Saturday, March 26, 2011

Heels Have Cats In December Rematch

While the Kentucky hoop fanatics in Lexington (KY not VA) might have thought the Wildcats were an Elite Eight caliber team (mostly because like the fans of the Tar Heels, history has created very high, and frequently, unrealistic expectations of an annual deep run in the Big Dance no matter what reality may actually dictate) back in December, if you told Tar Heel Nation that their young team would be among the last eight standing they may well have said:


That said, here we are.

No doubt, these two young teams have obviously improved dramatically since the start of this season.  Back on Saturday, December 10th, North Carolina upset(?) Kentucky in Chapel Hill 75-73.  T.A.H. didn’t dedicate much space to the win saying:

Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 27 points and hit the go-ahead free throws with 47 seconds left, helping North Carolina edge No. 10 Kentucky on Saturday in a matchup of two of college basketball's winningest programs.

Zeller scored 12 of the final 16 points for the Tar Heels (5-3) in a game that had five lead changes in the final 3 minutes before Kentucky's Doron Lamb missed a desperation heave for the win from near halfcourt as time expired.

A closer look at the box score shows that UNC was once again led by Z, Henson (13 points) and Harrison Barnes (13 points) while Kendall Marshall played only 10 minutes and 3 assists.

Neither team shot particularly well – Kentucky shot 38% from the game shooting better from behind the arc than in front of it.  The Wildcats made 9 of 21 threes (42.9%) while the Tar Heels made just 1 of 11 (9.1%).

North Carolina (5-3, 0-0 ACC) out rebounded the smaller Wildcats (5-2) 43 to 27 and had nine blocked shots to Kentucky’s three.

Kentucky was led by Brandon Knight with 15 points and Josh Harrelson had seven rebounds.  Henson (12) and Zeller (11) had 23 rebounds combined.

The attendance was 20,695 and the weather was crap – cold with light snow.

Crazy Eights

Brandon Knight #12 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the winning shot to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes in the east regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Prudential Center on March 25, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Fans of the Florida State Seminoles cheer during the southwest regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams at the Alamodome on March 25, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas. FSU football aficionado John Clark is behind the sign.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Richmond’s Cedrick Lindsay passes the ball against Kansas during the Southwest Regional Sweet Sixteen.  (Photo by Greg Nelson/SI)
Head coach Shaka Smart of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams celebrates after defeating the Florida State Seminoles during the southwest regional  in San Antonio, Texas. Virginia Commonwealth defeated Florida State 72-71 in overtime. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
 John Henson #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels points to the sky on bench to celebrate the defeat of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the east regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Prudential Center on March 25, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
UNC’s Blue Steel walk-on team defends Marquette’s Vander Blue during the Sweet Sixteen in the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.  (Photo by Al Thelemans/SI)
VCU Rams guard Ed Nixon leads the charge against Florida State in the Southwest Regional in San Antonio, TX.  (Photo by Greg Nelson/SI)
Kentucky guard Darius Miller #1 and forward Josh Harrellson #55 scramble for the ball during the East Semifinal in Newark.  (Photo by Al Thelemans/SI)

Justin Harper #32 of the Richmond Spiders reacts during the southwest regional  against the Kansas Jayhawks at the Alamodome.  Kansas defeated Richmond 77-57. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Seminoles Knocked Out By Cinderella In Overtime

Bradford Burgess scores the winning basket
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
VCU  (Rams, 23,483 students, Richmond, VA) 72, FLORIDA STATE 71 OT – Bradford Burgess made a layup off an inbounds pass with 7.1 seconds left and Rob Brandenburg blocked a shot at the buzzer, giving Virginia Commonwealth a victory over Florida State in overtime in a Southwest Region semifinal Friday night.

In the first NCAA tournament game between teams seeded 10 and 11, the lower seeded Rams blew a nine-point lead by scoring only three points in the final 7:37 of regulation. They never trailed by more than four all night, but found themselves down 71-70 when Burgess scored the kind of basket that will live in NCAA tournament lore.

On an inbounds play with 7.9 seconds left, Joey Rodriguez threw a nifty bounce pass between two Florida State defenders. Burgess caught it in the lane and went up before the defenders could recover. He banked it in, just to be safe.  Ironic, as FSU is one of the premiere defensive teams in the country.

On Florida State's final possession, Derwin Kitchen drove the baseline and passed it outside. The shot may have been too late, but Brandenburg avoided any controversy by swatting it, sending the Rams (27-11) into the final eight for the first time. 

Derwin Kitchen
 (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kitchen scored 23 points to lead Florida State (23-11), which hadn't been this far since 1993.

Chris Singleton - FSU's regular-season leader in scoring, rebounds and steals, and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year by league coaches - almost saved it. He made a tying 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in regulation and a go-ahead layup across the baseline with 29.2 seconds left in overtime. He finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, easily his best in three tournament games after missing five weeks with a broken and surgically repaired foot.

Burgess led VCU as he's done all tournament, scoring 26 points. He was 6 of 7 on 3-pointers. His only miss was a blocked shot in overtime.

Brandon Rozzell scored 16 points, including a series of 3-pointers during the second-half surge that put the Rams back in front - seemingly for good, until their collapse. Jamie Skeen scored 11 points and had eight rebounds.

FSU allowed the lowest field-goal shooting percentage in the country this year, but VCU shredded that. Even with their late woes, the Rams made 45 percent of their shots and were 12 of 26 from behind the arc. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elite Tar Heels Advance After Overwhelming Marquette

Tyler Zeller (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
NORTH CAROLINA 81, Marquette (Golden Eagles, 8,012 students, Milwaukee, WI) 63  – North Carolina’s length, athleticism and defense combined with Golden Eagles’ nerves translated into an insurmountable 40-15 halftime Tar Heel lead.

Game over.

Much has been made of North Carolina’s front line and again Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller led the way behind the steady hand of freshmen point guard phenom Kendall Marshall.  Like the 2009 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Champions, this team is also driven by a Tyler.  As Tyler goes, so goes this Elite Eight group of Tar Heels.

Zeller had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and John Henson added 14 points and 12 rebounds for North Carolina.  Harrison Barnes contributed 20 points and six rebounds as the second-seeded Tar Heels (29-7) moved to within a game of reaching the Final Four for the third time in four years.

UNC limited No. 11 seed Marquette (22-15) to 15 first-half points while opening a 25-point lead. Those 15 first-half points were the second-fewest allowed by North Carolina in a half in 144 NCAA tournament games, and the Golden Eagles’ 20 percent shooting from the field came on 6-of-30 shooting was the lowest allowed in a half by North Carolina in an NCAA tournament game.

(Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Davante Gardner led the Golden Eagles with 16 points and six rebounds. Jimmy Butler added 14 in his final game for a team that three weeks ago looked like it wouldn’t make the tournament after getting blown out by sub .500 Seton Hall in this same building.

Unlike the ACC tournament when they had to rally from double-digit deficits, the Tar Heels played a physical game against their tough-minded Big East Conference opponent for the opening eight minutes and then took control.

Trailing 10-8 with 12:43 to go, North Carolina went on a 19-0 run, forcing Marquette to miss 14 straight shots. The game was just about over at that point.

Kendall Marshall (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Kendall Marshall (7 assists) started the North Carolina run with a shot in the lane, and Zeller gave the Tar Heels the lead for good, grabbing two offensive rebounds on the same possession and putting the second one in.

Give, Marquette credit, they never gave up, but the hill was too tall to climb.

Duke Fan: The Night Everything Went Wrong

Alas, on occasion some core constituents complain that posts on T.A.H. are too long.  Being a journalist by education, and, at times by trade, we scoff at this notion.  No…loyal reader, you are not too busy to read and learn.

That said, everyone is busy so we do strive to produce the  maximum amount of info in minimal words in an attempt to make your experience here entertaining, educational and as efficient as possible.

An then there is Duke fan shane.spr8 who writes a blog called “Seth Curry Saves Duke.”

Shane, does not give a rat’s a** how busy you are and, evidently, he believes you are going to read his carefully chosen words.  All of them…THOUSANDS of them.

For example, here is the T.A.H. analysis of why Duke lost to Arizona.  It goes like this:

Curry, Smith, Kelly, Plumlee.02
 (Harry How/Getty Images)
Arizona played lights out.  First that Williams kid, then everybody else.  They out hustled, out defended and out rebounded Duke.  The Devils shot poorly from behind the arc – their well-documented Achilles heel.  Nolan Smith had a bad game. Kyrie Irving isn’t 100%.  Seth Curry is hurt.  Duke recruits too many big white guys who underperformed (Plumlee.01, Plumlee.02 and Kelly.01).  Usually, Smith, Singler and (insert third Duke player here) play and score well enough to compensate for the lack of production from (insert fourth and fifth Duke player here).  Not last night. 

That’s pretty much the whole story: 93 words.

Then there is shane.spr8, who in his post titled “The Night Everything Went Wrong” lists the reasons Duke lost.

1. Arizona's ungodly play
2. Nolan Smith's disappearance
3. Mason Plumlee reverting to Plumblef*** the Younger
4. Seth Curry's injury
5. Miserable defense
6. Poor rebounding
7. Coaching/Strategy
8. Refereeing
9. Kyrie Irving's least favorite science: Chemistry

Singler, Smith, Plumlee.01, Dawkins and Irving
\(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Not bad, 37 words including a shot at Coach K and the officials.  Very Dukesque. 

Then shane.spr8 goes about explaining all of this and that required an additional 3,713 words.  Not a misprint, that’s 3,750 words total.

While we are quick to recognize that unbridled partisanship is the primary nutrient of zealacy (that’s “zealot” combined with “lunacy”), the length and breadth of this particular diatribe is nothing short of mind boggling.  And the minds around T.A.H. don’t boggle all that readily.

Evidently, the (blue) devil really is in the details.

Nice, shane.spr8, NICE!

To read all 3,750 words describing why Duke lost a basketball game, click here.

(Editor’s note: Props to Tar Heel Bob Hudson for the tip.  Lord knows why he, or any of his brethren, would be reading a blog called ““Seth Curry Saves Duke,” but that is a question better served another day.  Thanks, Ike!)

Duke Class Of 2011: Hail And Farewell

Kyle Singler (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Surely, it didn’t end the way Duke seniors Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Casey Peters wanted it to, but when all was said and done these three Blue Devils enjoyed storied basketball careers going 125-23 over their four year stint in Durham.

Singler came in from Oregon looking like another slow gangly white kid – wrong again.  Well, he is white.  Smith was solid from day one and worked his way up to a legitimate Player of the Year candidate in 2011 and Peters, a walk-on, may have had the most fun of all three.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Blue Devils have earned their national prominence.  There is no disputing the impact or importance  of winning the NCAA Division 1 Mens’ Basketball National Championship. 

A large number of people affiliated with, or rooting for, ACC teams seem to take this for granted.  Recently, the proximity to the top has been reinforced as the league has had the last team standing at five of the last ten Big Dances.  (That was yet another Big (L)East dig just in case you missed it. For the record, T.A.H. called that over-bloated hoops circuit the “Big (L)East” long before Charles Barkley ever did!)

Part of that record belongs to the Duke Class of 2011 as those Blue Devils racked up their share of honors.  They were ACC regular season champs in 2010 and ACC tournament champions in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Jon Scheyer, Coack K, Smith (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Singler/Smith led Blue Devils played in four straight NCAA tournaments exiting from the Sweet Sixteen in 2009 and 2011, while winning it all last year.    Like Tyler Hansbrough, Smith and Singler are stay-in-school poster boys.  One could argue that Singler hurt his draft stock by staying around his senior year, but he and Smith demonstrated how critical upperclassmen are to championship teams.

Singler started the year ranked 18th as Duke’s all-time scorer with 1,767 points and finished up his career last night with 2,392 points.  That’s good enough for fourth on the all-time list behind J.J. Redick (2,769), Johnny Dawkins (2,556) and Christian Laettner (2,460).  By way of perspective, behind Singler are names like Mike Giminski, Danny Ferry, Gene Banks, Jason Williams, Jon Scheyer, Shane Battier and Grant Hill to name of a few.

Speaking of long-time pro and first class act, Grant Hill, he occupies the spot on the all-time scoring list – 16th – just above Nolan Smith.  Smith ended his career with 1,911 points.  For the record, that’s 849 more points that Jay Bilas. (And 1,911 more than either Duke lacrosse star Jon “Chainsaw” Beirman or Duke vascular surgeon John “Grande Vino” Williams.)

Casey Peters (
Casey Peters is your typical Duke brainiac kid from Jersey.  The 6’4” 200 lbs guard hails from Red Bank (that’s Springsteen country) and joined the team as a walk-on in July of 2009.  Good timing, as the Blue Devils would cut down the nets in his first season.  His efforts that year, and as a student manager in year’s prior, earned him as scholarship for the 2010-11 season.

A solid high school basketball player who averaged 12.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game in 2007, Peters turned down offers from Yale and Dartmouth to come to Durham after scoring a perfect 800 on his math SAT.  Who’s surprised?  Nobody, right?

Peters only played a total of 25 minutes the past two years and Coack K inexplicably failed to put him in late in last night’s elimination loss to Arizona when he removed fellow seniors Smith and Singler.  

Peters’ younger sister Haley is a freshman on the Duke women’s basketball team making them the only brother/sister duo in the ACC.

Virginia Defeats Boston College In W.N.I.T.

Ariana Moorer (

Ariana Moorer scored 15 points and Virginia kept Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan's career going Thursday night with a 53-48 victory over Boston College in the WNIT.

The Cavaliers (19-15), who lost 73-50 to the Eagles here last month, won their third straight since Ryan announced she would step down at the end of her 34th season at Virginia.

The Cavaliers used a 15-4 second-half run to open a 43-33 lead, then held on after the Eagles (20-13) closed to within 50-48 with 32 seconds to go. China Crosby hit two free throws with 26.9 seconds left and Ataira Franklin hit one with 9 seconds left to clinch it.

Carolyn Swords had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Eagles.

Crosby and Franklin each scored nine for the Cavaliers, and Franklin had 10 rebounds, Virginia will host either Florida or Charlotte in the quarterfinals on Saturday night.

Quote Of The Day

Mr. Toe-Nee...Toe-Nee on the set of PTI
“There are 68 teams in the NCAA tournament, can’t they put one more person in the tower?”

– Tony Kornheiser on the incident yesterday at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Not-So-Sweet 16: Second Half Arizona Blitz Sends Duke Home

Derrick Williams (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Arizona (Wildcats, 28,719 students, Tuscon, AZ) 93, DUKE 77 – If N.C. State Athletic Director Debbie Yow was interested in Arizona’s head coach Sean Miller to replace Sidney Lowe, she’s even more interested now after Miller’s Wildcats demolished  Duke in last night’s Sweet Sixteen West regional semi-final.

Miller’s Wildcats hit the defending national champions with an second half offensive barrage that was so swift and surprising that the Blue Devils had no answer.

Derrick Williams scored 25 of his career-high 32 points in the first half, and his teammates did the rest of the damage in the second frame.

Showing no fear of the top-seeded Duke or their pedigreed history, the Wildcats shot 58 percent in the second half. They put on a 4-minute, 13-second dunking and driving display that led to the decisive 19-2 run.

Derrick Williams (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Fifth-seeded Arizona (30-7) will play Connecticut (29-9) on Saturday in the West Regional final, the Wildcats’ first such appearance since 2005. The third-seeded Huskies defeated No. 2 San Diego State 74-67 in the other semifinal.

“The Elite Eight is great, but we’re not looking to stop right there,” Williams said. “One of our team goals this season was not only to get in the tournament, but to make a run in the tournament, and so far we’re doing that.”
Down by six points early in the second half, the Wildcats unleashed a scoring rampage that left the Blue Devils wondering what happened.

Williams scored just two points during the 19-2 run that seemingly came out of nowhere, while five of his teammates did the rest in putting the Wildcats ahead for good, 66-53.

Kyle Singler (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The Blue Devils were 1 of 7 from the field and committed two turnovers at the same time Arizona had its fans high-fiving and exploding in cheers.

The top-seeded Blue Devils (32-5) were sent packing from a regional semifinal for the second time in three years. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, with 900 wins, will have to wait until next season to resume his pursuit of Bob Knight’s record as the winningest men’s coach in Division I history.

“The tournament is cruel,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s an abrupt end for everybody when you don’t win.”

Solomon Hill added 13 points for the Wildcats, who made 9 of 15 3-pointers, including five by Williams.
Williams had 13 rebounds to help his team dominate the boards, 40-27, while playing 15 minutes from his hometown of La Mirada.

(Harry How/Getty Images)
Duke’s Kryie Irving scored 28 points in 31 minutes, his most since returning at the start of the NCAA tournament after missing 26 games with a toe injury.

Kyle Singler added 18 as one of three Blue Devils in second-half foul trouble. Nolan Smith was held to eight points—well under the senior’s 21-point average.

“The way they played in the second half, they should win it all,” Smith said. “Williams is a monster. They hit us full force, and kept hitting. They did everything right, and we did a ton of things wrong.”

Sweet Sixteen Madness

Arizona’s Lamont Jones gets to the basket past Duke’s Kyrie Irving during their West regional semi final in Anaheim, CA.  The Wildcats defeated the Blue Devils 93-77. (Photo by John W. McDonough/SI)
Lamont Jones and Derrick Williams of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after a play against the Duke Blue Devils during the West regional semifinal  in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Butler’s Khyle Marshall battles for a loose ball with Mike Bruesewitz of Wisconsin during their NCAA Southeast regional semi-final in New Orleans, LA.   Butler won 61-54.  (Photo by Bob Rosato/SI)
Andrew Smith of the Butler Bulldogs reacts after injuring his knee during their game against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Southeast regional in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jimmer Fredette of the Brigham Young Cougars looks on with a bandage on his chin during the second half against the Florida Gators during the Southeast regional  in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
BYU’s Jimmer Fredette has a shot blocked by Florida’s Vernon Macklin during the first half of the Southeast regional game in New Orleans.  Florida won 83-74.  (Photo by Bob Rosato/SI)
Forward Malcolm Thomas of San Diego State is defended by UConn’s Roscoe Smith and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel during their Sweet Sixteen game in Anaheim.  The Huskies won 74-67.  (Photo by John W. McDonough/SI)
Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after a play against Chase Tapley #22 of the San Diego State Aztecs looks on during the West regional semifinal  in Anaheim.  Walker scored 36 points in the game. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tar Heels Using Defense, Smart Plays And Good Luck To Advance

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Two Hall of Fame coaches have important tenents they utilize in most close games and especially in NCAA tournament games.

Both concepts were on display last weekend when North Carolina survived a frantic finish against Washington and several other top teams lost games due to last minute blunders.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams reportedly tells his team that certain late game situations are “must stops” – as in “we must stop” the other team.

In addition, former the Indiana coach and multiple National Champion, Bobby Knight has spent most of this week reciting an old mantra during various interviews:  “Dumb loses more games than smart wins.”  Knight was referring to the plethora of late game mental errors that sent several teams home after last weekend’s games.  The Tar Heels came very close to joining the group of late-game blunderers.

Add to that the luck factor with referees missing calls that seemingly changed the outcome of games and you’ve assembled the NCAA Tournament Trifecta – good defense, smart play and good fortune.  Every team needs all three to hoist the National Championship trophy.

To those ends, North Carolina big man John Henson was involved in a series of late game plays that ranged from brilliant to clumsy to not-so-smart. He was critical in several “must stops” including one where he deflected an inbounds pass to teammate Dexter Strickland with 5.3 seconds to play. Strickland was fouled and made both free throws giving UNC a late three point lead.

On the next Washington possession, Henson went to catch the desperation three-point shot attempt and almost whiffed – the ball brushing his hand before going out of bounds and back to the Huskies. 

(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
On the Huskies’ last attempt at heroics, an over exuberant Henson could have been called for goal tending.  The call wouldn’t have altered the final outcome as Washington was down three and the last-fraction-of-a-second shot was a two-pointer.  Nonetheless, Henson and his Tar Heel teammates used up a bit more of their “good luck.”

Those few mental errors aside, the North Carolina continue to use late game defense and “must stops” to secure comeback victories.  On Sunday, over the final 7:06 of the game, the Heels held Washington to 4-of-13 shooting, forced five turnovers and blocked two shots. 

They needed good defense and smart plays at critical moments as the Huskies outrebounded the regular season ACC champions 40-37, outscored them on fast-break points (18-14) and points in the paint (40-34).

"Our defense has just gotten better and better," said UNC forward Tyler Zeller, "And it was important to us, again."

"We buckled down, and we played 'D' like we were supposed to; that's how we got the win," Henson said. "... And now, we just have to prepare to do it again."

Actually, the Tar Heels have been preparing for these plays all season.

Daniel Bolick (Peyton Williams/
Daniel Bolick, the senior member of UNC's "Blue Steel" team is in charge of practicing the play that led to Henson’s critical late-game deflection and Strickland’s steal.

Daily, the 5’10” Bolick tries to inbound the ball past the 6’10” Henson – a task made all the more difficult by Henson’s 88-inch wing span.

"The first two weeks of practice, he probably deflected 80 percent of all of my inbounds passes," said Bolick. "…it's a hard thing to really scout for, because you really don't know how much room he can cover until you experience it a couple of times."

Washington forward Justin Holiday didn’t know what to expect and Henson made the game-changing play with the Tar Heels clinging to an 84-83 lead.

While neither the NCAA nor North Carolina keep track of statistics for deflected in-bound passes, they do track points per game and field goal defensive percentage.  Both have played a role in the Tar Heels success and both may determine how much further they go in this year’s Big Dance.

It would come as no statistical surprise that defense played a role in North Carolina’s opening tournament victories as Long Island came in the 4th highest scoring team in the land averaging 82.7 points a game and Washington was ranked third at 83.1 points per game. 

The Tar Heels rank 17th nationally while scoring 77.7 per game and Sweet Sixteen opponent Marquette is 33rd averaging 75.5 points per game.  Behind the Golden Eagles are the eliminated teams Pittsburgh (49th), Notre Dame (36th), Louisville (38th) and Texas (37th).  Since North Carolina averages fewer points per game than either team the options were a) outscore them,  b) play stingier defense or c) both.

The only two teams remaining in the Big Dance that score more points on average than the Heels?  BYU (81.6) and Duke (81).

(Jamie Squires/Getty Images)
On the defensive side of the ledger, fellow ACC Sweet Sixteen participant Florida State leads the nation in field goal defense at 36 percent per game.  North Carolina, not generally known as a defensive stalwart, weighs in at 40.5 percent, good enough for a solid 40th on the national list.

Other teams still dancing that are ranked in between the Tar Heels and the Seminoles include Kentucky (39.3% - 11th), San Diego State (39.3% - 12th), Kansas (39.6% - 15th), UConn (39.9% - 24th), Duke (40.1% - 29th) and Richmond (40.3% - 34th).

In the upcoming round that starts Friday for North Carolina, the goal will be to play hard and play smart.  “Must stops” will probably be a critical part of the Marquette game and, in all likelihood, any path to the Elite Eight and eventually the Final Four will require good defense combined with some “smart” plays and a dash of good luck.

So far, Roy Williams’ squad has managed to produce all three.

Coach K Closing In On Knight and Wooden

The task is not an easy one, but if Duke can knock off Arizona and the winner of the UConn-Sand Diego State game over this weekend, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will earn his record-tying 902nd career victory while earning a trip back to the Final Four.

The total wins record belongs to Krzyzewski’s friend and mentor Bobby Knight and another coach you may have heard of, John Wooden, holds the record for 12 trips to the Final Four. 

If top-seeded Blue Devils (32-4) win the West Regional, Coach K will tie both Knight and Wooden.  West regional semifinals, and there’s a chance that by the time Duke returns home, Krzyzewski will have his record-tying 902nd career victory.

“There will be a lot of guys who will win 900 games eventually,” Krzyzewski said. “But to be the first two, and it be the coach and his player to do it, is … something very unique, and that’s the type of relationship and friendship I’ve had with Coach Knight. I’m glad I can share a moment, that moment with him. I’ve shared … really good ones with him.”

A victory in the Final Four not only would push Krzyzewski into first place by himself, it would put the reigning national champions back in the title game.

“It says a lot about him, his commitment to our game, his commitment to his kids and to the program,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, one of Krzyzewski’s early star players who later spent 11 years as one of his most trusted assistants.

The milestones certainly have piled up during the past 36 years as Krzyzewski compiled a 900-283 career record at Army and Duke with four national championships with the Blue Devils.

“It’s mind-boggling. I thought it was a heck of an accomplishment to coach 800, much less win 900,” North Carolina coach and Tobacco Road rival Roy Williams said. “It’s off the charts.”

Krzyzewski credits part of his success to being a former point guard for Knight.

During the three seasons Krzyzewski earned varsity letters while playing for Knight at Army, the Black Knights went 51-23. Krzyzewski was the team captain of the 1968-69 squad that went 18-10 and reached a second straight NIT.

“I feel like it’s amazing that a coach and his point guard can be the first two coaches in the history of (the men’s) game to win 900, and that it says something about the guy who has 902 and it also says something about the United States Military Academy,” Krzyzewski said.

He also has said that Knight’s win total should be higher because he should still be at Indiana, where “he’d have probably 1,100 wins.”

Another T.A.H. Update

We had so much fun yesterday looking back through old T.A.H. posts, we decided to include a new feature called T.A.H. Sort Of Instant Semi-Classics From Back In (Good Old?) Days.

So…Here we go from December 8, 2005:

PERENNIAL NIT PARTICIPANT FORDHAM DEFEATS UVA 62-60 - The Fordham Rams, who were long a staple of the pre-1970’s NIT and who have made a grand total of three appearances to the NCAA tournament (1951, 1971, 1991 – evenly spaced you must admit – and due back in 2011), needed a last second shot from walk-on Nick Vita to defeat the Wahoos. 

Vita, who last year was playing for another perennial powerhouse – the University of California-Santa Cruz, a NCAA Division III team – banked  home a shot with 3.4 seconds remaining to break a 60-60 tie. 
The game was the first win for a Fordham team over an ACC school since January 4, 1967. 

Woe-Hoo head coach Craig “Kapalu” Lai-toe said, “We’re not good.”

UNJD WHIPS UP ON IVY LEAGUERS - J.J. Redick scored 24 points to move up to ninth on the all-time Duke scoring list, Shelden Williams added 20 and the top-ranked Blue Devils prepared for their matchup with second-ranked Texas by beating Penn in Durham. 

The Cameron Crazies shouted “not Virginia Tech” during the entire game.  Sean “Knocked It Down” Dockery had 11 points for Duke (8-0), and freshman Josh McRoberts finished with eight points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks following a motivational speech from Redick late in the first half. 

After McRoberts missed the first of two free throws, Redick walked from his spot near the three-point line and got in his face.  “Coach Krzcmbmnuhks8ski told me to tell you that you’re a Dookie – you’re smart, you’re white, you’re ugly, you’re slow and there is no way in hell you will make it in the NBA…sooooo, you better get your f&%#ing head in this game at this level cause your toast when you f&%#ing leave here!”

(Editor’s Note: The “Knocked It Down” reference goes back to Dockery’s half-court heave that narrowly defeated the upstart Hokies three days prior.  After making the lucky game winner from 45 feet away, Dockery said "I knew I had plenty of time. I had confidence in the shot and I knocked it down." The Hokies got revenge in February with an upset win at Cassell Coliseum.)

Things That Make You Go…


With ACC teams about to play for the tenth straight day in a post-season basketball tournament somewere around our vast country, air safety is as relevant as ever...

Which brings us to the the tag line on the commercials for the nation’s air traffic controllers union (the National Air Traffic Controller’s Association) which say:  “We’re NATCA, we guide you home.”

Well, yeah.  When they’re awake.

Seems as there was only one controller on duty just after midnight in the tower of Washington D.C.’s Reagan National airport and, evidently, he was asleep (or otherwise indisposed). Two planes contacted the the tower and got no response before landing safely on their own – no small feat considering the approach to DCA is a tricky one.

The airport located just across the Potomac River from a few previously thought-to-be-secure locations of national importance – say, the Congress, the Capitol and the White House, to name a few – is a difficult approach for a variety of reasons not the least of which is avoiding protected “restricted air space.”  

The final approach follows the river, which unlike its larger brethren named Mississippi or Nile, does not travel in a straight line, but does what all good local rivers do – it meanders.  A lot.  Thus affording air travelers some interesting views of the Capitol of the Free World as they twist and turn towards an organized and safe intersection with the ground.

So both an American and a United flight got to negotiate this tricky approach while the lone controller was not, in fact, guiding them home safely. Word from various major media sources is that the single flight controller was either asleep or had a “medical emergency” (is that FAA or NATCA code for “taking a crap”?).

Ironically, yesterday the USA Today reported that the air traffic controllers union is pushing a proposal that, in some instances, would allow members literally to sleep on the job. Hence, the DCA incident is rather poorly timed considering the union is currently holding it’s annual safety conference at the Rio in Las Vegas.

As part of a dozen recommendations designed to ward off fatigue, the union advocates allowing controllers working overnight shifts to take two-hour "recuperative breaks" that could include napping. The controllers already have shorter breaks but are not supposed to sleep.

(Dude! Stop taking your union directives so seriously! Wake up, damn it!)

The lastest issue will be cannon fodder for both sides as the union will claim that had the DCA controller James “Rip” Van Winkle (not his real name) napped previously, he would have been awake when summonsed on the radio earlier this morning.

The real question is why is there only one controller in the tower in the middle of the night?  Granted, there is minimal traffic, but what happens if the guy had bad tacos for supper and, well, you know…

Quote Of The Day

Is Arizona head coach Sean Miller headed to Raleigh?

What he said: “I just got to Arizona. I’m really happy to be here. It’s one of the great programs in college basketball and I sure hope I can be here a long time.”

What he meant(?): “As soon as the tournament is over I will sit down with my family, my attorneys, my accountants, my investment advisers, my agent and my ego and make a decision about whether or not I want to jump back into the cauldron that is ACC basketball.”

Miller is believed to be one of three coaches on A.D. Debbie Yow’s short list, along with Texas A&M’s Mark Turgeon and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall.  Miller was an assistant coach for five years with Herb Sendek before heading west.

His Sweet Sixteen date with Duke on Friday may very well remind him how it has worked of late in the Have/Have Not world of ACC hoops.

*Items in italics may not be true.

News Flash: Duke Point Guard Turns A Whopping Nineteen

(Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Obsever)
As a healthy dose of perspective, here’s your daily reminder that the hands that will determine the next NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Champion belong, in many cases, to nineteen year old kids.

Here, Kylie Nakamine holds a sign as her sister Shannon waves at Duke's Kyrie Irving at the team's practice.

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