| Roanoke | W-S
In Cameron tonight is a struggling Virginia team, with a coach who,
increasingly, is under fire. Although there is some decent young talent on
the team, Pete Gillen has not been able to get them pointed in the right
direction, and now, should they lose this game, Virginia will kick Clemson out
of the cellar and claim it all to themselves. A guy with a $10 million
dollar contract is not supposed to be in the play-in game.
But it could happen. Virginia somehow has gone from the wonderfully
exciting team it was a few years ago - a slashing, running, highly athletic team
- to a fairly stodgy group featuring a point guard with knees that wouldn't get
$1.50 on E-Bay, and a center who has lost a lot of weight but gained a bit too
much attitude. In between is a shooting guard who can shoot but isn't
overly athletic, and the promising aforementioned talent, and the coach is on
The odds makers will almost certainly make Duke a prohibitive favorite,
which, honestly they should be. Since the schedule got stiffer, Virginia
has gone 3-7, with wins over Clemson, Florida State, and William &
pressure has begun to get to Gillen, who hasn't been as quick with his
trademark quips, and who told one caller to his radio show that he should
"go pull for the Hokies." And while jiggering his lineup, he
benched center Elton Brown, who has made it clear he didn't appreciate it.
But no matter what he thinks, he still has to play defense. His
offense is useful, if not perfect. The guy can score and rebound.
But if you don't stop the other guy from doing it, it's a wash.
Just as significantly, to us anyway, is how Gillen has treated Majestic Mapp.
His first big recruit, Mapp has had terrible injury problems, having torn his
knees up multiple times. Now, finally, he is healthy. He is a good student, a
courageous kid, and we've been pulling for him. As a matter of fact, we
were really hoping that last year, he'd get put into the game in Durham, but
Gillen demured, apparently under the impression that Mapp would be
savaged. That was so not true - that gym was waiting to give him a
standing ovation. What a gutty kid he is.
Unfortunately, in Mapp's case, gutty is not enough: Gillen has decided
not to invite Mapp back for another year. It would be his sixth, a rarity,
but given his injuries and his character, we'd love to see him get one more
shot. Not Gillen.
That's really too bad, and it's kind of a bookend with his first bit of
ugliness, when he refused to let a committed player out of his LOI after taking
the job. Was it Adam Hall? We're thinking so.
Anyway, Gillen said, essentially, tough: a deal's a deal. It set a bad
tone to us, and the Mapp thing sets another. Give the kid a break,
Pete. He's given you everything he has. Time to give back.
Anyway, it's going to be a fun game, as Cameron usually is. Duke has to be
careful not to look past Virginia to Sunday's big matchup with NC State, perhaps
the hottest team in the conference at the moment.
And also, as it turns out, in light of the empty seats at the Clemson game,
Duke has shifted some tickets to grad students.
We've heard various arguments about this issue, including the (entirely
understandable) suggestion that tests had something to do with it, to the
argument that Sunday night basketball is unnatural and should be avoided at all
costs. On the other hand, we also heard from someone who was in the Bryant
Center and saw students hanging out and asked why they weren't at the game:
"It's just Clemson."
Well, no, it's not Clemson. It's Duke. We realize there are times
when people can't go, and also that it's not an obligation to go or
anything. You don't have to go. But to us, when you have a chance to
see a team this good play for free, why wouldn't you? You may go your
whole life and go to tons of big-time events and never, ever, get this close
again. It really is a rare opportunity, and aside from that, it's
immensely fun. People who have sat where you are sitting are lucky to get
back every five year, and they never get to sit down there again. It's
just one of the best possible experiences in sports, much less in college life,
so we hope that any sense of being jaded goes away. It won't always be