WASHINGTON -- Could the ACC earn two No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament? Joe Lunardi thinks so, and after Virginia followed up North Carolina’s pasting of Notre Dame with a solid 73-68 victory Friday over a much tougher Miami team, the selection committee might just agree.
The Cavaliers head to their sixth ACC tournament final appearance having won five in a row and six of their past seven. Few teams have looked as good as the Cavs in the endgame of the regular season; their surgical takedown of Miami a perfect example of who Virginia is. The Cavaliers will never be flashy or exciting. Tony Bennett's crew will always be solid and consistent, and in a season of chaos and turmoil, there's a lot to be said for that, perhaps even the reward of a 1-seed.
But before all of that, there is the little business of an ACC tournament final. Virginia against North Carolina (9 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN).
So in an ACC tournament that has lacked a whole lot of drama, the final could be epic.
Here’s how the Virginia-Miami semifinal went down:
Well duh, defense: How did you think Virginia would win? Of course it would be with its D. Critics have argued that the Cavaliers aren’t as solid this season as they once were. OK, so maybe instead of being a vault, Virginia is more like a reliable safe. It still works.
Miami came in averaging 75.9 points per game. The Hurricanes didn’t break 60 until the final minute on Friday. Miami shot well -- 55 percent -- but the Canes also coughed up 16 turnovers and barely recorded any second-chance points (only six).
Bench mob: The three-headed beast that is Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill and London Perrantes deservedly earns much of the credit and attention for the Cavaliers' success. But the reason this particular team has been successful is its depth. With Gill stuck on the bench with four fouls, Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson came in as more-than-able-bodied pinch hitters. The two combined for 16 points and five rebounds and, with Miami mounting a late rally, Shayok -- a 55 percent free throw shooter -- sank two of four free throws with under a minute to play.
An appreciation of Brogdon: It’s too late to add a third player to the two-man player of the year race, but Brogdon absolutely deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine. The only thing Virginia's senior lacks is their flair, instead remaining content to play his stoic and steady style. But everywhere else he measures up. Against Miami, he scored 24 points on 6-of-15 shooting, pulled down three rebounds and dished out four assists. He is every bit as vital as Hield is to Oklahoma and Valentine is to Michigan State.