#3 Virginia 58, Florida State 44
Top-seeded Virginia came out firing and started with a 16-2 run, held off a Florida State comeback, and closed strong for a 14-point win to advance to the semifinals.
Virginia turned the 16-2 run, which spanned nearly six minutes to start the game, into a 34-17 lead at halftime, with the Seminoles getting no closer than 20-10 for the remainder of the half. Florida State then started the second half on a 17-5 run to close within a 39-34 margin, before Malcolm Brodgon took over.
The Virginia guard and first team all-ACC performer had been held scoreless over the game’s first 31 minutes, but he ended the Seminole run with a basket with 9:02 remaining, and scored 10 points the rest of the way, as the Cavaliers held a 19-10 advantage over the final stretch that began with Brodgon’s shot, leading to their 14-point victory.
Evan Nolte and Mike Tobey led Virginia with 11 points, while Justin Anderson was held scoreless with two rebounds in 12 minutes in his return from a broken finger and an appendectomy. Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes led all scorers with 13.
One key stat for Florida State in defeat was a 2-for-17 mark (11.8%) on uncontested jump shots, something any team can’t afford to do against Virginia’s defense. The Seminoles, an NIT bubble team, will now await their postseason fate, while Virginia advances to play North Carolina in the semifinals, after reaching 29-2 for the second time in school history, and the first since 1981-82. This is the second straight year Virginia has defeated Florida State in the quarterfinals, winning by 13 a year ago.
#19 North Carolina 70, #14 Louisville 60
The Tar Heels used a 14-3 advantage over the final 6:44 to turn a 57-56 deficit into a 10-point victory over the Cardinals, and a berth in the ACC semifinals.
North Carolina junior forward Brice Johnson led all scorers with 22 points, including 14 in the second half, and 6 of the team’s 14 during the game-winning run. Marcus Paige added 13 for the Tar Heels.
This wild game featured nine ties and 12 lead changes, with neither team leading by more than seven until Carolina’s late run. Given that the two teams played a pair of thrillers in the regular season, this should come as no surprise.
Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell played an incredible game in the defeat, with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Harrell had two incredible alley-oop throwdowns, both of which got the crowd incredibly energized. Terry Rozier led the Cardinals with 20 points.
The Cardinals were 4-for-22 from distance (18.2%), while the Tar Heels were 5-from-11 (44.4%). Carolina also held a wide advantage from the floor overall, shooting 42.4%, against 34.9% for Louisville. North Carolina advances to the semifinals, and meets third-ranked and top-seeded Virginia, while Louisville will await their NCAA seeding, likely in the 4-5 range.
#2 Duke 77, N.C. State 53
Led by a balanced offensive attack, Duke led wire-to-wire in a domination of NC State, winning by 24 after leading a majority of the game by at least that much.
Duke opened with a 13-3 run, and stretched their lead through the rest of the first half. The Blue Devils led 49-22 at the half, and once they took a 24-point lead with 4:03 remaining in the opening half, the Wolfpack never got any closer than that, eventually falling by that very margin.
Seven of the eight players with significant minutes for Duke scored at least seven points, and six scored in double figures, led by senior Quinn Cook, who is still trying to win his first ACC title, and scored 15 points. On a night that Duke center and ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor was held to 10 points and four rebounds, backup center Marshall Plumlee scored a career-high 12 points, all on dunks. Duke freshman guard Tyus Jones had only seven points but added eight assists.
Ralston Turner led NC State with 16 points, but last night’s star, Anthony Barber, was held scoreless and left the game with concussion-like symptoms after a collision with Duke’s Amile Jefferson with 13:26 remaining. The Wolfpack actually out-rebounded Duke (34-28), but shot just 35.7% from the floor. Duke shot 56.6%, and had more field goals in the paint (23) than NC State had overall (20).
The win marks the second time Duke has blown out an opponent after losing to them earlier in the season. Duke had lost to NC State, 87-75, on January 11, their first of three losses this season. On February 7, the Blue Devils beat Notre Dame, 90-60, just ten days after a 77-73 loss, and after the quarterfinal triumph, they advance to the semifinals to face the Irish a third time on Friday night. NC State will await their NCAA Tournament seeding.
#11 Notre Dame 70, Miami 63
After the Irish looked invincible early, the Hurricanes stormed back into the game, before Notre Dame pulled away late for a seven-point win to advance to the semifinals.
Notre Dame started the game on a 10-2 run, and continued to increase their lead throughout the first half, leading 41-21 in the half’s late moments before taking a 43-25 halftime lead. Miami started the second half on a 26-6 run spanning 13:30 to take a 51-49 lead, but an ensuing 12-4 run gave Notre Dame a 61-54 lead with 1:02 remaining, as Miami went 6:21 without a field goal. Jerian Grant hit all six of his late free throw attempts to ice the win.
Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia led all scorers with 16, including the three to put the Irish back ahead with 6:13 remaining. Grant had 13 points and six assists (Miami only had five assists as a team), while Zach Auguste just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine boards, as all five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures.
Angel Rodriguez came off the bench to lead Miami with 15 points, and Tonye Jekiri got a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, after just missing one against Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes only shot 36.4% for the game, while the Irish shot 48.8% for the game, but only 31.6% in the second half.
Notre Dame advances into a third meeting with Duke in the semifinals after their first ever ACC Tournament win. Miami now awaits their NCAA Tournament fate, as they sit squarely on the bubble for the big dance.
#19 North Carolina vs #3 Virginia, 7:00 p.m. ET
Tar Heels: 22-10, 11-7 ACC, 5 seed
Cavaliers: 29-2, 16-2 ACC, 1 seed
In the first semifinal, one of the ACC’s oldest rivalries will be renewed in a “border war” game between North Carolina and Virginia. The Tar Heels are 11-3 all-time against the Cavaliers in the tournament, with the most recent meeting coming in a 79-67 quarterfinal win by Carolina in 2007.
Both teams are coming into this game off of impressive quarterfinal wins, with Virginia jumping out early then holding off Florida State, and North Carolina coming from behind to beat Louisville with a late run.
The two teams play very different styles. Virginia has the nation’s top ranked defense, allowing just 50.1 points per game, and allowed 44 to Florida State in the quarterfinals. They also haven’t allowed 60 in a game since February 14 against Wake Forest. The Tar Heels offense averages 78.0 points per game, and scored 70 in the quarterfinals against a good Louisville defense.
North Carolina is 1-5 against top 10 teams on the season, including a 75-64 loss at home to Virginia on February 2. The Heels are also seeking their fourth championship game appearance in five years, although they haven’t won the tournament since 2009.
Virginia has shown that, although it isn’t always the most exciting brand of basketball, they have one of the strongest teams in the nation, and are trying to defend their title in Greensboro. North Carolina had to use a lot of energy to beat Louisville, and they are playing a team that is better than them to begin with. The winner advances to Saturday night’s final.
Virginia 63, North Carolina 56.
#11 Notre Dame vs. #2 Duke, appr. 9:30 p.m. ET
Fighting Irish: 27-5, 14-4 ACC, 3 seed
Blue Devils: 29-3, 15-3 ACC, 2 seed
Two similar teams meet for the third time in Friday’s nightcap, although the two previous meetings were very different. Notre Dame defeated Duke, 77-73, in a close game in South Bend on January 28, but on February 7, Duke shot the lights out in Cameron Indoor Stadium, winning 90-60 in an absolute domination of the Irish.
Duke scores 81.1 points per game, which leads the conference, but Notre Dame scores 78.6. The Devils allow an average of 65.3 points per game, while the Irish allow 65.2 per contest. Duke has won 12 in a row, and Notre Dame has won three straight, and six out of seven since the loss in Durham.
This game also features the only two players who were unanimous choices for first team all-ACC honors, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant. Okafor, the first freshman winner of Player of the Year honors in the ACC’s long history, averages 17.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, although he was held to 10 points by NC State in Duke’s quarterfinal win. Grant, a senior guard, averages 16.8 points and 6.7 assists per game, with the assists number leading the conference by an entire assist per game over Duke freshman Tyus Jones.
Duke’s seniors are trying not to become the first class since 1998 to graduate without a title, and they’ve only been to one title game, last year against Virginia. Getting there again, with a much different roster from a year ago, would be a nice accomplishment for the program. Notre Dame, who just won their first ever tournament game in the quarterfinals after joining the league last season, is obviously looking for their first finals appearance in the ACC, but is also looking for their first conference tournament title in any league.
In other words, this is a real barn-burner, with two very good and very even teams meeting for the right to advance to the championship game. That being said, Duke is playing as good as anyone in the country, including undefeated Kentucky, and seems poised to return to the title game for the first time since 2011.
Duke 84, Notre Dame 79.
For what it’s worth…
My first round record: 1-1
My second round record: 3-1
My quarterfinals record: 2-2
Overall: 6-4 (not quite up to the standard set by last year’s 12-2 mark)