With a one-day breather Friday to mark the first half of the
final ACC round-robin, what have we learned?
A few things.
- Duke has won as many road games (5) as the rest of the
- Julius Hodge has emerged as one of the two key players in
the ACC (Duhon being the other). He has lifted his team to a higher
level and may well end up the ACC Player Of The Year.
- Wake has been crippled by injuries, and, to a lesser
extent, youth. Skip Prosser is a guy who basically starts with
rebounding, and with his frontcourt suffering from key injuries, rebounding
is off. Don't you know he hates going with a three guard lineup?
- Tech is a big surprise to everyone outside Atlanta.
They still miss an inside presence, though. But they are a lot of fun
- Florida State has emerged as not just one of the better
teams in the ACC, but, suddenly, as a potential national force as
well. Tim Pickett is a huge player for them, and they are coming
together at the right time.
- Youth has really hurt Maryland. We figured that the
momentum of the last couple of years would have institutionalized itself,
and they'd just keep it going, but not to be. Also, our comments about
how Gary had an easy life with Juan Dixon and Steve Blake were on the
money. The adjustment to a new point guard has been very
difficult. Steve Blake would have found ways to win several of the
games Maryland has lost.
- Herb Sendek may well be Coach Of The Year, but Leonard
Hamilton will get some votes, and we think Oliver Purnell should, too (and
Paul Hewitt as well). True, the W/L tally will be poor, but has anyone
improved their team more this year? Clemson is playing smart, mentally
tough basketball, something they're not exactly famous for. He's done
an amazing job. It hasn't shown up in the standings, but it will soon.
Aside from being an outstanding teacher, he's really done an astonishing job
- UNC and Maryland, if they are not on the bubble, are not
far away from it. UNC has been pretty erratic, and prone to defensive
breakdowns. As brilliant as Chris Duhon's drive was, had UNC been a
bit more aware (Ol' Roy said they were inattentive for a split second), he
might have been cut off. But Duhon realized it, ran one defender into
another, and had a moment of absolute greatness.
- Rashad McCants came pretty close to not just messing up his
college career but affecting his future income as well. He's immensely
talented, but was getting a bad rep. To an extent he has reversed
that, but if he were more reliable at the end of games, his team might be
5-3 in the ACC instead of 3-5.
- McCants' suggestion that UNC was the best team in the
country sounded ludicrous, but he has a point: when they're good, they're
really, really good. But their defense is erratic, and Duhon obliquely
criticized their communication, and clearly took advantage of a lack of
communication. For Roy Williams to get back to his perch near the top
of college hoopdom, he'll probably need to get his own players in.
- Pete Gillen should probably update his resume. He may
be out in a few weeks.
- We are immensely impressed with Sean May. He's had a
tough career with injuries, and clearly he could use to lose weight.
Nonetheless, he is smart, highly skilled, rebounds with passion, and as far
as we can tell, plays a clean game. Nice kid, tough breaks.
- Nik Caner-Medley looks like a hockey player now.
After being a skinny freshman, he has bulked up a good bit, and when we say
he looks like a hockey player, we mean he's not hesitant to mix it up, and
his face sometimes reflects that. He's going to become a huge pain in
- Luol Deng is a revelation. At times he defers, but at
other times, he swoops in like a bird of prey. When he is at his best, he
reminds us of Dunleavy, affecting the game in multiple ways - heavy pressure
on D, smart pass here, good cut there, nice screen, wise box-out for a
rebound, knowing when to shoot a three and when not to - his kind of
sophistication is going to be wasted on the NBA.
- Chris Paul has the potential to be Wake's second-best
player ever. That moves him ahead of Rod Griffin, Muggsy Bogues,
Rodney Rogers, Randolph Childress, Len Chappell, and everyone else.
- Chris Duhon is filling his role, on his team, as well as
anyone has in our memory.
- If the ACC gets less than five teams in the NCAA, someone
should file suit.
of the great themes this year in the ACC is parity, at least from 2-9.
That'll be reinforced this weekend with some tough games, and in a couple of
instances, some desperate teams.
First, the UNC-Wake game is going to be incredibly intense. UNC will
have to bounce back from a late-night overtime thriller and then learn how to
win on the road. Fail, and they fall to 3-6 in the conference, and the
bubble grows ever tauter beneath them.
Wake Forest, by contrast, had lost four straight before beating Maryland and
UVa, and then losing a heartbreaker to State. A win here would be a big
boost for their tourney hopes. A loss wouldn't be devastating, but with a
trip to Clemson, followed by Cincinnatti, Duke, Tech, Florida State and then
Maryland - that's a brutal stretch. Clemson is a game they should win, but
to us, a UNC win, particularly if they are tired, may be the most likely of the
We haven't really followed Tennessee that much, so we don't know what Tech is
State goes to Charlottesville with a long losing streak there, just like they
had at College Park. It's hard to bet against State now, and harder still to bet
on UVa. But for the 'Hoos, everything is key now. It wouldn't be
impossible for them to dig out of the cellar, just damn hard.
The Florida State-Maryland game should also be pretty keen. They beat
Maryland at home the first time around, and it seemed like a bit of an upset.
Since then, they've knocked off Wake, UNC, almost got Duke, and beat Tech as
well. They are playing defense at a truly elite level. This should be a
really intense game, since Maryland is scrambling to avoid the NIT now. If they
fall to 12-8 and 3-6, things get a lot more dicey for the Terps.
Come to think of it, assume (see chart at right) that Maryland, UNC, UVa, and
Clemson all lose this weekend. Look what that does to the standings and
Then next week, Florida State goes to Raleigh for another critical matchup,
and UNC, after getting worn out by Duke and likely pounded by Wake, goes to
Atlanta. Just for fun, let's look at another scenario, accepting for the
moment the records as they are in the chart above to your right:
This is, first of all, pointless, we realize. But hey, it's late, the
beer is cold, so what the heck. Under this scenario, FSU beats State and
Tech beats UNC in Atlanta. Florida State would go to third, Tech would tie
for fourth, UNC would fall to sixth. At 18-6, Florida State would be
assured of a bid to the tournament already, given their recent great play.
Duke, State, Wake, and Tech would all be in. Maryland and UNC would have
to play the strength of their noncon schedule to make it, but could still do it.
Of course, this is all just ridiculous. Very little will go by a
scenario, and as usual, chaos will ensue. We can't wait.
Oh, by the way: Hermann Wendorff points out that www.firesendek.com
seems to have disappeared.