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


Tournament Tweeting: ACC First Round Recap and Second Round Preview

First Round Recap

#12 Clemson 75, #13 NC State 61

The Tigers turned a 39-28 halftime lead into a comfortable victory, as the Wolfpack never got closer than 10 in the second half.  Clemson earned their third straight win–and first in the ACC Tournament since 2014–by outscoring NC State 40-22 in the paint.  The Tigers were led by Shelton Mitchell and Jaron Blossomgame with 22 points each, while Sidy Djitte led all players with 13 rebounds.

Abdul-Malik Abu and Maverick Rowan led NC State with 14 points each, while ACC Freshman of the Year Dennis Smith Jr. was held to seven points in reportedly his final collegiate game before turning pro.  The Wolfpack, who lost their 10th game in the 11 since a Jan. 23 win at Duke, shot only 38 percent from the floor (19-for-50) in their final game under coach Mark Gottfried, whose end-of-season firing was announced on Feb. 16.


Tweets from throughout the game:


#10 Wake Forest 92, #15 Boston College 78

The Demon Deacons used a 14-1 run in the second half to turn a 53-53 tie into a 67-54 lead, on their way to a 14-point win over Boston College for their first ACC Tournament win in three years.  Wake Forest’s Bryant Crawford led all players with 20 points and six assists, while All-ACC First Team forward John Collins turned a first-half struggle into a 19-point, 12-rebound performance.  Keyshawn Woods and Austin Arians added 17 for the Deacs, with Arians nailing five three-pointers.

Jerome Robinson led the Eagles with 17 points, as they were more competitive than many expected, but picked up their 15th straight loss.  ACC All-Freshman honoree Ky Bowman left with a knee injury late in the first half with seven points and two assists in 14 minutes.

Wake Forest, who likely solidified their NCAA Tournament bid with the victory, shot 53 percent from the field (25-47) and 47 percent (9-19) from three after hitting four in a row to start the game.  The Demon Deacons (33-43) made more free throws than the Eagles (18-26) attempted, and have now beat an opponent three times in a season for the first time since 2003 (Florida State).

Tweets from throughout the game:


#14 Pittsburgh 61, #11 Georgia Tech 59

An experienced Pittsburgh team who struggled all season extended their season another day, while ending the NCAA Tournament hopes of Georgia Tech (17-15), as the Panthers survived a final-minute surge by the Yellow Jackets for the 2-point win.  Pitt’s four seniors scored 53 of their 61 points, with Michael Young leading the way with 17, while Sheldon Jeter had 14 and Jamel Artis and Chris Jones each added 11.

Second Team All-ACC selection Ben Lammers was held to six points for Georgia Tech, although he grabbed 15 rebounds.  Tadric Jackson led the Yellow Jackets with 17 points, with Quinton Stephens adding 16 with 10 rebounds and Josh Okogie scoring 15.

Both teams struggled from the floor, with Pittsburgh shooting 39 percent (21-54) overall and 26 percent (6-23) from three, and Georgia Tech shooting 35 percent (22-62) overall and 22 percent (4-18) from three.  The Panthers, who assisted 15 of their 21 field goals, can guarantee NIT eligibility (a record of .500 or better) with a win tomorrow against Virginia, and such a quality win would help the likelihood of actually getting a bid as well.


Tweets from throughout the game:


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


Second Round Preview

#8 Syracuse (18-13, 10-8) vs. #9 Miami (20-10, 10-8)
12:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Favorite:  Miami by 2
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Syracuse- 10th, Miami- 9th
AP Poll:  Syracuse- unranked, Miami- receiving votes
Regular Season:  Jan. 4 at Syracuse:  Syracuse 70, Miami 55


#5 Duke (23-8, 11-7) vs. #12 Clemson (17-14, 6-12)
appr. 2:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Favorite:  Duke by 6.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Duke- 5th, Clemson- 11th
AP Poll:  Duke- 14th, Clemson- unranked
Regular Season:  Feb. 11 at Duke:  Duke 64, Clemson 62


#7 Virginia Tech (21-9, 10-8) vs. #10 Wake Forest (19-12, 9-9)
7:00 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Favorite:  Wake Forest by 2
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia Tech- 7th, Wake Forest- 8th
AP Poll:  Virginia Tech- unranked, Wake Forest- receiving votes
Regular Season:  Mar. 4 at Virginia Tech:  Wake Forest 89, Virginia Tech 84


#6 Virginia (21-9, 11-7) vs. #14 Pittsburgh (16-16, 4-14)
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Favorite:  Virginia by 10
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia-4th, Pittsburgh- 13th
AP Poll:  Virginia- 21st, Pittsburgh- unranked
Regular Season:  Jan. 4 at Pittsburgh:  Pittsburgh 88, Virginia 76, overtime;  Mar. 4 at Virginia:  Virginia 67, Pittsburgh 42


For what it’s worth….

ACC Tournament Record/First Round Record:  2-1

Twitter Picks for College Football Week Eight

Game of the Week

#6 Texas A&M (6-0) at #1 Alabama (7-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, CBS
Favorite:  Alabama by 18
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Texas A&M- 6th, Alabama- 1st


Big Game Guarantee

#23 Ole Miss (3-3) at #25 LSU (4-2)
Saturday, 9:00 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  LSU by 6
SOS Ranking:  Ole Miss- 20th, LSU- unranked


Upset of the Week

#19 Utah (5-1) at UCLA (3-4)
Saturday, 4:00 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  UCLA by 7
SOS Ranking:  Utah- 25th, UCLA- unranked


Closer Than the Experts Think

NC State (4-2) at #7 Louisville (5-1)
Saturday, 12:00 pm ET, ABC
Favorite:  Louisville by 19
SOS Ranking:  NC State- unranked, Louisville- 7th


Not Closer Than the Experts Think

TCU (4-2) at #12 West Virginia (5-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ABC/ESPN2
Favorite:  West Virginia by 6
SOS Ranking:  TCU- unranked, West Virginia- 17th


Bad Spread Game

#17 Arkansas (5-2) at #21 Auburn (4-2)
Saturday, 6:00 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Auburn by 9.5
SOS Ranking: Arkansas- 19th, Auburn- 24th


Group of Five Game of the Week

Memphis (5-1) at #24 Navy (4-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, CBSSN
Favorite:  Memphis by 2
SOS Ranking:  Memphis- unranked, Navy- 24th


Is This Futbol?

#10 Wisconsin (4-2) at Iowa (5-2)
Saturday, 12:00 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Wisconsin by 3
SOS Ranking:  Wisconsin- 10th, Iowa- unranked


Is This Basketball?

#16 Oklahoma (4-2) at Texas Tech (3-3)
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  Oklahoma by 14
SOS Ranking:  Oklahoma- 12th, Texas Tech- unranked


Toilet Bowl

Syracuse (3-4) at Boston College (3-3)
Saturday, 12:30 pm ET, ACCN
Favorite:  Boston College by 5
SOS Ranking:  both teams are unranked


Miscellaneous:  The Former NFL Coaches Meet

Illinois (2-4) at #3 Michigan (6-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, BTN
Favorite:  Michigan by 36
SOS Ranking:  Illinois- unranked, Michigan- 4th


NFL Game of the Week

Seattle Seahawks (4-1) at Arizona Cardinals (3-3)
Sunday, 8:30 pm ET, NBC
Favorite:  Cardinals by 2


For what it’s worth…

Overall Record:  45-38
Last Week:  10-2
College Overall Record: 43-34
NFL Game of the Week: 2-4

Game of the Week:  3-4
Big Game Guarantee:  3-4
Upset of the Week:  2-5
Closer Than the Experts Think:  3-4
Not Closer Than the Experts Think:  6-1
Overhyped/Bad Spread Game:  4-3
Group of Five Game of the Week:  6-1
Is This Futbol?:  5-2
Is This Basketball?:  6-1
Toilet Bowl:  3-4
Miscellaneous:  2-5

For an explanation of the categories for Twitter Picks, click here.

Tournament Tweeting: ACC Second Round Recap and Quarterfinals Preview

Second Round Recap

#9 Pittsburgh 72, #8 Syracuse 71

In what many considered an NCAA Tournament play-in game, the Panthers were simply better, although Syracuse did come from down 66-54 with 4:22 left to tie the game with 1:58 to play before falling just short when Trevor Cooney missed at the buzzer.  Cameron Johnson led Pittsburgh off the bench with 24 points and six rebounds.  Michael Gbinije led Syracuse with 24, while DeJuan Coleman scored a double-double, with 11 points and 11 rebounds.  The Panthers are now considered to be safe in the NCAA field, and can further solidify that today against North Carolina, while Syracuse will now have to sweat out CBS’s two-hour long Selection Show.


#5 Duke 92, #12 NC State 89

This instant classic was the highest scoring regulation game in the ACC Tournament game since 1990, although it was later matched by the Virginia Tech-Florida State contest.  After the Wolfpack turned an 86-77 deficit with 5:13 to play into an 89-89 tie, Marshall Plumlee, who had broken his nose earlier in the game, put the Blue Devils on top for good with an old-fashioned three-point play with 1:14 to go.  Four Blue Devils scored in double figures, including freshmen Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard with 22 each, while Grayson Allen had 19 points and six assists, and Plumlee had 17 points and 10 boards.  Anthony “Cat” Barber led the Wolfpack, who also had four double-figure scorers, with 29.


#10 Georgia Tech 88, #7 Clemson 85, overtime

With 9:25 left, it appeared Clemson would cruise to a win, as the Tigers led Georgia Tech 65-47.  The Yellow Jackets methodically crawled back into the game, and found themselves tied at the end of regulation, before keeping their momentum in the overtime session on their way to stealing a win.  Marcus Georges-Hunt led the Yellow Jackets with 28 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while Adam Smith scored 23.  Clemson first team All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame, who eventually fouled out in overtime, led the Tigers with 22.


#6 Virginia Tech 96, #11 Florida State 85

The Hokies, playing in front of a virtual home crowd in Washington, D.C., never trailed, on their way to a convincing win over the Seminoles.  The game’s two leading scorers were both off the bench, with Seth Allen scoring 20 for the Hokies, and Devon Bookert scoring 19 for the ‘Noles, leading them in scoring off the bench for the second straight game.  Justin Robinson scored 18 for Virginia Tech, while Justin Bibbs netted 16, and Zach LeDay had 15 points and 12 rebounds.  While Florida State’s three outstanding young guards all scored in double figures (Xavier Rathan-Mayes, 13; Dwayne Bacon, 13; Malik Beasley, 10), Jarquez Smith had a double-double with 11 points and 14 boards. The Hokies extend their league-high winning streak to six games.



Quarterfinals Preview

#1 North Carolina vs. #9 Pittsburgh
12:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  North Carolina by 7.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  North Carolina- 2nd, Pittsburgh- 12th
AP Poll:  North Carolina- 7th


#4 Notre Dame vs #5 Duke
appr. 2:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  Duke by 2.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Duke- 5th, Notre Dame- 6th
AP Poll:  Duke- 19th


#2 Virginia vs #10 Georgia Tech
7:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  TBA
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia- 1st, Georgia Tech- 8th
AP Poll:  Virginia- 4th


#3 Miami vs #6 Virginia Tech
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  TBA
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Miami- 3rd, Virginia Tech- 7th
AP Poll:  Miami- 11th


For what it’s worth…
Opening Round Picks:  2-0
Second Round Picks:  3-1
Tournament Total:  5-1


Tournament Tweeting: ACC Opening Round Recap and Second Round Preview

Opening Round Recap

#12 NC State 75, #13 Wake Forest 72
The Wake Forest-NC State tournament opener was an entertaining, back-and-forth game, and came down to the closing seconds with NC State winning 75-72, led by freshman Maverick Rowan with 24 points, and first team All-ACC guard Cat Barber with 22.  For Wake Forest, Devin Thomas had a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Codi Miller-McIntyre scored 14 points while dishing five assists; the loss marks the final collegiate game for both seniors.


#11 Florida State 88, #14 Boston College 66
Boston College finished off a historically bad year for their revenue sports, completing a winless stretch in ACC conference play (0-19 including the ACC Tournament) following their 0-8 record in the ACC in football.  Florida State dominated the Eagles, despite 21 points from Boston College senior Eli Carter, with Devon Bookert leading the Seminoles off the bench with 15 points.


Second Round Preview

#8 Syracuse vs #9 Pittsburgh
12:00 pm ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  Pittsburgh by 2.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Syracuse- 10th, Pittsburgh- 12th


#5 Duke vs #12 NC State
appr. 2:30 ET, ESPN/ACC Network
Spread:  TBA
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Duke- 5th, NC State- 13th
AP Poll:  Duke- 19th


#7 Clemson vs #10 Georgia Tech
7:00 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Spread:  Clemson by 1.5
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Clemson- 11th, Georgia Tech- 8th


#6 Virginia Tech vs #11 Florida State
appr. 9:30 pm ET, ESPN2/ACC Network
Spread:  TBA
Stiles on Sports ACC Ranking:  Virginia Tech- 7th, Florida State- 9th


For What It’s Worth…
Opening Round Record: 2-0
Tournament Total: 2-0

ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Week of 2/9

After a pair of top 10 matchups among ACC teams Saturday, there’s plenty to talk about this week.  In addition to that, among the middle group of teams, the only one to have a perfect week was Pittsburgh, but they barely beat Bryant, and the only team to not have a win was NC State, but they only played one game.  That being said, here are updated power rankings.

1. Virginia (21-1 overall, 9-1 ACC, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 2nd)
Last Week:  at North Carolina (W, 75-64), Louisville (W, 52-47)
This Week:  at NC State (Wednesday), Wake Forest (Saturday)
I left Virginia on top after their loss to Duke on January 31, and they showed why with wins over top 15 opponents against North Carolina and Louisville.  Now the schedule gets a little easier, traveling to NC State before hosting Wake Forest, but they will have to do so without their leading scorer, guard Justin Anderson, who is out 4-6 weeks with a finger injury.

2. Duke (20-3, 7-3, 2nd, AP: 4th)
Last Week:  Georgia Tech (W, 72-66), Notre Dame (W, 90-60)
This Week:  at Florida State (Monday), at Syracuse (Saturday)
Duke remains second here, and in the top five nationally, after surviving a Georgia Tech upset bid before completely obliterating Notre Dame to avenge a loss to the Irish just 10 days before.  This week, the Blue Devils hit the road, playing a pair of the league’s middle-tiered teams, including the renewal of a recently born rivalry on Saturday at Syracuse.

3. Louisville (19-4, 7-3, 4th, AP: 9th)
Last Week:  at Miami (W, 63-55), at Virginia (L, 52-47)
This Week:  Pittsburgh (Wednesday), NC State (Saturday)
Louisville moves up a spot, despite a loss to Virginia, by passing Notre Dame.  That being said, the loss to Virginia did feature a stretch of over 10 minutes when Louisville did not score, but other than that the Cardinals played the Cavaliers pretty evenly.  This week, the Cardinals will be favored in  a pair of home games, playing Pittsburgh, who is somewhat hot but also mid-pack, and a struggling NC State team.

4. North Carolina (18-6, 8-3, 5th, AP: 12th)
Last Week:  Virginia (L, 75-64), at Boston College (W, 79-68)
This Week:  at Pittsburgh (Saturday)
The Tar Heels also pass Notre Dame and move up a spot, which is appropriate considering they did score 64 points against the Virginia defense (the most points scored in regulation against them in ACC play), and took care of Boston College on the road.  The Heels get a few days off before a trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday, giving the program time to grieve the death of longtime former coach Dean Smith, who led the Tar Heels to 13 ACC titles and two national championships.

5. Notre Dame (21-4, 9-3, 3rd, AP: 10th)
Last Week:  Boston College (W, 71-63), at Duke (L, 90-60)
This Week:  at Clemson (Tuesday)
After beating Boston College, the Irish went to Duke, where they were embarrassed by the Blue Devils, in a game where they couldn’t make a shot and Duke couldn’t miss.  They will try to regroup Tuesday with a trip to bubble team Clemson, who will be hungry for a win over a ranked team, so the Irish need to be careful to not let one loss turn into multiple ones.

6. Pittsburgh (16-8, 5-5, 9th)
Last Week:  Bryant (W, 72-67), Syracuse (W, 83-77)
This Week:  at Louisville (Wednesday), North Carolina (Saturday)
After barely beating Northeast Conference team Bryant on Monday, the Panthers recovered to beat Syracuse for their second biggest win of the year (behind Notre Dame).  This week, a team that has a decent win-loss record but not enough big wins to get them into the NCAA Tournament conversation will have two chances for one, playing Louisville and North Carolina, in a week that could make or break their season.

7. Miami (15-8, 5-5, 11th)
Last Week:  Louisville (L, 63-55), Clemson (W, 56-45)
This Week:  at Wake Forest (Wednesday), at Boston College (Sunday)
The U was in the midst of a three game losing streak following their loss to Louisville, and had played their way backwards from an NCAA probability to the bubble, before beating fellow bubble team Clemson on Sunday with a very strong defensive effort.  While wins over Wake Forest and Boston College in the coming weeks wouldn’t necessarily be resume builders come March, they are certainly games the Hurricanes can’t afford to lose.

8. Clemson (14-9, 6-5, 6th)
Last Week:  at Florida State (W, 62-56), at Miami (L, 56-45)
This Week:  Notre Dame (Tuesday), Virginia Tech (Saturday)
After finding revenge against Florida State, the Tigers fell on the road at Miami.  Before the Miami game, the team was listed among the “Next Four Out” (the fifth through eighth teams out of the projected NCAA field) according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, but now are not listed among the eight teams closest to the bubble.  That can change positively with a win against Notre Dame, although it could also change negatively with a loss to Virginia Tech.

9. Syracuse* (15-8, 6-4, 8th)
Last Week:  Virginia Tech (W, 72-70), at Pittsburgh (L, 83-77)
This Week:  at Boston College (Wednesday), Duke (Saturday)
In between their win over Virginia Tech and their loss to Pittsburgh, Syracuse announced a self-imposed, one-year postseason ban as a show of cooperation with the NCAA investigation against them.  The ban includes not only the NCAA/NIT (the Orange had likely been headed for the NIT this year), but the ACC Tournament, meaning this year’s field in Greensboro will only be 14 teams.  In some ways, that makes rivalry games, like the two they play this week, even bigger, as any win in a big game would be some consolation for the lack of a postseason.

10. Florida State (13-11, 5-6, 10th)
Last Week:  Clemson (L, 62-56), at Virginia Tech (W, 73-65)
This Week:  Duke (Monday), at Georgia Tech (Saturday)
The Seminoles couldn’t complete the season sweep of Clemson, but did complete it against Virginia Tech.  Tonight they come home to play Duke, and while they are not likely to go to the NCAA Tournament, barring an incredible run of games in the regular season or Greensboro, they can add a memorable win to their season if they can find a way to beat the Devils (easier said than done), before traveling to Georgia Tech.

11. NC State (14-10, 5-6, 7th)
Last Week:  at Wake Forest (L, 88-84)
This Week:  Virginia (Wednesday), at Louisville (Saturday)
The Wolfpack trailed Wake Forest 74-51 with 9:47 left in the game, only to make an incredible rally to make the game close late.  Even given the final score, the game was somewhat embarrassing for the Pack, who have now lost four out of five, with the lone win in overtime against Georgia Tech.  For now, they’ve fallen off of the bubble and have some work to do if they want to go dancing.

12. Georgia Tech (11-12, 2-9, 13th)
Last Week:  at Duke (L, 72-66), Wake Forest (W, 73-59)
This Week:  at Virginia Tech (Monday), Florida State (Saturday)
After hanging around with Duke at Cameron Indoor, Georgia Tech proceeded to demolish Wake Forest, leading much of the game by more than the final score indicates.  All of Tech’s losses except one have been close, and they are playing as well now as they have all season, so with games this week against Virginia Tech and Florida State, I’d be surprised if they didn’t win at least one.

13. Wake Forest (11-13, 3-8, 12th)
Last Week:  NC State (W, 88-84), at Georgia Tech (L, 59-73)
This Week:  Miami (Wednesday), at Virginia (Saturday)
The Deacons dominated much of the game against rival NC State, but still struggled to close, which has been a theme all year, before proceeding to be rattled on the road at Georgia Tech, falling to an 0-5 road record in the ACC.  That road record doesn’t suit well this week considering their Saturday game at Virginia, although up first is a home contest against Miami.

14. Virginia Tech (9-14, 1-9, 14th)
Last Week:  at Syracuse (L, 72-70), Florida State (L, 73-65)
This Week:  Georgia Tech (Monday), at Clemson (Saturday)
Despite their record, the Hokies are getting more and more competitive, which you often see later in the season out of young teams, as they are getting more and more comfortable playing at the college level.  After close losses to Syracuse and Florida State, the Hokies should continue to be competitive this week against Georgia Tech and Clemson.

15. Boston College (9-13, 1-9, 15th)
Last Week:  at Notre Dame (L, 71-63), North Carolina (L 79-68)
This Week:  Syracuse (Wednesday), Miami (Sunday)
While they aren’t winning, in a couple of games this week against ranked opponents, the Eagles weren’t necessarily blown out either, particularly Saturday against North Carolina, when they were tied at halftime and stayed within single digits for most of the game.  They will be a home underdog this week against Syracuse and Miami, but are playing well enough to, if the cards fall right, maybe pull a surprise.

*(ineligible for postseason, including ACC Tournament, due to self-imposed ban to comply with NCAA investigation)

Game of the Week:  #4 Duke at Syracuse (Saturday, 6:00 pm ET)
This game is on Valentine’s Day, but there is no love lost between these two programs in what is undoubtedly the best rivalry to come out of the ACC’s recent additions, particularly after two terrific games last year.  This year, the teams are somewhat mismatched, with Duke coming in fourth in the nation, and Syracuse with a handful of tough losses and no big wins, having an NIT resume if they were not forfeiting their postseason opportunity with a self-imposed ban.  That being said, the Duke-Syracuse series generally provides about as close to a postseason atmosphere as a regular season game can have, and perhaps the Orange will treat this game and one on February 28 in Durham as their postseason games for 2015 as consolation for not going anywhere after their regular season finale on March 7.  I expect Syracuse to play hard and play well, with the Carrier Dome crowd giving them a home court advantage, but in the end Duke will win a close game, continuing to solidify their place in the top tier of the ACC.
Duke 67, Syracuse 65.

ACC Tournament Quarterfinals Recap, Semifinals Preview

The third day of the ACC Tournament may have been the best day yet in the 61st edition, including a pair of upsets.  Here is a look back at the action from quarterfinal Friday.

#1 Virginia 64, #9 Florida State 51
Cavaliers senior leader Joe Harris had 20 points and Anthony Gill added 16 off the bench as top-seeded and 6th-ranked Virginia pulled away from Florida State.  With the win, the Cavaliers earned their first trip to the ACC semifinals since 1995.  The 13-point win was after the Cavaliers had beaten the Seminoles by 12 points in each of their two regular season meetings.  After leading 32-27 at the half, Virginia led by 10 by the 13:57 mark and by 15 at the 9:51 mark, and never looked back.  Okaro White led the Seminoles with 17, as their fate now rests in the hands of the NCAA Selection Committee, with ESPN projecting the Seminoles as one of the “First Four Out” of the NCAA Tournament.  Virginia will play Pittsburgh on Saturday after their first ACC Tournament win since 2010.

#5 Pittsburgh 80, #4 North Carolina 75
North Carolina nearly came back from a 20-point deficit midway through the second half to beat Pitt, but the 19 points and 21 rebounds for Talib Zanna of the Panthers proved to be too much for the 15th-ranked Heels to handle.  Zanna’s 21 boards were the third most in a single game in ACC Tournament history. Pitt guard James Robinson added a career high 19 points, as the Panthers erased any doubts whether or not they were worthy of competing in the NCAA Tournament, after a late-season slide had them on some projected bubbles.  As mentioned, the Tar Heels trailed 61-41 with 7:22 remaining, and 70-54 with 4:31 left, but made a furious rally to get to within 3 within the closing seconds, before running out of time.  20 of Marcus Paige’s 27 points were in the second half, as the Heels will now await their NCAA tournament seeding and opponent, to be announced Sunday night.  Pitt will continue in the ACC Tournament, taking on Virginia on Saturday.

#7 NC State 66, #2 Syracuse 63
NC State blew a 10-point lead in the second half before a Ralston Turner 3 with 2:28 remaining gave the Wolfpack a lead they would not relinquish.  While they kept the lead and got the win, it didn’t happen without drama, as 11th-ranked Syracuse missed six shots on their final possession, over the final 24.6 seconds, including 4 three-pointers.  ACC Player of the Year TJ Warren of the Wolfpack played all 40 minutes, scoring 28 points and 8 rebounds, while no other NC State player scored more than 10, the amount scored by center Jordan Vandenberg, who was 5-for-5 from the floor.  Tyler Ennis had 21 for Syracuse, and teammate Jerami Grant added 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Orange leading scorer CJ Fair struggled to 9 points, hitting just 3 of 16 field goal attempts.  Syracuse is now 2-5 since starting the season 25-0, and will likely be a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament after spending much of the season in the top 5, and three weeks in February at #1.  NC State may have put themselves in the conversation for an NCAA at-large bid, and will get a chance to strengthen their résumé in the semifinals Saturday against Duke.

#3 Duke 63, #6 Clemson 62
Duke’s Rodney Hood had 17 points, including a pair of free throws with 3.8 seconds left, to help lift the Blue Devils to a one-point win over Clemson in Friday’s nightcap, as ACC Freshman of the Year Jabari Parker led Duke with 18 points.  Rasheed Sulaimon added 14 points off the bench, and Amile Jefferson led the team with 13 rebounds.  The 7th-ranked Blue Devils led by 13 with 12 minutes left, before a late 15-5 Clemson run which ended with a Rod Hall runner with 7.4 seconds left gave Clemson their only second half lead.  Hall led the balanced Tigers with 13 points, as KJ McDaniels had 12, Jordan Roper had 11, and Landry Nnoko had 10.  Hall drove the length of the floor just before the buzzer, and lost the ball before he could get up a shot after being defended by Tyler Thornton.  Clemson and their fans wanted a foul call, although replays showed no foul was committed.  Duke was able to avoid their third consecutive postseason loss in the Greensboro Coliseum, and advances to play NC State in the semifinals, while Clemson will likely play in the NIT.

After an exceptional set of quarterfinals on Friday, it will be difficult for the semifinals to produce as good of a set of games.  That being said, here is a look at an intriguing set semifinal matchups, both of which match up a top 10 team against an unranked opponent.

#1 Virginia vs. #5 Pittsburgh, 1:00 p.m.
Virginia and Pittsburgh play in the first semifinal, as Virginia plays their first semifinal in 19 years, and Pitt plays their first ever as an ACC member.  This is a rematch of one of the best ACC games from the regular season, which Virginia won, 48-45, on a three at the buzzer by second team All-ACC honoree Malcolm Brogdon.  Many don’t remember the game, because it was played on Super Bowl Sunday, but the rematch will be played on a much bigger stage, in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.  Virginia is playing in their first ACC semifinal since 1995, and will attempt to reach their first championship game since 1994.  Pittsburgh is in their first ACC Tournament, but hasn’t been to any conference final or semifinal since winning the 2008 Big East Tournament.  While Virginia was able to coast on Friday, Pittsburgh was not after nearly blowing a 20-point lead against North Carolina.  While I don’t know that physical fatigue will be an issue, as the teams are at the same disadvantage of playing on less than 24 hours rest, mental fatigue might, after Pitt had to hold on in their game Friday.  If the game comes down to which team is more mentally tough, I’ll take Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers all the way.
Virginia 54, Pittsburgh 47.

#3 Duke vs. #7 NC State, appr. 3:30 p.m.
In-state rivals Duke and NC State meet in the second semifinal, as the Blue Devils, in their 43rd semifinals appearance and sixth in seven years, will try to reach the finals for the first time since winning three straight titles from 2009-11, and the Wolfpack try to advance to the championship game for the first time under coach Mark Gottfried, who has guided State to three straight semifinal appearances.  The Wolfpack are trying to reach the final for the first time since 2007, and haven’t won the ACC since Jim Valvano was coach in 1987.  These teams met once in the regular season, back on January 18 in Durham, and Duke won 95-60, scoring 33 points off 21 Wolfpack turnovers.  But these two teams, and particularly NC State, are much different now.   The Pack were 1-4 in the ACC after that loss, but have gone 10-5 since, with a current four-game winning streak including Friday’s win over Syracuse.  Duke survived Clemson, and has now won eight out of 10 since losing to Syracuse on February 1, and 13 out of 16 since losing to Clemson on January 11.  NC State needs the win to make a strong case for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid (although a win would leave them a win on Sunday away from an automatic bid), but the Duke juggernaut may be too much to handle.  This game will surely be closer than that drubbing in Cameron in January.
Duke 78, NC State 72.

For what it’s worth…
My first round record:  2-1
My second round record:  3-1
My quarterfinal record:  4-0
Tournament Total:  9-2