A new year is here, technically, but if you live ACC Country your calendar likely centers around college basketball meaning January isn’t the beginning, it’s simply when the season really starts to get interesting. Each week in this space we’ll take a look at the most interesting and important happenings around the league that made college hoops a national phenomenon.
Though Louisville lost a heartbreaker to Miami in overtime Wednesday night, it’s past time to recognize the job David Padgett has done coaching the Cardinals while thrust into a difficult situation.
Padgett took over one of the nation’s premier programs after the now infamous FBI investigation into multiple college basketball teams led to an abrupt end to Rick Pitino’s tenure at UL. By nearly any measure, Padgett’s resume is quite thin to lead an ACC program with a national championship pedigree. Less than two years ago he was merely Louisville’s director of basketball operations.
But just before practice was set to begin, David Padgett was tasked with taking over and replacing the rest of the staff. Yet here we are with February approaching and the Cards are tied for second in the ACC.
One thing Padgett did remarkably well was land assistants, despite terrible timing and circumstances. Former Stanford, LSU and TCU head coach Trent Johnson is actually one of the more accomplished assistants in the nation. Johnson’s experience has paid dividends for the Cardinals in what could have easily been written off as a lost season amid the turmoil.
THE PITTS: On the opposite end of the spectrum is a veteran coach struggling incredibly at Pittsburgh.
Kevin Stallings always seemed like a weird choice for Pitt, who should have been able to attract a good, young coach, but it’s still a shock he has failed so spectacularly. Stallings didn’t last nearly two decades at Vanderbilt by being completely inept, but nothing has gone right at Pitt with the Panthers now 0-8 in the ACC.
Live look at Pitt basketball pic.twitter.com/18k8XclXP2
— Joseph Nardone (@JosephNardone) January 25, 2018
The Panthers’ most recent loss, Wednesday at home vs. NC State, came despite building a 15-point lead.
The only worth celebrating around Pitt basketball of late is a play that happened 30 years ago.
One of the greatest moments in college basketball history occurred 30 years ago – Jan. 25, 1988
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 25, 2018
One could wonder if, at this point in his career, Stallings might be better off in a position similar to Johnson at Louisville, mentoring a young head coach in a prominent but less pressure packed role. Whatever is happening with Stallings as head coach Pitt is simply not working.
BIG CHALLENGE: The biggest matchup of the week in the ACC and the country is Saturday when 19-1 Virginia visits 18-2 Duke.
The game within the game will be with UVa’s Isaiah Wilkins going against the Blue Devils Marvin Bagley III. Wilkins is the league’s best defender. Bagley is the leading scorer at nearly 22 points per game.
Bagley has been nearly unstoppable, but the Cavaliers have shut down some of the conference’s best big men, including North Carolina’s Luke Maye and Georgia Tech’s Ben Lammers.
Something has to give and the result could have huge implications.