Day 1 at the ACC Tournament
In case you’re wondering, there was basketball played outside of Madison Square Garden (site of the Big East Tournament) on Championship Week Thursday. You might not have known it while being engulfed by Syracuse’s 127-117 six-overtime win over UConn, not to mention Villanova’s buzzer-beating victory over Marquette and West Virginia’s emphatic upset over Pittsburgh, but there was.
Four ACC Tournament games took place inside Atlanta’s Georgia Dome with plenty of NCAA Tournament implications.
Virginia Tech 65, Miami 47
Miami sealed its post-season fate with a lifeless loss to the Hokies on Thursday afternoon. Once solidly in the NCAA Tournament field, the Hurricanes’ downward slide late in the ACC season was highlighted by a double-digit setback at the hands of conference bottom-feederer Georgia Tech. It culminated in the first round of the ACC Tournament, where Jack McClinton and the ‘Canes were no match for the Hokies. Miami did not have a single player in double-digits and McClinton was 4-for-11 from the field, including 1-for-6 from three-point range. The Hurricanes made a brief run to get within 43-37 early in the second half, but Virginia Tech responded with a 14-0 run to all but win the game. Malcolm Delaney finished with 17 points for the Hokies thanks to hitting 14 of 15 from the charity stripe. While Miami is headed to the NIT, the Hokies (and this seems to be the case evey year) have a lot of work to do in the ACC Tournament. They at least have to shock North Carolina on Friday in order to have a chance at a Big Dance at-large berth. The Hokies were in the same situation against UNC in last year’s ACC semis. The result? Tyler Hansbrough’s well-document victory dance and an NIT berth for Virginia Tech.
Georgia Tech 86, Clemson 81
Speaking of downward slides, Clemson completed its pre-NCAA Tournament collapse with a surprising loss to Georgia Tech in the second game of Thursday’s afternoon session. Lewis Clinch (32 points) came out on fire and kept the Yellow Jackets ahead almost the entire way, but the ACC’s last-place team struggled to close out the proceedings. Clemson hung around until the final seconds, but just could not get anything going on a consistent basis. Guards K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby combined to shoot 8-for-25 from the floor for the Tigers. Unlike Miami, Clemson will not see it’s current meltdown cost it an NCAA Tournament bid. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Tigers have blown their chance at, say, a No. 4 seed or even a No. 3 seed if they had enjoyed a nice ACC Tournament run. Now Clemson will face a dangerous first-round game in the tournament. Georgia Tech (2-14 in the ACC regular season and well under .500 overall), of course, needs to win the ACC Tournament to garner any kind of post-season berth. Are the Yellow Jackets this year’s Georgia (2008 SEC Tournament champs)? It would take a miracle, but–if nothing else–they actually looked pretty good on Thursday.
Maryland 74, N.C. State 69
Maryland ensured that it would need a great ACC Tournament by losing at lowly Virginia to end its regular season. The Terrapins began that effort successfully on Thursday night with a five-point win over N.C. State. It was all tied up late in the second half before the Wolfpack’s outside shooting went in the tank and Maryland pulled away. Greivis Vasquez–of North Carolina upset fame–had a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists. Terrapin teammate Eric Hayes was the beneficiary of most of those assists, pouring in 21 points on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Dave Neal added 10 points for Maryland, while Julius Mays came off the bench to keep N.C. State competitive by scoring 18. Like Virginia Tech, Maryland’s work is far from over. The Terrapins must upset Wake Forest in Friday’s quarterfinals to put themselves back on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Parlaying a win over Wake with a semifinal victory over (most likely) Duke is really what Gary Williams and company need.
Boston College 76, Virginia 63
Like the Georgia Tech-Clemson game, there wasn’t a TON at stake in this one. Virginia is out of the NCAA Tournament picture (to say the least) and Boston College is definitely in. Unlike the Georgia Tech-Clemson game, this one was not particularly exciting. The Golden Eagles seized a commanding double-digit lead almost immediately and it never got too close. Rakim Sanders dominated the Cavaliers to the tune of 25 points. In fact, Boston College team leader Tyrese Rice had just one field goal and the Eagles still had no trouble whatsoever in dispatching Virginia. This victory won’t do anything for Boston College’s NCAA Tournament seed, but a quarterfinal clash with Duke looms. An upset there could get the Eagles out of a dreaded 8 vs. 9 game.