Virginia 69 #21 Virginia Tech 56While North Carolina was being stung by the Yellow Jackets at Georgia Tech, the Virginia Cavaliers stepped up, avenged an earlier loss and grabbed 1st place in the ACC with a win over in-state rival Virginia Tech, 69-56. The 11-4 Cavaliers can win the title outright with a win over the conference's weakest team, 4-11 Wake Forest, on Saturday. It would mark Virginia's first ACC championship since 1995.
Spending most of the season in relatively unranked obscurity, Virginia, led by Sean Singletary's 17 points, hammered the visiting Hokies with 10 3-pointers (10-16, 63%), while Virginia Tech struggled from beyond the arc, hitting only 2 of 15 attempts (13%). The win was payback for a Feb. 10, 84-57 thumping by Tech which ended a 7-game Virginia win streak.
Georgia Tech 84 #8 North Carolina 77 - With an NCAA invitation possibly hanging in the balance, Georgia Tech lured the ACC's top team to Atlanta and ambushed them, handing the (24-6, 10-5) Tar Heels their second consecutive road loss.
Thaddeus Young scored a career-high 25 points, helped by Javaris Crittenton's 11 assists. Hitting key free throws as time wore down, the Yellow Jackets held on to a 49-42 halftime lead, allowing North Carolina to get no closer than 4 points in the second half. Tech's Javaris Crittenton and Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough both recorded double-doubles. Crittendon scored 13 points with 11 rebounds, while Hansbrough tallied 16 and 10.
The Tar Heels host Duke in their season finale on Sunday as Georgia Tech closes out at home with Boston College the same day. A Yellow Jacket win and a Duke loss would tie those two at 8-8 in the conference, leaving success or failure in the ACC tournament as the final arbiter for an NCAA bid. Nothing's being taken for granted at North Carolina, however. The Tar Heels have lost 3 of their last 5.
#6 Memphis 78 UTEP 67 - The 26-3 Tigers got one step closer to completing an undefeated conference run with another easy road win in the watered-down Conference-USA. At 15-0 in C-USA, Memphis closes out their regular season Saturday night at cellar-dweller SMU, which has won only 3 conference games.
The easy conference schedule may be injurious to Memphis garnering a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. With only one win over a ranked team - an 80-63 win over Kentucky back in November - the selection committee may not look kindly at the Tigers' 18-game win streak (19 if they win at SMU). A #1 seed is probably not in the equation, though a #2 would be a distinct possibility. The overall depth in the 10-12 top teams nationally may send Memphis into March Madness as a #3 seed, however.
#2 UCLA 53 #13 Washington St. 45 - The 2nd-ranked Bruins wrapped up their 2nd consecutive PAC-10 title with a road win over their closest conference rival. As usual, the Bruins did it more with defense than offense, holding the Cougars to 38% shooting, including 1-10 from 3-point range. UCLA didn't fare much better from behind the arc, hitting only 2 of 13 of their attempts. The Bruins did force 14 turnovers and only committed 10 fouls. UCLA improved to 15-2 in the PAC-10 and 26-3 overall with only a Saturday date at Washington left in their regular season schedule.
The Bruins are in position to be the #1 seed in the Western region of the NCAA Tournament. Washington St. fell to 12-5 and 23-6, and will likely end up as a 3 or 4 seed.
Washington 85 #23 USC 70 - Southern Cal just didn't look like a tournament team last night as Washington rolled to a win at home. Against the Trojans' soft defense, the Huskies managed to shoot 52%, dropping in 10 of their 18 3-point attempts. USC struggled from beyond the arc, hitting only 5-18 (28%). Nick Young racked up 26 points for the Bruins, but his effort was hardly enough to derail the host Huskies.
USC can still help themselves out with a win at Washington in their season finale. Considered a good bet to reach the field of 65, the Trojans have 6 wins over ranked teams already in their pocket, though 2 each were against Arizona and Oregon. Washington St. won their first meeting, at USC, 58-55, on December 30.
Utah St. 79 #10 Nevada 77 (OT) - The Nevada Wolf Pack had already clinched the WAC title before this game started, but the strain of overtime in their 3rd straight road game in 8 days finally did them in. Nick Fazekas scored 20 with 10 rebounds for his 18th double-double of the season, while extending his streak of of double figure scoring to 29 - every game this season.
The Wolf Pack returns home on Saturday to close out the season with New Mexico St., their closest conference pursuer. The game may have more meaning for future seeding, as both teams are locked into their 1-2 positions in the WAC.