While I haven’t had time to post, this has been a great week of college ball.
Louisville came to the Dean Dome and the Heart Attack Heels topped the Cards by one point (72-71) with Marcus Paige’s shot in the last seconds.
On top of that, for the last two Duke games, I had the privilege of seeing red while visiting diddukewin.com. Their first loss was at the hands of the unranked Wolfpack at the PNC Arena. It was at PNC, in March, when the Mercer Bears handed Duke their last loss. I was jumping and yelling as NC State pulled off that victory!
Last night, the Miami Hurricanes blew into Cameron and upset the Devils at home. This is Duke’s first loss at home since 2012 and Miami’s third win over ranked opponents this season!
Tonight, is the Battle for the Wes Miller Bobblehead- every time UNC meets NCSU the outcome of the game decides if our bobblehead will reside at the Colonna or the Newkirk house. Wes has come home with me for the last two Tar Heel victories and D feels with the Duke win the Pack is poised for greatness tonight. The Red-Blue game is at the same time that UNCG meets VMI at home, so it is double basketball for us tonight!
Go Heels! Go Spartans!
Is your bracket broken yet? I’m sure that it is…this has been a day of upsets. It has also been a day of OT play. Last year there was only one game that went into overtime. This year there has already been four. This is what we live for. This is March Madness!
The North Dakota State Bison beat Oklahoma in overtime. Looking at stats, the Bison did not match up well with the Sooners, but their defense held them in check, making jump shots harder to make. The surprise star of the night was first year player, Carlin Dupree. He did not play in regulation, but got put into the game in OT because of a reach-in foul by Taylor Braun. After less than a minute on the floor, Dupree was calmly sinking foul shots like a pro (they win and loose games, people) leading NDSU to the win.
NC State blew a 16 point lead to loose in OT to St. Louis. A win seem assured for the Pack with five minutes left in regulation, but St. Louis (what they heck is their mascot, anyway) steadily, play-by-play, tied the game and took the game into overtime. During the regular season, St. Louis was 2-0 in OT and State split their OT 1-1. Derrick did assure me that State was not going to loose this game by text as they set up for the extra minutes, but alas poor foul shooting was the undoing of this game. TJ Warren, ACC player of the year, alone was around 30% from the line and the Pack overall left 17 points on the floor (20-37). Missing foul shots makes your season much shorter. Coach G should rest assured, the pack is young and he has TJ Warren and 4 freshmen in rotation. They will do nothing but get better.
For the first time since 2009, Ohio State is going home after one tournament game. PJ had them in the Final Four on his bracket, but the Dayton Flyers had other ideas. With the OSU senior, Aaron Craft, missing his last second shot the 11 seed won the game by one point. Throughout the year, the Buckeyes had played with strokes of brilliance, but tonight they did not play to any potential. The game was not a disaster, but Ohio State could have played every part of this game better.
Texas held off Arizona State with a last minute buzzer beater to win. I had ASU beating Texas, so while this is not an upset I was a little surprised that the Longhorns pulled this one off. After a missed three pointer center Cameron Ridley scooped up the offensive rebound for a quick put-back. The officials had to review the play. He got it off before the buzzer, so the Longhorns survive to play another round.
I could not watch the Louisville- Manhattan match up. The game started with the commentators recounting fact that Manhattan head coach, Steve Masiello, has ball boyed for, played for, and coach with Rick Pitino. Manhattan runs the same style as Louisville and Masiello’s coaching style is most similar to anyone else in Pitino’s coaching tree. (It was fun that reporters heard him calling out Louisville’s plays during the game) Pitino is on record saying he cared less about the #4 seed (one I think he deserved) than that the NCAA made him coach against is protege. That sounds like whining at its finest. You should coach against those in your coaching tree. It is something to be proud of not something to whine about. Louisville won the game, but just barely. It took 8 straight points by Luke Hancock to lift the Cards to a 71-64 win. Last year’s champs weather this game, but I’m not going to loose any sleep when St. Louis sends them home in the next round.
In a night of upsets and close calls, perhaps the most surprising (except to my Mom who had Harvard winning on her bracket) was Harvard’s win over the #5 Bearcats. Last year, Harvard was a surprise winner, but this year they shouldn’t have been. Harvard has steadily been recruiting well and playing basketball at a higher caliber. Even Pres. Obama picked this upset, though he does not have the Crimson beating the Spartans in the next round. For tonight, the Ivy League champs have their upset and go into the next game with experience and momentum on their side. (Though, I do agree with the president and have MSU winning it all- they are looking health and playing at the level the need to be playing right now).
As foul shots can make or break a win (I’m looking at you NC State), I have to mention Michigan State’s Adreine Payne. He went 17-0 from the free throw line tonight in the Spartan’s win over the Delaware Blue Hens. Payne was on fire in all aspects of his game tonight (though his conditioning could be a bit better), but going 100% from the line is impressive. That is how you win games during the Big Dance. Harvard can’t match them for size and I think they have the best chance for playing through their region and winning the whole thing (beating Arizona).
Ohhh, it’s March Madness….my favorite time of the year!
Luke Nadkarni wrote a piece addressing Wolfpack fans and telling them to grow up. He wrote, “And for State fans to be throwing debris on the court at the end of the game is simply unacceptable. For as much as we brag about being great fans, we sure don’t act like it…Good fans don’t act like kindergartners when their team loses.” Owning that is not what State fans wanted to hear, but as someone who love great basketball perhaps what needed to be said.
One the other hand, that does not take Tar Heel fans off of the hook. I agree that the behavior and the feelings of being less than need to stop. It must be hard to struggle to make the top 25 when you have such a great history of basketball. But discounting NC State, beyond the usual back and forth that comes from sport and competition because I do love some trash talking, is a disservice done on our part. Fans have called out the victory as less than citing an empty Franklin Street after the win (compared to the flooded street last week in the win over Duke). Even ESPN was brought into the social media fray as people linked to the their listing of the UNC-NCSU rivalry as the #2 overall most one sided rivalry in the 21st century. That is true, the 21 century has not been kind to NC State basketball, but great basketball traditions are built over decades, not years. Tar Heel fans would do good to remember that!
Tonight, as UNCG lost to rival Elon (oh my- there were some whiney Phoenix sitting behind us) PJ pulled up the Syracuse- Boston College game on his phone (gotta love technology). The game was tied at 50 and they went into OT as we walked out to the car. Once in the car, we put the game on through the Bluetooth.
They were tied at 52, then BC pulled ahead. The Eagles made their final four foul shots in a row and won the game 62-59. BC, who only sits above VT at the bottom of the ACC rankings, stuns #1 Syracuse! The Orange was projected to win by 14 and they lost by three. Syracuse was surprised and BC’s celebration was written all over their surprised faces.
As the seconds ticked down in OT, PJ and I discussed the last time that BC had upset the #1 team in the nation. They beat UNC January 2009. Yes, the team that was projected to have an undefeated that season. The team that went on to win the National Championship.
As a Tar Heel fan, that was hard to watch, but what rubbed the salt in the wound is that three days later BC lost to Harvard. Yep, they beat the #1 team in the nation, the team that went on to win the NCAA Championship and dropped a game to Harvard. If I remember correctly, the question that kept being asked was: Does Harvard even have a basketball team? Fast forward 5 years later, Harvard basketball has grown and they have gotten some strong recruits, but in 2009, it was shocking to the Tar Heel soul. We lose to BC then they turn around and lose to Harvard. What was right in the world?
Good job tonight, BC? I was hoping that the Wolfpack would have knocked them off of perfect last week, but I’ll take it this week instead.
Ohhhh, a day ful of basketball is always a good day! I am trying to get my dissertation material in order, but I keep getting distracted by basketball.
Three out of four NC schools made it through today. Duke beat Albany…blah, blah…I was rooting for Albany. Miami gave a master class to Pacific. It was a hard pounding, but Pacific actually did pretty well.
UNC, per usual, blew a 19 point lead by playing down to the level of their opponents managing to win by 7. I love the Heels. I love to watch them play, but when another teams wants to set the basketball level low UNC obliges by playing at that level. During the middle part of the game, they let Nova set the pace and it was not in their favor. In the second half, Roy did pull all five of his starters for a heart to heart. This is a tactic that has been used to portray that he means business (like in 2008 vs BC….that even made it into the 2009 video for Late Night with Roy). When he put his starting five back in this evening they perked up and pulled this game back on track. Heels, get a good night’s sleep…it may not be that easy on Sunday.
NCSU fell to Temple. The play was up and down and there were times that it felt like the Pack were not in it to win it. They seemed distracted. The Owls were able to shut Wood down and the rest of the team could not pick up his scoring slack. This ends the Wolfpack’s run on the 30th anniversary of their National Championship. They are loosing some great players, but will come back strong next season.
Other upsets of the day came when LaSalle beat K-State and Ole Miss sent Wisconsin packing. That is what this round is all about! Many times the seeds predict who will win, until they don’t. Then you have good basketball and players wanting the season not to end. I was surprised by the Badger loss, I was expecting a Wisconsin/OSU showdown (I had OSU on top).
The most fun game of the day to watch was #2 Georgetown’s stunning loss to #15 FGCU. It is hard to predict when a #15 will upend a #2 , but today marks the 7th time it has happened. FGCU was the first team into the Big Dance this year, their conference was won on March 9th, and I said from the beginning I was rooting for this team. After only 6 years as a D1 school, they beat Miami at the beginning of the season and took Duke into overtime. This team is fast and athletic. People may not have taken them as seriously as their statistics might have suggested, but they are ready to play and have no fear on the court. They are dunking machines! Both #20 and #23 put on amazing shows tonight. Both dunks deserve to be in the nightly top ten as they were playing in FGCU Dunk City today Ba-aby (I imagine you will say that last line in Dickie V’s voice)!
Tomorrow will bring more good ball. I am particularly ready for the VCU-Michigan match up.
As many of you know, Derrick, Pj, and I have three season tickets to UNCG’s men’s basketball games, but we only got one Wes Miller Bobblehead. We decided that every time UNC and NCSU meet up the bobblehead would be on the line. Winner gets to keep Wes until the next game. Unfortunately, Wes had been hanging out at the Newkirk house because the Heels dropped the first game to the Pack, but we were ready to win him back on Saturday night!
This was a decidedly different game than the first meeting. UNC was ready to play (all 40 minutes) and there were time where NCSU (led by Leslie) could not get it together. For the Heels, Bullock gave us his second double double of the season scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. First year player Marcus Paige seems to really be settling into the point guard role- a tough one to be sure- as there were moments of greatness where he was leading the Heels on the court and a few pull up shooters that caused the crowd to go wild. The Heels were not stellar from the foul line this game. The did not make it to the line at all in the first half and in the second it was 11 for 16. Less than 70%, at the ACC level (really any college level) 70% should be baseline.
Roy did pull his entire regular line up for a talk in the second half. I really like to see this when it happens and coaches pull hard on the reigns. The starters came back in and played to their full potential for the rest of the game.
For the Red and Black, it is hard to fault the play of Richard Howell (was that a beard trim that he was sporting?). He had 13 points and 17 rebounds and the Pack lead the Heels in rebounding overall (43-34). Brown had a good game, but with only 6 points CJ Leslie felt out of synch and controlled by this UNC defense. It did not help that the pack went 6 of 13 from the foul line (46.2%).
In other basketball happenings: Dennis Rodman is going to North Korea for some basketball diplomacy. Kim Jong Un is a big basketball fan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls was his favorite team growing up. Along with some Harlem Globetrotters, Rodman is going to see if human connections can be made on the court where they are not being made by the politicians. Is it crazy that I was most shocked that Rodman is 51! Of course he is, but it just seems like yesterday he was playing with rainbow hair and promoting his book wearing a wedding dress.
And the reason that the game is really important often show up on high school basketball courts that double as auditoriums, not the big league sports complexes. In El Paso, a high school basketball manager got his moment to shine with the unlikeliest of help…an inbound from the other team! If this does not make you love the game, what will?
Derrick, PJ, and I have been watching UNCG basketball together for a few years now. UNCG used to play dirt cheap in Fleming Gym, but since they moved to the Big Barn (the Greensboro Coliseum for those that don’t know my G-pa) we have been buying season tickets. This year as part of the package we got a Wes Miller Bobblehead. We only got one because we by the three tickets together and it took FOREVER to arrive because of Superstorm Sandy. Three people, one bobblehead- you can see how this is a problem. Derrick is a State Fan and it has been nearly 6 years (Feb 2007) since the Pack bested the Heels, so a plan was born…
Every time UNC and NCSU meet up #WesMillerBobblehead is on the line. If NCSU wins, he goes home with Derrick. If UNC wins, he comes to the Colonna house. This is valid for conference games as well as any post season play.
We met tonight at our favorite wings spot to watch the game. State has had a good year, but I was confident Wes would come home with me. At the tipoff, the Pack were in attack mode. They grabbed the lead and would not let it go! They led by as much as 28. I’m a looong time Tarheel, so I know how Carolina likes to dawdle around in the first half and the turn on the rockets in the second. I don’t always like to watch that kind of ball, but I am used to it. This was not the smoothest game to watch for either side with plenty of loose balls and lack of hustle on the defensive ends. One surprising fact, I almost didn’t believe my own eyes, is that Roy Williams took all FIVE of his time outs. He usually forfeits one in the first and ends the game with four in his pocket (the final seconds of last year’s home game against Duke would have been a great place to use one), but I digress….
UNC pulled up close at 5 (85-80) in the last few minutes of the game, but was unable to overcome the first half deficit to win this game. Overall, the stats for UNC and NCSU were not horrible. FG shooting was UNC 46.5% and NCSU 49%. NCSU led in the 3 53% to 36%. And I do not have much to say about Free Throws. UNC shot 90% and the Pack 87%. Both teams missed shots and in a game that pulled so close in the end either team would have liked those extra points (UNC to catch up and NCSU to pad their lead), but these are the numbers that ALL teams, at the collegiate level, should put out at the line. For UNC, PJ Hairston had 19 points and for Tarheels were in double figures. For NCSU, Brown, Howell, and Leslie all had double doubles.
This is the first time since 2002 that State has beat both Dook and Carolina. These boys worked hard, but Wes is coming back to my house on Feb. 23!
As a Tarheel fan, sometimes it is hard to know what is better- a UNC win or a dook loss, but when they happen on the same day all has to be right in the world! Today, I think, the dook loss is the bigger story. I had a conference presentation in Chapel Hill today and was listening to the tail end of the game and the excellent post game reflection on NCSU radio. I know my grin stretched from ear to ear as I listened to the recap of this loss.
NCSU started the season at #6, but now are at a more comfortable and realistic #20. What will they be next week? PJ says #18, but I am going to say #15. Going into this game, they had to have a lot on their minds. The Pack is predicated to take the ACC title. This prediction has not occurred for them since 1976. Dook is a big obstacle in their way to that title (Maryland is too, but let’s focus on today). Dook also showed up at PNC arena 15-0. Everyone’s first loss has to come at some point, but the momentum of being 15-0 works in their favor. The Devils were also missing Ryan Kelly (boo-hoo). State was ready to go. The Pack took some time to warm up, but those players were attempting to set that court on fire.
The stat that caught my attention was that State was 20 for 23 from the free throw line- 87%. That is a great FT showing. They won this game 84-76, but so many times good games like this one are lost by sloppy days at the charity line. I am glad that State had their free throws in order, it makes the rest of the game so much fun to watch.
The man of the hour has to be Richard Howell. He always plays with intensity, as shown my the amount of sweat filtered by his beard, but he found another level today. He definitely took it to 11! His double double was highlighted by the 14 rebounds in the second half. He was a beast going for that ball and did not let anyone else get in his way. In the post game interview Coach Gottfried said he was playing a grown man’s game. He is not a flashy player, but wants to duke it out (ha ha pun intended) under the basket, playing low and hard. Another commentator called him the kind of junkyard dog any title contender needs. He plays with a style that would be recognized in college basketball of the past as well as any neighborhood court where the only reward is trash talking to your friends. Most importantly, it’s the grind it out style that I like to watch and talk about!
Calvin Leslie (Coach does not call him CJ) led the Pack with 25 points and 6 rebounds. Brown contributed 12 points and got all 13 of NCSU assists. The two first year players assigned to Curry, Purvis and Warren, made it hard for the Devil’s #1 shooter to completely dominate today. Those players pushed Curry hard and made him take his share of off balance twos.
There was a technical foul when Wood and Thornton exchanged words after a play, but it seemed to be a spark that the Pack needed to up their intensity, so Coach can’t be too mad about that! What I am mad about is Bruce Pearl’s post game comment that this was not an upset. What does that even mean? He tried to say that State was a good enough team to beat the Devils, so we should not be too surprised, but Mr. Pearl I do disagree. First, a #20 just beat a #1…that is an upset. Second, Duke just lost…we should all be rejoicing. Third, with the history of NCSU play (read the Sidney years) and the rebuilding they have done in the past two years…this is an upset. Fourth, this was an unbeaten team…this is an upset. Fifth, they just knocked down the national #1…this is an upset. I think the best response to this was Rodney Purvis on twitter,!!! “@statefansnation: Bruce Pearl: “This is not an upset, gentlemen”. Come one Bruce you can commentate better than that, and those that were at the desk with you- shame on you for not holding his feet to the fire. This team worked hard for this win.
Of course, UNC was on the court in Tallahassee today. They got a much needed win against the ACC defending champs FSU 77-72. PJ Hairston had a career high 23 points with McAdoo contributing 14 points and 8 rebounds. Bullock also had 8 rebounds to go with his 12 points. The Heels were an ok 11-16 (68%) from the FT line, but that is a place for UNC improvement They need all the help they can get and a little more time in free throw practice is never wasted time. This win helped keep the Heels from the second ever 0-3 ACC start in school history (it happened in 1996-97) and kept FSU from getting its first ever 3-0 start in ACC conference play.
The feel good story of the game, however, is Jackson Simmons. He celebrated is 20th birthday (remember fans these are young adults playing this game) with a career high eight points and four rebounds. He had a solid 15 minutes of play on the court. He did score, but he also set good screens, delivered good passes, and executed solid defense. What else can a kid from Webster, NC ask for?
To celebrate NYE, PJ, Derrick, and I took a trip to Raleigh to watch the Spartans play the Wolfpack. Derrick was conflicted, as a UNCG graduate student he felt the need to wear an NCSU shirt, but he did not go all out red! He also confused the man that sat beside hime by cheering for both teams.
The Spartans faced #23 NCSU without leading scorer Trevis Simpson, who is listed as injured. Without Simpson, Armstrong got his first start of the season. I’m not sure if the Pack knew that Armstrong’s hustle and drive for the ball belies his stature. He will out hustle anyone for the basketball!
The first half of the game was fast and furious, with lead changes that surprised the Wolfpack (or at least the fans that were sitting around us. The same confused fan that sat beside Derrick also had good things to say about UNC’s first half play in the concessions line.) The Spartans were playing hard and with Simpson on the bench, Wes was able to mix up the players on the court in new and unusual ways. Jordan Potts got plenty of time on the court as did Kayel Locke. This showed as UNCG had 32 points off the bench to NCSU’s 19. The hustle and team play shown by the Spartans in the first half was great. There was a behind the back pass by Van Dussen to McNeil that had all the UNCG fans in the house on their feet.
The Pack pulled away in the second half and used their size advantage to push UNCG into playing the game at their speed. UNCG never gave up with Kayel Lock scoring 21 points and Kelvin McNeil contributing his career third double double. The glaring stats for this game were UNCG’s 11.8% from three point range and only connecting with 61.5% of their free throws. NCSU made 44.4% of their threes and 77.3% of the free throws. While those numbers are less than stellar, they do not convey the hustle and drive I saw on the court tonight. UNCG lost by 21, but the Spartans were playing harder than that. The more experience this team gets playing ACC teams, the better they are going to be.
Of course, Wood and Leslie were strong forces on the court tonight, but the NCSU player I like to watch is is Howell. Is big and imposing and that beard is fantastic! Kayel Locke was matched up with Howell for most of the game and defended him head on. Locke also made some great over Howell’s head shots, so that match-up was fun on both sides of the court. Generally, the basketball in NC is in a GOOD place.
Today has been a lazy, post Christmas day. PJ and I took down the trees and have generally been super slothy. We slept in and have spent all afternoon and evening napping and watching basketball. What a life!
I am currently flipping between the Butler/Vandy game (I’m pretty sure that the Bulldogs have this one in the bag) and the battle of the Huskies. UConn just defeated Washington 61-53. Today has been an all around good day for Coach Ollie. He just inked a 5 year extension to his initial 7 month head coach contract. Not bad!
At Stanford, the #2 UConn women handed #1 Stanford a painful loss. I watched #3 Baylor spank Tennessee the other day. I was sure that the Lady Bears were the best women playing the game, but watching UConn I can’t be so sure. The state of women’s ball is HEALTHY!
The ACC was busy at home on Tobacco Road today. As we were taking down the tree, there was a moment of hope that Santa Clara would knock dook down a notch, but damn Plumlee, Kelley, and Curry. They are all hard to watch. NC State had a strong showing against Western Michigan. I am excited to see this team live on Monday versus UNCG. They are playing better and better with the leadership of the likes of Leslie and Wood.
At the Dean Dome, UNC hosted the UNLV Running Rebels. Last year when they met, in Las Vegas, #1 UNC lost. While many in the light blue uniforms did not play in that game last November, this was a revenge game. UNC really needed this win. They scored first and held the upper hand for most of the game. McAdoo was really quiet in the first half. That was ok because we got to see the work of some of UNC’s first year players. I am so excited for the potential and flashes of brilliance that I see in JP Tokoto, Brice Johnson, and Joel James. Particularly the team work of Johnson and James is fun to watch and will be a powerhouse in the next few years! This was all without the play of Reggie Bullock, who did not dress out due to a mild concussion.
Today was PJ Hairston’s first career start and he stepped up to the leadership role that entails with a solid 15 points. Dexter Strickland added 16 points. The Tarheels were able to capitalize off of turnovers and kept UNLV first year player Anthony Bennett, the NCAA leading freshman scorer, to only 15 points. Bennett did manage a double double with 13 rebounds. McAdoo woke up in the second half and was only one rebound short of his own double double. Watching this game, it seemed (maybe for the first time in a while) that the Heels were having fun. That is the point of basketball- after all- Well having fun and beating Duke- is the point of basketball. I think this win is a strong one and a win the Heels need to build on as conference play is about to start.