Five things we learned from ACC
With a championship on the line, Duke can step up its game
FSU served notice that it's primed to do damage in the NCAA tournament
The ACC tourney again proved how much North Carolina needs Ty Lawson
ATLANTA -- Five things we learned from the ACC tournament:
1. With a championship on the line, the Blue Devils can bring it. Sure, Duke has its flaws, and a cold shooting night will almost certainly doom it against a quality opponent in the NCAAs, but the Blue Devils played inspired basketball against a good Florida State team as it won the ACC title 79-69 (RECAP | BOX). The Duke players talked passionately after the semifinals how much winning a championship would mean to them, and Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer showed it the next day, scoring the Devils' first 29 points. Perhaps most encouraging for Duke were the quality minutes it received out of big man Brian Zoubek, who was able to neutralize Florida State's advantage inside.
2. Florida State will do some damage in the NCAAs. The Seminoles play very tough defense around the basket with big men Uche Echefu and Solomon Alabi. Duke and North Carolina shot just 38 percent from two against FSU. On the perimeter, Toney Douglas is also a menace, which is why the Seminoles led the ACC in field-goal percentage defense. The ability to stay in games on the defensive end, coupled with Douglas' explosive capabilities on offense, will make FSU as dangerous a team as any outside the No. 1 seeds.
3. North Carolina is not the same team without Ty Lawson. OK, we didn't really need the ACC tournament to learn this, but the Heels clearly were missing a beat in their two games here. Larry Drew has the potential to spark a few fast break hoops, but it doesn't appear as though Coach Roy Williams trusts him yet. Bobby Frasor cannot get the three-to-four momentum changing fast break baskets that Lawson provides, and that was the difference between taking control of the games against Virginia Tech and Florida State and having them come down to a one-possession game. Eventually, you are going to lose a close one, as UNC found out Saturday.
4. Wake Forest needs to grow up quickly. Postseason play can do funny things to young teams, and the ACC tournament apparently spooked the freshman-heavy Deacons. Wake had three turnovers, three missed free throws and three air balls in the first five postseason minutes against Maryland. They fought back and eventually took a one-point lead, but the first five minutes of the second half, Wake was 1-for-8 with a shot clock violation, and the game was effectively over. Slumps like that next week will end this promising season.
5. ACC officiating is not at the same level as the quality of play. Too many times over the four days in Atlanta, officials made big calls that were somewhat questionable, the worst of which was a charge call against Virginia Tech when the UNC defender leapt in the air, creating a mid-air collision. Virginia Tech felt it was robbed at the end of its quarterfinal game when Tyler Hansbrough was awarded a jump ball, UNC felt it was robbed at the end of the Florida State game when Douglas was the beneficiary of a foul call and Hansbrough was not at the other end. And the Duke-Maryland game started to get "nasty," in the words of Singler, due to the inconsistent nature of the calls. ACC director of officials John Clougherty was at courtside the whole tournament, and he could not have been pleased.