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Virginia claimed its second ACC championship of 2017-18 with a wholly impressive 71-63 win over North Carolina in the league’s tournament championship game Saturday night at the Barclays Center.
The Cavaliers, who finished a full four games ahead of the next-closest team in the final ACC standings, now turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament. UVA is almost certain to be the No. 1 overall seed when the brackets are unveiled on Sunday, but Tony Bennett’s team will have more doubters than most squads that have carried that banner.
This will be the fourth time in five seasons that Virginia has been a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Big Dance, and the third time they’ve graced the top line. Despite that fact, UVA hasn’t been to a Final Four since 1984, and they’ve played in just one regional final since 1995.
Still, the evidence that this March could be different for the Cavaliers was on full display Saturday night.
Virginia’s defense gobbled up a North Carolina team that hadn’t been held below 74 points since Jan. 22. But that’s expected. Where the Cavaliers truly shined was on the other end of the floor. They drilled 9 of 17 three-point attempts, assisted on 15 of their 21 made shots, went a nearly perfect 20 for 22 from the free-throw line, and saw all three of their top scorers — Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and Ty Jerome — score 12 points or more.
Luke Maye scored 20 points in a losing effort for North Carolina, which was looking for its second ACC Tournament title in three years. Senior point guard Joel Berry chipped in 17 points for the Tar Heels.
The win gave Virginia its third ACC Tournament title ever, and its first since 2014. In that season, like this one, the Cavaliers also won the conference’s regular season championship and were the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
North Carolina, the No. 6 seed, had been vying to become just the second team ever (and the second straight) to claim the ACC Tournament title by winning four games in four days. Duke achieved the feat last year as the No. 5 seed.