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.
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.
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State will try to finish its season on a good note with some success in the WNIT, but the Wolfpack’s first-round assignment isn’t an easy one.
The Wolfpack of course needs victories to assure its second straight winning season as charismatic senior guard Marissa Kastanek ends her college career, playing tonight in her school-record 132nd game.
Richmond has a couple of locals on its roster. Junior guard Amber Nichols (Broughton) is a reserve while sophomore forward Amber Battle (Middle Creek) is out for the year with injuries.
It isn’t easy, but the Wolfpack rallies in the final four minutes to escape with a 60-55 victory.
Duke is exactly in the spot most people expected for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament opening this weekend.
And maybe UNC got a nice surprise.
The Blue Devils and Tar Heels were the only teams from North Carolina in the field when the 64-team bracket was announced Monday night.
But a half-dozen North State teams got come consolation a few hours later, as N.C. State received a bid to the WNIT along with East Carolina, North Carolina A&T, Davidson, UNC Charlotte and Appalachian State.
The No. 5-ranked Blue Devils (30-2), carrying the automatic berth from their ACC Tournament title, got the No. 2 seed in the Norfolk Region and will host MEAC champion and No. 15 seed Hampton (28-5) on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The No. 13-ranked Tar Heels (28-6), who were the ACC runners-up, received the No. 3 seed in the Bridgeport Region and will take on No. 14 seed and America East champion Albany (27-3) on Sunday at 2:40 p.m. in Newark, Del.
Anytime you hear North Carolina fans say, “We lost, but I’m proud of our effort,” you know the Tar Heels must have played very well. A fanbase with extraordinarily high expectations typically doesn’t absorb losses gracefully, but today UNC earned praise from even its most irrational supporters despite dropping the ACC Tournament final to Miami 87-77.
The Hurricanes defeated UNC three times this season and beat them in historic fashion during the game at Miami. Carolina thus regained its pride this afternoon, earning a slim second half lead before tiring at the end and failing at any point to stop the Canes’ relentless offensive machine.
Miami held the decisive hand throughout the game. Sophomore guard Shane Larkin scored a career-high 28 points and added seven assists and five rebounds. He continually beat UNC off the dribble at the point of attack and either scored himself or kicked to open teammates. When Roy Williams opted to play a zone defense to rest his team and protect his players against foul trouble, Larkin effortlessly scored against that setup as well.
P.J. Hairston did his part to keep UNC competitive. The sophomore from Greensboro brought joy to local fans and the Carolina crowd at large, scoring 28 points of his own. Freshman Marcus Paige struggled defensively against Larkin but scored 17 points and continues to mature as a playmaker.
Given how well Miami executed its offense — the Canes shot 51 percent and 55 percent on threes — UNC couldn’t withstand Reggie Bullock’s 3-for-14 shooting performance. The Heels’ small lineup also ceded a 36-28 rebounding advantage.
Moving on, the NCAA Tournament field will manifest beginning at 6:00. And within an hour after that, the national basketball audience will have forgotten this game and every other conference tournament result. Bracket mania (i.e., socially encouraged gambling) will dominate chatter this week, and all three Triangle teams are expected to make the field.
From a local perspective, everyone wonders if Duke’s loss to Maryland on Friday will cause the Blue Devils to drop from a No. 1 seed to a No. 2. The Wolfpack appear headed for a spot in the 8-9 range, while UNC may have played its way to a No. 6.
But before you bin memories of the Carolina/Miami ACC final, click here to view the box score.
North Carolina survived a determined effort from Maryland this afternoon at the ACC Tournament, fending off the Terrapins 79-76 to win the season series 3-0. The Tar Heels didn't shoot as well as they did versus Florida State on Friday, but Reggie Bullock and Marcus Paige hit key shots late to fend off a squad desperate to earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament.
N.C. State failed to make Sunday's championship tilt an All-Triangle affair. The Wolfpack battled gamely versus top seeded Miami, but the Hurricanes created sufficient separation to fend off their challenger 81-71. Miami's starting backcourt dominated the scoring and responded positively to each NCSU run.
Tomorrow afternoon, UNC will attempt to win its first conference tournament crown since 2008. Miami previously outlasted the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill and then embarrassed them in Coral Gables last month. For UNC, then, the contest represents an opportunity both to reclaim some pride as well as win the conference tournament hardware.
Seeded No. 2 entering the weekend, the Devils shot just 4-for-25 on threes, forcing too many contested shots and failing to establish inside-outside balance. Maryland also pummeled them on the glass and enjoyed a lead ranging from 7-10 points for most of the second half.
The big question pertains to NCAA Tournament seeding. Duke had expected to claim a No. 1 seed, and while that remains a possibility other conference frontrunners could leapfrog them and push the Devils to a No. 2.
Meanwhile, No. 3 seed UNC and No. 5 seed N.C. State both advanced to today’s semifinal round.
The Tar Heels dispatched Florida State by a surprising 83-62 margin. Reversing their atrocious shooting performance versus the Blue Devils, the Heels knocked down 10-for-22 on threes. They also limited themselves to seven turnovers and forced the Seminoles into 18 miscues.
But Carolina didn’t escape Friday without drama. Sharpshooter P.J. Hairston cut the skin between two fingers on his left (non-shooting) hand, an injury that spilled blood copiously onto the Greensboro Coliseum court and resulted in eight stitches. His status remained uncertain heading into the semifinal.
Earlier on Friday, Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack thrashed Virginia 75-56. State’s place in the NCAA Tournament was secure prior to the weekend, but defeating the No. 4 seed in such resounding fashion likely won the squad a better spot when the selection committee announces the seeds on Sunday evening.
State torched UVA from deep, burying 8-for-16 on threes. The Pack also demonstrated a greater commitment to defense than they have for much of the season, stifling the Cavaliers to 38 percent shooting.
The Wolfpack play Miami this afternoon in one semifinal, while UNC will battle Maryland.
GREENSBORO COLISEUM The last time Duke and N.C. State met in this building, the Wolfpack pulled a monumental upset.
Again Duke (27-2), which is ranked No. 6 in the country, is the tournament’s top seed. State (16-15), which escaped Clemson 56-45 in the first round on Thursday less than 20 hours before Tiger coach Itoro Coleman lost her job, is seeded No. 8.
State won 75-73 in this spot last season. And on Jan. 3 at Reynolds Coliseum, Duke had one of its closer calls this season in a 67-57 win.
This time Duke is better in the final few minutes, pulling away for a 79-65 victory.
GREENSBORO COLISEUM Marissa Kastanek repeated as the Kay Yow scholar athlete of the year in ACC women’s basketball, leading a group of eight Triangle-area players on the conference’s all-academic team.
Duke placed five players on the squad while the Wolfpack had three.
No other school had more than two.
Wolfpack teammates junior Kody Burke and freshman Ashley Eli also made the team.
Duke placed senior Allison Vernerey along with juniors Chelsea Gray, Tricia Liston and Haley Peters and freshman Alexis Jones.
Members of the team must have at least a 3.0 GPA from the previous semester and a cumulative 3.0 for their college careers.