The general consensus is that the Big 12 was – and is – the best conference in college basketball this year.
Eric Montross disagrees.
“Well, I can’t give you a nonpartisan comment on that, but to me, it’s the ACC,” the former Tar Heel and current North Carolina analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think it’s hard to dispute the quality and caliber of teams and coaches that complement the ACC currently.”
That includes Duke (23-10), which is seeded fourth in the West region. The Blue Devils started the year 20-6 but stumbled down the stretch, losing four of their final seven games.
“Duke’s not very deep and everybody knows that,” Montross said. “That’s what you see on the surface. I think depth is not in their favor. I do think you’ve got a Hall of Fame coach at the helm in Mike Krzyzewski. One of the things Coach Krzyzewski does as well as anyone is play to your strengths and hide your deficiencies. When you look at the way that team has played, look no further than Marshall Plumlee. They have given him a very narrow bandwidth to operate in, and he’s dominated that bandwidth. He’s doing exactly what they want him to see. He’s been perfect from the field nine games this season, he’s rebounding well, he doesn’t try to do things he can’t do. I’m not saying that he’s an All-American center. What I’ve giving you an example of is (Krzyzewski is) doing exactly what he wants with his team.”
Except, of course, when it comes to Grayson Allen’s propensity to trip opponents.
“Grayson Allen, for all the controversy about what he’s done, he’s a very good player,” Montross said of the sophomore guard, who leads Duke with 21.6 points per game. “I wish he hadn’t stooped to that level because he’s fun to watch when he’s playing the right way. He’s got the ability to make things happen. Anytime when you’ve got guys that can score, you’ve got a capacity to win. They also have complementary players. But I think the best thing going for them is Mike Krzyzewski.”
Duke plays UNC-Wilmington (25-7) on Thursday at 12:15 p.m. ET.
North Carolina, meanwhile, is the top seed in the East. The Tar Heels (28-6), who many predict will win the national title, play Florida Gulf Coast (20-13) on Thursday at 7:20 p.m. ET.
Despite rumors and rumblings, Montross said this will not be the last rodeo for Roy Williams, who has battled health problems in recent years.
“I think he’s doing as well as a guy who’s battling a couple bad knees can do,” Montross said of the 65-year-old. “I think anybody that has a constant level of pain understands that it’s not comfortable. Roy Williams is a very mentally tough guy, he’s a physically tough guy. I think that he’s doing as well as he can do given the fact that his knees are really bugging him. But I also think that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon – and he’s said that. You look at how he’s coaching, why he’s coaching – he’s doing it for the right reasons. I think that he’s too attracted to the game of basketball to ever see something happening quickly where he would step down.”