Published March 16, 2014
Charlottesville, VA – Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The ACC Tournament title and a potential No.1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament are on the line on Sunday at the Greensboro Coliseum, as the third-seeded Duke Blue Devils square off with the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils are no stranger to the ACC spotlight, as this game represents the team's 31st appearance in the title game, going 19-11 all- time. Mike Krzyzewski's squad earned a double-bye with a third-place finish in the regular-season standings and navigated the tournament field with a 63-62 quarterfinal win over Clemson and a 75-67 victory over NC State in Saturday's semifinal round. The win over the Wolfpack was Duke's 93rd in ACC Tournament play. The team's overall win total and 19 tournament crowns are most in ACC history.
Tony Bennett's sixth-ranked Cavaliers were the most consistent team in the ACC this season and that consistency led to a 16-2 league record, earning Virginia just its second outright ACC regular-season crown and first since 1981. The Cavs' 16 league wins tied the 1998-99 Duke squad for most league wins in a season. The team won 13 straight games down the stretch to secure the regular- season title, before falling in the season finale at Maryland. However, Virginia got right back to its winning ways in the postseason, with a quarterfinal win over Florida State (64-51) and a semifinal win over Pittsburgh (51-48). Virginia's ACC Tournament resume is not as long as Duke's, with the Cavs just 33-59 in the event all-time. Virginia is 1-5 all-time in tournament title games, with the lone championship coming in 1976.
Duke holds a sizeable 116-49 lead in the all-time series. The Blue Devils handed the Cavaliers one of their two ACC losses this season with a 69-65 decision in Durham back on Jan. 13.
Freshman Jabari Parker hit 8-of-15 from the floor and led the Blue Devils with 20 points and eight rebounds in the semifinal win over NC State on Saturday. Rasheed Sulaimon poured in 16 points and Quinn Cook and Rodney Hood both finished with 14 for Duke, which shot a sizzling 57.1 percent from the floor in the game, while holding NC State to a mere 35.5 percent over the final 20 minutes of action to earn the win.
Offensive balance and overall firepower is what separates Duke from most of the competition. The Blue Devils finished the regular season as the ACC leader in scoring (79.8 ppg), 3-point field-goal percentage (.393) and 3-pointers made (9.2 per game). The additions of Parker and Hood to the lineup this year have certainly aided the cause in Durham. The 6-foot-8 Parker earned First- Team All-ACC honors and was tabbed the ACC Freshman of the Year, after ranking second in the conference in scoring and first in rebounding and now enters this title game averaging team-highs of 19.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. A transfer, Hood has filled up the basket at a high rate as well at 16.5 ppg, thanks in large part to his 41.4 percent accuracy from behind the arc. Hood was named to the All-ACC Second Team. Cook has been a terrific facilitator at the point, with the ability to both create for himself (11.5 ppg) and others (4.3 apg). Depth for Duke comes in the form of Sulaimon (9.8 ppg), Andre Dawkins (8.2 ppg) and Amile Jefferson (6.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
The Cavaliers employ a completely different mindset when it comes to winning games. The nation's top defensive squad, Virginia leads the country in scoring defense (55.1 ppg), holding foes to a mere .385 shooting (ninth nationally). The team also benefits from positives in both rebounding (+6.3) and turnover (+1.3) margins. At the offensive end, Virginia averages a modest 65.8 ppg, but that has been more than enough to get the job done, with a +10.7 scoring margin. Guards Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris lead the way with 12.3 and 11.6 ppg, respectively. Brogdon was an All-ACC Second-Team selection this season. Justin Anderson (8.4 ppg), Anthony Gill (8.3 ppg) and Akil Mitchell (7.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg) are important role players as well, with Mitchell finding his way onto the All-ACC Defensive squad.
Defensive slugfests are the norm for Virginia, which had another one in Saturday's semifinal action against Pittsburgh. The Panthers lit up both Wake Forest and North Carolina in their earlier tournament matchups, but were neutralized by the Cavs' stingy defensive play, as Pitt was held to a mere 36.7 percent shooting performance, including a 3-of-14 showing from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Virginia was methodical and efficient, converting 46.7 percent from the floor in posting the three-point victory. Harris led the team in scoring with 12 points, while Brogdon and Gill tacked on 10 points apiece.