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Joe Ovies

Talking Points: Triangle squads hit final regular-season stretch

Posted February 25, 2013

1. Roy Williams knows what he's doing, even if more than a few Tar Heel faithful spend a good chunk of each season inclined to believe otherwise.

Rewind to the beginning of January when North Carolina began conference play with loses to Virginia and Miami. Even though they slogged through inconsistent play to get over .500 in the ACC, complaints about roster management piled up. Williams eventually gave the people what they wanted in starting P.J. Hairston, but not in the way expected with a guard-heavy lineup at Duke.

Even though the Heels lost to the Blue Devils, it was easy to see the dynamic shift following their trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Whatever reasons Williams had to hold off Hairston were moot, especially when the long view to a season is taken into consideration. The real question was whether or not Williams would stick with it. He did, and the Heels have won three straight.

Not only has Williams handled the Hairston situation to his advantage, UNC pulls away from NC State late in 76-65 win Gold: Paige sees freshman growth spurt he also nudged Marcus Paige's growth along in the win against the Wolfpack.

Williams wasn't trolling everyone when he put Paige, Luke Davis, J.P. Tokoto, Jackson Simmons and Desmond Hubert on the court at the same time. Sure, it looked that way when when Scott Wood hit a couple of 3 pointers. But it gave his starters a quick rest and forced Paige into a position where he had to make plays – which he did with a 3 pointer of his own and stellar play down the stretch.

2. That loud buzzing sound you hear out of Chapel Hill is actually excitement about the rest of the season coming from the same group that openly discussed the possibility of going to the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament.

That's right, North Carolina is headed to the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels were likely in the field even before their win against NC State, despite the fact their only "good" win was against UNLV. The raw résumé numbers and the need to fill out a tournament field were in their favor.

3. Same goes for NC State, up-and-down conference performance notwithstanding. Unlike last season, the Wolfpack actually have a few wins of substance in the regular season and a superior RPI ranking. Unless the wheels fall completely off, however unlikely, NC State is just allowing a favorable seed placement to deteriorate.

4. Once NC State gets to Greensboro and whichever NCAA Tournament bracket they're assigned, the Wolfpack will only go as far as Calvin Leslie feels like taking them.
 
Mark Gottfried has earned praise in the way he's delicately handled Leslie, an enigmatic personality, through the coaching transition and the current season where the lure of the NBA looms in the background. The coach has kept his comments to the media on Leslie's development even-handed and focused on the macro idea of everyone playing their best basketball toward the end of the season.
 
Well, it's almost March and Leslie has been more of a liability to the Wolfpack in rematches against Duke and North Carolina. It's concerning enough that Gottfried finally addressed what many observers have been saying for weeks on Saturday.
 
"He's a great player and great players got to step up and play, period," Gottfried said. "I love him as much as anybody, but when you're a good player, then you have to play better."
 
Now all eyes are on Leslie to see how he reacts to the latest button push by his coach.
 
5. Mike Krzyzewski has spent recent weeks hedging on Duke. He isn't concerned about the conference race, uninterested in NCAA Tournament seeding and focused on praising the team's run thus far with an eye on the next game. Krzyzewski wasn't even sure the Blue Devils were a tournament team up until their win over North Carolina.
 
Clearly that's coaching hyperbole, but it does provide a little insight on how far Krzyzewski thinks this team can go without Ryan Kelly.
 
"Ryan is going to be back soon," Krzyzewski said. "What does soon mean? I don't know, but he's going to be back."
 
Kelly was made available to the media on Sunday and he didn't sound like a guy who expects to return to the court this week. 
 
"I haven’t practiced at all, so some amazing things would have to happen for that to happen," Kelly said. "Obviously I want to be on the court, and I want to get there as soon as possible, so nothing is obviously out of the realm of thought, but I wouldn’t count on it.”
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  • 903 mens national championships Feb 27, 2013

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    I won't get overconfident based on how Duke is playing, only because Duke has looked good recently as much due to who they were playing as anything else. They are supposed to look good against VA Tech and Boston College. I will say that Miami has not looked good since their win over UNC. Very averaging in their win over FSU, terrible in the wins over Clemson and UVa and terrible against Wake. That could all change this week, but 3 games in a row of bad games makes me doubt they will be at that same level again, especially at Cameron.

  • olivechapel1000 Feb 27, 2013

    State Can beat any program in the country right now. But also lose to anyone in the ACC. UNC maybe can make a run, but not beat anyone. Duke has some weaknesses. Miami has talent, but can be beat as well.

  • BeastOfTheHill Feb 27, 2013

    View quoted thread

    yawn, beating nc state in basketball is common place. What really makes us in the excited is watching the preseason "best team in the ACC" and all the red fans completely collaspe and burn.

  • StunGunn Feb 26, 2013

    View quoted thread



    Miami won't destroy Duke in Cameron. K has the team playing very well right now. It's tough to beat K twice, and I don't think Miami will be able to do it.

    I think State has the "easiest" road ahead, and that is only because they already played their most difficult games. It's just the way the schedule worked out.

  • rherring23 Feb 25, 2013

    View quoted thread

    Why would we have any excuses. I think its pretty funny that UNC fans are so excited about going 1-1 against State this year when they have usually been going 2-0 or 3-0. If they meet in the ACC Tourney, it will not be UNC with the 2 wins this year.

  • rherring23 Feb 25, 2013

    View quoted thread

    No, Duke definitely doesn't have the easiest road with games against Miami and UNC. While they are play Miami at home, Miami destroyed them the first time, not even a game.

  • iron fist Feb 25, 2013

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    We will see March 9 @ 9

  • NCSU84 Feb 25, 2013

    NCSU trending down and no stopping yet??

  • 903 mens national championships Feb 25, 2013

    View quoted thread



    The team with the easiest road is the one that's playing the best. Right now, that's Duke.

  • baldchip Feb 25, 2013

    Calvin Leslie-I have hoped you would stay in Raleigh 1 more season. HOWEVER, your play of late has about changed my thinking. You are becoming more of a liablility every day.

    Get your head out of your bu.., or go on away to try and play with the big boys!!
    If you cannot compete EVERY DAY in ACC play, what makes you think you can go to the bigs??

    This team has had a chance to be special, but no-you had to cop an attitude. And yes-Lorenzo had to turn that ankle-which was not his fault. But your attitude-IS ALL YOU!!

    Fix it now!! PLEASE!!

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  • NCAA: Gonzaga vs. UCLA

    Tonight at 7:00 on WRAL-TV

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