We made it. For the first time since the 1997-1998 season, the 'Noles made it back to the big dance earning a 5 seed in the East Region.
It's not going to be easy folks as the Noles reside in the same region as Pitt and Duke. However, to face those teams, we need to get the heck out of Boise
Inside are my initial thoughts on our seed and the tournament in general. The game specifics of our match up will be posted later in the week as the game approaches.
Coach, what do you think about the Noles' chances?
Photo from daylife.com
Before I get into the bracket, congrats to our Noles on making it to their first ever ACC Championship game. As you may know, the ACC does not hand out hardware for the regular season. The ACC Champion is determined in the tournament. This is a young team that fought through some early frustrations to become one of the best defensive teams in the league and an absolute sleeper in the tournament.
And a couple of thoughts on the Duke game. I won't belabor the details because it's over and we need to move on. But, I found these next two photos to be hilarious:
Photos from daylife.com
Why does he look so scared? He's the one throwing the elbow in the second picture.
Here are the final stats:
As predicted, this was a grind it out low paced defense heavy game. We actually had one of our better offensive outings statistically speaking. Our efficiency was 13 points higher than our season average. We actually shot the ball better than Duke. The problem was that they got extremely hot from the 3 point line early in the first half when we couldn't buy a basket. That stretch put the game squarely in the control of Duke.
Look at how our point total looks like a stair case; it's reminiscent of games earlier this year when we went flat. At the end of the year, many of our games looked like nice gentle slopes without any dead spots. Going cold when Duke couldn't miss, and they were heaving up shots, put us in a bad position. Plus, Solomon Alabi only played 19 minutes. He was 3 for 8 from the floor. He had 8 possessions and scored on 4 of them. His FT Rate % was a ridiculous 62%. I hope that Hamilton was saving the big guy's legs for this week. Duke had no answer for him in the second half, when the essentially fouled him every time down the court. I admit our guys looked tired at times today, having difficult times fighting through their tough (cough illegal) screens. Still, I am so happy we made it. I am so happy no one was seriously injured. This probably wasn't such a bad thing for our young team. Hamilton put it well when he said: “It’s important to feel that pain. I think that it’s a positive when youngsters can be disappointed. The most important thing is how we’re going to respond to it.” And Ryan Reid had this to say: " We wanted it. We were trying to win a championship. And we've just got to take the pain we're feeling right now and take it out in the tournament. We have to remember this feeling." Yup...time to move on.
We made it and we absolutely deserved to do so. This was an interesting year for the NCAA selection committee, only going with 4 teams from the non-power conferences, allowing teams like Michigan and Arizona to sneak in. Granted, Arizona might go further than many of you think, so maybe they did deserve to get in?
I think the selection committee put us at the correct seed; I just think they put us in the wrong region. Michael Slive, the Selection Committee Chair, said that the committee was making decisions until lunch time, which based on the fact Mississippi St. snuck into the tournament after winning the SEC Championship game is probably not true. By the way, Slive is the Commissioner of the SEC.
The Noles are the 5 seed in the East Regional and will play Wisconsin, who went 19-12 overall and 10-8 in the Big Ten/Eleven/Twelve, in the late game Friday in the beautiful city of Boise, Idaho. Yup, that's right...Boise. If we had been the 5 in either the South of the West regional, we would have made our way to Portland, which is a significantly easier trip and it's not at elevation, a reasonable 2,704 feet above sea level. If and only if, the selection comiittee could have been nice to us, they would have put us in the Midwest regional and we would have been playing in Miami. Whose going to Miami you ask? Utah. Now, would Utah rather travel all the way to South Beach or stay closer to home playing in Portland or Boise. Honestly, I don't know how the selection committe decides specifically who goes where, but you would think they would pay attention to those details.
You would also hope that they would notice that we are in the same bracket as Duke and Pittsburgh. Uhm...we already played Pitt once and have played Duke 3 times. If we go on a run, we could play Duke in the Elite 8. As much as I would love to play Duke on a neutral court with neutral referees (Is that possible with Duke?), do I really want to see the Dukies again? No.
So who are the other 5 seeds:
Utah: The Utes went 24-9 overall with a 12-4 record in the Mountain West, which is ranked 7th overall by Pomeroy. They are actualy ranked 25th overall in the Pomeroy rankings and had been popping in and out of the major media polls all season long. Their schedule ranked 34th overall and included wins over Gonzaga, LSU, BYU, New Mexico, San Diego St (who got the short end of the stick tonight) and they won the Montain West Conference tournament, beating TCU, Wyoming and San Diego St. They lost to Southwest Baptist, Idaho St, California, Oklahoma, Utah St., SDSU, UNLV, BYU and New Mexico. Their offense ranks 52nd in the nation and their defense is 21st. They do not generate any turnovers nor do they like to rebound on the offensive end. They play mainly man defense and are a big experienced team, ranking 6th in effective height and 13th in experience. Luke Nevill, a 7'2 senior, is their best player. But how many 7 footers are there in the Mountain West? (If I had time I would look it up for you) So, Utah has a reasonable resume. Haven't seen them play...
Purdue: Congrats to Purdue, they just won the Big Ten/Eleven/Twelve Tournament. They finished 25-9 overall and 11-7 in conference play. Their offense is 48th overall and their defense is 5th. They force teams into bad shots with a very tough pressure defense. This is an athletic team that is 47th in effective height but lacks experience. They have big wins over Boston College, Davidson, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan St and Ohio St. They beat Penn St, Illinois and OSU to win the Big Ten Tourney. Their losses include and overtime loss to Oklahoma, Duke, Illinois x2, Penn St, OSU, Michigan, Northwestern and MSU.Their schedule ranked 47th overall. Pretty good resume. Now that this team is healthy, watch out. I have seen them play and this is a good basketball team.
Illinois: The fighting Illini finished 3rd in the Big Ten, going 25-9 overall and 11-7 in conference play. They rank 97th on offense and 4th on defense in the Pomeroy standings. They play a slow temp game with only 62 possessions per game...that's lower than us. If you recall, this is the team that lost 38-33 to Penn St, who didn't even make the tournament. They rank 23rd overall in the Pomeroy standings. Their schedule was ranked 40th in the nation. They had big wins over Missouri, Purdue x 2, Wisconsin and Tulsa. They lost to the likes of Clemson, Michigan, Michigan St, Minnesota, Wisco, PSU x 2 and MSU. They lost to Purdue 66-56 in the Big Ten Tourney. This team cannot get to the free throw line, ranking as one of the worst teams in the country. They shoot the ball...well. They rebound...not so well. But, they limit your ability to take good shots as they play very aggressive defense. They also pass the ball extremely well on defense, ranking 1st in the country in assists per field goal made. They are big, ranking 12th in effective height. They best offensive player is Demetri McCamey a 6'3 Sophomore. I have seen this team play. Living in Illini nation, their fans are not happy with their team this year as they never have any clue as to which team will show up.
Of the three, I really think Purdue is the best. So the question is, did we get placed in the right bracket? Well, Miami would be nice, but they put Wake as the four seed there and I doubt they would want an ACC match up in the second round. Nor would I want to face Wake that early in the tournament. By putting Wake at the four, that eliminates the Midwest regional. This would have been ideal geographically. However, if everything else was kept the same and the seeds won out, we would have to play Arizona, then Wake then Louisville then Michigan St to get to a Final Four.
If we were placed in the west, we would start out against University of Northern Iowa. Followed by a match up with Washington, the Connecticut then Memphis. Hmmmm....
If they placed us in the South, we would face Western Kentucky (already beat them...so they would never put us here against WKU) then Gonzaga, North Carolina and Oklahoma.
Currently, to make it to the Final Four (not saying this is going to happen) we face Wisconsin, Xavier, Pitt then Duke.
Which scenario do you like the best? Even though I hate the fact that we are going to Boise, Idaho, I really think this is the best bracket for us, despite the potential rematches. It is to our advantage to play those teams again.
What are your thoughts?
I think the teams to look out for in the tournament, aside from the #1 seeds are: Memphis (duh), West Virginia, Arizona, Purdue, Missouri, VCU, Gonzaga and Syracuse. There are some great early round match ups. Look for a UCLA-Villanova game, ASU-Syracuse, Oklahoma-Clemson, Missouri-Marquette, Utah-Wake Forest or Arizona-Wake Forest, Kansas-West Virginia (should be an amazing game). There may not be a lot of "Cinderella" teams in the tournament but there will be some great basketball played between major programs.
Remember to sign up for the Tomahawk Nation Tournament Challenge.
Also, I would like to ask all of you to contribute to the Tournament Game Previews. What do I mean...pick a game that interests you and write about it. Call your dibs here so there is no overlap and email me your thoughts. I'll put together a larger post with all of your reflections. Doesn't have to be anything major...maybe a sentence or two. If you get them to me by Wednesday evening I'll put the post up.
Sorry everyone, but I get dibs on the FSU-Wisconsin game.