GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Virginia matched its ACC regular-season championship with a conference tournament title after a 72-63 win over Duke on Sunday. It may have also put an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed in play for the Cavaliers, but for now they’ll savor winning just their second ACC tournament title ever.
Here are five observations from Virginia's win over Duke:
Need any more proof that the Cavaliers are for real? They have the three areas that generally lead to long NCAA tournament runs, starting with a tough defense that held Duke below 40 percent shooting from the field. They also have a playmaking point guard in London Perrantes. And they have multiple go-to players in Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris for those close-game situations where they absolutely have to have a basket. Brogdon almost single-handedly disproved the theory that the Cavs can't score. He led the team with 23 points and always had an answer when the Blue Devils were making a charge.
Jabari Parker is being way more assertive than earlier in the season. At one point in the second half, the freshman forward scored eight straight points for the Blue Devils. One basket came when he stole an entry pass in the post and took it coast-to-coast for a dunk. The next possession he followed with a 3-pointer and -- what’s becoming his trademark -- kissed his fingers. He finished with 23 points but was just 9-of-24 shooting from the field.
It’s tough to get to the rim against the Cavaliers. It seems like few teams protect the basket better without a dominant 7-footer in the middle. (Mike Tobey is 6-foot-11 but is not exactly an intimidator.) Their rotations are always timely, and Akil Mitchell and Anthony Gill will surprise you with their shot-blocking ability. Parker and Rodney Hood are used to driving and scoring around the rim, but they found the going a lot tougher against the Cavs.
That said, Mitchell could have easily been the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. At one point in the first half, Parker squared him up and attempted to shoot a jumper, but Mitchell blocked the shot with his left hand. In the first half, Parker found the going so tough against Mitchell that he resorted to shooting jumpers.
Duke sorely needs a consistent backcourt scorer to emerge. With Parker and Hood struggling from the floor, the Blue Devils didn’t have a third option to take over the scoring. Rasheed Sulaimon was held to two points and Quinn Cook had five. Andre Dawkins did have nine off the bench, but Duke will need more in the NCAA tournament.