Final Four Bound?
Well, our two remaining teams are doing the ACC proud as they carry the conference banner onto the Elite 8. On a night when no team wanted to lay claim as a favorite to play in the championship next Monday night we definitely witnessed four examples of the 'survive and advance' theory that coaches like to propagate throughout the tournament. Each of the four survivors looked very beatable at numerous times throughout each game, though we'll give some credit to the four losers who showed grit and determination for the undermanned teams (UCLA, Georgetown, and Cincy) and a remarkable level of 'never say die' for UK. USC-UK almost upheld a [self developed] adage I've held for a long time which is "Don't get a big lead early on a team that's capable of beating you" ... it's amazing how often that situation results in a tremendous comeback. As an aside, I hope Tar heels and Deacs were watching last night as there was definitely a lesson in it for them both. Ok, we're just two games away from a Duke-Maryland rematch and ACC Man is going to try and explain why he thinks it just might happen.
Duke-USC: Good news for Devils was not only return of Boozer, but how well he played - likely one of his best games of the year from an all around perspective and certainly showed no ill effects from foot injury. Helped make Gadzuric a relative non-factor which was certainly one of the underlying keys to victory. However, as I've alluded to on several occasions, Jason Williams is definitely the straw that stirs the Devils drink. When he was off Bruins played Duke on a very even level ... and when he got hot midway thru second half Duke extended lead to a comfortable margin. Hopefully his ankle, which still seems bothersome at times, will not end up being Duke's Achilles heel. Trojans showed they are capable of playing very good basketball and that their big men are athletic and possess a good shooting touch even to 3 point range. They also showed great fortitude in never relinguishing [big] lead UK had cut to 1 relatively early in second half. However, ACC Man is very suspect of a team that can't hold a lead well and needs incredible luck (BC player taking 2 ptr when down 3 in final seconds ... and UK fouling USC's best free throw shooter 3 times in final minute last night) to hang on for victories. Gotta believe the ride is over for Trojans ... their big men will definitely pose match-up problems for Devils, but Williams can dominate Granville (who must stay out of foul trouble for SC to have any chance), help defense and likely press will give SC fits .. and highly unlikely Devils will shoot as poorly (25.8%) from three point range as they did last night. So, ACC Man sees Duke gaining a relatively easy victory and a spot in the Final 4.
Maryland-Stanford: Terps looked like they were swatting a giant mosquito that just wouldn't go away in game with Hoyas. Good news [for Terps] is that Lonnie Baxter had dominating performance against Hoya's strong front line and that they got major contributions from an ever improving bench (Terps may be even better next year!). Bad news is "Where are you Terence Morris"? His disappearing act may have helped team chemistry in the overall, but his lack of offensive output could spell disaster against Cardinal who really should have a difficult time matching up against him. Stanford is looking more vulnerable with each passing game. Maybe they're feeling pressure of favorite's role or maybe their lack of athleticism is being exposed more and more by athletic teams. Also, Jacobsen walks a fine line between being a go to guy and a guy who takes too many shots for the good of the overall offense (ala Joseph Forte). Cardinal overall depth gives Montgomery many options, but Terps one of few teams who can match depth. ACC Man expects a very close and entertaining game which may be decided by which team is able to dictate tempo - game around 70, probably Cardinal .. around 80, Terps to Minneapolis.
Game Tidbits ... Did You Notice
- What was Lavin thinking keeping Kapono in at end of first half with 3 fouls (he picked up 4th with less than a minute left) .. this blunder was so obvious even Billy Packer picked up on it. Even though Kopono amazingly never fouled out, his contact avoidance in second half was instrumental in several Duke baskets. - Don't think I've ever seen a game (Duke-UCLA) where so many shots rimmed around the basket and came back out again .. counted a dozen at one point. - CBS announcer (forget who) who blamed UK's slow start on fact that Pitino had signed with Louisville ... that's a stretch if ever I've heard one.
Ok, good luck to the ACC teams Saturday. Tonight's games promise to be very competitive so sit back and enjoy. We'll recap the weekend action next week and review the Final 4.
See You Soon
- ACC Man