RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site. Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week. Yesterday’s coverage: ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-10 & SEC.
ACC Tournament - by Kellen Carpenter
- While it looks like John Henson has found his stroke from the free throw line, the rest of the ACC could take lessons. Jordan Williams spoiled a 16 point and 16 rebound effort against Duke by going 2 for 10 from the free line in the loss. Virginia Tech shot 57.1% against a Florida State team that shot 20% from the line.
- Yeah, speaking of which, that was a game with bad shooting. A clearly exhausted Malcolm Delaney-led Virginia Tech team only made five field goals in the first half. The Hokies shot 17.9% from the field in the first half. Erick Green had shot 1 of 12 for the Hokies before he nailed what turned out to be the game winner. Miami making up 10 points in 40 seconds was impressive. North Carolina’s buzzer beater was impressive. But an undermanned, overworked, and gritty as hell Virginia Tech team owns the most impressive win of the ACC Tournament so far.
- After Florida State’s Derwin Kitchen buzzer beater was overturned after the Seminoles had already started celebrating, the tables turned quickly. At least one Hokie fans, embittered after years of bad luck, dashed expectations and hard work turned sour, yelled at the Seminole fans, “SUCKS DON’T IT?” That was a little cruel, but it’s nice to see this tough and unlucky Virginia Tech team catch a break.
- Twice today, the crowd played favorites in dramatic fashion. The Coliseum was roaring during the impressive North Carolina comeback with the cheers of Miami fans completely and utterly muted. Then in the evening, a Duke crowd tried to drown out the angry jeers of the sizable and furious Maryland crowd.
- The reason that the Maryland crowd was so angry was because Kyle Singler hates Maryland. Kyle Singler hung 25 points on Maryland in January, 22 in February, and 29 in March. It was enough to break Singler’s late-season slump and enough to carry his team when all was not right with Nolan Smith. Even before disaster struck, it wasn’t Nolan Smith’s night. He went 2 for 11 and had five turnovers. Then the worst kind of deja vu struck Duke fans and their point guard hurt his toe. Though Smith looked okay when he walked out of the locker room where he went for treatment, he was limping after the game, and Coach K declined to say anything about the prognosis until Saturday morning.
- How often do you see the walk-ons play a pivotal role in a conference tournament game? About eight turnover-filled minutes into the game against Miami, a furious Roy Williams benched his team in favor of Blue Steel, this year’s fan-beloved (and frequently goofy) team of walk-ons. Blue Steel didn’t score and they didn’t lock down Miami, but they played hard and bought Roy time to settle his team. It was fitting that Wes Miller, a patron saint to UNC walk-ons who cracked the rotation and didn’t miss a shot during the 2006 ACC tournament, was in attendance.
- Is it the shoes? Kendall Marshall is an avowed sneakerhead and he cameout wearing classic Air Jordan II’s in University blue, a pretty sharp look that he had tried a couple of times earlier in the season. When Roy benched the starters, Kendall ended up switching to the more basic Team Jordan home shoe. I’m not going to say that was a turning point in the game, but it certainly didn’t hurt the Tar Heels. On the other hand, Leslie McDonald continued to wear his Jordan II’s the whole game and experienced a similar turnaround. On a related note, the Florida State dance team changed their tops at half time. Clearly, that was a huge mistake.
- One more thing about Reggie Johnson. He is big. No, seriously, you may know that he’s 6’10 and over 300 pounds, but somehow he plays even bigger than that. UNC has one of the biggest, if not bulkiest, front courts in the nation and Johnson just bullied them around all game on offense and defense. You know who else is big? Seemingly everyone on the Florida State team. They just have waves and waves of big men who all play tough defense. While Reggie Johnson won’t be able to bully hapless mid-majors in the NCAA, an angry Florida State team that’s soon to reintroduce Chris Singleton to the line-up is a tough draw for any team in the tournament. Speaking of Chris Singleton, though he seemed fine and participated in warm-ups, he didn’t play. After the game, Leonard Hamilton admitted that Chris probably could have played, but that he wanted to make sure that they made the right decision for Chris, which seems pretty hard to argue with.
- Meanwhile, where Reggie Johnson and Florida State are big, the Clemson backcourt is so small. In the seemingly effortless domination of Boston College, Clemson played three players who are tiny by ACC basketball standards. 5’9 starter Andre Young often played with similarly sized Zavier Anderson, with 5’10 Cory Stanton playing spot minutes. They played well and their size never seemed an obstacle against a relatively small BC team, but you wonder how they will fare against Carolina’s long arms.
- Of course, when you are playing with the swag of this Clemson team, there is little cause for concern. Demontez Stitt, in particular, was playing with a decidedly nasty streak. He had at least one vicious stare down after a put-back dunk as well as a very pointed step over a BC player who had fallen down trying to stop another drive. The decidedly pro-Tigers crowd was into the game, with one presumably student corner (of the otherwise sparsely populated upper bowl) standing through the entire game. By contrast, there wasn’t a single Boston College fan in sight.
- I saw a few fans wearing other team’s colors clap politely for theEagles, but no yelling students and not even a BC t-shirt to be seen. I understand that Boston is a long way away, but I honestly believe it hurt BC’s chances. The Eagles weren’t down further than UNC was against Miami, but while the Tar Heel players seemed to feed off the excitement and energy of the crowd, Boston College just didn’t have that option. The crowd’s indifference mirrored the team’s indifference and many of the athletes played with their heads down and a general air of apathy. It’s a shame because a win would have gone along way towards keeping NCAA tournament hopes alive.