ACC Basketball

ACC Tournament, Finals: Virginia vs. Duke

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

I know the Virginia Cavaliers are trying desperately to play the disrespect card. I get it, it has worked for many teams in all kinds of sports. The reality is, they don’t get the love from ESPN experts and analyst like Duke, North Carolina or even Syracuse. However, lets face a little reality, one good ACC run doesn’t mean you should be expecting people to fall over themselves to be by your side. It would be like Taco demanding front row seats at the ’82 Grammy’s after releasing Puttin on the Ritz.

It takes years of success to earn that respect. You know, the kind of success the Duke Blue Devils have achieved over the years. Duke has brought home 20 ACC Tournament titles, while Virginia hasn’t done it since 1976, the year Rocky came out. Have freshmen in college even seen Rocky?

Still, all that history means absolutely nothing in this game. In fact, every player on Virginia has something that only one current Duke player has…a regular season ACC title. The last time the Blue Devils did that was five years ago, Andre Dawkins’ rookie year.

The reason why the Cavaliers won the regular season title is because they’re pretty damn good. Yes, they struggled to find some quality wins early, losing to VCU, Wisconsin, Green Bay and Tennessee. That last one was a 35-point ass-spanking that may have made it hard for their critics to overlook. It also didn’t help that they got to play a weak ACC schedule (which was no fault of their own). They faced Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Clemson each only once. But they took care of business against those folks, going 4-1 against those squads, losing only to Duke in Cameron.

On the flip side, Duke has played one of the toughest schedules in basketball. They played nine games against the current top-25, going 5-4. They’re 9-5 against KenPom’s top-50. However, Duke’s resume killer are two loses outside the top-100, one earlier in the season against Notre Dame and then more recently against Wake Forest. At times this in games they have looked like a national contender, but this also a young team that lacks that killer instinct and has struggled to close games out. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen a Duke team blow so many double-digit leads. Yet, here they are back in contention for a 1-seed.

PREVIOUS MEETING: Duke beat Virginia, 69-65
At the time, the Blue Devils were struggling. They had dropped two of three against inferior foes and had fallen to #23 in the polls. Virginia had won three straight, but the stigma of that Tennessee loss was still hanging over their heads. The game would be a classic Duke game. The Blue maintained a small lead for most of the game, but with just 3:44 left in the game, they had opened it up to 63-52. Ball game, right? Wrong. The Cavaliers went on a 13-1 run, stunning the Cameron Crazies. However, with 19 seconds left, Amile Jefferson rebounded a Rodney Hood miss and kicked it out to Rasheed Sulaimon, who nailed a game winning three.

While I’m not one to believe in moral victories, even Virginia players had to admit they had to feel a little good about that loss.

This game is a tough one to figure out. You have the second most efficient offense (Duke) going up against the third most efficient defense (Virginia). The key when Duke plays offense will be Jabari Parker. I know what you’re thinking, no kidding. Parker is the key in every Duke game.

In their first meeting, Parker was held to 3-11 from the field, scoring just eight points. Those kind of stat lines are normal when you’re stuck facing Tony Bennett’s defense. It’s a defense that always double teams the post. Always. To make Virginia pay, you have to pass out of it, find that open guy, but that’s tough because the Cav’s rotate so well.

When they doubled Parker in that first game, he struggled because he tried to power through it at first, but then eventually just floated out to the three-point line where he missed a bunch of bombs. In this game, Parker needs to react quickly. Any delay and Virginia has won the battle.

As for the Cavaliers, they are going to need to penetrate like a virgin at the Bunny Ranch. The Blue Devils will put a lot of pressure at the three-point line and not let players like Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes have open looks. However, the Duke guards can be beaten inside and once inside, the Cavaliers don’t have to worry about any shot blockers. If they can penetrate inside, they’ll find open looks on kick outs or Akil Mitchell hanging out at the baseline.

You know what’s scary about this team? Four of their five best players (according to KenPom’s ratings) are sophomores. Yet, I expect seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell to be the difference makers using an impressive two-man game.


  1. Jerry Condrey

    March 16, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Virginia can’t take Jamie Lucky and company with them to the NCAA tourney. Anybody that knows basketball saw highway robbery at the Coliseum today. Virginia won, congrats. But are you happy about winning like that? I hope they don’t get a number one seed, because they do not deserve one. 38 free throws to 11. Nice job, refs, nice job…

  2. Anonymous

    March 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Said that right about Jamie Lucky. He don’t need to be a Referee! No hard feelings!See you next round if you’re lucky Cavaliers! Long time, no win because the ref’s gave it to you!

    • Jerry Condrey

      March 16, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Virginia gets a #1 seed. Louisville is a #4??? What??? Louisville would mop the floor with them……

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