Let last year serve as a warning before we go too far down this path, but as things stand at the end of April – and that specific timeframe is critical – next basketball season is looking pretty good for North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State.
The arrival of Mark Richt at Miami, Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech and Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia, all slam-dunk hires, all proven Div. I coaches, should change the dynamic in the Coastal Division – and by extension the ACC – soon.
The ACC announced Tuesday that Bryan Kersey, 53, will leave the court to join the conference office, a move that can be read as an endorsement of the league’s current standard of officiating, which anyone who watched the NCAA tournament will appreciate is quite high these days. The ACC accounted for three of the 10 officials selected to work the Final Four in Houston, and Kersey was one of two ACC officials in Indianapolis a year earlier.
From the trendsetting tenure of Kay Yow at N.C. State to North Carolina’s three Final Fours and national title under Sylvia Hatchell to Duke’s late-’90s ascendance under Gail Goestenkors, these three programs sat at or near the epicenter of the sport for a long, long time. Decades. And now? Women’s basketball in the Triangle has reached maximum irrelevancy.
There was a different feel to this particular Carolina Hurricanes postmortem, with the optimism surrounding the young defensemen and the tectonic shift that occurred with the departure of Eric Staal. One way or another, the Hurricanes are lurching toward the future.
From afar, John Carlos watched the Missouri football players last spring as they took a stand. He admired how they used their power as scholarship athletes to join the fight against what they saw as systemic racism on campus, eventually forcing the resignation of the university president. He also has a message for them: Using their position to fight for the greater good can’t be a one-time thing. And Carlos would know because he has devoted his life to backing up the stand he took.
Cam Ward didn’t even take a final lap around the ice. When the game ended – yet another home finale with no prospect of the playoffs – Ward went straight down the tunnel to the dressing room, having been pulled late for an extra attacker.
The improbable end of Monday night’s unforgettable national-title game is easy to place in history. It was the first buzzer-beater to win a national title since Lorenzo Charles dunked Dereck Whittenburg’s miss in 1983, the Triangle falling on the wrong side of this one.
After Marcus Paige’s off-balance, leaning 3-pointer tied the score with 4.7 seconds to go, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins delivered the ultimate answer with a right wing 3-pointer as time expired. The four-year quest for a title by Paige and Brice Johnson fell short by the smallest of margins, 77-74.
It was pretty clear in real time that Kris Jenkins’ game-winner beat the clock Monday night – the ball was already on its way down when the horn sounded and the lights on the backboard lit – but it was close enough that the three officials wanted to check the replay monitor to be sure.
A great deal has been made of “cantankerous” Roy Williams, to use his own description, during this Final Four, but it’s nothing anyone who has actually paid any attention to North Carolina hasn’t seen before, on Tuesdays and Fridays during the ACC season, after games, at the ACC tournament.
Villanova is, unquestionably, the hottest team in the tournament. North Carolina is, arguably, the most talented. It’s fitting these are the two teams left. It’s impossible to say what trumps what on Monday.
The performance of the past two years, in which the ACC is 35-10 going into Saturday’s semifinals, will be worth more than $73.4 million over the next six years – an increase of about $433,400 per school per year from 2013 and 2014.
With the Tar Heels two wins away from joining the 2005 and 2009 teams as national champions, there is one common thread that unites them. The 2005 and 2009 national titles came at the end of long, difficult journeys. This team is nearing the end of a long journey of its own.
Thursday, NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear that House Bill 2 puts the state at risk of hosting future NCAA events, most notably the basketball tournament, which North Carolina has hosted 17 times in the past two decades and will again in 2017 and 2018.
Marcus Paige’s embrace of Synergy and other advanced basketball analytics dates to his freshman year, when he first became aware of the secret underground of advanced statistics whose disciples talk about points per possession, rebounding percentage instead of rebounding margin, tempo, effective field-goal percentage and so on.
It’s only reasonable and prudent that schools like Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt would inquire about Duke’s Jeff Capel. They’re also exceedingly likely to be rebuffed. If Capel was going to leave Duke, he had a prime opportunity with Arizona State immediately after the Final Four last year.