Just a few days before Selection Sunday, baby! A few results from Thursday affected teams on the bubble. Arkansas saw its chances bursted by Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament. Now the Commodores face Kentucky, though I believe the ‘Cats are in after beating Florida in the regular season finale. California lost to Utah in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. Now the Golden Bears will sweat a little come Sunday. I am excited to be calling the ACC tournament this weekend in Greensboro. Will we see Duke-Carolina 3? Can Oliver Hanlan come close to his 41 point performance from Tuesday? His Eagles face top seeded Miami this afternoon. It should be awesome this weekend!
Duke sent a message loud and clear on Saturday. The Blue Devils are ready for the ACC tournament and the big dance. The top three seeds for the ACC tournament were already set, with Miami as #1, Duke #2 and North Carolina #3. The Blue Devils set out to slow the momentum of the streaking Tar Heels, and that is what happened with a 14-0 run to start the game. I was hoping to see a classic Carolina-Duke showdown; instead it was blowout city, baby! There is one number which distinguishes the Dukies right now – 18-0. That is their record with Ryan Kelly in the lineup. What is rare about Mike Krzyzewski’s team is three senior stars – Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry. Very few teams, in this day and age of the one and done, can have three seniors providing the leadership and scoring ability of that trio. The return of Kelly has made a huge difference. He helps Duke spread out the court, keeping opponents guessing. You cannot just concentrate on Plumlee inside or Curry outside. That third threat on offense makes the Blue Devils a different team. Now the stage is set for an interesting ACC tournament down in Greensboro. I cannot wait to get down there to call the semifinals and finals. Will we see another Duke-Carolina battle in the semis?
It was the Ryan Kelly show at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday. When I arrived to call the game, I figured Kelly would play a few minutes. I don’t think anyone expected the performance that Duke received from the senior. Instead of a cameo role, he played 32 minutes and had a career high 36 points in a big win over Miami. Remember, he was out the first time in a 90-63 loss in Coral Gables. It was his first game back since Jan. 8th and he came out on fire. He hit trifectas and spread out the Miami defense. Kelly’s presence meant the Hurricane defense could not concentrate soley on Miles Plumlee inside. Suddenly there were difference angles open and passing lanes which helped the Blue Devils offense. Why was the performance amazing? Kelly has hardly practiced, yet he came out and made a huge difference on both ends of the court. He is a super outside shooter for a guy his size. Kelly is a major factor on defense, can rebound, pass and play hard. The scene at Cameron Indoor Stadium was so intense. The ovation Kelly received when he was introduced as part of the starting lineup was incredible. Duke does not lose back to back ACC games often. The last time it happened was 2009. Coming off a loss to Virginia, there was a sense of urgency and Mike Krzyzewski’s team came through. Give Miami a lot of credit. You knew that Jim Larranaga’s team would not go away. They fought hard and had a shot to tie the game with a final three point attempt. It clanged off the iron and the Dukies as well as the Cameron Crazies were celebrating. I feel the ACC will be well represented by Duke and Miami come tournament time.
It is hard to believe that it is 20 years since Jimmy Valvano made that courageous speech at the ESPY awards in New York City. The words are with us forever…Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up! That was also the night that the V Foundation for Cancer Research was started. While some may say Valvano’s legacy came when he cut down the nets in Albuquerque in 1983 as NC State won the national championship, I believe Jimmy V’s legacy has been the battle against that dreaded disease, cancer. I know Jimmy is proud of the efforts of the V Foundation, of his friends like John Saunders, Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Lloyd and others, people who have worked so hard over the years. The V Foundation has raised over $120 million to battle cancer with research grants that have made a difference. That is why I am so passionate about beating cancer and raising money for the V Foundation. I will keep trying my best in the effort to beat cancer. Jimmy V said it so eloquently 20 years ago. If you want to help, please call 1-800-4-JIMMYV. The life you help save may be that of a friend or family member. We must rid the world of that C word. Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up!
Kentucky got a must win over Missouri at Rupp Arena Saturday night. The fans of Big Blue Nation, the most passionate ones in college basketball, had reason to celebrate. The Wildcats needed a statement win to add to their resume. Going into the game, the best victories to date this season came against Maryland and Mississippi. The ‘Cats played more aggressively. Down the stretch, Kentucky came up big on the foul line to put the game away in overtime. Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress were more aggressive. In the second half, Archie Goodwin came through after being held scoreless in the first half. John Calipari has a very young squad which is still adjusting to the loss of Nerlens Noel to a season ending knee injury. This was a great win for the Wildcat resume, but the VBDI tells me there is still a lot of basketball to be played. For now, Big Blue Nation can celebrate a key victory.
I want to thank the people at Sarasota Mercedes for their generosity, as we had over 250 people attend the event on behalf of the V Foundation. I can’t thank Mary Kenealy and her team for the phenomenal job they did in helping us raise over $15,000. I also want to send a special thank you to Lary Wade for selling raffle tickets. It was great to have in attendance friends and people who have been so successful like Bob and Billie Delaney, Nick Bollettieri, John and Pam Valvano Strasser, Tom Niedenfuer and Judy Landers. I can’t thank Nick Bollettieri for his introduction and Bob Delaney for handling the emcee. Also a big thank you to John Saputo and Gold Coast Eagle Distributing for providing all the Budweiser products. Thank you to Ernie Withers, General Manager of Sarasota Mercedes, for providing the showroom and making it happen for us.
I had a blast calling the Indiana-Michigan State game with Magic Johnson and Mike Tirico Tuesday night. I loved the passion and fire of both Tom Crean and Tom Izzo. Both guys really wanted this one badly. Indiana had not won at East Lansing since 1991. That was until Victor Oladipo took over on both ends of the court. He led the Hoosiers to the winner’s circle and first place in the Big Ten. I felt that that situation where Derrick Nix appeared to nail Cody Zeller with an elbow or forearm was a big turning point, taking momentum from Michigan State. No flagrant foul was called, which I could not believe. It still took something from the home team. It was a wild, physical game. It was exciting and intense. I believe both the Hoosiers and Spartans can make serious run in the big dance. On Tuesday, Indiana was just a little bit better.
Wednesday night was a typical North Carolina-Duke battle. There is a reason why this is the best rivalry in all of college sports. These two schools are separated by just eight miles. They have dominated the ACC over the years, combining for nine national championships. They currently have a total of 35 players in the NBA. Both coaches – Coach K and Roy Williams – are in the Hall of Fame. When these two teams meet, forget about the records. You will see all the passion and emotion which makes college basketball oh so special. This time around, you can break down the game by one simple fact. Down the stretch, the Dukies made free throws and the Tar Heels struggled from the foul line. Coach K is now 38-37 against Carolina. That shows how close this series is. The Tar Heels fought hard, led at halftime, but the Blue Devils got to the winner’s circle because of foul shooting. I cannot wait for the rematch, baby!
I was absolutely heartbroken with the news that Kentucky big man, Nerlens Noel, will be out for the rest of the season. He suffered a torn ACL last night against Florida. The injury occurred on a hustle play, trying to stop a Gator from getting a layup. Noel is a quality kid. I spoke to him last year when he was in high school, and also this year. It is a shame that he is done for the season. Kentucky will have to get more out of Willie Cauley-Stein. Others will also have to step up. I still believe that John Calipari’s team will win enough games to make it to the big dance. There are not that many tough games left on the schedule, but the Wildcats will have to make adjustments with Noel out of the lineup.
Are you serious? The Louisville/Notre Dame game on Saturday night was unbelievable. To be honest, it was tucked away, start up the bus, Rick Pitino and Louisville leaving South Bend with a W. Then it was the Jerian Grant show. He had 12 points in less than a minute to rally the Irish. Notre Dame had a bunch of kids that played with so much passion and emotion. It was one overtime after another, and then absolute pandemonium as the Irish won in five OT’s! Garrick Sherman, who came off the bench in overtime and finished with 17 points and six boards, was sensational. Eric Atkins played 60 of the game’s 65 minutes. Pat Connaughton played 56 minutes despite an ankle injury. I really believe this was the biggest win for Mike Brey at Notre Dame.