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The CourtMaster Thinks!

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session. After watching most of the ACC teams in action this past week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I saw and what I think it means regarding how good these teams are. Here’s what I think:

I think..This was a very bad weekend to be a Virginia Tech fan. It was bad enough their football team was shocked by Florida State in the ACC championship game, but then to lose like THAT at Duke in basketball? It had to really piss them off.

Give the Hokies a lot of credit for getting in position to win with a late 12-0 run. They have still never won at Duke, now losing 15 times at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but again the Blue Devils looked very mortal. Shelden Williams controlled the game inside, but J. J. Redick’s 6-18 shooting required Duke to get help from another source. Hello Sean Dockery! He had scored 16 points before knocking down one of the more memorable shots in recent Blue Devil history.

I think.. I was right when I went against the consensus and predicted that North Carolina would make it back to the NCAA tournament this season. Their young players showed me a lot on Saturday by going into Rupp Arena and attacking Kentucky from the opening tip.

The Tar Heels showed little evidence of being intimidated by the environment and did not back down when Kentucky made a run at the beginning of the second half. Reyshawn Terry had a breakout game against the Wildcats (25 points), but Carolina needs to make sure they don’t fall in love with the three-point shot. They were 7-16 in the first half at Kentucky, but they were only 2-13 against Illinois in the previous game. The Heels will go as far as their inside game can take them, and outside shooting will be a bouns.

I think..despite their performances in the Big 10-ACC Challenge, Georgia Tech and Virginia are still the two worst teams in the ACC. Sure, Georgia Tech put a scare into Michigan State on their home court and Virginia easily handled Northwestern, but I believe these two games will turn out to be the exception and not the rule with both teams.

The flurry of three-pointers that nearly led Georgia Tech to a huge upset at Michigan State is not something Yellow Jacket fans should get used to. In their previous game, a miserable loss to Illinois-Chicago, Tech shot 3-20 beyond the arc. Ra ‘Sean Dickey is showing signs of giving Tech an inside presence on offense, and Zam Frederick looked very much like a point guard against the Spartans, but this team is a year away from scoring many points.

Watching Virginia during their game at Georgia Tech was painful, as was their second half performance at Arizona last week. This will be a scrappy bunch that will offer resistance to their opponents, but they just can’t score. On nights when Sean Singletary is not shooting well, it will likely get ugly for the Cavaliers.

It’s easy to notice the difference in Coach Dave Leitao’s presence on Virginia’s bench. He’s not trying to cajole or negotiate with his players like Pete Gillen did. Instead, he is laying down the law. Leitao clearly has a certain way he wants his team to play, and deviations to that plan are not acceptable. I think Virginia fans should like what they see of him, and in a couple of years they will probably like what happens on the court.

I think..Maryland needs to start coming out of the locker room with more intensity, focus, whatever they need to avoid the miserable first halves that have been their trend so far. They should have blown a depleted Minnesota team out early last week instead of needing a big run in the second half to take control.

I think..I was shocked at how Marco Killingsworth abused Duke’s Shelden Williams Wednesday night. There aren’t too many other players in the nation that are 6” 8” 268 pounds and possess the low-post skills that Killingsworth has, so it’s not like Indiana unveiled a secret key to beating Duke. I think NBA scouts, however, took a dim view to Williams’ performance that night and it could wind up costing him some money next season.

I think.. Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser made a good decision when he moved Justin Gray back to the wing and put Harvey Hale in as the starting point guard. Not that Hale is setting the world on fire, but Gray certainly did against Wisconsin. Gray torched the Badgers for a career-high 37 points, and followed that up with 22 points in 23 minutes vs. Elon. J. J. Redick will have some good competition for the ACC scoring title this season.

I think..Miami really, really misses injured point guard Anthony Harris. The Hurricanes couldn’t break 60 points against either Temple or Michigan. Both are decent teams and both were on the road, but those were the type of games a school aspiring to compete for the upper echelon of the ACC need to win.

Sometimes a team’s low field goal percentage is less a factor of their shooting and more closely related to the type of shots they are taking. Without their primary ball distributor, Miami’s offense is not flowing well and they are not getting good shots. Harris should be back before the ACC schedule starts, not a moment too soon.

I think..Clemson could be tougher than anyone thought this season. They are off to a 6-0 start, their most recent victory being an 82-63 spanking of arch-rival South Carolina. There aren’t many teams in the ACC that will score a lot of points this season, but the Tigers appear to be one of them.

Clemson is averaging over 85 points per game and doing it with very balanced scoring. Shawan Robinson is the Tigers’ leading scorer at 12.3 points per game, but six of his teammates are averaging at least 8.7 points. If Cliff Hammonds can find his three-point stroke (7-38, 18.4% so far) Clemson will be even more dangerous.

I think..If the Big 10 didn’t win the Challenge this year (they lost 6-5) they’re never going to win. The performances of Purdue and Northwestern should be particularly embarrassing to the conference.

The CourtMaster’s Briefs

Since when did ESPN have to have a theme for each week? For example, Thanksgiving week was “Feast Week.” Why can’t they just present good games and let people watch them? Is it illegal for them NOT to overhype everything they do?

Texas has the interesting distinction of both their basketball teams and football teams having #1 vs. #2 nationally ranked teams play each other. While most of the nation will be more focused on the upcoming Rose Bowl match with Southern California, most of the readers at this site will be glued to the Duke-Texas game at Madison Square Garden. I think the Longhorns are further ahead with their game and like them to win what should be a great game.

Other games to follow next week are Maryland-George Washington on Monday, Michigan State-Boston College at the Jimmy V Classic in New York on Tuesday, and Boston College at Maryland next Sunday night.

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

Until next week, court is adjourned!

By Jim Johnson, The CourtMaster