Jul. 12, 2019
ACC Starts Strong in NCAA Tournament
Coming into the NCAA Tournament, the ACC had plenty of conference members in peril of an upset. So far, the conference has stepped up to the challenge in the first-round. In all, the ACC finished with a (3-1) record on Thursday. However, it was so close to being a dreadful beginning.
First, the No. 5 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish held off the No. 12 Princeton Tigers all game. During the 60-58 win, the Tigers had plenty of chances to take the lead. They even had a 3-point shot rim out in the final seconds to steal the win. Instead, the Fighting Irish made enough plays to advance. Bonzi Colson led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds in a gutty performance. In addition, Matt Farrell scored 16 points in the contest. Farrell also made 3 of the 4 3-point shots in yesterday's win. Moving forward, the Irish must be better on the offensive side of the ball. Fortunately, their defense held the Tigers to 8-of-31 shooting from 3-point range.
The second game of the day featured the No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers and No. 12 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks. When the Seahawks jumped out to 15-point first half lead, it seemed like the Cavaliers were going to be in a world of trouble. Instead of panicking, the Cavaliers downsized the lineup to match the Seahawks' quickness. Moments later, the Cavaliers erased the lead and even entered halftime up by one point. London Perrantes and Marial Shayok exploded offensively. They combined for 47 points in the 76-71 win. Furthermore, Shayock's bank shot gave the Cavaliers a 4-point lead with 20 seconds left. The Seahawks were unable to get off a shot and turned the ball over.
With the ACC avoiding two early upsets, the night games set up for high drama. The No. 3 Florida State Seminoles faced off against the No. 14 FGCU Eagles. This may have been the worst possible matchup for Dunk City. The Seminoles and Eagles may have been the most exciting game of the first day. Both teams attacked the rim and defended with a purpose. Therefore, the 86-80 win over the A-Sun champion brought numerous highlights. Dwayne Bacon led the way with 25 points and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Jonathan Isaac finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. In all, the Seminoles blocked nine shots.
The only loss for the ACC came in the 8/9 matchup. The Virginia Tech Hokies and Wisconsin Badgers battled for 38 minutes. Then the Badgers pulled away to win, 84-74. Zach LeDay led the Hokies with 23 points. Bronson Koenig led the Badgers with 28 points, while shooting 8-of-9 from 3-point range. Both teams shot over 41 percent from downtown, but the Hokies only hit seven 3-pointers in the loss.
The ACC has four more games starting Friday afternoon. Three heavy hitters take center stage in a quest for a national tile. They open with the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals face No. 15 Jacksonville State Gamecocks in Indianapolis. Soon after, the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels hit the court to take on the No. 16 Texas Southern Tigers. The Tar Heels are 26.5 favorites. During the night session, the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils play the No. 15 Troy Trojans. And the final ACC game of the day should be a thriller. No. 8 Miami Hurricanes battle the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans in Tulsa.
Due to so few upsets on Thursday, Friday's games have a chance to be mesmerizing. Will one of these ACC teams fall in dramatic fashion? If not, the conference will have seven teams in the Round of 32. After all, the ACC is supposed to be the best conference in college basketball.