Welcome to the latest edition of Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis. Here, we go from several stories with the ACC to the Big East and Big 12, and it’s not just matters on the court that are in the news.
In fact, after noting that Bryant clinched a Northeast Conference Tournament berth and Belmont head coach Rick Byrd picking up his 750th career win (and on the night that Belmont also secured the Ohio Valley Conference outright regular season title and top seed in the conference tournament), we talk about a story that was developing, then broke earlier on Thursday. NC State announced that Mark Gottfried would finish this season, then not return as the head coach next season.
Gottfried had a good run early on in Raleigh, but the past two seasons have been a different story. They didn’t have a great off-season last year, with a lot of player turnover (and nearly watching another key player transfer as well), but they entered this year with plenty of talent. They have looked very good at times, like when they went to Duke and won, but all too often they hve looked like classic underachievers.
In talking about the job, we also note that athletic director Debbie Yow is in a bit of a conundrum, in that there is much to recommend the job (being in the ACC, being in Raleigh), but also some drawbacks (sky-high expectations that they can consistently beat Duke and North Carolina).
We then talk about how Virginia is struggling all of a sudden, while they were right in the middle of two noteworthy games of late – a double-overtime thriller at Virginia Tech, then Wednesday night’s big win by Duke at John Paul Jones Arena. In the latter, Duke got a big game from from Jayson Tatum and now looks very much like the team we thought they would be before the season. Virginia hasn’t quite been the same since they lost a tough one to Villanova a couple of weeks ago.
Ted talks about a game he covered the night before, Georgia Tech’s visit to Miami, where the Hurricanes got a nice win to go above .500 in ACC play. Davon Reed continues to have a nice season for the Hurricanes, who like Georgia Tech are on the bubble but have some things working in their favor. Those two teams plus Clemson all have a chance if they play well down the stretch, with the tough-luck Tigers needing to do more, including in the ACC Tournament.
If Clemson plays well, we note that they could become an interesting case study for the NCAA Tournament, not unlike Providence, who has suddenly won two good ones in a row over Butler and Xavier. The Friars have a lot of work to do thanks to a thin non-conference resume and two losses to Villanova, but they are playing better and don’t have a senior in the rotation.
We then head west to the Big 12, where Kansas made the rally of all rallies this season to beat West Virginia on Monday night. This puts the Jayhawks firmly in control of the Big 12 race once again, and they avoid being swept by a Big 12 opponent once again (it has never happened during Bill Self’s tenure) and they have not lost consecutive home games in almost three decades.
That leads us to the close, where we talk a little about Gonzaga appearing certain to go undefeated entering the West Coast Conference Tournament, Kennesaw State and the job Al Skinner is doing rebuilding them, and some of the games to watch this weekend.