Friday, November 14, 2003

ACC Hoops: Pure Passion

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session, and the new ACC season is upon us. I passionately believe that the Atlantic Coast Conference is the best one in the land, and I am sure I will feel that way even after the addition of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. Here are some reasons why.

As I reflected on why I love ACC basketball more than any other athletic competition, some wonderful memories of seasons past flooded through my mind:

David Thompson soaring above everyone to tip in the winning basket in NC State’s win over Maryland at Cole Field House in 1973. This was the first national broadcast of a regular season ACC game and the first one played on Super Bowl Sunday.

Phil Ford running Dean Smith’s four-corner offense like a conductor leading an orchestra. When opponents saw Dean put up four fingers, they knew the game was essentially over.

The amazing point guards that played for Bobby Cremmins at Georgia Tech; Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, and Stephon Marbury.

North Carolina’s comeback from an eight-point deficit in the last 17 seconds vs. Duke in 1974 BEFORE the three-point shot was part of the game.

Wake Forest’s amazing Muggsy Bogues, small in stature but huge in his ability to disrupt an opponents’ game

Tree Rollins of Clemson throwing himself to the floor after missing a potentially game-winning shot against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semi-finals in 1975.

Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress dominating the 1995 ACC Tournament, the best individual performance in the 50 years of that event.

Virginia, led by Wally Walker, winning the 1976 ACC Tournament after finishing last in the regular season, the only team ever to accomplish that rare double.

The great coaches that used to prowl the sidelines; Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, Lefty Driesell, Bobby Cremmins, Terry Holland, Frank McGuire and Norm Sloan (in those hideous plaid jackets).

Watching players like Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, and David Thompson learn their craft in college before emerging as NBA superstars.

Enjoying the atmosphere in grand old facilities like Carmichael Auditorium, Cameron Indoor Stadium, Cole Field House, and Reynolds Coliseum.

The days when the ACC Tournament was sudden death, with only the winner advancing to the NCAA Tournament. This was never more so than in 1974, when NC State defeated Maryland 103-100 in overtime in the greatest college basketball game ever played.

There are hundreds more memories that I could relate, but these were among the best that made the deepest impression on me.

I’m also passionate about the ACC’s future because:

New facilities at Maryland and North Carolina State, with one on the way in Virginia, will enable more fans to watch games in greater comfort.

There will continue to be inexplicable upsets every season, like Florida State beating Duke the last two seasons and Clemson’s win over #1 North Carolina in 2001.

Rivalries may be diluted, but they won’t all go away. Maryland-Duke has recently bubbled up as a bitter, intense rivalry like NC State-Maryland was in the early 1970’s. Maryland-Virginia games are also hotly contested, as are any games between any of the four North Carolina schools. Of course, North Carolina-Duke (or Duke-North Carolina, if you please) will continue to be the most intense rivalry in American sports.

As veteran coaches move on or retire, new ones looking to make their own marks on the game replace them. The recent additions of Skip Prosser at Wake Forest and Oliver Purnell at Clemson along with veterans Leonard Hamilton at Florida State and Roy Williams at North Carolina continues to give the ACC a lineup of coaches the equal of any conference in the nation.

The foundations Coach K and Gary Williams laid at Duke and Maryland respectively should sustain those programs long after their departure, even if there is a brief break in the cycle (see North Carolina).

The commitment of “football schools” Florida State and Clemson to become competitive basketball programs. Both schools have recently invested millions in improving their facilities and chosen wisely in hiring head coaches.

I share the concern of many ACC fans regarding the impact of league expansion, but my faith in the continuity of basketball at the highest level is unshaken.

Here’s a sticky issue. Virginia’s Pete Gillen is expected to land highly touted high school point guard Sean Singletary, but at the cost of Majestic Mapp. Gillen informed Mapp that the school would not petition for an additional year of eligibility for him, which would likely have been granted.

Apparently part of the reason Singletary chose Virginia was the opportunity to start from day one. This meant the end for Mapp, who has already earned his bachelors’ degree and is closing in on his masters. Gilled told the Richmond Times-Dispatch “I told (Mapp) eyeball to eyeball. He wasn’t crazy about it, but he understood. I felt badly doing it, but there was no question it was in best for the University of Virginia basketball program.”

I’m not crazy about it, but I do understand where Gillen is coming from. Many of the same Virgina fans that are howling about his actions would be screaming bloody murder if he lost the opportunity to sign Singletary.

If the main purpose of college is to prepare a student for life in the outside world, then Mapp has learned a graduate-level lesson—when you are no longer perceived as useful to an organization, it’s time to pack up and move on.

Question for the Jury
What do think about Gillen’s actions in this case? Was it a necessary evil or should Gillen have allowed Mapp to try for another season, even at the risk of losing a prize recruit. Let me know at

My last question, regarding my league predictions, saw support for the underdogs. I heard from Clemson fans in particular that felt I sold their team short. I also received some support for Georgia Tech being rated higher.

CourtMaster Briefs
Reports have surfaced again that Notre Dame has made overtures to the ACC to join the conference as a full member. NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! Notre Dame, if you want to play football in a conference, join the Big Ten. You already play half the schools every year anyway. And John Swofford, don’t even think about it! I might have seen some logic of Notre Dame becoming the twelfth ACC school. After all, their national appeal (read: money) is undeniable. But making them the 13th member is unconscionable! Surely you’re not trying to totally destroy the very fabric of the ACC, are you?

Swofford’s comment “our schools are not pursuing any institution for membership at this time” certainly left the door open for any school to court the ACC, which he admitted has happened. It’s actually very simple; if the dollars are there to support it, the ACC, like any other major conference, will continue to grow. Here’s hoping the money is NOT there this time.

Virginia Tech sophomore guard Shawn Harris has suffered a medial tear to the plantar fascia of the right foot (translation, it hurts a lot). He is expected to miss 6-8 weeks of action.

Do you like three-point shots? If not, I would suggest staying away from NC State games this year. The Wolfpack launched 36 three-point attempts and connected on 11 (30.6%) in their 74-66 win over Global Sports. State only turned the ball over nine times but was outrebounded 44-39. This game could be a blueprint for their season, folks.

Georgia Tech romped to an easy 112-75 win over the Southeast All-Stars, led by Luke Schenscher’s 20 points, 12 rebound, and 6 blocked shots.

Virginia knocked off Big Apple Basketball 104-80, shooting 60% from the floor and connecting on 11-23 three-pointers. Derrick Byers topped all scorers with 25 points, making 10 of his 11 shots.

Craig Smith scored 37 points on his 20th birthday while leading Boston College to a 101-64 win over Inland’s Finest (I’d hate to see Inland’s Worst).

Duke easily dispatched Nike Elite 105-69. J. J. Redick led the Blue Devils with 23 points. Shavlik Randolph added 18 points in only 20 minutes of action, and Shelden Williams blocked 6 shots.
Like Duke, it was sophomores who led Maryland to an exhibition victory; 84-70 over the EA Sports All-Stars. Nik Caner-Medley was dazzling with 20 points, knocking down 8 of his nine shots. John Gilchrist handed out 8 assists to go along with his 16 points.

Miami blew past Team Georgia (finally, a team that’s not Elite or All-Stars or Finest) 93-67. Darius Rice paved the way with 26 points.

That's what I think. Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at teams will be focusing on their out of conference schedules over the next few weeks. Who took on a challenging slate, and who scheduled the creampuffs? I’ll look at that and reasons why next time. Until then, court is adjourned.


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