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ACC Roundup

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One of the real blessings of living in the Triangle is that we not only have our own teams to follow but others as well. So even if your own team is mediocre, the others are still fun to follow, or, possibly, to detest.

Saturday's ACC Action
Teams Times TV
Clemson @ Maryland 9:00 PM ESPN
Miami @ Wake Forest 1:00 PM RSN
NC State @ North Carolina 4:00 PM ESPN
School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
Miami 13-0 1.000 22-3 .880
Duke 10-3 .769 23-3 .885
NC State 8-5 .615 19-7 .731
North Carolina 8-5 .615 18-8 .692
Virginia 8-5 .615 18-8 .692
Maryland 6-7 .462 18-8 .692
Florida State 6-7 .462 14-12 .538
Clemson 5-8 .385 13-12 .520
Georgia Tech 4-9 .308 14-11 .560
Boston College 4-9 .308 12-14 .462
Wake Forest 4-9 .308 11-14 .440
Virginia Tech 2-11 .154 11-15 .423

It's best, though, when all three teams are compelling. So we have Duke this year working to overcome the loss of Ryan Kelly, UNC learning to play a different way and improving rapidly and State radically better, if still uneven, under Mark Gottlieb than they were under anyone since Jim Valvano (like everyone else, we tend to discount Herb Sendek's quiet success at State, but Sendek's teams were awful to watch and were not competitive locally at all).

So there's a buzz in the air here like there hasn't been for some time about a State-UNC game. The first game this year was all about validating State's ascent. Since then, State hasn't been as consistent as anyone would like, though Lorenzo Brown's injury certainly played a role.

Still, for the first time in a long time with State in the house, UNC fans will be hungry, vigilant and annoyed.

State is not supposed to be better than UNC; it's been decades since that happened, unless you count the Doherty years, and no one likes to do that.

You have to go back to 1983 to find a year when State was clearly better than UNC and back to 1973-74 to find a stretch where State was historically dominant.

Not that they are right now.

State, predicted to dominate the conference this year, has fought back to a third-place tie with UNC and Virginia, but they aren't where they expected they would be. And that's not entirely bad.

As much as State needs to be good  - and as good as it is for the ACC to have a potent Wolfpack - it's also good for this team to learn how to fight and to deal with adversity.

There's always adversity.

After State's big win over Duke, they lost to Maryland, barely beat Clemson and lost to Wake.

After their big win over UNC, they lost to Virginia, Miami on a late Reggie Johnson tip-in and to Duke in Cameron.

Those losses were mostly without Brown, who suffered an ankle injury against Virginia.

In years past, State would have rolled over. So far, they've reacted well: they nipped Clemson on a last-second Scott Wood shot, beat Virginia Tech in overtime and hammered Florida State.

Both teams have changed their lineups, with State moving TJ Warren into the lineup and Rodney Purvis out and UNC surrounding James Michael McAdoo with four guards. Two of them are fairly large guards - PJ Hairston is 6-5 and thick while Reggie Bullock is 6-7.

Hairston will get the job of guarding CJ Leslie, which may not be easy for him. Leslie is taller, faster and jumps higher.

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State presents some real problems though because Leslie, Warren and Richard Howell all demand attention, not to mention Scott Wood and Brown.

Bullock can guard just about anyone except Howell but otherwise? You can't leave Wood alone; he can gut you. Brown is a tough matchup but UNC can't really use anyone other than Paige because Paige is five inches shorter than anyone else on the court and may not have gotten his weight over 160 yet.

On the other hand, UNC was not able to run with State last time, but as they showed against Georgia Tech, this group can get up and down the court. And while John Thompson was being bullheaded when he said it, he was basically correct: you can't hit what you can't catch.

It won't surprise us, by the way, if Howell gets some foul trouble with the quicker lineup. Not from McAdoo necessarily, but from others.

Speaking of UNC, the realignment rumors are heating up and focusing on UNC and Virginia. Here's why we think UNC is highly unlikely to do anything:

Given the scandal and what it's done to the school's reputation, which was cherished, moving to a new conference for more money isn't going to go over well with anyone - not the President of the UNC system, Thomas Ross, who like his wife has long-term UNC ties and certainly not while the UNC-CH chancellor's office is empty. It would simply amaze us if UNC, still recovering from a hugely embarrassing scandal, facing the potential death of the "UNC Way," were to put its neck in the noose and kick the chair out from under it personally. The negative publicity would be devastating, and UNC is nothing if not sensitive to bad publicity.

We're guessing that the vast majority of UNC fans would loathe the SEC's reputation (there's that word again) and find the Big Ten too far flung.

But you can put all that aside if you must and remember this: if things come to that point, the legislature will boil over. State and very likely  ECU partisans will work together to put an end to it. State folks for obvious reasons, ECU's simply because they don't like anything much about UNC (or State) and would prefer to limit their ambition.

There are also people with Duke and Wake ties there who would not be happy.

Then again, they'd also probably be giving up the cash cow of the twice-a-year Duke rivalry. The sentiment we've heard about expansion is that someone would have to persuade Duke and UNC to move together.

Does Clemson have a shot at Maryland? Well, to an extent that depends on Maryland. If they have a weak effort, yes. Maryland struggles from the outside and Clemson is an excellent defensive team.

Maryland's not quite dead for the tournament just yet, but a loss to Clemson would be terrible for the resume.

And what about Miami up at Wake? Well here's the thing: Miami has been courting danger to an extent.  They were very fortunate to beat State, without Brown, a weak Florida State gave them a tough game, Clemson very nearly beat them and Virginia fell in the final seconds.

They're tough minded, which is why they're winning the close games. That said, you'd think they could avoid being in them.

We're curious too to know how they're dealing with the pressure of being so highly rated. It's not a big surprise at Duke or UNC. Wake and Maryland have had some great teams in the recent past.

It's completely new for Miami, although Jim Larranaga has been to the mountaintop, first with Virginia and of course with George Mason.

Still, so much of this is new. You have people telling you all sorts of things, flattering you, cajoling you, looking for tickets, slipping you phone numbers. And then there's the media.

It's a complete circus and it's very hard to maintain your focus.

In some ways, a loss might be useful. Not that anyone there wants to lose.