ACC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals

Virginia can only sit and wait following ACC tournament loss to N.C. State

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Most everyone involved knew what was on the line for Virginia in their ACC tournament quarterfinal against N.C. State, including the Cavaliers themselves. With a resume that features as many bad losses as quality victories, Virginia was in a position where a one-and-done weekend in Greensboro could end their NCAA tournament hopes.

In the aftermath of their 75-56 loss to the Wolfpack on Friday, Virginia will spend the next two days nervously monitoring the results across the country with the hope that they’ve done enough to receive an at-large bid.

Scott Wood shot 7-of-12 from beyond the arc and scored a team-high 23 points to lead the way for N.C. State (24-9), which advances to take on Miami in Saturday’s ACC semifinals. The Wolfpack shot 46% from the field, and through two tournament games Mark Gottfried’s team is starting to look like the group that used the ACC tournament as a springboard to the Sweet 16 last season.

Virginia (21-11) hit just five of its 20 three-point attempts on the day, and when Tony Bennett’s team struggles from deep they have a hard time scoring consistently. Akil Mitchell led the Cavaliers with 19 points and eight rebounds and Joe Harris added 13 (4-of-13 FG), but they were the only players to reach double figures against a team that had three players score 17 points or more.

Unless they were to win the ACC’s automatic bid Virginia’s resume was bound to spark debate amongst selection committee members. With their 8-4 record against teams ranked in the top 100 of the RPI the Cavaliers have a record few bubble teams can match in that regard.

But they also have seven losses to teams outside of the Top 100, which could very well result in Virginia playing its next basketball game in the Postseason NIT. Before Friday’s defeat at least Virginia knew it had an opportunity to make its case on the court.

With that opportunity now gone, the Cavaliers can only sit and wait. And hope that the positive attributes of their resume outshine the negative ones.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.