Malcolm Brogdon scored 23 points and Joe Harris notched 13 of his 15 points after halftime as Virginia won their first ACC tournament title since 1976 with a 72-63 win over Duke.
Brogdon was the best player on the floor for much of the afternoon for the ‘Hoos, and Harris hit a massive, deflating three with just under two minutes left to push Virginia’s lead to 64-57. And the masterful defensive performance that Tony Bennett’s club put on for the first 12 minutes of the game will be a talking point as Virginia heads into the tournament, but that’s not what won them this game.
It was their work on the offensive glass.
Duke has their issues defensively, but they actually played pretty solid first-shot defense for much of the second half. It’s how they were able to overcome UVA’s hot start and work their way back into the game. But the Blue Devils allowed 11 second-chance points in the second half, eight of which came in the final nine minutes after Duke took a 45-44 lead, their first since it was 2-0.
The win caps one heckuva season that Tony Bennett was able to orchestrate, but the question now becomes whether or not the Cavaliers will be the fourth No. 1 seed when the brackets are announced. They won the ACC regular season and tournament titles and they have just two losses since the calendar changed. That’s strong, but when you put them up next to Michigan, it’s not an easy choice to make.
Michigan has five top 25 wins. Virginia now has three. The Wolverines have 10 top 50 wins. Virginia now has five. Michigan is 15-6 against the top 100. Virginia is 13-6. Granted, much of that is the result of playing in a stronger Big Ten, and the Cavs have a stronger non-conference SOS (35 vs. 83) and they don’t have a loss near as bad as Michigan getting tripped up by Charlotte, who is 149th in the RPI. But to be fair, Glenn Robinson III missed the final 30 minutes of that game with an injury and Nik Stauskas sprained his ankle in the second half.
I think it’s Michigan.
Who would you pick?
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.