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To the ones still standing, we salute you

By the time you read this on Saturday two of them may be gone, and the third could be on life support, but to the basketball teams that are still in “The Dance”, I’m offering you a very well-deserved tip of my ol’ grey Fedora.

The ACC started out with the most bids to the NCAA Tournament of any conference in the country, and now they’re down to – as one sportswriter put it this week – “the last bullet in the chamber”.

Four of those nine being knocked out didn’t surprise me: from looong shot Wake Forest to playing-over-their-heads Miami. I would have been shocked if either of that duo (Virginia and Virginia Tech were the others) had made it to the Sweet 16. But seeing Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and Florida State fall was dang near shocking.

Last year the league went 19-7. Throw in Virginia’s 2015 baseball championship, Florida State (2013) and Clemson’s football crowns and it looked like the NCAA was going to have to take out a loan from one of its corporate partners to divvy up all the money the league was set to collect. NCAA might have needed to be changed to NC-ACC. And that’s not counting the non-revenue titles won in lacrosse, soccer, and golf.

But in Hoops-2017, all we’re left with now are the Tar Heels, with Roy Williams’ finger squarely on the trigger. Being a fan of the Blue, I’m not complaining, but 7-8 after what the ACC brought to the table is disappointing no matter how you figure it. Butler won’t be a pushover, and if they got through the Bulldogs last night, either tradition-rich UCLA or Kentucky awaits.

Let’s hope I have more basketball to write about next weekend.

Secondly, granted, it’s a long shot, but the ACC still has a chance to hold up its much-stained banner. Carolina in the NCAA Sweet 16 and Georgia Tech in the NIT semifinals, gives the league a shot at winning the two oldest and most established postseason events in the same postseason.

It has happened only once for the conference – 1992 with Duke winning the NCAA over the Fab Five and Michigan, coupled with Virginia beating Notre Dame (then an independent) for the NIT crown.

There was a close chance in 2010 when the Heels lost to Dayton in the NIT championship game while Duke was on its way to the NCAA title and eventually stopped Butler in Indianapolis.

Let’s hope Butler doesn’t have a long memory.

The Bulldogs beat 2016 champ and 2017 East Regional top seed Villanova TWICE this season. They also sport “W’s” over tournament teams Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, and West No. 2 seed Arizona.

Then there’s the fact that Butler has wins over Carolina from 2014 and 2012.

Yep, time to forget all that.

Finally, another tip of the brim goes to the ladies of Virginia Union University from the CIAA. The Lady Panthers played last night (Friday) for the NCAA Division II national championship. In case you didn’t follow, the team that Chowan beat TWICE this season made it through their East Regional, the Elite Eight, the Final Four, and finally to the championship game. And they were an underdog in every single game. They also played a team (Ashland) that was 32-0 and practically the UConn (Connecticut) of small-college women’s basketball.

To have three teams from the region with a shot at taking down those last nets is remarkable. So, take that – all you big guns.

 

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.