Now that the ACC has failed to reach the Final Four for three straight years for the first time since 1961, let’s set the record straight about Duke and Coach K.
Krzyzewski is a terrific coach, called “the John Wooden of this era” by Sunday’s vanquisher, Louisville’s Rick Pitino. Certainly with four national championships, 11 Final Fours and two Gold Medals with the U.S. Olympic team (which Wooden never coached), you can make a case for the man with the most major college victories in basketball history as the best sitting head coach.
But compared to the perception that Duke is in the Final Four every year, the Blue Devils have hardly lived up to that reputation. There are so many cable sports center shows (ESPN alone has too many to count), young announcers seem given to hyperbole. For example, one late Sunday said this before going to a clip from Coach K’s post-game press conference.
“So the Final Four will go off without the man who is there year after year.”
Let’s get real, people. Duke has been to exactly TWO Final Fours since 2004 — hardly “year after year.” Yes, Krzyzewski has been amazingly consistent in accumulating those 957 career victories. But his NCAA record over the last 10 years is less than sterling. It doesn’t even compare to Roy Williams, who beat K and Duke in the 2003 Sweet Sixteen in his last season at Kansas (and second straight Final Four year for the Jayhawks). Here are the numbers since Roy’s return to UNC:
Duke’s Last 10 Stops Carolina’s Last 9 Stops
1 NCAA title (6-0) 2 NCAA titles (12-0)
1 Final Four (4-1) 1 Final Four (4-1)
1 Elite 8 (3-1) 3 Elite 8s (9-3)
4 Sweet 16s (8-4) 0 Sweet 16s (0-0)
1 Round of 32 (1-1) 3 Round of 32 (3-3)
2 Round of 64 (0-2) 0 Round of 64* (0-0)
While playing in more NCAA games (35) than Duke (31), Carolina under Williams has a better post-season record. And (*) never losing in the round of 64 in his 25 years as a head coach, Williams holds the active NCAA mark of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with at least one victory.
The Tar Heels did miss the NCAA Tournament in 2010, following the loss of four starters and stars off their 2009 national championship team. As written here before, UNC has had 13 NBA first-round draft choices over the last nine years, 11 of whom went out early to cost Carolina a total of 17 seasons of eligibility.
Duke, by contrast, has eight first-rounders during that same period, with early departures costing the Blue Devils 10 seasons of eligibility. This June, they will likely have three more seniors drafted in the first round – Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly.
But, based on Sunday’s one-sided loss to Louisville, none of those players is a sure-shot pro, compared to Cardinals Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, who have the hops and speed to have made Duke look slow and cumbersome. In the second half, when Louisville began setting high ball screens a little farther out, Siva and Smith blew by the Blue Devils still trying to get out to help on the screens.
The game, of course, was halted late in the first half by the tragic injury to Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware, who landed awkwardly on his right leg and snapped the bone in two places. The scene was so gruesome, driving Cardinal players, coaches and fans to tears, CBS did not to show a replay of the incident over and over. The cameras concentrated on the emotion of the moment.
It was difficult to say how the injury would affect both teams, and Louisville appeared unglued until a late 10-4 run that provided a 35-32 lead at halftime. And when ahead at the break this season, the Cardinals are now 29-0. Much of that can be attributed to Pitino’s halftime adjustments and his teams amazing speed and skill and its depth to cover for sixth-man Ware’s loss.
Duke, meanwhile, appeared slow and slow to adjust to Louisville’s isolating Siva and Smith at the top of the key. Once either of those speeding bullets got into the lane, the Blue Devil big men could not contend. When Duke lost control of the game, it lacked the speed on defense and firepower on offense to get back in.
Louisville represents how the college game is trending, and those teams that cannot compete in recruiting and style will be left behind. The Cardinals apply relentless pressure on both ends of the court, trying to wear opponents down with their speed on offense as well as defense. They usually press in the backcourt and then fall back into changing man-to-man or zone defense, which Duke was slow to recognize and attack. The second half was no contest.
Pitino got a measure of revenge from his Kentucky team’s last-second loss to Duke in the 1992 Regional Final in Philadelphia, the famous game in which Christian Laettner did not miss a free throw or field goal, including the buzzer beater from 18 feet as time expired. Pitino, now at UK’s arch rival, continues to carve out his own Hall of Fame career, matching Roy Williams’ seventh Final Four.
Where college basketball, particularly in the revamped ACC, goes from here is unknown. More conference realignment may be coming, but for now Louisville, Pitt and Final Four-bound Syracuse are headed for the ACC. And even with Duke’s over-hyped post-season performance, it looks like all the movement meant to help football will give slumping ACC basketball a much-needed boost.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/coach-ks-great-but/
It had to be Kansas. Kansas. Kansas.
Roy Williams may be over the heartbreak and heartache his leaving Lawrence caused in 2003, but it’s just getting worse with me. The tweets, emails and blog posts are already out there, claiming that Bill Self has built a better program at KU than ol’ Roy has at UNC over the last 10 years.
Statistics don’t show that (they’re pretty damn even, in fact), but the fact that Tar Heels have now gone home at the hands of the Jayhawks in three of the last six NCAA Tournaments makes it seem that way to a lot of basketball fans.
Both programs have been great all the way back to the Phog Allen and Frank McGuire eras, each having blip periods that caused them to change coaches. But the last 10 years have been basically even-steven, certainly close enough to disavow any notion that one guy has out-coached the other.
Kansas and Self have won more games and have a better record (300-58 for 84%) than Carolina and Williams (282-79 for 78%), but that is largely due to several factors over that 10-year span.
One, Self took over a Kansas team that Williams left in sounder shape than the one Roy inherited from Matt Doherty. Two, the Tar Heels had one dreadful season in the last 10 years, the 20-17 debacle that followed losing four starters off the 2009 national champions. And, three, Carolina’s overall pipeline to the pros has been better than Self’s at Kansas, which ironically has made it worse for UNC.
Thirteen players have been drafted in the first round during the Williams era, 11 of them who left a total of 17 seasons on the Tar Heel table. Compare that to Kansas under Self, which has produced nine first-round picks, one who left after one year, two who left after two and another two who left after three seasons. If you add Mario Chalmers, the MOP of the 20008 Final Four who was drafted in the second round, the Jayhawks have lost 10 seasons of eligibility in the last 10 years.
As for the NCAA Tournament, Self and Kansas have been there all 10 years but with less results than Carolina and Williams in nine trips. KU has one national championship (’08) and reached another Final Four (2012) and could still improve on those numbers this season. The Jayhawks have gone out in three regional finals, one Sweet Sixteen (and counting), one second round ouster and two embarrassing first-round upsets (Bucknell and Bradley in 2005 and ’06).
Carolina under Williams has those 2005 and ’09 NCAA titles, one other Final Four and three Elite Eight game goners. Sunday’s loss to KU was the third second-round ouster for UNC and Williams, who holds the record of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with at least one victory. Both Self and Williams have won three national Coach of the Year honors at their current schools.
Their conference records are pretty close, with Self winning a few more regular-season and tournament titles in the Big 12 than Williams in the ACC. But, over that 10 years, the ACC has been the better league top to bottom and won three national championships to KU’s one for the Big 12.
So don’t give me that hoo-ha that Kansas has a better program than Carolina. They are both great. What skews the pooch are those three losses to KU in the three NCAA match-ups, and each one has a story to itself.
At the 2008 Final Four at San Antonio, the Tar Heels were a slight favorite over Kansas after winning both the ACC regular season and tournament and losing only two games all season. But this was the first time Williams faced Kansas, the still-angry KU crowd and all the storylines took away from the game itself.
The Heels played horribly, fell behind by 40-12 in the first half and made a late push that fell short in the 84-68 crusher. Williams (wearing the infamous KU sticker) stayed to watch the Jayhawks win the national championship two nights later, only after Memphis did not foul Kansas with a three-point lead and Chalmers’ dramatic bomb sent the game into overtime.
When the 2012 NCAA brackets came out, Carolina was on another collision course with Kansas in the Midwest Regional, hoping to have John Henson back at full strength from the wrist he sprained in the ACC Tournament. Of course, it got worse after Kendall Marshall went down in the second-round win over Creighton. With back-up point guard Dexter Strickland already sidelined by a knee injury, the Tar Heels were left with freshman reserve Stilman White, who played admirably in the 13-point loss to the Jayhawks in St. Louis.
The committee did it again this season, when it was an even worse scenario for Carolina, which lost two sophomores, one junior and one senior from its 2012 starting lineup that when whole was the only serious threat to Kentucky’s national championship. And the suits sent the Tar Heels to Kansas City (which is like playing Carolina in Greensboro).
By then, UNC had made the NCAA Tournament only due to perhaps Williams’ best coaching job of his 25-year career. Reluctantly, in early February, he scrapped his two low-post offense for a small lineup of four guards and little presence in the paint. The Heels launched and made enough three-pointers to turn their season around and get another NCAA bid, but they went to the Dance living by the long bomb, which was enough to give Williams the hives.
And, yes, they died that way, shooting barely 30 percent for the game and giving in to Kansas’ best half of the tournament thus far. So Carolina under Williams is 0-3 against KU and Self. And, since they will never play in the regular season by mutual consent, it will stay that way until the next time they meet in the NCAA tournament.
With at least five guys 6-9 or bigger next season, Williams will go back to the way he likes to play and, sooner or later, he’ll see his old school again. The NCAA committee seems to like that kind of theater for TV.
Even though, as of this moment, we hate it.
All photography in Hoop It Up is provided by Todd Melet.http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/ford-corners/kansas-kansas-kansas-ugh/
Carolina and Villanova have played 14 times in men’s basketball, with the Tar Heels holding a 10-4 record, 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament. But almost all of the games have been significant. To wit:
Their first meeting was in 1956, when Frank McGuire’s eventual (1957) national championship team was playing together for the first season. The Tar Heels, who finished 18-5 that year, defeated Villanova in their Dixie Classic opener in December. Carolina won by 23.
Their next meeting was in the final Dixie Classic in December of 1960, before UNC President Bill Friday shut down the eight-team holiday tournament due to the point-shaving scandal that emerged after the season. Carolina beat the Wildcats in the second round by 20 this time.
The teams met again in what had become the most famous Christmas tournament, the Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden. Dean Smith succeeded McGuire and by December of 1968 had built the second-best program in the country behind UCLA. The Tar Heels and four-time national champion Bruins were in the Festival field, along with Villanova, St. John’s and Princeton. Carolina defeated Villanova in the opening game, 69-61, in a rough-and-tumble affair that included near fisticuffs between UNC’s Charlie Scott and Villanova’s Howard Porter. The Heels missed their chance to face-off with Lew Alcindor and UCLA when they were upset in the semifinals by hometown St. John’s before a roaring capacity crowd at the Garden.
The Carolina-Villanova rivalry really got interesting when the schools next met 12 years later. The top-ranked Tar Heels with freshman Michael Jordan, sophomore Sam Perkins and junior James Worthy, played Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats in the Elite Eight game of the NCAA Tournament in Reynolds Coliseum. In a regional where all five UNC starters scored in double figures in both games, Carolina held off freshman star Ed Pin ckney and ‘Nova, 70-60, and moved on to New Orleans where they defeated Houston and Georgetown for Smith’s first national championship.
The following year, the teams played a regular-season game at Carmichael Auditorium. No. 12 Villanova stunned No. 1 UNC, which had won 18 in a row going in. The 56-53 shocker turned the season around for the Tar Heels, who lost three straight and dropped to No. 11 in the rankings. Carolina went 7-5 over its last 12 games, including two upsets to Cinderella N.C. State and a loss to Georgia in the Elite Eight of the 1983 NCAA Tournament, which denied them another shot at the Cardiac Pack in the Final Four. And you know what happened there in Albuquerque.
The most historic loss to Villanova came in the South Regional final in Birmingham two years later. The Tar Heels, who had rallied through the 1985 NCAA Tournament without injured guard Steve Hale, actually led the Wildcats by eight and were holding the ball for the last shot of the first half. Kenny Smith got tied up for a jump ball, Villanova took possession and Harold Jensen made an old-fashioned three-point play at the buzzer. Unranked ‘Nova outscored Carolina by 17 in the second half, moved on to the Final Four in Lexington and pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA history by shooting 79 percent for the game (22 of 28) and beating “unbeatable” defending champion Georgetown and Patrick Ewing for the school’s only national title.
Carolina defeated Villanova in the 1989 Maui Classic and at home during the 1992 season. In between, the Tar Heels beat the Wildcats in the 1991 East Regional on the way to the Final Four. The top-ranked Heels won the next meeting at the Smith Center in 1995, but then dropped TWO games to Villanova the following season, one in Maui and the other in Philly.
Who can forget the East Regional sweet Sixteen at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse in 2005? Certainly not ‘Nova fans. With Carolina clinging to a three-point lead late, Villanova’s Allan Ray drove, scored and appeared to be fouled by Melvin Scott. But Tom O’Neill’s whistle was not to signal the “and one” that could have tied the game. It was for travelling on Ray, which when looking at the clip does not appear to have occurred.
Anyway, Carolina won the game, went on to win the national championship and, four years later, beat Villanova easily in the Final Four at Detroit on the way to Roy Williams’ second NCAA title. The rich, and controversial, series between the two schools resumes Friday night in Kansas City. My guess is that O’Neill, who was voted 2012 national official of the year, will not be calling the game.
Surprising? Unfair? Conspiratorial? These words all probably flashed through the minds of Tar Heel fans across the country when it was revealed on Sunday evening that the UNC had earned an 8-seed and a potential second-round matchup with Kansas in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Many felt that UNC had done enough in beating FSU and Maryland and playing Miami evenly for about 36 minutes in the ACC Tournament to warrant at least a 7 and possibly even a 6-seed. Based on RPI, strength of schedule, and record vs. the Top 100 in the RPI, Carolina was better than each of the teams placed one slot higher. Even in advanced per-possession metrics (kenpom.com), which are supposedly now utilized by the tournament selection committee, UNC is rated better than both Notre Dame and Illinois, who both received sevens. None of these statistics even consider the fact that UNC has been a much better team since moving PJ Hairston into the starting lineup. Fans of other schools are probably rolling their eyes at the complaints of Carolina’s supporters given that UNC has traditionally been a powerhouse. Nevertheless, some Heels fans think it a strange coincidence that the Tar Heels are seemingly under-seeded and slated to meet Roy Williams’ former team in Kansas City should they beat Villanova…a realllllly coincidental coincidence that would make for excellent television.
But maybe the selection committee was simply down on the ACC this year. Neither Duke nor Miami received a 1-seed in spite of seemingly-deserving profiles, especially since no team has ever been denied a spot on the top line after sweeping the ACC regular season and tournament titles. Maybe the committee realized that the Heels have beaten only two NCAA tournament teams this season, NC State (8-seed) and UNLV (5-seed), and both games were at home. Maybe the committee looked at UNC and saw a team that recently got smacked by Duke on its own court…a team that couldn’t defend Miami’s scorers when it needed to get stops to win the ACC Championship…a team that wasn’t ranked for most of the year because it just wasn’t one of the twenty-five best teams in the country. Or maybe the committee is made up of a bunch of idiots. It’s hard to say right now.
Regardless, this has been a crazy year in college basketball. None of the teams at the top of the polls have been truly dominant; heck, a team from the WCC (that’s the West Coast Conference, for those of you that haven’t heard of it) ended the regular season with the #1 ranking. The beauty of March Madness lies in the upset, the electricity that grabs hold of the audience as an underdog is matching the favorite shot for shot, the thrill of seeing the unexpected happen, the success of those that were written off early on or never given a chance to begin with. With the favorites less than a sure thing this year, the tournament seems ripe for excitement and magic.
This year, Carolina has its lowest seed in history (tied with 1990 and 2000) and is taking on the mantle of underdog/Cinderella for one of the first times ever. But for this team, this year, the slipper might just fit. Statistical analysis by Jordan Brenner and Peter Keating at ESPN has shown that the teams most likely to stage major upsets (difference of five or more in seeding) have high variability in performance; the wider the range of possible performances, the more likely it is that a team puts together the type of special performance required to beat a giant. Some of the key characteristics that they’ve identified for “Giant Killers” include making a lot of three pointers and forcing turnovers. Jacking up long distance shots and gambling for steals are the kinds of high-risk, high-reward strategies employed by the most dangerous low seeds, and the Heels are starting to get pretty good at doing those things, based on their performance over the past few weeks. Obviously, if the shots aren’t falling, the result can be really ugly (just watch the highlights from the Duke game in March if you can stand to), but if Hairston and Reggie Bullock can continue their torrid shooting from outside, the Heels have a shot against anyone.
The odds are seemingly stacked against Carolina to do something special in this year’s tournament, but each of the previous two times they were an 8-seed, the Heels took down a top seed and advanced to at least the Sweet Sixteen. Maybe there’s a little magic left in store for this team. We’ll find out starting on Friday.
All Photos in Hoop It Up are provided by Todd Melet.http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/view-from-the-risers/a-first-time-well-kinda-for-everything/
After a third loss to “old” and talented Miami this season, the crime of beating only two teams that likewise reached the NCAA Tournament probably fits the penalty of receiving an eighth seed and the prospect of having to beat Kansas in Kansas City to make the Sweet Sixteen.
Had Carolina been able to finish what, for much of the Sunday afternoon in Greensboro, looked like a major upset in the making, the Heels likely would have moved up a line or two in the seeding and if so avoided playing Kansas for a third time since Roy Williams returned from coaching at KU 10 years ago. And, if you bear to remember, the first two were losses in the 2008 Final Four and last year’s Elite Eight game of the Midwest Regional.
Nevertheless, the Tar Heels rebounded from a disjointed poor start of the season (10-5) to win 14 of their last 19 games and get off the NCAA tourney bubble. Their only two so-called “quality wins” over UNLV and N.C. State rendered advancing to the ACC championship game almost useless unless they could have cut down the nets for the first time since 2008. After a sensational first half by both teams, Carolina led Miami with 6:38 remaining and was still only three points behind at the 2:40 mark. The 87-77 final was un-indicative of this battle royal.
Losing to the Hurricanes, who drew a No. 2 NCAA seed, was certainly no insult. Being banished to Kansas City as a No. 8 seed and a date with top-seed Kansas if the Tar Heels can defeat Villanova in their first game was also no just reward.
The transformation from an unlikeable basketball team to a lovable one began with the emergence of sophomore P.J. Hairston, who remained the central figure right through toughing out a pretty gruesome injury after scoring 21 points in the quarterfinal win over Florida State. Playing with a heavily taped hand from a stitched-up laceration, Hairston teetered on legendary status by making his first two 3’s against Maryland and then encoring with 28 against Miami, including six three-pointers from vast locations on the Greensboro C oliseum court.
Indeed, Hairston and his teammates will have to at least match their performance next weekend for any chance to reach the Sweet Sixteen in Arlington , Texas. But for what was clearly a rebuilding venture after losing four starters to the NBA draft, they have at the very least created excitement and momentum going into the NCAA tourney and, more importantly, looking ahead to next season.
It’s a bit odd that UNC, which along with Duke has dominated the ACC tournament over the last 60 years, played a part in making two schools from the Sunshine State one-and-done wonders in the event. With defensive player of the year John Henson injured last season, the Tar Heels lost to Florida State’s first ACC title team. The 18-15 Seminoles were pretty horrible for most of this season and basically quit midway through the second half of their loss to UNC Friday night.
Miami, which has five seniors averaging 23 years old and the best player in the league in sophomore guard Shane Larkin, could in fact win the national championship in three weeks. But next season, the ‘Canes will have an entirely new starting lineup and likely revert to their middling status in the ACC after winning their first conference title.
But, oh what a game Sunday! The teams combined to make 15 three-pointers in a spectacular first half, trading long-range howitzers from well beyond the arc. Hairston had four of Carolina’s eight, while Larkin and unsung Trey McKinney-Jones had three each for Miami. The pace was frenetic but the play so splendid that only eight turnovers were committed.
The second half started the same way, with Carolina turning a three-point deficit into a five-point lead nine minutes in. The light blue-clad capacity crowd that gobbled up all the available tickets for the final was roaring like it was Duke in the Dean Dome. But both teams, which won rugged semifinal games Saturday, slowed it down over the last 10 minutes and you knew whoever kept knocking them in from outside was going to wear the crown.
That, unfortunately, was Miami, which made the last four treys of the game to regain the lead and protect it by hitting eight free throws down the stretch, six by Larkin who will be an NBA lottery pick this coming June. The son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, the 6-2 point guard has an uncanny command of the game from knowing when to shoot, pass or drive and executing almost flawlessly.
Carolina still might have won if McKinney-Jones hadn’t made three more bombs in the second half, the backbreaker from the deep corner after a UNC defensive lapse that gave Miami an eight-point lead with 98 seconds remaining. The Heels managed only eight points over the last 4½ minutes as the game slipped away.
Maybe Hairston and Co. have an unused miracle or two.
All Chapelboro.com Game Photos By Todd Melethttp://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/ford-corners/too-little-too-late/
There are some sports truisms that are undeniably, well, true. Of the many coaching platitudes that I’ve heard over the years, none has stuck out quite like the idea that you must “finish strong.” While applicable to many different games, the phrase has a particular double meaning in the world of college basketball. By using the expression in this context, one could either be referencing the necessity of attacking the hoop and scoring with strength at the rim by going through contact (as opposed to “weak” fadeaways or finesse moves) or be noting the importance of ending the regular season on a high note to provide momentum going into postseason play.
Sunday’s game against Florida State marked the continuation of the Heels’ commitment to “finishing strong” in every sense. Before the game even began, students got in on the action, as they endured what may be the longest rendition of “Jump Around” in Smith Center history. Despite cramping calves and a lot of sweating, the fans in the risers pushed through the pain and danced right up until CBS mercifully allowed the game to begin. Perhaps the presence of head football coach Larry Fedora in the risers, donning a blue wig and his trademark visor, was enough to inspire the crowd to keep jumping.
The Heels started hot but fell behind by one about midway through the first half after settling for several jumpers in a row. Fortunately, Roy’s Boys then went on a 20-3 run. Roundly criticized by knowledgeable UNC fans earlier in the season for his weakness around the basket, James Michael McAdoo led the charge, scoring 11 points during the spurt, including three emphatic jams in traffic. The combination of McAdoo’s newfound ability to actually convert his monstrous dunk attempts and some torrid outside shooting by Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston ignited the crowd and paved the way for a nineteen-point halftime lead. The second half was much of the same, with the Heels ultimately putting away a twenty-one-point win.
Though the outcome was determined early on, the game did not lack for excitement. Unfortunately, a lot of the interesting action wasn’t really related to the game on the floor. Arena security has come under a lot of scrutiny in the ACC over the last week, with Mike Krzyzewski calling the measures taken by officials at John Paul Jones Arena inadequate to protect Duke’s players and coaches during the celebration following Virginia’s win on Thursday. While court rushing has been a common occurrence in the past few years (and particularly in the ACC this season), on Sunday, it was actually the referees mixing it up with the students. After making a number of questionable calls against the home team, a student in the risers and official Brian Kersey apparently had some heated exchanges that ended in Kersey demanding that arena security remove the fan. This interaction stands in stark contrast to one that took place at halftime of the Duke-UNC game back in February, when Blue Devils assistant coach Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski charged at Kersey as the teams were leaving the floor, putting his forehead into Kersey’s and exchanging more than pleasantries. Wojo was neither ejected nor given a technical. Though it is unclear what exactly was said in both cases, it seems surprising that an official would feel more threatened by a fan standing in the student section than an assistant coach that seemingly attempted to physically intimidate him. Regardless, the whole incident provided a fun opportunity for students to debate what had actually been said and a chance for UNC fans to bash Kersey as a Duke homer.
The other major incident of note was related to recruiting. UNC is in hot pursuit of the top prospect in the class of 2013, Andrew Wiggins. Both of Wiggins’ parents attended Florida State, and it is well known that FSU is among the schools he is still considering (UNC, Kentucky, and Kansas are the others). With the Heels up by twenty at the end of the game, students in the risers began an “Andrew Wiggins” chant, hoping that CBS or ESPN might pick up on it to help push Wiggins to make a decision, if the game hadn’t already convinced him that Florida State was far inferior to Carolina. While student pitches to recruits are now a part of college basketball given the NCAA restrictions on universities, Roy Williams immediately chastised the entire student section for the cheer. Perhaps he was upset because Wiggins was not even in attendance, and another recruit, five-star G/F Justin Jackson, was sitting directly in front of the students. Getting yelled at by Roy Williams is not fun. It makes you feel like a five-year old kid that colored on the walls with permanent marker. It will be interesting to see what students do on Saturday night in light of Roy’s reaction, as Wiggins will actually be at the Smith Center for the UNC-Duke game.
Regardless of what happens on the recruiting trail or with the referees, this year’s team is putting together a great run to end the regular season. As postseason play begins, we travel into another dimension, where drama is constant, dreams come true, and anything can happen. March Madness is just around the corner, and the Heels are finishing strong. They’re ready.
All Photos in Hoop It Up are provided by Todd Melet.http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/view-from-the-risers/finishing-strong/
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 Melethttp://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/ford-corners/the-amazing-eight/
This Saturday morning found me as most have in recent weeks: huddled with my friends in a line outside of the Dean E. Smith center. Congregated under my roommate’s oversized golf umbrella, the half-dozen of us waited beneath a gray Chapel Hill sky and watched as puddles encroached. It was cold and my bed was much too far away for my liking. But everyone present knew that foregone sleep in a dry bed was simply the going rate for a much sought after commodity: revenge.
The Heels had an ax to grind on Saturday and certainly played like it, finally bringing a level of intensity worthy of the name on the front of their jerseys. Though it was far from a perfect performance, the boys in blue made further strides along what has been a steady learning curve as of late.
Freshman Marcus Paige continued to show improvement at the point, notching 8 assists against 0 turnovers and putting up 14 points. Paige looked comfortable running the show in the game’s closing minutes and once again proved himself to be a valuable asset at the charity stripe, knocking down 4 late free-throws to keep the wolfpack out of striking distance.
Of course, Paige’s progression seems to have been expedited by Roy Williams’ decision to go with a smaller lineup. With fewer big men crowding the paint, both Paige and Dexter Strickland have excelled in finding open driving lanes to the basket. Also of note is the sudden reappearance of the fast break. In the 4 games since P.J. Hairston was inserted into the starting lineup, the Heels have fought their way to a 77 to 38 advantage in points off turnovers, indicating that Coach Roy’s four guard experiment has not only paid dividends in the half-court, but in the transition game as well.
The most noticeable transformation on Saturday, however, took place off the court rather than on. Carolina played in front of an absolutely electric crowd that was hungry for payback. For the first time this season the risers behind the basket were filled to the brim, each step stacked two people deep. Student turnout was so high that the cheerleaders (who were somewhat surreptitiously implemented in the front row of the risers during Winter break games and who have, much to the chagrin of the students who wait in line hours before each game’s tipoff, remained there throughout the conference schedule) resumed their original post along the sideline to make room for the horde of blue-painted and, in many cases, rain-soaked undergrads.
The capacity crowd was voracious, exploding with each Tar Heel bucket and making its presence known during each crucial defensive stand. When James Michael McAdoo picked off a lazy pass by Lorenzo Brown at the top of the key and took it the length of the floor for a reverse jam late in the first half, the Dean Dome shook at its foundations. It was the loudest I’d heard the Smith Center since witnessing Harrison Barnes throw down a filthy put back dunk against Kentucky two years ago.
And the noise wasn’t limited to the regular die-hards found along the home baseline. In fact, one of the game’s loudest moments occurred midway through the second half when a “Let’s go Tar Heels!” chant erupted from the student general seating behind the home end-zone and was echoed by just about every Carolina fan in the building.
Stay focused, but stay angry. I like us when we’re angry.
“Big-time basketball” made another stop in Chapel Hill Saturday, and though it isn’t always this way the shaking Smith Center gave nothing up to crazy Cameron, maniacal Maryland and the Wild West venues of the Big 12 that Roy Williams occasionally pines for.
From the moment you saw far more fetching fingers in the air than tickets for sale in the afternoon mist outside, you knew this was going to be some scene inside. If only the game would live up to the hype between these old foes that seem to have a hoops rivalry again after years of domination by UNC, which came in with a 9-0 home record against N.C. State in the Williams era and won 13 of the last 14, 19 of the last 21 and 36 of the last 45 games against the revived Wolfpack.
Far from the half-empty upper decks that drive Williams nuts for lesser games, this resembled Duke’s annual visit in that the seats were filled to the top rows of the biggest on-campus basketball arena in the country. With every tough ticket being had, this crowd was ready to go long before the 4 p.m. tip.
And, as well as the atmosphere, the game between more bitter enemies than respectful foes did not disappoint. For more than two hours on a second straight bad-weather Saturday on the Hill, Carolina was the School of Rock. Even more so than last week’s great win over Virginia, the old girl with the Teflon top that is now 27 years young never shut up.
Sure, it helped that the opponent wore the red-trimmed black unies of a State College that has continually inserted itself into the recent troubles at UNC by hacking into websites, making the message boards buzz with obnoxious opinions and absurd accusations and playing freelance researchers for the local newspaper.
So the early video of Gio Bernard’s touché touchdown return that stunned State last October did not seem like just another football promo to launch 2013 ticket sales. It was far more an up-yours reminder, much like Duke kept showing the Austin Rivers’ dagger for weeks after it cut out Carolina’s heart last season.
The Smith Center itself is having a welcome metamorphosis. Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham found $800,000 to install the electronic ribbon board all the way around the upper deck fascia, where the graphics are pretty cool if not the most creative. And PA announcer Tony Gilliam has finally given UNC that deep, dramatic voice of intonation during introductions and scoring calls that has long been needed and really revs the crowd.
There is no question that, with one lineup change, Williams has made this a much more lovable Tar Heel team. It’s no coincidence that catalyst P.J. Hairston gets the loudest roar during starting lineups, and the fans are both hyped and hopeful that the four-guard alignment so contradictory to Carolina basketball will still produce the expected result come March.
After all, here is a double-post program that did not shoot a free throw for the first 30 minutes and four seconds of the game but had opportunities, albeit missed, to blow State out in both halves of what turned out to be a taught, tense, back-and-forth game. Williams has disdained trying to pound the ball inside to big guys who cannot score from the blocks consistently in favor of a West Coast style of offense that spreads the field, er, the floor.
Alignments aside, ol’ Roy’s young pups are definitely getting better and with three straight victories find themselves one from the magical 20 mark and i n third place (9-5) of the ACC race. This so-called quality win, 76-65, will go a long way toward assuring another NCAA tournament berth for the Tar Heels. Running the table would leave them 13-5 and with a possible top four seed.
They are still not beyond silly mistakes that stop runs and send Williams into sideline gyrations. But the plays they do make are both gutty and great-looking. Like tipping out missed free throws, a lost art with most teams invented by Dean Smith that provide precious extra possessions. And the sneaky overplaying defense that resulted in consecutive steals and snowbirds that opened up a seven-point lead in the first half.
When Carolina widened a six-point advantage to 10 with the first four points of the second half — but missed a chance to make it 16 by blowing two chippies and throwing it away with numbers on the break — Williams unnerved the crowd by using it as a teaching moment. Though he is essentially down to a six-man rotation, he answered the careless stretch by a bizarre bench-clearing with so little firepower that State astutely went to a zone and dared Carolina to shoot.
Marcus Paige, the only starter left on the court who had a stellar day with 8 assists and no turnovers after playing like a true freshman in the first game in Raleigh, answered with one of his two three-pointers. But before Williams could get the regulars back in the game the lead had become a four-point deficit to the extremely talented Wolfpack. The main men had gotten the message, though.
They regained the lead for good on Paige’s second three-pointer and took control of the game with the help of their first trips to the foul line and more big baskets by Paige and Reggie Bullock, who continues his vastly underrated season and looks more like a potential pro every game. The 6-7 Bullock’s 13 rebounds and 3 assists to go with his 5 three’s and 22 points made him the player of this game.
Sir Reginald had eight points in the 18-4 run that settled it, a stretch during which State and particularly C.J. or Calvin or Fester Lester (6 points, 4 rebounds in 30 minutes, for which Hairston’s defense has to get much of the credit) played like a true pack of dogs. Their real star, senior center Richard Howell, and freshman T.J. Warren combined for 23 points and 27 rebounds, and sharpshooter Scott Wood had drained both wide-open and contested treys, but State basically threw in the towel by not pressuring or fouling when the outcome was still in doubt.
By now, the home crowd was roaring its approval for the team with more heart than height and an alternative style of play that would make a retired coach and mathematician proud.
It was also time for the way-cool video that begins with former UNC stars ticking off the number of ACC titles, Final Fours, national championships, etc., and ends with them repeating “THIS. . . , THIS . . ., THIS . . .” and Smith himself completing the phrase:
“THIS is Carolina Basketball.”
On a beautiful, if not sunny, Beat-State Saturday, it certainly was.
Ford playing defense as a freshman against N.C. State in 1975
They said I wasn’t a very good defensive player my freshman year, although I thought I was trying very hard. Maybe Coach Smith didn’t agree, because we sure played a lot of zone that season while I was “learning” to play defense!
But through my playing days, and into coaching, I developed such a respect for the players and teams that play good defense. It is so important in basketball, which was illustrated by our last two victories over Virginia and Georgia Tech. Even though Virginia shot the highest percentage (58%) of any Carolina team under Coach Williams in a victory, we played good defense in three important segments of that game. First, getting back into it after falling behind by 10 in the first half, then outscoring them 8-0 to open the second half and, finally, holding them off late after it seemed they were making every tough shot.
Fortunately, we were so efficient offensively against Virginia (we had to be in order to win). They are really good and Joe Harris is so underrated. Honestly, they have enough talent to win the ACC Tournament. And it was a great win because we HAD to beat Virginia after losing up there in January. Playing the small lineup with P.J. in there most of the time with Reggie was a good match-up for us, and P.J. like everyone from both teams in the second half was really shooting the ball well.
He had a tough night offensively at Georgia Tech, but I was impressed with his maturity in other parts of the game. Young shooters, when the ball’s not going in, have to give the same effort and concentration on defense, boxing out and other aspects of the game. P.J. is growing, because his other stats were good. I’m not sure that would have been case last year or even earlier this season.
Even though we were getting good shots that weren’t going in, we were still getting those shots and got enough offensive rebounds to win in a hostile environment. We had a low loss of ball, which was very important in not giving them easy opportunities to score.
It wasn’t such a good match-up for P.J. but he did a great job on the bigger kids he was guarding and penalized them on the other end. He stayed between his man and the basket and made them shoot straight up and over him. Sometimes young players won’t try to get it back on defense when their shots aren’t falling. But that’s how far defensively P.J. has come.
Now State Saturday will be awfully tough because they have everything — size, talent, good shooters outside and inside and plenty of size — really they have all the parts to win a national championship.
We have to be ready to play from the tip, unlike it was over in Raleigh. Some people say State plays to the level of their competition, and if that’s the case they will play great in the Smith Center. They will be fire and ice when they see all that blue. Our team has to remember what they did to us over there before we made the comeback in the second half. I’m looking forward to an outstanding game and I hope we have one because State is not a team you can blow out. It’s not an impossible task, but it will be hard. It IS doable if we play the way we’re capable. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more minutes from our other big guys because of C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell. Both of those guys are so big and really good inside.
And with us, State and Virginia all tied at 8-5, the game is very important for the ACC Tournament. You want to finish in the top four so you don’t have to play on Thursday and win four games to win the tourney. I don’t think anyone has won four games in the tourney. So, with Miami in first and Duke looking like it will finish second, one of those three teams is going to finish fifth. That’s why this game is so important. We’ve already split with Virginia and now we need to split with State.
I am really excited. It’s going to be a great environment, like the old games I played in against DT (David Thompson) and the games against some of the great teams that Coach V had when it was show time for State. I just hope we’re ready to play from the start and the crowd gets there early and really helps us. Their crowd was great in Raleigh. We have to provide the same kind of support Saturday.
Phil Ford was a three-time All-American at UNC, 1978 ACC Player of the Year and went on to be the NBA Rookie of the Year and an NBA all-star.http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/ford-corners/state-awfully-tough/