The Amazing Eight
It may not rival the famed 8-points-in-17-seconds comeback against Duke in 1974, but Carolina’s 31 points in the last eight minutes of the first half against Florida State Sunday constitutes one of the hottest scoring streaks you will ever see.
The Tar Heels scored the first seven points of the game but then fell into a funk for the next 10 minutes or so. They actually trailed the Seminoles 16-15 with just over 8 minutes left, and after a second TV timeout tongue-lashing from Roy Williams they got hotter than a Jersey City sidewalk in August.
They outscored dear old FSU 31-11 the rest of the way, with James Michael McAdoo hitting four face-ups, three dunks and a free throw while Reggie, P.J. and Marcus all made three-pointers. Carolina looked like the offensive juggernauts that won national championships without having to play much defense because they knew they could go get whatever was needed on the other end.
So the sellout crowd that paid 50 bucks to see 40 minutes of basketball had to settle for the amazing eight. The rest of the game, including a get-me-to-the-parking-lot second half, was a real yawner. During the hot stretch, Williams loved a hustle play the best, when Jackson Simmons dove headlong for a loose ball and called a timeout that his coach was never going to use anyway with a double-digit lead by that point.
So the Tar Heels staying small keeps on working, now with five straight wins since ol’ RW put young P.J. in the starting lineup. Defensively, they are much quicker when they really get after it, and their aggressiveness on the glass can make up for the lack of inches. Carolina lost the offensive board battle, but there weren’t that many bounds to get on its end, shooting 55 percent for the game and 60 from the three-point line.
After outrebounding Florida State 41-19 in the first match at Tallahassee, this time they totaled one more than the Seminoles with two seven-footers, the son of former Kentucky star Mel Turpin and a 7-3 gangling Russian named Boris Bojanovsky. Still, the 6-7 Bullock outrebounded the 14-plus feet of them by two while posting a 20-10 double-double.
Speaking of Bullock, it’s probably too late but he’s now playing like one of the five best ballers in the ACC. He’ll likely get the sixth or seventh most votes and make second team all-conference, as Bullock has really taken the small lineup to heart, averaging more than eight rebounds over the last six games. From the perimeter against FSU, he and Hairston hit 8 of 14, looking like Donald Williams in the 1993 Final Four.
So now Carolina goes to Maryland before hosting Duke on Dexter Strickland’s Senior Night Saturday. If the Heels can finish the job and wind up 13-5, Williams deserves to be second behind Miami’s Jim Larranaga for ACC Coach of the Year. After losing at Texas and starting the conference slate at 0-2, who would have believed Williams’ 10th Tar Heel edition was going anywhere but the outhouse. Right now, they look like a No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the Dance, getting used to a no-post offense that begins a lot of sets with everyone outside the three-point arc.
The last week of the regular season and the ACC tournament are only for NCAA seeding, but the possibilities of who plays who and when in Greensboro are slightly mind-numbing. While the last seven teams are locked in, two-to-five are a bit like throwing a pepperoni pizza against the wall and seeing what sticks.
Let’s assume (safely) that Miami wins one of its two remaining home games against Georgia Tech and Clemson, giving the Hurricanes the outright regular-season championship. Look at the tangled web beneath them.
With two games to go for everyone, there is still the possibility of two-way tie for second between Duke and Carolina, a three-way tie for third between Carolina, Virginia and N.C. State, and a four-way tie only if Duke were to lose at home to Virginia Tech Tuesday night and at UNC Saturday.
Duke would win the two-way tie with Carolina by virtue of its victory over Miami, which beat the Tar Heels twice. That still puts Duke and Carolina in the same (2-3) bracket and sets up a rematch from one week earlier in the second ACC semifinal.
A three-way tie for third between Carolina, Virginia and State would be broken based on UVa’s 2-1 record against the other two teams. Carolina would get the fourth seed for going 2-2 vs. Virginia and State. The Wolfpack would be left in fifth place (1-2 vs. Virginia and UNC) and have to play a dreaded Thursday game, which all four teams are trying to avoid.
Interestingly, there is one scenario in which Duke would get the fifth seed, believe it or not.
The Blue Devils would have to somehow lose on Senior Night to the Hokies (maybe if Erick Green scored 60) and then lose in Chapel Hill, while UNC lost at Maryland and both State and Virginia won out for all four teams to finish 12-6. If that happened (probably a million-to-one shot in Vegas), Virginia would get the second seed with its 3-1 record against the other three teams, Carolina would get the third seed (3-3) and Duke and State (both 2-3 vs. the other three) would be tied for fourth. Since they split their regular-season games, the ACC would then flip a coin for who finished fourth and who played on Thursday.
The chances of the Blue Devils losing the last home game for Curry, Kelly and Plumlee? Slim and none. Ryan Kelly likely won’t play a lot after his scintillating comeback from the same foot he broke to end his 2012 season early, resting up for the Carolina game. If he hangs another 36 on the Heels Saturday night like he did against Miami, we won’t have to wait for this year’s Austin Rivers to nail one at the buzzer.
All Chapelboro.com Game Photos By Todd Melet