Good Sport: Notes from the overground

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by Jeff Laughlin

A man can get pretty bored watching 11 basketball games in a row. Unless, of course that man happens to be living his dream of watching the ACC Tournament in person.

So, what does that man do? He writes page after page of game notes! Some border on insanity — a byproduct of sitting in a half-cubicle sized space in between other writers. Some just ramble about basketball, the reason for being there.

Here’s a best-of, in no particular order, the notes that didn’t make it into the cover story.

NC State-Pittsburgh (Wednesday)

• No flow to the game — lots of media timeouts — benefits a team like Pitt trying to cobble together possessions. Makes it feel like this is not a game at all, but a series of possessions and timeouts. These tourney games are so strange sometimes.

• Pitt bumping any driver hard off their line, rarely called. Good strategy to keep Cat [Barber] out of the lane. [Trevor] Lacey getting all the contested 17-20 footers he wants, no presence inside.  While State leads, it has not been impressive at times — lots of meandering dribbles with a few picks. 1-on-1 working over a team with lesser athletes, Duke would murder either team tonight.

Miami-Virginia Tech (Wednesday)

• These are the kinds of games you get early — neither team sure if they can expend the energy they want to with potential games left. VT has no chance without a win, Miami has at least the NIT to see after this game. It’s possible that VT is going hard and it looks like they aren’t because they are awful. Truly awful.

Virginia-Florida State (Thursday)

• UVA explores every option before taking shots. Even open looks get passed up to search for better ones. They sap every bit of energy from themselves in every game. The downside is that an energetic guard can spark an opposition run. [Xavier] Rathan-Mayes is a three pointer away from making this really interesting.

UNC-Lousiville (Thursday)

• The UNC pep band never got out of 1955, the cheerleaders either. Same old song and dance.

• As soon as I type that, [Montrezi] Harrell with a monster oop jam in transition. Wow. He is a large human with athletic skills.

Duke-Notre Dame (Friday)

• Justise [Winslow] with a missed layup, and then jams the rebound. Been amazing tonight in the 2nd half. Goes to the bench and the team loses battles. So weird that he is so tired — perhaps really hurt? ND up 9 with 7:30 to go. Good ball from them all night, maintaining despite ratcheted up defense from Duke and an obvious single-teaming of [Jahlil] Okafor.

• 4 fouls on Grant on a questionable call. 2:37 to go. Okafor to the line on a foul on ND #35 — [Bonzie] Colson. He’s so overmatched, but this was a good idea. Okafor a terrible FT shooter, so he goes to the line for 2 in a tight game. ND fans hate the call, but it may actually help.

• Missed both.

UNC v Notre Dame (Saturday Night/Championship)

Before the Notre Dame run:

• [Jerian] Grant with three fouls on a ridiculous call, block/charge is garbage in this league. Grant had gotten into the lane, given it up and then ran into a UNC player. Charge. GTFO. Out for the rest of the half and has to play tentatively now. That’s what we need in championship games, is stars scared to make plays because of judgment calls.

• UNC really only in it because of their offensive rebounding. 8-10 points on second chances. ND struggling on every board, having to hunt down tipped rebounds in the corner nearly every play. If they can get that taken care of, ND may actually take this thing without having to hold off a late surge. UNC had 9 more shots in the 1H.

• UNC hitting all their jumpers, but how long can that last? [Brice] Johnson the only one getting close to the hoop at all right now. ND drawing contact and getting reach-ins nearly every possession. That should get ND back in it, but this is a home game for UNC, essentially. Feels over already. 63-56 UNC.

During the Notre Dame run (moments later):

• 64-64. 67-64. Holy s*** what a run.

• In 1:42, ND gets an 11-1 run. Unbelievable. They get a steal but turn it over on a travel by the basket. Still, a great looking offensive set. UNC untenable run of shooting ends with turnovers instead of missed shots. Unlikely.

• [Justin] Jackson with a layup in traffic. 73-66.

• [Pat]Con[naughton] hits a three. Unbelievable. 10 point lead. [Zach] Auguste cleans up missed dunk. 78-66 ND, 3:30 to go. 22 points for ND in 6:18. UNC in that same span scored 2 points. 2.

• Connaughton dunk on great cut. 14 point lead. I’ve never seen anything like it. 3:15 to go.

• UNC school fight song blaring during Roy [Williams] timeout and no one reacting. Losing the rhythm of victory. Has ND literally beaten the fight out of them?

And that’s not the half of it. Not even close. I could have written a novel, and I almost did.