Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The CourtMaster From the ACC's Operation Basketball

Originally posted on DukeBasketballReport.com

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session on the road in lovely Greensboro, North Carolina. I traveled down here to rule on the ACC's annual Operation Basketball. This is the joint media day where coaches and players gather together to swap stories, eat, and tell the media how wonderful their team will be this year. Here are my rulings on the festivities.

After a lovely lunch (I'm happy anytime I go out and don't have to eat out of a bag), ACC Commissioner John Swofford graced us with a few moments of his southern charm. His main purpose was to tell everyone that ACC games would seemingly be on every television network except Comedy Central (bad for the image, I guess).

Swofford then introduced John Guthrie, who is the head of the ACC-SEC officiating partnership. He said the points of emphasis would be the same as last year; reducing contact in post play and between screeners and cutters. Interestingly, he said, "Hopefully we won't get to the overkill we started with last year." Folks, that is about as close as you get to hearing a referee saying they made a mistake.

After that exciting beginning, I journeyed over to a ballroom with all of the writers to begin interviewing coaches. Here are some of the highlights and my impressions after sitting across the table from some of the movers and shakers in the ACC.

Skip Prosser-Wake Forest: Prosser's wit and pleasant demeanor reminded me of his mentor, Pete Gillen, without 10 cups of coffee.

The main topic of conversation with Coach Prosser was the Demon Deacons' transition into his style of play. He said "Often, you feel like you're speaking a different language." He then balanced that by saying, "we have an intelligent group of kids who are willing listeners."
He made it clear that his team would become the "Runnin' Deacons or die trying." Good approach, coach, because your team is way too small to play any other way.

Gary Williams-Maryland: I've spent more time with Williams than I have any other coach, and it's obvious he does not appear to enjoy media gatherings. He will answer the questions, at times even humorously. It just seems as if he would prefer to be somewhere else.

He is pleased with how his team's practices have gone thus far, although he would rather not have such an early season opener (November 8 vs. Arizona).

I asked Williams to clarify a quote regarding recruiting in a recent Andy Katz column on ESPN.com. The quote was "Most of those top 10 guys get cheated on anyway. Why do that? Why not be a coach instead of a used car salesman?"

His response was "where that came from was talk about how players are rated. A lot of the top ten players have been offered things. That doesn't mean where they go to school. Some schools play it completely straight, other guys, you know, you can get a deal if you want one. What I say is that it's ok to get a player who might not be a great player his freshman year but by the times he's a senior develop into a great player." He added "we've had great players so I can get great players. I like to get other players too."

Even though he has now made it to a Final Four (no other ACC coach except Coach K has done that), Gary is still finding he has to defend his recruiting. Amazing.

Herb Sendek-NC State: As with all the returning ACC coaches, this is at least the second time I have had the opportunity to talk with him. He comes across as a sincere, caring man who would make a great relative or next-door neighbor.

I asked him who would rebound for his team, and he said "I'm wondering that myself. If you look at us on paper, you could easily scratch your head and wonder where in the world we could get a rebound from. We're a very small ACC team with very little to no experience up front. The only way I can think about doing it is in gang fashion."

Sendek does like his team's versatility, saying, "We really have a lot of interchangeable parts. I'm going to resist talking about positions." He felt that this concept would make it even easier for his young team to learn his system. It seems to me that it is harder for a player to learn multiple roles than it is for one, but I'm not a highly paid basketball coach. Of course, if his approach does not work this season, Sendek won't be either.

Matt Doherty-North Carolina: Doherty appears to be a naturally high-energy guy without ingesting stimulants, a style which should be, and is, effective recruiting.

He is also very proud of Carolina's tradition, saying "if you give me a 30 year window, I'd say Carolina's the standard for the country. That's what I'm trying to maintain." How about that, Duke fans?

In light of the recent controversy at the Inside Carolina UNC Basketball message boards (SID Steve Kirchner threatened to revoke IC's press credentials if posters were not required to include e-mail addresses); I asked Doherty if the negativity of some message board postings made his recruiting efforts more difficult?

Doherty did not mince words in his response, telling me "I don't read the message boards. I don't like them. There is no accountability. It's dangerous stuff."

If he does not read the message boards, how does he have an opinion one way or the other? Isn't "accountability" the main word Kirchner used in threatening IC? Could Doherty have been behind that? Next, will Carolina want those who call into sports radio shows to leave their home phone number? Just wondering.

Coach K-Duke: I'm always disappointed when he arrives in my presence without trumpets blaring and an entourage surrounding him. From what I've seen, both on TV and in person, is that he does not answer questions as much as he imparts his vast basketball wisdom.

Along with a brief lecture on the difference between talking and communication, he talked about filling the void left by the graduation of Shane Battier. Regarding leadership, he said "it will be a shared responsibility and should be with the experienced players we have coming back. They are looking to do that."

When asked about the recent rivalry between Duke and Maryland, he said "I don't look at a rivalary with a school. I think it's the worst thing you can do. I've never done that and I never will." Admitting a rivalry would mean sharing space on that pedestal, wouldn't it?

Larry Shyatt-Clemson: Shyatt impresses me as the kind of guy you would want for a drinking buddy. He would be the type to buy the extra round, tell dumb jokes and slap you on the back while he is laughing at them.

He did not set specific goals in the win column for his team, saying "We are better, we'll be fun. I don't know what that will equate to."

When I asked him if his team would slow down their tempo this season with more big men available to play, he emphatically told me "I promise you you won't see ANY half court sets. You may not see any sets. I want them to know how to play, not how to run play."

Well coach, you've got me interested. It does sound like the Tigers will be fun to watch, just not in the NCAA Tournament.

Steve Robinson-Florida State: Robinson is a pleasent interview, someone who believes in what he is doing and believes in his players without being on the defensive.

I asked him about Nigel Dixon, and if the reports of his improvement in practice were accurate. He confirmed that Dixon was down to 335 pounds, having lost about 80 since last season (a 415 pound basketball player?!). He said "It's not even close to the past two seasons. He is showing signs of maturity. When Nigel decided it was important enough to him, he lost weight."

He is particularly proud of Delvon Arrington, his point guard who became the first partial qualifier in the ACC to graduate in four years and earn back a year of eligibility. He told us "Why is the ACC taking all these partial qualifiers? Delvon is the reason why. When you write about it, you need to put in there Delvon Arrington, college graduate."

My pleasure coach.

Paul Hewitt-Georgia Tech: The consensus among the writers I sat with during this session is that Hewitt it the real deal as a head coach. He is very popular with his approach to the media, and well respected for his success.

When asked about the expectations for this year's team, he grinned and said "I have no idea. We're a little more gifted, but definitely sloppier.

Regarding the adjustment to being without center Alvin Jones, he said "It will be a different team, but statistically we can add up to the same numbers."

He shared his concern and admiration for senior Michael Isenhour, who is currently being treated for leukemia. Hewitt told us "He's (Isenhour) been the source of support to us. He's been so upbeat."

Our prayers are with Michael and his family as we hope for a full recovery for this fine young man.

Pete Gillen-Virginia: Gillen is always the highlight of these events. He is the only coach who brings his own comedy act with him. His opening comment was "We want to look good in the lay-up line this year. We're all into image."

He described freshman point guard Keith Jennifer as so thin that "if it's windy, we have to keep him in his room." He called departed senior Keith Friel "a pathological shooter. He only shot it when he had it." Gillen said of the Cavaliers' first round exit from the NCAA tournament last season, "We had an hors d'oeuvre at the NCAA, we couldn't stay around for the salad. Gonzaga was poised, we were like Sponge Bob (the cartoon character)."

When he was not doing schtick, we said his team would be more powerful and thicker, and said "Duke and Maryland are a breed apart, but we can beat them if we play. We can also lose to anyone in the conference."

It looks like Gillen will start Roger Mason at point guard until Keith Jenifer develops enough to take over. If that works out, they do indeed have a shot at the top guns in the ACC.

After a short potty break, the players came into the ballroom and the writers circulated among them. This is not our favorite part of the day, because how often does an 18-21 year old say something truly profound or interesting? Nonetheless, I caught a few things worth reporting.
Jason Williams said about going undefeated "I think for this team, it is a realistic goal." Jason, didn't you read my column last week? It's not going to happen!

Williams was asked about dealing with fan adulation. Regarding members of the opposite sex, he said "it's always girls 12-13 years old who really notice me." He also told us "since we've won the championship, what I've really learned is the value of time with my family."

Jason, some men NEVER learn that lesson. Good for you.

Mike Dunleavy told us how he put on 20 pounds this summer; "I lifted weights, drank supplement shakes, and ate 5-6 times a day." I've tried that last part and found it works, but I lost a step or three in the process.

I dropped by the table where Kris Land and Jason Capel were, and most of the talk was about the possibility of Julius Peppers playing this season. Lang's response was "I think he's going to play. I think he loves the game very much."

Lang impressed me with his response to Carolina's lower than usual rankings by pointing out that the 1971 Tar Heels was picked 7th and wound up winning the NIT when that really meant something. You don't hear too many of today's players having much of a grip on hoops history, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Capel responded to the same question by saying, "I don't see us as underdogs. I don't care about the opinions of writers." Hey man, that hurts. I bet if writers vote him an award, though, he'll accept it.

Most coaches brought along their point guards, and this group made a lasting impression on me with their poise, confidence, and determination.

If NC State, Florida State, and Clemson live down to the pre-season predictions, it probably won't be due to a lack of leadership from their point guards. Anthony Grundy, Delvon Arrington, and Ed Scott all struck me as being mature, grounded young men who realized how important they were to their teams and, rather than brag about it, wanted to work hard enough to lead them to successful seasons.

If these are the leaders of the worst teams in the ACC, then this is still going to be a very strong conference again this season.

Kudos to the ACC and Media Relations Director Brian Morrison for putting on a very worthwhile event in a lovely venue, the Grandover Resort. If I ever get per diem to travel, I might actually be able to stay there. I am already accepting applications from anyone interested in sponsoring next year's trip.

As always, this trip was made more enjoyable by the companionship and support of Mrs. Courtmaster (not to mention her driving).

Here are the results of the media voting for pre-season honors in the ACC.

Standings: First place votes are in parenthesis. There was a total of 74 ballots cast.
1-Duke (69) 661
2-Maryland (5) 596 (no, I was not one of the five)
3-Virginia 485
4-North Carolina 421
5-Wake Forest 407 (not second, DBR, fifth)
6-Georgia Tech 254
7-NC State 242
8-Florida State 140
9-Clemson 126

If these look familiar, it's because they happened to match my predictions exactly. At least if I'm wrong, I had company.

The jury is still out on the player and freshman of the year. I heard something about borrowed voting machines from Florida, but thay may have just been a rumor.

That's it from Greensboro. Let me know what you think on the message boards or send e-mail to thecourtmaster@aol.com ,

Next week, I'll be back in the comfort of my chambers previewing the early season tournaments ACC teams are participating in.

Monday, October 22, 2001

The CourtMaster Predicts the ACC

Originally posted on DukeBasketballReport.com

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session, and it's time to rule on the upcoming ACC season. For each team, I'll name their MIP (Most Irreplaceable Player), who might not be their best player, but would be the toughest one for them to replace in case of foul trouble or injury. I'll also identify the one key question which, when answered, will have the greatest impact on that team's success this season.

Let's start the countdown at #9 with--

Clemson (3-13)
MIP: Edward Scott
Key Question: Who will score?

The Tigers could more closely resemble Rick Barnes' old teams; offensive linemen types down low with questionable outside shooting.

Chris Hobbs and Ray Henderson could be tough inside, but Tony Stockman is their only reliable outside shooter. That is why their point guard, Edward Scott, is so important. It will be largely up to him to get the ball to his teammates where they have the best opportunity to take advantage of limited offensive skills.

A soft out of conference schedule could give Clemson enough wins to get into the NIT and possibly save Coach Larry Shyatt's job.

#8-Florida State (4-12)
MIP: Delvon Arrington
Key Question: Will experience losing help them win this year?

When a team is trying to rebound from a 9-21 season, having most of the same players back can be at best a mixed blessing.

Someone who draws no mixed feelings is point guard Delvon Arrington. His play in the second half of last season moved him up near the top tier at his position in the nation.

Newcomers Anthony Richardson and J. D. Bracy combine with returning starters Michael Joiner and Nigel Dixon (80 pounds less of him) to give the Seminoles a talented lineup.

Coach Steve Robinson will also have a solid bench to work with, but can he now teach them to win? If not, there will probably be a moving van pulling up in front of his house next spring. #7-

NC State (5-11)
MIP: Anthony Grundy
Key Question: Who will rebound?

There was a segment of Wolfpack fans who thought their team would be better off without last year's front court players, Kenny Inge and Damon Thornton.

It could well be true that the team will have better chemistry, but they won't have better rebounding. Their leading returning rebounder is guard Anthony Grundy.

They will need greater contributions from freshmen Jordan Collins, Levi Watkins, and Kristian Jensen than it is reasonable to expect. Grundy's experience on the floor will be critical, and freshman Julius Hodge should be an explosive running mate.

It is hard to see Coach Herb Sendek's team gaining control of a game against any quality opponents. This will make the ACC schedule an uphill struggle for the Pack, and it could be another long season in Raliegh.

#6-Georgia Tech (6-10)
MIP: Tony Akins
Key question: How well with youth replace experience?

Last seaon, Coach Paul Hewitt entered his first season at Georgia Tech needing to turn around a program populated with a group of disspirited upperclassmen. This season, he has a much different group to work with.

Of those players likely to receive serious playing time this season, only point guard Tony Akins is a senior. There are no juniors on the team, making Akins' expeience and leadership indispensable to the Yellow Jackets'.

There is plenty of young talent on this team, particularly sophomores Marvin Lewis and Halston Lane and freshmen Ed Nelson and Isma'il Muhammad. It remains to be seen if Hewitt's magic can compensate for his team's inexperpience.

#5-Wake Forest (8-8)
MIP: Darius Songalia
Key Question: Can they run?

The Skip Prosser era is underway at Wake Forest, and the Demon Deacons will look and act differently than they did during Dave Odom's reign.

Prosser was known for coaching a pressing, up-tempo style of play at Xavier, and he is seeking
to bring that with him to Winston-Salem. This will be a radical change from the half court style practiced by Odom's teams, but the timing could be right for that change.

With the loss of last year's seniors Josh Shoemaker and Rafael Vidauretta, Darius Songalia will be Wake's only experienced low-post player this season. This new style could elevate the production of Josh Howard and Craig Dawson.

The threat of newcomer Steve Lepore (transfer from Northwestern) and more consistent play from point guard Ervin Murray will also be important in transforming this team into the Runnin' Deacons.

If Coach Prosser is successful this season, it will go a long way toward cleansing the bad taste last year's late season collapse left in Wake Forest fans' mouths.

#4-North Carolina (9-7)
MIP: Jason Capel
Key Question: Will the football guys play hoops?

The worst thing to happen to Coach Matt Doherty's Tar Heels this year could be the success of the school's footbal team. Last season, the Heels did not hit their stride until quarterback Ronald Curry became entrenched as the main point guard. Defensive end Julius Peppers was also a valuable big man off the bench for the second season in a row.

If the Tar Heels continue their winning ways on the football field, Curry would not join the basketball team until early Jaunary. Until then, the point guard position could resemble a black hole.

Both Adam Boone and Brian Morrison failed to handle the position last season and, barring a significant improvement by either player, freshman Melvin Scott could be pressed into playing major minutes before he is ready.

This situation makes Jason Capel's role even larger. He could wind up playing some version of a "point forward," taking some playmaking responsibility away from the point guard. His leadership will be critical to the Tar Heel's success this season.

Kris Lang is the only returning low-post player (assuming Peppers does not return), meaning the Tar Heels could be a very perimeter oriented team. This will require freshmen Jawad Williams and Jackie Manuel to contribute immediately, but there is a good chance that will happen.

A young, small, and talented team will make this a very interesting season for Coach Doherty, one which could end Carolina's streak of 37 consecutive top-three ACC finishes.

#3-Virginia (10-6)
MIP: Roger Mason
Key Question: Who will play point guard?

For the second consecutive season, Virginia lost the services of point guard Majestic Mapp before practice started. Unlike last season, however, the Cavaliers do not have an experienced natural point guard to fill the position.

Fortunately for Coach Pete Gillen, he has a strong, experienced nucleus to work with. Roger Mason, Chris Williams, and Travis Watson are among the best players in the conference at their positions, and Adam Hall could have a breakout season.

Virginia's bench is young but talented. One of those youngsters, freshman Keith Jennifer, could be pressed into action at point guard. The other primary option is Mason, but, although he played the point well at times last season, it would inhibit his ability to take over a game with his scoring.

How effectively Coach Gillen is able to cover the point guard slot will probably determine if the Cavaliers can build on their success from last season.

#2-Maryland (13-3)
MIP: Byron Mouton
Key Question: Will they be hungry?

Fresh off the first Final Four trip in school history, Gary Williams' Terrapins return a talented and experienced squad this season. Sounds a lot like last year's team, doesn't it?

Last season, the Terps were sluggish at the start of the season and suffered through a near-disasterous stretch during the middle of the ACC schedule. Will this year's team, led by Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter, be able to avoid those pitfalls and stay near the top of the polls the entire season?

They will have plenty of help. They are deep up front with Tahj Holden, Chris Wilcox, and freshman Ryan Randle. The backcourt, with Dixon and Steve Blake backed by Drew Nicholas, is among the best in the nation.

They are thin at small forward, however. Byron Mouton is well entrenched as the starter, but there is no Danny Miller to back him up this season (Miller transferred to Notre Dame). Freshman Micahel Grinnon is the only other natural small forward on the roster.

Any extended absence by Mouton would require some juggling by Williams, either playing three guards or going with Baxter, Wilcox, and Holden. Either option is a big drop off from Mouton.

If Maryland stays healthy and focused, they could make life difficult for Duke in the ACC and possibly run across them again at the Final Four.

#1-Duke (14-2)
MIP: Carlos Boozer
Key Question: Who will be the defensive stopper?

The Blud Devils are LOADED with talent. Jason Williams and Chris Duhon are one of the great backcourts in recent memory. Mike Dunleavy could be one of the more versatile power forwards I have seen. Dahntay Jones could come close to replacing Shane Battier's offense, and Carlos Boozer appears ready to add defense to his imposing low-post offensive game.

The return of Nick Horvath, cobined with Casey Sanders, Matt Christensen, and Reggie Love gives Coach K a lot of fouls to use in the front court. Freshman Daniel Ewing could contribute in the backcourt.

Coach K does have one problem to deal with this season. Battier was one of the most versatlie defensive players I have ever seen. If Duke needed a rebound, a blocked shot, or a steal, it was usually Battier who got it for them. Without his presence, the Blue Devils never would have gotten away with the small lineup they often played after Boozer was injured last season.

Duke will still be a strong defensive team, but they do not appear to have a stopper like Battier. They probably have enough offense to make up for it and punch their ticket for another trip to the Final Four.

Let me say this right now: Duke will NOT go undefeated. It is annoying that they are even talking about it. The last team to do that was Indiana in 1976, when they had no conference tournament and a smaller NCAA tournament. It won't happen this year.

I am so sure of it (this is the part where I hang myself, so pay attention) that if Duke does win the national championship with a perfect record, I will spend an afternoon on the Maryland campus (my alma matter, remember) dressed in Duke gear proclaiming what a great team they are. There it is, Coach K, your team's motivation for the year.

That's what I think. Let me know how you feel on your favorite message board, or by sending e-mail to thecourtmaster@aol.com

Next week, I'll be reporting from the ACC's annual media event, "Operation Basketball."

Until then, court is adjourned.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

The CourtMaster Ranks the Coaches

Originally posted on DukeBasketballReport.com

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session, and it's time to rule on head coaches in the ACC.

This week, I'll share my views on the big cheeses in the ACC and rank them from bottom to top.

I'll start with Herb Sendek at NC State. First, let me say that for Sendek to be the worst coach in the conference says a lot about the high quality of coaching in the ACC. It does not say much for Sendek's chancs of coaching in Raliegh next season, however.

In each of the last three seasons, Sendek has landed a highly touted recruit and solid overall recruiting classes. Two years ago, the stud was Damien Wilkins. Last season, it was Scooter Sherrill, and this season he signed Julius Hodge.

Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, Wilkins never lived up to his potential and transferred to Georgia this summer. Sherrill did not make much of an impact as a freshman, so the jury is still out on him. Hodge should be the best of the bunch. He will need to be since much of State's hopes for a good season rest squarely on his young shoulders.

Recently, Sendek lost recruit John Gilchrist to Maryland. Gilchrist was on the verge of committing to State but backed off, noting the tension within the program. If that tension filters down to the Wolfpack on the court, this could be a long final season for Sendek in Raleigh.
Two other coaches facing a make-or-break season are Florida State's Steve Robinson and Clemson's Larry Shyatt, who are tied for seventh in my ranking.

Robinson presided over a disastrous 9-21 season last year, but his team never quit. They pulled off a late season upset of Georgia Tech that almost cost them an NCAA berth, and they nearly ruined Maryland's season with a stunning win at Cole Field House.

The main criticism of Robinson has been his recruiting, but that seems to have improved recently. He landed Michael Joiner last season, and incoming freshman Anthony Richardson could be his best recruit to date.

If enthusiasm alone could guarantee success, Shyatt's Tigers would be a fixture at the Final Four. A problem has been his inability to establish an identity for his team. Two years ago, they were big, strong bruisers. Last season he tried a more up-tempo approach until injuries left him with a short bench.

Shyatt's ability to establish how the Tigers will play and have them execute it effectively will most likely determine if he will be invited back to coach the team next season.

I place Skip Prosser, the new head man at Wake Forest, sixth on my list. That is primarily because he is the only rookie coach in the ACC this season.

Prosser had a good run at Xavier, where he was an assistant to Pete Gillen, then succeeded him when Gillen moved to Providence. His Xavier teams played an up-tempo, full-court pressing style, and he also enjoyed success against cross-town rival Cincinnati.

Prosser will attempt to change Wake's style, a plodding, half-court game under coach Dave Odom, to something closely resembling what he ran at Xavier. His ability to accomplish that with players not recruited to play that type of game should determine the Deacons' success this season.

The least experienced head coach in the ACC is Matt Doherty, and that fact lands the North Carolina coach fifth in my ranking.

Doherty came into a somewhat chaotic situation last season after North Carolina's coaching search became a fiasco. He was quickly able to get his team focussed, and led them to a number one ranking in February.

Unfortunately for Carolina, national championships are decided in March. By that time, there was both emotional and physical fatigue dragging the Tar Heels down. Carolina stumbled toward the finish line, and their season ended prematurely with a second round NCAA loss to Penn State.

If Carolina can overcome the loss of Haywood and Forte (was tension with Doherty part of the reason for his early departure?) and a questionable situation at point guard, Doherty moves up my list. If not, despite all of the talent he has recruited to Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels' streaks of top-three ACC finishes and NCAA Tournament appearances could be in jeopardy.

Tying for third here are two coaches who have recently taken on rebuiding projects at their respective schools; Pete Gillen of Virginia and Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech.

Gillen took over a program with only six healthy scholarship players in 1998-99, and led them to the NCAA Tournament two seasons later. The Cavaliers play fast and furious, last season showing that they were one of the few teams in the nation that could run with Duke.

Gillen has enjoyed post-season success at Xavier and Providence, and that is the next step he needs to take at Virginia. The ability to beat quality teams away from home would cement their status as an upper-echelon ACC team, and Gillen's as one of the top coaches in the conference.

Hewitt took over the helm at Georgia Tech last season, inheriting a program that had run out of steam under former coach Bobby Cremins. The enthusiasm he brought to the team energized his players, particularly center Alvin Jones. His revitalized Yellow Jackets returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years.

Hewitt has his work cut out for him this season after losing three starters from last year's team. He will have a very young squad this season, and their success will either validate his #3 ranking or lower it.

My second ranked coach in the ACC is Gary Williams. He was my conference coach of the year in 1999-2000, and is now second in the ACC in seniority.

Williams would not have faired so well if I had prepared this ranking in mid-February of last season. At that point, his Terps were still reeling from their crushing loss to Duke (the one where they lost a ten-point lead in the final 54 seconds). They had just lost at home to Florida State, and were in jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight seasons.

Williams was able to pull his team together following the loss to the Seminoles and lead them to the first Final Four in the school's history. The Terps lost only to Duke (twice) the rest of the season.

Williams has developed the Maryland program to where they do not rebuild, they reload. They are firmly entrenched as one of the top programs in the nation, and should stay there for a while with an outstanding recruiting class coming in and a new arena opening next season.

Of course, I rank Coach K as the best in the ACC. Duh! How many other coaches in the conference are in the Hall of Fame? None.

I agree with many experts who consider him the best coach in the nation. Carolina fans like to bash Coach K because his players do not have a successful track record in the NBA, while Carolina alumni do. I submit that this makes Coach K even more responsible for his team's success, since he has won championships without the depth of raw talent Carolina and some other programs have had.

The scariest fact about his run is that there is no end in sight. He indicated during the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies that he has no intention of retiring any time soon. He is bringing in a recruiting class next year that may rank with the best of all time.

I don't see him challenging John Wooden's record of ten national championships, but he could be in a very solid second place at whatever point he walks away. In a few more years, any discussion of the greatest coaches in the ACC will have to start with Coach K.

Juan Dixon is talking about playing some pont guard at Maryland this season. Gary Williams does not mention him as an option. Could this be a problem for the Terps?

There are several reports that Florida State's Nigel Dixon (known around the ACC as "Big Jelly") has lost at least 80 pounds, or roughly the equivalent of a cheerleader. One report actually had him throwing down a two-handed dunk in the Seminoles' first practice. If he can stay on the court and become a low-post presence, Florida State could surprise some people this season.

Duke's Mike Dunleavy has reportedly gone the other way, putting on 20 pounds of muscle. He could add low-post play to his already dangerous perimeter game.

NC State's Juius Hodge has already wowed some observers at the Wolfpack's early practices. He could be the standout freshman Herb Sendek has been looking for.

That's what I think. Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail to thecourtmaster@aol.com .

Next week, I'll share my predictions for the upcoming ACC season.

Until then, court is adjourned.

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

The CourtMaster Debuts at DBR

Originally posted on DukeBasketballReport

We're pleased to welcome the Courtmaster to DBR. You may have seen his columns before, either here or on the now-defunct ACCNews.com. He's a good guy, and we hope he'll put up with us for a while.

Who is the courtmaster? And what is he doing at the DBR?

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session at the Duke Basketball Report!

Yes, ACC basketball fans, The CourtMaster column, now in it's third season, has moved to the DBR. Hopefully you have sampled my work from the past two seasons at ACC News. Unfortunately, that site went down with the ship when the Rivals network shut down. I am delighted that the DBR has taken me in off the street and given The CourtMaster a brand new home.

Many of you may not be familiar with my work. Others are probably wondering what havoc I plan on causing with my column. Let me begin by first telling you what NOT to expect.

I am not a reporter; I am a columnist. You will probably not find much if any breaking news in my columns.

I am not an X's and O's analyst. I won't talk much about match-up zone defenses or the flex offense.

I am not a novice in following college basketball. I have closely tracked the game for over 30 years, during which time I have developed an inkling of what is going on.

OK, now what's in it for you, the reader? Hopefully, you will find that my writing contains a combination of insight and entertainment. If you don't, I promise to refund 110% of your purchase price; that's The CourtMaster guarantee!

When I first started writing for ACC News, my main goal was to make readers think about issues and people, perhaps from a different viewpoint than before they read my work. In other words, I write because I have something to say. If I didn't have some insight to share, what would be the point? (Believe me, I've had to answer that question quite a few times over the last two seasons).

I try to approach college basketball as an activity that is very important to many people. I'm sure that applies in particular to DBR readers. Even before the events of September 11, I balanced that with the realization that however important the competition is, it is not life and death. No, not even the Duke-North Carolina contests. Therefore, along with some thoughtful insight, I will mix in some (hopefully) entertaining irreverence. If I occasionally offend some folks, the only thing I can say is-lighten up!

You may be thinking how wonderful that all sounds, but still wanting to know more about what makes me tick. OK, here goes.

I am a proud alumnus of (GASP!) the University of Maryland. I am also a native of Maryland, and grew up watching Lefty Driesell's Terps win a lot of games except the most important ones. I survived the dark days of the Bob Wade era, and I am now enjoying the recent success of Maryland's program under Gary Williams.

While I am admittedly a Maryland fan, I am also an ACC basketball fan (there's something we can all agree on). I think the ACC is the best basketball conference in the nation, and has been for a long, long time.

I have spent many, many hours studying the history of the ACC. I have read about Ronnie Shavlik, Len Rosenbluth, Len Chappell, and Buzzy Wilkinson. I watched Phil Ford run the four-corner offense, David Thompson perform acrobatic feats, Ralph Sampson and Tim Duncan dominate, Lethal Weapon 3 shoot the lights out, and seven teams win national championships.

As much as I appreciate the history of the ACC, the present and future hold much promise. Duke and Maryland are in everyone's pre-season top ten, Virginia is not far behind, and North Carolina is lurking toward the bottom of the top 25. Wake Forest should be energized by their new coach, Skip Prosser, and Georgia Tech continues to rebuild in coach Paul Hewitt's second year. NC State, Florida State, and Clemson all have some good young talent coming this year in what could be make-or-break seasons for their head coaches.

Looking ahead, Duke has put together one of the all-time great recruiting classes for next season. North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest have also obtained commitments from some highly rated recruits. The talent level in the ACC, already very strong, stands to improve in the seasons to come.

The only thing I will ask from the readers of this column (besides any donations you see fit to make) is to not accept or disregard what I write because of what school I come from. Take it on it's own merits. I look forward to not only writing this column, but also participating in lively debate on this site and others around the ACC community. If you are the shy type, you can e-mail your comments by to thecourtmaster@aol.com.

Now more than ever, let's have some fun and enjoy what should be an exciting season of ACC basketball.

Coming up in the next few weeks, I will give you my views of each of the ACC head coaches, my season's predictions, and a report from the ACC media day in Greensboro.

Until then, court is adjourned!