March is here and madness is in the air as college basketball winds the regular season down heading into championship week. Just in my neck of the woods a high school player hit a half court shot in overtime to march on to the next round of the state playoffs. As the regular season closes we look at four story lines and how they will play out in the following weeks.
One: North Carolina has won four of five using a smaller lineup, but even in the win versus Clemson Devin Booker had 25 points and 13 rebounds. The Tar heels offset the tigers inside game forcing turnovers and hitting shots from outside forcing the Heels to Live and Die by the three. Not many teams historically advance very far using this method in the NCAA tournament. Even Duke's last championship run was anchored with Brian Zubek controlling the middle. The Tar Heels will have to continue out gunning teams to survive and move on.
Two: Ryan Kelly returned for Duke and dropped 36 points on the Hurricanes. Kelly is the key for Duke making a deep run in the tournament as we saw how important he was in a rematch with Miami. Kelly was a bad match up for Miami, but it will be interesting how next week plays out PJ Hairston and Kelly likely covering each other. Can Kelly unlike CJ Leslie use his size to control that match up or will Hairston's ability to take Kelly off the bounce put too much pressure on his recovering injury? This story is one of the fun match ups to watch in college basketball.
Three: Miami is a good team however they are just not a great team that the ACC has produced in the past. The Hurricanes are built with veteran leadership as Florida State was last season yet like the Seminoles I never felt confident in Miami making a deep NCAA run. With the right match up anything can happen and the ACC tournament will be another test to see if they can handle the expectations.
Four: Dean Smith's birthday was this past week and since he was the architect of the four corners offense I would like provide a short encounter with Coach to demonstrate how much of a better person he was than a basketball coach. In my third year working as a statistician I had very little interaction with Coach Smith except the polite hello to him if i saw him in the hallway. On his birthday in 1997 I had to run an errand up to the basketball office where I ran into Coach smith in the stairwell. I know Coach recognized me, but when I told him Happy Birthday Coach he stopped me saying "Matt thank you", and he stopped to ask me a few questions about school." That may be trivial to some reading this however for this young kid it showed that it really did not matter who you were Coach smith took time to know the people around the program. To provide you with a little background information about 25 students attempted to be JV managers which was the most non glamorous position in the Smith Center. Coach smith was always kind and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of Carolina basketball.
Tune into the MandMsportshow this Saturday at 11:00 AM as we will be joined by guest Alye who is a recruiting specialist at Athletes for College.