Rest of ACC ready to fight Duke, Virginia

Angel Rodriguez plays ball the way everyone should play ball. He doesn't care about the situation or the odds. He just cares about winning.

There's a fire inside that 5-foot-11, 181-pound frame that's been motivating teams since he was a star at Kansas State.

On Saturday evening, he nearly led Miami to an improbable, double-overtime comeback win over undefeated, No. 3 Virginia, after his Hurricanes were down by 19 late in the first half. The Cavs weren't just on the ropes. They were on the canvas.

Rodriguez, however, finished with 25 points, seven assists, four rebounds and one steal in the most exciting performance of the day. A seven-point barrage in 79 seconds cut Virginia's lead to one late in the game. He hit three free throws with 0.9 seconds to play to send the game into overtime, but he couldn't hold off Justin Anderson and Co. in the second overtime.

Ignore the 89-80 final score. Miami gave Virginia hell. The rest of this league will fight the Cavs too.

This will be a crazy ACC race. Duke is clearly the favorite. Virginia, which has whipped most of its opponents thus far, is its top threat.

But the Cavs and Blue Devils will endure the kind of nights that nearly ruined Virginia's unblemished record Saturday.

Before Rodriguez closed the ACC show, Notre Dame needed more than Jerian Grant's 24 points and vicious potential dunk-of-year candidate to finish Georgia Tech in double overtime.

North Carolina is inconsistent. But the Tar Heels are still blessed with elite talent. It's a legit top-25 team. They're not just going to give Duke that crown. Louisville, No. 2 in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy, is in this league now. That's a problem for everyone in this league now.

Yeah, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow could lead Duke to the ACC title. Early evidence suggests they will. They're the top trio in the conference and probably the nation. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has everything a coach would want in a Division I squad. This team might win the ACC and the national title.

But check out Exhibit A -- Virginia's tough win Saturday at Miami -- as proof the Blue Devils (or Cavs) won't just run through the ACC without a scrap or two.

Or six.