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2023 NCAA Tournament Notes & More

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament East Regional-Florida Atlantic vs Kansas State
 Mar 25, 2023; New York, NY, USA; Florida Atlantic players dump confetti on head coach Dusty May following their 79-76 victory against the Kansas State Wildcats in an NCAA tournament East Regional final at Madison Square Garden. 
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s notes start in Chapel Capel Hill as Caleb Love has made his long-awaited and expected decision: he’ll be leaving UNC and portaling on down the road to wherever he ends up.

You can say a lot of things about Love. For one thing, he came off as a gunner, a guy who, to borrow Bob Cousy’s great line about Tom Heinsohn, never met a shot he didn’t like.

But most of us don’t know why he did it. The assumption is that he just likes to shoot and has no conscience and maybe that’s true. Or maybe it’s something more nuanced, like he didn’t trust his teammates to do it.

We’ll follow him next year but the main point of all this isn’t Love at all. The main point is how he was treated by UNC fans.

It’s one thing for the rest of us to ridicule him. You expect that from opposing fan bases. But from his own?

That really sucks. After he made his Twitter account private recently, it was obvious that the negativity was getting to him. And now he’s gone.

For UNC, it could be addition by subtraction on the court, but for recruiting?

You know that this is going to come up as other coaches tell UNC targets, “you don’t want to go there. Look what they did to Caleb Love.”

Duke fans, pay attention: once again, Tar Heel fans are being helpful and showing us exactly how not to behave.

UNC has now seen six players leave: Love, Will Shaver, Puff Johnson, Dontrez Styles, Tyler Nickel and Justin McKoy but one more has come in through the portal: Paxson Wojcik. If that name rings a bell, it’s because his dad, Wojcik, played for Navy when David Robinson was there, losing to Duke in the NCAA Tournament, and was later an assistant at UNC under the loathsome Matt Doherty. Things seem more unstable now than they have since Doherty left and former Tar Heel Antawn Jamison has an eye-popping observation about the program:

“The feel for the game is not there. Vince, remember all the open runs that we had? I went to Chapel Hill the first day they were able to play pick-up. They played that day, and I told the team, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow. You’re going to play tomorrow, right?’ They said, ‘Nah, we are scheduled to play next week.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’

“For us, we got a basketball scholarship to play at the University of North Carolina. Vince, we played every single day. We’ve got these guys that can dribble through their legs and do all this other stuff, but the feel for the game, the chemistry, and the competitiveness has taken a step back.”

Kentucky’s Sahvir Wheeler has also entered the transfer portal. It’s easy to understand: he’s already sort of behind fellow Texan Cason Wallace and next season, John Calipari brings in DJ Wagner and former NC State commit Robert Dillingham.

We were glad to see that Texas quickly announced that, after a superb year under trying circumstances, Rodney Terry got the job. He took over after Chris Beard was fired and very nearly got UT to the Final Four. If they had let him go at this point, it would not have gone well.

Here’s a funny story about Dusty Mays, who took the FAU job in 2018 and almost immediately wished he hadn’t. He told CBS’s Matt Norlander than “I thought I just committed career suicide.”

Interestingly, he went from working to Mike White at Florida to working for his brother Brian, the AD at FAU. And of course former Duke AD Kevin White is their dad.

There’s always a lot of national attention when teams make it to the Final Four but one of the sweeter aspects is when you get home and everyone is just thrilled. San Diego State got a dose of that when they got back from dumping Creighton.

If we recall correctly, Brian Dutcher assisted Steve Fisher at Michigan so he has a really good idea of the distractions. So does Jim Larranaga. That’s less true for Danny Hurley, although he can talk to brother Bobby and probably has many times. And we think Dusty May worked for Indiana when Mike Davis took the Hoosiers to the Final Four in 2002 but could be wrong.

Anyway, there are so many distractions for all four teams right now, not least of all overwhelming media attention. Don’t underestimate how difficult that all is. The coaches presumably will be on guard for flatterers and hangers-on, but the players are all young and, in some ways, breathtakingly naive. It’s a really risk.

Speaking of Hurley, he’s had an interesting career with a steady rise. Here’s a nice piece on how he went from St. Benedict’s to the Final Four.

Everyone understands the portal and NIL have changed the game, but we haven’t seen what Rick Pitino might be able to do with it from a major perch.

We’re about to.