Virginia Tech had no doubts that it would win the ACC Championship – and now Duke faces big questions

NEW YORK – They made a little noise, ate some New York-style pizza, sipped a few Heinekens and projected Duke on a projector in their hotel room. Mike Young took off his shoes and dropped them on the chair next to him. He went to work.

“Shut the door and let’s close the door, boys,” Young told his staff.

The Virginia Tech coach and his guys kept going until about 4:30 a.m. Saturday. They slept three hours, then got up and met again.

And again after that. They were searching for the alleys and nooks and crannies of the Duke’s defense. Where can an elite player like Mark Williams of Duke Center benefit? Young’s staff saw a way. They also found evidence in a Miami tape of how the Hurricanes did a good job of “tagging” Wendell Moore Jr. And apparently, there were opportunities to get Duke to turn the keys.

It took a lot. But this game could mean everything.

“There’s a stream of consciousness,” Young told CBS Sports in the corridors of Barclays Center, just before midnight Saturday. “There’s just things flying all over the place. Some of them are really bad. But you’re just trying to get off. We got back there this morning at 8:30 and you screw it up. We’ve had three photoshoots with our cast, 15 minutes, 20 minutes each. I I don’t hit them.”

Was the fate of Virginia Tech’s NCAA Championship hanging in the balance of Saturday night’s ACC Championship game? We will never know. The Hokies ended all speculation with a scene of a win over Duke, as he escaped with a 82-67 victory, giving the program its first ACC championship and its first conference championship in more than 40 years.

The team knew about 12 hours before the country saw what Virginia Tech was capable of on Saturday night. The tape told the story. The setting was correct. The Duke was there to take her. Senior Storm Murphy admitted it.

“I think it all started on the way here to Brooklyn and into this morning,” he said. “I think a lot of guys had no doubt that we (wouldn’t) lose, and we just knew we had already won the match. We just had to do our job.”

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Confident but devastating quote. Virginia Tech worked the business, watched weaknesses and predicted the win for hours. When the ball was tilted, there were no surprises.

Four days ago, this was a team 19-12 away from the bubble. She needed a win by hitting the bell Wednesday in the second round of the ACC Championship against Clemson to survive overtime and keep her chances at the big dance. Young called this win “lucky as hell”. With the Young and the Hokies, it’s hard to see how much luck influences anymore. This team had a good rating on predictive metrics all season, however it lacked a distinct win. In the last possible spot in the table, he took that win for the break. One of the most unexpected and impressive ACC tournaments in recent memory. As No. 7, Virginia Tech became the second team in ACC Championship history to achieve four wins in four days. Hunter Cattoor scored a career high of 31 points and overturned Duke while a throng of Virginia Tech fans were by their side at what was happening in front of them.

“He had a Klay Thompson night,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

What turned. This hockey was once 2-7 in the ACC ledger. January was ending and things were bleak.

“It was a dark place, we didn’t want to be there, we weren’t expecting to be there,” Murphy said of mid-season fainting.

Virginia Tech has lost twice since then. She has won 13 times. She’s going to her fifth consecutive NCAA Championship because Young never let his team feel that they weren’t good enough.

“There is an inherent pressure,” Young told CBS Sports. “I don’t respond well to people who rip my ass off. I want to cheer them up. I have really good people.”

Nobody’s shredding Mike Krzyzewsi’s ass, but a loss like this would put Duke’s upcoming NCAA Championship appearances in a different light. Winning a conference championship is not a prerequisite to winning a national championship; Many teams don’t win the first before they do the second. But Duke is clearly not in her prime.

“We couldn’t stop them,” Krzyzewski said.

As Coach K said Saturday night, this team has been a hit on most metrics up to this point. It’s 28-6, the ACC regular season championship, and on Sunday, she will be awarded with a high-quality seed. It looked like No. 2 before Virginia Tech put it in the mixer. Now the Blue Devils could be No. 3, a fate that Krzyzewski hinted at.

It is quite clear that the problem is defense. Yes, Young is a great coach, respected across the country for his style and acumen. Virginia Tech might have been a poor match for Doc, right.

“They were like a well-oiled machine,” Krzyzewski said. “They are a team that you need two or three days of preparation to put in place your defensive game plan, and it might not work. I think they are the team they thought they would be at the start of a year.”

But it’s not like hockey has caught the demons on a bad day. Duke has been slipping more recently on the defensive end. K said it after losing the UNC to close out the season, and the players know it all too well.

“I think our communications were a little off,” said Wendell Moore Jr. “I definitely feel the effort from all of our guys. I feel like we’re a little late in the conversations, a little late in the keys. Again, these are all the little things we can clean up.”

His talent (this Devils team can have five NBA players on the roster) is wasted if it can’t be used at both ends. Duke is ranked 44th in defensive efficiency at KenPom.com. The great Duke teams of the ’80s, ’90s, and roughly the 2000s were broadly fierce, fearless, and connected on defense. Hell was facing them. Those bands were the embodiment of Krzyzewski’s violence.

Can this team raise its ceiling? Duke’s had 34 matches to show his will and desires. Up until this point, she’s proven incapable of being an elite, and now, she’s good sometimes at that end of the floor. Krzyzewski has done this for nearly five decades. He knows that switching between defense in mid-March is almost impossible. It’s hard to get rid of bad habits. But he said it was possible. The team has barely had proper practice since losing UNC. For a young team, this is important.

Krzyzewski said he is “very confident” that Duke can turn his defensive reputation “because we will be able to train”.

But as he admitted multiple times on Saturday, this is a young team revolving around three new students, two of whom are still 18, and that brings limitations.

“The older team deals with fatigue better,” he said.

There is still a lot to learn but not a lot of time to get there. How much more can this team grow after there are no more losses without consequences?

“We are 0-0,” Krzyzewski said. “I think we are going to be a very good seed, we have to move forward and learn from it. But playing this game helps us because that is the caliber of the team and the execution that you have to beat in order to progress.”

This title game was a clash of two teams coming from different angles. They bounced off each other, and now who’s to say which — or both, or neither — will continue to play by the end of next weekend.

Young was baffled by the idea that Virginia Tech could make it to the ACC title game and might not participate. But that’s off the table.

He said, “Fuck with those things.” “Our name will be called tomorrow and we’ll be excited wherever we go.”

Young, Murphy, Cator and Kef Aluma together sat on the podium, engulfed in celebration. They are Hokies now, but they were all Wofford Terriers at another time. This is where Young used to coach, Aluma and Murphy would play, and where Cator committed himself in high school.

Saturday night, they became the ACC champions. They beat the Duke, becoming either the last or second-to-last team to give Krzyzewski a loss. Virginia Tech will be named Sunday and enter the NCAA Championship feeling as confident and free as any club in that 68-team class.

Duke will walk with a goal on his back, the biggest draw of this tournament although he is not the top seed, and not likely to land in the top six or seven in the selection committee overall standings. Krzyzewski is arguably the greatest coach in college basketball history, and with only a few weeks left in his career, he now needs one of the best coaching maneuvers of his life in order to finish the season the way he and his players hope. will.

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