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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Whether or not it’s the greatest rivalry in college sports may be up for debate, but it’s the best rivalry in college basketball.
Maybe in basketball, period.
The Blue Devils won the men’s contest pretty easily last night at the Smith Center.
Today the women’s squads are squaring off for the ACC championship, in — with thanks to Warren G. Harding — a return to normalcy after last year’s bizarre Maryland-Georgia Tech final for which a great crowd showed up anyway.
Duke has won six straight in the series and of course won both regular-season meetings, destroying the Tar Heels 84-63 on Feb. 3 at Carmichael but winning only 65-58 a week ago at Cameron.
Both teams have fought hard to get here, as this week underdog teams have not gone away easily. The only real blowout in the tournament has been an upset, as No. 10 Wake Forest took out No. 7 Georgia Tech by 19 points in the first round.
This one isn’t close, as freshman Alexis Jones’ career high matches teammate Elizabeth Williams’ 24 points as the Blue Devils coast 92-73.
Duke marched into the Smith Center and calmly — and cruelly — scored the game’s first 14 points, instilling in UNC a sense of a panic from which the Tar Heels never recovered. Whatever other analysis you read elsewhere, one team took the court prepared to compete and the other simply did not.
Carolina never made a serious run. The Tar Heels hobbled into the halftime break down 42-24, and they failed to generate any sustained momentum during the second frame, ultimately falling 68-53. Duke’s meager second half scoring performance occurred because the Devils opted to slow the tempo and limit the number of possessions Carolina would have to creep back into the game.
Duke accomplished all this while shooting only 33 percent on threes, nailing them early but going cold as the game progressed. The bigger story was that the Devils attempted only 15. Knowing UNC would aggressively switch screens to deny them perimeter looks, Duke spread the floor and isolated Carolina’s smaller lineup to create high percentage attempts for drivers and center Mason Plumlee.
The senior center hasn’t played as consistently during the second half of the season but enjoyed a prime performance last night. He tallied 23 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 10-for-15 from the floor. Another senior, Seth Curry, contributed his most devastating blows early and scored 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
For the game, Duke shot 55 percent to Carolina’s 34 percent. That’s not an accident: Duke’s offense harmoniously created open shots, while the Devils’ defense simultaneously harassed UNC’s shooters into contested and increasingly desperate attempts.