Virginia fans don't know what to do with themselves. First, they make it to Saturday in the ACC Tournament. Then, they win on Saturday. Now, Virginia has a chance to capture the ACC Championship to complement finishing atop the regular season standings.
It didn't come easily, however. After taking a 26-24 lead into halftime against the fifth seeded Panthers, the Cavaliers appeared to be creating some space when they jumped ahead of Pitt by eight in the second half. The rock-fight wasn't over though, and a contested layup by James Robinson with 11 seconds left cut Virginia's lead to 49-48.
Anthony Gill, who had another phenomenal game for the Wahoos, was immediately fouled on the inbounds play, and AG sank both to give Virginia a three point lead.
Rather than foul when up three, Coach Bennett relied on his number one ranked defense, and it paid dividends. After expending their two fouls to give (not a lot of whistles in this one, folks), Justin Anderson tipped Robinson's three point attempt and Gill grabbed the rebound.
Duke had a little easier route in their game, using a second half run to defeat NC State 75-67. The Blue Devils shot a stifling 68.4% from the field in the second stanza, and Jabari Parker finished with 20 points on 8-15 shooting. Quinn Cook (14 points), Rodney Hood (14 points), and Rasheed Sulaimon (16 points) all finished in double digits for Duke.
Projected Duke Starting Lineup:
G- Tyler Thornton (Sr., 6-2, 190)
G- Rasheed Sulaimon (So., 6-4, 190)
F- Jabari Parker (Fr., 6-8, 235)
F- Rodney Hood (RSo., 6-8, 215)
F- Amile Jefferson (So., 6-9, 210)
Storylines to Watch:
Hoos seek revenge- I still can't get over The Shot That Haunts My Dreams (TSTHMD).
How did that go in.
Sulaimon ran amok on the Hoos in that game, scoring 21 points on 4-5 shooting beyond the arc. Amile Jefferson grabbed 15 rebounds, including the crucial one that gave Duke TSTHMD.
Well, that was back in January, and the Cavaliers have won 15 of their last 16 games since falling just short at Cameron Indoor Stadium. While you will not hear Coach Bennett or the players talk up any sort of revenge aspect to this game (two feet on the step), it is in the back of the minds of most Virginia fans.
Coach Krzyzewski praised Virginia and Coach Bennett in the post game press conference following their ACC Semifinal win over State, and appreciates the balance Virginia brings to the table.
"As far as Tony [Bennett], Tony's done a sensational job. What he's done...has built a program. It's not just a Virginia team. It's a Virginia program. It's based on solid play and solid character. Those kids on that team have great character, and it's obvious that they don't care who scores as long as Virginia scores."
Duke is the only ACC team that Virginia has not defeated this season, and nothing says statement win like taking the ACC Championship from them. On top of that, defeating a strong Blue Devil team will (hopefully)
eliminate reduce the 'unbalanced schedule' nonsense that has followed Virginia around the latter stages of this season.
Possible NCAA one seed still available- While a stretch, Virginia still has a shot at the last one seed. With Villanova and Kansas losing, that final spot is still available and apparently nobody wants it.
The Hoos currently sit at the three seed in East (which really, would be pretty good) in Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology, but the 'experts' are saying that final spot will go to the winner of a major conference tournament, whether that be the Big Ten or ACC.
If Michigan wins the Big Ten over Michigan State, the Wolverines will likely take that spot. If Michigan State wins, the winner of tomorrow's final will have huge implications.
All in all, really, it does not matter a whole lot to the Hoos what seed they get as they are (pretty much) sharpied into Raleigh next weekend. This team is just excited to get in to the field, and I can guarantee you Coach Bennett will only let them focus on the step in front of them.
I'm going to wuss out and say too close to call. Both teams are playing their third game in as many days against tough teams. Both have outstanding coaches and depth to their play.
With my orange tinted glasses on, I say that Virginia ekes out a close one as Joe Harris hits from outside and Malcolm shakes whatever has been dogging him the last two days.
Wahoo fans, you can't really ask for anything more...it has been quite a ride in 2013-2014, and the beauty is that it isn't over yet.
If you aren't planning on coming to the game, here's a message from Evan Nolte:
Every UVA fan within a 150 mike radius better be at the Greensboro Coliseum tomorrow at 1pm #HOOS— Evan Nolte (@EvanNolte) March 15, 2014
LET'S GO HOOS!