There is no doubt that great basketball is played around the country.Â You can make arguments for excellence for various Big conferences (East, Ten, 12), the PAC-10, the SEC most seasons, and less well-regarded leagues like the MAC and the Mountain West.Â But the ACC is just different, and that was really underscored this weekend.
|No Monday Games
On Saturday, Duke and Miami put on a fascinating game which went back and forth and required sustained passion for Duke to win. Then Florida State went into Clemson, where the Tigers were coming off a huge win over Duke, and put the kitties down, 65-61.
On Sunday, three down-and-out teams each played their hearts out.Â Unfortunately, two of them were required to lose.
State went to Blacksburg where they were dominating the Hokies, leading by 18 in the second half.Â Ben McCauley had a monster game with 25 points and 15 boards for the Pack, but the Hokies shut them down in the last 10 minutes of the game and came back. State again struggled with turnovers, coughing it up 22 times.Â In their game of musical point guards, Javi Gonzalez got the start, and 36 minutes.Â Farnold Degand didn't play for whatever reason.
They used their big lineup again, which is working reasonably well but does nothing for their point guard woes.Â Someone suit up El Sid!
Down in Atlanta, even though Georgia Tech is having a miserable season, and Maryland has been through a rough patch which was made worse by Greivis Vasquez and Gary Williams inability to rein in their mouths, the two teams put on a tremendous show, pretty much a passion play really, as both teams desperately needed a win.
It went down to the last second, as Iman Shumpert just missed a desperation shot from the baseline.Â Maryland pulled it out, 57-56.
Like State, Tech has major turnover issues and threw it away 24 times.Â But they have an imposing front line, at least in terms of board work, built around Gani Lawal, who has had a tremendous year.Â Maryland, despite a very small team, held him to eight points, and held Zachery Peacock to 11.Â Lawal got his boards (14), but Maryland came close overall, losing the boards 34-29 and the offensive battle 10-9.
After the buzzer, Williams, obviously elated, hugged Vasquez, if very briefly, and was highly emotional during his post-game interview.
During the game, the broadcasters revealed that Vasquez's father had been extremely ill earlier this year, which might explain his poor play and lack of concentration.Â He looked more like his old self against Tech.
While this was one of the most passionate games of the ACC season, and played with extraordinary intensity, it nonetheless was riddled with mistakes, as you might expect from two struggling teams, and a full gaggle of hilarious bench shots of the two coaches covering their eyes, shaking their heads and, from time to time, just turning away.
In the other Sunday game, B.C. at Wake Forest,Â despite being #6 in the country, Wake knew they were on shaky ground and that this was a huge game.
Wake had had four bad games in a row:Â three losses and while they were physically superior to Duke, Duke came back and nearly took the game.
If they lost this one, they would have been in big trouble and looking at seven teams ahead in the standings.Â They're still a young team, and the season wears on you, especially younger players.Â So big win for Wake, and great performances by Jeff Teague, Al-Farouq Aminu, and James Johnson.Â Teague hit for 27 and eight assists, Aminu had 26 and seven boards, and Johnson had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
All of these games were, to greater or lesser extents, games that each team really needed.Â Obviously, someone has to lose.Â But they all played with heart and passion, and they really underscored what sets this conference apart.Â Passion, competitive desire, and urgency are built into the ACC's DNA.Â There's nothing else like it.
And this is before Duke and UNC have even played the first time.