Those living in the immediate vicinity of the Greensboro Coliseum could be forgiven for calling the authorities with noise complaints. In fact, they may have been justified. Not for any shenanigans happening in the Coliseum parking lots, mind you, but for the energy level inside the building generated by fans watching elite-level hoops. In all, the din emitted from the faithful made Friday a day to remember.
Friday was also a learning experience for observers both casual and professional.
Lesson One: The old "Don't blow the whistle until the shot falls in/out" move from officials is, apparently, a thing again. We saw it a couple of times on Friday, the most egregious one in the N.C. State game. No matter when it occurs, it's terrible to watch. If it's a foul, it's a foul. Blow the whistle. Do better.
Lesson Two: T.J. Warren can do more than score. His defensive effort against Syracuse's C.J. Fair was phenomenal, holding the league's seventh-leading scorer (16 points/game) to nine points. Despite coach Jim Boeheim's assertion that Fair got the open looks he normally gets, one has to credit Warren for a remarkable job on D. That, and the fact Warren also went for 28 points. That always helps.
Lesson Three: Don't ask losing head coaches their opinion of a) the ACC's decision to play the 2017 tourney in Brooklyn or b) the expanded ACC and the growth of the league in 2013-14. Just don't. More on that later.
Virginia and Florida State got us started around noon, and despite unforgettable performances from both the FSU pep band and the unrivaled FSU Golden Girls, the Seminoles couldn't stop Joe Harris (20 points) and Anthony Gill (16 points) from ending the 'Noles stay, 64-51. Sadly, Virginia's win also ends the FSU support squads' time in Greensboro. A plea to pass the hat for funding their stay through the weekend went unanswered. Virginia moved on to the semifinals, where they will face perennial favorite North Car ...
North Carolina became the first team to make television networks queasy, getting absolutely run out of the gym for around 35 minutes before finding the sense of urgency their coach likes to talk about so much. The Heels were out-rebounded 43-35, which is normally their specialty. Once North Carolina started pressing, the Panthers flinched- and then they panicked.
Frankly, this wouldn't have been much of a game had Pittsburgh wanted to hit some free throws. Like Fox Sports Carolinas' Lauren Brownlow said on press row, "It's like they're saying, 'No thanks. We're good.'" At any rate, Pittsburgh held on, 80-75, to advance while tournament organizers began fretting over the coming Syracuse/N.C. State contest.
Say what you want about how you thought N.C. State would give Syracuse a good game, but common sense should have told you that Syracuse's recent "slump" came while Jerami Grant was out with an injury. With him back, and the Orange fighting for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament, it was almost certain that the Orange would roll in their first appearance in Greensboro.
Except the Wolfpack didn't care about any of that. T.J. Warren scored at will and N.C. State looked like the more poised team as the game came down to the final minutes. Syracuse shot 32.7 percent from the floor on Friday, including missing their last six shots - all on the same possession. State now has about 15 minutes to relish this win before coach Mark Gottfried and company get them ready for another trip to the semis.
With television executives and tournament officials breathing easier after being assured of a large Wolfpack Nation presence in Greensboro Saturday, attention turned to the last game of the evening: Duke versus Clemson. All was going well for the Devils, despite a rather ho-hum effort from Coach K's charges. The Blue Devils led by as many as 13 in the second half before inexplicably finding themselves down one after a Rod Hall (13 points) layup with nine seconds remaining.
Duke's Rodney Hood (17 points) was fouled on the ensuing possession on a controversial whistle when it looked like he simply stumbled. He made both, and Duke stripped Hall on his way to the rim as time expired. Tigers fans wanted a whistle, but heard nothing but the cheers of the throng of Duke supporters. The 63-62 finish means that tomorrow evening's second semifinal will feature a noisy, full house - music to the ears of the ACC.
Quote of the day:
A reporter from Syracuse's Daily Orange had spent the day asking coaches their thoughts on moving the tournament to Brooklyn, NY a few years from now. Each coach gave an answer. So did North Carolina's Roy Williams.
"Frankly, my dear. I know that’s an improper answer but, I mean, we just got our butts kicked. And we got to get ready for the NCAA Tournament. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a blankety blank where the hell they put it. If they put it in Siberia, I’m going to try to go play. If they put it in Owen High School in Black Mountain, Swannanoa Valley, I’m going to try our best to go out and play. I know that’s not the answer you wanted but you got to remember I’m an old guy up here and we just our butts kicked."
Best of the Twitter Machine:
This is a classic trap game in which UNC got caught looking ahead to the 2017 #ACCTourney in Brooklyn.— Bart (@bart_smith) March 14, 2014
/standing ovation RT @TheBenSwain: Rodney Hood is reenacting Syracuse's last possession into a trash can behind the bench.— Owen Good (@owengood) March 15, 2014