Sunday, March 09, 2008

Another Regular Season in the Books

Sometimes, you just run out of gas. For the first time all season, Duke looked really, really tired on the court. And it showed, with some misses on wide open shots (Singler's 3, Henderson's layunk). They couldn't convert on the offensive end down the stretch (although the defense in the last 5 minutes was, in fact, still solid, despite the 10-0 finish by UNC), and after making a heck of a run to get the lead back, couldn't close the deal.

Of course, they put themselves in a position to be exhausted by playing the first half over-amped and out of control, both wasting energy and falling way behind. Shots weren't falling, there were too many turnovers, and Carolina scored a little easily. But in the second half, all that energy turned out positive results, as Duke slowly but surely clawed its way back into the game. That second half was just exceptional - the constant back and forth, the ridiculous effort on both sides of the ball by both teams - heck, I was exhausted and I was just in my living room. I haven't been able to watch as much hoop this season as I would prefer, but I firmly believe that those 20 minutes was the best half of basketball I've watched all season. The two teams on that court are 100% legit final four contenders.

As for the rest of the conference, the regular season unfortunately went out with a bit of a whimper. All three bubble teams dropped games on the road - Miami and Virginia Tech at least looked decent, but Maryland is suddenly playing like they were when they lost to BC, American, and Ohio. Now none are completely safe, and they're entering probably the most up-for-grabs first days since expansion. Nightmare scenario for the conference is still out there - Sidney Lowe red-coats past Miami and Virginia Tech and BC drops Maryland. All of a sudden there's a realistic 3-bid possibility (I still think Miami would make it, but ugh, talk about sweating). And mid-major bubblers have been dropping as well - VCU loses to William & Mary, and I'm watching San Diego try to take out St Mary's in OT, which means some smaller conferences could be looking at more than 1 bid.

So now there are the possible spoilers. NC State, which had such a disappointing season, could possibly spoil the post-season hopes of not one but two foes. State played each team just once this year, both at the RBC, and both were Pack victories. As much as they've struggled, the talent is still there, and it wouldn't shock me to see them knock off both Miami and Virginia Tech. BC seems less likely to score the win - they've lost 12 of 13 down the stretch, and their win over the Terps came alllll the way back in December. Then again, I never thought Miami would beat Maryland in round 1 last year either.

Of course, if Maryland wins, its work still isn't done. Their resume outside the UNC win is god-awful (worse than Virginia Tech's). The Terps would need to beat a Clemson team that they just couldn't put away last weekend. And even then I'm not sure they could be 100% comfortable. Just one week ago, it looked like the league had a great shot of getting at least 5 and maybe 6 bids. Now? Maybe not.

I'll be running season awards on Monday and Tuesday, and an ACC-Tourney preview on Wednesday. All posts will be late late on the East Coast - I'm coming to you live from Juneau, AK during the week.


Anonymous said...

I'm still impressed on how we were able to regroup for the second half, even if the last three minutes we were basically shot. When we started to slow it down right at the 3 minute mark up 2 points... it was a bad sign... I was exhausted and just wanted to slow the pace down =)

I should be a really interesting tournament... a lot of bubble teams have a lot to prove in their first round games.

Anonymous said...

I thought I’d pass on an invite to you guys to come participate in our ACC Tournament Bracket Contest. Go to the URL below and click on the Brackets and follow the directions to make your picks…