First Round Recap
Boston College 66, Georgia Tech 65
This morning I said to expect Olivier Hanlan to be the difference in this game. Sure enough, Hanlan’s jumper with 10.9 seconds remaining propelled Boston College into the second round, with a 66-65 win over Georgia Tech.
The junior all-conference guard scored 25 points, including a perfect 8-for-8 mark at the free throw line, on eight rebounds and five assists, helping lead the Eagles to their first postseason win since a 2013 ACC Tournament game, also against Georgia Tech, when Hanlan scored 41, an ACC Tournament freshman single-game record.
The win was sealed when, after Hanlan’s go-ahead jumper, Tech’s Corey Heyward missed a driving layup with :02 remaining that would have given the Yellow Jackets the lead, and likely the win. Boston College senior guard Patrick Heckmann scored 19, while Georgia Tech’s Charles Mitchell had a double-double off the bench with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Hanlan had given the Eagles a 64-63 lead with 41.4 seconds left, but Tadric Jackson, who had 16 for Georgia Tech, answered with a basket to give the Jackets a 65-64 lead with 26.8 seconds left, before Hanlan’s heroics advanced Boston College into the second round, where they will meet North Carolina. The three lead changes in the final minute were part of a game that saw 15 overall.
After 12 of Tech’s 15 conference losses were by seven points or less, this was their fourth one-point defeat to a conference opponent, with a similar two-point loss coming to Boston College on January 25. Now, as a result of Georgia Tech’s struggles, coach Brian Gregory may be on the hot seat.
Virginia Tech 81, Wake Forest 80
Jalen Hudson picked a good time for a career high, as the freshman scored 32 points off the bench, including a jumper with 11.7 seconds to give Virginia Tech an 81-80 lead on their way to a win over Wake Forest, snapping a seven-game losing streak for their first ACC Tournament win since 2012.
Hudson scored the most points in an ACC Tournament game in Virginia Tech history, and scored the third most points off the bench in any Division I game this season, according to ESPN. Hokies coach Buzz Williams noted that the key for Hudson was playing hard, something he hadn’t always done a great job of this season.
Wake Forest had their chance at the end. After Codi Miller-McIntyre lost the ball on a drive to the basket with 6.1 seconds remaining, the Deacons were rewarded possession (although the call appeared incorrect). Konstantinos Mitoglou’s baseline jumper wouldn’t fall, and neither would putback attempts by Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas, ending the Deacs’ season.
Besides Hudson, no one for the Hokies scored more than 12 points (Ahmed Hill), although a total of six players scored at least seven. Miller-McIntyre had 23 points and 11 assists for Wake’s first points-assists double-double since Chris Paul in 2004. Devin Thomas finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, nearly adding to his 12 double-doubles on the season.
The Hokies advance to play Miami on Wednesday, after a 21-point loss to Miami on Saturday.
Note: this was the first ACC Tournament round with multiple games decided by one point since the quarterfinals in 2004, although there were two overtime games in the first round in 2007. It is also (already) the first tournament since 2004 with multiple one-point games, although the 2007 tournament featured three overtime games, and the 2011 tournament had two.
Second Round Preview
Florida State vs. Clemson, 12:00 p.m. ET
Seminoles: 16-15, 8-10 ACC, 9 seed
Tigers: 16-14, 8-10 ACC, 8 seed
Florida State will try to extend a streak of eight straight quarterfinal appearances, which is the best active streak in the conference, and has defeated Clemson in five straight tournament meetings, a streak that dates back to 2001.
The teams split the regular season meetings, with Florida State winning in the Upstate, 59-55, on January 19, and Clemson winning in Tallahassee, 62-56, on February 4.
Both teams come in with an 8-10 conference record, and just above the .500 mark for the season, and both struggled late in the season. Clemson comes in having lost two straight games, as well as four of their last five, and six of their last eight. The Seminoles beat Pittsburgh in their final regular season game, but had lost three straight prior to the mild upset.
A pair of underclassmen who conference insiders certainly are aware of can make this their breakout game for a national audience. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, an honorable mention all-ACC guard and first team all-freshman honoree, scored 35 in a pair of games this season, including 30 in the final 4:39 against Miami. He averages 14.4 points per game.
Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame averages 13.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and is the Tigers’ only double figure scorer. His eight double-doubles are tied for the sixth most in the conference.
These two teams always play close, hard-fought, and usually low-scoring games when they meet. Leonard Hamilton has proven in his coaching career he knows how to win in the ACC Tournament, and that may be the difference in this game as the Seminoles try to return to the quarterfinals again. The winner of this game will meet top-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Florida State 58, Clemson 56.
Boston College vs. #19 North Carolina, appr. 2:30 p.m. ET
Eagles: 13-18, 4-14 ACC, 12 seed
Tar Heels: 21-10, 11-7 ACC, 5 seed
These two teams split a pair of tournament semifinal meetings in 2006 and 2007, which was Boston College’s first two years in the conference, and they haven’t met in the tournament since. North Carolina won their regular season meeting, 79-68, on February 7 in Boston.
North Carolina played in three consecutive tournament finals from 2011-13, and will try to return this time, attempting to win the tournament for the first time since 2007. The first step is Wednesday, as they will take on Boston College, although the game may not be as easy as it looks on paper.
The Tar Heels have lost six of their last 10, although four of the six were to top 10 opponents, and were the odd team out among the league’s clear upper tier of five teams when it comes to getting double byes in the ACC Tournament.
Boston College has won four straight, and although three of those four were against three of the bottom four teams in the conference standings, they are playing easily their best basketball of the season, and the streak started with a domination of NC State, who has been hot otherwise in recent weeks.
In the prior meeting, North Carolina used their size to their advantage, with Isaiah Hicks and Brice Johnson scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively. While Hicks hasn’t gotten as many minutes recently, his playing time should go up for this game, as the Heels will be without Kennedy Meeks for at least their tournament opener as he battles illness. Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan had 30 in that meeting.
Boston College is 0-6 this season against ranked opponents, and has lost 26 of their last 28 such games. However, these teams are, surprisingly, going in opposite directions to some extent, and with Hanlan’s leadership, the Eagles can pull off the stunner. The winner will meet Louisville in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Boston College 76, North Carolina 73.
Pittsburgh vs. N.C. State, 7:00 p.m. ET
Panthers: 19-13, 8-10 ACC, 10 seed
Wolfpack: 19-12, 10-8 ACC, 7 seed
Pittsburgh enters their second ACC Tournament after reaching the semifinals in their inaugural appearance, and the Wolfpack have reached the semifinals in each of their three tournament under coach Mark Gottfried. The Wolfpack dominated the Panthers on January 3 in Raleigh, winning 68-50.
A few weeks ago, a potential NC State-Pittsburgh matchup in the tournament looked like a potential NCAA Tournament play-in or elimination game for an at-large bid, but now NC State is pretty comfortably in the field and Pittsburgh is more than likely out of contention barring a wild set of circumstances.
The Wolfpack have won five out of six, including road wins over Louisville and North Carolina, to get themselves comfortably within the NCAA bubble. As mentioned, NC State has appeared in the semifinals in three straight ACC Tournaments, winning two games to get there each time, a scenario that repeats itself in this year’s tournament.
Pittsburgh has fallen off the NCAA bubble with consecutive losses to Wake Forest, Miami, and Florida State, and likely needs to at least reach the semifinals, if not the finals, to have an at-large shot, and would likely also need help in the form of other bubble teams struggling. Of course, the NCAA Tournament takes care of itself if the Panthers can win the ACC Tournament, but that may be a tall order.
The Wolfpack are led by three double figure scorers, all experienced guards, with Trevor Lacey scoring 16.1 points per game, and earning second team all-ACC honors, and Ralston Turner and Anthony Barber averaging 13.4 and 11.8 points per game, respectively. Pittsburgh’s leading scorers are both in the frontcourt, with Jamel Artis and Michael Young both scoring over 13 points per game.
The battle between the Wolfpack backcourt and the Panthers frontcourt will be the key to this game. These teams are trending in very different directions, and Mark Gottfried, as he usually does, has his team peaking at the right time. The winner will play Duke on quarterfinal Thursday.
N.C. State 74, Pittsburgh 62.
Virginia Tech vs. Miami, appr. 9:30 p.m. ET
Hokies: 11-21, 2-16 ACC, 14 seed
Hurricanes: 20-11, 10-8 ACC, 6 seed
These teams, both of which joined the ACC in the 2004 expansion, have met four times in the tournament, with Virginia Tech taking the first two in 2008-09, and Miami winning the more recent two in 2010 and 2014. These two teams met twice in the regular season, with Miami winning both meetings, by margins of 76-52 and 82-61, with the most recent meeting coming this past Saturday.
Miami comes in on the NCAA bubble, with most pundits thinking they are out of the projected tournament right now. That being said, they can’t afford a loss to Virginia Tech, the tournament’s last seed, if they want their name called by Greg Gumbel on Sunday night. Even with a win over the Hokies, they very likely need at least one more win to make the field, even having won five out of seven with the only losses to ranked opponents.
The Hurricanes are led by two double figure scorers in Sheldon McClellan (14.8 points per game) and Angel Rodriguez (12.3), both of whom are playing their first ACC Tournament after transferring in to Miami. The conference’s leading rebounder also wears green and orange, with Tonye Jekiri averaging 10.2 boards per contest.
The Hokies had lost seven straight coming into the tournament, but Jalen Hudson’s 32-point performance against Wake Forest propelled the Hokies into the second round with their first win since February 9. Coach Buzz Williams said the key was for Hudson to play hard, and he did. Now the Hokies can play the role of spoiler for the Hurricanes’ NCAA hopes, but they are playing a team that they have really struggled against this year.
Miami has a lot more to play for than the Hokies, who came into the tournament simply wanting one win in the tournament, and Miami has, as mentioned, dominated Virginia Tech in both meetings, including just last Saturday. The winner will play Notre Dame in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Miami 71, Virginia Tech 54.
For what it’s worth…
After last year’s 12-2 record in the tournament, my picks were 1-1 in the opening round (one of last year’s losses was in the opening round, and I didn’t pick wrong any of the games from the quarterfinals on).