WDRB: Well the Chris Jones saga at Louisville just took an awful turn, as Jones pled not guilty to rape and sodomy charges yesterday. Obviously, these are serious and heinous crimes. Eric Crawford does a good job here in piecing together a timeline. First Jones was suspended over the threatening text message he sent to a girlfriend; then, after agreeing to curfew and handing over his phone, Jones was reinstated in time for the Miami game. That night of that game was when the much more serious alleged crimes took place. Just unbelievable.
Bleacher Report: One quick disclaimer — this article focuses on football. But it’s the subject of the article that I care about. There’s a proposal (championed by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany) for freshmen to once again become ineligible. Needless to say that this is a horrible idea. The only reason I can see the NCAA doing this would be to force the NBA to change its draft age-limit rule. That’s stupid. A more reasonable reason (that would need research) would be if football players had fewer concussion-related injuries if they sat out the year between high school and college, giving them more time to acclimate to a faster and stronger game. But that only applies to football. I firmly believe you should be able to go pro right out of high school, but that’s up to the NBA to figure out. Colleges already have enough dumb rules; keeping its stars off the court helps no one.
Greensboro News Record: Cat Barber has been tremendous in ACC play. Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner get a lot of the press for NC State‘s success, but Barber’s improvement has made the Wolfpack much scarier. Remember that at the start of conference play many pundits (and uninformed bloggers like yours truly) were calling for Mark Gottfried to bench Barber in favor of Cody Martin. That looks ridiculous in retrospect. Interestingly enough, Gottfried, a coach known for telling CJ Leslie to be Calvin, tells Barber to “go be Cat” and “be yourself.” Obviously, Barber doesn’t have the same reasons for his underachievement, but the difference in approach is striking.
Richmond Times Dispatch: With the beatdown Virginia put on Wake Forest now behind them, the Cavaliers have all but locked up the ACC regular season title — all they need to do is beat Virginia Tech. Admittedly, the Hokies looked great against Duke shooting threes on Wednesday night, but my guess is that this weekend’s game won’t be remotely close. Given Justin Anderson and London Perrantes‘ injuries, winning the top seed in the ACC Tournament will be quite a feat — unbalanced schedules be damned. But this year also feels a little like the the “put up or shut up” judgment year for the pack-line defense at the national level (winning the ACC Tournament last year has already answered that question regionally).
TigerNet: Want an exercise in futility? Try to predict the NCAA Tournament bracket weeks before conference tournaments begin. Want even more of a challenge? Get into the business of predicting the NIT field. Unlike the NCAA Tournament (which can select any team it wants), the NIT gets the teams that were left out. That means the top seeds are just as much in flux as those at the bottom. That said, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida State (somehow) are all in the current versions of NIT bracketology.
Orlando Sentinel: Let’s start with our game of the night. Florida State almost came back to knock Miami right out of any NCAA Tournament talk thanks to Xavier Rathan-Mayes turning into a video game character for four minutes. Rathan-Mayes scored 26 points in just 3:36 of action (h/t to Michael Rogner). I’m calling it right now: We’re seeing a serious shakeup in the ACC next year. I think Florida State and NC State are both going to be really, really good. Duke needs Tyus Jones to return and Virginia needs Justin Anderson to do the same. North Carolina will be good with most of its players returning, but the Heels desperately need a shooter. Notre Dame and Louisville will both take steps backwards. That leaves plenty of room for a team or two to jump in from the periphery.
SBNation: In our other game of the night, Duke managed to stave off Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Duke’s defense looks awful (if you had the Hokies putting up an offensive efficiency of over 130.0 — easily the worst Duke has given up this year — please take your lies elsewhere), and while Jahlil Okafor will get the press (and his 30 points that easily could’ve been 35 if he had made some free throws), Quinn Cook is what kept Duke from being blown out of the gym. The Hokies couldn’t miss a three but Cook answered every volley with a shot of his own (including a dagger in overtime). This game highlighted the weird conundrum that is Duke this year: When they’re on, they can beat anyone (and badly); but when the Blue Devils’ defense is struggling, they’re quite average. Nick Fasulo does a good job pointing out how overlooked Cook has been this year, as he’s quietly been one of the most efficient players in the country. His usage doesn’t merit a first team All-ACC selection, but Cook deserves more credit for this team’s success.
Washington Post: Moving on to a less competitive game, Wake Forest forgot to show up against an undermanned Virginia team in Winston-Salem last night. It looked like Tony Bennett’s squad was out for blood (the Demon Deacons should have bested the Cavaliers in Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago), and this is a good story on Virginia’s eraser in the paint, senior Darion Atkins. He’s a huge reason why the Cavaliers’ defense is still one of the best in the country even after losing Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris. He’s also a quiet part of why Virginia hasn’t fallen off too much in Justin Anderson’s absence.
CBSSports.com: Sam Vecenie took a look at the ACC Player of the Year race, and it’s pretty amazing. You have the National Player of the Year candidates (Jahlil Okafor and Jerian Grant); the stat machines without the accompanying team success to make the national spotlight (OlivierHanlan and RakeemChristmas); and you have the awesome players who struggle because a teammate is so good (MalcolmBrogdon and JustinAnderson; TerryRozier and MontrezlHarrell). That doesn’t even get us to guys like TrevorLacey or TyusJones who have been unreal in the clutch this year. Pretty awesome problem to have.
Louisville Courier-Journal: As we approach bracket season, it’s important to not only think about the bubble but also how personnel losses will affect teams’ seeds. It’s unlikely that Rasheed Sulaimon’s dismissal will have any bearing on Duke’s line (the Blue Devils are undefeated with wins over Virginia and North Carolina since he was dismissed), but Louisville without ChrisJones is another story. This is a really thorough look at Louisville’s current profile (along with some explanations of the bracketing rules).
EXTRA (via Will Brinson): Abdul-Malik Abu promised two of the Chapel Hill shooting victims that NC State would beat Duke and North Carolina this year (as a wedding present), and with the win over teh Heels he made good on the gift.
Fayetteville Observer: Let’s start with NC State. The Wolfpack uglied it up last night in Chapel Hill and came away with a convincing win in Chapel Hill (their first in over a decade — couches were burned). Bret Strelow does a terrific job with this profile of Trevor Lacey. It’s full of great information. Did you know Lacey leads the country in points per possession on isolation plays, according to Synergy? Now you do. It also has some great anecdotes from Lacey’s days dominating high school and from his time on the scout team. My two favorite parts were Mark Gottfried dropping, “I remember when I got drafted by the Pistons” as an introduction to a story. Gottfried was drafted in the seventh round! I mean there were only 23 teams back then, but that’s an elite-level humblebrag. My second favorite tidbit was that Lacey credits former Duke guard Austin Rivers as the inspiration for some of his moves. That was completely unexpected.
The Cauldron: Ever wondered what it’s like to be the PA announcer at Cameron Indoor Stadium? Trip Durham (Duke’s PA announcer) gives us all the details. He grew up a North Carolina fan, but he’s now fully integrated into the Duke home game experience. It’s interesting that Durham feels like the job connects him back to his childhood and his late father. PA announcers generally fly under the radar (except at Wake Forest games; you won’t miss the distinctive growl), but it’s fascinating to see another side of the coin.
Syracuse Post Standard: Time to talk some bracketology with Patrick Stevens. If you don’t keep up with Stevens’ work, he’s been one of the best in the business for a few years now, so it’s worth checking in with his regular columns. The only real questions in the ACC are: “Will NC State and/or Miami get in?” and “Who earns a #1 seed?” Right now the answers seem like yes and no, respectively; and Duke and Virginia (although I’d be surprised if both manage to get a top seed unless there are a flurry of upsets in other conference tournaments).
The Pitt News: Remarkably, Pittsburgh managed to stay in the NCAA Tournament conversation (barely) by eking out a home win last night over Boston College. The reason the Panthers still have a shot to make it into the Dance is because they have a fairly strong RPI. They’ll be hurt by an abysmal non-conference schedule, but Pittsburgh is a (very) strong ACC Tournament run away from the right side of the bubble. Now the real story from the Pittsburgh win is that Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan scored 39 points on 20 field goal attempts! That’s incredible. Fingers are crossed that we see Hanlan go unconscious again this year in Greensboro.
JohnGasaway.com: Tuesday Truths are back! Why is this week noteworthy? Duke and Virginia appear to be separating themselves from the pack (I imagine even more so now, given last night’s results). That’s far from unexpected, but it hasn’t been the case until just recently. It’s somewhat misleading to say Virginia is distinguishing itself because its efficiency margin has plummeted since losing Justin Anderson to injury (thanks to an anemic offense) — although it was bound to suffer, it has dropped by 30 percent in the last three weeks.
WDRB: It didn’t take long for Louisville’s Chris Jones to go from indefinitely suspended to reinstated to dismissed in what felt like a blink of an eye. The details certainly aren’t pretty and they’re made worse by what we don’t know yet. According to a police report, Jones allegedly threatened to hit his on-and-off girlfriend after she “messed up his room” after he stood her up. That’s a really bad look. What we don’t know yet is the other incident that Louisville Public Safety is looking into. Hopefully Jones can get the help he needs because it will be nearly impossible to get his career back on track if he doesn’t. His absence probably spells long-term trouble for Louisville, which only managed 17 first half points against Georgia Tech before coming back to win by a single point at the end.
Raleigh News & Observer: More bad news out of Chapel Hill, as Andrew Carter sat down with an ailing Bill Guthridge. If you don’t recall the name, Guthridge was Dean Smith’s right hand man for 30 years before taking over the program in the three years following Smith’s retirement (1997-2000). Sadly, Guthridge’s mental health is suffering because of a serious heart condition: “I’m not up with it,” he said while trying to recall his head coaching stint. Carter writes the hell out of this story, but it’s a really tough read.
Hampton Roads Daily Press: Virginia got even more banged up when London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon smashed their heads together against Florida State (a game that’s been incredibly physical in recent years). Brogdon ended up with a pretty ugly bump while Perrantes came away with a broken nose and “concussion symptoms.” The injury also led to some rather grisly pictures of Perrantes’ bloody jersey. Virginia has struggled mightily on offense since Justin Anderson’s injury, so losing Perrantes for any extended time will only exacerbate the situation. Wake Forest has a real shot at a marquee win when the hobbled Cavaliers come to town this week (recall that the Deacs only lost by one on the road).
Charleston Post and Courier: Gene Sapakoff has some pretty strong words about the state of the ACC and Brad Brownell‘s legacy. “Clemson head coach Brad Brownell in particular has an easier ACC path than Cliff Ellis or Rick Barnes had, and ought to be graded accordingly.” I agree with him that win totals are a little inflated these days, but I think that undersells the job Brownell has done with this year’s team. That said, if he keeps fielding teams with low expectations, that’s a problem of its own.
Slap the Sign: Here’s a case for Mike Brey to win ACC Coach of the Year. Here are my cases for Mike Brey to come in third: Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Weirdly, the last time Coach K won this award was way back in 2000. That’s stupid (he probably should have won in 2010) and reflects the way (most of) the media votes for this award: How much does your team overachieve based on the preseason expectations that we set? The only slightly better voting dogma is to always vote for the coach of the team that wins the conference, which is inexcusable with an unbalanced round-robin schedule. If Virginia finishes with two or fewer losses or if Duke finishes with three losses, one of those two head coaches deserves the award (I would lean towards Krzyzewski, but Bennett’s case is strong too). Brey has had a great year and well exceeded almost everyone’s expectations, but that has as much to do with undervaluing Jerian Grant as it does with Brey’s coaching acumen.
EXTRA (via NJ.com): Whew boy, Roy Williams certainly let the North Carolina fan base have it. After a very cool opening four-corners set (shown below) that didn’t get enough love from the Tar Heels’ faithful, Williams lit into the crowd saying that “they were asleep most of the day anyway.” Feels like Williams almost slipped into a frustrated vulgarity, but that’ll have to wait for next time.
Raleigh News & Observer: Wow! What a game. It was far from pretty, but Duke‘s win over North Carolina delivered on all of the hype. My thoughts on the game: Duke played better for the majority of it, but the Blue Devils committed some costly turnovers, missed a number of foul shots and gave up enough open shots enough to give North Carolina a chance to steal the game. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson were almost able to pull it off (and maybe with a more active whistle down the stretch, they would have), but this game made me much more comfortable with North Carolina as a top-15 team because the Tar Heels nearly won on the road while getting virtually nothing from Marcus Paige. The article has great stuff from Barry Jacobs on why the first game was so late in the schedule this year, and he also takes a look at Virginia.
College Basketball Talk: This is a good look from Rob Dauster on Virginia‘s play without Justin Anderson. The most noticeable hole on the team is with its perimeter shooting (along with its best option for getting his own shot). Evan Nolte is getting a lot more minutes in his absence, though, which should help if Anderson gets in foul trouble in March. It will be really unfortunate if Anderson’s injury ultimately sidelines the most recent ACC national title contender (I know Duke is also in that conversation, but Virginia has been better this season). Without a healthy Anderson, the Cavaliers will be left in the annals of some other conference “what if?” teams like 2011 Duke and 2012 North Carolina.
Louisville Courier-Journal: Louisville may be headed for disaster, as the Cardinals suspended Chris Jones indefinitely and Rick Pitino doesn’t sound too eager to allow him back on the court. Without their senior point guard in the lineup, the Cards lost to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last night and are now on the outside of a double-bye in the ACC Tournament. With games against Notre Dame and Virginia still left on the schedule, things aren’t going to get easier from here on out. Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell are reportedly calling a dreaded “players’ meeting” to get the team back on track.
Boston College Heights: Olivier Hanlan doesn’t have a lot of support around him this season. Everyone knew that was the case coming into the year but it was painfully obvious in Boston College’s most recent loss to Florida State. Hanlan has scored 30 or more points in three of his last four games; he plays brutal minutes (39 minutes per game in ACC play); and he doesn’t really have any other options to look for spot-ups on his penetration. I’m hoping we’re due for another Hanlan explosion in the ACC Tournament this year.
Gwinnett Daily Post: Speaking of suspensions, Chris Bolden has been sidelined indefinitely for Brian Gregory’s team. It’s generous to call Bolden streaky (he’s experienced far more slumps than hot streaks), but he was one of the few Yellow Jackets always at the ready to heave threes. The other, slightly more efficient long-range shooter on the team is 6’9 Quinton Stephens. Georgia Tech doesn’t have much on the line at this point since legitimate postseason play appears out of reach.
EXTRA (via Spartanburg Herald Journal): Some really sad news out of Clemson as former Tiger Chris Hobbs passed away last weekend. Hobbs was only 33. He finished his career at Clemson in 2004 (Oliver Purnell’s first season), and he was a tough player, starting from the beginning on admittedly disappointing Clemson teams.
Raleigh News & Observer: Andrew Carter is on the train that we need to speed up college basketball. He thinks that the shot clock should be shortened, which would increase the number of possessions. In close games, the shorter shot clock would also give the losing team a better shot at a comeback. I think you’d see a slight dip in offensive efficiency, but a lot of slower teams don’t really get into their offense for the first 10 to 15 seconds anyway. That said, I’m not sure this rule change fixes the game. Something like that needs a major overhaul (shorter shot clocks; different standards for a foul; fewer timeouts). But if nothing else, I’d like to see the ACC get back to its vintage run-and-gun days of recent yore.
Washington Post: Virginia‘s three-point shooting has been atrocious since losing Justin Anderson, one of the best shooters in the ACC. And after a way-too-close call on Saturday against Wake Forest at home, the Cavaliers need to get back to basics. A dirty little secret this year is that Virginia’s offense has been as efficient as its defense. Now the Cavaliers have to find a way to make do without their best and most versatile player. I’ve said this before, but assuming Anderson comes back healthy, this could end up making the team stronger and safer (not that the pack-line lends itself to players fouling out).
The State: Clemson is a weird team this year. The Tigers are probably not good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, but they’re a really tough team to beat. They have a shockingly good conference record thanks to a couple of wins over fellow bubblers. Brad Brownell made a good point that his team is in a position to better its record because they have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. That should worry a team like Duke or Notre Dame, both of whom have to get past the Tigers (albeit at home). But it should really worry NC State. Right now Clemson isn’t good enough to count as a good win, but it sure can hurt resume for the Big Dance.
Chicago Sun-Times: So Jahlil Okafor loves Duke. He’s. Not. Going. To. Stay. It seems like this story gets written every year about top picks. It was written last year about Jabari Parker. Of course if you ask midseason players will say they want to stay. Most really like college, and they love their teammates. But that doesn’t mean they will (or should) turn down a multi-million dollar salary and a year of their professional career. Barring something crazy happening at the end of the season, Okafor should and probably will go pro. End of story.
Fayetteville Observer: Put your tin foil hats on everyone! Kevin White, Duke’s athletic director, was just chosen to serve on the Selection Committee. No matter how many times a media member goes through the mock selection process, fans don’t trust the real thing to live up to the same standards (and probably won’t while it remains so opaque). Appointing White probably won’t help.
Deadspin and Sports Illustrated: The great stories about the life of Dean Smith just continue to come off the press. Deadspin this week reprinted a profile of the North Carolina legend from a 1982 edition of Inside Sports, and it may do a better job describing Smith the competitor than anything written about him in the last 20 years. Sports Illustrated, on the other hand,got some of its senior writers together (many with connections to North Carolina) to share a bunch of short, personal stories. Most of the the pieces linked to so far have been about Smith’s legacy and accomplishments, but these stories do a better job in painting the mosaic of a complex human being.
Washington Post: Here’s some good news and bad news for Virginia. The good news is that the Cavaliers managed to get past the brutal part of their schedule with only one loss. The bad news is that Justin Anderson has to sit out for 4-6 weeks recovering from hand surgery. Wednesday night’s game at NC State won’t be easy, but Tony Bennett’s group should still be the clear favorite for the ACC regular season crown. I have two questions. Will Virginia improve over the long run because other players will have to shoulder more of the scoring load in Anderson’s absence? And will the star junior come back right where he left off? The answer to the second question likely depends on how long he’s out. If it’s just four weeks, he’ll have more time to get back in the swing of things before postseason play begins. The answer to the first question, though, will decide if Virginia gets caught by any ACC foes.
Richmond Times Dispatch: Buzz Williams made an interesting halftime wardrobe change that’s gotten his friend Scott Barber some free publicity. It didn’t hurt that Virginia Tech managed to eke out a win over Georgia Tech on Monday, but Williams switch to a “loud” (according to Barber) sweater got plenty of attention. My question is how hot is a wool sweater? It doesn’t seem like great coaching wear for someone who moves around the sidelines a lot (especially for someone just waiting on a more talented team to inspire opposing students to replace Gary Williams’ name in cheers). Regardless, you can buy a orange and purple argyle sweater of your own, and support charity while you’re at it.
Syracuse Post Standard: You don’t often hear Jim Boeheim apologize. I’m sure it’s happened before, but not nearly as often as he snaps at reporters. So it’s pretty surprising that Boeheim called Joe Starkey to apologize after the reporter had asked about the hygiene of the Syracuse program. Starkey responded by ripping Boeheim in a weekend column (comparing him to Bill Belichick, of all people). This whole series of events makes me wonder whether the NCAA is poised to drop the hammer on Syracuse and Boeheim wanted to do some pregame damage control.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Pittsburgh has a 14-person committee convened to find a new athletic director. Not impressed? Don’t worry, they’ve also burned a large pile of money hired a search firm to help identify their top candidates. Jamie Dixon isn’t on the committee, but I’d expect him to have some weight with the final decision. The good news is that Pittsburgh expects to have its new athletic director hired by the spring.
Grantland and Daily Tar Heel: Here are the last two Dean Smith tributes (for now). Grantland‘s Charles Pierce discusses his personal memory of Smith, putting it in the context of his own life and Smith’s career. The North Carolina student newspaper also did a great job eulogizing the longtime head coach.
Bleacher Report: This is a terrific profile of Wake Forest’s Danny Manning from B/R’s Jason King. My favorite part is the anecdote about how he’s been trying to get Devin Thomas to be less volatile. According to Thomas, Manning has the team hack Thomas in practice every time he gets the ball and makes him run laps if he loses his cool. Manning also likes to keep things low key, going to extreme lengths to keep his team focused. I worry that this strategy will get old quickly for boosters if Wake Forest doesn’t improve quickly enough, but if Manning gets super-recruit Harry Giles on campus, I’m not sure anyone in Winston-Salem will care that he expects the bus to be quiet. And I also expect that the Demon Deacons will improve.
Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: This is a really interesting idea: Instead of banning the Syracuse team from the postseason, ban Jim Boeheim. After all, the incidents in question didn’t occur this year nor did they involve any of the players currently on the roster. But they did happen under Boeheim’s watch. I hate postseason bans (except in the most extreme circumstances, not for infractions that happened seven years ago), but banning Boeheim from the program without pay it would hit him where it hurts. It would also send a clear message that the NCAA isn’t blaming the players for these transgressions; rather, the coaches who were responsible. Many people would no doubt welcome such a penalty.
Fayetteville Observer: Jahlil Okafor‘s hands are bigger than Elton Brand’s (at least as measured from the palm to the tip of the middle finger). That’s crazy. There are only six players in the DraftExpress database of the last six years who can match his hand-width, which explains why Duke lets him survey the floor while holding the ball in one hand. Well, that and he’s also one of the front-runners for National Player of the Year.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: This is a cool story on Georgia Tech assistant Tom Herrion and his work with Autism Speaks. Herrion and his friend Pat Skerry are the ones behind the puzzle piece pins you’ve been seeing on coaches throughout the country recently. Good on them for bringing awareness.
As I’m sure you heard on Sunday, legendary former North Carolina head coach Dean Smith died this weekend. His death led to an outpouring of stories, some of which are noted below. I wouldn’t read them all at once and there’s some repetition of tropes, but they paint slightly different perspectives of the same image (mostly through anecdotes, as Smith hated interviews).
Boston Globe: Bob Ryan does a tremendous job looking at Smith’s overall legacy (bookended with big games against Boston College).
Washington Post: John Feinstein (who’s currently working on a book about Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, and Jim Valvano) adds another perspective, looking at some of the people that Smith touched during his life.
Syracuse Post-Standard: Huge news broke yesterday evening. Syracuse has decided to self-impose a postseason ban in basketball this year “as a further means of acknowledging past mistakes.” Even though the team isn’t all that great this season, this is a big step. It means the Orange can’t play in the ACC Tournament, much less the Big Dance. The worst part is that this year’s players (who didn’t commit any of the infractions) are the ones who will pay the price. I’ll leave you with a couple of things: First, this doesn’t mean that the Orange are off the hook with the NCAA (although postseason bans usually go a long way — see Miami’s football scandal for an example); and second, this is the new ACC Tournament bracket — the only change is that the #10 seed now gets a bye.
Raleigh News & Observer: Luke DeCock thinks Virginia is still the team to beat in the ACC after the Cavaliers thrashed North Carolina (which admittedly couldn’t match up much worse) in Chapel Hill on Monday night. John Gasaway and I both agree. If you had questions, Duke’s letdown win at home against Georgia Tech should help with the argument. It doesn’t mean Duke isn’t really good or really dangerous (the same goes for Notre Dame, North Carolina and Louisville). It just means that Virginia operates in a higher gear consistently.
Chicago Tribune: Speaking of the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame has done very well in its close games this year. Sure, the Irish lost one to Pittsburgh, but on the whole Mike Brey’s team keeps its cool when games get tight. Their opponents do not, which means that the Irish’s porous defense gets enough stops to pull out the win. With a stone-cold killer like Jerian Grant capable of getting his own shot and plenty of shooters surrounding him, the Irish are really tough to beat down the stretch.
NC State Technician: NC State is digging deeper and deeper. Tuesday night’s game at Wake Forest represented a microcosm of their season (although their normal routine is a good first half followed by a bad second half). The Wolfpack came out incredibly flat in Winston-Salem and trailed by 21 points at the half. By the time they had mounted a comeback to make the margin reasonable, it was too late. The Demon Deacons held off the final run thanks to a little luck and a lot of cushion. NC State has now lost four of its last five games and has a whole week off to think about it. That gives Mark Gottfried plenty of time to make some adjustments, but his players also will have a lot of time to stew on their struggles. Oh, and Virginia is coming to town. The Wolfpack’s options are becoming limited — either steal a couple of wins down the stretch and stop losing to mediocre competition, or make a serious run in the ACC Tournament.
Washington Post: So how does Maryland‘s move to the Big Ten look? Mark Turgeon has finally gotten around to succeeding like I predicted when Maryland first hired him (albeit in a much weaker Big Ten than in years past), but it’s nice to hear Adrian Branch and Kristi Toliver say they regret the move and miss the ACC. I’ll be the first to admit I miss having Maryland around. Duke needs a foil outside of the Triangle, and the Terps often lived up to the role. All that said, I’ll take the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh over moving to be geographically isolated in a conference.
Raleigh News & Observer: Here’s an oral history of North Carolina‘s epic 102-100 double-overtime victory over Duke back in 1995 (also known as the Jeff Capel half-court shot game). It’s long, but well worth it, and a great primer for the game later this month.
Duke Basketball Report: Al Featherston does a great job in summing up the ACC so far this year. If you’re looking to catch up on where teams stand (he spends a little longer on Duke, but looks at all of the teams with a good shot at the NCAA Tournament), this is the piece to read at the turn.
Washington Post: Virginia is really good, but you already knew that. It’s probably helping that senior Darion Atkins decided to toughen up junior Mike Tobey: “I’ve definitely banged him around, threw him around and hit him a few times. Got in his grill and cursed him out once or twice just to make him stronger because that helps him a lot. Once he gets that physicality, he’s going to be a beast.” After the surprising collapse against Duke over the weekend, Virginia again looked like the second best team in the country in a dominant road win against North Carolina last night.
Greenville News: Don’t look now, but Clemson is above .500 in ACC play at 5-4, and that’s nothing short of amazing. Brad Brownell hasn’t managed to field a group with exceptional talent, but he’s remarkable at finding ways to make his teams competitive. It helps that the league has a lot of mediocrity below the elite tier, but winning four out of five to move into the top half of the league standings is unreal.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: This story has everything. Drama. Greatness. And lots of pizza. A Georgia Tech student hit a half-court shot for a year’s worth of pizza. Unfortunately for Caleb Espy, a year’s worth of Domino’s actually only means a pizza a week. For his efforts he was given 30 coupons for a free one-topping pizza because Georgia Tech didn’t have enough coupons on hand. “Kind of a bummer, but I’ll take it.” The real bummer is that a Virginia student recently got four attempts at a half-court shot and won $18,000.
Hampton Roads Daily Press: Welcome casual college basketball fans! Unfortunately you missed a hell of a weekend in the ACC. Seriously, this weekend was bonkers. Miami went out and totaled its NCAA Tournament resume with back-to-back bad losses, Duke scored on fourteen of its last fifteen possessions in one of the most impressive comebacks of year to knock off Virginia at home. And to all of the people saying this is proof “playing slow” lets opponents hang around, I say check the scoreboard (for all of the Cavaliers’ other games). Virginia is still a national title contender. They ran into a team that got hot and hit some crazy shots. Offensively, Duke matches up pretty well with Tony Bennett’s squad (good perimeter shooters and an All-American big who can pass well out of double teams). Now suddenly Duke goes from danger zone to being back in a pretty good place (at least in terms of getting a double-bye in the ACC Tournament), and Virginia has to worry about playing North Carolina. If the Tar Heels beat Virginia, maybe I’ll start worrying about the pack-line. But that Duke loss was just a team playing out of its mind.
Durham Herald-Sun: Still no news about Rasheed Sulaimon‘s dismissal, which is good news. Duke is being pretty tight-lipped and the Matt Jones said the team would be “behind Rasheed 100%.” Coach K said it was a very difficult decision but wouldn’t say anything else. What remains to be seen will be how Sulaimon’s dismissal will affect the team’s chemistry. That win against Virginia was because Duke got hot at the right time. They played very well at the start and the end of the game. You can’t overstate the value of the win from a confidence standpoint because it allows the team to move on from Sulaimon’s departure. But I want to see how they react to the next loss.
Louisville Courier-Journal: Speaking of big comebacks this weekend, Louisville came back from 18 down to steal a game against North Carolina. Montrezl Harrell looked like the man, going for 22 and 15 (and did this) while playing a big role in shutting the Tar Heels out of second-chance points in the second half. But the craziest stat was that Rick Pitino was 0-6 against the Tar Heels over his career (0-3 at Kentucky and 0-3 at Louisville).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: This was the most surprising result of the weekend for me. Pittsburgh isn’t good. This weekend had basketball gods written all over it. Louisville avenged its earlier loss to North Carolina with a huge comeback. Duke made up for blowing a double-digit second half lead at Notre Dame with the upset at Virginia (and double-digit second half comeback). And to finish everything, Steve Vasturia (the one who hit the dagger to do in Duke) missed a good look and allowed the Panthers to walk away big winners. I disagree that Pittsburgh is a NCAA Tournament team, but there’s still plenty of season left. What is certainly true is every team’s conference schedule is brutal this year.
Syracuse Post-Standard: Trevor Cooney is chasing an impossible ACC record. He’s averaging more than 40 minutes a game in conference play. Somehow he’s still behind Georgia Tech’s Dennis Scott who averaged a ridiculous 40.3 minutes a game in 1990. Cooney has only sat for four minutes all of conference play. With his slim roster, don’t expect Jim Boeheim to sit Cooney now.