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Virginia tops Duke in ACC final, makes case for final No. 1 seed

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

Senior Joe Harris was named tournament MVP after Virginia's win over Duke in the championship game.  (USATSI)
Joe Harris was named tournament MVP after Virginia's win over Duke in the championship game. (USATSI)

Virginia may not have clinched a No. 1 seed with its 72-63 victory over Duke in the championship game of the ACC tournament, but in the victory Tony Bennett's squad showcased plenty of reasons to fear the Wahoos in the NCAA Tournament.

The game had a prize fight feel, with each team going on the offensive early before settling into a punch-counterpunch rhythm that lasted for most of the second half. Virginia's tenacious team defense has been a key factor in their success, but the offensive execution in the second half against Duke has the Cavaliers in the conversation for the final No. 1 seed.

It would not be an outrage if Virginia gets bumped to a No. 2 seed. Miami won the ACC regular season and conference tournament last year and wound up in that same position. But Virginia's seed won't matter if the team can continue some of the trends from this week in Greensboro.

Virginia used crisp ball movement on offense to get Duke out of position, resulting in opportunities to attack the basket and draw fouls. In fact, by the final media timeout, four Duke players (Parker, Sulaimon, Jefferson, Thornton) had four fouls and Quinn Cook had three. The Cavs also did a great job of attacking the offensive glass, particularly in the second half, to extend possessions and keep the game at Virginia-friendly pace.

But not even all of those advantages could put Jabari Parker and this Duke squad out of reach in an ACC title game. Virginia did not do a great job of making the Blue Devils pay for their foul trouble at the charity stripe, and a few big answers -- a Parker coast-to-coast dunk or a timely Quinn Cook three-pointer, for example -- quelled momentum in a rowdy Greensboro Coliseum.

Joe Harris (tournament MVP) and Malcolm Brogdon (23 points, including 7-10 from the free-throw line) were again the primary offensive options for Virginia in the title game, but the Cavaliers would not cut down the net without contributions from Akil Mitchell (game-high 15 rebounds) and Anthony Gill's aggressiveness around the rim.

Virginia has experience and several ways to beat its opponents. While UVA fans might stress about the team's seed on Selection Sunday, it is other fans that should stress out about meeting the ACC champs once the tournament is underway.

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