More coming later....
And I'm back. Press row again, about an hour from UNC-Clemson tip-off. Kendall Marshall is shooting threes on one end of the floor while the rest of his team warms up on the other end. No sign of Clemson yet. Before we get to Duke, some quick thoughts from yesterday's action here at the ACCT.
*The comeback from Carolina was incredible. All credit to them, but here's my one issue: isn't this supposed to be a neutral tournament? There's no way they could have come back without the crowd in full throat. And credit to the crowd; they did their job. More so than the Duke fans later in the night, I have to admit. But it seems a little crazy to me that the #1 seed in the tournament basically gets to play all home games. As if they're not good enough already, right?
If you think I'm also bitter in advance since I know the powder blues will stick around to cheer against Duke later today, you're correct.
*I'm ashamed to admit that despite being on press row, I only watched bits and pieces of Florida St.-Virginia Tech. Instead, I was focused on my computer, making that bit of weirdness you see above. Still, seemed like a great game! The great part about that finish was that both sets of fans, while small, got increasingly vocal as the game went along. The drama of the last 30 seconds was incredible; the incredible number of reversals of fortune created a sort of chaotic environment. The best moment, of course, came when they showed the replay of the final shot and the deflated Virginia Tech fans realized they might have a chance to win the game. Their energy shot through the roof, and the previously jubilant Seminole fans got awfully quiet. Then they got their spirits back and tried to influence the refs by chanting and shouting. Meanwhile, the teams milled around on the court, in that excited state of uncertainty that can only end well for half of them. You rarely see situations like this, where the tension builds in the absence of action. The explosion that came when they waved off the shot was appropriately clamorous. Good times.
*Clemson looked real strong defensively against Boston College. I expect we'll see a better North Carolina team today, but if they start slow, there will be no miracle comebacks.
*Kendall Marshall. Good. Fucking. Grief. Seriously: good grief. If you want my thoughts on Marshall for the next four years, come back to this post. Good grief.
It's not just the passing and the driving; last night, he hit two huge threes too! It's just not cool. He needs some humility. Just for laughs, here's a 2002 article by Rick Reilly talking about how awful it is that scouts rank the best fifth graders. #1 on the list? You guessed it: ole Butterball.
Okay, on to Duke. What a strange game, right? Nolan was struggling (many people think due to an arm injury sustained against Carolina), but the rest of the team looked fantastic. Some scattered thoughts made to look orderly via a numbering system:
1) Please let this be the turnaround for Kyle. Please please please please.
2) Ryan Kelly needs to be taking two point shots exclusively. He was fantastic in the first half. I thought it was highly questionable for Coach K to not play him in the second half. I get the need to have Plumlee muscle underneath, but not even a couple minutes to capitalize on the new confidence?
3) When Nolan went down, he was right in front of me. The score table in the first row obscured my view, so all I saw was Kyle staring down at something. I figured something was wrong with the floor. When Nolan finally stood up and I realized what was happening, I got a real sick feeling in my stomach. I'm still not sure what's happening later today, but Coach K made it sound in the post-game press conference like he'd be playing very soon. ESPN says probably today.
4) Another interesting little tidbit from the press conference: the first question, strangely, was about Andre Dawkins. The report asked Coach K what he had to do to keep him focused and on track, and what he told the freshmen the ups and downs.
"Anything and everything," Coach K said. "It depends on the day." He talked about how Andre is a very young sophomore, and how it's also important what the players, like Seth Curry, say. It was a pretty honest assessment, and one I definitely didn't expect.
5) Coach K didn't know which toe of Nolan's was hurt. "They told me the second toe," he said, "but do you count from the left, or the right?"
6) After the press conference, I went into the player's lounge where Kyle and Seth were being interviewed. Kyle had this conversation with Viv Bernstein of the New York Times. She seems to be one of their main college basketball writers.
Her: Why...why wasn't the injury to Kyrie Irving devastating?
Him: Um...because we have other players.
Her: Like who?
(Incredulous look from Kyle)
Her: I mean, why...why was Nolan so good this year?
(Another incredulous look)
Her: Would he have had as good a year without Kyrie's injury?
After about another ten seconds of miscommunication, Kyle just said that yes, he would have had as great a year, maybe better.
This is the New York Times, folks. Yikes.
7) Kyle's eyes are even huger in person, and he trains them squarely on whoever speaks to him. I waited til all the reporters were gone, then said "nice game, man."
8) Game time is almost here, so I have to run. Virginia Tech today. My prediction is that after all the energy expended yesterday, we'll be looking at a depleted team who can't really compete with us. Revenge will be sweet. Of course, it's complicated by Nolan's status. In any case, I'll be on twitter for game time if they don't finally smarten up and kick me off press row.