Before we get to the ACC in the NCAA tournament stuff, let's just stop and appreciate what Virginia Tech A.D. Whit Babcock has pulled off in hiring Buzz Williams.
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How in the heck did he do that? The Big East is not what it was, certainly, but Marquette is still a great job at a basketball school with tons of tradition.
In a statement issued by Virginia Tech, Williams said this: "It’s never easy to leave a great school like Marquette. But this is a special situation to work at a place like Virginia Tech. I’ve heard tremendous things about this terrific institution and this is an outstanding opportunity to build a program. My family and I look forward to becoming a part of this great university and community and taking on the challenges associated in succeeding in the ACC."
There are several possible motivations, aside from the diminished Big East.
Williams may not know who his next boss will be. Currently the Marquette A.D. is an interim figure, as is the university president, a priest with the amusing name of Father Wild.
Then too Marquette had a subpar season, finishing just 17-15, and had no post-season invitations.
The Milwaukee paper reports that Williams had grown distant and unhappy.
Williams bears more than a passing resemblance to Curly Howard of The Three Stooges, but unlike the masterful comedian, is no joke.
His career record at Marquette is 139-69 and until this year had 25, 22, 22, 27 and 26 wins.
He's still a young coach, just 41, and has already proven to be a tremendous recruiter and a guy who is rarely outworked. It's hard to see how the Hokies could have done much better than this.
As far as the ACC goes, the opening weekend wasn't a total disaster but the Triangle teams were nearly wiped out. State and Duke lost first and UNC nearly fell to Providence.
Who bailed them out but James Michael McAdoo. Hitting just barely over 50% from the line, McAdoo hit two with 3.5 seconds left to put the Heels in front 79-77. It was reminiscent of earlier this year, when Amile Jefferson was truly struggling from the line, and hit two absolutely critical shots against Virginia (his free throws improved markedly after that. Jefferson was in the 30s and raised it to 49.4%, which means that in the last half of the season, he was pretty reliable from the line.
And after an admirable first half, Iowa State overcame Central, winning 93-75. Obviously he didn't want to lose, but LeVelle Moton got to get back home to his son, who was burned by a cup of hot coffee, and we're sure that getting back meant a lot to the coach too.
So UNC, Pitt, and Syracuse advance to the round of 32. Virginia did as well, but it looked shaky at halftime: Cliff Ellis was having a bit of an ACC flashback to his Clemson days as Coastal was up 35-30.
Virginia pulled together in the second half and won 70-59.
So here are the next round matchups: Pitt will play Florida, Syracuse gets Dayton, Virginia takes on Memphis and UNC gets Iowa State.
No guarantees in any of those although Syracuse seems the most likely to advance.
Memphis has a history under Josh Pastner of sort of underachieving. It won't shock us if this talented team can't handle Virginia's defense.
Pitt played brilliantly in its opener against Colorado and the Panthers have a chance against Florida, particularly if Florida plays as poorly as it did against Albany.
As for UNC...wow, that's a tough matchup. UNC got back on track by rebounding and playing defense. But Iowa State is a tremendous offensive team.
Marcus Paige, a native of Cedar Rapids, may enjoy a game against the homestate team. UNC as a whole may not. The Heels may have caught a break though as Iowa State's Georges Niang fractured his foot. It's a crippling blow to Iowa State's depth.
Also in the round of 32, Johnny Dawkins and Stanford get a chance to make a major mark if they can upset Stanford. Same goes for Tommy Amaker and Harvard, who will be feted in song and myth if the Crimson can upset Michigan State.
With the first two days completed, Warren Buffett's practical joke becomes clear: it is not possible for anyone to rationally pick a perfect bracket. It's just not. Next year, our advice is to develop an irrational system and stick with it. We have a preliminary idea in mind.
Also in the round of 32: UConn and Villanova get a sentimental Big East reunion and a chance to play the winner of UNC-Iowa State.
Gonzaga escaped the early choke rap it has carried for years and took Oklahoma State down and so will play Arizona.
And the winner of that will play the winner of SDSU vs. NDSU. San Diego State has to be favored but North Dakota State, like Stephen F. Austin, Mercer and Dayton have made this tournament memorable.
Wichita State had no trouble with Cal Poly and will play Kentucky. The Wildcats beat the Wildcats to advance, but Kansas State proved a tough out.
Kentucky has more talent, but as Mercer so convincingly demonstrated, unity trumps greater talent, and Wichita State has far more team unity than Kentucky. Who would seriously argue that?
Incidentally, that whole regional of death stuff? Now it's down to 1, 8, 5,4,11,14,7 and 2.
Or Wichita State, Kentucky, St. Louis, Louisville, Tennessee, Mercer, Texas and Michigan, if you prefer.
Back to coaching: Dan Collins has a column up urging reconciliation for Wake folks following the departure of Jeff Bzdelik. If you are one, you should read it if you haven't.
And finally, Jim Calhoun is allegedly interested in the Boston College opening. Aside from starting over at his age - he's 72 - and his health concerns, at UConn Calhoun showed a distinct indifference to academics and NCAA rules. A lot of NCAA rules are stupid, but you don't get to pick and choose the rules you will and won't live by. He'd be a bad choice for BC.
Minor point: Williams is the third bald coach in a row for Virginia Tech, following Seth Greenberg and James Johnson, although Williams and Johnson presumably shaved their heads.