TOP 25 REWIND: Focus turns toward power conference tourneys
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s bumpy last week of the regular season ended up leaving the ninth-ranked Tar Heels with a tougher road in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The Tar Heels lost at home on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to Miami on Tuesday, and then blew a 10-point halftime lead in Saturday’s loss at fifth-ranked rival Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium in their regular-season finale. That dropped the reigning national champions into the No. 6 seed in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, meaning the Tar Heels will have to win four games in four days to claim the title.
Had they beaten the Blue Devils, UNC would have been the No. 2 seed and earned a double-round bye into the quarterfinals.
The ACC went into Saturday’s final slate of games with plenty of uncertainty behind No. 1 Virginia, which finished four games ahead of second-seeded Duke and had its own buzzer-beating win at Louisville . Then there was a four-way tie at 11-7 in the league between UNC, No. 18 Clemson, North Carolina State and Miami — and the tiebreakers dropped the Tar Heels into Wednesday’s second round to face the Wake Forest-Syracuse winner.
Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter. Four of the last five ACC teams to win the national championship failed to win the ACC Tournament beforehand, including Duke in 2015 and UNC in 2017. Both lost in the semifinals.
“It’s just time to bounce back, not time to panic,” senior Joel Berry II said. “That game (against Duke), it’s not a national championship game. We’ve just got to go back and get ready for Brooklyn.”
No. 19 Arizona generated plenty of headlines in the past week.
Coach Sean Miller’s future appeared to be in doubt after an ESPN report said the coach was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to Deandre Ayton to attend the school.
He missed last weekend’s game against Oregon and sat out three practices as the school investigated. But the school announced Miller would keep his job while Miller denied the report in a statement Thursday .
Meanwhile, the Wildcats beat Stanford and California to claim the top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. And after Saturday’s win against Cal , Miller announced in front of the home crowd that Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins would leave school early.
Got all that? Stay tuned for what happens in Vegas.
The Big East, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference also unveiled tournament brackets set by the weekend’s games.
No. 3 Xavier beat DePaul on Saturday to clinch the top seed in the Big East tourney at Madison Square Garden, snapping No. 4 Villanova’s run of four straight top finishes.
In the Big 12, sixth-ranked Kansas owns the top seed, though the Jayhawks are coming off a blowout loss to Oklahoma State.
BEARCATS’ BIG WIN
While UNC-Duke offered a top-10 matchup, No. 10 Cincinnati earned a big win to close out the American Athletic Conference race. The Bearcats won at No. 11 Wichita State on Sunday to claim the top seed in the league tournament.
LOT OF REST
The Big Ten, meanwhile, was wrapping up its tournament on Sunday at Madison Square Garden with No. 8 Purdue facing No. 15 Michigan. The Wolverines upset No. 2 Michigan State in Saturday’s semifinals, while the Boilermakers beat bubble team Penn State to reach the final.
Regardless of the outcome, some league teams headed to the NCAA Tournament will have nearly two weeks of rest time before opening the run to the Final Four.
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