GREENSBORO, N.C. — Everyone knows that when postseason play begins — even if it’s just conference tournaments — there are likely going to be several teams whose season ends this week.
But for some teams, it’s more than that.
Maryland ended its 61-year membership in the ACC by bringing a lot of fans to Greensboro and went out oh-so-suddenly in the cruelest of ways: a walk-off FSU dunk, basically.
The Terps were clearly ready to go out with a lot more of a bang, but it wasn’t to be. Former Maryland head coach Lefty Driesell hated the ACC Tournament being in Greensboro as much as anyone, and many Maryland fans have held on to that sentiment.
But they turned out in pretty decent numbers in Greensboro to support their team, with the possibility existing for the No. 8 seeded Terps — fresh off a win over a top-five Virginia team — to do some damage one last time.
The Maryland band even seemed in on the joke, too, playing "Born to Run" during one first-half media timeout. And now that the Terps’ ACC season — and possibly its regular season, too — ended with a 67-65 loss, they could reminisce about the good times one last time before "running" to the Big 10.
"I wish the ACC much success. There will be new teams that’ll be here," Maryland junior Dez Wells said. "It was a great ride for us. Next year as far as conference play, it’ll be a new environment for us, new opportunities and new successes for us, tough times, just like we’ve seen here and great times like we’ve seen too."
FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton, whose Seminoles were barely in the NCAA Tournament picture entering this event, he didn’t think about the implications of the game in terms of Maryland at all. At least, not at first.
But as a Gastonia, North Carolina native, the reality started to set in for him a bit later.
"Maryland has been a premier program in the ACC for many, many years. And they’ve had some of the greatest coaches with Lefty (Driesell) and his personality and what he brought, and he was always a colorful guy and I thought he brought a lot to the ACC. And then Gary (Williams) with his aggressive style, so Maryland has meant a lot to the legacy of the ACC. But they’re moving on, and we’re going to wish them well," Hamilton said.
Maryland isn’t the only school, or entity, that might be moving on.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik and his team raised some eyebrows Wednesday night when they knocked off Notre Dame, giving the Deacs their first ACC Tournament win since 2007.
But Wake, which has been mostly disappointing in his tenure, went back to its normal ways with an 84-55 blowout loss to Pittsburgh.
In Year 4 under Bzdelik, the program hasn’t shown a lot of signs of moving forward in Winston-Salem. This is the same program that produced Chris Paul, Muggsy Bogues, Tim Duncan, Josh Howard, and then some. It’s never been as bad as it’s been the last few seasons.
Wake Forest finished the year 17-16, over .500 for the first time since 2010 but with nothing really to show for it.
There’s potential that Wake will receive an invitation to the CBI, but there’s no telling if they’ll accept it or not. It generally costs money to go to the CBI. Wake’s athletic director Ron Wellman, who will also make the decision on Bzdelik’s future, is sequestered with the rest of the NCAA selection committee this weekend.
"Our only focus really was today, this game. Our intention was was to win it, and to not even think about a CBI, for example. Now, what the administration’s feel is about that, I don’t know," Bzdelik said afterwards.
It would probably be the only chance left that Bzdelik would have to save his job.
But he didn’t want to talk about that after the fact when asked about his job security.
"I’m just going to answer questions about the game," Bzdelik said.
In the postgame locker room, there weren’t many dry eyes to be found. Players Bzdelik recruited, like sophomore Devin Thomas, sat with a towel over his head. Point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre was still teary-eyed when speaking with reporters.
"Whatever happens to (Bzdelik), it’s on us," an emotional Miller-McIntyre said.
Last year’s ACC champion Miami — in name only, really, as the Hurricanes lost almost everyone from that team — bowed out Thursday at the hands of NC State.
Miami was not the same type of team it was a year ago, but the Hurricanes gave everyone a fight. They finished 17-16 and while not pretty to watch, they fought hard enough to get wins they shouldn’t have been able to get. And they weren’t an easy team to play, which is probably the highest possible compliment.
Either way, NC State gets its own chance at revenge as it will take on Syracuse — the No. 2 seed — on Friday night. The Wolfpack were a narrow loss in Syracuse (that included some late controversial calls) away from already being squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Instead, it will likely have to win Friday and Saturday at minimum to have any chance.
NC State vanquished a number of demons in its win over Miami. ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren was great, as usual, but he also had help, which has been a rarity lately. Namely, Ralston Turner, who finished with 22 points and made huge shots late, including 5-of-8 three’s overall.
And the Wolfpack will have a chance to get a huge, huge win.
"It’s not about payback. It’s about opportunity," NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said. "And we’ve got an opportunity tomorrow that is golden. Couldn’t ask for a better one."