No pressure, but the Virginia Cavaliers must beat Michigan State in the Sweet 16 on Friday if the ACC wants to have any respect. Coach Tony Bennett‘s team is the only ACC club remaining and all the other tournament entries did not go out with flying colors.
The Duke Blue Devils definitely should feel the worst of any ACC team with their quick departure from the NCAA tournament in the upset loss to the Mercer Bears. Duke came into the season with hopes of being a championship contender, because Jabari Parker was supposed to carry the team to at least the Final Four. Instead, Parker looked like a deer in headlights in his last two games of the season. The loss to Mercer could have been validated if the Bears were at least competitive in their next game. Unfortunately for Duke, the Tennessee Volunteers destroyed Mercer in the third round game.
The Syracuse Orange are probably next in line in the disappointment category after starting the season 25-0, only to finish with a 3-6 record in their last nine games. Syracuse lost to the Dayton Flyers in the third round, and Tyler Ennis did not have the magic touch he displayed earlier this season. The Orange did not have nearly the same expectations as Duke, but because of their start, they did become championship contenders.
The North Carolina Tar Heels had a very up-and-down season, so maybe the loss to the Iowa State Cyclones was not that surprising given the way the rest of the year went. Still, the Tar Heels were facing a Cyclones team that did not have one of its best players and blew an eight-point lead with four minutes remaining. Odds are the Tar Heels will return most of the team coach Roy Williams had this season, but to end in such an excruciating way had to be a letdown.
The North Carolina Wolfpack and the Pittsburgh Panthers were not upset in the tournament and at least put up somewhat of a battle in each of their final games. T.J. Warren showed off why he was ACC Player of the Year and probably took his team much further than most would have thought. The Panthers gave everything they had in their loss to the Florida Gators. It is hard to say whether the Panthers played above their heads during the beginning part of the season or that with the way they ended up it was a disappointing year. Either way, Pitt’s first year in the ACC saw them make a tournament many did not think would happen which has to mean something.
Virginia is the East region No. 1 seed, and if the ACC wants any recognition for an overall successful conference season, the Cavaliers must beat Michigan State.