The 2013-14 college basketball season is in the homestretch right now and headed into the conference tournament season. Once again, the ACC Tournament returns to Greensboro, North Carolina on ESPN. We had a chance to catch up with one of ESPN’s lead analysts, Coach Seth Greenberg. Yes, I know. A Greenberg interviewing a Greenberg. Here’s what he thinks about the ACC coming down the stretch.
Where does the ACC stand right now compared to the other conferences as we head towards tournament season? –
Seth Greenberg — “Top to bottom, with the bottom being the issue here, it’s not close to the Big 12 or the Big 10. Third at best. When you look at the bottom of those first two conferences, in the lower half of the Big 12 you have Baylor and Oklahoma State, both sitting at 20-10, and both dangerous teams to play. In the Big 10 you have teams like Nebraska and Iowa moving up in the conference. The ACC has grown as a conference, but I don’t think the bottom teams there have grown with the league. Clemson is more competitive this year and got their 10th conference win, but the league doesn’t have much more to show for it at the bottom.”
Within the ACC, which teams are peaking at the right time and which teams need to rekindle their fire?
SG – “Well, obviously Virginia and UNC are playing well right now and winning. Duke is right there in the mix. Florida State and Clemson have good opportunities sitting in front of them. Again, Clemson got their 10th conference win this week and has a huge home finale against Pitt. That’s a chance for a signature win. Florida State is right there with them and they have a huge opportunity with Syracuse coming to town this week to get a marquee win.
They also have big wins against UMass and VCU. The team that’s hurting itself the most is Pitt. They have one win against a possible NCAA tournament team in Stanford. They have no bad losses except at home the other night. They will be one of those interesting teams to watch on Selection Sunday to see how they’re ultimately evaluated by the committee, particularly if they lose at Clemson this week. There are teams in the Big 12 with five wins against NCAA tournament teams and Top 50 wins, but they have some bad losses. So who will the committee look at more favorably in that scenario?”
So how many bids do you think the ACC will ultimately get this year?
SG – “I think at most five, but could really end up with four bids. Those four are locks, but then it gets interesting. Again, Pitt needs to right the ship. Florida State and Clemson could fight for a spot with big wins this week. I think Brad Brownell has done a great job this year, but they need this win against Pitt. But Pitt needs the win too to try to get that 5th bid locked up. And then you’ll have to see how they do in the ACC Tournament.”
What are looking forward to most in watching or following the storylines at the ACC Tournament?
SG – “I’m really interested to see if a team like Maryland can make a run. Can they win a couple of games? I think Mark Turgeon is a really good coach. How will Pitt respond to the building pressure on their resume? Can Syracuse turn around this current slide? Can they get back to winning basketball? They really need to find a way to get some inside scoring and some easy baskets. That’s where they miss Jerami Grant. They’re not getting the 17 points in transition they were getting because they’re not getting turnovers like they were. And then I’m interested in watching Carolina.
When they’re good, they’re very good. They’ve got great versatility up front. They’ve got long, rangy guys and they also have big, physical guys. Marcus Paige has become an outstanding go-to scorer. So to watch whether or not they can keep this momentum going will be interesting.”
Who’s your Coach of the Year in the ACC at this point?
SG – “I think Roy has to be Coach of the Year. The hardest thing to do as a coach is to turn it around when it’s going in the wrong direction. Adversity really reveals character and when you’re 1-4 at UNC, you can lose your team. I think he’s just done an incredible job in turning that team around. And getting them to stay the course, continue to work and figure out how to get Paige the ball now that teams are keying in on him. Throw in the development of Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks this year. I just think, hands down, Roy is the Coach of the Year.”
How about your Player of the Year in the ACC?
SG – “That’s a tough one. Jabari Parker had a great stretch earlier in the year and then another one here recently. I think I’d still go with him because I feel he’s the most dominant player in the league. Then I’d put Paige and T.J. Warren right there in a close second. If it was based on statistics, then it’s Warren. He single-handily won that game at Pitt. So my vote would be Parker, Warren and Paige in that order.”
As a coach, which one of those players would you love to build a program around?
SG – “I would probably go with Parker because he’s so versatile. He can play so many positions. A lot of it has to do with the style in which I coach. I like to have multi-position players. Guys that can create match-up issues. His offensive abilities would be fun to coach.”
Speaking of Jabari Parker, what are your thoughts on the one-and-done rule?
SG – “I don’t think it makes sense. I think if a kid wants to come out of high school, because it affects such a small number of guys, they should be able to come out. If they come to college they should have to stay at least two years. If a kid wants to come out, he didn’t want to come to college anyway. If a guy decides to go to school and really applies himself, he can get close to a degree during that two-year period when you add in summer school.
That way, the NBA gets more time to evaluate the talent, and the kid gets more out of his time at the school. Unfortunately right now the kids aren’t only listening to the coaches in making these decisions. It’s agents and runners filling their heads with thoughts of coming out early, regardless of the possible consequences.”
Based on your experience in this conference, what do the newer coaches in the ACC need to do to elevate their programs in a league that has added Syracuse and will be adding Louisville as well?
SG – “The hardest thing about it is that you have so many teams to jump over. It’s like the old Big East. I mean, who’s moving down the ladder out of Duke, Carolina, Syracuse, or Louisville? You’ve got six or seven schools at the top right now that aren’t giving up their spots. What you have to do is first jump over schools like you.
You’ve got to get lucky in recruiting. But most importantly, you have to figure out how to win at your school. Put your ego aside and your system aside and really take the time to figure out how win at this school, in this league. That’s the challenge right there.”
Speaking of coaching, who do you see as that next mid-major coach that will make the jump to a bigger program?
SG – “There are really terrific young coaches out there. There are terrific older coaches out there. Keith Dambrot, at Akron, is an outstanding basketball coach. He does an excellent job with his personnel. I don’t care what league you’re coaching in, if you can coach, you can coach. He’s done a fabulous job at Akron. He’s built a program, not just a team. And that’s the key.
When you move up a level it isn’t about just having a team, it’s about having a program and everything that goes along with that. Some guys don’t get that and they get overwhelmed with the time commitments you have to make and how you have to balance your schedule in order to give yourself some time to breathe.
That’s where I think some younger coaches fall short. Finding that balance between building those relationships with your team, the pressures of recruiting, and honoring other commitments with your school.”
Hearing you talk about what it takes to be successful in coaching, I’m wondering, is there some coaching left in you?
SG – “You know, I have a great job. It’s a great platform to talk about the game I love. I would never say never, but I love what I’m doing and I’m in a very good place in my life. Now I miss things about coaching. When I’m sitting there during a really competitive game in a great environment, my temperature still rises. But at least now after a game, I can actually taste my dinner and enjoy my evening. I just feel really fortunate about where I’m at with ESPN.”
We’d like to thank Seth Greenberg for his time. You can find him in the ESPN studios with his partner, Jay Williams, as they break down the conference tournaments and debate about who’s in and who’s out, who’s on the bubble and who’s off the bubble. ESPN will be having all day coverage of Selection Sunday. But don’t wait until then to get your college basketball related fun. ESPN will be broadcasting all of the conference tournaments that you want to watch.
If watching the tournament games on TV isn’t your thing you can find NCAA Tournament tickets here from Razorgator.