People today would have a hard time believing it, but for most of the 1970’s, UNC, NC State and Maryland were the dominant teams in the ACC.
It was a seven-team league then which also featured Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia and Clemson. Georgia Tech had joined but would not play until 1979.
Dean Smith was 18 years in at UNC and had built a dynasty. Norm Sloan had won the ACC’s second national championship in 1974 and while Lefty Driesell had not exactly made Maryland into the UCLA of the East that he had promised, it was undeniably good and entertaining.
In December, people close to Duke’s program had come to see that something really nice was happening but very few people thought Duke was a serious team.
And also in December, the ACC got the Ernie Graham game.
Graham, a Maryland recruit from Baltimore, absolutely went off when NC State visited on December 20th, 1978, scoring 44 points. He led Maryland to a 124-111 win over the Wolfpack, shooting 18-26 from the floor and 8-10 from the line. Keep in mind that there was no three point shot.
By the end of the season, Duke emerged as one of the most interesting teams in ACC history. Gene Banks made the cover of Sports Illustrated with a spectacular photo. And pulling him down as he rebounded?
His post-Maryland life has been difficult. Graham has many demons but give him points for wrestling them and starting his life over.
Correction - this game happened in the 78-79 season