A few thoughts after watching a stuffed weekend of hoops:
*-I know Vanderbilt won the SEC tournament, and congrats to the Commodores for that. The fact that coach Melanie Balcomb has won three SEC tourney titles in her seven seasons in Nashville says something about her ability to quickly develop game plans and her team’s ability to implement them. This season’s title was also quite a testament to the resolve of senior Christina Wirth, who had 20 points and eight rebounds in the 61-54 victory over Auburn.
But … I’m still not sure what we should expect from Vandy in the NCAA tournament. And how will Auburn bounce back from its disappointment at losing the title game?
*-What do you think? Was it a good idea for the North Carolina team to be in Greensboro Coliseum to watch Sunday’s ACC final between Duke and Maryland? Punishment or inspiration? If you were the Tar Heels’ coach, would you have had the players stay?
By the way, Carolina had done something this season that I wonder if other schools might try to do to keep game “rust” from forming: Sylvia Hatchell scheduled a contest between the end of the ACC tournament and the start of the NCAA tournament. The Heels with face South Dakota next Sunday in Chapel Hill.
*-Just a fun little history note: Sunday’s game in Greensboro was the first ACC final to go to overtime since 1993, which was the “Dena Evans Game.” The Virginia guard, then a senior, played all 55 minutes in the Cavs’ triple-overtime 106-103 victory over Maryland.
Evans really came alive in the extra time of that game, and thus was named the tournament MVP. But she was, incongruously, on the tournament’s second team, not the first team. The balloting for the all-tournament teams and MVP got all topsy-turvy because of the multiple overtimes.
Evans’ overall tournament performance had had very solid, if not necessarily spectacular. But she so owned the overtimes that she became MVP.
Evans is owner of the Point Guard College, which has camps across the country in May through August. Maryland’s Kristi Toliver is one of several players I’ve talked to who’ve gone to PGC and learned from it. Another isn’t even a point guard: Danielle McCray, a shooting guard/wing for Kansas who took page after page of notes at PGC and still regularly refers to them.
McCray has had a season worthy of first-team all-Big 12 status, averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds.
*-Yes, I still have that 1993 ACC title game on tape. I’m a little bit obsessed with it, because it was such classic drama. By the end, practically every starter (but not Evans) had fouled out. It was just one of those magnificent March masterpieces.
And if I live long enough, I might eventually convince myself that I was actually there in Rock Hill, S.C., for the game. But I wasn’t. I was laying out the sports section at the newspaper I worked at then in Virginia and watched the game on television.
I’m not sure how the paper got out that night, because I basically did almost no work for the three hours of the game – then was so jazzed at having seen such an amazing contest that I could barely force myself to concentrate on the tasks remaining. Luckily, I had great co-workers.
I got off work around 1 a.m., went home and watched the game again. And I was always a paranoid taper, so to speak, afraid of a game going longer than expected and not setting the tape for enough time to get it all. So I always taped at least a full hour more than I thought any game could possibly go. And that night, I was sure glad to be paranoid.
When I think of that game, I remember a collage of that whole 1992-93 season. How on the night of Bill Clinton’s inauguration day on Jan. 20 (where I didn’t see anything in D.C. except other people trying to see something) I went to watch the Terps and Cavs play at old Cole Fieldhouse, and Maryland won.
And I also heard the horrible news that Iowa men’s basketball player Chris Street had been killed in a car accident on the evening of Jan. 19, which was the second tragedy to hit that campus that school year. Then-Hawkeyes women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer lost her husband, Bill, to a heart attack the previous November.
Iowa, of course, would go on to the ’93 Women’s Final Four, along with Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Texas Tech. Freshman Katie Smith and senior Sheryl Swoopes would duel in the final. You know who won that. Those two haven’t done so badly for their careers, have they?
As for Maryland and Virginia … the highlight for both that season really was that ACC title game. The Terps hosted in the NCAA tournament, but became just another team to be surprised by the Southwest Missouri State road show. SMS – now Missouri State _ upset No. 2 seed Maryland in the second round. This was when there were still just 48 teams in the field (it would go to 64 the next year) and so it was Maryland’s first game as the Terps had a first-round bye.
Meanwhile, Virginia was also a No. 2 seed and had what might have been considered an advantage by being in the regional in nearby Richmond. But the Cavs lost at Richmond Coliseum to Smith’s Buckeyes 75-73 in the Elite Eight.
*-Speaking of the Buckeyes … 16 years later … the coach who took Vandy to that ’93 Final Four, Jim Foster, is now of course with Ohio State, which won its second Big Ten tournament title Sunday.
The Buckeyes had to overcome the force of Purdue, which is always so strong in Indianapolis. Ohio State’s 67-66 win was the second time that tournament (which started in 1995) had its title game decided by one point. In 2004, Purdue beat Penn State 59-58.
*-Rutgers … seriously, who ever knows with the Scarlet Knights?
*-On the men’s side, just want to add this. Sure, players make millions in the NBA. But how could you begin to put a price tag on the experiences Tyler Hansbrough has had staying four seasons at North Carolina? I think it’s guys like him who end up the “richest” of all.
*-Next stop: Oklahoma City and the Big 12 tournament, which starts Thursday. Won’t need the TV for that, I’ll be there in person.
Oh, and my top 25 ballot Sunday, which was a total pain in the neck to decide on with some of the losses:
1. Connecticut, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Maryland, 4. Stanford, 5. Duke, 6. Louisville, 7. Baylor, 8. Auburn, 9. North Carolina, 10. Texas A&M, 11, Ohio State, 12. Pittsburgh, 13. Vanderbilt, 14. Florida State, 15. LSU, 16. Tennessee, 17. Cal, 18. South Dakota State, 19. Iowa State, 20. Virginia, 21. Kansas State, 22. Arizona State, 23. Texas, 24. Notre Dame, 25. Xavier