No one has covered ACC sports in the Triangle as long as Caulton Tudor, who retired from The News & Observer March 1. Tudor will share his insights with WNCN.com readers through the Final Four. Here is his first column for WNCN.com.
Remember that online college basketball coaching poll conducted last summer -- the one that created a small stir nationally but a big reaction in the Triangle?
An undisclosed number of unidentified coaches were asked to select the most overrated coach in the country.
Remember who "won" the survey by a fairly wide margin over Texas' Rick Barnes, Baylor's Scott Drew, St. John's Steve Lavin and UCLA's Ben Howland among others?
Here's a clue: It's the same chap hundreds of fans routinely second guess at games in the Dean Dome and occasionally pester during his radio call-in shows.
For a guy with 697 wins, two NCAA titles and graying hair, North Carolina's Roy Williams somehow has been typecast as the dumb blonde of his profession -- a twisted, antonymic version of the age-old Texas expression, "All hat, no cattle."
In Williams' case, he's been painted as "All cattle, no hat" -- the assumption being that if he can't stampede foes with four or five future NBA first-round draft picks, he isn't bright enough to compensate with strategy and player development.
Not so and certainly not so this season.
For the second time since winning his first title in 2005, Williams and his staff have plainly overachieved.
Even if the unranked Tar Heels (22-8, 12-5 ACC) defeat No. 3 Duke (26-4, 13-4) in Saturday's regular-season finale at Chapel Hill, Williams won't get many votes for ACC coach of the year. Jim Larranaga of Miami (23-6, 14-3) probably couldn't lose the vote if he tried, which by the way the fading Hurricanes seem to be doing of late.
But win or lose against the Blue Devils, Williams has found of way to U-turn on a dime a team that only a few weeks ago looked hopelessly lost.
By scaling back his personnel rotation, inserting 6-foot-5 guard P.J. Hairston into the four-spot and nursing freshman playmaker Marcus Paige from dot to dot, Williams has produced impressive results.
Granted, the ACC is weaker than normal. But if Williams can bleed four or five more wins out this team, it would have to rate as his best seasonal performance since returning to his alma mater from Kansas in 2003-04.
In 2005-06, after losing almost everyone on the NCAA title team, Williams went 23-8 (12-4 ACC) and turned previously lightly used forward David Noel into one of the top players in the conference.
But that '06 team also had freshman center Tyler Hansbrough. There is no Hansbrough or even a near-Hansbrough on this Carolina team. The starter in the center position is 6-9 James Michael McAdoo, whose instinctive playing style is more in tune with wingman.
Ol' Roy may not be the smartest guy in the room. He may never match Dean Smith's reputation for creativity and innovation. Even in what is certain to be one of the most erratic, shapeless NCAA tournaments in history, Williams' Heels are a long shot to reach the Sweet 16.
But Williams can coach and he's proving it again. There's a lot more to the guy than a fancy outfit and a hot recruiting pitch.
He deserves ACC coach of the year consideration.
And if he beats Duke, he'll probably get my vote.