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ACC Roundup, Christmas Edition

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With most everyone taking a break for Christmas (Miami does play in Hawaii on Christmas day, against Indiana State), there's not much to talk about in terms of day-to-day stuff, so let's look at the bigger picture, starting with UNC.

Christmas Day ACC Action
Teams Times TV
Miami vs. Indiana State 7:30 PM ESPN2
School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
Duke 0-0 .000 11-0 1.000
Maryland 0-0 .000 10-1 .909
NC State 0-0 .000 9-2 .818
Georgia Tech 0-0 .000 8-2 .800
Miami 0-0 .000 8-2 .800
North Carolina 0-0 .000 9-3 .750
Virginia 0-0 .000 9-3 .750
Virginia Tech 0-0 .000 9-3 .750
Clemson 0-0 .000 7-4 .636
Florida State 0-0 .000 7-4 .636
Boston College 0-0 .000 6-5 .545
Wake Forest 0-0 .000 6-5 .545

Although UNC has prospered under Roy Williams, it's still the Silver Age vs. Dean's Smith's Golden Age.

One of the many ways Smith was superior was that he did a much better job of adapting to his talent. Subordinate to that, he (and Bill Guthridge) did an outstanding job of recruiting nobodies, usually big nobodies, and turning them into highly reliable big men for a year or two.

There always seemed to be a Serge Zwikker, a Kevin Salvadori or a seven foot aspiring astronaut taking up space for two or three seasons before being pressed into service and found to be a reliable post presence.

Ol' Roy hasn't done that so much, although in fairness he doesn't seem to have a Coach Gut on this staff.

But without question, UNC, so magnificent in the post last year with double trouble in John Henson and Tyler Zeller, is hurting down low.

And we didn't mean that down low either. It's Christmas! Get your mind out of the gutter, you...

Anyway, pardon the interruption.

UNC is averaging a healthy 47 rebounds, but let's look for a minute at reasonable opponents.

Against Butler, the Heels lost the rebounding battle 36-27. Offensive rebounds were even at nine.  UNC's big men picked up just two offensive boards, both by James Michael McAdoo.

Against Indiana, the draw was 44-34 and 13-9 on the offensive end, both to IU's advantage.

McAdoo picked up four offensive boards; fellow big men Desmond Hubert, Joel James and Brice Johnson collected a cumulative goose egg.

By the way, we were amused to learn that James' first name is not pronounced Joel but rather Krypton style: Jo-el. Apparently offensive boards are his Kryptonite.

None of them managed an offensive rebound against Butler either.

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Against Texas, not exactly a powerhouse right now, McAdoo had three, James one, while Hubert and Johnson again whiffed.

Fortunately for UNC, Reggie Bullock grabbed six offensive boards while PJ Hairston managed four. Presumably UNC's need to shoot from outside is leading to long rebounds? We can't see those guys mixing it up a whole lot inside, but we could be wrong.

In their most recent outing against the McNeese sausage grinder (bad joke, sorry), McAdoo and Hubert managed two, Johnson three, James two and walk-on Jackson Simmons outperformed them all with four.

So the answer to an inside weakness is outside/three point shooting, right?

Well, maybe.

Luke Davis is shooting a miraculous 100% across the board, which is great until you realize he's only taken six shots from the floor, three point range and the line. At least he's making good decisions.

Otherwise, Bullock leads the way with an impressive 49.1%; Leslie McDonald is next up with 41.1%.

Supposed marksman PJ Hairston is at 37.3%

No one else should bother: assist man Marcus Paige checks in at 31.7%, while Dexter Strickland is registering 23.5%.

JP Tokoto is the only other guy who has taken a three yet and he's bringing up the rear at a miserable 14.3%.

So for UNC to take around 22 treys a game is not good - particularly with the big men not doing Against teams like McNeese State, it's not as big a deal - UNC hit nearly 50% when the Cowboys weren't home on the range - but as we said, against the big boys, it's harder.

Duke has relied on the three for years, but they typically pair it with an aggressive defense which forces turnovers, and better-than-stats-indicate defensive rebounding.

For the Heels, it's tough: perhaps the biggest connection between Roy's style and Dean's more elegant system is that they both rather prefer to have two solid big men. Right now, Ol' Roy has McAdoo, who has been erratic and uncertain.

Next year, he'll have a lot of talent and one potential superstar in Nate Hicks. But this year is looking a bit rocky.

Speaking of UNC, the Top 25 looks a bit strange without them as they fell out this week, and in truth, even as ACC partisans and people with a deep, wayr  respect for what UNC basketball has done over the years, we can't say they belong right now.

That leaves two ACC teams in the Top 25: the first and the last.

Duke is #1 and State is #25 in the USA Today Coaches poll. On the general theory that coaches are more knowledgeable that ink-stained wretches, we'll go with them. The writers have State at #23.

UNC got 16 votes from the writers and 34 from the coaches.

Whatever you think of the rankings and where teams are currently, there's no question in our mind that State is getting better, and fairly quickly.

They still have issues, but as TJ Warren and Rodney Purvis get incorporated and inculcated, those issues will be less lethal, with the exception of Richard Howell's tendency to get in foul trouble.

Yes, they took a dip, but they are improving and, we think, rapidly.

Who else is rising? Maryland, possibly. The Terps are 10-1 and getting votes in both polls, although still in single digits.

They're having issues with some of their younger players, but Alex Len is right their with Mason Plumlee as one of the ACC's best big men and Dez Wells could potentially be super by the time he's fully understood by his teammates (and by the time he fully asserts his talents).

James Padgett has been around long enough to understand his role and to be solid if something less than a star. We bet Roy Williams would take him in a heart beat: a senior power forward who gets his job done.

Pe'Shon Howard is an effective point guard again after recovering from last year's injury, and Nick Faust has lots of room to grow.

Backup Seth Allen is looking solid although free throws may keep him out of games late.

Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Jake Layman are all freshmen forwards and all are getting double digit minutes. Any of the three could emerge as a really good player by the end of the season.

Mark Turgeon has confessed some frustration with his group, but they are still young (11 underclassmen and Wells has only been on campus a few months) and he is a superb teacher. He did a wonderful job last year and we expect he will this year as well.

We're willing to discount Miami's loss to Arizona for a couple of reasons: first of all they missed Reggie Johnson's 10 boards (Johnson is sitting out their  Hawaiian trip with a jammed thumb): Arizona absolutely dominated the boards, 44-19.

We know it's not a zero-sum game, but add 10 boards and 12 points (Johnson's normal contribution) and it could have been much closer. Assume for argument's sake that his points would have made the difference  seven.

Still, before the game got out of hand, what struck us was this: Miami was playing like a very competent team.

Frank Haith rarely managed that trick. We suspect Jim Larranaga will have this group performing at high efficiency.

We'll confess to being very curious about Georgia Tech. We know they're young and still rebuilding, but we remember Dayton's game against UNC in the NIT. Brian Gregory is a solid coach and learned his craft from Tom Izzo, so we're guessing the Yellow Jackets soon will be very good at defense and rebounding and high percentage decisions.

There are a lot of nice athletes on this team and if everyone buys in and learns quickly, they could be

Virginia has had some tough luck, but if they can get Jontel Evans back as a defensive factor, they'll do better than people think. They have some solid building blocks in (a healthy) Evans, Joe Harris who is sort of a poor man's Jerry Sloan (as a player obviously) and Akil Mitchell, whose improvement since last year is as impressive as anyone's in the conference.

Justin Anderson has not yet had a huge impact, but his talent is very real.

But of course only two teams are in the Top 25 right now.

However, if you squint a bit, the Top 25 looks quite  different:

Duke is #1, soon-to-join Louisville #4, up-and-coming ACC member Syracuse is #9, Notre Dame is #21 and Pitt #24. Add State and that's six; add UNC, as the Heels won't be down long, and that's almost a third of the Top 25.

Just not this year.