ACC Tournament: Duke clears North Carolina and looks as dangerous as ever
Blue Devils head to Saturday's ACC Tournament championship game
NEW YORK - Duke did it again. The Blue Devils looked inconsistent, then looked dominant, and in spurts looked like the best team in America. They eventually got out with a somewhat-comfortable 93-83 win over North Carolina.
The opponent, certainly notable.
The Blue Devils (26-8) looked spotty in the first half, then rallied with a 28-9 run in the second to get past top-seeded UNC (27-7) in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament Friday night. With the win, Duke owns as many top-50 RPI victories as anyone in college basketball. The sport’s premier game wasn’t an all-time epic, but it was the third time this season UNC and Duke gave us a compelling 40 minutes of basketball.
The officiating? Flawed. But Duke earned the win.
1. Everybody’s about to fall in love with Duke all over again
What Duke did on Friday night was impressive enough to convince a contingent across America to write the Blue Devils into their Final Four prognostications no matter what the Devils do in Saturday night’s final. That second half showed a little of everything that makes the Blue Devils so dangerous. Luke Kennard got his, scoring 10 of his 20 points from the free-throw line. Grayson Allen was pivotal, with 18 points and shooting 5 of 6 on 3-pointers. Jayson Tatum was essential with a game-high 24 points. And Harry Giles teased us all (more on him below).
It’s a song that’s been sung all year, only now it appears we’ve got some harmony: When Duke is healthy and at its best, it’s as good as anyone in America. Once again, this team provided the threat of that. And it seems like Duke will be the biggest wildcard in the NCAAs. Because this group is no sure thing to make a deep run.
2. Seed situation is interesting
With this loss, North Carolina opens the possibility of not getting a No. 1 seed. In fact, I think I’d put the Heels firmly on the 2 line because of the L. Coming into Friday, we had UNC as a 1, but UCLA, Arizona or Oregon will have a valid claim to the final No. 1 (along with Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga) with a Pac-12 tournament win.
UNC would have likely locked up the final No. 1 seed with a victory over a talented Duke team, winning two out of three against the Blue Devils. Now, I’m not so sure. That’s not the worst thing, but it will present an interesting geographical second-weekend-placement decision for the committee if Duke wins the ACC tournament. If that happens, does Duke get sent to the East (Madison Square Garden) and UNC go to the South (Memphis)?
3. Here comes Harry
Freshman big Harry Giles has been a wait-and-see -- or really, a wait-and-wait -- player since he made his debut in December. But on Friday night, Giles had his most efficient game of the season. He finished with six points, seven rebounds and a block in 15 minutes. It wasn’t a coming-out party, but he showed enough to make people believe that his next level could show up as early as Saturday’s final, and if not there, we saw him produce plenty to think he’ll have a shot to be a difference-maker in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
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