Dez Wells is quickly becoming the talk of the ACC tournament.
After lighting up Wake Forest for 23 points in the opener, Wells went off on Friday night, torching Duke to the tune of 30 points on 9-13 shooting. He beat them down the floor in transition, he beat them off the dribble in the half court and he dunked on them when challenged at the rim.
And in the process, Wells took Maryland one step closer to an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as he orchestrated an 83-74 win over the Blue Devils.
It goes without saying that the Terps needed to get this game if they wanted to have a chance to dance, but we’ll delve a bit deeper into what this means for their at-large hopes here.
The bigger issue is with Duke. The Blue Devils looked down right awful on the defensive end of the floor. Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard posted their best numbers in what seems like an eternity — they combined for 17 points and eight assists — and Jake Layman chipped in with 10 points and nine boards of his own. That’s a concern. Maryland is not a good team on the offensive end of floor, and they made the Blue Devils look like a church league team at times.
But that’s also to be expected. Duke’s concern has more to do with the NCAA tournament than it does the ACC tournament, while Maryland had the extra motivation of needing to beat a rival to keep their hopes alive of dancing. The Terps were playing with a different level of intensity, and that was evident from the tip; they jumped out to a 12-2 lead before Duke knew what hit them.
Having said that, there may be some consequences for this loss for Duke. They didn’t win the ACC regular season title. They got knocked out in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. Without any kind of league championship to their name, will the committee give this team a No. 1 seed?
I know the argument: this was their first loss with a healthy Ryan Kelly on the roster, and the biggest reason they didn’t win the ACC regular season title was that they were not the same team without him. Given just how dominant they were back in November and December, there’s a reason that many believed Duke to be a favorite for a No. 1 seed entering Championship Week.
But what happens if, for example, Kansas, Louisville and Indiana all win their conference tournaments. Three teams winning duel-conference titles, and none of them are the current No. 1 team in the country — Gonzaga
Would this loss be enough to drop Duke down a seed line?
I don’t think it will, but stranger things have happened.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.