ACC Tournament Day 1&2 Recap
Summary: The first round of the ACC Tournament produced four lower seeds as victors. Florida State pulled out a one-point victory over fellow bubble team Clemson in the opening game. Miami followed that up with an upset of red-hot Maryland, controlling the game throughout and holding on for the win. The nightcap started with an overtime win for the North Carolina State Wolfpack over a Duke squad that had appeared in eight straight conference tournament finals. The final game of the opening round was a double-overtime thriller between Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, a game the Deacons finally won after getting twenty-one points from Harvey Hale in the two overtime periods.
The quarterfinals generated some more exciting action. The first game between North Carolina, the #1 seed and tournament favorite, and Florida State saw the end of Al Thornton’s ACC career, as the Tar Heels controlled the tempo and the game. Boston College rallied to defeat the upstart Miami Hurricanes after trailing virtually the entire afternoon. NC State maintained its upset ways, defeating ACC regular season co-champion Virginia, rallying from a halftime deficit to take control behind 74% shooting in the second half. Finally, after sitting and watching for nearly two days, the Virginia Tech Hokies came out strong and defeated Wake Forest in the final game on Friday. These results produced Saturday semi-final matchups between Boston College and North Carolina, followed by NC State and Virginia Tech.
Best Game: The Wake Forest/Georgia Tech first round game was a double-overtime, nip and tuck battle. Thaddeus Young was strong for Georgia Tech, but the Deacons’ Harvey Hale was simply unconscious in the two overtime periods. Every time a seemingly knockout blow was dealt, the recipient got off the mat and counter-punched. As a whole, the first round games on Thursday did not see any team ever have a double-digit lead the entire day. Truly a day to remember for the nation’s most storied league.
Best Performer: Brandon Costner of NC State scored thirty points in the Wolfpack victory over Duke, then followed that up with twenty-two against Virginia.
Biggest Win: The win gave the Seminoles hope come Selection Sunday, while the loss took Clemson out of the NCAA discussion.
NCAA Tournament Implications: Obviously, Clemson’s loss was the biggest blow in the tournament thus far. The Tigers have fallen from 17-0 to 21-10, tumbling from the bubble watch. Florida State had a shot to really make some noise, but fell convincingly to North Carolina. The Seminoles have become Championship Week watchers, hoping that teams like Nevada and Xavier would win their league tournaments, thereby preserving at-large bids…. No such luck.
The Duke Blue Devils, Maryland Terrapins, and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets all fell in their first round games on Thursday. Each of these teams will still make the NCAA field, but possibly damaged their prospective seeds. Virginia did likewise in the quarterfinals. A deep run by Duke or Virginia could have sent one team to Winston-Salem for the first and second round games as a protected regional site team. Instead, both are looking at making an arduous trek instead of a two-hour bus ride.
Boston College, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina now each have the chance to improve its seeding in the Big Dance. NC State, staring at the NIT with a loss, is seeking to become the ultimate Cinderella in the ACC. The Wolfpack have been down this road before, making a run to the finals before losing to North Carolina in the 1997 tournament.
Tournament Notes: Ticket scalpers have suffered this year. Various media outlets have reported the resale market as down from a normal year. Scalpers have faced their worst nightmare, selling books of tickets for face value or below, instead of the normal rates tickets draw in North Carolina.
In general, the atmosphere has been fairly subdued. Duke losing on day one contributes to the lack of a “bad guy” to direct hatred. Only North Carolina remains to draw the ire of the novice attendees. Large followings from Maryland and Virginia have already been sent packing, leaving a great deal of tickets to change hands (hence the above scalper nightmare).
Finally, the Tampa weather has held up to its reputation. Tournament goers have exited the arena to blue skies, a gentle breeze, and low eighties temperatures. Other sites certainly cannot guarantee such perfect conditions (see blizzard, Charlotte, 1993).
The remaining games of the 54th annual ACC Tournament have quite the precedent set by Thursday and Friday’s games. Hopefully we’ll continue to see a high level of play and the generation of memories for years to come.