It was a very interesting first week of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. There was drama in the form of overtime games and upsets. Everything that fans of college basketball and the tournament were hoping for, they got. The Atlantic Coast Conference went into this event with five teams hoping to cut down the nets in New Orleans on April 4. After the first full week of play five is now three for the ACC teams. Duke, North Carolina, and Miami have advanced to the Sweet 16. Let’s take a look at what’s ahead for each school.
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After taking out Cal-State Fullerton in round one by a 78-61 score, the Duke Blue Devils, the #2 seed in the West, advanced to take on Michigan State in round two. It was previewed as a heavyweight fight between two programs that have been down this road many times. The Blue Devils survived and advanced by being clutch when they needed it.
Down five with five minutes left, Duke went on a 20-6 run. That gave Coach K his 99th tournament win and his 1,200 overall. The 85-76 win over the Spartans could have gone either way but Duke got the job done with stops on the defensive end and shot-makers making shots on offense.
In the second half, the Blue Devils shot 61% from the field. For the game, they were at 57%. They had five players in double-figures. Freshman, Paolo Banchero, led the way with 19 points, including the go-ahead hoop with two minutes left. The go-ahead basket was made possible by a three-pointer from Trevor Keefs (12 points) that tied the game at 72-72 with 3:24 left. The win puts Duke into the Sweet 16 for the 28th time in program history and sets up a matchup with Texas Tech, the #3 seed in the West, on Thursday night at Chase Center in San Francisco.
The road to the Sweet 16 became a little more dicer for North Carolina on Saturday. The 8th seeded Tar Heels faced the #1 seed and defending national champion Baylor Bears. It would take an overtime session before UNC would prevail 93-86. The OT was necessary because the Tar Heels blew a 25-point second-half lead. Flagrant fouls, as well as the Bears turning up the defensive pressure in the second half, almost cost the Tar Heels a game that for the most part, they had under control. RJ Davis was huge for North Carolina with 30 points and a big-time and 1 in overtime that helped put the game away. Brady Manek had a career-high 26 points before being ejected in the second half for a flagrant 2 foul.
One or two flagrant fouls were called against the Tar Heels in the second half that helped fuel the Baylor comeback. North Carolina received a double-double from All-ACC forward Amando Bacot of 15 points and 16 rebounds. This is the third time that UNC has beaten a #1 seed as a #8 seed. The last time they did this they went on to a Final Four appearance in 2000. On Friday night in Philadelphia, North Carolina will take on another “blue blood” of college basketball in UCLA.
Miami, the tenth seed in the Midwest Region, took care of the number two seed, Auburn Tigers 79-61 to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in six years. Isaiah Wong (21 points) and Kameron McGusty (20) combined for 41 of the 79 points. Experience may have been a big factor in the Hurricanes’ wire-to-wire win. Six players with four years of college experience played. Three six-year players were part of Miami’s starting lineup. These “older players” were very helpful to offset Auburn’s inside game as the Tigers shot 30% (21 of 69).
Another thing that Hurricanes fans can be happy about is the way the team took care of the basketball in the two games played last week. Miami turned the ball over only seven times in the two games combined. They will need to continue that smart play as Miami takes on No.11 seed Iowa State in a bracket buster delight in Chicago.
A good weekend of tournament basketball is ahead with the ACC in good shape to have at least one or more make the Final Four.
Stay tuned to NGSC Sports for more coverage from March Madness and the ACC.
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