Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tigers, Seth's Pop, Duke Funk, Charlotte thoughts, Hickson Tryout

If you aren't a UNC or Duke fan, you've got to love this Clemson Tigers team. Good kids, well respected coach, fun style of play, and a long history of futility to overcome. It all sounds like the lead-in to a great story. Last year that great story turned very sour. This year is different. They are in the ACC finals for the first time in 46 years and are going to the NCAAs for the first time since Rick Barnes (is that right?). The key to today's game may be Ty Lawson's ankle, which has seen too much action so far.

Tyler's big shot to beat VaTech yesterday did more than solidify him as national player of the year, it also likely popped Seth Greenberg's bubble hopes. I'm sure there is a name for the situation where two contradictory arguments are both right. This is one of those situations. How can the ACC, generally recognized as either the best or 2nd best conference in the country, get only 4 teams in the NCAA? How can the Big10 and the SEC, both way down this year get more? They can't right?. But, when you look at the credentials of VaTech, how can they possibly get in. Seriously, the best thing on their resume is following a 39pt loss in Chapel Hill, with an impressive 2pt loss to Carolina in Charlotte. Who knows, anything can happen this year. This is the weakest list of bubble teams we've seen possibly ever. It may be that Georgia is playing for that last bubble spot today. I'll predict if GA loses, either VaTech or Arizona State gets in. If GA wins, both are staying home.

Duke does not look good, and hasn't really in weeks. There are some nagging little injuries, but that isn't the issue. It may be that the ACC teams have finally figured out how to defend the postless offense. It may just be a bad shooting streak and they'll shoot themselves back into some confidence with an easy win in the opening round. One thing that struck me is the number of players K is playing. Coming down to the end of some seasons, I and other fans have tended to blame Duke slumps on players being tired because K doesn't play enough people, and by the end of the season they are just too fatigued. We've always begged him to play a deeper bench. This year he's consistently been able to go 10 deep and hasn't done his usual tightening of the rotation. Guess what, they still look a little burned out. Moral of the story: There is no magic formula to winning, and fans don't know what they are talking about.

Charlotte has been an interesting venue for the tournament. Here are some random thoughts:

  • Like Tampa, and Atlanta for that matter, it is nice to have many restaurants and bars within easy walking distance. Parking was a bit of a pain, and the scene isn't great for tailgating like Gboro is.
  • Unlike Tampa, with the FanFest 3 blocks away, and no visible signs pointing you to it, I have to imagine FanFast traffic has been way down.
  • Upstairs seats are worse than they are in Gboro, mainly because the luxury box setup takes up so much vertical space, pushing the upper deck higher.
  • Ticket Prices have gone through the roof. Tampa of course was going to have cheap tickets, but Charlotte pricing has been way above even Greensboro. Some factors include:
    -A lot of people live and work near downtown and dropped by just to see if they could get in
    -UNC is #1, and a ton of UNC grads work and live in Charlotte, a bunch of them have big $$'s.
    -Clemson fans really showed up on Saturday.
    I didn't stick around for the finals today, but unless you got lucky, going rate for upstairs ticket for the semi's was over $200, with scalpers openly asking for $250 for very bad seats.

Being a typical state fan, it takes a long time to let go of a bad loss. Being a typical blogger, more often than doing any real reporting, I'll take a theory and just tell people about it. Thursdays NC State loss had the appearance of being an NBA audition for JJ Hickson. I have no inside knowledge of whether JJ is playing on going pro. But, the way Sidney Lowe called the offense made it appear that the main thing he cared about for that game wasn't winning, but was making sure JJ made an impression that would optimize his draft position. So, taking a walk through my conspiratorial mind for a moment, if you were Sidney Lowe and you were given 2 facts:
  • JJ Hickson is going pro at the end of this season
  • This NC State team is not going to win enough games in Charlotte to go anywhere.
If given those two facts, could you, in your mind come to the conclusion that the best thing you could do for one of your kids, and in the long run, your program, is to do whatever you could to make sure he is a 1st round pick? Think about it, having a one-and-done 1st round pick might impress some other recruit who has a similar path in mind. Could that be what we witnessed?

Hickson played 33 minutes, had 14 shot attempts, 15 free-throw attempts, and 27 points.

Gavin Grant, the leader of the team in every way for the past 2 years played 13 minutes, 3 shot attempts, 2 free-throw attempts, and 2 pts.