ACC Weekend Review: 03.06.17 EditionPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 6th, 2017
The ACC regular season wrapped up on Saturday and things went mostly according to plan with home favorites winning six of the seven contests. The lone road underdog to triumph was Wake Forest boosting its NCAA Tournament hopes with a nice comeback win at Virginia Tech. In one of the season’s most exciting games, North Carolina earned revenge for an earlier loss at Duke defeating the Blue Devils on Saturday night in the Smith Center. In other important action, Louisville and Florida State clinched double-byes in the upcoming ACC Tournament by beating Notre Dame and Miami, respectively. Syracuse also routed Georgia Tech in the Carrier Dome in what was effectively an NCAA Tournament elimination game. Here are the highlights of the weekend around the ACC.
- Best Win I: Even though North Carolina had already clinched the ACC regular season title, the Tar Heels still had much at stake in its annual season-ending meeting with Duke. In using a late-game spurt to beat the Blue Devils, Roy Williams’ club avenged an earlier loss and moved considerably closer to clinching a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The game was a riveting back-and-forth affair with great individual performances on both sides. Luke Kennard made his case for ACC Player of the Year by leading the Blue Devils with 28 points, but his efforts were not enough to overcome outstanding performances from North Carolina’s Joel Berry (28 points including 5-of-5 on threes) and Isaiah Hicks (21 points, nine rebounds). Another difference this time came in the form of North Carolina’s improved perimeter defense. Duke punished the Tar Heels from beyond the arc with 13 three-pointers several weeks ago; on Saturday, the Blue Devils managed only 7-of-19 from deep.
- Best Win II: Wake Forest got exactly what it needed from the last week of the regular season: a signature win against Louisville followed by a strong road win at Virginia Tech. The Demon Deacons showed some newfound toughness in Blacksburg in trailing by double-figures in each half and losing star forward John Collins (13 points) to foul trouble for much of the game. Bryant Crawford led the way for Danny Manning’s club with 26 points and five assists, moving Wake Forest to 9-9 in ACC play and putting the Deacons in great position for an invitation to the Big Dance.
- Most Outstanding Player: Syracuse’s Andrew White put together a career outing in his last home game in the Carrier Dome, scoring 40 points in the Orange’s easy rout of Georgia Tech. White was on fire from deep, making eight of his nine three-point attempts and leaving the senior guard as the ACC’s second-leading scorer in conference games with an average of 20.1 PPG. Another remarkable statistic for the graduate transfer involves his durability — in Syracuse’s 18 ACC games this season, he played all but two minutes.
- Unsung Heroes: Another senior celebrated his last home game in style as Louisville center Mangok Mathiang scored a career-best 18 points and snared 11 boards in the Cardinals’ home victory over Notre Dame. We also salute fellow senior Austin Arians for the unexpected boost he gave Wake Forest in its big road win. With John Collins struggling with foul trouble, Arians stepped up by nailing three first half three-pointers to keep the Deacons afloat. The graduate transfer finished the game with 15 points, tying his season-high.
- Most Efficient Offense/Least Efficient Defense: Wake Forest scored 1.27 points per possession against Virginia Tech with great shooting and frequent trips to the charity stripe. The Deacs converted 59.4 percent of their twos, 42.1 percent of their threes, and made 27-of-33 attempts from the foul line.
- Most Efficient Defense/Least Efficient Offense: Bad news for the rest of the ACC heading into the ACC Tournament: Virginia has found its defensive mojo. The Cavaliers held Pittsburgh to a measly 0.72 points per possession and 33.3 percent field goal shooting, while forcing 14 Panthers’ turnovers. Tony Bennett’s club has now held its last four opponents under 0.91 PPP.
- Up Next – 2017 ACC Tournament (Brooklyn, NY): Here’s the bracket.