Well, it happened. Virginia won in the ACC Quarterfinals and will finally, after 19 years, play on Saturday. The number one seeded Cavaliers will face Pitt, the five seed in the tournament at 1pm at the Greensboro Coliseum.
To get there, Virginia handed the Florida State Seminoles a third loss in as many games this season in a 64-51 game. Joe Harris (#swoon) was back to his normal Joey Buckets Hoops Swoon self as he dropped 20 points, going 7-12 from the field and 3-6 from three point land. He was also a perfect 3-3 from the charity stripe and added two assists, two rebounds, and two steals.
Anthony Gill had another big day, contributing 16 points, including some monster dunks and going 4-4 from the free throw line. The Gill-a-Monster now has put up at least 15 points in three of the last five games for Virginia, and is coming on hot at exactly the right time.
Darion Atkins provided a huge spark and six points off the bench, highlighted by this slam:
Pittsburgh jumped all over North Carolina (ranked 15th nationally) straight out of the gate in the second game of the first session, taking a 10 point lead into halftime. Jamie Dixon's Panthers continued the barrage and extended their lead to 20 points with 7:22 remaining in the contest, but (predictably) the Tar Heels would not go down without a fight.
Carolina got to within three with 12 seconds left, but James Robinson hit a couple free throws to extend their lead and that was all she wrote.
Projected Pittsburgh Starting Lineup:
G- Cameron Wright (Jr., 6-4, 205)
G- James Robinson (So., 6-3, 200)
C- Talib Zanna (Sr., 6-9, 230)
F- Michael Young (Fr., 6-8, 245)
F- Lamar Patterson (Sr., 6-5, 225)
Storylines to Watch:
Panthers seek revenge- Pretty good guess that no one from Pittsburgh has forgotten the Malcolm Brogdon
shot dagger that gave Virginia the three point victory at the Petersen Events Center back in February. In case you have forgotten, check it out:
I still do not know if my favorite part is 1) Jay Williams saying "...you gotta hurry up..." as London goes all #CaliSwag bringing it down court, 2) knowing Malcolm has no idea how to celebrate after hitting the shot, or 3) Malcolm high stepping it back to mid-court.
Brogdon finished with 16 points to lead the Cavaliers, while Harris and Akil Mitchell had 11 and 10, respectively. Virginia shot 40.4% from the field, but just 50% from the free throw line (woof.).
Jamel Artis led the Panthers with 11, while Patterson chipped in 10 in a meeting that many (including myself) have classified more rock-fight than basketball game.
Virginia had 33 rebounds to Pitt's 32. Pitt turned it over eight times, Virginia nine. The Hoos had six blocks and two steals. The Panthers two blocks and four steals. Seventeen times the score was tied, seven lead changes.
For Saturday's game, one has to believe the Hoos have an advantage. Virginia cruised in the second half to a double digit win over a physical Florida State team. Pittsburgh, however, will be playing in their third game in as many days and come into the weekend after closing out a physically and mentally draining win over the Heels.
On top of that, Virginia will not have to battle against the ocean of baby blue that resided in the Coliseum today, and the impressive fan base for the Hoos is expected to grow as many will likely make the trip down 29 to cheer on the good guys.
Post-season seeding implications- Both Pitt and Virginia are still trying to finagle their way to a higher seed when the field of 68 is announced on Sunday night.
Friday's Bracketology from ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Pittsburgh as a 10 seed in the West, while the Hoos hold the three spot in the East. Pitt's demolition of Wake on Thursday and dismissal of Carolina could help them jump one or maybe two spots.
Virginia at this point is guaranteed at least a three seed, have a legitimate claim on a two seed, and even have a REMOTE shot at a one seed if they get a lot of help. For Tony Bennett and the Hoos, however, the goal is still to just go one game at a time and extend their season to the fullest.
Virginia finds themselves in a good spot for this one. They have played some solid ball (minus the Maryland game), and even when they have seemed sluggish to start, they have found their identity and worn teams down until they succumb to the Wahoo's will. Check out this article by John Feinstein from the Washington Post that pretty accurately describes Virginia's war of attrition style.
"Virginia isn't a team that comes out of the locker room breathing fire. The Cavaliers are the little kid who keeps tugging on your leg asking for a cookie until you finally give in to exhaustion and give him the cookie."
Just give us all your cookies.
Pitt will have to face Virginia's nation leading defense after two straight games, and I think it will just prove to be too much and the Hoos walk away with a 63-52 win.
Not content with just Saturday, let's go to Sunday! If you are within driving range, it is a buyer's market here in NC. Come out and support the guys!
LET'S GO HOOS!