Today’s ACC Tournament Championship pits the No. 1 seeded Duke Blue Devils against the No. 7 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Both teams are safely in the NCAA Tournament field of 65, so this one is largely for bragging rights in the ACC. This will be the third meeting between these two ACC clubs in the tournament final.
Duke has advanced to the Championship game by outlasting #9 Virginia and #12 Miami. The Blue Devils struggled to put away both opponents, but had some timely buckets down the stretch to advance to the finals.
Georgia Tech has had the much more difficult road to the finals – three wins in three days – including wins over No. 10 North Carolina, No. 2 Maryland and No. 11 N.C. State. Paul Hewitt’s Yellow Jackets have certainly made it interesting on Georgia Tech fans. Tech was down 13 to UNC at half, up 19 on Maryland and played N.C. State close all the way to the end. One constant for Georgia Tech has been the play of ACC Rookie of the Year Derrick Favors, who is averaging nearly a double-double in three tournament games (15.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG).
The two teams split the season series, with each team winning at home. Back on January 9, Georgia Tech upset then No. 5 Duke 71-67 at Alexander Memorial. Gani Lawal led the Jackets with 21 points and 9 rebounds, hitting a key turnaround jumper with just over a minute left to play to preserve the victory. Duke went cold in that game from 3 point range, hitting only 6 of 28 attempts in the loss. In the second game at Cameron Indoor, Duke had no problem connecting on long range as the Blue Devils made quick work of Georgia Tech, winning 86-67. Kyle Singler led the way, hitting 8 three-pointers and finishing with a career high 30 points. Jon Scheyer added 21 points in the victory.
For Duke, a team that thrives on perimeter shooting, they can’t afford to shoot as poorly as they did in the first matchup with the Jackets. The Blue Devils will need to shoot well to capture their 18th ACC Tournament Championship. Also, Georgia Tech’s run to the Championship has been plagued by turnovers. The Jackets committed 25 and 16 turnovers in their last two games. Guard Iman Shumpert committed five turnovers in the win over N.C. State in the ACC semifinal yesterday. You can bet Coach K will have the Blue Devils pressing action early.
For Georgia Tech, they will need to exploit their advantage down low with Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors. If the pair of big men gets in foul trouble early, as they did in Duke’s 19 point victory at Cameron Indoor, it might be a long night for the Jackets. Free throw shooting has also been a problem for Georgia Tech. They haven’t hit more than 60 percent of free-throws so far in the tournament. Duke, on the other hand, leads the conference from the charity stripe with a 75.9% average. This game should prove to be a physical one and the difference in the game may very well come down to clutch free-throw shooting.
GAME NOTES: Duke is 17-11 in ACC Tournament Championship games, while Georgia Tech is 3-3. These two teams have met in the ACC Tournament 9 times previously, with Duke holding a 6-3 edge in the Tournament. Duke has won 8 of the last 11 ACC Championships. Georgia Tech’s last title occurred in 1993.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Greensboro Coliseum (23,500) - Greensboro, North Carolina. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Duke 18-0, Georgia Tech 14-2. Away Record: Duke 5-5, Georgia Tech 4-8. Neutral Record: Duke 5-0, Georgia Tech 4-1. Conference Record: Duke 13-3, Georgia Tech 7-9. Series Record: Duke leads the all-time series 62-23.
Sunday, March 14th, 1:00 PM ET (ESPN)
Prediction: Duke 80, Georgia Tech 74