Top of ACC's top players clash as Wake Forest faces Miami
Will the real Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year please stand up?
That question is appropriate now because ninth-seeded Wake Forest, led by Tyree Appleby, is set to challenge top-seeded Miami, powered by Isaiah Wong, on Thursday in quarterfinal game at the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
Wong is the ACC Player of the Year as voted on by the league. Appleby is the ACC Player of the Year as selected by the Associated Press.
Miami, which shared the ACC regular-season championship with Virginia, is ranked 14th in the nation. The Hurricanes (24-6), who received a double bye, are the top-seeded team in their conference tournament -- regardless of league -- for the second time. They won the 2013 ACC tourney as the No. 1 seed.
Wake Forest (19-13) played on Wednesday, defeating Syracuse 77-74 when Davien Williamson sank a last-second 3-pointer.
"I had the confidence to knock it down," Williamson said of his game-winning shot from the right elbow, "and I did."
It was Wake Forest's first ACC tournament win since 2017.
Appleby, who posted 15 points and a game-high 12 assists against the Orange, had a stellar regular season. He led the ACC in scoring (18.8 points per game), assists (6.3 per game) and minutes (36.5). He also ranked sixth nationally in assists.
Wong led Miami in scoring (15.1), assists (3.4) and steals (1.4). He shot 82.9 percent from the foul line.
Aside from Wong, Miami teammates Jordan Miller and Norchad Omier made the All-ACC second and third team, respectively.
Miller tied for second in the voting for the league's most improved player. He averaged 15.1 points while ranking sixth in the ACC in field-goal percentage (.540).
Omier averaged 14.1 points and paced Miami in field-goal percentage (.590, second in the ACC), rebounds (10.0 per game), double-doubles (13) and blocks (1.3).
"I'm so proud of all our All-ACC honorees," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "They are fantastic representatives of our program."
Larranaga, who finished second in the voting for ACC Coach of the Year, has also received stellar performances this season from Nijel Pack, who topped the squad with 69 3-pointers. Pack is averaging 13.4 points while shooting 87.2 percent from the foul line and 40.6 percent from 3-point range.
Wake Forest, which is 0-3 against Miami over the past two years, relies heavily on its starting five of Appleby, Williamson, Cameron Hildreth, Andrew Carr and Bobi Klintman.
Carr and Klintman, who are both 6-foot-10, are the only Demon Deacons starters taller than 6-4.
Wake Forest got just three bench points on Wednesday -- all of them from Lucas Taylor -- and it will be interesting to see if the Demon Deacons wear down against the well-rested Hurricanes, who haven't played since Saturday.
When Wake Forest visited Miami on Feb. 18 -- a 96-87 win for the Hurricanes -- Wong had 27 points and Pack added 24.
The Demon Deacons had six players score in double figures but no one with more than Appleby's 15 points. Appleby, though, committed 12 turnovers in that contest.
Since that game, Wake Forest lost starting wing Damari Monsanto for the rest of the season due to a left knee injury. He was the team's second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 9, 2023