After an exceptional set of quarterfinals on Friday, it will be difficult for the semifinals to produce as good of a set of games. That being said, here is a look at an intriguing set semifinal matchups, both of which match up a top 10 team against an unranked opponent.
#1 Virginia vs. #5 Pittsburgh, 1:00 p.m.
Virginia and Pittsburgh play in the first semifinal, as Virginia plays their first semifinal in 19 years, and Pitt plays their first ever as an ACC member. This is a rematch of one of the best ACC games from the regular season, which Virginia won, 48-45, on a three at the buzzer by second team All-ACC honoree Malcolm Brogdon. Many don’t remember the game, because it was played on Super Bowl Sunday, but the rematch will be played on a much bigger stage, in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. Virginia is playing in their first ACC semifinal since 1995, and will attempt to reach their first championship game since 1994. Pittsburgh is in their first ACC Tournament, but hasn’t been to any conference final or semifinal since winning the 2008 Big East Tournament. While Virginia was able to coast on Friday, Pittsburgh was not after nearly blowing a 20-point lead against North Carolina. While I don’t know that physical fatigue will be an issue, as the teams are at the same disadvantage of playing on less than 24 hours rest, mental fatigue might, after Pitt had to hold on in their game Friday. If the game comes down to which team is more mentally tough, I’ll take Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers all the way.
Virginia 54, Pittsburgh 47.
#3 Duke vs. #7 NC State, appr. 3:30 p.m.
In-state rivals Duke and NC State meet in the second semifinal, as the Blue Devils, in their 43rd semifinals appearance and sixth in seven years, will try to reach the finals for the first time since winning three straight titles from 2009-11, and the Wolfpack try to advance to the championship game for the first time under coach Mark Gottfried, who has guided State to three straight semifinal appearances. The Wolfpack are trying to reach the final for the first time since 2007, and haven’t won the ACC since Jim Valvano was coach in 1987. These teams met once in the regular season, back on January 18 in Durham, and Duke won 95-60, scoring 33 points off 21 Wolfpack turnovers. But these two teams, and particularly NC State, are much different now. The Pack were 1-4 in the ACC after that loss, but have gone 10-5 since, with a current four-game winning streak including Friday’s win over Syracuse. Duke survived Clemson, and has now won eight out of 10 since losing to Syracuse on February 1, and 13 out of 16 since losing to Clemson on January 11. NC State needs the win to make a strong case for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid (although a win would leave them a win on Sunday away from an automatic bid), but the Duke juggernaut may be too much to handle. This game will surely be closer than that drubbing in Cameron in January.
Duke 78, NC State 72.
Image credit to Wikimedia