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The CourtMaster Speaks

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is in session, and my first ruling in on the marquee game of the week, Duke 97-66 blowout win over Texas.

On the surface this was a surprising margin for a #1 team to have over #2, but it made perfect sense if you watched the game carefully. The Blue Devils brought their A+ game to the Meadowlands, and for the first time this season we saw just how good this year’s squad could be—pretty damned good!

Despite a fast-paced tempo for most of the game, Duke committed only 7 turnovers and had 15 assists, almost the exact opposite of the Longhorns’ 16 turnovers and 7 assists.

Of course, the key to the game was J. J. Redick, who showed the nation just how dangerous a weapon he was when he plays his A game. Redick has worked very hard to grow from a player who was just a shooter (albeit an exceptional one) to a scorer, but it was his shooting that destroyed Texas on Saturday.

Redick connected on 9-16 three pointers on his way to a career-high 41 points. Have you ever watched him knock down a long, long three-pointer early in a game and said, “oh oh, he’s going to go off today?” I caught myself saying that after a particularly deep three he drained early in the first half, and he proceeded to prove me right-and then some.

If this game was any indication, we’ll be seeing a lot of the Coach K American Express commercial this season. A lot of people were upset when it debuted during the NCAA tournament in March, feeling it gave him an opportunity to make a recruiting pitch while getting paid for it. Of course they are right, but is there any coach who, if offered the same opportunity, would turn it down? If there is, I don’t want him coaching at my school.

I woke up this morning mumbling “P. J. Tucker needs to move closer to the basket, he’s more effective in the paint. Duke has trouble stopping dribble penetration.” My new bride, the CourtMrs, stirred briefly, gave me that look that wives give their husbands when they have no idea what he’s talking about, and rolled over to get some more sleep. Thank you, Billy Packer.

I’ve seen Packer broadcast hundreds of games over the years, going back to the early seventies when he teamed with Jim Thacker to call the ACC game of the week on the C. D. Chesley regional network. He is extremely knowledgeable, but he has this annoying habit of making one or two valid points and then HAMMERING THEM TO DEATH. We did not need to hear his displeasure with Tucker’s placement on the court ten times. After the first two or three, we got the idea, if we cared at all.

Packer also had a style which comes across as more lecturing than analyzing, an approach which to me has the effect of sucking the fun out of the game. I feel like I should be taking notes when he is talking, because surely there will be an exam after the game and if I don’t do well, I won’t be allowed to watch the next one. Lighten up Billy! You don’t need to be Dick Vitale about it (we surely don’t need two of him) be we’re not dealing with nuclear disarmament here either.

Now let’s look around at the rest of the ACC:

Boston College center Sean Williams may not be back until either January 17, the first day of the second semester, or perhaps even as late as February 1, when his court-ordered probation ends. This is according to a report in the Boston Globe. A February 1 return would mean Williams will have missed 20 games and face Duke in his season debut.

Eagles’ sophomore forward Akida McLain would return for Sunday night’s game at Maryland. McLain was suspended for passing counterfeit $20 bills in May. It seems that one of the things BC brought into the ACC was a rap sheet.

Duke’s home away from home is the Meadowlands, but Boston College has played at least one game at Madison Square Garden in each of the last 24 seasons, the most recent being their 77-70 loss to Michigan State last week. The Eagles led 27-26 at halftime, but when the Spartans forced a quicker tempo in the second half, they took control of the game. After watching BC play at Maryland, though, it was reinforced to me that they can some kind of play half-court offense.

Maryland, on the other hand, couldn’t handle a taste of their own medicine in their loss to local rival George Washington last week. The Colonials, threatening to become the premier basketball program in the Washington, DC area, harassed the Terps with aggressive, in-your-face defense on their way to a 78-70 win. A total of 25 turnovers did in Maryland, just as 23 turnovers hurt them in their loss to Gonzaga in Maui.

Clemson played what observers generally regarded as a miserable game Friday night when they hosted East Tennessee State. I mention that because, unlike in recent years, the Tigers fought through that and won 80-72. Cliff Hammonds, who had been in a miserable shooting slump, scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half to help hold off the Buccaneers.

When point guard Sean Singletary does not play well for Virginia this year, they will struggle. When he doesn’t play at all, they are basically screwed. This point was demonstrated last week when he had to sit out a home game vs. Fordham with a lingering hip injury. The Rams came in with a 1-6 record, but left 2-6 after squeaking out a 62-60 victory.

Cavalier forward Jason Cain had his career game that night, scoring 16 points and grabbing 15 rebounds coming off the bench—keep an eye on him—but you have to question if Singletary is durable enough to play the kind of minutes Virginia needs him to in order to be competitive.

Georgia Tech looks like their season is going to be quite a rollercoaster, but they have two players who are rapidly growing into cornerstones of Coach Paul Hewitt’s rotation. Forward Jermis Smith scored 22 points in the Yellow Jackets’ last game an 82-72 win over East Tennessee State, and guard Anthony Morrow added 17 points.

Smith leads Tech in rebounds at 9.1 per game and is the team’s second leading scorer at 13.9. Morrow leads the Jackets with 17 points per game and is making 45% of his three-point attempts. He has 19 of the team’s 32 total threes so far this season. You may not have heard much about either player yet, but you will.

The CourtMaster’s Briefs

Here are some interesting stats and trends that tie into the Duke-Texas game. Duke is now 17-1 at the Meadowlands, losing only 77-75 to Arizona on February 26, 1989. Redick’s 41 points were the most scored by a Blue Devil since Danny Ferry dropped 58 on Miami on December 10, 1988. Perhaps Coach K should consider scheduling more games on December 10.

The Duke-Texas game was the first #1 vs. #2 since #1 Duke visited #2 North Carolina on February 5, 1998. The Tar Heels were not gracious hosts, winning the game 97-73 and trading spots with the Blue Devils in the next poll.

I know this is not basketball related, but I’m going to take a moment and brag on my school. On Sunday, Maryland won its SECOND national championship of the fall season by defeating New Mexico 1-0 and claiming the men’s soccer championship. The Terps had previously won the field hockey title in November.

Back in the early 1990’s, Maryland’s Olympic sports (then called “non-revenue) were at risk of being dropped due to severe budget deficits, and many of their budgets were slashed. To see the school now win championships with them is a testament to the great job Debbie Yow has done since taking over as athletic director in August, 1994.

That’s what I think. Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at You can follow ACC football through the bowl season on my blog at

Until next week, court is adjourned!

By Jim Johnson, The Courtmaster