The more I think about the last five years of the Sendek era, the more a pattern seems to develop. No matter how the season starts, you can expect things to ultimately level out at a “B minus” overall.
Decent regular season? You get the respectable NCAA run (including heartbreaking loss to a power like UConn) of 2002.
Start to have what looks like a very good regular season? You get the late season swoon of 2004, followed by a semi-recovery, then historic collapses in both the ACC (Maryland) and NCAA (Vanderbilt) tournaments.
How about downright mediocre regular seasons, like 2003 and 2005? You get a great ACC tournament run in 2003, with Josh Powell et al being turned loose and Powell in particular playing like a man possessed. But, since it’s written in stone never to get over the hump, State blows a huge second half lead and loses to Duke in the ACC final, then plays tight again and goes down to a pedestrian Cal squad in the 1st round of the NCAAs.
Or 2005, having an all-around crappy year, doing just enough to get a bid (ACCT win over Wake sans Chris Paul), then coming out of nowhere to upset mighty UConn and make the Sweet Sixteen. Followed, of course, by a clunker against a very beatable Wisconsin team.
What do all of these have in common? When you grade it all out, it’s neither good nor bad. It’s a B-minus. Every year. Of course, it would have been my rear end had I come home with consistent B-minuses, but my parents had higher expectations than Lee Fowler.
So, tell me again why anyone was surpised that the “historic” 10-3 start to the ACC season was followed by a collapse down the stretch? And why history predicts “inconclusive” performances in both the ACC and NCAA tourneys? Consistently neither good nor bad. Regardless of player mix, conference strength, etc. – consistent pretty goodness. We all know what the constant (or limiting reagent, depending on your worldview) in this mix is.