Morning Five: 03.31.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2014

morning5

  1. The Final Four field is set and now all we have to do is wait five days for the national semifinals. The first semifinal will feature Florida against Connecticut, which is a rematch of the game in Storrs on December 2 that the Huskies won on a last-second Shabazz Napier jumper. This time Florida will be completely healthy and it will be at a neutral site, but it will be interesting to see if the Gators can beat the last team to beat them this season. The other semifinal features Wisconsin and Kentucky. Despite the fact that Wisconsin is a #2 seed and Kentucky is a #8 seed the Wildcats opened as two-points favorites in this one.
  2. Four teams were sent home earlier than they would have liked over the weekend and three of the fan bases acted in an appropriate manner. Arizona was the exceptions where students rioted leading to stand-offs with police and subsequently arrests. Fortunately no injuries were reported, but it was a bad way for the Wildcats to go out particularly when the coaches and players conducted themselves so well after a frustrating loss. While we understand the idiot of protests and riots in terms of political and civil issues, we don’t understand doing it in front of people (Arizona staff and Tucscon natives) who presumably agree with you.
  3. Now that the season is over for all, but four teams we are starting to transition into the part of the college basketball season where NBA Draft decisions are being made. Two of the biggest ones will come from Aaron Gordon and Andrew Wiggins both of whom are almost certainly expected to turn pro. They are expected to officially announce as early as today. On the other hand, Juwan Staten tweeted out on Saturday night that he would be returning for his senior year at West Virginia. Unlike the other two Staten is most likely a borderline draft pick so it makes sense for him to return. The other two are probably top-five picks so it makes sense for them to go after the guaranteed contract.
  4. Some players are headed to the NBA while others are just leaving school. The biggest news was out of Louisville where news broke that Kevin Ware was transferring. It was just a year ago that Ware became a symbol of the Cardinals on their march to the championship following his compound fracture in the Elite 8. Neither Ware nor his family have given any indication of where he will be transferring, but some sources suggest that he could be headed to Auburn to play for Bruce Pearl since Ware committed to play for Pearl at Tennessee before the barbecue/cookout  fiasco. The other major transfer announcement was Tyler Lewis who will be leaving North Carolina State. Whereas Ware had issues coming back from injury, Lewis had no such issue and was starting making his transfer even more confusing. Like Ware, Lewis has not listed any potential destinations.
  5. Finally, we get to the coaches who are part of the ever-revolving coaching carousel. The biggest news of the weekend was based on the lack of movement as Tommy Amaker turned down Boston College to stay at Harvard and Dave Rice turned down South Florida to stay at UNLV with Rice possibly getting two more years added onto his contract. In terms of potential news, Mike Montgomery is expected to announce later today whether he will remain the coach at California or retire.
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Triangle Basketball Apocalypse: A Retrospective

Posted by Matt Patton on March 24th, 2014

NC State, Duke and North Carolina all lost over the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament in excruciating fashion: NC State led essentially the whole game before slowly relinquishing a 99 percent safe (according to kenpom.com) lead in the final four minutes to Saint Louis; Duke’s stars failed to produce en route to also blowing a 90 percent safe lead in the final five minutes to a double-digit underdog; North Carolina made the round of 32, but never got a last shot (presumably to win the game) because of a hesitant clock operator. Let’s take a deeper look at all three.

Roy Williams was understandably deflated after bizarre finish. (credit: Christine Nguyen / Durham Herald Sun)

Roy Williams was understandably deflated after a bizarre finish in San Antonio. (credit: Christine Nguyen / Durham Herald Sun)

There’s no sugarcoating the NC State loss. It was brutal to follow. Drawn out and essentially feeding on itself (each missed free throw made the following ones even more difficult), it was just the toughest collapse to watch. Truthfully it was the worst collapse in a very long time. No one finished watching that game thinking that the better team (at least at this moment) had won. The Wolfpack dominated the first 37 minutes before Saint Louis got desperate and reached into the well-worn halls of NC State history for Jimmy V’s relentless fouling strategy. It worked. The Wolfpack made eight of 18 free throws in the final 2:44 of the game, while the dormant Billikens offense jumped to life, scoring 16 points over the same span (19 points if you count Jordair Jett‘s and-one with three minutes left that started the comeback). That was just shy of a third of Saint Louis’ offensive production over the first 37 minutes. Unsurprisingly, Jim Crews’ team went on to win in overtime after Tyler Lewis rattled out the would-be game winner at the buzzer from (gulp) the free throw line. Good luck finding a more drawn-out collapse.

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ACC M5: 02.26.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 26th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Akil Mitchell‘s offense is starting to come around. His defense has been elite all season, but his offense has taken a major step back from last year. His numbers still don’t match the double-double machine he was, but his shooting splits (not counting the free throw line) are almost identical to 2012-13. The good news is that his rebounding is back at an elite level. This year the Cavaliers don’t need him to shoulder nearly the same offensive load, but he’s absolutely critical for the Cavaliers on the boards.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: So the ratings are back from Syracuse-Duke and it’s safe to say the ACC will want these two schools to play multiple times a year. ESPN’s broadcast on Saturday night outdrew Lebron versus Durant two nights earlier, making it the highest rated sports event of the week (on cable). It also nearly doubled the ratings for North Carolina-Duke last Thursday night, which were admittedly split between ESPN and the local networks. Also, please enjoy more Jim Boeheim memes in the bottom slideshow.
  3. Charlotte Observer: Tyler Lewis finally has the starting point guard job at NC State. When Cat Barber started earlier this season, it looked like Lewis might be destined to become a role player coming off the bench. But as Barber’s freshman mistakes mounted, Mark Gottfried started going to Lewis more often. Lewis still can’t keep opposing guards in front of him, but there’s no denying that the Wolfpack’s offense looks best when he’s at the helm. He needs to improve his defense to keep the job in the long term because Barber will assuredly improve his consistency as he gets older.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Don’t look now but Marshall Plumlee is looking like a talented basketball player. It’s weird to say that there weren’t high expectations for a McDonalds All-American, but Plumlee never got much attention last season or for much of this one. Plumlee isn’t likely to see a huge boost in minutes next year (unless the Blue Devils want to go massive with him and Jahlil Okafor on the floor), but he already looks like a totally different player. He’s become much more confident, and therefore, effective. His shot-blocking and rebounding could end up being the Zoubekian post presence many have suggested that the Blue Devils need to make it to the Final Four.
  5. Blogger So Dear: Wake Forest showed some fight last night, playing spoiler at a sparsely attended game in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons beat Clemson, probably putting the Tigers on the wrong side of the bubble for good (barring a miraculous ACC Tournament run). Most importantly Jeff Bzdelik’s team showed a spark in the second half that had been missing the last couple of games. His team hasn’t quit yet, and still has an outside shot of finishing .500 with winnable games against Boston College and Miami (though that’s on the road) coming up.
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NC State Surges in ACC Standings, Possible Bubble Talk?

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

After starting conference play with an uninspiring 1-4 record, N.C. State has quietly climbed back up the standings. After dispatching Wake Forest 82-67 on Tuesday night in Raleigh, the Wolfpack have now jumped into a tie for sixth place in the ACC with a 6-5 mark. By winning five of its last six games, Mark Gottfried’s team is again starting to get some attention as a possible NCAA Tournament candidate, and that alone is a nice accomplishment in what was viewed as a major rebuilding year in Raleigh. While the surge is certainly great news for Wolfpack fans, there’s still a lot of work to be done for N.C. State to move itself on to the right side of the bubble.

ACC Leading Scorer T.J. Warren Leads N.C. State. (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

ACC Leading Scorer T.J. Warren Leads N.C. State.
(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Back on January 5, Wake Forest edged the Wolfpack on a late driving layup by Codi Miller-McIntyre, but last night N.C. State made sure the latest contest between the old Tobacco Road rivals did not come down to a similar situation. Behind T.J. Warren’s 34 points and 10 rebounds, the Wolfpack broke open the game late in the first half. Warren led the surge with 23 first half points on 10-on-14 shooting, marking the fourth time this year that the sophomore has topped 20 points in a half. When asked about his star player in the postgame press conference, Gottfried noted, “He’s got a knack to score in such a variety of ways. I think it’s unique.” That was certainly true on Tuesday as he scored on mid-range jumpers, offensive putbacks, and even connecting on 3-of-5 threes, matching his best long-range performance of the season.

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The Emergence of NC State’s T.J. Warren

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 20th, 2013

N.C. State sophomore forward T.J. Warren had an extremely successful freshman season on a Wolfpack squad that failed to live up to outsized expectations last year. After the departure of stars C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown, the reins were handed to Mr. Warren. Surrounded by a supporting cast of talented freshmen and an undersized yet feisty former Oak Hill point guard (Tyler Lewis), N.C. State was largely expected to coast to a lower/middle-of-the-pack finish in the ACC. However, behind freshman guard Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber’s unexpected scoring output, the emergences of forward/center Jordan Vandenberg and freshman big man Lennard Freeman, and Warren’s ascendence, the outlook is bright for this Wolfpack team.

T.J. Warren skies for an emphatic two points (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren skies for an emphatic two points
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Last season Warren was known for his other-worldly efficiency, pouring in 12.1 PPG on a remarkable 62.2% shooting and cementing his status as a player to keep an eye on. A popular misconception after the departures of the talented triumvirate was that N.C. State and Warren would struggle because of a lack of offensive options and overall experience and cohesion. That has not been the case, as N.C. State has cruised to a 8-2 record, beating Florida Gulf Coast, Northwestern, and most recently, Tennessee in solid wins. While their schedule has not been particularly strong, they look to be a force to be reckoned with in a weaker-than-expected ACC. They are now circled on teams’ calendars as a dangerous foe in ACC play, because when you have an elite scorer such as Warren to defend, there is no telling what kind of damage he can do.

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New Starting Lineup Working for NC State

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 9th, 2013

Although it’s still very early, NC State is showing signs that this may not be quite the down year many were predicting. After a lackluster 2-2 start to the season, head coach Mark Gottfried made some major lineup changes that are starting to pay big dividends during a four-game winning streak. The most obvious change is the return of seven-foot center Jordan Vandenberg, who missed the first four games due to an injured ankle, but he’s not the only newcomer to the starting lineup. Although all five opening game starters are now healthy, three of those players are coming off the bench.

T.J. Warren is Averaging 26 ppg in Last Four Games (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren is Averaging 26 ppg in Last Four Games
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Without Vandenberg in the lineup, the Wolfpack had to use all three freshmen bigs to man the post. When their highly regarded recruiting class was formed, BeeJay Anya, from famed DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, was NC State’s highest rated post recruit. Kyle Washington from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire was the next highest, with the third post player of the class, Lennard Freeman from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy, less celebrated than the other two. Ironically the three freshman bigs are performing in the exact opposite order when compared to expectations. Anya, who was listed at 275 pounds for his senior year of high school, inexplicably reported to Raleigh over the summer at 337 pounds and is currently listed at a hefty 325. He simply cannot play effectively at that weight. Out of necessity, Anya played about 10 minutes per game in the team’s first five contests, but only a total of three minutes in the last three.

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ACC Team Preview: North Carolina State Wolfpack

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 6th, 2013

North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried’s squad entered last season with the loftiest expectations the program had seen in some time. His Wolfpack was ranked as high as #6 in preseason national polls and was chosen as the odds-on favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. Instead, immaturity and inconsistency from a team loaded with talent landed the team in a fourth-place tie after the conference regular season.  NC State finished 24-11 and bowed out of its first-round NCAA Tournament match-up with Temple.

NC State Preview 2013

This year, expectations are drastically lower for Gottfried’s squad. Significant departures decimated his roster and left him with a very young team entering his third season in Raleigh. Gone are starters Richard Howell  and Scott Wood to graduation and C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown to early entry. Add to that the transfer to Connecticut of highly-touted freshman Rodney Purvis, who had an up-and-down first season at NC State, and the Wolfpack find themselves down all five starters from a year ago. Gottfried has assembled an impressive recruiting class for 2013-14 (though it may pale in comparison to the one he’ll have next year), but replacing all of that scoring and experience will be a mighty task for this year’s team. Gottfried’s returnees this year have experience, but much of it was in reserve situations and in spare minutes giving the aforementioned starters a breather.

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ACC M5: 10.31.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 31st, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: “Has the Carolina Way Disappeared?” CL Brown asks after a couple of rough years for the Tar Heels, between the academic scandal, football scandal and PJ Hairston’s lead foot. The short answer is no, if you buy into such things to begin with. But the truth of the matter is any time you try to make reality fit a myth, these stories will be written. Same thing with “The Patriot Way” and it goes for Coach K and his secondary violation a couple of years back.
  2. Baltimore Sun: There is big time bad news out of College Park, as Maryland announced that presumed starting point guard Seth Allen has broken his foot and will be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks. That’s essentially until conference play starts. With the Terrapin turnover issues last season, I’m sure Mark Turgeon was hoping to have a more experienced guard at the helm to start the season. Instead look for a hybrid of Dez Wells and frosh Roddy Peters to share point guard responsibilities in Allen’s absence.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Obviously take all of these reports coming from coaches and teams with a grain of salt, but Mike Tobey sounds like he may have picked up some intensity while practicing with the USA U-19 team this summer. That’s excellent news for Virginia, as Tobey was a really valuable offensive cog last season when he was healthy. He has put on an extra 10-15 pounds (remember that number) in hopes that the added strength will make him more productive.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Michael Rogner does a good job breaking down Florida State‘s defense and what the Seminoles need to do to get back to their elite status on that end of the court. Their youth on the front line really showed last season. Unlike Bernard James two and three years ago, freshmen Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky felt like they were out of position as often as they were in it. But I trust Leonard Hamilton to turn them around. On paper this team should be very good defensively (an elite defensive coach and a roster stocked with length and athleticism), but the Seminoles may still be another year away depending on the development of the bigs.
  5. Greensboro News-Record: Remember that number? Tyler Lewis – like every other slightly undersized player in college basketball this offseason — gained 15 pounds. Lewis may be the most important part of NC State’s offense this year. Don’t get me wrong, TJ Warren will lead the team in scoring by a long margin. But Lewis is the one who has to get the less offensively inclined players involved. And in all seriousness, the added weight and confidence should help him become more effective at the rim and on the defensive end of the floor.
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Rushed Reactions: NC State 80, Virginia Tech 63

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) is an RTC correspondent and an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the NC State vs. Virginia Tech game this afternoon at the ACC Tournament. 

Three Key Takeaways:

Erick Green's career ended with a dud, as Lorenzo Brown locked him down. (Icon SMI)

Erick Green’s career ended with a dud, as Lorenzo Brown locked him down. (Icon SMI)

  1. NC State can’t D up, but Lorenzo Brown can: Brown locked down ACC Player of the Year Erick Green. He fought through every screen and didn’t give Green an inch once he crossed half-court. The aggressive defense clearly got to Green, who finished with 15 points on 19 shots (and just watching the game, it was surprising he even got to that many). The individual effort was exactly what NC State needed more of this season, though it may prove to be a double-edged sword. Brown looked exhausted down the stretch, and it’s likely Mark Gottfried will call on him again tomorrow to guard Joe Harris. Two first-team All-ACC players in as many days is a tough assignment. I expect Gottfried to spell Brown at least a little with Rodney Purvis or Scott Wood, but Purvis gives up at least two inches and Wood can’t stay in front of anyone. 
  2. Erick Green gassed: Green only had one conference performance where he finished with a below average offensive efficiency. Now he’s got two. The only other time he shot so poorly, he made up for it with an 11-of-13 performance at the charity stripe. But possibly the most impressive part of Brown’s harassing defense was that he didn’t send Green to the line at all (Tyler Lewis fouled Green for his only two free throw attempts). Green looked a step slow, which is reasonable considering the 1,128 minutes he’s put in for the Hokies this season. But don’t fall for the trap that this means that Green didn’t deserve ACC Player of the Year. There’s a good argument to be made for other players, but one bad performance doesn’t discount Green’s truly outstanding season (see: Mason Plumlee’s four points against Maryland or Shane Larkin’s seven points against Clemson).
  3. NC State has a lot to prove: A win against the league’s cellar-dweller is going to do little to quite NC State’s critics, but the team looked better — especially the way it closed the game — than it has since beating Boston College last month. The real tests for the Wolfpack lie ahead with Virginia looming tomorrow. Also before going overboard on the Wolfpack’s team defense against Virginia Tech, they only held the Hokies to 0.04 points per possession (around 2.5 points) worse than their conference average (hat tip to John Gasaway). That’s not dominant team defense. Also a win against the ACC’s worst team isn’t going to help your seed very much.

Star of the Game: Richard Howell did what he pleased against Virginia Tech, going 11-of-13 from the field for 22 points and 12 rebounds. He doesn’t have the most talent on the floor, but he’s got the perfect combination of strength, toughness and an elite motor to be dominant. The other big stat is that Howell played 38 minutes. That could have never happened in past years just because of his tendency to get in foul trouble. His improvement (and ability to scale up his rebounding with minutes) over the past four years is remarkable.

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College Basketball By The Tweets: Cameron Crazy Chants, Notre Dame, Nerlens Noel, and Nate Wolters

Posted by Nick Fasulo on February 13th, 2013

bythetweets

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

When NC State beat Duke in Raleigh back in January, fans rushed the court, C.J Leslie was deemed a hero, and we were all supposed to think it was an ACC power-shifting victory for the Wolfpack. Then Mark Gottfried’s club took a return trip to Durham, and were beaten decisively, restoring reality and balance to the top of the league. Following the game, this was the scene at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Yes that’s right, just another day in the office for the Blue Devils

A Faux Chant About Tyler Lewis’s Grandmother

There’s nothing worse than a baseless rumor that lives and dies on Twitter… but when one occurs in the college basketball world, we have to at least trace its arc. Following said loss to Duke last week, NC State Wolfpack fans, or alumni, or beat writers, or maybe just Blue Devil haters, started something nasty declaring that the Cameron Crazies started a chant about Tyler Lewis’s grandmother, who passed away just days before. Totally awful, right? Absolutely, but ultimately something totally awful that likely never actually happened. The seeds were planted after it got in front of a former Wolfpack star with a bit of clout and a few thousand followers.

Within minutes many had immediately jumped at how horrible it sounded, while some took a second to think that it was probably not true.

Checking their timelines, and neither seem confident enough to deliver an earnest and clear response. So from there, all the Dookie fans got defensive, and rightfully so, and pretty quickly it was clear that this was a Twitter troll with a very short life span.

And finally.

Sigh. Oh and, by the way. Rodney Purvis checked Twitter, saw what was going on, posted his thoughts completely based on hearsay, looked like a clown, then deleted his tweet. All in the span of 45 seconds.

Let’s face it, NC State was just bitter. This did not happen or it would have had legs in the general media over the following days.  The Cameron Crazies have hurled some not-so-flattering chants at opponents over the years, but rarely have they leapt over the line like this.

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With Lorenzo Brown Out, Tyler Lewis is Seizing Opportunity to Shine

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on February 8th, 2013

Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham

There is no denying that Lorenzo Brown is N.C. State’s most important player. The key to their fast break, Brown was the catalyst for everything good that has happened for the Wolfpack in 2013. Since he picked up an ankle injury against Virginia, N.C. State is 0-3 and are in a bit of a tailspin as they look to discover an identity without their point guard. While the results haven’t been good, the play of freshman point guard Tyler Lewis has been encouraging and should give Wolfpack fans a reason to believe that if Brown should pick up another injury or end up in foul trouble, the team will still be in good hands.

Tyler Lewis (right) has proven a capable caretaker in the absence of Lorenzo Brown. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Tyler Lewis (right) has proven a capable caretaker in the absence of Lorenzo Brown. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

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ACC M5: 02.04.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 4th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Duke Basketball Report: This is a phenomenal article from Al Featherston, looking back at Duke winning number 1,000 nearly four decades ago. The article also includes two of the biggest ACC “What ifs?” ever:
    1. What if Lefty Driesell was given the Duke job?
    2. What if Adolph Rupp had taken over for Duke in the mid-1970′s?

    The first question is fascinating. Driesell built Maryland, but Duke already had a history of success (only five teams beat the Blue Devils to the 1,000 win mark). Could he have taken the Blue Devils to similar heights (and lows)? Just how different would Duke’s program be today if the (aptly described) “mercurial” Driesell ushered in the modern era instead of Coach K. Also, what would have happened to Mike Krzyzewski? Similar butterfly effects happen if Rupp takes over. The article also has historical anecdotes about the dominance of the Durham YMCA in the 1920′s. Seriously, give it a read.

  2. ESPN: Well, the inevitable has arrived. Despite not receiving bids from Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center in New York City, “because of the league’s changing membership,” those two arenas will still be in the running for the 2016-2021 ACC Tournaments. The move makes sense, but it has the potential to be a major flop too. The atmosphere at the ACC Tournament the past few years hasn’t been the same. The declining excitement is largely thanks to an increase in noncompetitive teams, the addition of Thursday and an expanding geographic footprint. Moving the tournament to New York could exacerbate the issues if the league continues to aim for a balanced allotment of tickets.
  3. ACC Sports Journal: The ACC is slowly rebuilding. Almost all programs appear to be moving in the right direction, though there are still plenty of questions surrounding almost all of the new coaches: Can Jim Larranaga and Steve Donahue recruit at the ACC level consistently? Can Brian Gregory and Brad Brownell break through to the next level? And can Jeff Bzdelik and Donahue pull their teams out of the cellar? The next couple of seasons are critical to the success of the ACC going forward because coaching stability is a huge factor in sustained success.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: NC State took a gut-punch against Miami without junior guard Lorenzo Brown. The Wolfpack controlled for most of the game, but a late Miami run and some costly errors from CJ Leslie (missed foul shots, turnovers, and dumb fouls) gave the Hurricanes the chance to win. But two stories more important than Reggie Johnson‘s buzzer-beating tip are starting to show through the game. For one, Miami is a solid two games ahead of Duke in the loss column (everyone else has three or more losses). That’s a very, very good place to be going into the second half of conference play. Second, Tyler Lewis finally started showing why he was a McDonald’s All-American. Lewis ran NC State’s offense very well against the best defense in the ACC, and he didn’t look nearly as lost on defense. He still needs some work, but developing Lewis is crucial in the long run.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Tech was a different team Sunday than the one that got smacked in Charlottesville (to be fair the home-road splits are looking fairly dramatic for Virginia too). The Yellow Jackets looked like they might be due for a repeat of their last game with the Cavaliers as they went into the half down by nine. Brian Gregory said after the loss that his team needed to learn how to finish. Well, the second time around they did just that. Georgia Tech held Virginia to six points in the final 9:40 of the game. The Yellow Jackets were the first ACC team to drop 60 on Virginia. Good luck ranking the middle and bottom of the ACC this season. It’s a train-wreck, though it’s a train-wreck played at a higher level than last year.
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