Vir­ginia right in mid­dle of ACC’s Coastal Di­vi­sion chaos

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TIM REYNOLDS

CORAL GABLES, FLA. | The only At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence Coastal Di­vi­sion teams that have yet to ap­pear in the league’s cham­pi­onship game are Pitts­burgh and Vir­ginia.

Pitt leads the Coastal right now.

Vir­ginia sits alone in sec­ond place.

Go fig­ure. There’s Coastal chaos, again.

While the At­lantic Di­vi­sion has a clear fron­trun­ner — Clem­son, which can lock up its fourth con­sec­u­tive berth in the ACC ti­tle game if it wins at Bos­ton Col­lege on Satur­day night – the Coastal is what seems to be its an­nual mess. Pitt is alone in first at 4-1, and Vir­ginia is a half-game back of the Pan­thers at 4-2. If Pitt beats Vir­ginia Tech on Satur­day the Pan­thers will grab to­tal di­vi­sion con­trol of the race; if the Hok­ies win, there will be a three-way tie atop the di­vi­sion with two games left.

“I’m not even start­ing to try to do any kind of math re­gard­ing the Coastal,” Mi­ami coach Mark Richt said.

Here’s the easy math: If Pitt beats Vir­ginia Tech and then tops ei­ther Wake For­est or Mi­ami, the Pan­thers win the Coastal.

If the Hok­ies win this week­end, grab your cal­cu­la­tors and tiebreaker rule break­downs be­cause there will be a three­way tie with two games left — and po­ten­tially two teams just one game back in the loss col­umn be­hind that log­jam. But the Pan­thers will not be ob­sess­ing

about the im­por­tance of this week­end’s game against the Hok­ies from a Coastal per­spec­tive.

“I’m not go­ing to ad­dress it,” Pitt coach Pat Nar­duzzi said. “There’s still a bunch of hun­gry teams sit­ting below us. Doesn’t re­ally mat­ter. I know they read on Twit­ter, all that stuff. I guess I don’t have to ad­dress it. I’m go­ing to ad­dress what we need to take care of, is the busi­ness at hand. All that doesn’t mat­ter if we don’t do what we need to.”

This will be the 12th time in 14 sea­sons of ACC di­vi­sional play that the Coastal champ has lost at least one league game. There’s been a two- or three-league-loss cham­pion of the Coastal five times in that span.

A three-way Coastal tie at

5-3 this sea­son? It’s pos­si­ble if

Pitt loses this week­end. Tech­ni­cally, so is a four-way tie at

5-3, but that would re­quire Duke win­ning out — and Clem­son is one of the three teams left on the Blue Devils’ sched­ule, so that seems un­likely at best. Reign­ing Coastal champ Mi­ami could still get to 5-3, and if they get into the right tiebreaker the Hur­ri­canes some­how have ways to win the di­vi­sion.

Vir­ginia is tak­ing the week off from ACC play. The Cava­liers play host to Lib­erty this week in their home fi­nale, and Vir­ginia coach Bronco Men­den­hall in­sisted he’s not think­ing about Coastal per­mu­ta­tions. He ac­knowl­edged that there’s a two-game “fight to the end” await­ing in the Coastal af­ter this week, and that was as far as he went.

“Hav­ing said that, I re­ally won’t ad­dress any­thing other than the Lib­erty game go­ing for­ward,” Men­den­hall said. “That’s what I’ve shared with the team. Now our fo­cus is to play the best foot­ball we can this week with that be­ing our only fo­cus.”

Pitts­burgh and Vir­ginia are the lat­est ex­am­ples of teams that seemed to come from nowhere and an­nounce them­selves as se­ri­ous con­tenders for a spot in the con­fer­ence ti­tle game.

Nei­ther team got a sin­gle Coastal first-place vote out of 148 bal­lots cast in the ACC pre­sea­son poll, and Vir­ginia could be the sec­ond team in the last six years to be picked last but end up win­ning the di­vi­sion. Duke pulled that off in 2013.

“We haven’t done any­thing yet,” Nar­duzzi said. “We re­ally haven’t done any­thing. We got a long way to go . ... Pre­ma­ture vic­to­ries are no good. We’re not look­ing for one, ei­ther.”

If Pitt or Vir­ginia wins the Coastal, it’ll mark a sixth dif­fer­ent school win­ning the di­vi­sion in the last six years. Mean­while, in the At­lantic it’s been ei­ther Florida State or Clem­son as di­vi­sion champ in ev­ery sea­son since 2009 – and the Tigers seem very poised to have that streak reach 10 years and count­ing.

Richt thinks the Coastal is in a cy­cle where ex­pe­ri­ence mat­ters, and some years some teams just don’t have enough of that.

“No one has jumped out in re­gard to out-re­cruit­ing, out-de­vel­op­ing the other group,” Richt said. “That’s what we want to be­come. We want to be­come that team.”


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