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ACC Roundup

Fire Herb Sendek! Well, you know it's being said, and for once, we can
sympathize. Why does this happen to State? Why does it happen nearly
every year that State appears to be motoring along and doing fine and them
BAM! Someone just smacks the crap out of them, usually someone that
shouldn't smack the crap out of them.

Thursday Night Action -
Duke at Virginia Tech, 7 pm, ESPN

ACC Standings Conference Overall
<!a href="" target=_top>Duke 5 0 - 1.000 17 1 .944
<!a href="" target=_top>N.C.
4 2 1½ .667 15 4 .789
<!a href="" target=_top>Maryland 4 2 1½ .667 14 4 .778
<!a href="" target=_top>Virginia 4 2 1½ .667 10 6 .625
<!a href="" target=_top>Boston
3 3 2½ .500 15 4 .789
<!a href="" target=_top>Florida
3 3 2½ .500 12 4 .750
<!a href="" target=_top>Clemson 3 3 2½ .500 14 5 .737
<!a href="" target=_top>North
3 3 2½ .500 11 5 .688
<!a href="" target=_top>Miami 3 3 2½ .500 11 8 .579
<!a href="" target=_top>Georgia
2 4 3½ .333 9 8 .529
<!a href="" target=_top>Wake
1 5 4½ .167 12 7 .632
<!a href="" target=_top>Virginia
0 5 5 .000 10 8 .556

Losing to Seton Hall is not inexplicable, nor is it unforgivable. But
how in the heck does State lose at home to a team which has struggled on and off
the court for most of the past year and a half? And by 18? And in complete
control of the game? In the eternal words of Coach K, when asked if he
asked Bob Knight for help coaching: "c'mon, man."

We certainly realize that this is not the same team Duke blasted out of the
state 93-40 early in the season. But still: they're not 18 points better
than State. The Pack came unprepared, and when the pressure was on, they
had no answer. Indeed, as they did in Chapel Hill and Durham, the Pack
just basically rolled over when their fans would have wanted them to show
immense passion and desire.

Sendek has built a unique program, and he's a very bright guy, but how this
keeps happening is beyond us. And how a guy who comes across like a grind
ever worked for Rick Pitino, who is also a grind but also a bon vivant, without
showing some of Pitino rubbing off on him, is beyond us. Certainly a
Pitino team down double digits in the second half would dig in and play their
asses off. That just doesn't seem to happen at State. Maybe it's
those day-tight compartments. Maybe Herb needs to let a little air in.

By the way, here's Frank Dascenzo's lead from yesterday's column, which must
sound pretty foolish about now: "If it's true that a team is as good
as its last game, then Herb Sendek should be feeling very good today."


The sidebar to this story, particularly after the Duke loss to Georgetown, is
that the Big East is the end-all and be-all of college hoops. Balderdash.

Is the Big East better than the ACC this year? Okay. Are they an unholy
they even the

ACC, Sorted By Overall W/L

<!a href="" target=_top>Duke 17 1 .944
<!a href="" target=_top>N.C.
15 4 .789
<!a href="" target=_top>Boston
15 4 .789
<!a href="" target=_top>Maryland 14 4 .778
<!a href="" target=_top>Florida
12 4 .750
<!a href="" target=_top>Clemson 14 5 .737
<!a href="" target=_top>North
11 5 .688
<!a href="" target=_top>Wake
12 7 .632
<!a href="" target=_top>Virginia 10 6 .625
<!a href="" target=_top>Miami 11 8 .579
<!a href="" target=_top>Georgia
9 8 .529
<!a href="" target=_top>Virginia
10 8 .556

best conference in the country? No, that would be the Big Ten.

The ACC is in a bit of a down cycle, having lost a ton of players early to
the NBA over the last couple of years, but that will even out. With the
possible exceptions of N.C. State, Miami, and Wake, almost every team will
improve next year, and most will improve a lot.

(Aha, you say! But Duke loses J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams! True, but
they add Gerald Henderson, John Scheyer, and Brian Zoubek. And when you
look at Duke with Henderson and Nelson anchoring the defense, and the mobility
of Eric Boateng, who will play a good deal next year, Duke is going to be much,
much more aggressive defensively - and that usually means a great year in the
offing. You heard it here first).

Moreover, who is the worst coach in the conference? Tough question,
isn't it? This may be the best lineup of coaches the conference has seen, from
top to bottom: three hall of fame coaches in Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Gary
Williams, Oliver Purnell, who is doing a fantastic job at Clemson, winning where
Rick Barnes whined, Dave Leitao, who is doing an incredible job at UVa, Herb
Sendek, who is maddening but who wins, Paul Hewitt, who made it to the title
game two years ago, Frank Haith, who is exactly the young go-getter Miami needed
(and who may make the Caribbean his personal recruiting turf), and Leonard
Hamilton, who is a noted turnaround specialist who may be on the verge of making
FSU a basketball team at long last.

Skip Prosser is the only guy who is legitimately disappointing right now, and
if he had had Chris Paul back, he certainly would be in a better situation.

Obviously Virginia Tech has struggled, but no one should have to go through
what they've gone through this season. Seth Greenberg is a scrapper and a
builder, and he's gotten it done in his previous stops.

Going to 16 teams is a big gamble for the Big East, frankly. Aside from
the sheer sprawl, their are two competing conferences in there: exactly eight
pursue football seriously and would like to be big time. The other eight are
smaller, private schools where football is not as emphasized. Villanova
has a lot more in common with DePaul than UConn, and UConn has a lot more in
common with Louisville.

Aside from trying to keep those competing interests at peace, the Big East has
to score big in the NCAA Tournament. If they get into a down cycle like
the Big Ten was recently, or the SEC is currently, it's going to really hurt
their bottom line in a way it can't hurt the ACC or SEC.

So maybe expansion had a point after all.

But back to on-the-court stuff: if Duke's loss to Georgetown (currently
13-4) and State's loss to Seton Hall (currently 11-6) are black marks on the
conference, then what about West Virginia, currently #1 in the Big East, losing
to 7-9 (now 8-9) Marshall out of what's left of the C-USA?

We know, we know, it's like Clemson-South Carolina or Virginia-Virginia
Tech before expansion, but come on. Losing to a minor team with a losing
record, when you're the best the conference has to offer, well, get real.

The early book on Tyler Hansbrough is that he's a guy of limited athleticism
and an overachiever. Okay, if you want to buy that. But after
watching him for a bit, we have two words for you: Dave Cowens. The day of
6-8 centers in the NBA is long gone, but Dave Cowens thoroughly outplayed 7-2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the NBA Finals. As far as we can tell, Hansbrough
is just a sweeping hook away from Cowens reincarnated.

We were pretty sure B.C. would hammer him - and they did, actually - but he
rose to the occasion, with 26 points and eight boards against a strong and
experienced frontcourt. His teammates weren't up to his standard, though,
and B.C. won, 81-74

The other early line on him was he wasn't good enough to go to the NBA.
But as Shavlik Randolph has proved, as Larry Bird and Dave Cowen should have
proved for all time, everyone has a spot for a guy who works harder than anyone

Dean Smith used to say that playing a team which had just lost a player
to injury was dangerous. Chris McCray wasn't injured, but the principle
held as Maryland beat Georgia Tech, 86-74.

They did that despite 25 turnovers, but that won't wash forever. And it
wasn't just the guards; it was everyone. That'll hurt later. But the
Terps have clawed into a tie for third place, and third place gets you in.