ACC Roundup

Syracuse Orange guard Tyler Ennis (11) brings the ball up court during the second half of a game against the Miami Hurricanes at the Carrier Dome. - Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina at Syracuse is the big game but keep an eye on State-Virginia too.

In Saturday's ACC action, Duke visits Littlejohn, Notre Dame gets its first ACC road trip to the new and improved ThrillerDome, Wake jets up to Pitt, BC and Virginia Tech tangle in Blacksburg and Virginia scoots down to Raleigh.

The headliner though is UNC's first ACC trip to snowy Western New York and the Carrier Dome, where Syracuse and the faithful await.

We'll say this for the whole Syracuse community: the level of support and passion for the Orange is a great fit with the ACC. We've been really impressed.

You see it from a distance, meaning when Syracuse was in the Big East and of little concern to the ACC in the regular season, and it's impressive. We're all paying more attention now, and it's pretty great. We respect the passion for the team.

This game had a big buildup but it's been somewhat diminished, first by UNC's inconsistency, and secondly by the scandal which now, after being associated primarily with football is beginning to gnaw at the foundations of UNC basketball as well.

To recap briefly: the head football coach, the athletic director and the Chancellor are now all gone, victims to greater or lesser extents of the scandals involving academic fraud.

The Carolina Way, a treasured ideal created primarily by Dean Smith, is a bitter joke now, and his flagship program, which did set a high standard, is wobbling on and off the court.

Aside from the erratic play, Roy Williams now has to deal with the allegations made by former academic advisor Mary Willingham, who maintains that at least one former UNC basketball player could not read or write.

Williams and the university have rejected her claims, but Willingham sort of upped the ante when she said this:

"I stand by what I said, and if he wants to meet with me and go through his players, I’d be happy to share that. I have his scores and ... I’m the one who taught him.

"I went to a lot of basketball games in the Dean Dome, but Roy never came and sat with me while I tutored his guys."

Ouch.

What are the odds Williams takes her up on it? Pretty minimal.

So Williams goes up to Syracuse with lots of stress and he has to deal with that dadgum zone.

The easy pick here is Syracuse, and why not? The Orange have (has?) been great and undefeated is undefeated.

Still, St. John's gave them a tough game and the Johnnies are pretty average, and being average is compounded by being coached by Steve Lavin. Villanova had a good run before Syracuse turned the tables and Miami - Miami! - almost beat the Orange at the Dome.

Of course Miami didn't finish the job although the Canes turned up in Chapel Hill and won that game.

Toss in the fact that UNC's traditional place at or near the top of the ACC is in jeopardy and the Heels have all the motivation anyone could possibly want.

No one was happy after the Miami loss. We think you can reasonably expect that Syracuse will get a top-notch effort from Carolina.

Down the road, we could see Notre Dame and Tech becoming a great rivalry. If it gets cranked up this year it won't be because either team is great. It could be something else - a fight, a terrible call, a blown game. It's probably not going to be a great game though, and we don't think Wake's visit to Pitt is going to result in anything other than pain and possibly humiliation.

We don't expect much out of BC or Virginia Tech either.

The game we want to follow is State and Virginia. That has the potential to be really, really interesting. State has improved tremendously and Virginia, after getting kicked around a bit, has come on of late.

It's a contest in a sense to see which team is the most mature. By that standard you'd have to go with Virginia, but State's improvement is considerable. And while the young big men - Beejay Anya, Lennard Freeman and Kyle Washington - have improved, as has fellow freshman Cat Barber, part of the key to State's improvement is that transfers Trevor Lacey, and Ralston Turner are fourth-year players and Desmond Lee was a high-level JUCO before coming to Raleigh.

It's pretty unusual to have three guys, all capable of starting, show up as juniors never having played before for State. Essentially, as we said yesterday, it's the UCLA offense vs. the packline defense.

If State does win and Duke wins at Clemson, the Blue Devils will own part of third place.

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