Column: Don’t Mourn for Pitino

Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino was placed on unpaid leave on Wednesday (with the expectation that he will be fired once his contractually-required 10-day notice expires) after the Cardinals program was among several implicated by an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball.

Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach with great on-court success at multiple stops throughout his career, but that has all come to a very blunt ending.

3392553078_9caee79491_o

Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino, who was placed on unpaid leave on Wednesday. (Bradjward/Flickr)

Yet there’s no need to mourn for the legacy Pitino has lost, as his impending termination is the end of a long, winding and, to be frank, disgraceful road that got him here.

Yes, Pitino is the only coach to lead two different schools to national championships, winning them in 1996 at Kentucky and 2013 at Louisville.

Yes, he has seven Final Four appearances, and is the only coach to take three schools to the Final Four, also doing so at Providence.

Yes, he has 12 conference tournament championships (one at Boston University, five at Kentucky, six at Louisville), and been to 21 NCAA Tournaments, including 19 of the last 21 years his team was eligible.

Yes, Pitino has 770 collegiate wins, and may have 900 if not for six seasons as an NBA coach with the New York Knicks, who he took to the playoffs twice, and the Boston Celtics.

But with the revelation of the scandal that has brought Pitino’s career to a crashing end, real questions exist about Pitino’s on-court accomplishments, as the legitimacy of his players, their amateur status and their reasons for coming to Louisville (or Kentucky, Providence or Boston University) is now under a black cloud of doubt.

The FBI alleges that the family of a highly-ranked recruit (the overwhelming consensus is that the player, unnamed in the FBI report, is Louisville commit Brian Bowen) agreed to be paid $100,000 by Adidas executives–who were working in conjunction with a Louisville assistant coach–for the recruit play at Louisville. As part of the agreement, the recruit would represent Adidas when he turned professional.

This scandal reaches far beyond Louisville, as 10 individuals, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested in the case on Tuesday. But it’s Pitino who has the highest profile of anyone implicated in this case, even as he was not directly named in the FBI report (though he reportedly was listed as “Coach 2”).

Pitino was already suspended for five games this coming season as the result of his program’s previous scandal, in which former assistant coach Andre McGee had paid for the services of prostitutes and strippers for players in the team dormitory.

The program self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2015-16 season, and Pitino was suspended by the NCAA for “lack of institutional control.”

Pitino has also admitted to an extramarital sexual encounter in 2003, in which he impregnated his mistress and paid for her abortion.

In each previous case, Pitino’s job has seemed bulletproof. He downplayed both his affair and the escorts scandal, and claimed ignorance regarding the escorts.

With Pitino’s habitual refusal to accept any responsibility, and the pattern of athletic director Tom Jurich–who was also fired–releasing a passive statement of support (which he’s also done in regards to the football program’s issues), I assumed we would see the same movie this week, and Pitino would be pacing the sidelines of the KFC Yum! Center this winter.

Yet this scandal, which figures to bring down more than just Pitino over the coming months, finally ousted a man who could have, and should have, been out of college basketball years ago.

From purely an on-the-court perspective, Rick Pitino can legitimately say he has had a good career.

But don’t shed a tear for Pitino’s career coming to an end the way it did.

He’s done plenty to deserve this.

Advertisements

ACC Postseason Power Rankings: North Carolina Wins League’s 14th National Title

After the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the ACC had only one of its nine tournament teams still alive, and some questioned the league’s strength.

Two weeks later, the ACC can boast a national champion for the 14th time (the league will claim 18, but Louisville and Syracuse combined for four before they were in the ACC).

North Carolina has won nearly half of the ACC’s titles, winning their sixth this year, after they were the best and most consistent team throughout the entire season.

Behind the obvious number one choice of the Tar Heels, here is how the rest of the ACC stacks up as the season comes to a close:

1. North Carolina (33-7, 14-4 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Semifinals (1-1)
NCAA Tournament:  National Champions (6-0)
Season High in SOS Rankings: 1, Season Low: 3
The Tar Heels won the regular season title in the nation’s best conference, foreshadowing what they would accomplish in the NCAA Tournament by winning the national title over Gonzaga on Monday.  With his third title (2005, ’09, ’17), Roy Williams passes his mentor, the legendary Dean Smith (national champion in 1982, ’93), and joins Mike Krzyzewski as one of two active coaches with three or more championships.

2. Duke (28-9, 11-7 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Champions (4-0)
NCAA Tournament:  Second Round (1-1)
Season High: 1, Season Low: 7
At the ACC Tournament, Duke became the first team in tournament history to win four games in four days, beating Notre Dame for the title after previously beating Clemson, Louisville and North Carolina.  In the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Devils were stunned in the second round by South Carolina, although they weren’t the only team the Gamecocks upset on their way to the Final Four.

3. Louisville (25-9, 12-6 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Quarterfinals (0-1)
NCAA Tournament:  Second Round (1-1)
Season High: 1, Season Low: 6
After losing their ACC Tournament opener to Duke, the Cardinals lost a back-and-forth second round battle in the NCAA Tournament to Michigan, who was one of the hottest teams in the NCAA field until their eventual loss to Oregon.  The postseason performances of the Cardinals did not match the strength of their season overall, although postseason results are often how a season is measured.

4. Florida State (26-9, 12-6 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Semifinals (1-1)
NCAA Tournament:  Second Round (1-1)
Season High: 3, Season Low: 5
The Seminoles were a great team, but had some inconsistency, which bit them in a blowout loss to Xavier in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  Despite being arguably Leonard Hamilton’s best team in Tallahassee, the ‘Noles missed an opportunity to have Hamilton’s best March result.

5. Notre Dame (26-10, 12-6 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Runners-up (2-1)
NCAA Tournament:  Second Round (1-1)
Season High: 2, Season Low: 9
The Irish reached the finals of the ACC Tournament for the second time in the last three years, falling to Duke, before surviving a NCAA first round scare against Princeton then losing to West Virginia.  Mike Brey has a knack for overachieving teams, and this year was no different–I picked them ninth in the league in November.

6. Virginia (23-11, 11-7 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Quarterfinals (1-1)
NCAA Tournament:  Second Round (1-1)
Season High: 2, Season Low: 6
After a quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame in Brooklyn, the Cavaliers reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but scored just 39 points in a 26-point loss to Florida.  Virginia’s success under Tony Bennett has come by winning low-scoring defensive struggles, but scoring just 39 in an NCAA Tournament will never get a team where they want to go.

7. Virginia Tech (22-11, 10-8 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Quarterfinals (1-1)
NCAA Tournament:  First Round (0-1)
Season High: 6, Season Low: 8
This season has to be considered a success for Buzz Williams’ Hokies, who reached their first NCAA Tournament since 2007 and second since 1996.  They weren’t the only team knocked out by Wisconsin, as the Badgers also beat top overall seed Villanova in the next round.

8. Wake Forest (19-14, 9-9 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Second Round (1-1)
NCAA Tournament:  First Four (0-1)
Season High: 8, Season Low: 13
Danny Manning’s rebuild in Winston-Salem reached the NCAA Tournament a year quicker than many expected.  Down the stretch of the season, and in both postseason tournaments, the Deacon defense was an issue; that, along with whether or not First Team All-ACC forward John Collins returns, are the biggest questions heading into next year, as the Deacs should continue improving.

9. Miami (21-12, 10-8 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Quarterfinals (1-1)
NCAA Tournament:  First Round (0-1)
Season High: 9, Season Low: 12
The Hurricanes reached the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five years, marking only the second such stretch in school history.  Jim Larranaga had tough coaching matchups in the postseason:  after beating Jim Boeheim in Brooklyn, the Hurricanes lost to Roy Williams in Brooklyn and Tom Izzo in the NCAA Tournament.

10. Georgia Tech (21-16, 8-10 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  First Round (0-1)
NIT:  Runners-up (4-1)
Season High: 9, Season Low: 15
An ACC Tournament loss to Pittsburgh nailed the Yellow Jackets’ NCAA coffin shut, but the Yellow Jackets took advantage of their NIT opportunity by reaching the final, where they lost to TCU.  This season still has to be considered a success for Josh Pashner in his first season in Atlanta–the team was picked last in the ACC by many, including me.

11. Clemson (17-16, 6-12 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Second Round (1-1)
NIT:  First Round (0-1)
Season High: 7, Season Low: 12
Clemson hung around the NCAA bubble deep into the season despite a mediocre record because of a very difficult schedule.  But in the end, the Tigers just didn’t win enough to make The Dance.  After losing to eventual ACC champ Duke in Brooklyn, the Tigers were upset by Oakland in their NIT opener, ending their season.

12. Syracuse (19-15, 10-8 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Second Round (0-1)
NIT:  Second Round (1-1)
Season High: 8, Season Low: 13
The Orange didn’t have a good postseason, losing to Miami in the ACC Tournament, scantly missing the NCAA Tournament, then losing to Ole Miss in the second round of the NIT.  And yet, their postseason won’t even be most remembered for those results, but instead for the war of words between Jim Boeheim and the city of Greensboro.  C’mon, Jim.

13. Pittsburgh (16-17, 4-14 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  Second Round (1-1)
Postseason:  none
Season High: 4, Season Low: 14
After some guy named Chris Stiles picked this veteran team to finish fourth in the ACC, the Panthers were the biggest underachiever in the country this season, winning just four ACC games.  But hey, with their first round win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament, they ensured the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t go to the NCAA Tournament either.

14.  NC State (15-17, 4-14 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  First Round (0-1)
Postseason:  none
Season High: 7, Season Low: 15
The Wolfpack also underachieved, with a roster including future NBA lottery pick Dennis Smith.  They did something they hadn’t done since 1995, beating Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but after Mark Gottfried was fired Feb. 13, the Wolfpack uneventfully played out the string.  Kevin Keatts, coming off back-to-back NCAA bids at UNC Wilmington, will take over in Raliegh.

15. Boston College (9-23, 2-16 ACC)
ACC Tournament:  First Round (0-1)
Postseason:  none
Season High: 14, Season Low: 15
The last several years have been a struggle for the Eagles, so much so that their 2-16 conference record is actually an improvement.  However, ending the season on a 15-game losing streak still leaves a bitter taste in their mouths entering the offseason.

Fast Five: Double-Digit Seed Sleepers to Reach the Sweet 16

As the first round of the NCAA Tournament gets underway, everyone tries to pick the big upset or two, in an attempt to say “I called it!” if it actually happens.

But in this year’s bracket, there are multiple teams with double-digit seeds who have a realistic chance at winning not just one, but two games, and advancing to the Sweet 16.

These Cinderellas haven’t just been invited to The Big Dance; they may still be on the dance floor when the tournament enters its second weekend.

While I did not pick all of these teams in my bracket (in fact, I only picked one to advance to the Sweet 16), they are the teams that have the best opportunity to make a run through the first two rounds, based on both matchups and their own abilities.

 

Honorable Mention:  Marquette (19-12, #10 seed, East)

Marquette’s draw is tough, against South Carolina in the Palmetto State, then potentially against Duke, but consider this:  South Carolina has lost five of seven and hasn’t won a tournament game since 1973, while Golden Eagles coach Steve Wojciechowski was an assistant under Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and teams led by Coach K proteges tend to play well against Duke.

5. Florida Gulf Coast (26-7, #14 seed, West)

I know they’re a 14-seed, but this wouldn’t be fun without one really low seed on the list.

In 2013, FGCU captured the nation’s hearts with an improbable run to the Sweet 16, upsetting 2-seed Georgetown and 7-seed San Diego State, advancing further than any 15-seed in tournament history.  Here’s the thing:  this team is actually better.

The 2013 Eagles actually didn’t win the Atlantic Sun regular season title, but won the league tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament.  This year, FGCU did win the regular season title with a 12-2 league record, and the team is 19-2 since Dec. 17, including seven straight wins.  The 2013 team, nicknamed “Dunk City,” had 148 dunks, but this year’s edition has 157, while this year’s team also has two more wins entering the tournament than the 2013 Eagles did.

They have their work cut out for them against Florida State, the 3-seed in the West Region, but while the Seminoles have had a great year with some really big wins, they also have been slightly inconsistent.  The ‘Noles are an impressive 7-3 against the Top 25, but have four losses against teams that missed the NCAA Tournament.  The game is in Orlando, so both teams will have a large fan turnout.

Looking ahead to a potential second round matchup, the Florida State-FGCU victor will face either 6-seed Maryland or 11-seed Xavier, and either will be beatable.  Maryland enters the tournament having lost four of their last six, while Xavier lost six straight from Feb. 11 to Mar. 1 after point guard Edmond Sumner was lost for the season with an injury.

4. Vermont (29-5, #13 seed, Midwest)

The hottest team no one is talking about entering the tournament is Vermont, who has the nation’s longest winning streak at 21 games.

The champions of the America East Conference, the Catamounts have not lost a game since Dec. 21, and three of their five losses on the season came to fellow tournament teams.

Purdue is the regular season champion of the Big Ten, although this has been a “down year” for the historically strong conference, and the Boilermakers were one-and-done in the Big Ten Tournament.  Purdue also has a knack for inability to finish games in the tournament; the last two years they have blown big leads late to lose in overtime in the first round.

For a team to stop Purdue (34th in nation with 80.1 PPG), they need a good defense, and Vermont has it (61.6 PPG allowed is 11th nationally).  One would imagine Vermont will have to overcome adversity to beat a team like Purdue, but that will be no problem for coach John Becker–before Vermont, he coached at Galludet, the nation’s leading university for the deaf.

5-seed Iowa State, the Big 12 Tournament champions, are a possible matchup for Vermont in the second round, although a potential defeat of the Cyclones by 12-seed Nevada is a trendy first round upset pick; such an upset would set up a second round matchup of two double-digit seeds should Vermont beat Purdue.

3. UNC Wilmington (29-5, #12 seed, East)

The regular season and tournament champions of the Colonial Athletic Association enter the NCAA Tournament having won 18 of their last 21.  Last year as a 13-seed, the Seahawks played 4-seed Duke close, losing 93-85 after leading at halftime, and this year they will play 5-seed Virginia in the first round.

When people think Virginia, they think defense, and rightfully so:  the Cavaliers allow a national-best 55.6 PPG.  However, the Seahawks have the offense to match, ranking 10th nationally at 85.2 PPG.  Devontae Cacok is shooting 79.9 percent from the field, a mark that is over five points better than the existing NCAA single-season record.

Virginia has, at least theoretically, underachieved in the last three tournaments as a 1- or 2-seed, and they have also lost their last three tournament games when they were a 5-seed or lower.  The Virginia-UNCW game will tip at 12:40 pm ET this afternoon, and early afternoon games have a knack for producing upsets.

The winner of Virginia-UNCW will face the winner of Florida-East Tennessee State in the second round.  While 4-seed Florida would be a tough matchup for the Seahawks (as they would be for anyone else in the field), it is within the realm of possibility that East Tennessee State could upset the Gators, as the Buccaneers are dangerous with four senior starters.  Either way, UNC Wilmington has the tools to potentially compete with either team and threaten to make the Sweet 16.

2. Middle Tennessee State (30-4, #12 seed, South)

Last year, Middle Tennessee State pulled off arguably the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, shocking 2-seed Michigan State 90-81.  Even after three players from that team graduated, this year’s Blue Raiders are even better, winning the C-USA regular season title (last year’s team did not), then backing it up with the league tournament title.

The Blue Raiders have won 20 of their last 21, led by four seniors and three players averaging at least 14.5 PPG (JaCorey Williams, Giddy Potts, Reggie Upshaw).  The Blue Raiders rank 11th nationally in field goal percentage; their first round opponent of Minnesota ranks 213th.

Minnesota is 24-9, but has lost two of their last three, and a five-game losing streak in January is a dark spot on their resume.  The Golden Gophers are coached by Richard Pitino, the son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino (the pair are becoming the first father-son duo to coach in the same NCAA Tournament, although they cannot meet until the Final Four).

Minnesota is over-seeded, at least in my opinion, while Middle Tennessee State is under-seeded; as a result, even though this is a 5-vs-12 game as seedings go, ESPN’s BPI gives Middle Tennessee State a 46 percent chance to win.  That’s the fourth highest percentage for any double-digit seed, and by far the highest for any team seeded 12 or worse.

As far as a potential second round matchup, the Minnesota-MTSU winner will face the winner of Butler and Winthrop.  Butler is a heavy favorite, and is responsible for two of Villanova’s three losses, but have shown they are beatable with a trio of “bad losses.”  Winthrop is a heavy underdog, but may have the best player on the floor on Thursday in Keon Johnson, a 5-foot-7 guard who scores 22.5 PPG.

1. Rhode Island (24-9, #11 seed, Midwest)

Rhode Island enters their first NCAA appearance in 18 years with wins in eight straight games and 12 of their last 14, having played their way onto the tournament bubble, then off of it by winning the Atlantic-10 Tournament (and automatic NCAA bid).  The Rams are looking to repeat the success of the last time they were an 11-seed:  in 1988, they went to the Sweet 16.

The Rams’ first round opponent is Creighton.  The Blue Jays started the season hot, but are just 8-7 since losing guard Maurice Watson Jr. for the year, with half of those wins coming against the bottom three teams in the Big East.

An intriguing individual matchup to watch is on the inside, between Creighton’s Justin Patton and Rhode Island’s Hassan Martin.  Patton has a decided height advantage (7-foot to 6-foot-7), but Martin plays bigger than his height and has led the A-10 in blocked shots four straight seasons.

Creighton is a 61 percent favorite in ESPN’s BPI, and just a 2-point betting favorite, despite the 6-vs-11 seeding of the matchup.

In the second round, the Rams could potentially meet Oregon or Iona.  Oregon is without post-man Chris Boucher, who blew his knee in the Pac-12 Tournament and dealt a big blow to Oregon’s chances at a deep run.  The Ducks won the first NCAA Tournament in 1939, but haven’t been back to the Final Four since.

14-seed Iona is capable of upsetting Oregon if leading scorer Jordan Washington (17.9 PPG) can stay on the floor; he averages just 21.7 minutes per game.  Whether Oregon or Iona wins, the potential second-round matchup would play to Rhode Island’s favor.

 

 

NCAA Tournament

East Region
#1 Villanova vs. #16 Mount St. Mary’s (Thursday, Buffalo)
#8 Wisconsin vs. #9 Virginia Tech (Thursday, Buffalo)
#4 Florida vs. #13 East Tennessee State (Thursday, Orlando)
#5 Virginia vs. #12 UNC Wilmington (Thursday, Orlando)
#3 Baylor vs. #14 New Mexico State (Friday, Tulsa)
#6 SMU vs. #11 USC (Friday, Tulsa)
#2 Duke vs. #15 Troy (Friday, Greenville)
#7 South Carolina vs. #10 Marquette (Friday, Greenville)

West Regional
#1 Gonzaga vs. #16 South Dakota State (Thursday, Salt Lake City)
#8 Northwestern vs. #9 Vanderbilt (Thursday, Salt Lake City)
#4 West Virginia vs. #13 Bucknell (Thursday, Buffalo)
#5 Notre Dame vs. #12 Princeton (Thursday, Buffalo)
#3 Florida State vs. #14 Florida Gulf Coast (Thursday, Orlando)
#6 Maryland vs. #11 Xavier (Thursday, Orlando)
#2 Arizona vs. #15 North Dakota (Thursday, Salt Lake City)
#7 Saint Mary’s vs. #10 VCU (Thursday, Salt Lake City)

Midwest Region
#1 Kansas vs. #16 UC Davis (Friday, Tulsa)
#8 Miami (Fla.) vs. #9 Michigan State (Friday, Tulsa)
#4 Purdue vs. #13 Vermont (Thursday, Milwaukee)
#5 Iowa State vs. #12 Nevada (Thursday, Milwaukee)
#3 Oregon vs. #14 Iona (Friday, Sacramento)
#6 Creighton vs. #11 Rhode Island (Friday, Sacremento)
#2 Louisville vs. #15 Jacksonville State (Friday, Indianapolis)
#7 Michigan vs. #10 Oklahoma State (Friday, Indianapolis)

South Region
#1 North Carolina vs. #16 Texas Southern (Friday, Greenville)
#8 Arkansas vs. #9 Seton Hall (Friday, Greenville)
#4 Butler vs. #13 Winthrop (Thursday, Milwaukee)
#5 Minnesota vs. #12 Middle Tennessee (Thursday, Milwaukee)
#3 UCLA vs. #14 Kent State (Friday, Sacremento)
#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Kansas State (Friday, Sacremento)
#2 Kentucky vs. #15 Northern Kentucky (Friday, Indianapolis)
#7 Dayton vs. #10 Wichita State (Friday, Indianapolis)

 

Tournament Tweeting: Duke Wins Their 20th ACC Tournament Title

Duke used a clutch, efficient and balanced offensive attack to beat Notre Dame, 75-69, and win their first ACC Tournament since 2011 and their 20th in program history, extending a tournament record.

The Blue Devils shot a season-high 61 percent from the floor (31-51), including hot shooting performances from Jayson Tatum (7-11), Frank Jackson (4-6) and Amile Jefferson (7-8).  Defensively, Duke held Notre Dame to 40 percent (27-67), and 24 percent from three (6-25).

Tatum led Duke with 19 points and eight rebounds, with Luke Kennard adding 16 and Jefferson netting 14.  Grayson Allen scored 10 points with four assists.

Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson, who played much of the second half favoring an ankle injury, led all players with 29 points and nine rebounds.  V.J. Beachem scored 15 for the Irish and Matt Farrell scored 13 with seven assists.  But despite Colson’s MVP-caliber performance, Duke outscored Notre Dame 44-32 in the paint and blocked the Irish five times.

Duke dominated the opening half, leading as big as 31-22, although an 8-0 Notre Dame run in the final two minutes pulled the Irish within two before Allen beat the buzzer to give Duke a 38-34 halftime edge.

Notre Dame came out firing in the second half to take a 56-48 lead with 11:35 left.  Duke responded with a 10-1 run to take a 58-57 lead with 7:08 remaining, and after a back-and-forth stretch over the next few minutes, Colson tied the game at 65-65 on a three with 2:27 left.

Duke answered, taking the lead on a free throw by Tatum, adding to the lead on Tatum’s layup on the next possession, the stretching the lead to 71-67 with 0:48 left on a clutch three by Matt Jones, his only made shot of the game.  After a Beachem dunk got the Irish within two, a Tatum dunk made it 73-69, before single free throws by Tatum and Kennard put the game away.

The win for Duke avenged losses in the last two ACC Tournaments to Notre Dame, led by former Duke assistant Mike Brey.

Duke becomes the first team to win four games in four days to win the ACC Tournament, and is the first 5-seed to ever win the event.  Their 20th title is the second most in any conference tournament, behind only Kentucky (29 SEC titles).

The title is the 14th in the ACC Tournament for coach Mike Krzyzewski, passing Dean Smith for the most all-time in the same tournament in which he passed Smith for the most wins in ACC Tournament play; Krzyzewski is now a remarkable 61-22 in ACC Tournament play.  Legendary Duke broadcaster Bob Harris, who is in his 41st season and is retiring at season’s end, called his 17th ACC Tournament championship by the Blue Devils.

Duke (27-8) now awaits their NCAA Tournament fate as the ACC’s automatic qualifier, and some pundits suggest their ACC title may be enough to earn the Blue Devils a 1-seed, although a 2-seed is more likely.  The Blue Devils will almost certainly begin their tournament run in Greenville, S.C.  Notre Dame (25-9) is also a lock for an NCAA at-large berth, with the field and pairings set to be announced Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

 

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

 

All-Tournament Team

My Ballot:
MVP:  Notre Dame F Bonzie Colson
First Team:  Colson, Duke G Jayson Tatum, Duke G Luke Kennard, Notre Dame G Matt Ferrell, North Carolina F Isaiah Hicks
Second Team:  Duke G Grayson Allen, Notre Dame G Steve Vasturia, Virginia Tech C Zach LeDay, North Carolina F Kennedy Meeks, Clemson F Jaron Blossomgame

Media Selections:
MVP:  Duke G Luke Kennard
First Team:  Kennard, Duke G Jayson Tatum, Notre Dame F Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame G Matt Farrell, North Carolina F Isaiah Hicks
Second Team:  Duke G Grayson Allen, Duke G Frank Jackson, Duke F Amile Jefferson, Notre Dame G Steve Vasturia, Virginia Tech C Zach LeDay

 

 

Play of the Tournament

Greg McClinton, 80-foot buzzer-beater to end first half for Wake Forest, Second Round vs. Virginia Tech

 

 

For what it’s worth….
My ACC Tournament Record:  9-5

First Round
Record:  2-1
Second Round Record:  3-1
Quarterfinals Record:  3-1
Semifinals Record:  1-1
Championship Game: 0-1

 

2017 ACC Tournament

Championship Game
#5 Duke 75, #3 Notre Dame 69

Semifinals
#5 Duke 93, #1 North Carolina 83
#3 Notre Dame 77, #2 Notre Dame 73

Quarterfinals
#1 North Carolina 78, #9 Miami 53
#5 Duke 81, #4 Louisville 77
#2 Florida State 74, #7 Virginia Tech 68
#3 Notre Dame 71, #6 Virginia 58

Second Round
#9 Miami 62, #8 Syracuse 57
#5 Duke 79, #12 Clemson 72
#7 Virginia Tech 99, #10 Wake Forest 90
#6 Virginia 75, #14 Pittsburgh 63

First Round
#12 Clemson 75, #13 NC State 61

#10 Wake Forest 92, #15 Boston College 78
#14 Pittsburgh 61, #11 Georgia Tech 59

Tournament Tweeting: ACC Semifinals Recap and Championship Preview

Semifinals Recap

First, some general tweets about the tournament:

 

 

#5 Duke 93, #1 North Carolina 83

For 26 minutes, North Carolina looked invincible, leading Duke 61-48 with 13:53 to play.  But after Joel Berry II went to the bench with four fouls, Duke held a 45-22 advantage for the duration of the game, including a 15-2 run over the next 3:18, to come from behind and stun their rivals to advance to the ACC championship.

In the second half, Duke shot 59 percent (13-22), while North Carolina shot 29 percent (12-42).  For the game, Duke was 59 percent from three (10-17), including five triples from Grayson Allen, while North Carolina shot 23 percent (5-22).  Both teams shot well from the foul line, but Duke attempted 19 more free throws (Duke 33-37, North Carolina 14-18).

Duke’s Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 24 points and co-led the Blue Devils with seven rebounds.  Luke Kennard scored 20, including a 10-10 night at the free throw line, while Allen scored 18 with five assists and Frank Jackson scored 15.  Harry Giles was a force defensively, with seven rebounds, four blocks and one steal in 15 minutes.

North Carolina, who outscored Duke 50-26 in the paint and outrebounded the Blue Devils 43-32, was led by their big men inside.  Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks co-led the Tar Heels with 19 points each, and Meeks grabbed 12 rebounds.  In the backcourt, ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson (6-22 from the floor) scored 16, while Berry scored 10 and Theo Pinson dished out eight assists.

In possibly the most intense rivalry in college sports, the Blue Devils won their second game in three meetings this season, and won their sixth straight ACC Tournament meeting with the Tar Heels.

Duke (26-8) advances to Saturday’s final, where they will try to become the first team to win four games in four days to win the ACC Tournament, and the first 5-seed to ever win the ACC Tournament in its 64-year history.  North Carolina (27-7) will await their NCAA Tournament seeding, where there is a strong possibility the Tar Heels will be one of the four top seeds, and it is almost certain they will play their first two games in Greenville, S.C.

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

 

#3 Notre Dame 77, #2 Florida State 73

Notre Dame was efficient from three and took advantage of Florida State’s mistakes to defeat the Seminoles and advance to the final.  While the final margin was just four points, the Irish led comfortably from the late stages of the first half through the second half before withstanding a late Seminole surge.

The Irish made 13 threes, shooting 48 percent from distance (13-27), while holding the Seminoles to 33 percent from three (5-15), and none over the game’s first 26:36.  Notre Dame scored 21 points off 18 Florida State turnovers, while the Irish only committed nine.  Florida State held a 41-23 rebounding edge, with Jonathan Isaac tying a tournament high with 15.

Steve Vasturia and Bonzie Colson led the Irish with 18 points, and Matt Farrell scored 15 with six assists, while Matt Ryan scored 11 off the bench; both Farrell and Ryan hit three triples.

Notre Dame led 42-26 at halftime, and led by as many as 18 early in the second half, before an 11-3 run by Florida State made the game closer late, but Colson and Rex Pflueger put the game away at the free throw line.

Notre Dame (25-8) advances to the championship game against Duke, as the Irish try to win their second title in three years after never previously winning a conference tournament in school history.  Florida State (25-8) will await their NCAA Tournament matchup, and is likely to play their first two NCAA games in Orlando.

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

 

Championship Preview

 

#3 Notre Dame (25-8, 12-6) vs. #5 Duke (26-8, 11-7)
9:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Notre Dame- 6th, Duke- 5th
AP Poll:  Notre Dame- 22nd, Duke- 14th
Regular Season:  Jan. 30 in South Bend:  Duke 84, Notre Dame 74

 

For commentary throughout the ACC Tournament and most major sporting events, follow me on Twitter:  @cstiles24

 

For what it’s worth….
My ACC Tournament Record:  9-4

First Round
Record:  2-1
Second Round Record:  3-1
Quarterfinals Record:  3-1
Semifinals Record:  1-1

Tournament Tweeting: ACC Quarterfinals Recap and Semifinals Preview

Quarterfinals Recap

First, some general tweets about the tournament:

#1 North Carolina 78, #9 Miami 53

The Tar Heels used a dominant performance on both ends of the floor to comfortably beat Miami, never leading by less than 11 over the last 12:10 and pulling away for the 25-point win.  After a 7-0 Miami run to close the first half pulled the Hurricanes to a 34-29 deficit, the Tar Heels held a 44-24 advantage over the final 20 minutes.

North Carolina shot 53 percent from the field (28-53), 83 percent from the free throw line (15-18). The Tar Heels had more assists (21) than Miami field goals (19), holding Miami to just 36 percent from the floor (19-53) and 24 percent from three-point range (5-21), while forcing 15 Hurricanes turnovers that led to 21 Tar Heel points.

Four double-figure scorers paced the Tar Heels, with Isaiah Hicks leading the way with 19; ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson scored 12, Joel Berry II netted 11 with five assists, and Kennedy Meeks added 10 with seven rebounds.  Theo Pinson scored nine, but led the Tar Heels with six assists.  Bruce Brown, with 21 points and seven rebounds, was the only Miami player to score more than seven, while the Hurricanes tallied just seven assists.  Brown was 9-13 for the floor; his teammates were a combined 10-40.

North Carolina (27-6) advances to meet rival Duke in the semifinals, while the 25-point loss was the worst of the season for Miami (21-11), who awaits their NCAA Tournament selection.

Tweets from throughout the game:

#5 Duke 81, #4 Louisville 77

Playing a second straight day with little depth against a rested Louisville team was no problem for Duke, who came from behind late to beat Louisville in a top-15 matchup.

After Duke held a 39-37 halftime lead, Louisville used a 24-10 run over the first 6:53 of the second half to take a 61-49 lead.  From that point, Duke held a 32-16 edge over the last 13:07, with three Luke Kennard threes and another by Jayson Tatum keying Duke’s run.

Tatum, who was 9-15 from the field, led all scorers with 25 points, before fouling out in the final minute.  Kennard had 24 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season, while Grayson Allen scored 18, breaking out of his recent slump in the second half.  Tatum, Kennard and Allen combined for 41 of Duke’s 42 second half points.

Deng Adel led Louisville with 21 points, while Quentin Snider scored 15 with five assists.  First team All-ACC selection Donovan Mitchell was held to eight points, shooting 3-14 from the field.

With his 59th career ACC Tournament win, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski passed North Carolina’s Dean Smith for the most all-time, and his Blue Devils (25-8) will meet North Carolina in the semifinals.  Louisville (24-8) will play in the NCAA Tournament after falling to 0-2 all-time in ACC Tournament play.

Tweets from throughout the game:

#2 Florida State 74, #7 Virginia Tech 68

Florida State used a physical gameplan to overmatch an undersized Virginia Tech team in the second half and earn their first semifinal appearance since 2012.

The Seminoles outrebounded the Hokies 45-31, including 18-8 on the offensive glass, and outscored them in the paint 42-20.  The Seminoles used a 16-1 run to turn a 52-52 tie with 9:17 to play into a 68-53 lead with 4:01 left, then withstood a late 10-0 Virginia Tech run to advance.

Dwayne Bacon led the Seminoles with 17 points despite struggling from the floor (4-17), hitting nine of his 10 free throws.  Jonathan Isaac scored 11 with 12 rebounds and Terance Mann netted 11 with nine rebounds.  Xavier Rathan-Mayes had nine points with six assists.

Zach LeDay, who scored a tournament-high 31 points on Wednesday, had 22 points and nine rebounds , yet appeared oversized at times on the boards against bigger Florida State players.  Seth Allen had 17 points and five assists, while Justin Robinson scored 14 with six assists.

Florida State (24-7) will meet Notre Dame in Friday’s semifinals, while Virginia Tech (22-10) will begin preparations for their their first NCAA Tournament since 2007.

Tweets from throughout the game:

#3 Notre Dame 71, #6 Virginia 58

In a surprising role reversal, the Notre Dame defense held Virginia in check while the Irish offense was efficient against Virginia’s defense, resulting in a convincing, nearly wire-to-wire win for the Irish.

Notre Dame, who had never beaten Virginia since joining the ACC in 2013 (0-5) and has typically struggled against Tony Bennett’s packline defense, shot 52 percent from the field (24-46), with an identical 12-23 mark in each half, while holding the Cavaliers to 39 percent (22-57).  The Irish were more proficient in more activity at the free throw line (Notre Dame 18-25, Virginia 7-12).

First team All-ACC honoree Bonzie Colson led all players with 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish.  Matt Farrell scored 14, while V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia each netted 12, and Vasturia added five assists.  Devon Hall and Darius Thompson led Virginia with 12, with Hall adding nine rebounds, while Ty Jerome and Marial Shayok each scored 10 and Jerome dished out six assists.  Virginia team leader London Perrantes was held to three points, while Kyle Guy was held scoreless; the pair combined to go 1-17 from the floor.

Notre Dame (24-8) advances to challenge Florida State in the semifinals, while Virginia (22-10) will await their NCAA Tournament seeding.

Tweets from throughout the game:

Semifinals Preview

#1 North Carolina (27-6, 14-4) vs. #5 Duke (25-8, 11-7)
7:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  North Carolina- 1st, Duke- 5th
AP Poll:  North Carolina- 6th, Duke- 14th
Regular Season:  Feb. 9 in Durham:  Duke 86, North Carolina 78;  Mar. 4 in Chapel Hill:  North Carolina 90, Duke 83

#2 Florida State (24-7, 12-6) vs. #3 Notre Dame (23-8, 12-6)
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Florida State- 3rd, Notre Dame- 6th
AP Poll:  Florida State- 16th, Notre Dame- 22nd
Regular Season:  Feb. 18 in Tallahassee:  Florida State 83, Notre Dame 80;  Feb. 11 in South Bend:  Notre Dame 84, Florida State 72

For commentary throughout the ACC Tournament and most major sporting events, follow me on Twitter:  @cstiles24

For what it’s worth….
My ACC Tournament Record:  8-3

First Round
Record:  2-1
Second Round Record:  3-1
Quarterfinals Record:  3-1

Tournament Tweeting: ACC Second Round Recap and Quarterfinal Preview

Second Round Recap

First, some general tweets about the tournament:

 

#9 Miami 62, #8 Syracuse 57

A game that I predicted would be a low-scoring game got there eventually, but not before both teams scored early and often in the first half before slowing down.  In a true “tale of two halves,” it was the best of games early and the worst of games late.  Miami, who led 36-28 at halftime, shot 62 percent in the first half (13-21) and 30 percent in the second (9-30), while Syracuse shot 52 percent (11-21) and 35 percent (8-23), respectively.

Brooklyn native Kamari Murphy led Miami with a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.  Davon Reed scored 14, Ja’Quan Newton scored 11 with six assists, and D.J. Vasiljevic scored 13 off the bench.  Syracuse was led by Andrew White III with 22 points and Tyus Battle with 14, and while Tyler Lydon was held to five points, he had 12 rebounds.

Syracuse led just once in the second half, at 41-40 with 12:23 to play, but got as close as two in the final minute; John Gillon missed a potential game-tying three in the closing seconds.

Miami (21-10) advances to play top-seeded North Carolina on Thursday, while Syracuse (18-14) will now settle in for a stressful Selection Sunday, with many suggesting their resume may not make the NCAA Tournament cut.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, whose teams are 0-3 in the ACC Tournament since joining the league, made headlines after the game for comments (see below) that the ACC Tournament had no value in Greensboro (where it has been held 28 times and is set to return in 2020).

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

#5 Duke 79, #12 Clemson 72

Led by a trio of 20-point scorers, Duke slowly pulled away from Clemson in the second half before withstanding a late Clemson charge to hold on for the win.  Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, and Stiles on Sports ACC Player of the Year Luke Kennard each scored 20 points for the Blue Devils, with Tatum grabbing nine rebounds and dishing four assists.  Amile Jefferson added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Grayson Allen, in 12 minutes, was held scoreless for the first time since 2015.

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson with 19 points, adding eight rebounds, while Shelton Mitchell scored 17 and Marcquise Reed netted 13.  Sidy Djitte earned a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

A back-and-forth first half led to a 33-33 tie at halftime, before Duke slowly pulled away, leading 62-49 with 8:28 to go.  A 19-7 Clemson run pulled the Tigers to a 69-68 deficit at the 2:51 mark, but Clemson’s momentum sputtered down the stretch.  Late free throws by Tatum turned a 75-72 game with 0:36 left into the final 7-point margin.

The Blue Devils outshot the Tigers 49 percent (30-61) to 39 percent (22-56), although Clemson used free throw shooting (24-26, compared to Duke’s 14-18) to stay in the game.  Duke (24-8) advances to meet Louisville in a top-15 quarterfinal matchup, while Clemson (17-15) awaits, most likely, an NIT bid.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski improved to a near-unfathomable 58-22 in the ACC Tournament, tying North Carolina legend Dean Smith for the most wins in ACC Tournament history.

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

#7 Virginia Tech 99, #10 Wake Forest 90

The Hokies used a 62-point second half to come from behind and defeat Wake Forest in the second highest-scoring regulation game in ACC Tournament history.  Zach LeDay led the Hokies with 31 points and 15 rebounds, both the most by any player so far in the tournament.  Four additional Hokies scored in double figures–Seth Allen scored 18, Justin Bibbs scored 15, Ty Outlaw scored 14 and Ahmed Hill scored 13–while Justin Robinson dished out seven assists.

Wake Forest led 44-37 at halftime after the first half ended with reserve forward Greg McClinton hitting an 80-foot buzzer-beater when after the ball deflected into his arms on Virginia Tech’s last-second play; the shot was the first made three-pointer of the junior’s career.  From that point, however, the Hokies held a 62-44 advantage, shooting 62 percent in the second half (16-26) for the third highest-scoring half in a game in ACC Tournament history.

Bryant Crawford led the Demon Deacons with 21 points and fellow point guard Brandon Childress added 15, while John Collins (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Dinos Mitoglou (12 points, 13 rebounds) each earned double-doubles.  McClinton’s miraculous shot before the half marked his only points of the game in just two minutes of action.

Virginia Tech’s win avenged an 89-84 Wake Forest win in Saturday’s regular season finale, and ended the Demon Deacons’ four-game winning streak.  The Hokies (22-9) advance to meet Florida State on Thursday, while Wake Forest (19-13) will learn their NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday–most projections have the Deacs in the field, although whether or not they will play in the “First Four” in Dayton or earn a bye to the Round of 64 is unclear.

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 
#6 Virginia 75, #14 Pittsburgh 63

Virginia’s defense was solid, as usual, but the Cavaliers played just as solid of an offensive game in their second round win over Pittsburgh.  The Cavaliers shot 50 percent from three-point range (11-22) and 52 percent from the field in the second half (11-21), and were balanced offensively with four players earning three or more assists:  Ty Jerome with four and Devon Hall, Kyle Guy and London Perrantes with three each.

Guy led the Cavaliers with 20 points, with Perrantes adding 15 and Jerome scoring 11, while Isaiah Wilkins had eight points and eight rebounds.  Pittsburgh was led by Cameron Johnson with 20, while Jamel Artis and Michael Young ended their collegiate careers with 18 and 14, respectively.

Virginia led 34-23 at halftime, and after Pittsburgh closed to a 44-43 deficit with 13:08 left, the Cavaliers held a 24-11 edge over a methodical stretch of over 10 minutes to put the game away.  While Virginia played well offensively, they held Pittsburgh to 40 percent from the field (18-45) and 34 percent from three (10-29).  Virginia’s bench scored 23 points, while Pitt’s was held scoreless.

Virginia (22-9) advances to play Notre Dame in Thursday’s quarterfinals, while the loss ended the season for Pittsburgh (16-17).

 

 

Tweets from throughout the game:

 

 

Quarterfinals Preview

#1 North Carolina (26-6, 14-4) vs. #9 Miami (21-10, 10-8)
12:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  North Carolina- 1st, Miami- 9th
AP Poll:  North Carolina- 6th, Miami- receiving votes
Regular Season:  January 28 at Miami:  Miami 77, North Carolina 62

 

#4 Louisville (24-7, 12-6) vs. #5 Duke (24-8, 11-7)
appr. 2:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Louisville- 2nd, Duke- 5th
AP Poll:  Louisville- 10th, Duke- 14th, Clemson- unranked
Regular Season:  Jan. 14 at Louisville:  Louisville 78, Duke 69

 

#2 Florida State (24-7, 12-6) vs. #7 Virginia Tech (22-9, 10-8)
7:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Florida State- 3rd, Virginia Tech- 7th
AP Poll:  Florida State- 16th, Virginia Tech- unranked
Regular Season:  Jan. 7 at Florida State:  Florida State 93, Virginia Tech 78

 

#3 Notre Dame (23-8, 12-6) vs. #6 Virginia (22-9, 11-7)
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Notre Dame- 6th, Virginia-4th
AP Poll:  Notre Dame- 22nd, Virginia- 21st
Regular Season:  Jan. 24 at Notre Dame:  Virginia 71, Notre Dame 54

 

For commentary throughout the ACC Tournament and most major sporting events, follow me on Twitter:  @cstiles24

 

For what it’s worth….

ACC Tournament Record:  5-2

First Round
Record:  2-1
Second Round Record:  3-1