Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Five unforgettable ACC Tournament nailbiters

Anybody who’s been attending the ACC Tournament for a long period has games they will never forget.

I’ve covered at least part of every tournament since 1996, and all my favorites were decided either in overtime or the closing seconds of regulation.

Here are the five most unforgettable games I have seen from a courtside seat on press row.

5. Wake Forest 114, Georgia Tech 112 in 2 OT in the first round in 2007. This was the last game of opening night in Tampa, and I thought it would never end. I wasn’t writing the lead on this game, but I wandered out to press row late in the second half after turning in my story on N.C. State’s overtime win over Duke earlier in the evening session.

I probably should have gone home and gone to bed, but the pace and tightness of this game, were mesmerizing as the teams played into Friday morning. Harvey Hale mercifully sent us all home with 21 points after the end of regulation.

4. N.C. State 85, Duke 80 in OT in the first round in 2007. I remember telling Charlotte Observer colleague Tom Sorensen late in the game that Duke would win because the Blue Devils were tougher.


Brandon Costner’s 30 points sparked the 10th-seeded Wolfpack in the first game of a four-game run to the ACC final that instantly endeared first-year coach Sidney Lowe to N.C. State fans.

3. North Carolina 68, Duke 66 in the semifinals in 2008. Virginia Tech needed to win this game to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and put up an incredible fight against an opponent that was favored to win the NCAA title.

With the score tied in the closing seconds, Tyler Hansbrough chased down a rebound on the baseline and hit a jumper to win the game. His awkward celebratory sprint to halfcourt was one of the defining moments of his storied Tar Heel career.

2. Clemson 75, North Carolina 73 in the quarterfinals in 1996. This time the underdog that needed the win got it as Greg Buckner lifted the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament with a last-second dunk.

In a classy move, North Carolina coach Dean Smith took a break from his thoroughly entertaining feud with Clemson coach Rick Barnes to visit the Tiger locker room and congratulate point guard Terrell McIntyre on an excellent game.

1. Maryland 95, Duke 87 in OT in the final in 2004. The Terrapins and point guard John Gilchrist broke Duke’s five-year stranglehold on the ACC championship with a win in Greensboro.

It seemed the entire crowd turned against the Blue Devils because they had dominated the tournament for so long. The next day, coach Mike Krzyzewski made mention of this when he said he thought Duke had been successful for so long that an anti-Duke backlash had developed that was so pronounced that it even influenced games.

Duke fans will notice that the classic 2001 semifinal win over Maryland in Atlanta is not on this list.
That game – won when Juan Dixon missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer - would be near the top of the list. But I didn’t watch it in person, though I covered other games during that tournament.

Hopefully as the tournament returns to Atlanta this week we’ll see at least one more game with that kind of pizzazz to add to this list. – Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

North Carolina did not play Duke in the 2008 Tourney, fyi

Anonymous said...

He meant to type Va. Tech, which he did to start the next sentence.

Anonymous said...

I think he just joyously tried to stick another Duke "loss" in there without us noticing. God forbid a Duke win makes the Tarheel Observer's top 5.