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Just as I thought the ACC might be ready to get 2 or 3 teams in the Sweet 16, it came to an end Saturday and Saturday in a variety of ways. From a never in it blowout of Wake Forest, to a return to their turnover prone ways of Georgia Tech, to a heartbreaking loss by Maryland to Michigan St. Duke did come through to make it to the sweet 16 and looks like a real final four threat.
Kentucky 90 Wake Forest 60
I thought Kentucky would win this game, but not like this. Kentucky played nearly perfect transition basketball and overwhelmed the Deacs in every phase of the game. Kentucky's Demarcus Cousins roamed around the paint like there wasn't even anyone there. I want to fault the Deacs effort, but I think Kentucky is just that talented and athletic, and when they get on a roll it can get ugly.
Ishmael Smith is a senior and is gone. Al Farouq-Aminu may be gone as well. Coach Dino Gaudio will have some rebuilding to do next year. Wake Forest finished the year 20-11, but I think Deacs fans have to feel a little disappointed overall. Other than the Texas win in the first round of the NCAA's, there just wasn't alot to cheer about the last 3 weeks. That included the blowout Saturday, a four game losing streak the last two weeks of the regular season, and a first round loss in the ACC tournament.
Ohio St. 75 Georgia Tech 66
The Jackets had a good chance to win this game if Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors had big games. The refs called the game very tightly and Lawal and Favors got into early foul trouble. Without that advantage inside the Georgia Tech guards were no match for the Evan Turner and the Ohio St. backcourt.
Georgia Tech had a 23-13 season, with an appearance in the ACC tournament finals, and they advanced to the round of 32 in the NCAAs. It was a roller coaster of a season for the Jackets and coach Paul Hewitt, but it ended in a respectable manner. Zachary Peacock and De'Andre Bell are seniors and are done. If Lawal and Favors return to go along with another year of growth for the guards, this is a top 15 team.
Even if just one returns I like them to get back to the NCAA's, but if neither comes back it will depend on their backcourt. If they improve their shooting and cut down on the turnovers you still might have a bubble team, if not next season could be a disaster.
Michigan St. 85 Maryland 83
I hated to see Greivis Vasquez go out like that. He scores the go ahead basketball with about 6 seconds left then Michigan State gets down court throws a shaky pass that ends of up the hands of Kori Lucious, who hits the three point buzzer beater to send the Terps home.
Maryland made a stirring comeback down 11 with 4:14 left, but wow what a hard way to lose. With Kansas eliminated the previous day, Maryland had a tremendous opportunity to make a run at the final four. Maryland and the ACC are going miss Vasquez. He was a fiery competitor.
Like Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, there's going to be plenty to replace. Vasquez's backcourt mate Eric Hayes was a senior, and forward Landon Milbourne was also senior.
The Terps had a year where they were the co-ACC regular season champions with Duke, but didn't have a good post-season. They were ousted in round one of the ACC tournament and round two of the NCAA's, even as a number 4 seed. Terp fans will have to decide if a great regular season is overshadowed by a poor post-season.
Duke 68 California 53
The Duke Blue Devils will be the ACC's only representative in the sweet 16. Quietly only Syracuse and Kentucky have been more impressive in the NCAA tournament. Just as I talked about in recent weeks, the difference between this Duke team and those of the last few years is having a legitimate inside game. Brian Zoubek had 14 points and 13 rebounds against California and continues his strong play. When Duke can win and Jon Scheyer only scores 7 points, then you know the Blue Devils have enough ability across the board to make a deep tournament run.
I like the Blue Devils to get the final four. Purdue has made a spirited run to the sweet 16 without Robbie Hummel, but Duke has more weapons. Neither Baylor nor St. Mary's can overwhelm Duke athletically either the way say a Kentucky might be able to. Let's see if Duke can keep it going.