Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A Look Back
The biggest news this week (in the country) was Kyrie Irving’s injury. Here’s what we know: it’s a “complicated” ligament injury that will have him out for an undetermined period of time. Initial estimates pointed to him coming back in three to four weeks, but Mike Krzyzewski noted that he could be out all season. I’d be surprised if Irving sat the whole season, but obviously I don’t know exactly what the injury is. What I do know is Duke has one of the best medical staffs in the country. Rather than speculate on the nature or duration of the injury, I’ll try and address the effect of the injury on Duke.
Kyrie Irving was Duke’s best player (so far) this season. If you watched the close games, he totally took over for long stretches. While he struggled a little making decisions in the halfcourt offense, Irving was phenomenal in transition. Without Irving, Nolan Smith will be expected to step into the point guard role (a place he struggled last season). His production will definitely take a hit, and Duke will not be as effective out in transition. Audacity of Hoops had a very interesting statistical view of Irving’s plus-minus (expounded out to forty minutes) on the floor versus on the bench. The sample size is small, but the point is clear: Duke is a very good team even without Irving. Are they number one? Probably not. Only time will tell. Coach K is one of the best “adapters” in the land. For example: in 2001, he navigated Duke around Carlos Boozer’s broken foot, and Boozer came back just in time for the Big Dance (where they then won the national championship). Regardless, Irving’s injury is huge, so I’ll keep you posted on any updates (which should be coming in the next week or two).
Team of the Week: Boston College – With a solid road win over Maryland and topping a streaking Providence, BC takes the honors this week. The Terrapins led late in the game but couldn’t score for the last two and a half minutes. Maryland did not score a single point down the stretch. None. Still, Steve Donahue and his players deserve the credit. They took advantage of Maryland’s lack of a leader when it counted. The Eagles have a solid team that has the talent to finish second in the ACC. Do I think they will? Probably not. But Donahue is a good coach, and the players look like they have bought into his system. The Eagles have won their last five games (losing to Wisconsin on a neutral court), and they have a very winnable nonconference schedule extending into January.
Bizarro Team of the Week – Wake Forest: I’d like to give this to Maryland for coughing up the game to Boston College. Unfortunately, Wake Forest took note of the Maryland effort and outdid them by losing to UNC Wilmington –by 12. Really? UNCW. Ken Pomeroy ranks UNCW as a solid 234th in the nation. Defensively, they’re even worse (304th out of 345 teams). But Wake couldn’t manage to score 70. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but Wake is terrible. They’ve dug a cellar under the ACC and are camping out. I would not be surprised if they didn’t win one game in conference play (they certainly won’t be favored in any of them). I really hope Jeff Bzdelik gets things turned around soon (I have faith he will once he gets some of his recruits into the system). Wake lost a lot of talent, but they’re still much more talented than UNC Wilmington, Winthrop or Stetson. Those losses are unacceptable.
Player of the Week: Jordan Williams, Maryland – Williams is the obvious choice, but I hate giving this honor to someone who couldn’t get up a bucket in the last two minutes of a close game. But in truth it wasn’t his fault (at least directly). As a big man, he requires someone to get him the ball. Long story short: that didn’t happen. Still, I’d like to see him get a little more aggressive down the stretch. But you can’t argue with his numbers: 23 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes against UNC Greensboro and 27 points and 13 rebounds against Boston College.
- Duke (10-0): Duke didn’t have any trouble with Bradley or Saint Louis this week. Andre Dawkins looked especially good, scoring a career high 28 points against Bradley in Irving’s absence. All that talk about the effects of Irving’s injury applies more to Duke’s national hopes than their conference aspirations. Without Irving, Duke is still the class of the ACC. They’ll be much more susceptible to a couple of losses, but they still have a lot of offensive weapons.
- Miami (FL) (7-2): Miami took care of Stetson this week. Not a whole lot more to say. But I encourage you to check out Miami’s game against Central Florida, the only unbeaten squad left in the Sunshine State. The game is on Fox Sports at 1:00 PM EST Saturday.
- North Carolina (7-3): The Tar Heels beat Evansville decisively but weren’t ever able to put Long Beach State away. The game never felt like Long Beach State was going to win, but Roy Williams probably wanted more separation. However, two major pieces of good news for Tar Heels fans came out of the game: Harrison Barnes had his first double-double (19 points and ten rebounds), and Larry Drew II hit six of seven from the field to finish with 13 points and eight assists. That’s the kind of production most expected Barnes to showcase from the start, and the Heels will be thrilled if he can keep his numbers at those levels. As for Drew, that’s the first competent offensive performance he’s had this season (and more critical fans might suggest in his entire career). Chapel Hill point guards aren’t known for scoring in bunches, a product of Williams’ system, but a starting point guard needs to be able to hit shots. He had some particularly important shots late in the second half when Long Beach State was trying to mount a comeback.
- Boston College (8-2, 1-0): See “Team of the Week.”
- Florida State (7-2, 1-0): Florida State continued their painful offense, but they did get strong contributions from Deividas Dulkys (17 points), Derwin Kitchen, Bernard James and Okaro White (nine points each). The Seminoles need to find a way to repeat that production night in and night out rather than relying on Chris Singleton for everything. If they can score 75 every time out, they will win the majority of their games.
- Virginia (6-3, 1-0): Mike Scott is a player. So far, he’s averaging 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He had an off night against Radford, but finished with ten points and 13 boards. He’ll be crucial if Virginia wants to keep from sliding back down into the second half of the ACC (where everyone picked them in the preseason). A lot of credit goes to Tony Bennett for getting this team ready to play and picking up a couple great wins already.
- Maryland (7-3, 0-1): This team can’t win close games unless someone steps up. Sean Mosley is having an awful year (his numbers are down significantly from his sophomore season). If I had to guess, I’d say his decreased production comes from more pressure in Greivis Vasquez’s absence. His offensive efficiency rating has dipped from 116.6 last season to an ugly 89.0. I think Terrell Stoglin may need to be the one to step up down the stretch. It’s tough being a freshman leader, but someone has to do it (or at least get Jordan Williams the ball). Otherwise, this team is going to lose a lot of close games.
- N.C. State (5-3): Not much to report here apart from a win over South Carolina Upstate. Although the close loss to Syracuse is looking better after the Orange totally dismantled Michigan State this week. Once Tracy Smith is healthy, this team could still make a run for second. Keyword: could. I’m totally disenchanted with Sidney Lowe’s coaching, so I don’t expect it to happen, but they should at least get to the middle of the pack.
- Virginia Tech (5-4, 0-1): Life is tough for Virginia Tech basketball fans. They get built up and let down season after season. This week’s win at home against Penn State was nice, but it’s not going to help the at-large resume a lot (Maryland beat the Nittany Lions on the road by a much more convincing margin). The good news for Hokie fans is that Malcolm Delaney didn’t have to beat Penn State solo: three other Hokie players scored in double figures (Jeff Allen had a double-double, while Terrell Bell and Erick Green added some help). Seth Greenberg is going to have to find a way to get that sort of production against better teams too.
- Georgia Tech (5-4): Georgia Tech blew a lead to in-state rival Georgia to lose a heartbreaker. The Yellow Jackets bounced back with a win over Savannah State, who is admittedly very bad (1-10 to be exact). This week, Paul Hewitt can add a real resume booster with a win against A-10 contender Richmond.
- Clemson (5-4, 0-1): Brad Brownell got off to a quick start, but they’ve dropped their last three games–most recently choking away a lead at Florida State. Demontez Stitt is having knee troubles, but luckily for the Tigers, they have two very winnable games ahead of them in Savannah State and UNC Greensboro which they should be able to handle even if they’re without their leading scorer.
- Wake Forest (5-4, 0-1): Ugh. See “Bizarro Team of the Week.”
A Look Ahead
It’s exam time, ladies and gentlemen! That means the good games are few and far between. There are a couple of gems coming up. Saturday is definitely the best day:
Central Florida vs. Miami (1:00 PM, FSN)
Texas @ North Carolina (4:00 PM, CBS)
Georgia Tech vs. Richmond (5:00 PM)
Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State (8:00 PM)
Wake Forest @ Xavier ** (8:00 PM, CBSCS)
Arizona @ N.C. State (4:30 PM, FSN) on Sunday is also one to keep an eye on because Arizona’s Derrick Williams is a beast in the paint.
**OK, so that probably won’t be a great game unless Wake makes some major adjustments.