Mike Krzyzewski is fond of referring to the basketball gods, seemingly mystical forces that produce irresistible storylines and results, especially in March. Well, when the gods punch the clock for the opening week of the NCAA tournament, here's hoping they conjure up as many ACC-Atlantic 10 collisions as possible.
We especially need Krzyzewski's Duke team to clash with Massachusetts in Sunday's round-of-32 in Raleigh, N.C., where the day's other contest could match ACC champion Virginia and the A-10's George Washington.
The pining for games between the two leagues began late Saturday afternoon, when Krzyzewski, sincerely and correctly, lobbied for N.C. State to make the NCAA tournament. But in touting the Wolfpack, Krzyzewski took a dig at the Atlantic 10.
Purveyors of conflict real and imagined, media asked VCU coach Shaka Smart to respond. No shrinking violet he, Smart offered some salient points and, alas, over-the-line barbs.
"I'll get in trouble probably for saying (this)," Krzyzewski said during the ACC tournament. "Like the Atlantic 10, they're a really good conference. I hear people saying there are six (A-10) teams in (the NCAA field). Come on. I mean, they're good, but put them in our conference and go through the meat grinder that our conference has to go through."
Now as preambles go, "I'll get in trouble probably for saying this" rates rather high on the red-flag list. The brain is shouting "put a sock in it," but the suggestion is a nanosecond late.
Turns out we amateur bracketologists were right. Six A-10 teams, including VCU, made the field, as they should have. And N.C. State's inclusion, a surprise and outrage to some, gave the ACC six.
Reporters asked Smart about Krzyzewski's comments Monday.
"Coaches are too busy to be an authority on someone else's conference," Smart said.
Smart was spot-on again when he said the NCAA selection committee does not consider league affiliation when evaluating potential at-large teams.
He also offered a dose of domestic humor, comparing Krzyzewski's remarks to saying, "My daughter's cuter than your daughter."
If only Smart had stopped there. Instead, he said Krzyzewski's comments showed "a lack of humility" and were "low-level."
Please. When VCU competed in the Colonial Athletic Association, Smart delighted in reminding folks that his Rams and CAA colleagues Old Dominion and George Mason were outperforming the ACC's Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Should Krzyzewski have mentioned the Newport News-based A-10? No, particularly when the ACC is 6-8 against the A-10 this season. But Smart made it personal, a far larger misstep.
Not that either will, or should, give this a second thought as he prepares his team for the tournament. Better to let the Twitter-verse debate.
The perfect fallout would be a home-and-home series between the schools. The Peppas and the Cameron Crazies, respectively, make VCU and Duke two of college basketball's best game-day settings.
The Rams and Devils in this NCAA tournament? They cannot meet until the title game, and basketball gods aside, that ain't happenin'.
VCU is too limited on offense, Duke too flawed on defense. Or so sayeth Ken Pomeroy's renowned efficiency statistics.
In the 11 previous years archived on Pomeroy's website, every national champion has ranked among the top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency. Now those are season-ending numbers, so a team would have improved its standing during the tournament. But even a successful postseason could not rocket a team from the 70s, 80s, 90s or 100s into the top 20.
So Duke's No. 101 defense and VCU's No. 108 offense are red flags.
Final Four profiles are more forgiving. With few exceptions, teams must be near the top 50 in offense, the top 30 in defense.
For those filling out brackets — not doing so borders on treasonous — Pomeroy's stats discount the Final Four prospects of high seeds Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa State and UCLA, while virtually nuking Michigan, Creighton and San Diego State.
Virginia ranks third in defensive efficiency, 22nd in offensive, advancing the Cavaliers in my bracket to a Final Four semifinal against Florida, with the other semi pitting Louisville and Arizona. The national title game?
Mentor versus protégé. Hall of Famer versus future Hall of Famer. Gators win.
The basketball gods, regardless of result, would approve.