GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Miami coach Jim Larrañaga congratulated his 14th-ranked Hurricanes for battling through a “marathon” and claiming a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title. The Hurricanes face a different challenge now as the top seed for this week’s ACC Tournament.
“He told us what we have next is just a bunch of sprints,” wing Jordan Miller said after the team beat Pittsburgh on Saturday to clinch that No. 1 seed.
The Hurricanes, No. 13 Virginia and No. 21 Duke are the headliners for the five-day event in Greensboro. Yet there’s been plenty of parity in the ACC this season, with no clearly dominant team. That seemingly has the makings for an unpredictable tournament, and it’s not clear how many teams can use the event to solidify their NCAA Tournament chances.
Miami (24-6, 15-5) claimed the top seed for the first time since 2013, when the Hurricanes won three games in the same venue to claim their lone title. The Hurricanes finished tied atop the league standings with the Cavaliers (23-6, 15-5), who hold the No. 2 seed.
Virginia, which fell on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble last year, closed its schedule with wins against Clemson and Louisville after looking wobbly in consecutive losses to Boston College and North Carolina.
“I think the last two games were a step in the right direction,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after the Louisville win.
The fourth-seeded Blue Devils (23-8, 14-6) are the the league’s hottest team with six straight wins. Freshman big man Kyle Filipowski has been terrific all year (team highs of 15.0 points and 9.2 rebounds), but the Blue Devils have taken off with the growth and development of freshman point guard Tyrese Proctor and shot-altering big man Dereck Lively II.
Both of them have been key for a team that has forged a defense-and-rebounding identity under first-year coach Jon Scheyer.
“We’ve won games from loose balls and rebounds,” Scheyer said. “It’s just incredible will, and it’s really effort.”
This is the last time Mike Brey will lead Notre Dame into the ACC Tournament, with the school announcing in January he’d step down after his 23rd season.
Brey took over in 2000, leading the Fighting Irish as they moved from the Big East to the ACC and reaching 13 NCAA Tournaments — including regional finals in 2015 and 2016. One of his biggest moments came in Greensboro, leading his 2015 team to the ACC Tournament title by beating North Carolina.
THE LAST SHOT
Does North Carolina have one last bit of March magic left?
The Tar Heels pulled off an improbable late-season run to reach last year’s NCAA title game, including a win over Duke in the Final Four during an epic first-ever NCAA Tournament meeting between the rivals. But they’ll arrive in Greensboro as the seventh seed and flirting with becoming the first No. 1-ranked team in The Associated Press preseason poll to miss the NCAAs since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
As of Monday, ESPN and BracketMatrix.com — which charted an average of 70 mock brackets — had the Tar Heels (19-12, 19-11) well short of an NCAA bid.
The tournament could change the number of NCAA bids for ACC teams.
Miami, Virginia and Duke are set. It also looks likely for fifth-seeded Pittsburgh, a 10-seed in ESPN’s Bracketology projections. That’s also where Pitt showed up in 61 of Bracketmatrix.com’s 70 mock brackets on Monday. And sixth-seeded North Carolina State looks positioned for its first bid since 2018, appearing as a 10-seed on ESPN and in 67 of BracketMatrix’s mock brackets.
That leaves third-seeded Clemson (22-9, 14-6) alongside UNC on the cut line, with the Tigers among ESPN’s projected first four teams out.
“At the end of the day you can’t really worry about all that because then your mind is elsewhere,” Tigers guard Hunter Tyson said.
The ACC Tournament begins with 12th-seeded Florida State and 13th-seeded Georgia Tech meeting in Tuesday’s first of three first-round games. Winners advance to Thursday’s second round headlined by Pitt and N.C. State.
The top four seeds have byes into Thursday’s quarterfinals. The championship game is Saturday night, a little less than 24 hours before the NCAA field is announced.