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ACC Tournament: No. 7 Duke outlasts N.C. State behind balanced effort

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One of the hottest debates of the late college basketball season was the ACC Player of the Year battle between T.J. Warren of North Carolina State and Jabari Parker of Duke.

Although Warren beat Parker for Player of the Year honors in the conference, Jabari and his Duke teammates might have gotten the last laugh as a balanced Blue Devil outing was the difference in No. 7 Duke’s 75-67 win on Saturday in the ACC Tournament semifinals in Greensboro.

RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology

Parker and Warren led their respective teams in scoring on Saturday afternoon, but Jabari had more help from his Duke teammates on both ends of the floor and it was the difference in the game.

Parker, the All-American freshman, celebrated his birthday with 20 points and eight rebounds, but he was aided in the scoring column by solid outings from Rasheed Sulaimon (16 points), Quinn Cook (14 points) and Rodney Hood (14 points). Duke shot 57 percent from the field for the game and their balance all over the floor was evident throughout the win on Saturday.

After a red-hot first half that saw him score 13 points, Warren was slowed down significantly in the second half as he finished with 21 points and eight rebounds. No other Wolfpack starter finished in double-figures for the game, but Lennard Freeman (13 points) and Cat Barber (12 points) each added points off the bench.

MORE: Get caught up on all of today’s Bubble Banter

As Duke’s defense doubled T.J. Warren and prevented him from getting comfortable touches, they pulled away in the second half. Every time Warren put the ball on the floor, Duke’s defense collapsed and forced the star sophomore forward to make a play other than scoring. It ultimately limited N.C. State’s offense and now the Wolfpack will spend Selection Sunday sweating as they see if they’ll make it in the field of 68.

We’ve seen all season that Duke can put up points. With capable scorers like Jabari Parker and Rodney hood, getting buckets will never be an issue with this Blue Devil group. But if Duke defends like they did in the second half on Saturday, they become a championship contender. The Duke defense made it tough on Warren — one of the best and most efficient scorers in the country — in the second half and if they can stop a guy like him from doing significant damage than it is a very good sign entering the NCAA Tournament.

Duke advances to face No. 6 Virginia in the ACC Tournament title game on Sunday and both teams still have an outside shot at a No. 1 seed.

ACC Tournament: No. 6 Virginia advances to first ACC title game in 20 years with win over Pitt

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Tony Bennett’s Virginia team doesn’t win a lot of games with ease, but the No. 6 Cavaliers have found ways to methodically grind out wins throughout the entire season. Virginia did it once again on Saturday, as the Cavaliers held off upset-minded Pitt, 51-48, in an ACC Tournament semifinal contest in Greensboro.

Virginia (27-6) advanced to its first ACC title game since 1994 with the win as they still hold out hope for the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

RELATED: Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

The Cavaliers led for the final 21:45 of Saturday’s win over Pitt — despite never leading by more than eight points — as Virginia’s ball-control offense and steady team defense allowed them to slowly squeeze the Panthers out of the game.

Virginia shot 21-for-45 from the field (46 percent) and 6 of 7 from the free throw line as the Cavalier defense held Pitt to 36 percent shooting from the field.

Pitt freshman point guard James Robinson’s steal and tough, contested lay-up with 11 seconds left cut Virginia’s lead to a point at 49-48, but Anthony Gill made a pair of free throws to get to the final score. Bennett opted to have Virginia play defense instead of fouling on the final possession with his team up three and he was rewarded by reserve sophomore forward Justin Anderson blocking Robinson’s tying three-point attempt to seal the victory.

RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology

Senior Joe Harris led Virginia with 12 points on the afternoon while Malcoln Brogdon (10 points) and Gill (10 points) also finished in double-figures.

Pitt (25-9) was led by Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson, as the seniors each had 15 points in the loss.

Virginia isn’t the sexiest team to pick to go to the Final Four, but they’ve won 15 of their last 16 games — with the overtime loss at Maryland last Sunday being their only loss — and with their ability to hold on to the ball and take good shots, they make a five-point lead seem like a 15-point lead. As long as the Cavaliers can dictate the pace of the game and slow things down, they’ll be a very tough out in the tournament.

ACC announces that Washington, D.C. will host 2016 ACC Tournament

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Since the first ACC men’s basketball tournament was first held in 1954, 49 times the conference has determined its official champion in the State of North Carolina. On Wednesday afternoon the conference announced that it will play the 2016 version of the event at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The move will come after playing the 2014 and 2015 versions in Greensboro, which has hosted the ACC tournament 24 times.

“We are excited to bring the ACC Tournament back to the nation’s capital in 2016,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in the release. “Verizon Center is a tremendous showcase for our event, and the Washington, D.C. area is an appealing tourist destination for our member institutions, as well as the alumni and fans of our teams.

“We received a lot of positive feedback after our 2005 Tournament in Washington, and we look forward to duplicating that success in 2016.”

With an expanded footprint that now includes Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and (in 2014) Louisville, moving up the eastern seaboard isn’t a bad idea. This won’t be an unfamiliar environment for the newcomers either, as Georgetown calls the building home.

With the shift north, will the conference eventually get to hold its showcase event in the New York metropolitan area? That remains to be seen, and while there’s certainly the benefit of playing in the New York media market people will find a way to watch (and cover) the ACC tournament regardless of where it’s played.

One other question that some may be asking: was the move to D.C. a sneaky jab at Maryland, which is moving to the Big Ten and is about a half-hour drive from the nation’s capital?

ACC Tournament will reportedly not move to Madison Square Garden in foreseeable future

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It’s clear now that the Big East will survive a mass exodus of teams to the ACC and, according to a report by Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, will not lose its unofficial home of almost 30 years: Madison Square Garden.

The bidding window to host the 2016-21 ACC tournaments has closed and Madison Square Garden did not enter a bid, according to the report, meaning speculation that the ACC would invade The Garden can be put to rest.

MSG seemed like a good fit for the ACC, were it to have made the move, especially considering it is soon to be armed with Syracuse, a team that packs The Garden every time it visits.

Another possible New York alternative also did not submit a bid, according to ESPN—the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

That means that a possibility brought up last year by ACC commissioner John Swofford will not come to be.

“I don’t think there’s any question that taking a look at New York and Madison Square Garden would be very appealing for Atlantic Coast Conference basketball fans,” Swofford said last year, as cited in the ESPN report.

“And even more so now with even more teams in closer proximity. With that being the media center of the world, so to speak, we’d probably be remiss if we didn’t think of it in those terms.”

Along with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who announced their intent to depart from the Big East last year, Notre Dame recently announced that it, too, would be headed to the ACC.

The site of the 2016-21 ACC tournaments is still yet to be determined.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

All 14 teams to play in revamped ACC conference tournament

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The ACC is now following in the footsteps of the Big East, expanding its conference tournament to include all 14 teams and run from Wednesday through Sunday during Championship Week, the league announced Wednesday afternoon.

The conference will include 14 teams once Pittsburgh and Syracuse leave the Big East and join the ACC.

The idea had reportedly been brought up at the conference’s fall meetings and was reportedly a focus for ACC commissioner John Swofford.

“The sense of the group is that we’ll look at every conceivable way to do a 14-team tournament,” Swofford told the Herald Sun in December. “The initial feeling is that it was important that every team be there, which will add a day. That could change lanes, but I think there was a pretty good sense from our ADs that the preference was all 14 be there.”

This move now makes the ACC tournament a five-day event for the first time in history. It was previously expanded from three to four days in the early 1990s, with the absorption of Florida State, and remained that way through the additions of Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech in the past decade.

Under the new plan, seeds 11-14 will begin play on Wednesday.

Recent weeks have been newsworthy for the conference, as chatter continues about the possibility of Florida State moving to the Big 12, as well as the signing of a television contract extension with ESPN that is worth a reported $3.6 billion over the next 15 years.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Florida State wins rematch with UNC, takes ACC title

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Have we found North Carolina’s kryptonite?

No. 17 Florida State used a sharp-shooting performance from three-point range and 18 points from all-conference guard Michael Snaer to beat the No. 4 Tar Heels, 85-82, and win the ACC tournament title.

It was a much closer game than the 33-point beatdown that the Seminoles gave North Carolina on January 14th, but Florida State was helped to victory on Sunday afternoon by many of the same things that got them a win earlier in the year.

The problem for UNC (and the biggest point of emphasis for Florida State) was openings on the perimeter that freed up Seminole shooters for uncontested threes.

Florida State hit 11-of-22 from beyond the arc on Sunday afternoon, while their defense held North Carolina to just 5-of-20.

Whether or not the problem has to do with the absence of guard Dexter Strickland, who was lost earlier in the year to a knee injury, the Tar Heels will need to get defenders out to the perimeter in the NCAA tournament, especially if they run into a pesky team that finds its stroke from long distance.

The other deciding factor is size.

North Carolina is one of the longest, tallest teams in the country, which has made them a matchup nightmare for most opponents. With Florida State, though, that advantage disappears.

With John Henson sitting on the sidelines with a wrist injury, the interior presence opposite Tyler Zeller was absent. North Carolina blocked just one shot and Henson’s replacement, James Michael McAdoo, was 2-of-10 from the field for four points.

Credit is also due to Florida State’s Luke Loucks, who went punch-for-punch with North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, one of the best point guards in the country. Loucks finished with 10 points and 13 assists.

North Carolina should be a No. 1 seed when the bracket is revealed. Florida State should be a No.4 seed, according to NBC’s latest projections.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_