The Cavaliers can take another step toward their second ACC tourney title in five years by beating the Tigers.
Clemson has something to prove. In a season spent mostly in college basketball’s top 25, the Tigers resume holds 23 wins — but only three of those came against ranked opponents. On Friday night, they’ll get a chance to add a fourth by taking down the No. 1 team in the nation in the semifinals of the 2018 ACC Tournament.
Top ranked Virginia has already dispatched Clemson once this winter, handling their ACC rival in a 61-36 thrashing back in January. The Cavaliers smothered the Tigers that night, holding them to under 32 percent shooting from the field and just 13 second half points as a close game gave way to a rout. But that was in hostile territory on the UVA campus, while Friday’s game will take place on neutral ground in Brooklyn.
For Clemson, a revenge win would show the NCAA Tournament’s Selection Committee it’s capable of hanging with 2018’s elite teams and bump them up a line or two when it comes to seeding at the big dance. For Virginia, likely locked into a No. 1 seed thanks to a stellar regular season, the game presents a chance to right some previous ACC Tournament wrongs.
The Cavs have won the ACC regular season title eight times since 1981, but won the tournament title just once — back in 2014. Two more wins would give Tony Bennett the chance to cut down the nets in Brooklyn — and prove his team is ready for a long run in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Virginia hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1984, but an ACC title could be a precursor to the team’s return to glory.
Clemson’s postseason tournament history is even less glamourous. The program’s only ACC tournament title came before World War II. It hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game in more than two decades. This Tiger team is talented enough to break that drought, but needs to prove itself before earning confidence after years of disappointment. Beating the team that currently tops the AP and Coaches’ Polls would be a great start. Raising the conference championship trophy would be even better.
The first ACC semifinal game tips off from the Barclays Center at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game on ESPN2.
How to watch the ACC semifinal between No. 1 Virginia and No. 4 Clemson
Start time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn