That is what all of us in ACC country are today. No matter who you root for, regardless of if you hate one, two, or all of the teams remaining, you can not turn your back on the games that the ACC tournament has in store for us tonight.
Duke v UNC. FSU v Notre Dame. Everything fell right in to place for the four best teams in the conference. Even the matchups themselves worked out well. Today would be far more lackluster if Duke and UNC had to be split up. The ACC tournament will be center stage tonight.
No day games, so no excuses to not watch these tonight. Lets take a look at those matchups.
Game 1: 7:00 PM , #14 Duke vs #6 UNC
First off, you’ll notice I switched over to the national rankings as opposed to the ACC tournament rankings. That’s a tip of the hat to the ACC, currently boasting 6 teams in the top 25, 4 of which still remain in the tournament. I’m a big sucker for cinderella stories, but there is something to be said for a conference whose best teams get it done in March and don’t waste time falling to lesser programs. So congrats on all that.
Duke vs Carolina Part 3. This is not something we get to see too often. In the history of these schools, we have only been witness to 20 tournament matchups between the rivals, and this will be just the first since 2011. There are some years where it feels like the world just needs 1 more UNC vs Duke game, and this is one of those years. The teams split the regular season, with UNC winning the most recent matchup this past Saturday.
I have no idea which way this game is going to go. On one hand, UNC seems like the shoe in. Joel Berry had a masterful performance last weekend, finishing with 28 points, including 19 in the first half. Isiah Hicks missed the first game against Duke, when Carolina dropped to the Blue Devils. Hicks came on strong in Saturdays game, outplaying Jayson Tatum, especially on the offensive end. Hicks also had a strong showing against Miami yesterday, and is fitting in nicely as the third best option for the Heels behind Jackson and Berry.
The dangerous Duke team showed up in the second half yesterday against Louisville. On a day when shots just were not falling for the Devils, they were able to get things flowing into the second half. Luke Kennard, after starting 0-5, hit 3 straight 3’s to help propel his team to a lead over the Cards. And can you believe it, but Grayson Allen was a POSITIVE spark for the Devils, drawing fouls and making a couple great hustle plays.
Amile Jefferson vs Kennedy Meeks will be a big matchup to watch. Jefferson has done an excellent job limiting Meeks in both matchups this year, utilizing his length and speed over Meeks ogre-some ways.
We already know what this game will come down to. Can Duke hit their 3’s. We saw them succeed in this in game 1, not so much in game 2. Kennard, Allen, Matt Jones, all will be the focal point of UNC as they try to disrupt any potential barrage from the Devils. Justin Jackson has been fairly limited by Matt Jones in the first two matchups, he will need to break away in this one to give the Heels a chance.
Ultimately, UNC is just playing too efficiently right now. This game will have every bit of excitement we have come to expect from the Duke UNC rivalry, but the Heels pull away in the last 5 minutes.
Heels by 6.
Game 2: 9:00 PM #22 Notre Dame vs #16 FSU
America’s team. That is what Notre Dame is right now. Knocking off UVA, coached by the Mike Kryzewski lite, and led by the most beloved skinny-fat guy in the game in Bonzi Colson, the Irish are an easy team to get behind. A 13 point over the Cavaliers is really a full dismantling if you think about the style of defense that the Cavs like to play. The brain trust of Colson, Beachem, Vasturia, and Farrell all went into double figures, and the Irish have every look of an experienced team with the talent to boot.
FSU look overpowering last night, it’s size and athleticism just ultimately too much for the Hokies to stand. Enough can not be said about Dwayne Bacon and Rathan-Mayes, but Freshman Johnathan Issac is the most talented player on that roster, and seems to make an extra step forward with each game he plays. Against a younger, less cohesive team in Va Tech, it is no surprise that FSU was able to essentially man handle the turkeys.
Don’t think that FSU will be able to do this to Notre Dame however. The Irish are one of the most well meshed groups in basketball right now, with players adept at both driving and shooting, and a point guard in Farrel who looks like a young Steve Nash. What we may see catch up to Notre Dame tonight is the depth. FSU went 12 deep last night, and that was not just garbage time. They know they can get valuable minutes from the depths of their bench, and that can really show up in back to back days. FSU’s starters were not tasked with the heavy minutes that ND’s were. But that should really only matter more on Saturday…these guys are college athletes and back to backs should affect them too much. I like the ability of ND to spread the court at every position and find room to work among the towers of FSU.
Irish by 12.
Seriously, don’t miss either of these games tonight, you will feel left out.