Blogs and Commentary

posted 04.14.2012 at 12.50 p.m. by Gary Lambrecht

ACC Tournament Is Wide Open After Duke's Win

As Duke was ruining Senior Night in Charlottesville on Friday with a dominant, third-quarter run that set up a stunning, 13-5 rout over top-ranked Virginia, the picture became equally clear and fuzzy. Next week's ACC tournament, which returns to the Virginia campus, is way up for grabs.

This is how it often plays out, and this is how it should be in late April, as the four ACC schools take their second shots at each other and jockey for NCAA tournament seeding positions. 

The natural tendency would be to annoint Virginia as the favorite with its home-field advantage. Forget it. No one knows how this will play out, since each team can make a strong case and is capable of winning on Friday and Sunday. No one has gotten through the regular season unscathed.

Duke, which started its conquest of the Cavaliers ranked No. 7, surely will join Virginia in the top five this week. The Blue Devils, who looked listless with a 3-3 record after its awful performance in a 13-8 loss at Loyola on March 10, has now won eight straight games. In Friday's blowout, they were a terror in transition, and their midfield lived up to the preseason hype.

Virginia, which will play third-seeded North Carolina in the semifinals on Friday, is a good bet to regroup. Any team with Steele Stanwick and his army of scoring threats can bounce back. But that ball-watching defense played with cement shoes against Duke. The Cavs will not go to sleep on Carolina, even though they just blew out the Tar Heels. Carolina's recent rout over then-undefeated Johns Hopkins will command Virginia's full attention.

Top-seeded Duke's matchup with fourth seed Maryland is intriguing. Duke is red-hot, but Maryland's only ACC win was a convincing effort against the Blue Devils last month.

Let the fight begin.