Lovely week all around

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!


Bracket Broken?

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!


Thoughts on NC State

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!

I think Tar Heels need to remember history and not dismiss NCSU so easily (maybe dismiss their immature fans  like the one who threw a dip can a Paige).  The hate for Duke represents all that is good in this world, but we were a rival to State before Duke came into the picture (The oldest rivalry (in basketball) in the state is actually Duke-Wake as they used to be located so close to one another.  Also, before intercollegiate athletics, sports were played among on-campus classes- freshmen vs sophomores, etc).
One thing that being “Tar Heel born and Tar Heel Bred” is that we know good basketball, we hate hard, and we love harder.  One of the biggest faults (and there are many) of the Crazies is that they are so often from out of state, don’t know their basketball, and jump on the dook bandwagon when they come to school down here. They may (misguidedly) love dook, but don’t know anything else about southern basketball.  Tar Heels should know their history.
To be a Tar Heel is to respect the fact that we have been playing State since the 1910s (they won twice to our none in that decade).  The Pack is going through a tough time now, but history shows they are in it for the long haul.  UNC and NCSU were charter members of the SoCon (1923)  and until the 1950s State took that conference 7 to our 3 championships.  dook did not join SoCon until 1929.  Yes, We have taken State in ACC championships 17-10 since 1953.  When the ACC became large enough for divisions- State became our cross division permanent partner.  In the Dixie Classic Tourney (1949-1961), State took 7  championships to our 3.  In the Big Four Tourney (1971-81) they took 3 to our 2 championships.  No, right now there is no parity between the light blue and the red. Yes, they are acting like children.  Maybe their fans don’t know their history, but Tar Heels should.  You should hate hard, but love even harder.  We are good right now.  It feels good to tell State to stop acting like the bratty little brother, but that brother has been around longer than anyone else.  Carolina basketball is fun because we are good, but it also comes from a good history of strong basketball.  To ignore that, to make light of that just because of current basketball conditions is disingenuous to the idea of basketball from North Carolina.
But of course, GTHD!

Boston College- Giant Killer

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.


March Madness, Day Two

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.


Battle of the Wes Bobblehead- Wes is back where he belongs

 

UNC wins, Wes back to the Colonna house.

UNC wins, Wes back to the Colonna house.

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?


Battle of the Bobblehead

BattleoftheBobbleheadDerrick, 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!

DerricknWes