Monday night, free of those other responsibilities for at least one evening, I decided to check out Miami/UConn and Oklahoma/Texas Tech. Each game had something I wanted to see so I took them in. Time well spent for a sports junkie.
OU's Hollis Price saved the Sooners to end regulation and ultimately denied Tech's Bobby Knight one more win in his chase for Dean Smith's 879.
Darius Rice and Miami did their best Dennis Scott/Georgia Tech imitation to shock the weary Huskies at the end. If there has been an instance any more similar to Scott's steal and shot to beat the Tar Heels in 1989, I missed it. As it did for many Tar Heel diehards, Rice's miracle brought those Yellow Jacket nightmares crashing back.
Some say UConn losing drops Carolina's win over the Huskies down a couple notches on the "big-ness" scale. If that's the case, then Miami's win alleviates some of the pain from the Heel's giveaway to the ‘Canes 18 days ago. I'll add this. Both Big East teams are solid and UConn will make serious noise come March. Should the Heels find themselves on the NCAA bubble after the ACC Tournament, the win over the Huskies should vault them into the Big Dance.
Heading into that UConn game, many thought Carolina would suffer defeat with Emeka Okafor dominating the Heel front line. Okafor is certainly a big time talent, but the Tar Heels effectively neutralized his inside presence with a matchup zone. Fortunately for the Heels, Okafor was the only contributing big man for the Huskies.
Tonight's opponent, Maryland, will rush wave after wave of beef at the Carolina defense. I've said all year, even when Sean May was healthy, the Heels would struggle against teams with more than one force under the basket. How coach Matt Doherty and staff handle the game plan and how the Carolina players execute that plan against the Terps will go a long way in determining how far this team can go. Tonight's game provides the Heels with a great opportunity to exorcise the demons that early season foes Illinois and Kentucky unleashed on the light blue interior defense earlier in the season. With Byron Sanders progressing nicely and Damion Grant getting meaningful minutes, things will be interesting in the paint.
Regardless of the outcome, the Smith Center will rock as yet another exciting college basketball game goes into the books.
After Saturday's win, IC's Andrew Jones took the time to address the nagging rumor mill with the Tar Heel players. While the player comments were insightful as a whole, one particular line from Melvin Scott stands out.
"We are a family and if we want to keep winning, we have to be on the same page."
Words of wisdom for all, from big time boosters to regular fans, that consider themselves "Tar Heels."
If you have not had the opportunity to read Rocky Mountain News columnist Dave Krieger's piece about Marcus Hudson transferring from Colorado to Colorado State, take the time to do so. Very interesting article and if true, very unsettling for fans of college sports. The bottom line is this, each and every student athlete is more important to the sanctity of college athletics than each and every coach. Not just at Colorado, but everywhere.
Have a comment or question? You can reach Tommy at firstname.lastname@example.org.