ACC Tournament Capsules: Second Round Recap and Quarterfinals Preview

Second Round Recap

Florida State 76, Clemson 73

Clemson’s furious comeback fell short, as Florida State, led by 30 points from freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes, advanced to the quarterfinals.

The Tigers trailed by a 73-61 score with 1:19 remaining, and a 71-58 score with 1:39 remaining, before their rally, fueled by four Seminole turnovers in the final 0:53.  Clemson had also trailed 57-37 with 9:09 left.

Rathan-Mayes performance was his third game of 30 or more points in his rookie campaign.  Montay Brandon added 17 points for the Seminoles.  Clemson senior Rod Hall paced the Tigers with 25 points in his final ACC Tournament game, while Dante Grantham scored only six points but added seven assists.

Clemson’s late comeback almost resulted in overtime, as Gabe DeVoe attempted a three with :03 remaining to tie the game, but it hit the rim.  Rod Hall had also attempted to tie the score, which was then 75-73 with :16 left, but his runner hovered on the rim before falling out.

The Seminoles reach the tournament quarterfinals for the ninth straight year, which is the longest active streak, and will meet Virginia, who they lost two in the quarterfinal round a year ago.  Clemson will now await their postseason fate, as a low-seeded bid to the NIT is a possibility.

#19 North Carolina 81, Boston College 63

The Tar Heels were led by twin 17-point performances from Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, and held the ACC’s leading scorer, Olivier Hanlan, in check, on their way to an 18-point win over Boston College to advance to the quarterfinals.

The junior duo of Paige and Johnson each just missed a double-double, with Paige tallying nine assists, and Johnson grabbing nine rebounds.

The Heels never trailed after taking a 13-11 lead, although the game was close for most of the first half, before a late 14-5 run gave them a 43-30 halftime lead.  The lead was double digits for most of the second half, with the Eagles never getting closer than 54-46, as the Heels were able to add a late 11-3 run to establish the 18-point margin.

While Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan still nearly reached his average of 19.6 points per game, scoring 18 on the afternoon, he only scored 7 points in the first 32 minutes, with many of his points coming late in the game as the Eagles attempted to grab some momentum they never attained.

After ending Boston College’s season, North Carolina will now face Louisville in the quarterfinals, after splitting two meetings with the Cardinals in the regular season.

N.C. State 81, Pittsburgh 70

The Wolfpack guard duo of Anthony “Cat” Barber and Trevor Lacey combined for 55 points, leading NC State to a comfortable win over Pittsburgh, advancing them to the quarterfinals, and virtually assuring them of an NCAA at-large berth.

Barber scored 34, including 21 in the first half, while Lacey, a second team all-ACC honoree, added 21.  Both of them also contributed five assists, with many of them to each other.

Barber’s 21 first half points nearly outscored the opposition, as the Wolfpack led Pittsburgh 37-23 at the break.  The Panthers never got closer than eight in the second half, and the Wolfpack won comfortably, as the game’s broadcasters wondered if this was the best NC State had played all year, leading wire-to-wire to advance.

Cameron Wright led Pittsburgh with 19 points, and was one of four double figure scorers for the Panthers, as was Chris Jones, who scored 13 off the bench.  But in the end, the Panthers couldn’t overcome their recent slump in this matchup against one of the conference’s hotter teams.

As mentioned, the Wolfpack virtually locked up an NCAA at-large bid with the win, as the national consensus is that the only way they could fall out of the field was a loss tonight, coupled with conference tournament runs by other bubble teams.  Pittsburgh, after reaching the bubble a couple of weeks ago, now awaits their NIT fate, likely falling somewhere in the middle tier of the 32-team field.  NC State advances to play Duke in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Miami 59, Virginia Tech 49

The Hurricanes defeated the Hokies for the third time this season, ending Virginia Tech’s season, and keeping alive their own hopes of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

The Canes took a 25-19 lead after a back-and-forth first half, and while Virginia Tech only led for 0:23 of the second half, when they took a 38-37 advantage with 8:47 remaining, they stayed within two possessions for the overwhelming majority of the game, and never trailed by double digits until the game’s final 30 seconds.

Miami junior guard Sheldon McClellan led all scorers with 16 points, while the Canes’ Davon Reed had 10.  Miami’s Tonye Jekiri, the conference’s leading rebounder, just missed a double-double, with nine points and eight boards.  Adam Smith and Ahmed Hill both scored 10 to lead the Hokies.

Virginia Tech, who scored 40% of their points via the three in conference play, went just 3-for-15 (20%) beyond the arc.  While Miami wasn’t shooting the lights out either, at 5-for-14 (35.7%), the difference still contributed to the final outcome.  Miami was also 14-for-18 (77.8%) at the free throw line, while Tech was just 4-for-8 (50%).

Miami advances into the quarterfinals, where they will play Notre Dame, a game which could really provide a boost for their NCAA resume with a win.

 

Quarterfinals Preview

Florida State vs. #3 Virginia, 12:00 p.m. ET
Seminoles:  17-15, 8-10 ACC, 9 seed
Cavaliers:  28-2, 16-2 ACC, 1 seed

In last year’s quarterfinals, the top-seeded Cavaliers defeated the Seminoles on their way to the tournament title, 64-51, in the two programs’ only tournament meeting in history.  This year, the schools meet again in practically an identical scenario.

Just like last year, the Seminoles won their second round matchup leading into their meeting with Virginia with a one-possession win over an NIT bubble team.  Just like last year, Virginia is coming in with a 16-2 ACC record after losing on the road in their final conference game, having already locked up the regular season crown.  And, just like last year, Virginia beat Florida State by double digits in the regular season.

That being said, when these two teams met in the regular season on February 22, Florida State gave the Cavaliers a good fight, and actually led 37-36 with 10:34 remaining.  The Noles stayed within two possessions until the last 1:17 of that game, which Virginia eventually won 51-41, but the Cavaliers defense held Florida State without a field goal over the final 10:34.

That closing stretch is just one example of Virginia’s staunch defense.  The Cavaliers allow just 50.3 points per game, which leads the nation, and has held four ACC opponents, including the Seminoles, to 42 points or less.  In their meeting with Florida State, the Cavaliers held Xavier Rathan-Mayes to just 13 points, matching his second-worst scoring performance since February 9.

Virginia is expected to have Justin Anderson, who has been out since the February 7 game against Louisville with a broken finger, and was held out further last week with an emergency appendectomy, to return to action, which will make them even better on both ends of the floor.  Anderson averages 13.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Considering Virginia’s win over Florida State in last year’s tournament was part of their run to the title, the Cavaliers certainly hope history repeats itself.  The winner will play the North Carolina/Louisville victor in the semifinals on Friday.

Virginia 57, Florida State 45.

#19 North Carolina vs #14 Louisville, appr. 2:30 p.m. ET
Tar Heels:  22-10, 11-7 ACC, 5 seed
Cardinals:  24-7, 12-6 ACC, 4 seed

Louisville’s first season as a member of the ACC culminates with a double bye in their first ACC Tournament, and what better way for them to make their tournament debut after waiting through the first two days than a third meeting with North Carolina?

The pair of top 20 teams will meet for the right to advance to the semifinals (and very possibly a matchup with top-seeded Virginia), after the teams played a pair of excellent games in the regular season.  A Marcus Paige layup in the closing seconds gave the Tar Heels a 72-71 win, after they had trailed by 13 late, on January 10 in Chapel Hill.  On January 31 in Louisville, it was the Cardinals who came from behind, turning a 43-25 deficit into a 76-66 overtime win.

Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino of Louisville is making his ACC Tournament debut, and does so against a fellow Hall of Famer in North Carolina’s Roy Williams.  Pitino has won a whopping 12 conference tournament titles, compared to six won by Williams.

On the court, there will be an excellent matchup of guards in this game, as Carolina’s Paige (13.5 points, 4.4 assists per game) and Louisville’s Terry Rozier (17.0 points, 5.4 rebounds per game), both all-conference selections, face off against each other in the backcourt.

This is a very hard game to pick, as the teams play a similar style, with both playing it pretty evenly well.  Louisville comes in with some momentum from their win over Virginia to finish the regular season, and while the Tar Heels also do after their win over Boston College, the Cardinals have just enough of an edge to win what should be a fantastic game.

Louisville 76, North Carolina 75.

N.C. State vs. #2 Duke, 7:00 p.m. ET
Wolfpack:  20-12, 10-8 ACC, 7 seed
Blue Devils:  28-3, 15-3 ACC, 2 seed

Duke traveled to Raleigh on January 11, and left with their first loss of the season, after NC State upset the Blue Devils, 87-75.  Now, with both teams coming in playing at a very high level, they will meet again for the right to advance to tournament’s semifinals.

This is the first matchup in this year’s tournament of two ACC charter members, meaning there is more tournament history between the teams, with Duke winning 15 of 24 all-time meetings in the tournament.  Duke beat State in back-to-back title games in 2002-03, and when the pair met last year in their only tournament meeting since a 2007 Wolfpack win, Duke won 75-67 in the semifinals.

The Wolfpack come in playing their best basketball of the season, having won six out of seven, including road wins against Louisville and North Carolina.  Their three guard set of Trevor Lacey, Anthony Barber, and Ralston Turner can be a troublesome combo for opponents, as shown in their second round win over Pittsburgh.

Duke also comes in playing exceptionally well, with 11 straight wins to show for it, and they have now climbed to become the second-ranked team in the country, behind only Kentucky.  They boast the ACC Player of the Year in freshman center Jahlil Okafor, although the team’s true leader is Quinn Cook, a senior and second team all-ACC honoree, who really seems to show up in big games.

The Blue Devils are a very balanced team all around, and while people will point to the Wolfpack’s guards as their strength, they also have a sneaky good frontcourt, including the ACC leader in blocks, BeeJay Anya.  While three of Duke’s four best players are freshman who will be experiencing their first ACC Tournament game, the Wolfpack are fraught with experience.  Five Devils are battling nagging injuries, all ankle-related, while the Wolfpack are very healthy.

Additionally, in Mark Gottfried’s tenure at NC State, his teams have always peaked in March, and have reached the ACC semifinals every year, despite never having a bye to the quarterfinal round, meaning each year the Pack have pulled an upset to advance.  State will try to extend that streak, as the winner of this game will play the Notre Dame/Miami winner in the semifinals.

N.C. State 82, Duke 78.

Miami vs. #11 Notre Dame, appr. 9:30 p.m. ET
Hurricanes:  21-11, 10-8 ACC, 6 seed
Fighting Irish:  26-5, 14-4 ACC, 3 seed

While the first game of Thursday’s evening session matches two ACC charter schools against each other, the nightcap of quarterfinal Thursday will feature two teams that have joined the league in the age of conference realignment, as Miami and Notre Dame meet in the tournament for the first time.

Notre Dame defeated Miami in South Bend, 75-70, on January 17, and comes in with an 0-1 all-time tournament record against all opponents, as they were ousted by Wake Forest in the first round in last year’s inaugural appearance.  But this Notre Dame team, led by senior guard Jerian Grant, is very different.

Grant, who averages 16.8 points and 6.7 assists per game, would have likely been the conference player of the year if it weren’t for Duke’s Jahlil Okafor.  Grant was not on the team a year ago due to academic issues, and has taken a team that went 6-12 in the ACC a year ago, and lost two key players to graduation, into the upper echelon of the league, and the top 15 in the nation.  The trio of Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson, and Zach Auguste each average between 12 and 13 points per game, giving Notre Dame one of the nation’s best offensive attacks.

Miami may be playing a de facto NCAA Tournament play-in game in this ACC Quarterfinal.   As of late Wednesday night, the Hurricanes were listed as the first team out of the projected NCAA field by ESPN, meaning they likely need either a win in this game or some help to get in the field.  This game would be big regardless of the opponent, but the fact it would be a “resume win” should the Canes be able to pull it out means that a potential win could practically lock them into the field.  That being said, a loss doesn’t knock them out, considering it wouldn’t at all be a “bad loss”, but would mean they would have to await their fate on Selection Sunday.

Arguably Miami’s best player, Angel Rodriguez, returned from a wrist injury in Wednesday’s win over Virginia Tech, although he was limited to five points in ten minutes of play.  Were Rodriguez healthy, the Canes could play to their full potential.  With him still nursing his wound, and with Notre Dame’s superior guard play and balanced offensive attack, the Irish are the favorite to advance.  The winner will play the NC State/Duke winner in teh semifinals on Friday.

Notre Dame 77, Miami 68.

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