#11 Notre Dame 90, #19 North Carolina 82
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame used a late 24-2 run to defeat North Carolina and win the ACC Tournament championship game, winning their first conference tournament title in their rich basketball history.
Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant scored 24 points with 10 assists, good for his fifth points-assists double-double of the season, and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He was 15-for-18 from the free throw line in the title game.
The 24-2 run took Notre Dame from a 64-56 deficit to an 80-66 advantage, and spanned from the 9:21 mark to the 2:55 mark of the second half, deflating both the Tar Heels and the predominantly pro-North Carolina crowd in Greensboro. North Carolina went on a 12-4 run of their own, cutting the gap to 84-78, but the Heels’ hole had been dug too deep.
The Irish run came after the Tar Heels had opened the second half with a 30-17 advantage over the first 10:39 of the second half, turning a 39-34 halftime deficit into the 64-56 lead they would later give back.
The first half had an element of similarity to what would eventually happen in the second half, as North Carolina led 19-13 early, but a 12-0 run gave the Irish a 25-19 lead, before the rest of the half was played evenly, giving Notre Dame their five-point halftime lead.
In addition to Grant’s 24-point MVP performance, the rest of Notre Dame’s starters were also double-figure scorers. Zach Auguste had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and may have been a snub from All-Tournament honors. Pat Connaughton, a pitching prospect for the Baltimore Orioles, and Steve Vasturia did earn first team All-Tournament honors, with Connaughton scoring 20, including a 7-for-9 mark from the floor and a 4-for-5 mark from three, and Vasturia scoring 14, including a 3-for-6 tally from distance. Demetrius Jackson earned second team All-Tournament accolades, with 11 points in the title game.
North Carolina was led by Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, both of whom were honored as first team All-Tournament. Paige had 24 points and five assists, making five triples, while Johnson scored 20. Justin Jackson only had seven points, and was 0-for-7 from beyond the arc, but was still honored as second team All-Tournament for his body of work through the duration of the event. J.P. Tokoto also had only seven, but added seven assists.
Notre Dame’s title was called the greatest accomplishment in the history of the program by coach Mike Brey, even though the program did go to the Final Four in 1978. The Irish swept the ACC basketball championships, after the women’s team claimed the ACC Women’s Tournament title on Sunday, beating Florida State.
Brey was one of three coaches to have Duke ties to win a conference title on Saturday. Brey was an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski from 1987-95, and joins Bobby Hurley, the coach at Buffalo who played at Duke from 1989-93, and Tommy Amaker, the coach at Harvard who played at Duke from 1983-87 and assisted Coach K from 1988-97.
The Irish now have 24 hours to celebrate before beginning their NCAA Tournament preparations when the brackets are revealed Sunday evening. The Irish are projected to be a three seed, although many are making the case for them to move up to a two seed after their tournament title, and the Tar Heels are projected as a four or five seed.
Other ACC teams awaiting their tournament seeding are Virginia and Duke (both will likely be one seed, although some are making a case to bump Virginia to a two), Louisville (four or five), and NC State (nine or 10). Miami also awaits their fate, as they sit on the bubble, and are projected as the third team out of the field by ESPN as of late Saturday night, and the fourth team out by Bracket Matrix (which combines multiple online projected brackets).
My All-Tournament first team ballot: Jerian Grant (Notre Dame, tournament MVP), Pat Connaughton (Notre Dame), Brice Johnson (North Carolina), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Malcolm Brodgon (Virginia)
Official All-Tournament first team: Grant, Connaughton, Johnson, Paige, Steve Vasturia (Notre Dame)
Second team: Brodgon, Anthony Barber (NC State), Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame), Justin Jackson (North Carolina), Jahlil Okafor (Duke)
For what it’s worth…
My first round record: 1-1
My second round record: 3-1
My quarterfinals record: 2-2
My semifinals record: 0-2
My championship game record: 0-1
Overall: 6-7 (12-2 in last year’s tournament)