No. 21 Duke and No. 13 Virginia will finish their business on the court after all.
The teams were involved in a controversial ending last month that even drew a response from the Atlantic Coast Conference in regard to the misapplication of the rules by the officiating crew.
Even more will be at stake when the teams clash in the ACC tournament championship game Saturday night at Greensboro, N.C.
“It’s a big-time opportunity to play in the championship game for the ACC tourney,” first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “We’re going to savor it and give it our all. It’s a big deal to have that opportunity. It’s exciting to play in these games.”
Fourth-seeded Duke (25-8) has won eight games in a row since losing 69-62 in overtime to Virginia on Feb. 11. At the end of regulation, a foul called on Cavaliers forward Ryan Dunn was wiped away upon a replay review, although the conference put out a statement saying there was an “incorrect adjudication of the playing rules.” The play should have resulted in two free throws for Duke’s Kyle Filipowski. The eventual ACC Rookie of the Year would have needed to make one of those for the Blue Devils to win.
That was the only regular-season matchup between the teams.
Second-seeded Virginia (25-6) is in the title game for the first time since claiming the 2018 championship.
“Our game was a battle against them at our place,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said. “I haven’t watched them a ton, but we respect everyone and we’re going to have to play some good basketball.”
Virginia guard Kihei Clark hasn’t been a part of an ACC tournament championship.
“It would mean a lot, something I haven’t been able to accomplish,” Clark said. “Just going to treat it like a regular game and go out and play Virginia basketball.”
Friday’s 85-78 victory against top-seeded Miami came with sparkling stretches for the Blue Devils, who made 54.9 percent of their shots from the field.
“To (play like that) against a team like Miami shows a lot of growth,” Scheyer said. “That was as high a level as we’ve played.”
The Blue Devils have shot 49 percent or better from the field in five of their past seven games.
“I just think (we’re) making the right play,” guard Jeremy Roach said. “I think that’s why our shooting percentage is like that.”
The Cavaliers have been efficient offensively in other ways. They’ve gone 11 consecutive games with fewer than 10 turnovers, something that aided Friday night’s 76-56 romp past third-seeded Clemson in the second semifinal.
Virginia has reached the 25-win mark for the sixth time under Bennett, who has led the program since the 2009-10 season.
There hasn’t been a first-year coach win the ACC tournament since North Carolina’s Bill Guthridge in 1998.
Duke has been in 34 previous ACC tournament finals, winning 21 times. The only meeting in the title game between the Blue Devils and Cavaliers came with Virginia’s 2014 victory in Greensboro.
The Blue Devils lost last year’s title game to Virginia Tech, their only defeat in the event since 2018. They won the 2019 title, never got on the court in 2020 before the tournament was canceled prior to the quarterfinals because of the pandemic, and then dropped out of the 2021 tournament after winning a game because of a COVID-19 case within the program.
–Field Level Media