And then there were 8. Welcome to the Quarterfinals of the 2014 ACC Tournament. We've seen some interesting and inspiring performances from the lower seeds early, but its time for them to lick their chops and take their best shot at the big boys as we will finally get to see the top 4 seeds take the court.
The new ACC has looked a lot like the old ACC so far, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. But with 3 teams sitting on the outside looking in on the NCAA Tournament bubble, these early tournament games have felt like elimination games and have been played that way. With Clemson, NC State and Florida State with work left to do to even get into the conversation, a sense of desperation leads to special basketball.
Let's start by taking a quick look at Clemson's gut wrenching overtime victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. With McDaniels struggling, Clemson had no business winning this game. The offense took a step backwards as K.J. McDaniels struggled with his jump shot while battling his shoulder injury. The Tigers reverted back to being unwilling to throw the ball into the paint as Landry Nnoko barely touched the ball. The saving grace was Jaron Blossomgame who scored 6 consecutive points in a 13-2 Tiger run that got the Tigers back into the game while grabbing countless important rebounds in a game where Clemson was getting destroyed on the boards. Clemson hit its free throws and pulled away in an overtime period where they again found themselves behind. With that wrapped up, lets take a look at today's action.
Starting out the action in session #1 at noon, we will get our first look at the ACC Regular Season Champion Virginia Cavaliers. They will take on the #9 seeded Florida State Seminoles who advanced to the Quarterfinals in thrilling fashion sending Maryland off to the Big 10 with a rude goodbye and a 67-65 loss. Boris Bojanovsky put the finishing touches on the Terps with a dunk with .4 seconds remaining for the win. Virginia isn't your typical #1 seed in the ACC as they tend to scratch their way to close wins. The opening quarterfinal game is going to be a treat to watch. Florida State may only have 19 wins, but I think with a win here, they are in the NCAA Tournament. Florida State is already the only lower seeded team to win a game in the tournament; I wouldn't be surprised if they followed that performance by knocking off the #1 seeded Cavaliers.
At 2:00pm, we have our first taste of the new ACC against the old ACC powerhouse as the #5 seed Pittsburgh Panthers take on the #4 seeded North Carolina Tarheels. The Panthers have not been playing their best basketball lately, but advanced to the quarterfinals by absolutely pasting the #12 seed Wake Forest Demon Deacons by a score of 84-55. North Carolina on the other hand has been playing its best basketball at the right time, winners of 12 in a row before that streak ended in the regular season finale at Duke. The only meeting between these two teams this season ended in a 75-71 victory for Carolina, and I see this one going the same way. Look for Carolina to advance to the semi-finals by pulling away late.
Tipping off session #2 will be a re-match that a lot of people will have their eye on as the #7 seed NC State Wolfpack advanced to the quarter finals as they pulled away from the #10 seed Miami Hurricanes 67-58 with 24 points from T.J. Warren and will meet the #2 seeded Syracuse Orange. NC State is another team that needs multiple wins to find themselves in the NCAA tournament conversation. Everybody remembers the finish the last time these 2 teams met as Rakeem Christmas stole the ball away and raced down the court for the winning layup as Syracuse escaped with a 56-55 win. NC State has one thing going for them, and that is maybe the best player in the ACC in T.J. Warren. Warren may be able to keep the Pack in the game early and their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, but I don't think he will do it alone as I see Syracuse blowing out the Pack.
The day will wrap up at 9:00pm with your #6 seed Clemson Tigers taking on the #3 seed Duke Blue Devils. These teams met up once this year early in January as the Tigers upended the then 16th ranked Blue Devils in Littlejohn. Things have certainly changes since that meeting. Duke was struggling at that point in the season while Clemson found its stroke. Duke is now ranked 7th in the nation and winners of 7 of their last 9. Jaron Blossomgame had a career game scoring 14 points and will need to do it again as K.J. McDaniels battles through a shoulder injury. Clemson will have to run their offense through Landry Nnoko and have Roper and Harrison hit some 3's in order to take down the Blue Devils once again and try to get into the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation.
Shakin the Southland will have your full coverage throughout the ACC Tournament so make sure you stay tuned for day-to-day coverage.