Back And Forth: And So It Begins…

Posted by Judson Harten on November 14th, 2014

Each week, RTC columnist Judson Harten will profile some of the week’s biggest upcoming games by taking a look back at some relevant history relating to the match-ups. This is Back And Forth.

The wait is over. Tonight, Division I college basketball teams will begin taking on other Division I basketball teams in games that actually count. Admittedly, the Friday slate isn’t exactly full of marquee match-ups, but all the top teams will start play this weekend. With that in mind, Back And Forth reviewed some of the best early season games among schools in the preseason top six over the past 20 years. One caveat: I did my best to avoid preseason tournament games (with one program, given the circumstances, I made an exception.) I think you’ll be surprised at some of these, both good and bad, and how they either affected each team’s eventual season outcome.

No. 1 Kentucky — 2014-15 season opening game – vs. Grand Canyon, Friday, 8:00 PM EST

THE GAME:  72-70 win vs. Miami (Ohio), 11/16/09

Despite all the success of the John Calipari Era, the start to his tenure in Lexington wasn’t easy. A loaded roster featuring future #1 pick John Wall along with first round picks DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson had trouble with the Redhawks in just their second game of the season. In the end, Miami’s Kenny Hayes hit a three-pointer to tie the game with six seconds left, but Wall – playing in his Kentucky debut after being suspended by the NCAA for acccepting extra benefits – gave Big Blue Nation a glimpse of his talent, hitting a stepback jumper with 0.5 seconds left to avoid the upset. The Wildcats finished the 2009-10 season at 35-3, losing in the Elite Eight to West Virginia but setting into motion the revival of Kentucky basketball

No. 2 Arizona – 2014-15 season-opening game – vs. Mt. St. Mary’s, Friday, 8:00 PM EST

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ACC Preview: Duke’s Burning Question

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 11th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Duke’s veterans adapt to, and excel in, new roles?

All of the pre-season talk, and rightfully so, concerning Duke has been focused on the incoming freshman class Mike Krzyzewski has assembled. Jahlil Okafor, the most dominant incoming true center the Blue Devils have procured in some time, has garnered numerous accolades already in being named pre-season ACC Freshman of the Year by the ACC media and even the Associated Press pre-season Player of the Year. Freshman Tyus Jones, part of a “package deal” recruitment with Okafor, looks to be the starting point guard when the season begins this week. And wing Justise Winslow showed the defensive prowess expected of him, along with the scoring acumen, in the exhibition season to also merit a spot in the starting lineup.

Quinn Cook will have to acclimate to playing without the ball in his hands more often this year (SI)

Quinn Cook will have to acclimate to playing without the ball in his hands more often this year (SI)

While the freshman class is a sterling one, this team still maintains a number of veterans who will be familiarizing themselves with new roles. Senior Quinn Cook, one of the team’s two captains, was the starting point guard for most of last season and surely thought he’d seize the reins this year prior to Jones’ commitment. He’s now likely relegated to a spot coming off the bench and occasionally playing off the ball when he and Jones are on the court together. Cook, to his credit, has said all the right things about occasionally deferring to a freshman, but it’s still going to be a challenge to acclimate to the mindset of providing offense off of the bench, oftentimes from the off-guard position.

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Assessing Coach K’s Evolving Position on One-and-Done

Posted by Brett Thompson on November 7th, 2014

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is never one to shy away from his opinions on the state of college basketball. In fact, just last year, Coach K voiced his concerns about college basketball’s current era of the “one-and-done,” the highly touted freshmen who dominate the sport for a year before advancing to the NBA Draft mere months after arriving on campus. Krzyzewski stated just last year that he was “worried that that is always becoming a thing,” referring to the idea of elite freshmen overshadowing established upperclassmen. He has also made it clear that he is in favor of a two-year draft rule, and has backed this notion as recently as the end of October. All of this makes it surprising that the Blue Devils head coach admitted on Thursday that he fully expects his latest freshman phenom, Jahlil Okafor, to be Duke’s latest one-and-done player.

Jahlil Okafor Headlines Three ACC Players Selected to the Preseason AP All-America Team

It Appears That Jahlil Okafor Will Reside For About Nine Months in Durham

“We won’t have him long,” Krzyzewski said, implying that Okafor is more of a short-term rental than a centerpiece for years to come. This shouldn’t surprise anyone should the big man leave school — since 2007, only a single player who was named #1 on the ESPN 100 recruiting rankings stayed in school for more than one year (Harrison Barnes, North Carolina 2010-12). The freshman is going to be closely observed by NBA scouts from the second he touches the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and, barring some kind of strange collapse, he is almost guaranteed a spot in next year’s NBA Draft Lottery.

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One on One: An ACC Preview With Bret Strelow

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the ACC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an ACC expert in Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow), the ACC basketball reporter for The Fayetteville Observer.

Rush the Court: Duke was an extremely talented unit last season, but it was ultimately done in by its defensive deficiencies in its stunning NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer. The Blue Devils once again have a talented roster and are widely projected to win the league. Will this season be any different than last when it comes to the defensive end of the floor?

Bret Strelow: It would be hard to get much worse. The Blue Devils ranked in the 100s in defensive efficiency, which is a far cry from what a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team usually is. With Jabari Parker, defense was not his calling card. Rodney Hood took on some tough assignments and struggled at times. The current thought around the Duke camp is that Jahlil Okafor at 6’11” and 270 pounds is a legitimate rim-protector. Duke can clean up some of its mistakes and pressure the ball a little bit more with Okafor back there. I think Duke should ultimately be a better defensive team, but we will see how much of a difference that will make.

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

RTC: Marcus Paige alone can probably keep North Carolina competitive in the ACC, but if the Tar Heels want to compete for the league crown, they are going to need a supporting cast to step forward. What Tar Heels can you see breaking out this season?

Strelow: It really might be a little bit of everybody. If Marcus Paige has to carry the load like he did for much of last season, North Carolina is probably not going to reach the goal that it has of contending for a Final Four and a national title. I think you can expect a little bit from everybody. Brice Johnson was extremely efficient last season in a secondary role behind James Michael McAdoo. If Johnson can stay out of foul trouble and guard well enough, I think his offense will be there. Kennedy Meeks has slimmed down. His offense has never been a problem. With Johnson and Meeks, you have two solid front line guys. When you look at the North Carolina freshmen class, Justin Jackson is a guy who has the uncanny ability to score. He has a way of scoring quickly and scoring in a way that does not require a lot of dribbles. I think he can really have a big year. He is probably more of an offensive threat than fellow freshmen Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II. I think outside shooting might still be an issue for North Carolina outside of Paige and if Jackson can hit a few. When you look at a guy like J.P. Tokoto, outside shooting is not his game. I think the Tar Heels have enough inside and with Jackson coming along, they are going to have enough to help Paige carry the load this season.

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Morning Five: 11.05.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 5th, 2014

morning5

  1. It was less than a five days ago that everything seemed calm at Indiana. Then early on Saturday morning, sophomore Devin Davis was run over by freshman Emmitt Holt, who was charged with driving under the influence. Davis, who was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and now appears to be on his way to recovering, was cited in the police report as being primarily responsible for the accident. Not much after news broke of Davis’ recovery, Tom Crean announced that sophomores Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson had been suspended for four games each in what has been reported as being the result of multiple failed drug tests. These incidents combined with a couple of earlier arrests for alcohol use led some individuals including former Hoosier guard and coach Dan Dakich to question Crean’s job security. We agree that Crean’s job shouldn’t be that secure after all these off-the-court issues, but doubt that this would be the primary reason for his dismissal as schools have shown on many occasions that they care more about the bottom line than the optics of their school.
  2. With yesterday being election day across the country, there were plenty of political pundits voicing their opinion to anybody who would listen (and many who wouldn’t). What we did not expect was for Mike Krzyzewski to voice an opinion–that President Obama was mismanaging the ISIS crisis–that would make national headlines. To be fair to Krzyzewski, the comments were made last month in front of an audience of military officers, defense contractors, and others in reference to the President’s pledge to not use ground troops in the fight. This is not the first time that Krzyzewski has been critical of President Obama as he has chided Obama for spending time on a NCAA Tournament bracket (that doesn’t pick Duke to win) instead of focusing on fixing the economy. While those comments were more in jest we would be interested to see the interaction Krzyzewski and Obama have if the Blue Devils win the NCAA title this year and are invited to the White House.
  3. It turns out that North Carolina might have more than just the NCAA to worry about in the wake of its recent academic scandal. While some UNC fans have been worried about the NCAA handing down its version of the death penalty, they (at least the ones who care about the institution more than just the sports programs) should probably care more about an upcoming review by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges. The group that does not deal specifically with sports had already issued a report about the academic scandal in 2012 suggesting that the school offer courses to make up for the fraudulent one many students took. Now with the findings of the Wainstein report public they are taking another look given the findings of the unprecedented scope. The sanctions can range from a warning (essentially a slap on the wrist) to removal of accreditation (a real death penalty that means a school can no longer receive accreditation). We are not sure how often the group has decided to remove accreditation, but it would typically lead to a school having to shut down. Now we doubt that the group would do something that would make such an institution as significant as UNC essentially die, but as the group noted the scope of the scandal is unprecedented.
  4. With the season about to get started we will start hearing more from people like Ken Pomeroy since they will have new data to analyze, On Monday, we mentioned how useless preseason polls were. It turns out that we were only partially right. Looking back at the AP preseason poll since 1990, Pomeroy found out that the order of teams ranked above 15 matters to a degree, but below that the order is essentially meaningless in terms of its predictive value. The analysis compares a team’s preseason ranking to its NCAA Tournament seed, which is probably more reflective of the quality of their season overall than just how far they advance in the NCAA Tournament. So while we still question the degree of interest in preseason polls it turns out that they do have some value.
  5. The hits just keep coming for Hawaii. Fortunately for the school’s athletic director and everybody associated with it they are still located in Hawaii. Less than a week after the school fired head coach Gib Arnold and assistant coach Brandyn Akana, star forward Isaac Fotu announced that he was leaving the school to play professionally after the school had ruled that he was ineligible to play pending the results of a NCAA investigation. Given how slowly the NCAA typically works on these matters we do not necessarily fault Fotu, a first team All-Big West player who averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, for leaving rather than wait for the NCAA to hand down its judgement and look forward to playing for an interim coach if he was even cleared to play. We are not privy to the details of what Fotu is being investigated for (reportedly impermissible benefits), but Fotu has stated that he has hired an attorney to clear his name, which at this point is somewhat inconsequential since he will be off somewhere getting paid to play basketball.
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Notes From Duke’s Closed Practice: Freshmen Shine, Veterans Lethargic

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 22nd, 2014

Duke opened it’s 11th practice of the year to media and guests from the Duke Children’s Hospital yesterday, and based on their performance during the semi-closed practice at Cameron Indoor Stadium, its highly regarded freshmen class may just live up to the hype. While far from finished products, each of Mike Krzyzewski‘s four newcomers showed enough positive play to suggest that they might make up the core of this year’s Blue Devils squad. ACC referees officiated the scrimmage portion of practice, which was broken into four 10-minute segments with limited rest between each session. Some players switched teams after the first two quarters but the last two sessions featured the same lineups. We will use this space to analyze the play of each of the new Blue Devils and make some other general observations about the team, knowing that this represents only a one-day snapshot and the start of the regular season is still three weeks away.

Freshman Jahlil Okafor has Great (Big) Hands (rushthecourt.net)

Freshman Jahlil Okafor has Great (Big) Hands
(rushthecourt.net)

FRESHMEN

  • Jahlil Okafor – Reports of Okafor’s improved body and conditioning appear to be true. His feet were quick; he ran the court well; and he did not noticeably tire during the entire 40 minutes of scrimmage play. The most impressive thing with him, though, is his hands, which he uses in a similar manner to the great Tim Duncan. Passes and rebounds stick to Okafor’s mitts like glue. While at the free throw line, it was especially noticeable that the ball looks like a grapefruit in his hands. He mostly had his way inside, but there were times when he struggled to finish at the rim with Marshall Plumlee bodied up against him.
  • Tyus Jones – The touted young point guard played almost exactly as his reputation indicated — he wasn’t flashy with the ball but he was very efficient in running the team. He will have to adjust to playing hard defense over extended periods of time, and like most youngsters, Jones will need to become more vocal on both ends of the floor. But the greatest measure of a point guard is always the scoreboard, and in that respect Jones was outstanding, with his team winning each 10 minute session by around 10 points.

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Morning Five: 09.16.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 16th, 2014

morning5

  1. Louisville‘s banner 2015 recruiting class just took a big hit as Antonio Blakeney announced (sort of) that he would be reopening his recruitment after committing to play at Louisville less than two weeks ago. The reasons for his decision were not disclosed, but at least one analyst went on record saying that the decision was related to shoe company affiliation. Although it is uncommon for a recruit to go back to a school after reopening his commitment there have been a handful of high-profile cases in recent years. If Blakeney decides to move on, the smart money would be on one of his other five finalists: Florida State, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Oregon, and USC. We will let you take a look at that list and do the math on which one is not like the others.
  2. With the United States winning the World Cup of Basketball we expected much of the talk following the event to focus on the dominant performance by this team and possibly calls for the United States to return to playing with either college players or at least to field a younger team. That thought was turned on its head with Adrian Wojnarowski’s column essentially saying that the only person benefiting from the current situation was Mike Krzyzewski. While we do agree with some of the points in the article–particularly the nice recruiting benefit that Krzyzewski gets as the coach of a variety of NBA superstars–the idea is not much different than many of the other college coaches who coach international teams including some who coach foreign countries even when they have no known prior association with that country. Overall, the column feels a little bit too much like a hit piece and as many have pointed out the situation certainly benefits Krzyzewski, but it has helped some NBA players further their games and Krzyzewski would hardly be alone in using someone else’s platform to lift him and his program up another level.
  3. It has been a rough few days in Pauley Pavilion. Just a few days after incoming Australian freshman Jonah Bolden a partial qualifier unable to play this year, according to reports UCLA denied admission to transfer point guard Jon Octeus. A graduate transfer from Colorado State, where he averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, Octeus was expected to help replace the output the Bruins lost with Kyle Anderson’s departure. Unfortunately for Octeus, who left Colorado State to go to UCLA to help his prospects of playing in the NBA in what he described as “a business decision” (so much for the academic transfer), the Rams already filled their roster. Octeus had been looking at Tennessee, Missouri, and Cincinnati prior to committing to UCLA so there is a chance he could end up there although we are not sure the mechanics of how quickly a graduate transfer would work especially since many schools would have already started. As for the Bruins, they are left to try to piece together what should be a disjointed backcourt that would have been held together by Octeus’ presence.
  4. After taking a four-month medical leave of absence, Alan Major has returned to his position as head coach. Major, who underwent a pair of surgeries for glaucoma as well as a procedure for an arrhythmia, had taken a leave of absence in May so he did not miss any games. In the interim, three assistants managed the day-to-day operations and will probably handle some of that responsibility as Major eases back into his job. In his four seasons at Charlotte, Major has compiled a 61-63 record, but has shown steady improvement going from a 10-20 his first year to over .500 the past two years.
  5. In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal there has been increased interest around the issue of domestic violence (something that should have been a bigger issue long ago). In general we don’t see too many issues in college basketball, but it does happen occasionally as it occurs to have happened with Texas guard Martez Walker, who was suspended indefinitely after being charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Walker, who averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game last season, will have to deal with the legal system in much the same way that others before him have, but based on public sentiment after the Ray Rice elevator assault video was released as well as the victim’s report that this was not the first episode we doubt that we will see Walker in a Longhorn jersey anytime soon.
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Morning Five: 06.27.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 27th, 2014

morning5

  1. With the NBA Draft in the books we can officially put last season in the rear-view mirror. The top of the Draft was no surprise as Andrew WigginsJabari Parker, and Joel Embiid went 1-2-3. Actually, most of the Draft was not particularly surprising, but there are a few things that caught our eye. Outside of Toronto drafting a player who is “two years away from being two years away”, we we surprised to see Gary Harris and Shabazz Napier slip so far. I don’t think either were guaranteed top-10 picks and Napier was probably a borderline lottery pick at best, but both probably went at least six spots lower than what we would have expected and teams in higher spots made moves to acquire players at similar positions who simply are not as good as these two.
  2. The annual Coaches vs Cancer event announced their semifinal match-ups on Wednesday with Stanford playing UNLV and Duke playing Temple with the winners playing the following night. We would expect Stanford and Duke to meet although UNLV with all of its freshmen could surprise Stanford. If Stanford does advance (we are going to assume Duke will beat what should be a fairly mediocre Temple team) it would produce an interesting match-up between Mike Krzyzewski and Johnny Dawkins. We would not expect the Cardinal to be competitive with the Blue Devils based on talent alone although the Blue Devils may struggle integrating all of their new pieces early in the season. What would be interesting is seeing Krzyzewski face off against his former player, protege, and potential candidate to replace him if and when he does retire.
  3. So maybe that soccer thing didn’t work out exactly how we wanted, but basketball is still a sport that we do not need to rely on other countries to advance. The US demonstrated its dominance with a 113-79 victory over Canada to win the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championships. The victory was one of the closer games for the Americans as they won their five games by an average of almost 57 points per game including this 34-point win that made their average margin of victory plummet. As expected the Americans had a well-rounded attack. Despite what you might read about these wins and how certain players (not student-athletes until they are in college) played we would not read too much into it as they were playing against vastly inferior competition.
  4. A significant college prospect was taken off the recruiting board on Wednesday when Georgios Papagiannis announced that he was signing with a Greek club rather than going to college. Papagiannis, a 7’1″ center was a consensus top-50 player in the class of 2015 and had already taken unofficial visits to Maryland and Penn State. His decision should not come as a shock to observers because foreign recruits provide another potential source of talent they also have a much higher likelihood of opting to play overseas rather than coming to college in the first place.
  5. With the NBA Draft on everybody’s mind this week, CBS had its own draft, but did it for college coaches. As Gary Parrish, who wrote the accompanying article, notes there are many ways to define the best coach. For the purposes of this exercise they defined it as the best coach for the next five years. Most of the selections seem pretty reasonable, but we would question both Mike Krzyzewski (5th) and Kevin Ollie (22nd) slipping so far. Obviously Krzyzewski’s resume is better than his next five-year prospects, but he would have been in the top two in our draft if we had done one. As for Ollie, you can certainly point out that he was very close to getting eliminated early from this year’s NCAA Tournament, but the fact is that he wasn’t and he might be the most coveted NBA coaching prospect in the college ranks, which ought to count for something with recruiting in the future.
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After Lackluster Season, ACC Must Improve Depth to Have the “Best Ever” Conversation Again

Posted by Lathan Wells on April 4th, 2014

Prior to the beginning of the college basketball season, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski infamously proclaimed that the ACC had the potential to be the greatest college basketball conference of all-time. That was a bold proclamation at the time, as we covered here, and with the 2013-14 season now drawing to a close, it’s become painfully apparent that the conference this year did nothing to stake such a claim. So the question then becomes, what does the ACC need to do in coming years to proudly proclaim itself the best basketball conference ever assembled? Here’s a road map for the league’s coaches and administrators.

Virginia's ascendance will only help the ACC's argument that it's the premier basketball conference (USA Today Sports)

Virginia’s ascendance will only help the ACC’s argument that it’s the premier basketball conference. (USA Today Sports)

The conference’s elite have to dominate the non-conference slate and enjoy copious postseason success. While there were a handful of marquee wins spread around prior to ACC play (North Carolina’s defeats of Michigan State, Kentucky, and Louisville; Duke’s defeat of Michigan; Syracuse handling Villanova), the league’s postseason results were anything but stellar. The conference managed to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but the upper tier didn’t produce much success when they got there. Duke lost in the opening round; North Carolina and Syracuse fell in the round of 32. Virginia, the regular-season and ACC Tournament champion, may have drawn a rough match-up in the Sweet Sixteen with Michigan State, but it could not advance (and UConn was able to handle the Spartans in the nexts round). The embarrassing result was that there was no ACC teams in the Elite Eight. These teams have to produce in postseason play in addition to their non-conference victories to help the perception of the conference return to an elite level.

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NCAA Regional Reset: Midwest Region

Posted by Walker Carey on March 26th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent, which begins Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with Tennessee vs. Michigan followed by Louisville vs. Kentucky. The South Regional Reset and the West Regional Reset published yesterday, and the East Regional Reset will release later today. Make sure to also follow @RTCMWRegion for news and analysis from Indy throughout the week.

New Favorite: #4 Louisville. The new favorite is the old favorite, but after the first four days of Tournament action, determining a favorite was not an easy task. Louisville was pushed to the brink by #13 seed Manhattan in its first game before needing a late flurry Saturday to race by #5 Saint Louis. The Cardinals still appear to be the best team in this region, but they are going to need to be sharper in Indianapolis than they were in Orlando if they want to advance to their third consecutive Final Four. To be sharper, Rick Pitino’s squad is going to need guard Russ Smith to elevate his play. The senior has struggled thus far, shooting just 6-of-19 from the field and committing 13 turnovers over the first two games.

The intensity in Indy Friday evening should be at an all-time high.

The intensity in Indy Friday evening should be at an all-time high.

Horse of Darkness: #11 Tennessee. For the third time in the four years of the First Four, a team has won three games to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Tennessee will arrive in Indianapolis after a win over Iowa in Dayton and wins over #6 Massachusetts and #14 Mercer in Raleigh. The Volunteers showed during those three wins that they are a very tenacious defensive team and possess a bruising tandem in the post with forwards Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes. The most amazing part of Tennessee’s run to the second weekend might be that Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin had been viewed as someone on the hot seat late in the regular season. There was even a faction of the Volunteers fan base that banded together to try to get the school to fire Martin and hire former coach Bruce Pearl. You have to wonder what those fans are thinking now, as the team is headed to the Sweet Sixteen, now with Martin at the controls.

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Virginia Tech Earns Instant Credibility With Hire of Buzz Williams

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 25th, 2014

When Virginia Tech announced on Friday that it had poached head coach Buzz Williams from Marquette to replace the recently-fired James Johnson, the immediate reaction was that of general astonishment. Why on Earth would Williams leave a team he’d taken to the postseason in five out of six years on the bench to a program that had only reached the Big Dance once since 1996 and has finished last in the ACC three years running? While the reasons, thoroughly outlined here, became more apparent in the ensuing days, the real story is the amazing acquisition made by new Virginia Tech athletic director, Whit Babcock. The hiring of Williams and the way it managed to circle all of the major media outlets during the opening weekend of NCAA Tournament play, gave the Hokies basketball program something it hasn’t experienced in years: instant credibility.

Buzz Williams Virginia Tech PR campaign included a TNT appearance during the NCAA's (cbssports.com)

Buzz Williams’ Virginia Tech PR campaign included a TNT appearance during the NCAA Tournament (cbssports.com)

Williams oversaw a very successful Marquette program in the Big East, going an impressive 139-69 in his six years at the helm and taking the school to two Sweet Sixteen appearances and an Elite Eight run. No doubt his ability to navigate a difficult conference schedule (prior to realignment) and enjoy postseason success was extremely attractive to a Hokies program just trying to get noticed. Williams obviously looked around the ravaged Big East — a conference that the ACC raided to bring in Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh — and saw a chance to jump to the premier basketball conference in the land to match wits with four Hall of Fame coaches in Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, and Mike Krzyzewski. Some may have originally seen the move as a bizarre one (especially Williams’ pay cut from $3 million to $2.3 million annually) , but coupling the chance to compete in the new-look ACC with the uncertainty in the Marquette administration as well as the state of the weakened Big East, the decision began to make more sense.

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Triangle Basketball Apocalypse: A Retrospective

Posted by Matt Patton on March 24th, 2014

NC State, Duke and North Carolina all lost over the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament in excruciating fashion: NC State led essentially the whole game before slowly relinquishing a 99 percent safe (according to kenpom.com) lead in the final four minutes to Saint Louis; Duke’s stars failed to produce en route to also blowing a 90 percent safe lead in the final five minutes to a double-digit underdog; North Carolina made the round of 32, but never got a last shot (presumably to win the game) because of a hesitant clock operator. Let’s take a deeper look at all three.

Roy Williams was understandably deflated after bizarre finish. (credit: Christine Nguyen / Durham Herald Sun)

Roy Williams was understandably deflated after a bizarre finish in San Antonio. (credit: Christine Nguyen / Durham Herald Sun)

There’s no sugarcoating the NC State loss. It was brutal to follow. Drawn out and essentially feeding on itself (each missed free throw made the following ones even more difficult), it was just the toughest collapse to watch. Truthfully it was the worst collapse in a very long time. No one finished watching that game thinking that the better team (at least at this moment) had won. The Wolfpack dominated the first 37 minutes before Saint Louis got desperate and reached into the well-worn halls of NC State history for Jimmy V’s relentless fouling strategy. It worked. The Wolfpack made eight of 18 free throws in the final 2:44 of the game, while the dormant Billikens offense jumped to life, scoring 16 points over the same span (19 points if you count Jordair Jett‘s and-one with three minutes left that started the comeback). That was just shy of a third of Saint Louis’ offensive production over the first 37 minutes. Unsurprisingly, Jim Crews’ team went on to win in overtime after Tyler Lewis rattled out the would-be game winner at the buzzer from (gulp) the free throw line. Good luck finding a more drawn-out collapse.

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