The first day of the new ACC was interesting, with all three expansion teams winning, though each game lived up to the conference's competitive tradition: Syracuse had to sweat out a win to rebuilding Miami, at home no less, Notre Dame dominated Duke inside to win narrowly, and Pitt fell far behind N.C. State before roaring back to win.
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State ran out to a 17-2 lead before Pitt woke up and began to climb back into the game, ultimately putting on a run that was longer, deeper and more devastating than State's impressive opening. Mark Gottfried was not impressed, saying afterwards that "They were tougher than our team was."
To say the least: after the opening 17-2 run Pitt outscored State 72-45.
It's like someone came into the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime, knocked him down, pissed him off and then took a severe beating.
You may or may not know this, but at times, when Tyson was a great fighter, he wouldn't knock people out, preferring to let them stand and then punish them. That's what this game was like for State.
As a positive, the Pack did get off a good haymaker, but couldn't follow through.
It was kind of the same in South Bend, come to think of it, as the Irish just punished Duke. Three-point shooting and good offensive games by Quinn Cook and Rodney Hood kept Duke in it, but ultimately the Blue Devils, like State, fell before a tougher opponent.
The Syracuse paper reports that the Miami game was similar:
"It was a funny thing, though. This first-ever contest played by SU in the Atlantic Coast Conference looked an awful lot like so many of those brutish Big East bouts that had been staged going all the way back to Lou Carnesecca's wacktastic sweater and John Thompson's woe-to-thee towel and Rollie Massimino's wayward hair.
For instance, neither squad made it north of 25 points in either half. Some 29 minutes into the affair, the home club was stuck at 29 on the scoreboard. Both outfits converted a mere 17 field goals apiece (when not doinking a total of 53). And at 49 and 44, each was held to its season low."
Bud Poliquin goes on: "For years we'd been told that the ACC played The Beautiful Game where flow and artistry were southern staples and nothing was allowed to look like Pitt-vs.-Georgetown. But then came Saturday … and, well, let's just agree that Monte Towe was not in the Dome flipping anything David Thompson's way."
True enough, although we might add that not only were David Thompson and Monte Towe not there, neither were mere mortals like Reggie Johnson and Shane Larkin. This Miami team isn't really capable of beautiful basketball.
The Big East was always a more physical league than the ACC, and most traditional ACC fans preferred our style. It's somewhat depressing that on the first day of the "New ACC," that it's more old school Big East.
Speaking of that, though, Clemson is a fairly good stand-in for Seton Hall, a team which had a few good years but which was, ultimately, always a second-level Big East team.
We'll never forget Brad Brownell's first visit to Cameron and watching Nolan Smith bounce off of a series of defenders before turning to the official incredulously, as if to say, you can't call any of that?
The funny thing in the Clemson-BC game is that while BC used to have a Big East-ish identity under Al Skinner, under Steve Donahue, it's much more about "the beautiful game," if you will.
The more physical team won again, although barely: it came down to a missed free throw and a rebound by K.J. McDaniels with 1.3 seconds left.
BC got a tremendous game from Olivier Hanlan, who racked up 27 points.
Going down the list, it's not like Florida State is a team of shrinking violets, but Virginia's defensive intent is to make you feel like you are running in mud, and the 'Hoos physicality is seriously underrated. Tony Bennett wants a very physical defense and he got it against Florida State, holding FSU to just 50.
Virginia forced 13 first half turnovers and held the 'Noles to 30.8% from the floor.
Virginia's was not much better at just 32.8%.
It was to an extent another slugfest, though, with 49 fouls called. Virginia star Joe Harris played three minutes, took a shot to the head, and was held out the rest of the game.
Just out of curiosity, we thought we'd look at these two stats for Saturday's games:
- Virginia-FSU - 49
- Clemson-BC - 36
- Duke-Notre Dame: 35
- State-Pitt: 34
- Maryland-Georgia Tech: 32
- Miami-Syracuse: 22
- Notre Dame - 52.6%
- Pitt - 48.1%
- Maryland - 46.7%
- Clemson - 43.1%
- Miami - 42.5%
- Duke - 41.4%
- NC State - 39.3%
- Georgia Tech - 38.3%
- BC - 36.6%
- Syracuse - 36.2%
- Virginia - 32.8%
- Florida State - 30.8%
There's not much beautiful about most of that.
Maryland's performance against Georgia Tech was encouraging and satisfying to Mark Turgeon, who has confessed on several occasions this season that he doesn't get his team.
Maryland went inside, and lacking Robert Carter, Georgia Tech couldn't stop the Terps.
Daniel Miller, not the most athletic big man in the ACC, couldn't pick up the slack and only managed seven points and four boards. Charles Mitchell cleaned up on the boards, pulling down 11 for Maryland, suddenly and surprisingly alone in first place at 2-0.
On Sunday, UNC has a chance to stake a claim for old-fashioned ACC basketball as the Heels visit Wake Forest.
It could be a really interesting game. UNC is as tested, and at times as wanting, as any team in the ACC. Wake is young and improving though with a long way to go. Still, with the ACC's leading rebounder, Devin Thomas (9.3) and a vastly improved Codi Miller-McIntyre, and with UNC's erratic play, you certainly can't rule out a Demon Deacon win.
But let's hope it's a pretty game.