Don’t worry. It will end someday. I lived in ACC country for the entire Wooden era.
Blue Devils primed for a run
Duke may very well be preseason No. 2 heading into next season. No more Brittney Griner to worry about, no more Skylar Diggins.
Duke has that No. 1 recruiting class now rising seniors and a No. 2 class coming in as freshmen, and with not one but two national player-of-the-year candidates in rising junior center Elizabeth Williams and rising senior guard Chelsea Gray.
The Blue Devils (33-3 and ACC champions) would seem to have what it takes to go all the way if they can avoid being mesmerized by the UConn jerseys.
During Joanne P. McCallie’s six years at the helm the Blue Devils have finished their season in a very appropriate spot except once, that in her second season when they were a No. 1 seed and famously got sent to Michigan State where she had previously been head coach — and with team leader Abby Waner struggling through a leg injury were upset by the No. 9 seed Spartans in front of a nasty crowd.
(To her credit, McCallie never complained publicly about the assignment.)But let’s take a look at the three Triangle schools and assess the immediate past and future.
CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH N.C. State held its press conference to introduce Wes Moore as its new head women’s basketball coach on Monday.
He was an assistant coach at State under the late Kay Yow, for whom the Reynolds Coliseum court is named, from 1993-95.
Moore has 558 career wins (with 169 losses) including 29 this season. The former Francis Marion (Division II) and Maryville (Division III) coach is the only one to lead women’s basketball teams to NCAA Tournament berths at all three levels.
He is replacing Kellie Harper (70-64 at State), who was fired after four years at the helm following a 17-17 season. In a coincidence, Harper was a Moore assistant at Chattanooga before becoming head coach at Western Carolina in 2004.
Rather, these are my final four thoughts about the state of ACC and college basketball as the curtain closes on the 2012-13 season of basketball and basketball blogging for Triangle Offense.
1. Talk that the failure of an ACC team to reach the Final Four since 2010 is a sign of a weak conference is a bit overblown, for two reasons. First, the league has had teams in the final eight the past three years. Last year's Carolina team probably would have made it to the Final Four without the Kendall Marshall injury. This year's Duke team probably would have been a No. 1 seed without the Ryan Kelly midseason injury, and hence wouldn't have had to play a team as good as Louisville until reaching the Final Four.
Second, there are other much stronger indicators of the league's relative decline. By the start of conference play in January it was evident the league would be getting a max of five tourney bids—it ended up with four, which was about right. More tellingly, in recent years other schools beside Duke and Carolina have failed to break into the elite and make noise nationally at the same time. N.C. State was supposed to do that this year, but had a season of relative under-achievement and now faces the prospect of having to undergo a complete facelift of its personnel. Miami did break through in the regular season and ACC Tournament, but its woeful performance against Marquette in the Sweet 16 was a major letdown.
Generally speaking, ACC basketball has been in slight decline the last four years or so. But all that its supposed to change next year with conference expansion, leading to our second thought...
2. Is ACC basketball as we have known it simply over? I have heard that opinion expressed by many long-time fans who are not pleased with conference expansion. They may be right. But there is a clear-cut way to preserve local rivalries: creating "pods" or divisions with home-and-home play within each of 4 pods (in a 16 team league) or 3 pods (in a 15 team league). Either way, you could have an 18 game league schedule, plus a tournament that would be truly interesting as a mechanism for determining the league's best team, since the unbalanced conference standings wouldn't tell you. This would allow the Big Four teams to play each other home and away every year, and keep at least part of the Tobacco Road tradition going.
CONSTANT CENTER/NORFOLK, Va. It’s Go Time for Duke in women’s basketball.
ACC champion Duke (33-2) is seeded No. 2 and the Big East champion Irish (34-1) — who will join the ACC for next season — No. 1.
Notre Dame has a national marquee player in senior point guard Skylar Diggins, who was named a first-team AP All-American earlier in the day. Duke’s Chelsea Gray, out for the season since a knee injury on Valentine’s Day, was named to the second team while Duke center Elizabeth Williams and Notre Dame guard Kayla McBride are on the third team.
The teams did square off early last season, with the Irish coming back to win 56-54 on Nov. 25, 2011, in the Bahamas.
Duke fights hard and gives the Irish a good scare, but it’s too much Diggins as Notre Dame advances 87-76.
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.
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.