Coach K, State football and Thrones dominate the Mailbag
Posted August 17
I'm back after a week off! Didn't you miss me? Or did you even notice? Don't answer that.
I spent the second half of last week in Colorado, whereupon checking in to my hotel in Denver, the bellhop saw my husband's UNC shirt and my Carolina Panthers' hat and said, "Big Clemson fans, huh?" I was so confused, blurting out before I could stop myself, "That's not really a thing." The dude's face dropped and I felt like such a jerk.
But I guess in PAC-12 country, they don't understand ACC smack talk. I mean I don't think Clemson fans like UNC fans or vice versa, I guess, but that's not a thing.
Let's get to it!
Okay so I'm a firm believer in having at least ONE other game to flip to during a certain time slot and ideally, two. So we essentially have five "time slots": 12-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-10, 10-???. We'll put those in order. (Note: games that weren't listed as being aired on any network on ESPN.com's schedule were not included.)
Time Slot 1:
Not a ton of great options here, but intriguing ones. If you're an ACC fan, go for either Cal at North Carolina (12:20 p.m., ACC Network) or Maryland at Texas (Noon, FS1) for good old-fashioned ACC schadenfreude. If you want the best game from a casual point of view, it might be Wyoming at Iowa (Noon, BTN). Wyoming QB Josh Allen is the new NFL hotness, and I'm pretty sure Kirk Ferentz gets paid like $10,000 per second of each Iowa football game.
Some good flip-to candidates are Kent State at Clemson (Noon, ESPN) if you want to see a QB not named Deshaun Watson helm the Tiger offense (and likely not anyone who will be important to Clemson's season for very long, if we're being honest) and Akron at Penn State (Noon, ABC). Why Akron at Penn State? Well, we get to find out what color Terry Bowden's hair is right now, and maybe even catch a glimpse of former NC State head coach Chuck Amato. Akron has been scrappy against Power 5 in-state opponents in the past. All those non-qualifiers!
Time Slot 2:
If you're an ACC fan, it's NC State vs. South Carolina at Bank of America Stadium, of course (3 p.m., ESPN). If you're a casual college football fan, it's probably Michigan-Florida in Arlington (3:30 p.m., ABC). That only gives you two games! So one other flip-to option would be William and Mary at Virginia (3:30 p.m., ACC Network). Could be Virginia's only win all year! (I kid.) (Mostly.)
Time Slot 3:
The most brutal time slot in a college football fan's afternoon: the one where the 3:30 games are over but the 7:00 games haven't started yet. Want to keep up your college football? Of course you do. So check out NC Central at Duke (6 p.m., ACC Network) if you're an ACC person or App State at Georgia (6:15 p.m., ESPN) if you're a casual fan. Another flip-to candidate during that time is Western Michigan-USC (5:15 p.m., PAC12).
Time Slot 4:
This one is juicy. You've got Louisville-Purdue (7:30 p.m., FOX) if you're an ACC afficianado (or just enjoy the pain that comes with watching Purdue football). But the big game is Florida State-Alabama (8 p.m., ABC). Either or both of those games getting out of hand? No problem. Just switch to BYU at LSU (9:30 p.m., ESPN). It might get out of hand but these are two of the best schools to watch play at night in college football.
Time Slot 5:
There's really only one good candidate here, mostly because there's only one game that will supposedly be televised: Montana State at Washington State (10:30 p.m., FS1). Of course, I could watch a Mike Leach game all night anyway. And that might be how long it takes! Hawaii hosts Western Carolina at 11:59 p.m., but there's no indication that game will be televised. Let's cross our fingers!
Well, okay, Steve. Let's break this down. NC State DOES have six home games this year in a 12-game schedule, and yes, one of them is on a Thursday, but that's a big, nationally-televised game and a GOOD thing for the program (against Louisville). And there are actually EIGHT games in the state of North Carolina, it's worth mentioning, One of those, in Charlotte, is a very doable day trip for NC State fans (and a fantastic neutral-site recruiting trip, too).
Are the home games against Marshall and Furman duds? Sure, but that's a pretty solid non-conference home schedule compared to what we've seen in years past. Marshall is at least a name opponent, and Furman is the requisite FCS team.
The rest of the home slate includes Syracuse, Louisville on a Thursday night, Clemson and North Carolina. Then there's a game in Winston-Salem on Nov. 18, plus the Charlotte game: eight games in-state, six home games and four of those against big-time opponents or rivals.
I get what you're saying about the lack of a Saturday home game, but at the same time, the sacrifice – a game in Charlotte and a Thursday night game – is probably worth it for the exposure it brings to your program.
This feels like a trap. Somewhat jokingly, I predicted that after NC State beats Clemson at home on Nov. 4, they'll go to Boston College on Nov. 11 and come out flat against their old Atlantic nemesis, dropping yet another disappointing and inexplicable game to the Eagles. That is what NC State fans would refer to as ... "NC State, um, stuff."
Ignoring the mystical and inexplicable part of NC State football history, though, I think that on paper, it's Pitt or Notre Dame. There's a similiar high-low stretch coming up with NC State hosting Louisville on a Thursday night. If they win that, they'll go to Pitt the following Saturday.
I happen to like Pitt this season. If their defense can improve even a little bit, I think they'll be good enough to win the Coastal. Still, this is the year for NC State to beat a Coastal team not named North Carolina, which would be a first under Dave Doeren. They're 2-6 against the Division they'd supposedly do much better against in Doeren's tenure, and both wins were against the Tar Heels. Pitt is going to be solid this year, but this is NC State's year to step up.
Notre Dame will certainly be eager for revenge, and the Irish won't go 4-8 again this year. A lot of people don't know they went 4-8 last year. But they did.
Still, my final answer here is Boston College.
It does feel like Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky head coach John Calipari are not even in the same conversation, doesn't it? It's felt like that for awhile now. Both recruit one-and-dones now, and both have had varying degrees of success with that model. Both are definitely prioritizing the NBA success of their kids.
Is Calpari a bit more ... um .... obnoxious, for lack of a better word, about it? Probably, but maybe that depends on perspective. There are plenty who would find a general idea that Duke is somehow better or different obnoxious, too. It's essentially the same philosophy.
I will say this: Coach K is arguably, if not definitely, the best to ever do this. Calipari is a very good coach in his own right, and is often dismissed too easily as a coach compared to being a recruiter and a salesman. If anything, Coach K's mixed results with this model have made me appreciate Calipari more. If the GOAT can't always win a title, it must not be so easy doing it this way, right?
I'm sure a lot of schools are just weeping for Duke and Kentucky having to manage all that talent. But remember when Roy Williams was an upper-echelon recruiter and everyone claimed he could just roll the ball out there, including many of his colleagues? Talent management and roster management is not that simple, no matter how much talent you DO have. (Although the talent makes it easier.)
Maybe someday, we'll get to the point where we don't make it a colossal disappointment that a team loaded with five-star freshmen doesn't win the natoinal title. I'm kind of there already in terms of yes, I expect Duke to be among the nation's best teams but also, hey, other good, experienced teams can and do win in college basketball. That 2015 Duke team was also very special, and each year that goes by since convinces me more and more of that.
By Dany, my dude Keator means Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Breaker of Chains and the Mother of Dragons. From Game of Thrones.
So if you're still catching up on Game of Thrones or intend to, please stop reading now.
Okay, spoiler warning over.
She is indeed the mother to three glorious dragons, which I suppose in some way represent Coach K's recruiting class. They are like having advanced nuclear weaponry in the middle ages. Sort of. They're not invulnerable, though.
Drogon just took a spear to the face, but he seems to be okay as he already burnt up two traitorous lords who wouldn't just bend the freaking knee. (Side note: why are we knocking Dany for this, again? I know her dad was crazy, but she gave those guys choices. If she didn't do what she said, then people wouldn't respect her authority. If she let them live, she'd be seen as weak. She can't win and it's unfair.)
It is kind of like Coach K in that way. If he doesn't win it all, it's a choke. If he does, it's expected. That's the position Dany is in, too. But just like her dragons, K's recruits aren't invulnerable. If there are significant injuries like there were a year ago, that's going to be a factor. Or maybe recruits, like dragons, go rogue. Who knows?
To be fair to you, Keater, you did say if K doesn't make the Sweet 16. That's a low bar comparing to winning the Iron Throne AND saving the world from White Walkers. So I'll say this: both K and Dany will face more than capable opponents and have a lot of obstacles to overcome that have nothing to do with their assembled talent. How often do you see Dany's dragons in battle together? There's only so much fire-breathing to go around, just like there's only one basketball. It's a delicate balancing act, but both have to do it.
Having said that, the answer is probably Coach K. But I am a huge Dany fan and will not abide any slander of my Khaleesi.
It has to be The Mountain, right? I mean, I don't know that he has the agility of some other contenders, but the sheer strength and the whole thing about him likely being unkillable now have to play a role here.
Brienne of Tarth, the dominant lady knight who took down the Hound, would have been a very capable choice. But I'm a little hesitant based on her performance against Arya, even if she was holding back a bit (which I suspect she was). Arya is a good candidate but she doesn't have the strength (just the amazing agility). By transitive, though, Brienne >>>> almost everyone in the seven kingdoms except the Mountain.
But if we're going a combination of agility, strength and speed – and of course, overall record – it has to be Khal Drogo. The only reason he died is because of an infection on a minor wound, and he arguably caused the infection himself anyway. He was never defeated in battle and led a khalasar of 40,000 before he turned 30 years old. He died with his long, beautiful braid fully intact because he had never lost a fight. Not many Dothraki can say that. And having seen how fiercely and athletically the Dothraki fight in recent episodes? Yeah. It's Khal.
Knocks on the rest:
Jon Snow: has died once
Tormund Giantsbane: unskilled
Oberyn Martell: The only other person I considered for Drogo's spot. He also sort of died of his own doing. But ultimately, he was killed by his own hubris. A true athlete always watches his back.
Grey Worm: Not enough of a body of work
The Night King: Not sure what he brings except for being undead and difficult to kill because of magic