ACC tournament: Virginia and Pittsburgh move onto the semifinals
No. 6 Virginia 64, Florida State 51: Part of what makes Virginia so dangerous is that the Cavaliers just don't let up. They pressure you and pressure you and, even if the game is tight throughout, when Virginia is playing well, the dam is eventually going to burst. That's partly what happened on Friday as Virginia's defense wore FSU down. Midway through the second half you looked up and the Cavs were up double digits. It seemed almost too fluid. But then again, that's why UVA earned the top seed in the ACC tournament.
Florida State playing on back-to-back days while Virginia had the day off didn't help the Seminoles either. They exerted a ton of effort against Maryland on Thursday, escaping with the 67-65 win, and looked a step behind on their rotations against the Cavaliers. The 'Noles also seemed to be standing and looking around instead of boxing out, especially in the second half, which led to situations like this dunk by Darion Atkins off a missed shot.
If Virginia is going to make noise in the NCAA tournament, it's going to need the aggressive version of Joe Harris that showed up on Friday afternoon. Harris made his teammates better all year long and was a bit more content to spread the wealth this year, allowing Malcolm Brogdon to make a big jump. But March is for go-to scorers, and Harris has that in him. The senior finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting against the Seminoles and did a really good job of looking for his shot.
Florida State's at-large fate is still up for grabs. The Seminoles have a great strength of schedule, hold solid wins over VCU and UMass out of conference, played Michigan and Florida tough and have a road win over Pittsburgh, but they might be right around the cut line when the brackets come out. Either way they're looking like a last four in or last four out candidate.
Pittsburgh 80, No. 15 North Carolina 75: With about 13:20 to play in the game, it looked like this thing was going to be a blowout. The Greensboro Coliseum started to see a Pitt win coming, and the crowd reacted. The UNC fans let their frustration be known, and everybody else was squarely ABC (Anybody But Carolina) as the Panthers took a 48-31 lead on Lamar Patterson's three-pointer. It was only after UNC switched to full court pressure once Pitt built its big lead that the Tar Heels finally woke up.
The Panthers didn't really know what to do with themselves and kept staring at the clock, which wasn't running nearly fast enough for their liking. They missed a bunch of free throws, and Marcus Paige (27 points, four rebounds) brought some of his patented late-game heroics to help cut into the deficit.
A shooting slump to start the game for UNC allowed the Panthers to get out to a lead, but the Tar Heels finished the half 8-of-9 to cut it to 36-26 at the break. There was no sense of urgency early on from North Carolina, and coach Roy Williams lit into his players and tried to force some kind of spark.
The second half was more of the same as Pittsburgh battled for loose balls, grabbed offensive boards and willed in jumpers. Forward Talib Zanna did most of the damage underneath, finishing with 19 points and 21 rebounds. For most of the game the Tar Heels just had no answer for Pittsburgh's energy, and they couldn't shoot their way back in it -- they were 4-of-16 on three-pointers. The last six or seven minutes of the game UNC played like, well, UNC, which should have the Heels wishing they had brought that sort of intensity far earlier in the game. After escaping with the win, the Panthers find themselves playing on Saturday in their very first ACC tournament, having dispatched two of the Big Four along the way. With how much the computers loved Pitt coming into the game (KenPom: 18, RPI: 43), even without a marquee non-conference win, the Panthers were probably safe from any sort of bubble speculation. But this win smashed any doubt into nothingness.