Quarterfinal Friday at the ACC Tournament
Friday of Championship Week is often billed as the best day of the college basketball season, and it certainly did not disappoint in Atlanta at the ACC Tournament. Three of the four quarterfinal games were decided after the final buzzer sounded.
North Carolina 79, Virginia Tech 76
With all the carnage among college basketball’s top teams throughout various conference tournaments this week (Big East and Big 12 to be exact), North Carolina already had an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed locked up. Plus an upset at the hands of Virginia Tech would not have been a “bad” loss, as VT is a perennial bubble team. As it turned out, there was no kind of loss for the Tar Heels on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. Without ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson, North Carolina trailed almost the entire way against the Hokies. Virginia Tech, however, never could distance itself from the pre-season No. 1 team in the land and the clash ultimately came down to which senior leader could lead his team to victory: Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) or A.D. Vassallo (VT). Hansbrough, who led all scorers with 28 points, put the Heels ahead by one with less than a minute left and extended the advantage to three points with two free throws (he finished 10-for-10 from the charity stripe). Vassallo responded with 26 points, but his last-second three-point attempt found no paydirt as the buzzer sounded. For the second straight year, Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament hopes are apparently gone in the aftermath of a devastating loss to UNC. Last season, Hansbrough drained a last-second shot to send the Hokies packing from the ACC Tournament and into the NIT.
Florida State 64, Georgia Tech 62
Georgia Tech had no NCAA Tournament bubble to worry about, but with a chance to right a season gone wrong at the hometown ACC Tournament, the Yellow Jackets no doubt shared Virginia Tech’s pain on Friday afternoon. After trailing the entire game save for a brief 2-0 lead, the conference bottom-feeder took a 62-61 lead with less than 30 seconds left on a Zach Peacock baseline jumper. Nonetheless, the Jackets’ 2008-09 campaign ended in all-too-appropriate fashion. A defensive breakdown allowed Florida State’s Derwin Kitchen to drive baseline and hit what proved to be the game-winning layup (Kitchen also got fouled and knocked down the free throw for a two-point FSU advantage). Tech had time for one last effort, but point guard Iman Shumpert missed a runner as the buzzer sounded. Lewis Clinch, who scored 32 points in the Jackets’ first-round upset of Clemson, added 25 more in his final collegiate game. Seminole star guard Toney Douglas matched Clinch at the quarter-century mark. While Tech’s season ended, Florida State avoided a “bad” loss and all but guaranteed itself a top 5 seeding in the NCAA Tournament. A win over UNC on Saturday would do wonders for FSU’s good-and-getting-better resume.
Maryland 75, Wake Forest 64
Wake Forest was the only real dud on Friday, as the Deacons fell behind early against Maryland and never recovered. Wake Forest endured its worst shooting night of the entire season, hitting less than 30 percent of its field goals. Jeff Teague went 3-for-13 from the floor (0-for-5 from three) and Al-Farouq Aminu connected on just two of 12 attempts. But the worst stat of the game? The Deacons made an abysmal three of 25 three-point shots. However, the real story here–at least in terms of NCAA Tournament repercussions–was Maryland. With the victory, the Terrapins most likely went from “out” to “in” on the Big Dance bubble watch. They wrapped up the regular season at 7-9 in ACC action, but two wins this week have given the Terps a .500 record in what is generally considered the second best conference in America. Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez had 22 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists to secure a semifinal showdown against Duke. The Terrapins will at least be nervous on Selection Sunday if they can’t pull off an upset over the Devils, but Saturday’s performance should be enough even if it’s followed by a loss.
Duke 66, Boston College 65
The bad news for Boston College is that like Virginia Tech, it just barely missed out on a Tobacco Road upset. The good news, however, is that unlike Virginia Tech, Boston College did not need a win to get into the NCAA Tournament. BC stunned then-No. 1 North Carolina (AT North Carolina) early in the season and never looked back, going a solid 9-7 in ACC regular-season play. The Eagles took care of Duke at home exactly one month ago and seemed poised for another upset when Tyrese Rice hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, giving his team a 29-22 lead. Kyle Singler (career-high 26 points) and Gerald Henderson (16 points) brought Duke back in the second half and set up a tense back-and-forth final two minutes of Friday’s nightcap. A Henderson layup put the Devils up 66-65 with less than 20 seconds left. Boston College called timeout with five seconds remaining, but did not get a great look and a long Rakim Sanders’ three-point attempt bounced harmlessly off the rim. Duke could have fallen out of a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a loss, but should now be a No. 2 no matter what happens between now and Sunday’s selection show. Boston College could have moved out of an 8 vs. 9 NCAA game with a victory, but now it looks like the Eagles are headed for a brutal first-round clash.