Welcome to Fantastic Friday.
I hope you’ve got the day off.
If not, try to at least stay near some sort of electronic screen, because today is one of those once-in-a-red-and-blue-moon sort of days. All three of the Research Triangle’s ACC teams play in the NCAA tournament – N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke, tipping off in that order.
And since none of the games overlap, you can watch every minute of all of them. Three games. Three schools whose campuses are a half hour apart or less. Six hours of hoops. At least.
All you need is a remote control, a lot of snacks and a little patience as you try to remember where in the world truTV is again. You don’t even have to stay up late to see it all.
No. 11 seed N.C. State tips off Fantastic Friday at 12:40 p.m. against San Diego State. That’s probably going to be the best game of the day among the Triangle trio.
Then No. 1 seed North Carolina plays No. 16 seed Vermont at 4:10 p.m. – tune in early if you want to see it while it’s still close. No. 2 seed Duke finishes it up at 7:15 p.m. against No.15 seed Lehigh.
While North Carolina and Duke often play on the same day in the NCAAs and sometimes at the same site, like they do once again this year in Greensboro, it’s the addition of N.C. State to the NCAA field for the first time since 2006 that has really livened things up.
Did you see the video of the Wolfpack players celebrating when they found out they had gotten an at-large spot? Watch it on YouTube if you haven’t – it will really get you in the mood for madness. That video looked like a team rescued from the brink, which it was.
For N.C. State to still be playing this weekend, I think it will need more scoring punch from Scott Wood and will need to stop two guys you may have never heard of but who are very good. San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin was the Mountain West Player of the Year – he’s a wing player who not only scores 17 points a game but also grabs eight rebounds even though he’s only 6-foot-5. His teammate Chase Tapley is a serious outside threat – Tapley also averages 17 points per game and shoots 42 percent from three-point range.
North Carolina and Duke should have less trouble in Greensboro, but their games will still be interesting both because of who’s suiting up in blue and who’s not. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils may well be able to get through today without John Henson (wrist) and Ryan Kelly (foot), respectively, if they want to. But they will need their big men over the weekend.
Lehigh is actually underrated as a No. 15 seed. The Mountain Hawks led eventual No. 1 NCAA seed Michigan State at halftime this season and only lost by nine points. Lehigh can shoot and has a guard in C.J. McCollum who is one of the country’s top 10 scorers (21.9 points per game). Their coach said his team’s mission is to “Beat Duke.” Lehigh is not a “happy-to-be-here” sort of team.
Vermont? It has a leading scorer with a cool first name (Four McGlynn) and it already won a game in the “First Four” in Ohio Wednesday night. I’d be surprised if the Vermont-UNC game is close – remember the famous stat about no No. 16 seed ever beating a No.1 seed in the men’s tournament. But hey, that’s why they play.
In any event, today will be an awesome day of basketball – a frantic, fabulous, fantastic Friday.
And if all three Triangle teams are victorious today, go make another grocery-store run and get the yard mowed on Saturday.
Because if all three teams win, Sensational Sunday is only two days away.
Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140; firstname.lastname@example.org