Today's ACC games see Tech
going to Clemson and Maryland hosting Wake Forest. Maryland sounds
like they are ready to crack down and do their best, but we'll have to see how
that plays out. In the last few weeks, Wake has kicked butt and taken
names. Not only that, they've shown real moxy at the end of close
games. Maryland will not only have to play well, they'll probably have to
carry a decent lead deep into the game in order to have a chance. Wake is really
good at going for the throat.
The Clemson-Tech game...if Clemson were playing just a bit
better, we'd call the upset, because Tech is off their feed in recent games, and
probably vulnerable. But the Tigers are not playing that well lately,
either. When they were showing improvements earlier, we knew they were
ready to knock someone off, and happily, it was UNC. When State came in, a
bit big-headed perhaps, the Tigers nailed them to the floor. Can they get
Tech? Hard to say. Purnell has sounded discouraged lately.
In Chapel Hill, where people expected things to instantly snap
back to the way they used to be since Ol' Roy Williams came ambling home, well, they
just haven't been that way. Hermann Wendorff calls UNC the most
underachieving team in the ACC, and that's hard to argue with. We're not
ready to write them off, though. There is enough talent to get hot and
make a significant run in the NCAA, particularly if they get a decent bracket.
The Heels play State in Raleigh on Sunday, and it is perhaps
their best hope to be absolutely
certain of a tournament bid. And they're a Top 20 team!
Speaking of State, if you've been reading this site for a
while, you'll know we went to the Tournament of Champions a few years ago to see
Eddy Curry and the likes, and came back raving about Ilian Evtimov, who, as far
as we were concerned, totally kicked Curry's butt. We've raved about him ever
since, and we're glad to see he's
getting the attention he deserves. He's a great player who always,
always, gives his all.
We honestly think Pete Gillen gives his all, too, but the
perception at least is that it hasn't been that good. Now even
he acknowledges his shaky status. We argued for Herb Sendek for what
seems like decades, and at this point, State looks wise for retaining him.
Gillen's problems are partly due to recruiting mistakes and
partly due to injuries. But he is correct to point out that there is good
young talent on the team and more on the way. Given that, and the fact
that UVa will be playing in U-Hall for one more season, and the size of his
contract, well, why not give him one more year? If he can turn it around,
everyone will move into the new barn with smiles. If not, they can fire him and
hire someone else and kick off a new era with a fresh start. Here's the
argument against that scenario, or at least the argument we'd most listen to:
UVa should be on the horn with Rick Majerus to see how he is
doing, healthwise, and if he can go, and they had a shot at him, you'd have to
be nuts not to at least look into it. His health will always be a big
issue, but perhaps that could be addressed with contractual incentives.
And living in a small town with a wonderful medical school and hospital might
appeal, too. It's not that far by boat, plane or car! Go, Rick, go!
On top of everything else, the ACC has really become a coach's
conference again, with very talented guys at Duke, UNC, Clemson, Tech, State,
Florida State, and Wake. A couple of years ago, we talked about how the
ACC for all intents and purposes ended at Charlotte when it came to
basketball. This year, the geography has reversed, and while Gillen's fate
is unclear, we've never been overwhelmed by Gary Williams' coaching
ability. We've been making the argument for some time now that the reason
he suddenly calmed down on the sideline was because he had such a great
backcourt that he didn't need to blow a gasket For a couple of years,
there was a lot of talk about how he had changed. You'll notice now, though,
that he's no longer as calm as he was. He gets full credit for his ability
to find and develop players, but a great coach? A great strategist? A
great leader of men?
He's a lifer, a guy who climbed through sheer tenacity, and
who was smart enough to get out of the way when lightning struck. But a
great coach? Well...he has reasonable, though not great talent this year.
Yet he's still worried about making the NCAAs. Think Majerus could get
that bunch in? Damn straight he could. Dean Smith? Krzyzewski? Terry Holland?