CONSTANT CENTER/NORFOLK, Va. Duke will be a solid favorite coming into its regional semifinal game against Nebraska, and the Blue Devils have been great in this game in recent seasons.
No. 2 seed Duke (32-2) has won three straight times in Round-of-16 games before being eliminated in the Elite Eight.
The No. 2-ranked Irish (34-1) annihilated Kansas 93-63 in the other first-round matchup on Sunday.
It’s the first meeting between the No. 5-ranked Blue Devils and the No. 24-ranked Huskers.
And oh, it will be a homecoming game for Virginia Beach native and Duke center and leading scorer Elizabeth Williams, playing for the first time in Tidewater as a Blue Devil.
For the third time in as many NCAA games the Blue Devils grind one out, survive and advance, ousting the Cornhuskers 53-45.
As the games wind down, unfortunately, the necessity for viewers to actually watch the TV timeouts goes up. No more will there be four games on a time to skip between; instead, there's one game at a time, and if you plan to watch it live, you are going to be watching a lot of ads.
In regular season play, there are four "media timeouts" per half, plus coach timeouts, plus in the 2nd half the first coach time out automatically becomes a fifth media timeout. For this NCAA tournament, they are also making the first coach timeout in the first half a full media timeout. So we are talking about ten media timeouts in most games, plus additional coach timeouts.
How long are the media timeouts? I've been timing them on my DVR, and usually whistle to whistle there is between 2:45 and 3:00 of real time between the stop and start of play. That's a lot of coaches talking, players and fans standing around, trips to the bathroom, and mindless commercials airing.
Then there's halftime. Standard halftime for an NCAA basketball game is 15 minutes. In the NCAA Tournament, halftimes have been lasting 22 minutes or more.
Why is the NCAA (and CBS) blatantly breaking the rules of basketball by having Orange Bowl-sized timeouts?
That cha-ching you hear in your mind as the question is asked is surely the reason why.
Despite second-half improvement after Roy Williams moved sophomore P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup, the Heels’ realistic Sweet 16 hopes ended when the tournament selection committee deemed them a No. 8 seed that would face nemesis — and top-seeded — Kansas in the round of 32. That game unfolded about the way everyone expected, with the Jayhawks storming past the smaller Heels and denying them an advance to the tournament’s second weekend.
Most programs would be thrilled to compile a 25-11 record, but from the beginning UNC fans discussed the 2012-13 campaign as a bridge season. The previous two Carolina clubs won the ACC regular season crown and made the Elite Eight on both occasions — and they may have advanced further last spring were it for not injuries — and the subsequent talent exodus doused any national championship hopes for this year.
But don’t assume next season will prove markedly better. Yes, the Tar Heels stand to make substantial gains if everyone returns, and they’ll become even more formidable if they can sign No. 1 recruit Andrew Wiggins. At this moment, however, three Tar Heels are weighing NBA decisions — Hairston, junior Reggie Bullock and sophomore James Michael McAdoo — and Wiggins appears unlikely.
Fans have expressed skepticism toward the idea that a relatively average club could produce draft drama, and Roy Williams himself spoke in those terms on his radio program this week.
Such decisions are much easier in the world of pro sports.
If the coach didn’t win yesterday and probably won’t win tomorrow, he’s out. No matter how hard the team has played through injuries, no matter if everybody on the planet thinks a bad call took them out of the playoffs too early the year before, and no matter if he donated a kidney to the pre-teen daughter of a season-ticket holder in the off-season.
It’s easy to remove a coach who has had back-to-back 5-20 seasons, no matter how classy he or she is personally. And if nobody on the team has graduated in five years and the total number of lines on rap sheets is higher than Coach’s win total, then the axe should fall.
But when someone like Kellie Harper loses a job, as happened at N.C. State on Tuesday, it’s a rough day for just about everyone who has seen her in action.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke has made a habit of getting to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 in recent years, failing to get there just once since 1997.
The opponent is No. 7 seed Oklahoma State (22-10), which will try to stop the Blue Devils from a date with No. 6 seed Nebraska on Sunday in Norfolk, Va.
It’s not an easy assignment for the fifth-ranked Blue Devils, since the Cowgirls play in the tough Big XII and are used to this kind of atmosphere.
It turns out not to be an easy game at all. But Duke engineers its best comeback in years, recovering from a 15-point deficit just after halftime to eliminate the Cowgirls 68-59.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM One last time to protect the home court, then on to brighter lights.
That’s what Duke hopes to get accomplished on Tuesday night at 7 (ESPNU), when Oklahoma State visits for the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
Both teams got moderate challenges in the first round on Sunday, with the Blue Devils getting a noisy 67-51 win over MEAC champion Hampton and the Cowgirls topping DePaul 73-56.
The teams have played three times before with Duke winning them all, including a 73-45 result in Stillwater two seasons ago.
Duke is looking to improve to 18-0 in NCAA Tournament games at Cameron, and hasn’t lost at home to anyone but Connecticut in over five years.
North Carolina didn't defeat an elite team during the regular season, and the Tar Heels didn't defeat one in the postseason, either. No. 8 seed UNC squared off against top-seeded Kansas — in Kansas City — this evening, and this year's pattern once again replicated as the Jayhawks prevailed 70-58.
Carolina actually led 30-21 at halftime, and both teams deserved to get blown out after such a miserable display. But Kansas demonstrated its superior talent and experience in the second frame, winning that half 49-28 and delivering yet another embarrassing defeat to a UNC team that suffered several of them this season.
The Tar Heels simply couldn't knock in shots. They held Kansas to reasonable 44 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers, but they shot a brutal 30 percent themselves and lost the rebounding battle 50-36. The team's primary three scorers — P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo — combined for 12-for-43 shooting, clearly not a pathway to success.
I'll take a final look at the 2012-13 Tar Heels later this week, but for now feast your eyes on the UNC/KU box score.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke begins another quest today.
After three straight NCAA Tournaments in which a great Blue Devil team ended its run in the Elite Eight, perhaps this team is good enough to make a Final Four.
Of course no NCAA Tournament run will ever be easy, although at least Joanne P. McCallie’s club gets to start at home.
Today’s opponent for the No. 5 Blue Devils (30-2), seeded No. 2 in the Norfolk Region behind Notre Dame, is four-time defending MEAC champion Hampton (28-5), which is seeded No. 15 but both head coaches think it should be higher.
Hampton has come to Cameron in this situation before, losing 72-37 in the first round in 2010.
Hampton has brought about 1,000 fans, making the seating sections a sea of royal blue since the schools’ colors are so similar.
The Blue Devils have to fight to escape, but finally win 67-51 for their 17th straight NCAA Tournament victory in Durham.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke begins its quest for post-season glory on Sunday afternoon against an opponent that didn’t have a long way to travel.
If you're a North Carolina fan, there's almost no way you could have enjoyed the final 30 minutes of tonight's NCAA Tournament contest. A No. 8 seed matched against No. 9 Villanova, the Tar Heels burst to a quick 20-point first half lead and then gradually and painfully collapsed thereafter, actually falling behind during the second half before hitting just enough key shots to defeat the Wildcats 78-71.
This season's Heels haven't achieved much easily, and tonight proved no different. Villanova out-rebounded Carolina 35-23, and the Wildcats also forced 17 UNC turnovers.
But during this season's latter half, this Carolina squad has demonstrated impressive fortitude fending off the teams they should beat. They still have not defeated an elite opponent, but versus Miami last weekend they at least rapped on the door and appeared to be playing their best ball. Even if things do go awry on Sunday (opponent TBD), Carolina at least did ultimately resemble Carolina.
Click here for the UNC/Villanova box score.