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A Wacky Day In The ACC

We were 1-3 on our Saturday picks, which kind of sucked, but we were pleased
to see State get a big win, and we were impressed with their game as well -
particularly Anthony Grundy, who just killed UVa in the open court. He's
credited with 3 steals,
but it seemed like he had more than that. Pete
Gillen says his
team got a good lesson.

beat Tech,
which for some reason people are calling stunning. No
offense to either Clemson or Tech, but so far, neither program has lit the world
on fire this season. How can either one losing stun anyone?

Normally, UNC's
being down 27 at home and losing (ultimately) by 22
would be stunning, but
not this year. What impressed us most about this game, as it did when Duke
played UNC in '99, was the vast difference in athleticism. Wake has some
significant talent on their team, and UNC really has no way to stop them.
This is something we noticed in '99, when Corey Maggette went over about 3 UNC
players to get a rebound, and it has become more pronounced since. Weber State
exploited this, and Maryland and UVa have as well, among others. When guys like
Steve Lepore are doing reverse flip-ins, you're probably in trouble. No knock on
Lepore, but he started at Northwestern, transferred to Wake, and no one to the
best of our knowledge has ever said he's a tremendous athlete. Maybe he is, but
the phrase we kept hearing was super 3 point shooter.

The other thing which jumped out, and which continues to jump out, is UNC's
inability to hang on to the ball. It's a lot harder to attack when you
don't have it. Look
at the box score.

The athleticism isn't necessarily fatal - witness Princeton. For a slightly
different example, witness Herb Sendek's first year in the conference, and his
march to the ACC Finals. But no incarnation of UNC basketball with which we are
familiar is designed to accomodate a lack of athleticism. As constructed
by Dean Smith, it was fundamentally designed around big guys who could run and
shoot and small guys who could run and pass and shoot, and all of them could
defend. Doherty has made it clear he intends to get athletic players and let
them play. But he doesn't have too many yet.

Watching Wake's players run past UNC's, jump over them, take the ball away
from them - it's remarkable, really. There's a natural tendency to lay blame,
but it's hard to see who is precisely responsible for UNC's decline. Guthridge
struck out with Eddie Griffin, which turned out to be a break, and took a pass
on Omar Cook, which turned out to be quite smart. The Jason Parker problem
was almost certainly not the fault of the basketball office, but more than
likely an admissions screwup. The one key place they did screw up was in
a) building around part-timer Ron Curry, who was largely a bust as a basketball
player (football too), and not recruiting Jason Williams, who really liked UNC
at one point. That's obviously really bad decision making, but hindsight
is 20-20 and all that. Still, where would this group be with Jason Parker
and Jason Williams? They'd be starting Lang, Capel, Parker, Williams, and,
probably, Manuel. Last year they would have had Williams and Forte to put
around Haywood, Lang, Parker, Peppers, and Capel. Curry would have come off the
bench, and that's a pretty solid group.

too late for that now.
The problem UNC ran into on Saturday will now
begin to resemble the problem Duke ran into in 1995: the conference understands
that this is a weak team, and they can be had. In the ACC, that's really
bad news, particularly for UNC. While they were the standard of excellence for
decades, a lot of people got sick of them, just as a lot of people are sick of
Duke now. The other schools are licking their chops, and if you think
there is any question of mercy, forget it. Everyone is going to try and throw
dirt on the grave.

Like Lazarus, UNC won't stay in the grave for too long, but everyone they
have dominated over the years is now figuring that payback time has arrived, and
things are going to get uglier until UNC finds a way to fight back. That's
how the ACC is: no pity for the weak. Ask Duke. We learned that anew in '95, but
we also learned it in the early '70s, and then again for two years after K
arrived. It's a hard lesson to learn, but the good news for Carolina fans is
that UNC has every possible advantage in rebuilding, and will be back sooner
rather than later.