Looking Back and Looking Ahead

3/8/2010 9:44:22 AM It's tournament time.

And that usually means two things. Number one, I am very excited to head out to Vegas for the first 2 rounds of the NCAA Tournament and happily hoping that the Terps don't play in the first game of the day on Thursday as I will still be flying in at that time. Number two, we are usually concerned at this point not about the winner of the 7/10 game in the ACC Tournament, but needing to win a game or two starting Thursday to insure we are in the big tourney. So nice to have that calm feeling about Selection Sunday.

Before looking ahead, I wanted to first have some perspective and look back on an amazing season. Early on, we had all the confidence in the world in this team after last year's rally to make the NCAA's and win over Cal in the first round. We had everyone back (except for Dave Neal) and were adding some size up front. However, things started poorly as Dino Gregory missed the first 2 months with academic issues and Greivis Vasquez was trying too hard to do the things all the NBA folk wanted him to do.

I believe the turning point of the season was the Villanova game. The way the Wilcats were shooting that night it shouldn't have been competitive, but it was the coming out game for Jordan Williams as something clicked and we battled against a Top 5 team and had a chance to tie late in the game. Now I know we lost to W&M after that, but the loss to the Tribe pretty much pissed everyone off and they really haven't had a bad game since (except for at Clemson). Vasquez said screw it and played like himself, for better or worse (mostly better), Gregory returned and after a period of adjustment, he was making some big plays, like the charge at the end of the FSU game. Vasquez learned from a tough night in Winston-Salem and was a mostly different player the rest of the way. The confidence grew and when someone had a bad night, the rest of the team picked him up. They won by so many different ways. They won in blowouts, they won in close games, they won 3 games in 6 days, they won on buzzer beats, in double overtime, on great defense at the end of games, etc. They won the regular season ACC title going 13-3 in the conference, which is a damn good accomplishment and they have won games in every possible way and that is big headed into the postseason.

Which brings me to the postseason. It's Greensboro, NC. The place where we routinely underachieve for reasons I never understand. In recent history, take away 2004 and last year and every trip to Greensboro has been brutal. However, this year could be different IF we can get past the first game. That first game is huge and it will be really difficult to win because assuming Georgia Tech beats UNC (and how bad are the Tar Heels.. ugh!), the Yellow Jackets will be in the exact position we were in last year. We needed to win on day one and then on Friday, needing to beat Wake to feel better about ourselves. Tech is desperate and they will have played on the court the night before getting used to the surroundings. Fatigue does not set in until Saturday, so they should be fired up and ready to play. They matchup well against us and all that, so a loss here would be no shame, but if we are rested and ready and take it to them, we can clearly win that game. If we do win on Friday, we'll play the winner between Florida State and Clemson, two teams we can beat and that would set up a Sunday final against Duke again. (by the way, our game Friday night will be on ESPN 2)

Honestly I have a bad feeling about Friday night just because Tech will likely be playing for their lives and mentally we can lose it and head into the NCAA's as a 5 seed or so.

Now that our guys are getting some rest, we should be reenergized for a good run. But make no mistake, there are a lot of good teams out there and while I think we can realistically make a run to the Elite 8 this year, we could also lose in the first round if we come out like we did against Virginia. Any team we will likely face in the first round of the NCAA can beat us. As long as the boys take that to heart, we should be able to use our experience and continue this special season.

Good luck guys!
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