GREENSBORO, N.C. – This week’s Atlantic Coast Conference men’s tournament has a new look, from more teams and an extra round of games to the school holding the No. 1 seed.
Sixth-ranked Virginia is hoping to pair its first outright regular-season title in 33 years with its first ACC tournament title since winning its only other one in 1976.
The Cavaliers (25-6 overall, 16-2 ACC) finished two games ahead of No. 11 Syracuse. Yet coach Tony Bennett — previously Washington State’s coach — said the top seed, only the second for the Virginia program, doesn’t mean much.
“There’s such a small amount of separation and most of these teams will have a chance at it,” Bennett said Tuesday. “Who’s playing well, and executes, and is the hungriest is going to have the best chance.”
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The tournament starts Wednesday with the lowest-seeded teams.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and the rest of the top four seeds — the Orange, No. 7 Duke and No. 15 North Carolina — don’t play until Friday’s quarterfinals.
Virginia hasn’t reached the semifinals since 1995 and has lost four straight games in the tournament dating to 2010.
“It seems like the teams that always do well in the postseason, the Dukes and Carolinas, those guys always seem to take a step up when they get into the ACC tournament, the NCAA tournament, whatever it might be,” said 6-foot-6 Virginia guard Joe Harris, who is from Chelan.
“I think that’s a step that this program has to take, and hopefully we can try to make that stride this year.”
This is the first season for the ACC with 15 teams, with the high-profile arrivals of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame from the Big East.
That meant adding a fifth day of competition for the first time in the event’s 61-year history, with Wednesday’s first-round games at the Greensboro Coliseum featuring teams seeded 10th and lower. Teams seeded fifth through ninth earned a bye into Thursday’s second round.
It also marks the final ACC tournament run for Maryland, which is headed for the Big Ten this summer. The Terrapins play Florida State on Thursday.
North Dakota State men secure NCAA berth
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Taylor Braun made a layup while being fouled with 12 seconds left and added the free throw to lead North Dakota State to a 60-57 victory over Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne for the Summit League tournament title Tuesday — and the Bison’s second trip to the NCAA tournament.
North Dakota State (25-6) also earned a berth to the NCAA tournament in 2009 during its first year of Division I postseason eligibility.
In other games with automatic NCAA berths on the line, Milwaukee beat Wright State 69-63 for the Horizon League title in Dayton, Ohio, and Mount St. Mary’s beat Robert Morris 88-71 for the Northeast title in Moon Township, Pa.
• In women’s games with NCAA berths at stake, No. 23 DePaul beat St. John’s 65-57 for the Big East title in Rosemont, Ill., and South Dakota defeated Denver 82-71 in the Summit final in Sioux Falls, S.D.