ACC Basketball

Virginia Double Dips ACC Titles

USATSI

One team knows how to finish…the other doesn’t. That’s been the story for both Virginia and Duke this year.

Let’s go back to the 8:12 point in the second half. Duke holds a 47-46 lead. This is where you separate the men from the boys.

The Cavaliers, who have finished games like men since the start of ACC play, would suddenly become unstoppable and would score (at least one free throw) on 18 of their final 21 trips down the floor. That’s stunning. If they missed a shot, no problem, they got an offensive rebound (five in the final nine minutes). The Blue Devils could do nothing late on the defensive end, except foul. The Cavaliers would end up shooting 38 free throws (eight of which were when Duke was fouling on purpose at the end) to Duke’s 11. The Cavaliers just kept attacking and Duke kept hacking.

Virginia of course began the game that way, opening up a 16-7 lead, riding a wave of energy. However, the Blue Devils slowly chipped into that lead and started hitting the deep ball after Pen-Gate. Yet, despite the fact Virginia went eight minutes without a basket, they never surrendered the lead.

In the second half, Jabari Parker went King James on Virginia and was unstoppable, hitting 6-8 shots. Yet, while it seemed like Duke was on the verge of taking over, the Cavaliers never let the Blue Devils pull ahead by more than 1-2 points and that’s when they took over down the stretch.

Malcolm Brogdon led all scorers, scoring 23 points and was a stud getting to the line (shooting 10 free throws). However, Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell were the key to victory. Harris scored 15 points and did a fantastic job holding Duke’s Rodney Hood to 4-12 shooting (his worst game in a Duke uniform). Mitchell, who was on Parker all game, got a couple of beautiful blocks and forced Parker to shoot a lot of fade-away jumpers from deep. He also grabbed 15 rebounds for the game.

Duke’s Parker did finish with 23 points, but he needed 24 shots to do it, while Sulaimon struggled to find a groove, often driving out of control in the paint. He finished the game with just two points. Still, the biggest issue I’ve seen with Duke lately is their inability to get to the line, almost avoiding contact inside. In fact, Duke got into the bonus with 10 minutes left in the second half, yet they only got to the free throw line four times from that point on. Virginia was also in the bonus and they got to the free throw line 20 times from that point on.

Anyhow, congratulations to Virginia, earning both the regular season and tournament championships. Props go to Tony Bennett who turned Virginia into a champion with his first recruiting class there with him (at least two of the six recruits from that year).

Did they do enough to earn the 1-seed? Depends. If Michigan wins the Big-Ten tournament over Michigan State, then I think the Wolverines will get it. Even if they lose, I’m still not sure Virginia will get the top seed in the east. The fact is, as impressive as they’ve been in conference, they have zero quality wins from their non-conference schedule. I’d probably put them behind Iowa State.

As for Duke, this team is going to have to catch some breaks if they are going to be a national title team. They have talent, but I have not seen anything that screams championship. In fact, take away the home conference wins against Virginia, North Carolina and Syracuse, they haven’t won a game this year that I would deem a toss-up; maybe UCLA (although Duke was like 10-point favorites in that one played in Cameron North).

2 Comments

  1. Jerry Condrey

    March 16, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    They did beat Michigan. Does that count? Get your facts straight.

  2. Robert

    March 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Duke faced a struggling Michigan team at home. That was a game Duke was suppose to win. Traditionally the Blue Devils have 1-2 signature road/neutral wins. This team doesn’t have that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>