ACC Champs Coverage: Day 3

Virginia may have crashed unceremoniously out of the ACC Tournament Friday, but we still have a media pass and a computer throughout the weekend. Join us for analysis and insight during the semifinal and final rounds at the Greensboro Coliseum.

6:06 PM: It took a while, but the ACC Tournament finally got its signature game.

Fueled by a wild,partisan North Carolina crowd,the Tar Heels managed to run out
the clock and preserve a 79-76 victory after Logan Aronhalt’s game-tying 3-pointer missed the rim. Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock spearheaded a balance North Carolina attack with 15 apiece, while Marcus Paige scored five monumental points in the final minutes to overcome a sluggish start. Alex Len scored 20 points and seven rebounds to lead the Terrapins.

Give both teams credit: after two-and-a-half days of intriguing but lopsided basketball, North Carolina and Maryland provided us with the kind of frenetic, emotionally-charged drama that glues c basketball fans to their seats during March. And on a sobering weekend that has likely shaken the Virginia community’s fervor for this often-maddening sport, I, for one, appreciated the opportunity to enjoy a quintessentially kooky college basketball game.

The loss probably drops Maryland from NCAA Tournament consideration, or at least to a relatively level plane with Virginia. Meanwhile, an Ole Miss win against Vanderbilt in the SEC semifinals likely catapulted the Rebels and fun-to-hate rabble-rouser Marshall Henderson to an NCAA bid. But with an Alabama loss and RPi=I-boosting win, Virginia remains this afternoon roughly where it began this morning: in limbo and probably on the outside looking in.

That’ll do it for Saturday’s coverage, but check with us tomorrow for what sets up as an offensive fireworks display between Miami and North Carolina in the final Sunday. As always, follow us on @CavDailySports, as well.

4:42 PM: At halftime of the penultimate game of the ACC Tournament, Virginia’s bleak tournament hopes sudddenly look a shade brighter.

After Wisconsin dispacted No. 3 Miami in the B1G—no, I don’t know how to pronounce that, either—Tournament, thereby elevating Virginia’s RPI and Strength of Schedule, North Carolina hit a bevy of outside jumpers and ran all over the place to build a 37-32 halftime lead. A Maryland victory all but boots the Cavaliers from at-large contention; a loss keeps Virginia on the fringe of the conversation.

Dexter Strickland leads all scorers with 11 points, pacing a Tar Heel team that seems to hit a ton of shots even when it shoots at a measly 42.9 percent rate. Maryland’s Dez Wells has only 4 points on 2-of-5 shooting after lighting up the scoreboard for 51 points in his first two tournament outings.

Check back here for the final post of Semifinal Saturday after the game.

3:44 PM: He’s no Mike Scott, but Miami’s Durand Scott sure stole the show Saturday.
With a career-high 32 points, the Hurricanes’ best defensive stopper propelled his team to an 81-71 victory against N.C. State and a berth in the ACC Championship final tomorrow afternoon. In conjunction with losses from other top-ten teams such as Duke, Michigan and Georgetown, the victory thrusts Miami back into the conversation for a top-two seed next weekend. Shane Larkin chipped in with 23 points and 7 rebounds.

Scott Wood posted another gem with 21 points for N.C. State, who were annihilated 37-27 in the rebounding department after outrebounding its first two opponents in the ACC Tournament by double-digits. After pounding the Hokies and Cavaliers, Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie played tentatively and sloppily for the Wolfpack, with Leslie grabbing only two rebounds and both committing three turnovers against a monstrous Miami frontcourt. The Wolfpack lost despite shooting 57.1 percent in the second half.

In a few minutes, Maryland and North Carolina will play for the right to meet Miami, which will showcase the biggest ACC Tournament controversy no one is talking about. With about five minutes to play in the Tar Heels blowout victory against Florida State last night, coach Roy Williams decided to reinsert starting winger P.J. Hairston—you know, because you really need your starters on the court with a 20-point lead late in the game and the prospect of two more games in the next two days. After that inane coaching decision, Hairston lacerated his left hand and required several stitches. He will play but his level of effectiveness remains unclear.

More to come at half.

2:20 PM: In the pregame buildup to each of Miami’s ACC Tournament games, much of the chatter surrounded Durand Scott’s defensive assignments against scorching shooters such as Olivier Hanlan and Scott Wood.

So far, Scott has decided to handle the hot shooting himself.

The conference Defensive Player of the Year has flashed his offensive prowess with a game-high 19 points on a variety of long 3-point bombs and slices through a swiss cheese N.C. State defense. Thanks to his 7-of-11 masterpiece, Miami leads N.C. State 41-29 at halftime and has resembled the squad that pasted Duke and North Carolina earlier this year.

The advantage would have been even larger had N.C. State not engineered a frenzied last-minute rally to pull within 12. With his team trailing 39-20, Wood took a break from haunting Virginia fans’ nightmares and hit two straight 3-pointers—including one with a foul—to hit a lighnting quick 7 points. N.C. State would have pulled even closer had it been able to convert free throws at a more efficient rate than the 50 percent mark that would make Dwight Howard blush.

More to come after the game.

12:48 PM: While Cavalier fans endure the emotional hangover from a men’s basketball performance Friday that rivals Carl Lewis’s singing in ineptitude, the show continues at the Greensboro Coliseum. Top-seeded Miami and N.C. State square off in the afternoon’s first matchup.

The overwhelming urge is to wager on the Wolfpack pulling the upset here, considering the ease with which N.C. State decimated Virginia and the Hurricanes’ sputtering offensive effort against Boston College yesterday. Besides, Miami needed a Reggie Johnson tip-in with less than a second remaining to survive a Lorenzo Brown-less Wolfpack during the regular season; and as Virginia fans learned to their woe yesterday, Brown alters the equation.

Still, I would caution against counting the Hurricanes out just yet. For one thing, N.C. State won’t be able to own the boards as it has against smaller Virginia Tech and Virginia teams against the gargantuan Kenny Kadji-Johnson duo. Also, unless he morphed into Ray Allen yesterday, Scott Wood will not replicate his unconscious 7-of-12 3-point shooting for the second straight game.

The X-factor? Shane Larkin against Brown in a matchup of by far the conference’s best point guards. Expect Larkin and Miami to gain the slight edge in a razorthin victory.

More to come at halftime.

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