floor, as he helped lead the Seminoles to a 39-26 rebounding margin.  Ian Miller of Florida State led all scorers with 17 points, with Aaron Thomas adding 14.  Maryland had led at halftime, but had trailed by 11 midway through the second half before battling back to tie the score in the closing minutes.  Guards Seth Allen and Dez Wells both had 18 for Maryland, as Allen hit four three-pointers.  The Seminoles shot 54% in the second half, while the Terrapins shot just 35%.  While the Seminoles now advance to play top-seeded Virginia, Maryland’s 61-year run in the ACC comes to an end, as they depart for the Big Ten next year.

#5 Pittsburgh 84, #12 Wake Forest 55
Pittsburgh entered their first ACC Tournament in a big way, victimizing Wake Forest in the biggest Tournament blowout since Clemson’s 82-48 win over Boston College in 2008.  Senior forward Lamar Patterson had 24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block in a stellar performance that included four made threes.  Deacons senior Coron Williams had 16 points in likely his final collegiate game, a step down from Wednesday’s 25-point performance against Notre Dame.  The Pitt lead had hit double figures just five and a half minutes into the game, and the Panthers never looked back, coasting into a quarterfinal matchup with North Carolina.

#7 NC State 68, #10 Miami 57
ACC Player of the Year TJ Warren had 24 points for the Wolfpack, and teammate Ralston Turner added 22 points, including five threes, in a win over Miami that was in a game much closer than the score indicates.  Hurricanes senior Rion Brown finished his ACC career with a 22 point performance, and at times it seemed like Warren, Turner, and Brown were the only three players on the floor.  Miami led 53-51 with four minutes left, before a 12-0 run gave them a ten-point lead with too little time remaining for the Canes to come back.  16 of Turner’s 22 points came in the second half, as the Pack advance to play 11th-ranked and 2nd-seeded Syracuse in the quarterfinals.

#6 Clemson 69, #11 Georgia Tech 65, overtime
Georgia Tech senior Daniel Miller hit the shot that got the game into overtime, a 15-footer in the final second of regulation, before a missed dunk and a turnover late in overtime were partially responsible for the outcome of the extra session.  Miller, a third team All-ACC honoree, had just 4 points in his final collegiate game (although he did have 9 rebounds), trailing behind Clemson counterpart and first team All-ACC player KJ McDaniels, who had 18 points despite going just 4-for-15 from the floor.  Demarcus Harrison added 12 for the Tigers, including 6 in the final minute of overtime, and Rod Hall added 10.  Trae Golden was superb in the losing effort for the Yellow Jackets, scoring 23 points, including 3 three-pointers, and teammate Robert Carter Jr. also had 13 points and 9 rebounds.  Like Tech’s first round game, they had a lengthy scoring drought late in the game, going 7 minutes without a field goal late in the game, as part of a 13-2 Clemson run, but this time they weren’t able to get away with it.  Clemson advances to play Duke on Friday.

Here are the previews and predictions for Friday’s quarterfinal round.  The tournament’s intensity will increase as the top four teams in the conference each make their first appearance of the tournament, including Syracuse’s first appearance ever.

#1 Virginia vs. #9 Florida State, 12:00 p.m.
Virginia enters the tournament as the top seed for the first time in 33 years, so their fans have waited for this moment for a long time.  Florida State’s fans have too, if all season counts as a long time, because, while the Seminoles are on the NCAA bubble, they lack a résumé win, but certainly have the chance for one in playing the 6th-ranked Cavaliers.  Expect this to be a low-scoring game, as Florida State’s teams under Leonard Hamilton have always been hard-nosed, strongly defensive-based teams, and Virginia sports a defense allowing the least points per game in the nation.  Florida State’s game with Maryland came right down to the wire, but they played well in the contest, showing they may bring some momentum to the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday as well.  While some will say Florida State’s fatigue may be a factor after playing yesterday, Virginia’s rust could be equally as much of a factor, as this is just their second game since March 1, and they lost the first.  In the end, while Florida State probably needs the win more, it seems more feasible for Virginia to find a way to win.  By the way, this is the third meeting of the season, with Virginia winning by 12 in both, although the most recent was on January 18.
Virginia 55, Florida State 50.

#4 North Carolina vs. #5 Pittsburgh, appr. 2:30 p.m.
For anyone who doubted whether Pitt could still be dominant, the Panthers silenced the critics yesterday with a 29-point win over a Wake Forest team that had won 2 out of 3 coming in.  While many will point to Tar Heel guard Marcus Paige as the “x-factor” in this game, I’ll point to Pitt forward Lamar Patterson.  Patterson played extremely well early in the season, to the point that he might would have been the ACC Player of the Year if the award had been given at the end of February, but struggled in February, before getting back on track with a 30 point performance in an overtime win at Clemson.  He followed that up against Wake, scoring 24 points in just 29 minutes of action.  When Patterson plays well, Pitt can play with anyone, as evidenced by their losses to Syracuse and Virginia at the buzzer.  The Heels won the last time these two teams met, 75-71, on February 15 in Chapel Hill.  Carolina lost their last game, Saturday night at Duke, so you know they will be ready to go for this game.  But if the Panthers can play the way they are capable of playing, and can continue their momentum from Thursday, it will be tough for the Tar Heels to avoid the mild upset.
Pittsburgh 75, North Carolina 69.

#2 Syracuse vs. #7 NC State, 7:00 p.m.
The last time these two teams met, back on February 15, the game turned on a continuation no-call, and ended with a game-winning goaltend.  If Friday’s quarterfinal game has half the drama of the first meeting, we’ll all be in for an excellent basketball game.  Syracuse won that meeting, 56-55, at home in New York, and comes into their first ACC Tournament as the second seed, and as the 11th-ranked team in the nation.  While most programs would easily accept the 11th-place ranking in mid-March, it must be a disappointment for the Orange, who spent most of the season among the top 2 or 3, including a three-week stint at #1.  Before Sunday’s win over Florida State, the Orange had lost four out of five, including head-scratchers against Boston College and Georgia Tech, both at home.  NC State comes into this game on a three-game winning streak, including their win over Miami in the second round on Thursday.  Coach Mark Gottfried has led the Wolfpack to the semifinals in both of his seasons at NC State, although it is an uphill climb to return there this season.  Then again, with Syracuse’s struggles, and with the Wolfpack seeming to peak at the right time, and considering the fact it is March (the “madness” has begun), and the fact this is about as close to a home game as a team can get in the conference tournament, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wolfpack raise some eyebrows with a win.  To do it, ACC Player of the Year TJ Warren will have to play well, but considering the way he’s played in his last ten games, that’s almost a given.
NC State 61, Syracuse 58.

#3 Duke vs. #6 Clemson, appr. 9:30 p.m.
The winningest program in ACC Tournament play, the Duke Blue Devils, will be the last of the 15 teams to make their inaugural appearance in the 2014 edition of the Tournament.  They will meet Clemson, who defeated Georgia Tech in overtime, 69-65, to reach Friday’s quarterfinal round, and defeated the Blue Devils, 72-59, in the only previous meeting of the teams, on January 11 at Littlejohn Coliseum.  The matchup will see the ACC Freshman of the Year, Duke’s Jabari Parker, matchup with the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, Clems0n’s KJ McDaniels.  Both players, as part of their first team All-ACC seasons, lead their teams in scoring, rebounds, and blocks.  As mentioned, Clemson has already beat Duke this year, although that game was in Duke’s worst stretch of the season in which they lost two out of three to unranked opponents, with the other loss to a Notre Dame team that would go on to finish 13th in the conference, and nearly fell out of the rankings for the first time in seven years.  This team is much different now, and if you take out one outlier game against an emotionally-charged Wake Forest team on their senior night, Duke has gone 12-2 since the Clemson loss, with the only losses at Syracuse and North Carolina (even including the Wake loss, they’re still on quite a run).  Clemson has been streaky all year, with the season including a two-game and a three-game losing streak, as well as a five-game and three-game winning streak.  They’ve won three out of four now, with the only loss in overtime to Pittsburgh, so perhaps their on a good run now, but they had to use a lot of physical and emotional energy just to get over 11th-seeded Georgia Tech in a second round overtime game.  It’s the ACC Tournament; I’m too smart not to pick Duke.
Duke 65, Clemson 54.

For what it’s worth…
My first round record: 2-1
My second round record: 3-1
Tournament Total: 5-2

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