See if you can spot the pattern: Maryland travels down to Duke and wins. Soon after, Maryland travels to Clemson and loses. Later, Maryland plays Duke at home and wins. Soon after, Maryland plays Clemson at home and loses.
Like Barry Bonds would say, it’s like Sanford and Son.
Just one short week ago, the Turtles were a mortal lock for an NCAA bid. All they needed to do was not crap the laundry hamper in their last five games and they’d be set for something like a 4-7 seed. Well, I hope they brought some reading material, because they are currently squatting in the closet.
A wise (and damn handsome) man once wrote that any team that loses at home to Clemson doesn’t deserve an NCAA bid. I still feel that. After being swept by both NC State and Clemson, how can Maryland really claim that the deserve a bid? Sure, they’ll probably still get one, but do they deserve it? Yeah, they beat Duke twice, but don’t the Clemson losses cancel those out? If they had been swept by Duke, but beat the Tigers twice, would people be excited about the Terps?
At this point, I think the best thing would be for the ACC to get just three bids. Only three teams deserve it. Maryland has played uninspired basketball in all but about two games this year. Not tourney worthy. Georgia Tech was ranked #3 in the nation in the preseason and are currently seventh in the ACC. NC State’s only wins of any distinction are against the aforementioned chumps.
I’ll go ahead and say it, the middle of the conference is disgusting this year. To be honest, the only team that I think really deserves a shot in the Big Dance right now is one that probably won’t get one – Virginia Tech. They have improved throughout the year, they haven’t had a bad loss since December, they have a signature win over Duke and they have not been swept by a single conference foe (and can’t, because their three remaining games are against teams they’ve already beaten once).
Whew. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.
Where was I? Oh yes, discussing disappointing teams and tough losses. Which brings me to Carolina beating NC State last night by ten. Now, on it’s own, that’s not really a bad loss. NC State is a low bubble team and UNC is #2 in the country. You’d expect the Tar Heels to win. Except that it’s a rivalry game. And NC State really needs a marquee win to help make their case before the committee. And Rashad McCants didn’t play. And NC State looked terrific against Maryland last week. And the Pack had a week off to prepare.
If there were ever a situation ripe for an upset, this was it. State actually played pretty well: they shot well, they didn’t turn the ball over too much and they played aggressive defense. In fact, their D made the Heels look downright sloppy at times. I wondered if Jawad Williams wasn’t playing with mittens on the way he fumbled the ball. Carolina really only had one player who was able to dribble through State’s pressure. Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, that one player was Raymond Felton and he played a nearly perfect game. He dominated both ends of the floor and was the clear difference-maker.
After Saturday’s win over Wake Forest, I had decided that Duke’s J.J. Redick was the front-runner for ACC Player of the Year. I’m not so certain now after watching Felton work his magic again. He ran, he dribbled, he harassed, he passed and he hit big, key shots. Felton was the man last night (and has been for much of the season).
One side note from last night’s loss that many are picking up on was the strange substitution pattern of Herb Sendek. With the Pack down about 10 points, freshman Andrew Brackman went on tear. He scored 8 straight points in about 2 minutes to bring the Wolfpack within 2 (I think). Felton hit a big three (of course) to end the run and then Brackman took a seat – for the rest of the game. My wife knows and likes basketball, but doesn’t get to watch a lot of games. The only State player she knows by sight is Julius Hodge, but she immediately pointed out that the tall, skinny white kid was killing Carolina (she’s a Heel fan). Evidently Buddha didn’t pick up on that as well.
The one game of consequence tonight is Duke at Georgia Tech. Can a middle-tier ACC team actually get a good win? I wouldn’t count on it.