At 8:30 p.m. Saturday, No. 4-seed Duke and No. 2-seed Virginia meet to cap a wild week in Greensboro Coliseum in the ACC tournament final. Before tipoff, The Chronicle's beat writers make their predictions on which team will take home the title.
Jonathan Levitan: Duke 66-63
The Blue Devils look like the class of the ACC right now, but a word to the wise: The Cavaliers are really good, and they showed it in Friday’s nightcap, dizzying Clemson for a 20-point win.
It is, of course, a fitting end for Duke to see Virginia in the final. When these teams met exactly a month ago, an "incorrect adjudication" cost the Blue Devils a win and a shot at the regular-season crown. As a result, head coach Jon Scheyer’s team has played with its backs up against the wall for the entire stretch run, and I think that makes the difference Saturday night. Duke’s newfound ability to close games — a strength it put on display Friday against Miami — will separate it for the title.
Micah Hurewitz: Duke 71-65
After putting on two of their most efficient offensive performances of the year against Pittsburgh and Miami, it’s fair to say the Blue Devils have figured it out on that end after having cemented a strong defense. The perfect time to be locked in on that end of the floor is when facing Virginia, and not just because of the Cavaliers’ pack line defense but because the stakes in this one just feel so high: Virginia is one of two ACC teams the Blue Devils have yet to beat and head coach Jon Scheyer’s Blue Devils have been hungry for revenge against this team for weeks. The eight-game win streak is certainly convincing regarding Duke’s ability to take down quality opponents, and I think the ACC championship will still be a grind-it-out game, but it feels like this one will end with the confetti falling on the Blue Devils.
Sasha Richie: Duke 68-62
The Blue Devils couldn’t ask for a more poetic end to their season so far. In their now eight-game win streak, they have had the chance to redeem themselves against the opponents that have dealt them their worst losses. Each time, they have risen to the occasion. Now, they get to take on the victorious opponent that started it all. The players will tell you that that particular loss a month ago at Virginia is what lit the fire that has fueled this streak, so I don’t think they waste the ultimate chance for revenge. There are plenty of basketball reasons to believe the Blue Devils will win, but the narrative satisfaction a Duke victory would bring is a good reason, too.
Jake Piazza: Duke 65-59
The last time these two teams played, Kyle Filipowski, Duke’s leading scorer, had his worst game of the season and ended with zero points. Yet, the Blue Devils still lost at the last second on a questionable call that the ACC later admitted was wrong. Duke hasn’t lost since that game and more importantly, its wins have come thanks to the Blue Devils playing their best basketball of the season. Virginia is a solid team, but Duke’s peak is higher than the Cavaliers’, so the Blue Devils are going to check this last box off on their late-season revenge tour.
Max Rego: Duke 64-61
A month ago, I thought Virginia was one of the five teams most likely to win it all in Houston. But since then, Tony Bennett and company have struggled to stack marquee performances on top of one another, with their last two victories against North Carolina and Clemson serving as the exception. Are the Cavaliers peaking at the right time? It’s tough to tell, yet when that question is raised toward Duke, the answer is obvious. Everything is clicking for the Blue Devils, aside from some dicey management of Miami’s full-court press Friday night. In the end, Duke keeps it rolling by the skin of its teeth, thanks to stellar play and clutch buckets from Tyrese Proctor and Jeremy Roach.
Alex Jackson: Duke 68-60
Duke is one of the hottest teams in the country right now and is becoming a matchup nightmare as it comes into its full potential. In the series of recent revenge games, the team has looked completely different than where it was earlier in the season. Virginia is a strong team, but they have been challenged in their prior two matchups and have not put together a stretch of really solid games in some time now. Duke’s defense has looked suffocating in its last two matchups and while Virginia can do the same, I think the Blue Devils have the offensive upper hand to take down the ACC co-champions.
Andrew Long: Duke 63-59
This group looked and felt very different in Charlottesville, Va. Heads hung low as a win was wrested from Duke’s grasp at the death. Fast forward a month, and the Blue Devils have a case for being the country’s most in-form team. The defense has been typically excellent while the offense has found its rhythm at exactly the right time, surging Duke to the ACC title game Saturday night. Games like this are part tactics and part personnel, naturally, but I feel like there is something in the air for these Blue Devils right now that pushes them over the edge. Virginia will give them a game and it will likely be ugly, but Duke seems hungry and unified in a way we haven’t seen from it all season. This time of year, when fatigue and pressure are highest, that counts more than anything else.
Rachael Kaplan: Virginia 67-65
Rematch at last. The what-ifs do nothing for Duke now — it hasn’t lost since that controversial ending Feb. 11 and has fought its way back into the national conversation. The Blue Devils of right now are a great basketball team, but Virginia is downright scary. It seems to have gotten its offense firing on all cylinders, shooting 54.5% in its last two games. Neither of its conference tournament opponents has topped 60 points, and while Duke is currently a better offensive team, averaging 90.5 points in its two postseason contests, the Cavaliers know how to shut down the Blue Devils' top weapons. FIlipowski has totaled 39 points thus far in the tournament but was held scoreless in Charlottesville exactly one month ago. Duke might be hot right now, but Virginia is right alongside it. Riding two clean wins into the championship matchup, the Cavaliers take the rematch.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.
Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.
Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.