To be honest, we've been so busy with our new Google+ page (circle us now! Or click the magic badge above!) that we barely noticed that N.C. State won its opener in convincing fashion, knocking off San Diego State 79-65. They're even calling it an upset, as the lowly, lowly Wolfpack were a mere 11-seed (No. 50 on the RPI) while SDSU was a 6-seed (No. 27 RPI).
Meanwhile, Adam Sobsey and Al Drago are acting as our eyes and tweeting fingers at the Greensboro Coliseum. UNC put away the Vermont Catamounts 77-58, wisely leaving long, tall John Henson in his civvies, thus validating Rob Harrington's forecast to us:
I expect Roy Williams to limit his court time early with the hope that Carolina will dust off the Catamounts and render Henson unnecessary.
For a No. 1 seed, its opening round game should be dull. Excitement against a No. 16 is exactly what you don't want, and Syracuse's close call—arguably aided by the officials—attests to that reality. The Orange certainly didn't emerge from that contest as the takeaway story.
Assuming UNC survives Vermont, either Creighton or Alabama will await on Sunday. The Bluejays lack athleticism and the Crimson Tide can't shoot; if the Heels play reasonably well, they should advance to the Sweet 16 even without a healthy Henson.
With Elizabeth Williams' injury hampering her effectiveness, Duke women are as good as finished.
Duke may have had a very good chance to make a run at a national title in women’s basketball if the Blue Devils had stayed healthy this season, but now it may take a miracle to get to the Final Four.
The latest injury for the Blue Devils (24-5), who have the No. 2 seed in the Fresno Regional going into Sunday night’s game with No. 15 seed Southern Conference champion Samford (20-12) in Nashville, Tenn., is a stress fracture to the right leg of freshman center Elizabeth Williams.
Williams, who was named ESPN’s national rookie of the year, will press on. But she certainly won’t be 100 percent, and that puts pressure on Duke’s ever-shrinking depth.
Duke earlier lost starting forward Richa Jackson with a torn ACL and freshman forward Amber Henson to a knee injury, while starting point guard Chloe Wells ran afoul of the school’s academic policies and is out for this semester.
There’s been nothing wrong with the Blue Devils’ play, but the depth is almost nonexistent as Williams and only six other healthy players make up the close-game rotation.
They certainly should be good enough to get past Samford, but taking on the winner between No. 7 seed Vanderbilt (22-9) on its home court or nearby No. 10 seed Middle Tennessee State (26-6) is a much more daunting task.
Should the Blue Devils get through the weekend they’ll be headed to a regional with Stanford as the top seed and wouldn’t see unbeaten Baylor or nemesis Connecticut until the Final Four. But they need to be focused on a tough run to the Sweet 16 first.
Meanwhile in the WNIT, N.C. State (19-15) never trailed in its home-court win over High Point Thursday night and will take on Southern Conference regular-season champ Appalachian State (26-6) on Saturday at 5.
The Wolfpack—the one Triangle ACC team that didn’t have a rash of key injuries—seems to be playing up to its ability, and the leadership was solid against the Panthers as senior Bonae Holston, Marissa Kastanek, Myisha Goodwin-Coleman and Kody Burke with a double-double all finished in double figures.
ASU won’t be a pushover, but the Wolfpack has consistently played against better competition.
Now, one last UNC rant.
The Tar Heels finished 20-11, apparently weren’t even among the last four in the NCAA selection process, and didn’t even accept a bit to the WNIT.
But let’s review a little bit.
UNC beat Virginia twice, N.C. State twice and Wake Forest once. Flip those results and Virginia would have been 24-8 and an absolute lock for the NCAA, Wake would have been 20-12 and had a solid argument to get into the tournament, and the Wolfpack would have been 20-13 with a great argument as well.
I just don’t get it. —Mike Potter