The ACC Tournament continued in Greensboro, with four games being played throughout the day. All four favorites survived and advanced to tomorrow, hoping to eventually bring a championship back with them.
Miami, Duke, Virginia, and Clemson all reigned victorious on Wednesday, beating their lower-seeded opponent. Miami and Duke will square off at 7 p.m., while Virginia and Clemson will follow at approximately 9:30 p.m.
Takeaway #1: “It’s about surviving and advancing.”
Jim Larrañaga said it best, as that is exactly what Miami did. The Hurricanes did not have a poor performance by any stretch, as they led the entirety of the second half, but Wake Forest did give them some trouble. Miami saw an 18-point lead slowly slip away as the Demon Deacons crawled back, yet Miami held strong and prevailed by two.
Miami was a half-court prayer away from being erased early in the ACC Tournament, but Coach Larrañaga is right: a win is a win. The Hurricanes’ best course of action is to forget this game, as they have another one tomorrow, but in the semifinals, they need to be a lot more diligent in protecting their leads.
Takeaway #2: The team to beat is…Duke.
Yup, you read that right. The lowest remaining seed is the team to beat right now, and it is not particularly close. Duke blew out Pittsburgh in their matchup, exploding for 96 points in the 27-point win. Kyle Filipowski led the way with 22, and Duke went a whopping 11-26 from beyond the arc, near unbeatable numbers.
Duke is playing at its highest level right now, and I predicted their semifinal matchup with Miami to be the best game of the tournament. However, if Duke plays the way offensively that they did tonight, I will be wrong, because it could turn into a pretty lopsided game. Duke is clicking at the perfect time, and the rest of the league will have to go through Durham if they want to hang a banner this season.
Takeaway #3: ‘Hoo needs offense when you can play defense.
Virginia did not need to fix its offensive woes to win this game, as Tony Bennett’s strategy was simple: play defense so well that the offense does not need to perform as highly. It worked. Virginia stifled UNC, making the Tar Heels either turn the ball over or take a low-percentage shot, and the Cavaliers took advantage, scoring when they could but not relying on an absurd offensive output to win.
Reece Beekman, the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, did this perfectly, racking up five steals and posting 15 points in this ACC Tournament quarterfinal. Aside from RJ Davis, who had a great game shooting-wise, scoring 24, UNC shot 11-for-39 from the field and turned the ball over 11 times, which might not seem like a lot, but Virginia scored 14 off turnovers versus UNC’s 2.
Takeaway #4: The silent assassins.
Miami, Duke, and Virginia are the clear best in the league, right? Clemson would like a word. The Tigers made a statement today, holding the offensive firepower of NC State to just 54 in the 26-point win. Clemson must have seen the national media talking about them missing the tournament, and they certainly are playing like they have something to prove.
No one talks about how good Clemson really is. Sure, NC State shot poorly, but Clemson capitalized and did not even leave it up to chance. The better team today won, and Clemson showed that they belong at the top of the league conversation. Oh, and Hunter Tyson and Chase Hunter combined for just 21 on 7-of-19 shooting. Those two will likely play up to their standards tomorrow, and Virginia should not overlook them.
The ACC Tournament semifinals will be on ESPN, starting at 7:30 EST.