Rushed Reactions: N.C. State 66, #11 Syracuse 63

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 14th, 2014

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ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

Three Key Takeaways in the Wolfpack’s upset win.

N.C. State's Star T.J. Warren Celebrates Upset Over Syracuse. (Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

N.C. State’s Star T.J. Warren Celebrates Upset Over Syracuse.
(Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

  1. N.C. State finally got that elusive quality win its been hunting all season. After last second losses to Syracuse and North Carolina in the ACC regular season, the third time was the charm for the Wolfpack. While the win may not put N.C. State into the NCAA field just yet, at least it keeps that dream alive. And with many other bubble teams falling all over the country, the Pack may be in great shape for a bid if they can at least get to the championship game. This game was following the same script as those previous two heartbreaking losses, with the Wolfpack building a nice second half lead only to see the opponent come back and take the game down to the wire. But this time, N.C. State rewrote the disappointing ending. It was instead the Wolfpack that made more winning plays down the stretch. Two of the biggest were on the defensive end, as N.C. State drew offensive fouls on C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis in the last three minutes of play.
  2. Syracuse is in a serious shooting slump. The main reason that the Orange lost four of six games after starting the year with 25 straight wins was that they shot under 40 percent from the field in all six games. After closing the regular season with a solid performance (48%) at Florida State, Jim Boeheim was hoping that was the start of a turnaround. Now, that game just looks like an outlier. Against an N.C. State defense that ranked 11th in the ACC in opponents’ shooting (42.2%), Syracuse struggled all night, shooting just 32.7 percent for the game. The last scattered Syracuse possession was a perfect example as the Orange missed six straight shots, many badly. In particular, its stars are no longer making shots like they did earlier in the season. C. J. Fair was a woeful 3-of-16 in the game and guards Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis combined to go 7-of-24 themselves. Perhaps the major minutes those players logged all year have finally gotten into their legs. And with this year’s Syracuse team not nearly as stingy defensively as last season’s Final Four squad, things are not looking good for a deep NCAA Tournament run for the Orange this year. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: Pittsburgh 80, #15 North Carolina 75

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways.

Marcus Paige has been a revelation this season. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige has been a revelation this season. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

  1. Pittsburgh finally got its big win. The Panthers were on the bubble coming into the ACC Tournament, but a dominant beatdown of Wake Forest and a convincing (albeit close) win against North Carolina puts the Panthers squarely where they should be talking about seeding rather than sweating on Selection Sunday. The Panthers are healthy and have two great players in Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. This team finally lived up to its computer profile. They pass the ball very well (when not being trapped in the backcourt, but more on that later), but most importantly, the way Pittsburgh plays there are no obvious weaknesses for opponents to exploit.
  2. North Carolina can’t keep starting slow. It’s a dangerous game to play. It’s even worse when you consider the Tar Heels appear to expect a perfect performance from Marcus Paige in the second half of every game. That said, give major credit to the Roy Williams for going to the press in the final quarter of the game. Pittsburgh really struggled with the pressure, and it got the North Carolina team (and crowd) back in the game. But there’s no reason this team should have stretches like the 3-of-19 start to open the contest. All that said, North Carolina almost pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks I’ve ever seen. They never quit, almost seeming to forget about the first three quarters of the game. That could pay dividends later.
  3. These are both good teams. Good enough to make a deep run in the Big Dance (or lose the first weekend). After the game, Paige was asked how they had lived up to his expectations.

    “The season is not over for us. It’s hard to say. There’s a lot that could happen in the next however many weeks that could change that answer. I think we have dreams and goals of making the deep Tournament run and I think we’re capable of doing that. A lot of it rests on that. We’re pleased with the way we’ve been able to fight back and win 12 games in a row and put ourselves in the good position. That’s not what our expectation was coming into the year. That’s what really made this month.”

    Couldn’t say it any better myself.

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Sentimental Value: On the Notion of an ACC Regular Season Crown

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on March 14th, 2014

Since many of the ACC’s founding members sprang from what was known as the ‘Southern Conference’ in 1953, the ACC adopted many of the SoCon’s mannerisms and bylaws. The Southern Conference traditionally anointed a champion via their postseason tournament and out of that came their postseason automatic bid. Ever since the ACC formalized the wording of a similarly fateful decision in 1961, the ACC regular season title has been all but a formality. The idea behind awarding a postseason victor in a short and somewhat chaotic multi-day tournament setting was to provide a free-for-all environment that was both entertaining and unpredictable. This ACC Tournament gave lower seeded teams who had a less successful regular season a chance at making The Big Dance. And back in the day and age where these rules were first enacted, only 15 teams were awarded chances at the NCAA Tournament, making a bid all that more valuable and cherished.

Is ACC Tournament success a strong indicator of NCAA Tournament success?

Is the ACC Tournament success a strong indicator of NCAA Tournament success? Florida State parlayed a win in the tournament in 2012 into a solid showing in the Big Dance.

In a format where games are played on top of each other with little or no rest or time to prepare, less superior teams would essentially be able to pull a win out regardless of their records. But while all the other major conferences today at least recognize officially the regular season champion, why has the ACC lagged behind is perplexing to say the least. The ACC finally began paying homage to the regular season winners in 1990, and retroactively recognized the winners from 1954-1989 in that same year. But why it took them so long, and why more conferences do not go along with the Ivy League method of a regular season champion is beyond me. ESPN‘s entrance into the foray and emphasis placed on Championship Week may have something to do with it, glamorizing the end of season postseason tournaments as bubble bursting madness.

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Rushed Reactions: Virginia 64, Florida State 51

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 14th, 2014

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ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

Three Key Takeaways from Virginia’s ACC quarterfinal win over Florida State.

Virginia's Anthony Gill Slams Home Two of His 16 Points Off The Bench. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Virginia’s Anthony Gill Slams Home Two of His 16 Points Off The Bench.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

  1. Virginia got back to being Virginia. After allowing Maryland to score 1.14 points per possession in the last game of the regular season, the Cavaliers got back to doing what they do best – stifling opposing offenses. Florida State only managed 51 points in 59 possessions, which is much more in line with how Virginia played in the 17 ACC games prior to its season-ending loss at Maryland. The Cavaliers were particular stingy in the first 10 minutes of the second half, while extending a five-point halftime lead to a fifteen-point spread. For the game, Virginia forced 15 turnovers and limited Florida State to only three three-point baskets and 11 free throw attempts.
  2. Florida State appears headed to the NIT. The Seminoles are probably on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble. Most experts had them as one of the last four out of the bracket before today’s game, so this loss pretty much seals the deal. One of Florida State’s season-long problems, ball-handling, showed up again in this one, as the Seminoles committed seven turnovers in the game’s first 10 minutes. The early miscues kept Florida State from building an early lead. The Seminoles started the game aggressively and held a 5-0 edge in offensive rebounds early before Virginia methodically took control of the game. Senior Okaro White led the Seminoles with 17 points but only four came after half-time.
  3. Virginia is a deep and versatile basketball team. Another key to the game was Virginia’s bench led by Anthony Gill, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. Gill really came through in the first half, providing inside points and energy that was sorely needed with starting big men Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey combining for only two first-half points. And with Malcolm Brogdon having his worst scoring game since ACC play began, senior Joe Harris responded with an aggressive offensive game. All this indicates the depth and versatility of this Virginia squad, making it hard on opposing teams to focus on any one or two players.

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Previewing Friday’s Quarterfinals at the ACC Tournament

Posted by Matt Patton & Brad Jenkins on March 14th, 2014

With Thursday essentially going chalk (other than ninth-seed Florida State topping eighth-seed Maryland), Friday is looking like a day of potentially awesome basketball.

Will Boris Bojanovsky Continue His Quest for the All-Tournament Team? (credit: SB Nation)

Will Boris Bojanovsky Continue His Quest for the All-Tournament Team? (credit: SB Nation)

#1 Virginia vs. #8 Florida State (12:00 ET)

While this looks like a game the Cavaliers should win, it may not come easy. Virginia is in the unusual position of being the hunted after earning its first top seed in the ACC Tournament in over 30 years. They beat Florida State by 12 in both meetings this year, but each of those was played back in January. The good news for Florida State is that they were able to match Virginia on the boards in both games, which few teams do. The bad news is that the Seminoles were dominated in turnover margin in each game, 16-to-6 in the first meeting and 18-to-9 in the second. To pull off the upset, Florida State cannot afford to give away so many possessions. As Seton Hall showed Thursday, it’s really tough to beat a team three times, and the Seminoles are looking for an invitation to the Big Dance.

Key playerIan Miller, Florida State. The Seminoles need Miller to play like he has the last few weeks, not like he did in the two games with the Cavaliers. Against Virginia, he totaled 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting and committed 11 turnovers. However, in his last eight games, Miller has averaged 16.6 points and made an impressive 23-of-46 three pointers.

#4 North Carolina vs. #5 Pittsburgh (2:00 ET)

This game would’ve been a lot easier to call a few days ago. Then North Carolina was riding a 12-game winning streak and Pittsburgh was hobbling its way to a fifth-place conference finish. Now? Not so fast. Pittsburgh looked like the efficient machine that wooed computers early in the season, dominating Wake Forest by 29-points. Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna looked healthy again. When the teams met during the regular season, the Tar Heels eked out the win thanks in large part to Zanna having a horrible game (2-11 from the field) while James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige had their way with the Panthers. The crowd will still heavily favor the Tar Heels (though I have no doubt NC State fans who come early will help out the Panther faithful), but this looks to be a tossup.

Key playerTalib Zanna, Pittsburgh. As mentioned above, Zanna was awful in Chapel Hill. That game he was still recovering from an ankle injury against Virginia. He needs to hold his own against the Tar Heel front line for Pittsburgh to have a chance. Over his last five games, Zanna is averaging over 15 points and nearly ten boards a game. That combined with better interior defense gives Pittsburgh a good shot at the upset.

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Channeling His Childress: TJ Warren Leads NC State into Rematch with Syracuse

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014

The ACC Tournament finally came to life Thursday night when NC State took the floor against Miami. The Raleigh contingent was boosted by departing Maryland fans, as Wolfpack red bled into nearly every section at the Greensboro Coliseum. NC State still held on to the NCAA Tournament bubble, but desperately needed at least one marquee win to have a chance. Miami looked to play spoiler. Durham native TJ Warren had other ideas.

TJ Warren gets a chance for history and revenge Friday against Syracuse. (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

TJ Warren gets a chance for history and revenge Friday against Syracuse.
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Warren is the best scorer in the ACC. Good luck finding someone to play devil’s advocate. He scores off the dribble, in the post, spotting up, you name it. Watching the Wolfpack grind out a win over Miami tonight, it was clear how Warren held his efficiency despite taking on nearly twice as many possessions. He picks his spots really well and has a great handle. Miami threw the book at NC State to stop him. Surprisingly, Jim Larranaga opened the game in man-to-man, switching to a zone before opting for a triangle-and-two as Ralston Turner found his groove. None worked. In the first half Miami did a good job playing Warren physically and switching on everything, but between Warren’s constant off-the-ball movement and Turner’s threes, the Hurricanes eventually wore down.

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Possible Jeff Bzdelik ACC Swan Song Ends Against Pittsburgh

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014

His postgame press conference said it all. Jeff Bzdelik‘s body language and tone, never his strongest attributes as a coach, showed the toll of another Thursday ACC Tournament loss to Pittsburgh.

“They hit us right between the eyes. We were on our heels the entire game.”

Jeff Bzdelik didn't have the answers against Pittsburgh. (credit: Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)

Jeff Bzdelik didn’t have the answers against Pittsburgh. (credit: Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer)

While his postseason and conference road records paint a black and white picture of Bzdelik’s tenure at Wake Forest, there are certainly bright spots when you look closer. He recruited a young core of talented players that showed a lot of potential in sweeping Tobacco Road at home this season. He also sat down with the deck stacked against him. People love to cite Dino Gaudio’s record, but there’s no denying Wake Forest was in a tailspin after Skip Prosser died. It’s not Bzdelik’s fault the vaunted 2008 class didn’t pan out. But no one expected the turnaround to move so slowly.

“We just lost some confidence, and we’ve been fragile with that throughout the course of the entire year.”

This game cast a similarly dark shadow. Wake Forest was outclassed at opening tip, unable to slow down the Panthers’ offense. Early, the Demon Deacons couldn’t grab a rebound. Pittsburgh, to its credit, couldn’t miss. While Travis McKie had one of the worst games of his career, Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson executed flawlessly. Every time the lead got to single digits, Pittsburgh responded with a run. Coron Williams had another good game, and Codi Miller-McIntyre showed flashes of his aggressive potential, but there’s no sugarcoating a 29-point loss.

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Maryland’s Last ACC Tournament Ends With a Whimper

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 13th, 2014

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

I’m going to miss Maryland, especially the rivalries with UNC and Duke. I think it’s a good move for them, the ACC is about to get too tough for them in basketball and football.” – Longtime North Carolina fan and ACC Tournament attendee Kevin Armwood.

And so it is over. After 61 years in the league, Maryland has played its final ACC Tournament game. The end came suddenly on a Boris Bojanovsky dunk with less than a second to play, lifting ninth-seeded Florida State over the eighth-seeded Terrapins on Thursday afternoon, 67-65. Maryland put up a game effort, coming back from an 11-point second half deficit to tie the game at 63 with under two minutes to play. But just like so many times during this season, the Terrapins once again couldn’t close the deal. The end came so swiftly that the rest of the ACC fans in the building didn’t have a chance to taunt the Maryland group on their way out of the building (and the conference).

Maryland Fans React to Loss in Final ACC Tournament for the Terrapins. (Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Maryland Fans React to Loss in Final ACC Tournament for the Terrapins.
(Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Certainly Terrapins fans have some mixed emotions regarding the school’s move to the Big Ten next year. There has always been the feeling among Maryland faithful that the ACC Tournament was an uphill battle for their school, particularly when it was held in the state of North Carolina (as it always seemed to be). So it’s fitting that Maryland’s last go-round in the grand-daddy of conference tourneys took place in Greensboro. After today’s loss, Maryland finishes its ACC tenure with a slightly lower winning percentage in ACC Tournament play (45.2%) than in its ACC regular season games (50.7%). Perhaps ironically, or perhaps just an artifact of sample size, the Terrapins have a better all-time tournament record in Greensboro (26-23) than in the four seasons when the event took place in the Washington, D.C., area (3-4). All three of Maryland’s ACC Championships were won in the Tar Heel State, with two of those net-cutting ceremonies taking place in Greensboro, the last in 2004 when Gary Williams led the Terps past arch-nemesis Duke. Of course, the most famous Maryland ACC Tournament moment came in the 1974 championship game overtime loss to N.C. State that kept the Terrapins out of the NCAA Tournament despite ranking in the top five of the polls all season long.

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ACC Tournament Observations: Bzdelik and Johnson Hot Seats Remain Toasty

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 12th, 2014

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

For the first time in its storied history, the ACC Tournament is a five-day event. Of course that was a necessary evil of expanding the conference to 15 schools, but Wednesday afternoon’s action represented the dawn of a new era in tournament history. In the afternoon session, two coaches positioned on the proverbial hot seat led their teams with mixed results. Twelfth-seeded Wake Forest shot a season-high 61 percent on its way to a 81-69 win over #13-seed Notre Dame; while in the second game of the day, #15-seed Virginia Tech hung close but fell 57-53 to #10-seed Miami.

The Upper Level Of The Greensboro Coliseum Was Curtained Out On Wednesday. (Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

The Upper Level Of The Greensboro Coliseum Was Curtained Off On Wednesday
(Photo: Brad Jenkins/RTC)

Knowing that interest for the opening round games was not going to be very high, the ACC decided not to include Wednesday’s games as part of its ACC Tournament ticket package. With most traveling fans reluctant to come to Greensboro that early, the ACC office also knew that attendance would be low. The league therefore decided to curtain off the Coliseum’s upper level for today’s games, like when UNC-Greensboro plays its home games in the building. The result is a more intimate-feeling arena, but the real goal is to avoid the embarrassment of exposing all the empty seats in the vast upper level of the Greensboro Coliseum. Estimating crowd size is an inexact science but there appeared to be around 6,000 to 8,000 fans in attendance for the afternoon games.

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ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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ACC M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 12th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Winston-Salem Journal: This may seem like a weird article to lead things off, but I think the biggest impact of the recent Greensboro Coliseum renovation is going to be AT&T’s investment that should theoretically end the dreaded poor cellular service at packed sporting events. They wired up the Greensboro Coliseum to help deal with the massive volume of data being used in such a small area. I’m hoping the wireless Internet got an upgrade too, but this will have much more impact on the fan experience.
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: James Johnson‘s future at Virginia Tech won’t be decided until after the ACC Tournament. It’s tough to judge Johnson’s body of work because his first season was essentially a throwaway since he was hired so late. Judging this season as his first makes me much more willing to give him another year to show significant improvement. That said, Virginia Tech has been really bad over those two seasons. And say what you want about Seth Greenberg, but he kept the Hokies competitive during his tenure in Blacksburg. Throwing in the new athletic director leads me to think this is probably Johnson’s last gasp, but Whit Babcock needs to make the decision promptly, whatever it turns out to be.
  3. Duke Basketball Report: Sticking with coaching hires for a minute, this is an interesting look at how some ACC schools might have missed their shot with Gregg Marshall. I don’t have a good read on Marshall at all, but something is off in that he didn’t get plucked from Winthrop sooner. So I don’t blame ACC schools. But I do agree with the general premise that it will be significantly more difficult to woo Marshall away from Wichita State to turn around Wake Forest. I think he’s biding his time until the next really big opening.
  4. Syracuse Post-Standard: Jim Boeheim has found out for the millionth time that the Internet can’t handle sarcasm very well. Reporters continue to ask him about playing in Greensboro. I’m not sure if that’s to bait him into another funny comment, or because they didn’t understand in the first place. But he spelled it out: “All [his disparaging comments] is just a Northern, not-funny guy trying to make some humorous remarks that people tend to want to take the wrong way. [....] Obviously for us, we’re in New York. We’d like to go to New York. It’s right there.”
  5. Backing the Pack: TJ Warren won ACC Player of the Year, and he deserved it. His conference scoring numbers were ridiculous both from a per-game view and an efficiency vantage. Now the bigger question: how far can Warren carry the Wolfpack?
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The Unofficial RTC ACC Superlatives

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 11th, 2014

While the more official hardware is beginning to be handed out, like Player and Coach of the Year and the All-ACC team’s, it’s worth looking at some more under-the-radar superlatives that players and coaches have earned through the course of the regular season on the precipice of ACC Tournament time in Greensboro.

Here are five awards that RTC found to be equally as important as some of their more official brethren:

Most Selfless Upperclassman: Joe Harris, Virginia.

His scoring dipped more than four points a game from a year ago as he watched Malcolm Brogdon become the go-to scorer and clutch player on the team, plummeting from preseason ACC Player of the Year prognostications seemingly from the first game’s opening tip. Nonetheless, Harris’ willingness to play team ball and enlarge his leadership role helped Virginia to their first outright ACC Title in 33 years and a current two-seed projection in the NCAA’s. Harris is a senior, so it’s rare for a player to back off in his final season and allow team success to trump personal statistics. Harris is still a force, but now knows he can operate in the background to help his team’s season become even more special.

Joe Harris' selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Joe Harris’ selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Best Coaching Job Outside of Charlottesville: Roy Williams, North Carolina.

Tony Bennett absolutely deserved the COY award for his unbelievable reclamation job with Virginia, but no one dealt with more adversity this year than Williams. Between the PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald saga, the academics issues brought to light by a former adviser, and the up-and-down start to the year with no set rotation and inconsistent effort, Williams had a ton on his plate in trying to get this team into postseason play. The Tar Heels won 12 conference games in a row, including a split with rival Duke, and own possibly the best non-conference wins of any team in the country. It’s arguably Williams’ best coaching job in Chapel Hill to date. Read the rest of this entry »

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