- ESPN: First, I wanted to start off with one of the more insane statistics I’ve heard in a while. According to the ACC office, the cumulative score of the last 75 Duke-North Carolina games is 5,858 to 5,857 in favor of the Blue Devils. One point separates them. The series is just as tight over that same stretch with the Tar Heels holding onto a slim 38-37 lead. Basically, this rivalry is insanely competitive and played at a very high level (the last time one of the two schools wasn’t on the top seed line at the Big Dance was in 2003).
- Washington Post: Alex Len is coming around to ACC play after strong games against Miami and North Carolina. He struggled early in conference play, largely because of poor defense and lackluster conditioning. But Mark Turgeon’s strategy to try to make Len more confident (along with his workouts) has definitely paid off. Maryland may not be a very good ACC team this year, but it’s impossible to argue that the Terrapins aren’t competitive.
- ACC Sports Journal: No one questions Tony Bennett‘s coaching. But partially due to his style of play, partially due to local recruiting rivals (Georgetown, Maryland, and Virginia Tech) and partially due to the program’s relative lack of prestige, there’s a very legitimate question about whether Bennett will be able to recruit and keep top area talent. It doesn’t help that four of his “Six Shooters” (Bennett’s first class) departed early. That said, if Bennett can bring talent to his system, the Cavaliers should be able to become a perennial ACC contender.
- Oxford Public Ledger: I thought this article best captured the Blue Devils’ struggles against Miami. That game also reactivated my Reggie Johnson man-crush. Seriously, why did the basketball gods have to hurt his knees and keep him from getting in better shape? Back to the article, what’s especially interesting is Duke’s performance on the road versus at Cameron Indoor. Basically, the Blue Devils are playing significantly better on the road (they didn’t play Florida State and Virginia, two of the best defensive teams in the country on the road, but still). Duke needs a leader to step up and motivate this team to fight through every possession. It was abundantly clear that Duke was the better team on both ends of the floor in the second half against Miami, but it ran out of gas down the stretch.
- Raleigh Telegram: Lefty Driesell is back in the news. This time it’s to dispute an account (which has since been corrected) in Sam Walker’s ACC Basketball. The book described a scene after Dean Smith convinced one of Driesell’s recruits to attend North Carolina instead of Davidson. Walker wrote that Smith offered his hand and Driesell spit in it. Driesell is emphatic that he did not spit. The other interesting anecdote from the book DG Martin brings up is about the South Carolina – Maryland blowout, which was called off because of a bench-clearing brawl with five minutes left to play. Interesting stuff.
EXTRA: Drew Cannon of Basketball Prospectus developed a fool-proof system for filling out the NCAA Tournament bubble with RPI and KenPom rankings: Add them together. It’s so simple it’s beautiful. It’s also quite accurate, never missing more than three teams.