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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Bad barbeque

Duke fan David Jackson grudgingly gives Carolina its due for making it to the Final Four. That said, he'll be pulling for Michigan State on Saturday.

'Fess up, Carolina fans: How many of you were pulling for Connecticut in last year's semifinal?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Relax and worry

Two different columnists offer radically different analyses of Carolina's return to the Final Four.

As only he can, the N&R's Ed Hardin pooh-poohs the Tar Heels' party. Fair enough: In 13 trips to the Final Four, the Heels have one only three titles, and in all his trips to the Final Four, Roy Williams has zero titles.

Hardin:

"His players know that...and they'll add that baggage to their pile of pressure before the trip later this week."

On the other hand, the N&O's Caulton Tudor says that while the pressure to win titles at Carolina is in the coach's job description,

"Williams should be allowed to relax and enjoy the ride that he's earned. Getting (to the Final Four), in this case, was the ultimate journey for the Carolina program that Williams was handed."

I was also struck by the fact that Matt Doherty's name came up in both columns, although in very different contexts.

Hardin says the Doherty era is now officially forgotten:

"There was no mention of Matt Doherty in the postgame celebration."

Tudor, on the other hand, pays homage to Doherty:

"Doherty's last team, even without (Sean) May most of the season, began to show signs of recovery and finished a competitive 19-16.

"But equally true is the fact that under doherty, the devotion to detail had slipped. Much of it wasn't his fault as coach. He had what amounted to a freshman and sophomore team that was grasping for direction. Doherty just didn't have the experience and coaching background to set that direction properly."

So is the monkey off the Tar Heels' back, or will nothing short of a title restore the faith of the Carolina blue crowd?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I know I'm slack, but a man has to visit his mother once in a while. All she has is dial up......

Friday, March 25, 2005

Heels under the microscope

Marvin Williams is profiled by the N&O and the N&R.

The N&R's Jeff Carlton takes notice of Williams' locker room manner:

"A reporter introduces himself to an 18-year-old in the North Carolina locker room who quickyl has buitl a reputation as one of college basketball's most remarakably gifted players. Many of the game's celebrities-in-training might acknolwedge the visitor with a quick sideways glance, if that. Not this one.

"'Hey, I'm Marvin Williams,' the long-limbed freshman said, looking up from his seat and politely extending his hand. 'Nice to meet you.'"

Meanwhile, Scott Fowler wonders if Sean May is the forgotten man in the middle. I don't think so. May knows when to assert himself. At least that's what Tar Heel fans hope.

But May can't assert himself without a little help from Raymond Felton, who posseses a God-given talent to push the ball up the court.

May:

"Raymond's my best friend this time of the year. He loves dishing the ball off. This year, more than eve, he understands what it means to lead the team. He's doen a great job of sacrificing himself more than anybody. I don't think he gets enough credit for that."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

20-20 hindsight

Lenox Rawlings pens a long post-mortem on Wake Forest.

Rawlings suggests says we should have seen the Deacons' premature end coming, starting with the Illinois game:

"Teams that intend to win the national championship don't fall 32 points behind anybody, because pride won't let them."

Other ominous signs: The Deacs peaked too early with their win over Carolina in the teams' only meeting; the 102 points Wake gave up to Georgia Tech in overtime; and of course, the head games, which "created conditions ripe for the victim mentality to spread."

I did wonder how the Deacons could possibly live up to all the hype. I mean, Chris Paul was everywhere. With media surrounding them eveywhere they went, Prosser and Paul probably felt comfortable sounding off about perceived slights from officials on and off the court. Such a comfort level with the media often reflects overconfidence on the court.

While sportswriters recognized Wake's defensive lapses, it seemed to me like they never really had an organized offensive scheme all season. They had talented players who were very quick to the ball, excellent 3-point and free-throw shooting, and a big man who always had three opposing jerseys taking him on. Yet it seemed like their offense was never set. In my mind, that would have cost them somewhere down the road to the Final Four.

Just my thoughts. To show you what I know, I thought Kansas looked pretty damn good. Then again, they got boned on their tournament seeding, too.......

Back to the future

The N&O's Caulton Tudor says it could be 1983 all over again.

Easy, State fans. He doesn't go quite that far.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Job security

So Bobby Lutz is no longer in the running for Herb Sendek's job?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Fans

N.Y Times' William Rhoden gives Julius Hodge the hero treatment:

"I'm not a Julius Hodge fan because he hit a game-winning shot or scored 17 points or passed for 6 assists yesterday. I'm a fan because he has been able to maintain focus on his classes and the college life."

Rhoden quotes State assistant coach Larry Harris, who more than vouches for Hodge's talent:

"He's meant everything for our program. Up intil that time, we hadn't had a guy like him, who was a high school all-America, but who was unbelievably unselfish and willing to do things to make other guys better, along with being good himself.

"What he brought was a lot of ability, but what he also brought was that cohesiveness and togetherness. When you listen to him, that's what he's all about: winning first. Kids like him are different. He's a throwback. He's one of those guys who likes Magic Johnson. Michael Jordan, he could care less."

Pretty strong testimony.

Are we really looking at a State-Carolina regional final?

No Black Sunday

Carolina cruises past Iowa State, while Duke takes a tough win over Mississippi State:

"The Blue Devils rejoiced because they knocked off a team more talented than most No. 9 seeds with a team not as talented as many of the Blue Devils' No.1 seeded-teams."

K:

"We feel honored to win this game, I'm telling you. I've been in a number of second-round games, and this one was as though (as I've had)."

K has said before that this was his most talented team defensively, and I think this showed as the game went down the stretch. The Devils realized they were matched inside:

"The Bulldogs also dictated the inside game after figuring out early that the Devils were more concerned about containing Mississippi State's guards and had chosen to let Williams guard (Lawrence) Roberts one-on-one."

While Shelden Williams certainly stepped up to match Roberts, the Devils didn't panic and kept the pressure on the Bulldogs' backcourt. Though Duke had more turnovers than Mississippi State, down the stretch they were constantly on the ball, showing the kind of hustle that produced the game's biggest play: J.J. Redick's breakaway layup that was blocked from behind, only to be followed up by Daniel Ewing.

Though Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are gone, we have an interesting mix left: A team on a a mission, a team that looks like it could cruise to the Final Four, and the gutsy conference champions running on fumes but who still find a way to win. Though Wake was on the losing end, they were a per of one of the better games of theseason, period. Again, this will be very interesting. Our conference is representing us well.

Backdoor cut

State 65 Connecticut 62

N.Y. Times' Pete Thamel:

"The perpetually embattled N.C. State coach Herb Sendek, for whom saving his job in March is an annual event in Raleigh, will lead the Wolfpack to its first Round of 16 since 1989.....

"The Wolfpack, which uses a modification of the offensive system that Princeton made famous under Pete Carril, struggled most of this season after starting in the top 10. But just like its offense, North Carolina State stayed patient and is taking a backdoor cut into the Round of 16."

Thamel focuses on Julius Hodge's heroics while noting that Connecticut was exposed as "a team with only one guard capable of handling the ball.......For every rainbow jumper Williams hit, he would follow it by spinning into a double team and turning the ball over."

The N&O's Chip Alexander similarly focuses on Hodge's take charge attitude:

"N.C. State's Ilian Evtimov saw the look in Julius Hodge's eyes before Hodge took the shot, sensing what was about to unfold.

"'It was a look that said 'we're not giving up, we're not letting go, we're not losing.'

"And Hodge was not about to let anything go — the ball, the game, his last NCAA Tournament, his senior season."

But in a sidebar, Alexander focuses on Pack's teamwork, including the neutralization of UConn's inside game.

Especially key was Andrew Brackman's three-pointer off an Engin Astur feed, before which Astur put a little shoulder action on the UConn defender. The game announcers said it was a blatant foul; I personally liked the physicality.

Brackman:

"I didn't hesitate. I just put it up, and I knew it was going in when it left my hand. It's hard to describe how it feels to hit a shot like that. If you make it, you're hero. If you miss it, Coach is going to get on you. If you take it, you have to make it."

The N&R's Todd Graff focuses on State's play inside:

"So much for the vaunted UConn front line.....By neutralizing Connecticut's big front line with a mixture of man-to-man and zone defenses and by hitting a barrage of 3-pointers with that pulled the Huskies' huskies away from the basket, the Wolfpack knocked off the second seed and defending national champion..

"N.C. State's starting front line of Evtimov, Hodge and and Andrew Brackman closed with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists."

State's finally found the magic formula: accurate outside shooting combined with strong inside play. True, that's every team's magic formula, but State has the variable few teams have: the backdoor cut. This will be very interesting.

Is Herb Sendek's job officially safe?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Black Saturday

West Virginia 111 Wake Forest 105 2 OT

Though Wake did everything it could offesively to save its season, the Deacs broke down defensively, save Eric Williams' block on the back-door pass in the first overtime.

Skip Prosser:

"The hard thing to figure out is how well we played defensively in the first half. It was as well as we've ever played probably defensively, in terms of forcing turnovers and holdiong a team that can score like West Virginia to 27 points."

Trent Strickland:

"To be honest with you, I thought in that second OT we were going to come out and defend like we were supposed to and get the win. But we didn't."

Eric Williams:

"You've got to guard. I mean, if you don't have defense, you don't have nothing."

Taron Downey, who silenced the critics by saving Wake not once, but twice:

"We had so many high expectations for ourselves. Anything less than a national championship, I think for this whole team, was unacceptable."

Lenox Rawlings:

"The season ended in shirtsleeves, and it ended prematurely because (the Deacons) never roled up their sleeves on the defensive half of the 94-foot court. .....Wake Forest couldn't stop five soccer moms from dribbling into the lane."

Chris Paul:

"It started slipping through our fingers whgen they started getting basket after basket after basket. And it wasn't just 2's and 3's. It was drives for fouls and baskets."

When all is said and done, was Wake's defense really that bad, or did West Virginia just give the Deacs a lesson on how basketball is supposed to be played: Accurate three-point shooting mixed in with drives to the basket and back-door passes?

I have to admit I was impressed with the way Wake kept themselves in the game in both overtimes. Downey nailed the threes to keep the Deacs alive, Williams' nice hands to block a potential game-winning layup, the way Paul didn't panic by gunning threes when there was still plenty of time on the clock. The better team simply won.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Battle test

Wake Forest played a tough nonconference schedule to get themselves battle tested for the NCAA tournament......and to get a higher seed, says Skip Prosser:

"I guess one out of two's not bad."

While Duke and Carolina bask in the relative warmth of Charlotte, Wake has been banished to Cleveland, where they will feel a slight chill.

Today's forecast for Cleveland: 48 degrees, mostly cloudy. Could be worse.

Surprise, surprise

Carolina beats Oakland; Duke beats Delaware State.

Even though the game was never really in danger, the Devils looked a bit shaky, as Luciana Chavez points out:

"But even when it looked like the Devils had worked themselves into crusing position with that 55-35 lead, they couldn't cruise."

K:

"You should never assume it's your birthright to be in this great tournament."

Meanwhile, Tech pulls away from GW.

Friday, March 18, 2005

State 75 Charlotte 63

The Wolfpack overcomes hot shooting by the 49ers in the first half by tightening up on defense.

Cowboy up

JamesOn Curry is making the most of his second chance with Oklahoma State. He's a major reason why many, myself included, think the Cowboys will be dangerous in the NCAA tournament.

I thought UNC did the right thing by rescinding Curry's scholarship. The Heels an image to maintian, an image carefully crafted by Dean Smith. Does anyone doubt that Smith advised Roy Williams to pull the scholarship?

Funny, Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton agrees with me (and Williams):

"Sutton....said the right decision was made by North Carolina and Roy Williams to rescind Curry's scholarship. He said he talked with Williams about Curry and believes that for Curry, playing in the ACC may have hurt more than helped."

Sutton:

"I think it would have been very difficult for him to go up and down Tobacco Road. The fans would not be quite as forgiving. I think it would have been hard on Carolina. When they released him, I thought it was a real blessing for us."

Curry "talks about the incident but doesn't dwell on it.

"I went through that for a reason. Maybe I can help other kids out....I take full responsibility like a man."

I saw Curry against Kansas, and he looked great, especially driving to the hoop for a key shot down the stretch. I'll look forward to seeing more of him as OSU makes its tournament run. Yes, it would have been nice to see him more in ACC action, but as Curry said, he went through it all for a reason.

Which is it?

That's always the question when a top ACC team plays poorly against a lesser-ranked team, as Wake Forest did in the first half against Chattanooga.

Skip Prosser:

"..We have to figure out if the first half was Chattanooga or if it was us, because we will not be able to — as the tournament ensues Saturday — to afford a performance like that. Or else we will be on a plane back home."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Let the games begin.........

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Black Sunday?

Frank Dascenzo says don't worry about another Black Sunday.

But Dascenzo's comparing apples and oranges. Of course Duke and Carolina aren't going to lose to their first-round opponents. But while the infamous doubleheader in Reynolds Coliseum on March 11, 1979 were openers for the Devils and Heels, they were second-round games:

"All the ingredients were in place for the two ACC powers to advance to the NCAA Tournament East Regional Sweet 16 that was, conveniently, in Greensboro. Both earned a bye and seemed well-rested, although Duke was without forward Kenny Dennard and guard Bob Bender, both out with injuries."

Dascenzo goes on:

"Black Sunday happened not because the two ACC superpowers were overconfident but because Penn and St. John's were pretty good teams with quality players who simply weren't awed in the least by the environment of ACC country."

Look at the potential second-round opponents: For the Heels, we're talking Minnesota or Iowa State; for Duke, we're talking Stanford or Mississippi State. All teams from major conferences where the competition is hot. Is there any reason to believe they would be intimidated by playing in ACC country? (Yeah, I know we're talking about Charlotte.)

Iowa State could be considered the most dangerous of all. They started weak and finished weak, but had an incredible four-week stretch where they beat Oklahoma Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas. So the Cyclones definitely aren't afraid.

Another Black Sunday? Not impossible.

Meeting of the minds

The Heels were expecting a K-style butt-kicking when they got to practice on Sunday.

Instead, as Robbi Pickeral writes they got what Roy Williams called a "meeting of the minds — and it was mostly my mind meeting theirs."

Pickeral breaks down what UNC needs to do start a six-game winning streak: Play better defense, speed the game up and dish out more assists. I would add stronger rebounding to the list. Sean May did all he could during a furious run, but he can't do it all himself. Georgia Tech was just quicker on balls coming off the boards.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

In great shape

Perhaps an overlooked aspect of Duke game: its physical condition.

Last summer, K implemented "the most demanding offseason conditioning program of his coaching career.

"After answering questions about fatigue all season, the Blue Devils proved once and for all at the ACC Tournament that fatigue will not be a factor for this team, winning three grueling games in three days — a scenario they won't face in the NCAA Tournament."

J.J. Redick, who played all but four minutes in the tournament:

"I think we're in better shape than any team in the conference. We're in great shape."

Sword, part II

Caulton Tudor says it better than I did regarding Virginia's new coach to match its new arena:

"A nationally prominent coach would be a valuable insurance policy for such an investment. In essence, a half-empty new building would be just another University Hall with bells, whistles and support beams. Tubby Smith might cost $2 million or $3 million per year, but what's a couple million or so a year for a coach when he works at a place on the fat side of $120 million?"

Tudor's answer: UVa. should take a look at Jeff Capel.

Stark Fist has a lengthy analysis of the overall situation here.

ACC envy

The Charlotte Observer's Tom Sorenson says Charlotte has the opportunity to release some pent-up frustration against N.C. State:

"The ACC's North Carolina schools refuse to play you in a home-and-home series. You'd think they'd want to pla to play in Charlotte in front of all that high school talent. But they don't want to play a team from a lesser conference that might beat them.....

"It's as if Charlotte is in a valley and every time the 49ers look up they see the ACC. In Duke Vitale, the conference even has its own publicist."

Monday, March 14, 2005

Falling on the sword

It sure didn’t take long for Virginia and Pete Gillen to
go their separate ways. Was he fired or did he resign? Who knows, who cares.

Fox’s Mike DeCourcy bemoans the money factor hanging over Gillen's failed tenure:

“Nothing he accomplished in his first three seasons justified the awarding of a 10-year, $9 million contract that skewed all future contracts awarded Division I coaches.”

But Virginia wants a coach that will compliment the majesty of John Paul Jones Arena. How much will that cost?

Wake wins the title

ESPN's Andy Katz is has it all figured out.

K kicked butt....

.....according to WSJ's Lenox Rawlings:

"When Krzyzewski found himself locked in the tense early stages of the championship game, he profanely challenged the Blue Devils to play like men, the blue words darting beyond his players' heads into the Duke booster section. His wife and daughters had heard it all before, but other fans giggled or lifted their eyebrows high, braced against the willpower wind.

"When the crowd turned piano-bar quiet about two minutes before halftime, Krzyzewski demonstrated the sensitivity of his antnnae. He stood and faced the Duke patrons, imploring them to get serious about yelling."

Hardcore.

Field of dreams

Duke beats Georgia Tech for the ACC Tournament title.

Instead of letting Duke bask in its glory, we turn our attention immediately to the NCAA tournament pairings.

I'll say right off the bat that the subjectivity of selecting and seeding the tournament field has bothered me since it expanded to 64 teams. But it's reality, and there's nothing I can do about it.

So Duke, by winning the ACC tournament, bumps Wake Forest from a No. 1 seed. Fair enough. Wake's regular-season-ending victory over a less-than-impressive State team, coupled with the quarterfinal loss to a more-impressive Wolfpack, rated a drop in seeding.

It was a given that Carolina was a No. 1, no matter how the Tar Heels fared in the tournament. Considering the fact that the Heels played well against Tech but were beaten by the better team on that particular day, I don't have a problem with their top seed.

Illinois, of course, was no-brainer. That leaves Washington, the most controversial choice for a No.1 seed. Selection committee chairman Bob Bowlsby explained that Kentucky's abysmal performance against Florida in the SEC championship game knocked the Wildcats out of a top seed.

But what about Oklahoma State? I've been very impressed with them both times I've seen them play. They beat Kansas, the team with the top RPI, in the semifinals before winning the Big 12 tournament with a win over Texas Tech. Is the Big 12 not a stronger conference than the Pac-10? By the way, if the RPI is so important, how does Kansas drop all the way to a No. 3 seed?

I'm also wondering how Syracuse, winners of the Big East tournament, falls all the way to a No. 4 seed. I'm not saying the Orangemen deserve a No.1, considering the crowded field at the top. But, considering the fact that the Big East is one of the top conferences in the country, do they not deserve at least a higher seed than Connecticut?

For what it's worth, Dookie V makes his Final Four picks: Illinois, Wake, Duke and Carolina.

Safe picks. But Vitale ought to know there's going to be a wild card in there somewhere. He just doesn't know who or where. Nor do we. That's why it's called March Madness.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Battle of the boards

True, J.J. Redick and Will Bynum were hot, but Duke and Georgia Tech won both games under the boards.

"The Wolfpack hoped Engin Astur could get the defensive job done on Redick. Astur didn't. Freshman Gavin Grant gave it a try. Julius Hodge tried after Grant, then it was back to Astur. But nothing worked."

But so many of Redick's points came as the result of Duke's strong strong rebounding:

"But as much as Redick's high-arcing shots wowed the MCI Center crowd, it was the less glamorous work close to the basket that allowed Duke to eventually pull ahead of the Wolfpack. It was hardly unusual that Shelden Williams led the way with nine second-half rebounds. What was shocking was that his first one didn't come until 27 minutes had gone by."

Sean May was similarly absent during the first half against Georgia Tech.

But:

"With the Tar Heels trailing 42-36 at halftime, May came out of the break and bulied his way over and around opponents and teammates alike, scoring on four offensive rebounds, plus two additional jump layups and a jump shot. He also had a block during a 6-miunute, 27-second flurry that tied the score 55-55."

Unfortunately for UNC, Luke Schenscher was equal to the task, if not better. As Mike Gminski put it, Tech got the "push" under the boards.

So what's up with the Heels? Odds are they're still a number one seed, but how far will they go?

Carolina not only needs to be concerned about its defense and inside play, but, as Caulton Tudor writes,

"You could probably count on two hands the number of times Carolina produced scoring plays out of its halfcourt sets."

Tudor goes on:

"But March didn't end Saturday. Beginning Monday, there will be six games left for two teams. For Carolina to be one of those teams, the defense has to improve. But so does the halfcourt offense and the mental toughness. If there isn't improvement acorss the board, the Tar Heels could be the first No. 1 seed sent packing."

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Oh yeah.....

.....Duke won last night. We wouldn't want anyone to think we're stiffing the Devils. We promise to pay close attention this afternoon against State.

Not impressed

In addition to the N&R's coverage of State's victory is this letter to the Fans' Forum, from Paul Jacobs of Greensboro:

"After painfully watching N.C. State basketball for the last eight years, I feel it's time for Herb Sendek to go.

"Now, Herb's a real nice guy, a gentleman in fact, whose players are intelligent and well-behaved for the most part. However, N.C. State has reached a plateau of mediocrity in the powerful ACC, and that's not good enough......I just don't get it. Sendek's team just seems to fall apart in the big games and often turn the ball over way too many times.....Maybe Herb should take his Princeton offense to the Ivy League where it could flourish."

Mr. Jacobs will be watchng today's game with considerable interest.

Sartorial splendor

At least Chris Paul looked good sitting on Wake's bench. Several sportswriters took note.

The N&O's Lorenzo Perez:

"Friday night, (Paul) was merely the best-dressed ballboy in ACC history."

The N&R's Ed Hardin:

"Paul came dressed in a resplendent suit, a three-piece silk spin with a cream dress shirt and shiny shoes."

WSJ's Lenox Rawlings:

"The only technical foul nailed a reserve deep on the Wake Forest bench (and it wasn't Paul, who wore a shimmering light gold suit with a greenish tint......He jumped up and down like a GQ pogo stick as the team huddled during introductions."

Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler:

"Since Paul had to sit out Friday, he sat out in style. He showed up in a pinstriped three-piece, mustard-gold suit. It was NBA-quality attire, right down to right down to the gleaming cufflinks. Paul was the best-dressed man in the arena, but he had to wear a credential to get into the game. He hung that from his belt loop so it dangled down to his left knee."

The Washington Times' Jon Siegel:

"With Paul nattily attired on the bench in a tan pinstripe suit, vest and gold tie, the Wolfpack controlled the tempo and bolstered their NCAA Tournament hopes by advancing to the ACC semifinals."

AJC's Jack Wilkinson:

"Just five days hence, the rematch was no match at all. Not with Chris Paul stuck on the bench, wearing some shade-of-old-gold suit and a grim-faced expression."

Size matters

I watched last night's games from a remote location, nowhere near a computer.

So what was the difference between State last week and State last night? Andrew Brackman. State finally had the inside presence that's been missing all season. How about that drive to the hoop? How about the alley-oop dunk?

Durham Herald-Sun's Neil Amato:

"Andrew Brackman? The freshman didn't score in the first half, but he didn't come out in the second half, scoring 16 points and adding four rebounds, including two critical offensive boards. N.C. State coach Herb Sendek, the master of staying calm, seemed to gush about Brackman's play.

"'Man, he was terrific,' Sendek said."

The N&R's Rob Daniels:

"Brackman, a 6-foot-10 guy who canbeat you off the dribble or by posting up, took the entire court for himself at times... In a critical stretch that changed everything....Brackman swatted a shot, ran the floor and converted a Bennerman alley-oop for a jam."

Yes, Brackman had considerable help from Cameron Bennerman.

More Daniels:

"Bennerman (17 points and career highs of eight rebounds and seven assists) passed and cut his way brilliantly through the machinations of State's technically stunning back-door, spread-floor offense."

Now we know what the Pack can do when everyone's not crowded around the three-point arc. It will be interesting to see if they keep it going against Duke.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Tech in, Tech out

Georgia Tech 73 Virginia Tech 54

I would think this would do it for G-Tech. Nice season, V-Tech. You're an athletic team that also plays sound fundamentals. Make some noise in the NIT and come back strong next year.

UNC 88 Clemson 81

Carolina survives. The game was much, much closer than the final score. In fact, the Heels trailed by as much as 13 in the second half and were still on the ropes until Raymond Felton nailed a three to put the Heels up 81-79 with about a minute left.

On the whole, Clemson was quicker on the ball and dominated inside with rebounds on the offensive and defensive boards, not to mention showing incredible shot-blocking ability.

But the Heels showed quick hands down the stretch, making the necessary steals and defensive stops during the final stretch.

Rashad McCants returns, hitting a couple of big three-pointers to keep Carolina within striking distance.

Felton ends up with 29, including the Tar Heels' last 10 points.

"He's the one player that's irreplaceable," Billy Packer said.

Getting what we wished for......

State (minus Bethel, maybe) versus Wake (minus Paul, definitely). Will the game live up to the hype?

Caulton Tudor agrees with Billy Packer that State expended too much energy putting Florida State away:

"But in the final several minutes of an ugly, 70-54 victory over Florida State in the first round Tuesday, the Pack looked more tired than mad."

N&O metro columnist Barry Saunders gets the business from a few State fans for reporting taunts directed toward Chris Paul at the last State-Wake game:

"One State fan told me, 'You have got to be the stupidest (N-word) the white man has ever given a chance' to write. That was one of the kinder calls."

Careful, Wake.

Taron Downey:

"I think we are a No. 1 seed."

Justin Gray:

"In my eyes we have (locked up a No.1 seed). You look at our schedule and you see the teams that are going to the tournament, Cincinnati, New Mexico, those are good teams. We played good teams on the road."

The N&R's Ed Hardin:

"The controversy reached critical mass this evening when Chris Paul and the rest of us not playing watch Hodge and N.C. State take on Wake Forest in a game unlike any other played in this 51-year event."

Despite the lack of an inside presence, State's defense will, needless to say, be a factor.

The Charlotte Observer's Ron Green Jr. hopes the State-Wake game will put a little excitement into a so-far flat tournament:

"Until that rarest of events — a rare Virginia postseason victory — the closest thing to a buzz Thursday was the idea of N.C. State and Wake Forest getting together again, just five days after their Sunday scrum that left both sides aching in various ways."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Not-so cruel world

Virginia 66 Miami 65

Pete Gillen coaches another day — against Duke. Is anyone converted?

Gillen: "I cry when supermarkets open. I'm an emotional guy."

A milestone out of the way — the first time an 11-seed wins an ACC Tournament game.

NC State 70 Florida State 54

The Wolfpack let the Seminoles creep closer than they should have and, as Billy Packer noted, expended considerable energy putting the game away. They also got very sloppy with their passing toward the end. Had Florida State taken proper advantage, they could have easily gotten back in the game during the last five minutes.

The Pack sizzled in the first half, going on an 11-0 run to start the game, while Florida State was stone cold.

State also played a soild trap defense. One problem, though: Aside from the occasional back-door cut , the Pack had nothing inside. There were still too many 3-point attempts with nobody under the basket. Fortunately, they hit most of them. State might not be so hot tomorrow night against Wake Forest.

Clemson 84 Maryland 72

OK, there was a way Clemson was going to beat Maryland three times. My bad. Perhaps I have been ignoring the Tigers.

Would John Gilchrist have made the difference, considering the shots Clemson was getting and the way they were dominating inside?

You had the feeling Maryland was done when Olu Babalola completed the three-point play on an off-balance shot after Maryland scored six straight points. Then he came right back and hit a three on the next possession.

Later, Sam Perry made an incredible shot to put Clemson back up by 12 with just over six minutes left.

Shawan Robinson was hot from beyond the arc.

The bightest spot for Maryland? Lefty's pinky ring. Bling bling.

Excessive celebration

Last week, I criticized Clemson for partying a bit too hard after beating Virginia Tech.

Now this from the N&O's J.P. Giglio and Lorenzo Perez, who stick it to Carolina for celebrating their win over Duke:

"First, Carolina fans rush the court, then Tar Heels coach Roy Williams leads a net-cutting ceremony. Which is more pathetic? Storming the floor for beating a lower-ranked team, or commemorating a regular-season title? My, how times have changed. Remember when the Heels refused to cut down the nets after winning the 1994 ACC Tournament because they were waiting for the national title?"

Lenox Rawlings puts in his two cents' worth:

"The Tar Heels finished first in the standings, cut down the nets at home and satisfied certain hunger pangs. A sated team lacks the title profile, especially with Rashad McCants' intestinal illness throwing doubt into the March rotatin rhythm. Scratch Carolina."

Yeah, I'm down on excessive celebrations. But remember what happened to the Tar Heels in 1994. Perhaps they were wound just a bit too tight. It's also been tough road back for Carolina and their (swallow hard) fans.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Strong words

A couple of days removed, Wake coach Skip Prosser sounds off on Chris Paul:

"I don't want to trivialize this at all.....It's no excuse for the inexcusable and no defense for the indefensible. (The suspension) is meant to sting and hurt him.....I'm not hear to wax philosophic about sactimony or glass houses and people throwing the first stone. Again, what he did was inexcusable and indefensible and whatever people want to write or say, he gave them that opportunity."

Nice hands

Pete Gillen on Shelden Williams' shot-blocking ability:

"The great thing about him is that he keeps the ball in play. When he blocks a shot, he doesn't knock it out of bounds or try to spike it. He keeps it in play and then (the Blue Devils) are going down the other way on a fast break."

The same was said about another pretty good college center — Bill Walton.

Crazy?

Maybe. Some thoughts on tomorrow's historic first round of the ACC Tournament:

No way Clemson's going to beat Maryland three times.

Is it such a cruel world that Pete Gillen would slowly have the life drained out of him all season only to suffer the indignity of losing to a conference newcomer? I hope not. Virginia upsets Miami, Gillen enjoys life for 24 hours, then the Cavs are crushed by charter member Duke.

Last but not least: State's been ruining wet dreams all season. So I can't put it past the Wolfpack to screw up the rematch with the Paul-less Demon Deacons, especially if Florida State sizzzles in the first half, which they've been known to do. I just can't bring myself to say it out loud........So I'll just leave it at this: State over State.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Lame duck

Pete Gillen sounded like he was having fun while meeting with the media for the last time as Virginia's coach. Not.

CP

How about this: The most telling spin on the whole Chris Paul situation is Sean May's defense:

"University of North Carolina junior Sean May, who counts Paul among his better friends in the league, said Paul was simply caught doing something that happens far too often in college games."

May:

"A lot of players do it. A lot of players don't need to do it. It depends on your attitude and what kind of person you are; Chris and Julius (Hodge) are both those types of players. There were four or five times when we played State that you could have questioned Julius for being dirty."

During Carolina's victory over Duke, May said:

"There were four or five plays last night that could have been questionable as dirty play."

May goes on:

"I don't think it's something you can say he deserves to be suspended, because it wasn't called" a foul.

Remember, Paul took a pretty pretty nasty shot from Elton Brown during the Virginia game, and nothing was done.

OK, it wasn't to a shot to the package. As ESPN's Daily Quickie points out, Paul took things to a new low.

Amidst all the concern about thuggery on ACC courts these days, WSJ's Lenox Rawlings points out that Art Heyman, Larry Brown and Donnie Walsh still remain the standard bearers

Monday, March 07, 2005

All-ACC, part II

Let's see: Two point guards, a shooting guard and two centers. Is that a real team?

A shot to the groin

Chris Paul suspended for the first round of the ACC Tournament.

Another intriguing rematch possible........

All -ACC

ACC Basketblog's All-ACC Team. I like the way they do it by position. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the mainstream media selects the top five vote-getters, regardless of position. It has to be a real team.

Looking ahead.......

No way Clemson's going to beat Maryland three times, right? That would set up another game with Carolina, on the Terps' "home court."

Intriguing. Right?

Du-du, part II

No, I'm not talking about Duke this time. I'm summing up State's season: If there's a pile of you-know-what lying somewhere on the court, the Wolfpack will collectively step in it.

There are so many angles to analyze it blows the mind.

The N&O's Chip Alexander writes:

"The ACC's last regular season game was played with all the fire and inensity — and a touch of venom — of the ACC Tournament...."

Alexander was there, so he might know better than I would. But from my point of view, this game was just plain ugly all the way around, from Chris Paul's shot to the groin, to Steve Hodge being escorted off the court, to the Wolfpack's free-throw shooting to State fans' taunting of Paul:

"Some of the taunts yelled at Paul following the original incident with Hodge referred to the murder of Paul's grandfather during Paul's senior season at West Forsyth."

Now, some questions:

Does anybody believe State deserves an NCAA bid after last night's game?

How does a team come down the court — needing only one shot and looking at overtime (at the very least) — give the ball back to the opponent with four seconds left?

Speaking of airballs, how did Julius Hodge manage to throw two up — in the paint?

Why did Tony Bethel clank a three-point attempt — with absolutely nobody under the basket? (No. I'm not forgetting about his nice drive to the hoop late in the game.)

Points to ponder.

Must read Thad

Thad Williamson on the UNC-Duke game...and the long odyssey of Carolina's three seniors.

"Indeed, by the end of the 2002-03 season, these players owed the University of North Carolina exactly nothing. They could have kept their mouths shut, left town and let the institution's administration try to clean up the mess left behind, in perfectly good conscience...despite going through numbing disappointments on the court and utterly exhausting experiences off of it, despite having every reason in the real world to leave Chapel Hill, this trio of players still saw things in their Chapel Hill experience that they loved, things that they didn't want to leave, things that made them think it was worth sticking around and trying to be part of putting things right."

Tourney schedule

Brackets here.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ilinois just went down to Ohio State, so if Carolina wins today, they'll be the ranked No. 1 heading into the ACC Tournament.

Sing, Gary, sing

Gary Williams after Maryland's 86-76 loss to Virginia Tech:

"You want facts? The facts are we beat the No. 2 team (Duke) on their court. The facts are the same team that was in the top 10 we beat on our court. We beat Memphis when they were 25th in the country. Some teams say they should get in without those wins. Now to counter that, you could say we had some bad losses. How that works, we'll see."

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun's David Steele says if there were any justice, Maryland and Tech will meet again — in the NIT:

"....What both schools 'accomplished' this season should earn them a date with each other in the National Invitation Tournament. Forget the hype about the toughest conference in America. Al that adding these two to the NCAA field would mean is that the field of 65 is as watered down as it ever has been."

Look at it this way: Won't Maryland's presence give the NIT some more prestige? I'll do Steele one better: How about a State-Maryland NIT final? It'll be 1974 all over again.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

McCantsless, part II

If this is online anywhere, I can't find it.

The N&R's Jeff Carlton raises the question of Carolina dropping in NCAA tournament seeding if Rashad McCants doesn't return by selection Sunday.

McCants is "an impact player, and if he continues to sit right through next week's ACC Tournament, the comittee will have to weigh UNC with McCants against UNC without McCants."

Tournament selection committee chairman Bob Bowlsby:

"Our task is to put the 34 best teams into the tournament as at-large teams. That takes into account issues of injuries. We're going to take into account the entire portfolio of work.....But we also have to evaluate the team they're going to put on the floor when the conference tournaments start and when the NCAA tournament starts."

The interjection of subjectivity when selecting the NCAA tournament field has always bothered me, and it always will. But it's reality, and a harsh reality at that, for the majority of ACC teams this season.

Bucket by the couch

The N&O's Caulton Tudor on the Virginia-Florida State game: "Barf".

Friday, March 04, 2005

Refreshed and ready

The Herald-Sun's Bryan Strickland sums up last night's Duke- Miami game:

"While Duke displayed an intensity level befitting of the first day of preseason practice, Miami played like it was the first day of practice — for all the wrong reasons. The Hurricanes, needing a victory to improve their hopes of getting an NCAA Tournament berth, were tentative and unsure from the start."

Frank Haith, on his team's first game in Cameron:

"I would hope that we would not be intimidated or in awe, but obviously something caused us to not want to execute and move. When the crowd got going, we didn't set screens. There was something that made that happen."

K continues to emphasize Duke's D:

"This has been one of our best defensive teams (at Duke). Not so much in forcing turnovers as in limiting field-goal percentage."

May Day

Carolina looked a bit shaky against Florida State, but that's mostly because the Seminoles sizzled in the first half, which they've been known to do.

Does anybody else have the feeling that Sean May has put the Tar Heels on his shoulders?

May gives the credit for last night's performance to his teammates:

Felton, Noel and Manuel "were doing a great job of driving and penetrating, and Marvin stepped out and hit some shots, so things really opened up inside for me. It was the easiest (32) points I've ever had in terms of, all I had to do was catch the ball and lay it right in."

Alexander Johnson's foul trouble didn't hurt, either. Why did he play so few minutes and have only three fouls? Why not use them all?

Von Wafer plays only six minutes and is benched for the third straight game:

"I let my man get a layup and (Leoneard Hamilton) went with some someone else.....I've never experienced anything like this in my life. It's a new challenge that I have to embrace and just become a stronger person."

Hamilton:

"Von did not play the first half not because of his defense but because the other kids were playing well. Sometimes you just have to give guys an opportunity when they show they've earned it."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Slippery melons.....

...is how AJC's Rana Cash sums up Georgia Tech's season.

It's starting to get to Paul Hewitt:

After the game, he "was wound extraordinarily tight, limiting his postgame comments to short and terse responses."

Of course, a little sarcasm helps relieve the pressure:

After the game, Hewitt "chased offiical Mike Wood off the court yelling 'Nice job Mike. Nice job Mike.'"

Hewitt had been on Wood all night, according to the N&R's Rob Daniels. He felt like Chris Paul (egads) was getting favorable treatment:

"Give that same call to Jarrett Jack!"

And the dreams.....

.....that you dare to dream really do come true.

State's not in Oz yet, but they're still following the Yellow Brick Road.

Unfortunately, the road's about to be paved black and gold.

But as Wake heads to Raleigh to finish State off, one question lingers: is their defense good enough?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Celebrate!?

OK, so it was a big win for Clemson.

Still:

"The scene was chaotic.....Clemson freshman Sam Perry accidentally knocked over an official while celebrating. Freshman Cheyanne Moore and sophomore Vernon Hamilton jumped on the scorers' table, with Moore taking off his jersey and waving it wildly in the direction of the 7,400 fans at Littlejohn Coliseum."

We're talking about beating Virginia Tech here, guys. A good team, but......

Just what was Oliver Purnell suggesting when he said:

"I kind of had my mind on the NCAA the whole time...You never know. That's what dreams are about. We want this young group to dream. They're probably young enough as a group to believe it."

Odds on Clemson winning the ACC Tournament?

Overrated

Out of the office yesterday, dealing with taxes. My accountant made my day, my week, my month......

The N&O's Caulton Tudor puts the smackdown on ACC hoops:

"The conference will wrap up its regular season this weekend, but it long ago became obvious that the ACC is a lot weaker than anyone could have imagined....."

OK, so what went wrong? Tudor asks.

"The truth is that the ACC was overrated from the start. The lofty expectations stemmed from Duke and Georgia Tech reaching the Final Four last year, plus Maryland, N.C. State, Florida State, Virginia North Carolina and Wake Forest getting most of their starters back."

Bottom line: Who's in, who's out?

"On reputation alone, the ACC will probably will receive five bids, maybe six.. But once you get past the big three, it's all subjective. If the other eight just keep sloshing along, it's hard to argue that any of them really belongs in the national tournament."

I'm not sure what Tudor means by "sloshing along," considering the fact that it's time for some teams to come in out of the cold or risk freezing to death.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Will McCants Return?

So long, Herb?

Inevitable: FireHerbSendek.com