Rushed Reactions: Virginia 71, North Carolina 63

Posted by Matt Auerbach on March 10th, 2018

RTC’s Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24) is providing on-site coverage of the ACC Tournament this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Virginia Won Its Third ACC Championship in Five Years Tonight (USA Today Images)

  1. Crown them. Despite being picked a middling sixth in the ACC preseason poll, Virginia pulled off the season sweep by comfortably cruising to the regular season title and backing it up with an impressive three-day run to capture the school’s third ACC Tournament crown. Detractors may still remain given the Cavaliers’ methodical style of play, but given the sheer dominance in which Virginia has owned a league filled with Hall of Fame coaches and NBA Draft choices, omitting Tony Bennett‘s group from your short list of national title contenders in San Antonio would be complete folly.
  2. Luke Maye and Kenny Williams kept the Tar Heels afloat. After Cameron Johnson and Joel Berry II opened the scoring column for North Carolina, nary a Heel other than Luke Maye or Kenny Williams made a field goal from the 18:07 mark in the first half until the 17:41 mark of the second half. Without the duo’s combined 23 of the team’s 30 points in the first, Virginia could have very easily run North Carolina right out of the building instead of only leading by four at the intermission.
  3. Kyle Guy is an unabashed shot taker and maker. Guy, Virginia’s leading scorer and most frequent shooter by a wide margin (117 more attempts than Ty Jerome coming into tonight) seized control on many of the important possessions in the second half. When the Virginia lead had been whittled down to just a bucket with 10 minutes left to play, Guy responded with a jumper to stretch the lead to four. And with North Carolina still within three points at the eight-minute mark, Guy knocked down a pull-up, and scored on a set play off a double screen on the following possession to push the spread to seven. While Virginia is a team in every sense of the word, Guy is the player who has the stones to hunt and convert critical buckets when such things are necessary.

Star of the Game: Kyle Guy, Virginia. Despite another evening of exceptional floor games from Ty Jerome (12 points, six assists, six rebounds) and Devon Hall (15 points, five rebounds, four assists), Guy’s willingness to take and make the biggest shots of the night ultimately earned him the tournament MVP. With a team-high 16 points, Guy has now reached double figures in 27 of Virginia’s 33 games this year.

Quotable.

  • “We’re very connected. There’s something very different about this team. We love each other, and trust each other — these are my brothers.” Kyle Guy, on the championship podium, when asked what makes this team special.
  • “I thought we needed to play very, very well to win. And we didn’t do that.” Roy Williams, keeping it simple in the postgame interview.
  • “It’s not the playing four days in a row that’s hard — it’s the playing Virginia that is hard.” Williams, referencing fatigue being secondary to Virginia’s greatness.

Sights and Sounds: The crowd noise in the Barclays Center tonight was for the most part evenly dispersed with a slight lean in favor of Virginia. And while someone who is generally resistant to change — particularly with respect to conference realignment and leagues hosting their championships in non-traditional venues — I must admit that Brooklyn has worked for the ACC Tournament. The arena is filled with both bodies and juice, the two necessary elements to make for a great event. It was a worthwhile and successful two-year experiment here, and while returning to Charlotte and Greensboro over the next two years certainly makes sense, the ACC would be wise to keep Brooklyn in the future rotation.

What’s Next? Virginia heads into the NCAA Tournament as the clear overall #1 seed, looking to reach its first Final Four since 1984. Remarkably this will be the third time in five seasons that Bennett has led the Cavaliers to the top line, punctuating the notion that Virginia has become one of the elite programs in college basketball. Three months ago it seemed like a pipe dream to think North Carolina had any reasonable expectation to defend its 2017 national title, but that is no longer the case. The Heels will find themselves on the #2 seed line tomorrow, and more importantly, they are playing their best basketball of the year. It is certainly plausible that San Antonio could host a third meeting between the Cavaliers and Tar Heels three weeks from tonight.

Matthew Auerbach (47 Posts)


Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *