After Duke’s taut win over Miami, Clemson and Virginia took the court for the 9:30 game and we expected to see a powerful defensive tussle.
And we did - from Virginia.
Clemson could not stop the ‘Hoos, though, as the Cavs just picked the Tigers apart in the lane, winning 76-56. Virginia hit 15 shots in the paint. Senior Jayden Gardner, a native of Wake Forest, shot 10-15, almost all of it coming in the lane.
What did surprise us a bit is that Virginia also missed eight shots in the lane and a handful of others just outside of it.
The Cavs got reasonable production from Francisco Caffaro and Kadin Shedrick, who took over the post in the absence of Ben Vander Plas, who broke his hand this week. The duo combined for 12 points and nine rebounds to help make up for his absence.
The real mystery is why Clemson’s D broke down so badly. Brad Brownell is an outstanding defensive coach and he has an experienced team that just blew the doors off of NC State on Thursday. We didn’t foresee a 20 point win by the Cavs, but that’s what we got.
So now we have a finals with Duke and Virginia. The Blue Devils seem to be peaking at the right time. We talk about them more in our normal game preview.
In other news, Syracuse finally got around to doing a decent presser with Jim Boeheim and it was love all around. If the narrative is to be believed, Boeheim just couldn’t quite talk about retirement after the Wake Forest loss, though he apparently did discuss it with his team. One recruit also said that he was fully aware of the plans and had been for some time and wasn’t going anywhere else. That guy is going to be popular in the Dome.
Boeheim, famously caustic, actually got a bit emotional. He talked about his love of Syracuse and how he looked forward to joining the fans in the stands. It was kind of sweet, really, which is something Mrs. Boeheim might see in her husband but the broader world rarely does.
Not so sweet: Georgia Tech fired Josh Pastner. That was probably inevitable, but Tech’s sharp late-season improvement should have given the university some pause. But he’s had plenty of time to turn it around and didn’t get it done, so by the standards of the sport, of course he had to go.
The question for Georgia Tech now is obviously who’s next. We’ll make our standard suggestion: who in their right mind wouldn’t make a run at Ben McCollum? His record at Northwest Missouri State is simply staggering. Let’s run the basics again: since 2016-17 his record is 219-14 and Northwest Missouri State has finished first in its conference every year. So far this year, the Bearcats are 26-2. His career record is 360-85 and that works out to .809. Who else is doing that?
Did we mention four national championships in the last six years? Keeping in mind that one of them was a Covid year?
Make the call, Tech.
Assuming he isn’t interested or Tech is too stupid to ask, one guy they are almost required to call is Charleston’s Pat Kelsey.
A former Skip Prosser assistant at Wake Forest, Kelsey knows the league and he’s done very well. He had a losing record at Wofford but then eight straight winning seasons. He even did well during Covid season, going 24-10.
Kelsey moved over to Charleston after Earl Grant took the BC job. Last year was average for a new guy as the Cougars finished 17-15.
Kelsey is 31-3 so far, which is just spectacular. And Wofford is off to the NCAA Tournament with the CAA’s auto bid. Complicating factor: Kelsey just signed a five-year extension. Doesn’t much matter generally, but we’ll see.
Another possible name is Amir Abdur-Rahim. If the name rings a bell it’s because his brother Shareef Abdur-Rahim played in the NBA (trivia: Adbur-Rahim comes from a big family: he has 12 siblings).
When Abdur-Rahim took the Kennesaw State job, his first year, the Owls finished 1-28.
This year, they’re 26-8. He’s done a superb job building that program (the record has improved every year) and as a native of Atlanta, he should be able to recruit well, something the uber optimist Pastner never managed.
You may have heard this as well. Brad Brownell was told that this year, it was NCAA or bust for his program. Look, Clemson is a tournament team. If they are left out, it’s just wrong and we hope he doesn’t lose his job over that. It’d serve Clemson right if the Tigers made the field and Brownell did well and boogied on out of town. He’s a quality coach who has never gotten the respect he deserves in Tiger Town.
We also heard mention of Pitt’s Jeff Capel being mentioned for the Georgetown job that opened up Friday when Patrick Ewing was fired. Kind of makes sense: gets him out of a potential return to the hot seat next season when a lot of players will leave and it’s a better basketball job than Pitt. We could see it, but Georgetown and St. John’s, where former Duke assistant AD Mike Cragg just fired Mike Anderson after four years, look to be in a dogfight to land Rick Pitino.
If Georgetown wins that, would Cragg go to the Brotherhood well and hire Capel? It might not be a popular hire in the city, but Cragg knows Capel very well. We could see that, too.