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ACC Roundup

When Herb Sendek first got to N.C. State, he made an immediate impact,
closing a meeting to players who weren't on time and imposing a rugged new
training regimen. When he took a ridiculously undermanned team to the ACC
Finals, with Justin Gainey playing every minute of four games, as a freshman, he
looked like a genius. Since then, things haven't gone so well.  

A lot of what's happened at
State is a wave of injuries and bad luck.  Some of it is having to build
around guys like Damon Thornton and Kenny Inge, guys who are emotionally (and
competitively) erratic.  To give Inge credit, he and Alvin Jones came in at
the same time, and people rarely complain about Inge anymore, whereas Jones can
periodically still make an ass of himself, as in the recent Duke game.

But a lot of it has been, frankly, inexplicable. Among other things, a 
high transfer rate, which makes you wonder if a) the players are accepting
Sendek, or b) if he's going after the wrong players, or c) doesn't know how to
work with what he's got

The Maryland game
this weekend was the latest chapter, and that, combined with Herb's reluctance
to show any form of visible passion - in other words, his continuing failure to
be Jim Valvano - just adds to the pressure that the still-young Sendek is

Teams tend to reflect their coach's personality, and while Tech is tenacious,
Maryland susceptible to being rattled,  and Wake Forest dogged, what can
you call State?

The defense, when it is on, is excellent.  But it's hard to point to a
game in the Sendek era and say that the offense was really impressive. The
theory has long been that when he had the talent the Kentucky/Pitino training would
emerge, and the defense and offense would sync up.  Now, though, neither
is, and fair or not, Sendek is on the hot seat.  

In a game where Damien Wilkins admitted
State gave up,
Sendek may find that his fans are giving up too.  And
unlike Valvano, he can't fall back on his personality when things get tough.

In some fairness to Sendek, there is a dearth of talented offensive players
on his team, meaning guys who just naturally can put the ball in the hole or
make a sharp pass.  That's as is, but also partly the coach's fault. He has
talent, but it's to an extent untrained.

Maryland came at
, and while State did give up, the Terps certainly
and the question there now becomes simple and compelling: did Maryland
go through enough turmoil early to get their usual collapse out of the way? In
other words, have they survived the pressure and triumphed?  Maryland could
have folded completely, as they have done several times under Gary Williams, but
they have shown a lot of resilience, and in many ways are not the same team they
were earlier, when they were disjointed, not playing together, and 
struggling offensively - in other words, a lot like the Pack.

It's hard to say how far the Terps will go from here, but the fact is that Maryland was extremely impressive on a
day when State, well, packed it
.  Lee Fowler says he supports his coach,
but feeling pressured to say that is never a good sign.  If his players are
losing faith, then Sendek is in deep trouble.  The sad part is he has in
many ways revived State, even though the record doesn't reflect it.  Talent
is deep, recruiting is solid.  But the bottom line is you have to win.

Normally Frank Dascenzo is the first local columnist to turn on a coach. By
that we don't mean that he calls for him to be fired, but the tone of his
writing changes. That's
happened now,
but quietly, obliquely,  Chip Alexander is
giving him his money's worth as his language has grown increasingly dubious.

In so many ways it's about confidence.  Paul Hewitt seems to have
instilled it at Tech, to great admiration, and Matt Doherty in Chapel

Earlier in the season Wake Forest had it, in spades. Now it's somewhat
uncertain, as they have struggled in the last few games.  We were a bit
startled to see Clemson stayed
with them so long,
frankly. Conversely, Dave Odom says he's happy his guys
controlled their anger,
which was evident in recent games, and pulled
together for the win.
  We expect Wake will work through whatever
emotional issues they have and be a very tough foe on Wednesday night for Duke.
Exceedingly difficult, actually.

Nonetheless, win or lose, Wake can still be confident of what it will be
doing in March; their question is simply how much momentum they can build for
the tournament. In Raleigh, the question is much more basic: can Herb Sendek
rally his guys? Can he keep the fans? It's a tough time for him, and a dramatic
one, as the next few games may well be the crux of his career.