Player of the Week
Ty Jerome, Virginia
The 6-foot-5 floor general recorded his two most impressive back-to-back performances of the season, helping the Cavaliers clinch a share of the ACC regular season title with a 16-2 record. On Monday night at the Carrier Dome, Guy scored 16 points, including five 3-pointers, dished out a career-high 14 assists and forced four turnovers. In the following game, the junior guard was even more outstanding in a more physical matchup against Louisville. Pouring in 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting, Jerome was the difference maker in the 73-68 victory. He added four rebounds, six assists, two steals and picked Jordan Nwora’s pocket with 90 seconds remaining when the Cavaliers were clinging to a slim lead. Ty Jerome does it all for Virginia and his team is prospering just in time for March Madness.
Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles have won four straight, finishing 13-5 in the league after a rocky 1-4 start. On Tuesday night, the Seminoles rallied back from a 14-point halftime deficit to top no. 15 Virginia Tech. With the win, Florida State snatched the final double-bye in the ACC tournament.
John Mooney, Notre Dame
The 6-foot-9 forward has been dominant the entire season, accounting for 42 percent of Notre Dame’s field goals over the span of three games. Despite a disheartening year for the Fighting Irish, the junior has been a constant leader on his team. Mooney has recorded a double-double in four of his last six contests, including a monster 20 rebounds against Clemson.
The two teammates combined for 39 points in second game of the regular season sweep of the Blue Devils. White sparked an 11-0 run in the second half to push North Carolina’s lead to 15, which was just enough to hold off Duke’s late push in the final minutes. Williams was North Carolina’s most reliable defender, drawing three charges and holding Duke’s RJ Barrett to 37% shooting. With the win, the Tar Heels earned a share of the ACC regular season championship with Virginia.
NC State Wolfpack
Georgia Tech handed NC State its sixth loss in 11 games, winning on a dunk with one second on the clock to take the lead. Losing at home to a league bottom feeder with a 6-12 record only hurts the Wolfpack’s NCAA seeding. Although NC State righted the ship by dominating Boston College, the Wolfpack still need to pick up a few solid wins in the ACC tournament to feel comfortable about its NCAA tournament chances.
The Blue Devils have gone 3-3 in the past six games without Zion Williamson; however, he is expected to return for the ACC tournament. In the second matchup with the Tar Heels, short-handed Duke got even shorter as starting center Marques Bolden suffered a sprained MCL in the opening minutes of the first half. Duke has played just nine of its 18 conference games at full strength this season, ending ACC play with a 14-4 record. All four losses have come with one or more starters out.
Top Five Takeaways
1. Three Legitimate NCAA Title Contenders in the ACC
Virginia, North Carolina and Duke are all contenders for a no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and all have a chance to cut down the nets in Minneapolis. Right now, Virginia is the team to beat. The Cavaliers lead the ACC in points allowed per game, 3-point shooting percentage, 3-point defense and assist-to-turnover ratio. But, the Tar Heels are not far behind and are playing great basketball. Roy Williams’ squad has won 14 of their last 15 contests—something that is very difficult to accomplish in this league. North Carolina has proven it can win in a variety of ways and have a handful of players who are threats from beyond the arc. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Blue Devils. Duke is not the powerhouse it was three weeks ago with Zion Williamson. That Duke team looked nearly unbeatable; it is just a matter of if and when Duke will be able to mesh into that team again.
2. NC State was a Disappointment
The Wolfpack finished the ACC regular season with a 9-9 record with losses to teams in the bottom tier of the league—Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Early in the year, it looked like NC State was going to make some noise. With experienced players in Markell Johnson, C.J. Bryce and Torin Dorn, this team should have been more consistent. Perhaps it was the Wolfpack’s lowly ranked non-conference strength of schedule that did not prepare the team for 18 grueling ACC games. NC State needs to win its first ACC tournament game against Clemson to be assured a bid to the big dance.
3. Buzz Williams Should Win ACC Coach of the Year
Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams has led the Hokies to 12 conference wins, tying the school-record. Losing Justin Robinson was a blow to the Hokies, but the team has done well all things considered and has found its identity in Kerry Blackshear Jr.—someone who entered February as the Hokies’ fourth-leading scorer, but has blossomed into a Virginia Tech star. The Hokies have won five of their last seven games, including a win against Duke and two tight losses coming from Virginia and Florida State.
4. There will be Duke-Carolina Round 3
If both teams take care of business in the first round of the ACC tournament, the two rivals will meet again Friday for the third time in less than a month. This time around, Coach K expects to have Zion Williamson on the court. The Tar Heels outplayed the Blue Devils in the first two games and in the second rematch, Roy Williams’ team found a way to win when shots were not falling from its biggest contributors—Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson. North Carolina deserves all the respect. Without the presence of Zion Williamson, Duke’s flaws are no longer sheltered. If North Carolina beats Duke with Williamson, then the Tar Heels should enter the NCAA tournament as the favorite to win the National Championship. If Duke beats North Carolina, then the Blue Devils may very well be back to the team the nation feared several weeks ago.
5. The ACC Tournament Is A Must-See
This year’s ACC tournament in Charlotte is especially important for teams like NC State and Clemson—two teams hovering on the bubble. But, more importantly it will determine the no. 1 and 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Virginia and North Carolina are a definite one seed at the moment, but early upsets could knock them off the one line. Duke, on the other hand, is likely going to need to win the ACC tournament to solidify a no. 1 seed. There will likely be some rematches along the way.