RTC Rewind: No. 1,000, Kansas Bill Selfing, Crazy Endings at WVU, Maryland…

Posted by Henry Bushnell on January 26th, 2015

One thousand wins. One, zero, zero, zero. It was a busy weekend in college basketball, but everything else was overshadowed by that number. We’ll start by stating the obvious. In a career full of them, what a truly remarkable accomplishment for Mike Krzyzewski. It’s one thing to coach for a long time and break records and reach milestones based on longevity, but what makes Coach K so special is that he’s combined all those years with such consistent winning. His teams are perennial contenders. He’s established a tradition of greatness, and built a distinct culture over 30 years in Durham that has not eroded in the least.

Coach 1K Was the Story of the Weekend (USA Today Images)

Coach 1K Was the Story of the Weekend (USA Today Images)

One of the things that made win No. 1,000 so awesome was the way in which Krzyzewski and Duke achieved it. Their Sunday afternoon performance in the World’s Most Famous Arena was evocative of the culture and recipe for sustained success that he has crafted. Trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half, the Blue Devils fought back with a 26-7 run to end the game. The players, of course, knew what was on the line, taking it upon themselves to come through for their coach — playing with incredible passion, emotion and commitment. They slapped the floor. They punched the air. They were determined and focused. Afterward, when his team hugged Krzyzewski and his wife and donned shirts and hats to commemorate the milestone, their love for their leader was crystal clear. And in the end, that is exactly why Coach K has been able to achieve what he has achieved. And has he ever achieved a lot! Afterward, Krzyzewski was insistent that the focus remain on the present as opposed to the past. As big of a win it was for him personally, it was also a huge one for Duke. St. John’s — seeing the resume-enhancing possibility with Duke in its building — came to play on Sunday, and made things very difficult for the Blue Devils for most of the game. But in crunch time, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook and Jahlil Okafor all found another gear, and it pushed Duke to a dominant finish that the Johnnies just couldn’t match.

And That Sets Up…

An ACC showdown on Wednesday in South Bend, because Notre Dame pulled out a massive comeback win of its own at NC State on Sunday. The Wolfpack jumped out to an 18-point first half lead, but the Fighting Irish’s consistent scoring allowed them to claw back into the game so that Jerian Grant and his supporting cast could showcase their ‘clutch genes’ down the stretch. Notre Dame is now 19-2 and will welcome Duke to the Joyce Center on Wednesday. What a game that will be.

A Huge Weekend for Kansas

A loaded Big 12 coupled with Kansas’ perceived vulnerability led many to believe that this could finally be the year when the Jayhawks’ conference title streak comes to an end. Or, that seemed to be the case until sometime last week. This weekend’s action threw two wrenches into that narrative. First, it appears that the other Big 12 contenders simply don’t want to hold up their ends of the bargain. After a loss to Baylor on Saturday, Oklahoma is 3-4 in conference play and has lost four of its last five games; Iowa State took a surprising tumble at lowly Texas Tech; and the top of the conference (Kansas State?) doesn’t look nearly as strong as it once did. Most importantly, Kansas appears to be rounding into form. Freshman Cliff Alexander had his best week of the season and balanced scoring and excellent point guard play propelled the Jayhawks to a 13-point win at Texas. Perhaps those moments of unsteadiness earlier in the season have merely set the stage for a surge in February and March. It certainly wouldn’t be the last time a Bill Self team figured it out in time to win the Big 12.

Unbeaten Watch

Virginia Escaped With a 12-0 Finish to Its Game Against Virginia Tech Sunday (USA Today Images)

Virginia Escaped With a 12-0 Finish to Its Game Against Virginia Tech Sunday (USA Today Images)

It’s hard to go undefeated in college basketball… that’s an inherent truth. But Kentucky and Virginia are fighting tooth and nail to give that statement a little less validity, and games like the Cavaliers’ match-up against rival Virginia Tech on Sunday are supposed to be those that prove the notion true. Yesterday’s contest followed an old familiar plot line: the scrappy underdog playing with limitless energy and hitting shots it usually doesn’t, while the unblemished favorite sputters to find a rhythm. These games often result in upsets. That was the story in Blacksburg yesterday;  it was also the story of Kentucky’s earlier scares against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. But the Wildcats and Cavaliers are snatching wins away from the jaws of defeat, and making their bids at regular season perfection all the more realistic (According to KenPom: Kentucky: 45%; Virginia 25%).

Separation in the SEC? Nope, Not Yet.

It’s going to happen sometime, and hopefully soon. Any week now, one or two SEC teams will establish themselves in a tier directly below Kentucky. But Saturday offered no clarity. Tennessee (previously 4-1) lost at home to Texas A&M; Florida fell to Ole Miss; and Arkansas, LSU and Georgia all won games they were expected to win. So we’re still waiting.

Quick Hitters

  • It’s safe to say that Miami has erased the dark memories of its non-conference losses to Green Bay, Eastern Kentucky and Providence. The Hurricanes won at Syracuse on Saturday, and continue to look strong in the ACC race.
  • Tulsa – yes, Tulsa – is 7-0 in the AAC, and very well could be 10-0 when it hosts SMU on February 7.
  • Nebrasketball is alive and kicking. The Huskers knocked off Michigan State Saturday in a game that Tim Miles told his team they absolutely had to win. Last year, from this point forward, Nebraska only lost two regular season games after starting 0-4 (and 1-5) in the Big Ten. Is a similar run in the cards?
  • There were two noteworthy games in the Mountain West. Colorado State held on to beat San Diego State at home, which meant Wyoming’s overtime win over New Mexico gave the Cowboys sole possession of first place.

Has anybody made a more impressive January turnaround than Kansas State?


Marcus Foster and Friends (USA Today Images)

Bruce Weber’s team was borderline dysfunctional in late December. Star guard Marcus Foster was in Weber’s doghouse; the Wildcats had lost at home to Texas Southern; and they opened conference play with a double-figure loss to Oklahoma State. At 7-7 (0-1 Big 12), no reputable source was giving them any shot at securing a bid to the NCAA Tournament, much less winning the Big 12. But since that loss in Stillwater, Kansas State has rattled off five wins in six games, with the only loss – a narrow one – coming at Iowa State. On Saturday, Kansas State added an exclamation point to its resurgence when it comfortably beat Oklahoma State in Manhattan. Weber has his team playing much better basketball, and although they still rank just 69th in KenPom’s national rankings, the Wildcats have certainly done enough to re-enter the Tourney picture.

Northwestern continues to Northwestern 

Yep, at this point, Northwestern has become a pretty clearly defined verb. Its definition: To play better than everybody expects, get the fans excited, and then inevitably find a way to lose. The Wildcats are about one or two possessions per game away from being 6-1 in the Big Ten, but, amazingly, they’re instead just 1-6. The latest episode featured a dominant 35 minutes on the road at No. 13 Maryland followed by an ugly, turnover-filled five minutes, and a crazy ending:

Plays of the Weekend

Dez Wells’ shot barely misses out on play of the weekend though. That honor will be shared by Matt Carlino of Marquette, who hit this shot at the buzzer to take Georgetown to overtime…

And West Virginia, which came out on the right side of this improbable ending against TCU:

The presence of mind of Jevon Carter (a freshman) to leak out on the final play, and the presence of mind of Peyton Manning Dax Miles (another freshman) to immediately throw the outlet pass, were both phenomenal. It also furthers the argument against coaches calling timeouts prior to final possessions.

Henry Bushnell (39 Posts)

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