Saturday, March 15, 2008


...but both Clemson vs. UNC regular season games went to overtime.

Fasten your seat belts.


For the first time since 1962, the Clemson Tigers are in the ACC Championship game. They got there by knocking off Duke with, among other things, free throws -- going 15 of 22 from the charity stripe, and making key late game freebies.

Clemson shot 50% from the field while Duke shot 43%. Trevor Booker had 18 points for Clemson while Cliff Hammonds added 17 and James Mays 16. Paulus led the Blue Devils with 17.

ABOVE: Trevor Booker #35 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates.

Jon “Crazy Face” Scheyer #30 of the Duke Blue Devils makes a crazy face as he is fouled on a three-point attempt by Sam Perry #32 of the Clemson Tigers during the semifinals of the 2008 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Bobcats Arena on March 15, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photos by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


Like heavyweight brawlers, #1 North Carolina and upset minded Virginia Tech pounded each other for 14 ugly rounds. Just prior to the 15th round, they both remembered how to box.

And what a final round it was.

With 2:45 left in the game, Wayne Ellington missed a free throw. The ball took a funny bounce that allowed Hansbrough to grab it and make the follow-up to tie the game at 61. Tech’s sharp shooting freshman Malcolm Delaney drained a three pointer from 25 feet. Carolina ran down the court, and Ellington matched Delaney’s trey.

Game on.

They traded free throws before Carolina converted on Hansbrough’s jumper with .08 left on the clock for the 68-66 win.

Hansbrough has to be one of the few All-American caliber players to actually cultivate a new shot during the season. Hansbrough has been shooting more and more intermediate jumpers when opponents shut him down inside. That new shot paid big dividends.

The Hokies did almost everything they needed to do to defeat the Tar Heels, but they made one critical mistake. They let UNC hang around. When good teams hang around they frequently end up on top. Virginia Tech went cold (tired?) at the worst possible time, and as poorly as Carolina was playing and shooting, the Tar Heels snuck back in the game.

The Hokies led from 22-21 until 1:28 was left in the game, but they could never get more than three possessions in front.

When Ellington made two free throws to give the Heels their first second-half lead at 66-64, the Hokies never led again.

Both teams had issues. Danny Green was having a miserable day until he tapped the ball to Hansbrough on the winning play. Wayne Ellington left his body and the building for most of the game, and Ty Lawson is simply still not himself.

The Hokies’ Deron Washington continues to be Mr. Highlight/Lowlight with a spectacular dunk on an inbounds pass and a dumb foul on Ellington who was shooting a late off-balance three-pointer. A.D. Vassallo was rock solid all day, and watch out for the Hokies next year as four freshmen played major roles in a tough to swallow loss.

Hansbrough finished with 26 points and nine rebounds for the top-seeded Tar Heels (31-2).

Vassallo scored 17 points to lead the fourth-seeded Hokies (19-13), who couldn't get off a shot on their final possession

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, right, shoots the game-winning basket as Virginia Tech's Hank Thorns, left, defends during North Carolina's 68-66 win in the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament at Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 15, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the North Carolina Tar Heels and Jeff Allen #0 of the Virginia Tech Hokies battle for a rebound. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Hansbrough #50 reacts after making the game-winning shot with .8 seconds left as Hank Thorns #10 of the Virginia Tech Hokies is clearly bummed. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)



FSU always give the Heels trouble for some part of the game. Eventually, Hurricane Tar Heel wears them down. In spite of looking a bit lackadaisical in the first half, UNC moved on to a semifinal game vs. VaTech.

North Carolina's defense wasn't all that sharp to start the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. It's a good thing the top-ranked Tar Heels' offense was working just fine.

Tyler Hansbrough scored 22 points Friday to help North Carolina beat Florida State 82-70 in the ACC quarterfinals, completing a tough three-game season sweep of the Seminoles while reaching the semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons.

Wayne Ellington added 19 points for the top-seeded Tar Heels (30-2), who have won nine straight games and 12 of 13. North Carolina will face the winner of Friday's quarterfinal game between Virginia Tech and Miami on Saturday afternoon.

It wasn't the best performance for the defending tournament champion. Sure, the Tar Heels shot 53 percent, including 59 percent after halftime, and went 6-for-13 from 3-point range. But the ninth-seeded Seminoles (19-14) kept pace almost the entire way, shooting 49 percent and hitting 10 of 21 shots from behind the arc.

North Carolina and Florida State also finished in a 30-30 tie on the boards, marking only the third time all season the Tar Heels had not out rebounded their opponent.

ABOVE: Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the North Carolina Tar Heels goes up for a rebound against Ryan Reid #42 of the Florida State Seminoles during day two of the 2008 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Bobcats Arena on March 14, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

RIGHT: Mean people who like Duke.

(Photos by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images and Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


ACC Bubble Report: Tech in, Canes out.

A.D. Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney scored 15 points apiece and Virginia Tech continued its late-season surge with a 63-49 win over Miami on Friday in the ACC tournament.

Deron Washington shook off a slow start to add 14 points and 12 rebounds for the fourth-seeded Hokies (19-12), who kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive and earned a date with top-ranked North Carolina in Saturday's semifinals.

Virginia Tech, coming in without a signature win to impress the NCAA committee, pulled away in the second half with a smothering defense against the fifth-seeded Hurricanes (22-10), who believe they've already locked up a spot in the NCAA field.

Miami, which beat North Carolina State in Thursday's first-round, went more than 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal in Virginia Tech's decisive run and couldn't overcome a second straight subpar game from its top scorer.

Jack McClinton scored 16 points, but was only 4-of-17 from the field and 3-of-11 from 3-point range.

Eddie Rios #5 of the Miami Hurricanes goes up for a shot against Malcolm Delaney #23 of the Virginia Tech Hokies during day two of the ACC Basketball Tournament. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


Thankfully, free throws were not an issue. (For the record, the Tigers made 10 of 14 - 71.4%)

James Mays scored 15 points and the Clem overwhelmed Boston College with its full-court press, cruising to an 82-48 win on Friday to reach the semifinals of the ACC tournament for the first time in 10 years.

After a sluggish start, the Tigers (23-8) made life miserable for the Eagles, who often had trouble getting the ball across midcourt. Boston College (14-17) committed 22 turnovers a night after the 11th-seeded Eagles stunned Maryland.

Raymond Sykes added 12 points for the third-seeded Tigers, who earned a matchup with No. 7 Duke on Saturday thanks to the largest margin of victory in its checkered ACC tournament history.

Sticking around for the weekend is an unusual experience for the Tigers, who were 14-54 all-time entering the night and are the only charter member of the league never to win the tournament title in its 55-year history.

Another difficult task looms as Clemson has also lost 22 straight games to UNJ-D.

BC top scorer Tyrese Rice had to work for his 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting. His young teammates gave him little help, as the Eagles closed the season with 13 losses in 15 games and were no match for Clemson's relentless pressure.

Sam Perry #32 of the Clemson Tigers saves the ball against the Boston College Eagles during day two of the 2008 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Bobcats Arena on March 14, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


Jon “Crazy Face” Scheyer scored 18 points and No. 7 Duke won.

DeMarcus Nelson had 17 points while flirting with a triple-double, and Greg Paulus added 13 to help the second-seeded Blue Devils (27-4) advance to Saturday's semifinal against Clemson.

Jon “Crazy Face” Scheyer of the Duke Blue Devils goes up to shoot against D'Andre Bell #13 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during day two of the 2008 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Bobcats Arena on March 14, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
(Photos by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


21 AND COUNTING...Dikembe Mutumbo #55 of the Houston Rockets celebrates 21 straight wins March 14, 2008 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

(Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)


HELLO…my name is Graeme, and, yes, my pants are pink (pinx).

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland tees off during the third round of the Ballantine's Championship golf tournament at the Pinx Golf Club in Jeju Island on March 15, 2008.

(Photo by Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)


NO, IT’S NOT A MISPRINT…Wisconsin beat Michigan 51-34. Glad we didn’t have to sit through that one.

Zack Gibson #32 of the Michigan Wolverines attempts a shot against Joe Krabbenhoft #45 and Michael Flowers #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers against the Michigan Wolverines during the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 14, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)


F1 UP AND RUNNING...Robert Kubica of Poland powers his BMW Sauber from a pit stop during the qualifying session for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15, 2008. Kubica will start the opening race of the 2008 F1 season on the 5.3km Albert Park road circuit from second position on the grid.

(Photo by Oliver Multhaup/AFP/Getty Images)


OUCH…Maynor Ignacio Lopez #17 of Guatemala falls over Hugo Ayala #5 of Mexico after being tripped up in the second half during the CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualification game at the Home Depot Center on March 14, 2008 in Carson, California. Guatemala defeated Mexico 2-1.

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Friday, March 14, 2008


Word is the ACC is weak this year – having a down year with only two teams in the top ten and nothing much under the high wire act of the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. We don’t disagree that Clemson and Virginia Tech aren’t as good as some #3 and #4 teams in the past, but it seems a little early to send the ACC home in a box while singing the praises of other leagues.

The media darlings of the way out west, the PAC 10, have been heralded as the top league all season, while the Big East consistently gets more love than they might deserve because they live and work in right here in the big east.

Having said that, to demonstrate how the parity that made last year’s college football season so entertaining is also prevalent in collegiate hoops, both the Pac 10 and the Big East have but one team each in the top 10 – UCLA and Georgetown.

The Big East leads (or, perhaps we should say, led) with three more teams ranked 11 through 20 while the Pac 10 only had Stanford at #11 in the polls. Poll riders #13 Louisville, #14 Notre Dame and #15 UConn all lost yesterday’s opening round games at MSG.

Out west, squads who have been surfing the bubble using conference strength to ride the waves lost opening round games as well. Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon all made early exits. In the SEC, multiple champ Florida (the Baby Gators), who may have needed a tourney win to advance, lost to unheralded Alabama.

Those losses probably breathed a little life in to somebody else’s Big Dance dream.

Fasten your seat belts, it’s March.

PHOTOS: Stanley Robinson #21 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts to a play. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) and Jerel McNeal #22 of the Marquette Golden Eagles goes to the net against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


If you listen to sports talk radio or watch television pre-game coverage of any major sporting event, surely you know by now that the talking heads decide in some production meeting who is going to take which side of the debate. That’s just how it works, controversy sells. The blogsphere is no different.

Now amongst the screaming of the anti-Carolina crowd that he travels every time he touches the ball (according to ESPN’s Pat Forde: “And still the Dukies were left screaming that Hansbrough got preferential treatment from the refs. The oft-repeated chant: "Tyler travels every time!" And not just the body-painted student horde screamed it. Also raucously shouting it were the always-demure Krzyzewski women, wife Mickie and daughters all in the act”), there comes a new complaint. (Yeah, we know it's awkward, but we had to work that Mrs. K2 item in there somewhere...)

Tyler Hansbrough gets all the media love (and the calls, we presume?) because he’s white.

Sometimes, people write stories to generate a response, and we surmise that might have been exactly what Mike Freeman was up to over at CBS when he wrote this piece claiming the media loves over-achieving Tyler Hansbrough because he’s white and America loves over achieving white athletes:

Evidently he got stirred up by some hyperbole from Dickie-V and took it from there. In his defense, is the simple fact that he believes all great college player try really hard all the time. Of course, he could have said that, but had he done so his column wouldn’t have attracted nearly as much attention. And that is our point…

Here’s a nice piece of blogdom refuting the notion.

We concur with Blue Work Horse, the appeal of Hansbrough seems to be that he has gotten every rebound, every point and every steal out of his body by stomping on the gas pedal for every moment he plays in each game…It appears, and the key word is appears, that some incredibly gifted athletes, both black and white, don’t always do that…Who knows, maybe every top college player plays as hard as humanely possible every minute of every game, and we are hung up on the Hondo Havlicek myth?

Having said that, now we are going to tell you why the media really loves Psycho-T – it’s his separated-at-birth resemblance to Kill Bill superstar Uma Thurman.

And as all of you know, America loves Uma and Oprah.


WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE...? Orlando Magic and former Duke star J.J. Redick hangs out post-Wizards game at the Verizon Center with Tom Gay, Pam Gay, Sam Kettering and Chris Gay.

So what's wrong with the picture? Note J.J.'s's argyle which has long been a staple of UNC's uniform. In addition, said argyle includes Carolina Blue.

Is Reddick starting to see the light and reform from his ill-spent Durham youth?

(Random Bystander Photo w/Gay Family Camera)


WORLD CUP DOUBLE/DOUBLE...Americans Linsey Vonn and Bode Miller have scored an historic double-double. They both have secured the overall titles in the World Cup.

Only once have an American man and woman won the overall World Cup titles in the same year -- in 1983, when Phil Mahre won his third and Tamara McKinney won her first.

Here Miller takes 11th place during the Giant Slalom event at the Men's Alpine FIS Skiing World Cup on March 8, 2008 in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

(Photo by Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

Linsey Vonn of the United States takes 2nd place during the Alpine FIS Ski World Cup Women's Super G on March 13, 2008 in Bormio, Italy securing her win in the overall World Cup.

(Photo by Agence Zoom/Getty Images)


THINGS THAT MIGHT MAKE CHINA RECONSIDER THOSE OPEN BORDERS...San Diego Padres pitcher Trevor Hoffman poses for a photo with Swinging Friar, the San Diego Padres baseball team's mascot, during visiting the Great Wall March 13, 2008 on the outkirt of Beijing, China. The San Diego Padres will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first-ever Major League games played in China. The two teams will square off at Beijing's Wukesong Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.

(Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images)

San Diego Padres baseball players, from left, Scott Hairston, Kyle Blanks, and Nick Hundley, pose with souvenirs during a team visit to the Great Wall.

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)


HEY, IT'S A PAYING GIG...Defending world drivers champion Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen of Finland, center, stands with U.S. rock group Kiss at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, March 12, 2008. The season's opening Formula One race will be held here on Sunday March 16.

Members of the band are, from left, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, Paul Stanley and Eric Singer.

(AP Photo/Ercole Colombo)


IT GETS LATE...right on time. Padraig Harrington of Ireland tees off at the 17th as the sun sets and play is suspended for the day during round two of the Ballantine's Championship at Pinx Golf Club on March 14, 2008 on Jeju Island, South Korea.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)



Unfortunatley, we called it. The Terps had 21 turnovers and a -15 rebound margin. They blew several leads, and played sloppy, inconsistent basketball. In short, they rolled their whole season into one last game losing to a weak Boston College team.

Tyrese Rice scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and Boston College snapped a six-game losing streak with a 71-68 comeback win over Maryland on Thursday in the first round of the ACC tournament.

Rakim Sanders, with 13 points, was one of four other players in double figures for the 11th-seeded Eagles (14-16), who rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to advance to play third-seeded Clemson on Friday.

James Gist scored 19 points and the Terrapins (18-14) shot 52 percent but committed 21 turnovers to end their NCAA tournament hopes.

The Eagles, who came in having lost 12 of 13 games, fell behind 20-5 and 36-25 to start the second half, only to come back behind their dynamic point guard.

Rice, who had been a one-man show for much of the season, hit two free throws in the closing seconds to send Maryland to its fifth loss in six games.

It was another inconsistent night for the sixth-seeded Terrapins, who have perplexed excitable coach Gary Williams all season. After consecutive home losses to Ohio and American early in the season, they won three straight ACC road games, including at top-ranked North Carolina to get into NCAA tournament contention.

Then Maryland began to slide again, including a stunning collapse at home against Clemson when the Terrapins squandered a 20-point lead with 11 minutes left.

Knowing now they'll likely need a deep run this week to get an NCAA bid, the Terrapins melted down again when it mattered.

PHOTOS: Boston College's Tyrese Rice, center, is fouled by Maryland's James Gist (15) as Maryland's Bambale Osby (50) looks on in the first half and Maryland's James Gist, left, and Boston College's Shamari Spears fight for a rebound in the first half . (AP Photos/Gerry Broome)

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Anthony Morrow scored 18 points in his return to his hometown Thursday night, and Georgia Tech pulled away from Virginia late, winning 94-76 in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Jeremis Smith also scored 18 points for the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets (15-16), who shot 56.9 percent -- the team's best in league tournament play -- and knocked down 54 percent of their 3-pointers. They won their third straight and advanced to Friday night's quarterfinal against second-seeded Duke.

Sean Singletary had 20 points and 10 assists and Mamadi Diane added 18 points while making his first seven shots for Virginia (15-15), which lost its league tournament opener for the second straight year.

Maurice Miller and Zack Peacock added 14 points apiece and Alade Aminu finished with 11 for the Yellow Jackets, who avoided their third straight opening-game loss since they fell to Duke in the 2005 championship game. They did it with yet another strong shooting game against the Cavaliers; they shot 51 percent in a 92-82 overtime victory two months ago in Charlottesville.

Virginia's Sean Singletary, top, drives into Georgia Tech's Maurice Miller as Georgia Tech's Anthony Morrow (23) looks on during the first half. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


North Carolina State's super frosh J.J. Hickson showed up, nobody else much did. Jack McClinton had an off night for the Canes and still the Pack couldn't compete.

James Dews scored 14 points Thursday to help Miami beat North Carolina State 63-50 in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Lance Hurdle added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists for the fifth-seeded Hurricanes (22-9), who advanced to Friday's quarterfinals to face fourth-seeded Virginia Tech as they continue to chase an NCAA tournament berth.

J.J. Hickson had 27 points and 14 rebounds for the 12th-seeded Wolfpack (15-16), who turned in an offensive performance befitting its last-place ACC finish in a miserable season. Picked to finish third in the league, N.C. State shot just 34 percent, including 2-for-15 from 3-point range, and relied entirely on its star freshman to make every play.

N.C. State suffered its ninth straight loss. Its last win came against the Hokies on Feb. 5.

James Dews #23 of the Miami Hurricanes moves the ball as he is bumped by Trevor Ferguson #15 of the North Carolina Wolfpack during Day 1 of the 2008 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Bobcats Arena on March 13, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


Jason Rich scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half Thursday to lead Florida State past Wake Forest 70-60 in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Ralph Mims added 16 points for the ninth-seeded Seminoles (19-13), who shot 45 percent to win their league tournament opener for the second straight year. Once again, their reward is a quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded North Carolina on Friday.

Jeff Teague scored 15 points to lead Wake Forest (17-13), which trailed almost the entire way after winning both regular-season meetings by an average of 12.5 points.

Rich almost single-handedly put the game away by scoring 15 of Florida State's 17 points -- including 10 straight -- during one 4 1/2 minute stretch midway through the second half.

Florida State guard Jason Rich (25) shoots over Wake Forest's David Weaver, bottom, and James Johnson, right, in the second half of their the ACC basketball tournament quarterfinal game at Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 13, 2008. Rich scored 21 points as Florida State won 70-60. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


Durham police arrested Lawrence Alvin Lovett Jr., 17, early this morning in connection with the slaying of Eve Carson. Police said they plan to charge him with first-degree murder.

Lovett was arrested without incident in the Hope Valley Farms subdivision of South Durham. Police had been in the area since midnight.

Two days after police released security photos showing a suspect in a convenience store, a tip led them to Demario James Atwaterr, 21, of Durham. Police arrested him outside a home at 1007 Rosedale Ave. about 5 a.m. Wednesday. In the afternoon, he was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Carson, UNC-Chapel Hill's student body president.

Police did not say who they think fired the shots.

(Photo courtesy of UNC)


Psycho-T’s tank top will soon take its place among a select group of jerseys from other North Carolina basketball greats.

Hansbrough was honored as national player of the year by Sporting News on Tuesday, ensuring he will become just the eighth Tar Heel to have his number retired. When he leaves school, Hansbrough will join a list that includes Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Phil Ford on the distinguished front row of jerseys hanging from the Smith Center rafters.

"It truly is something special to have accomplished," Hansbrough said. "In fact, it's kind of hard to sit here and talk about how it feels to be put in the same category as the players who are up there already."

Antawn Jamison (r), unanimous national player of the year in 1998, was the last Tar Heel to have his jersey retired.

For a North Carolina men's player to have his jersey retired, he must win at least one of six national player of the year awards: The Associated Press, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, Sporting News, the Wooden Award and the Naismith Award.

(Photo by Tood Worshaw/Allsport)


Tyler Hansbrough felt a little strange as he noticed some of the names he has passed on North Carolina's career scoring list this year. Imagine how he'll feel when his No. 50 jersey hangs among a select group of the program's greats.

On the same day the Sporting News made him the Player of the Year, Hansbrough was the unanimous choice as ACC player of the year in voting from 90 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (of which, incredibly, TAH has not been invited to join), making him only the third player to win the award unanimously in league history. On Monday, he became just the third player to be unanimously selected three times to the all-ACC team.

This is the same player who celebrated a 40-point day as a freshman by going to the gym to work on free throws during an off day because he missed a few from the line the night before.

"I feel like you're either getting better or you're not," Hansbrough said. "I'm always the guy trying to get better. ... Those little things, it seems like they stay with me and it's one of those driving factors."

"There will never be another one just like him," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said in a statement. "I am so lucky to be his coach. For the rest of my career, I will be able to look up into that first row and see his jersey ... and I know that will bring a big smile to my face."

"He doesn't stop working," said Duke freshman Kyle Singler. "You've always got to be thinking like him. You've got to think one step ahead or he's going to pin you down and get easy buckets."

(In other news: Singler, mentioned above, was named ACC Freshmen of the Year.)

(Photos by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images and Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)


The big story in the ACC all year long seems to have been on Tobacco Road. But as compelling as another year of highly ranked rivalry between Duke and North Carolina can be, the big story seems to be coming from Raleigh where the word we hear often is “collapse.”

The Wolfpack was picked to finsh third, but ended the year with an eight-game losing streak and a 4-12 ACC record. That lands N.C. State in the not-so-coveted dead last spot tied with Boston College. Even Virginia, a different and much better team with Laurynas Mikalauskas in the line-up, got by the Wolfpack in the standings with a late season push.

But just how different was it from last year when the Pack finished the year with a 5-11 ACC record followed by an impressive run through the ACC tournament and the first two rounds of the NCAA? Now there are NCSU observers who know better than us, but we’ll try to look at a few of the relevant factors.

Last year the Wolfpack started out 11-3 compared to this year’s 10-4. This season they ended on an eight game skid, but they didn’t exactly set the conference on fire last year when they went 2-6 in the final weeks of the season losing to Maryland twice, Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

Really bad losses to East Carolina and New Orleans and a run through the ACC tournament's first three rounds are really all the separates the tale of these two seasons. Assuming of course, N.C. State can get it together starting today. Which, quite frankly, we aren’t all that optimistic about.

As Earth, Wind and Fire is wont to say: Reasons…There are reasons, and some were pointed out by Chip Alexander of the News&Observer earlier this week. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version with some TAH input:

1. We’ve (TAH) already written about the point guard problem. Last year State was simply a different, and much better team, with departed Engin Atsur on the floor. State’s top floor leader, Farnold Degand, injured his knee and was replaced by a freshman. Unless you’re Ty Lawson, Chris Paul or Raymond Felton, that’s just not gonna work out all that well.

2. N.C. State’s rebounding declined in spite of wide-body new edition freshman J.J. Hickson. Their total rebounds fell almost 15% from 1,157 last season to 1,007 this season. We don’t know why, we’re just pointing out the numbers.

3. Brandon Costner's also got hurt. He buggered it up in the Pan Am tryouts, sat out six weeks and never recaptured his 2006-2007form. At times last year, especially late in the season he was a tremendous force. The math simplified: Last year Costner played 1,239 minutes scoring 605 points (16.8 per game) while this year he only played 731 minutes and scored 256 points (8.8 points per game).

4. Sidney Lowe had some off court issues. Of course, he says they haven’t affected him. We surmise he has done everything he can to shut out these issues, but sometimes such things (especially when they have family ties) have an subtle impact in spite of one’s best efforts.

All of the conjecture aside, the Wolfpack is one ACC tournament away from getting near where they were last year. Remember, Lowe’s boys made it into the NCAA tournament in 2007 coming off a 5-11 regular season mark. Then they beat two so-so teams in Marist and Drexel before being tossed from the party by West Virginia (who had already beaten them at home early in the season.)

Their season that vaulted them to the #3 spot in the pre-season poles really was made up of four games – a regular season win at home against the Tar Heels, and and the tourney run that claimed Duke, Virginia and Virginia Tech as victims.

Simply put, the two teams aren’t that different and WolfPack Nation shouldn’t panic. Right now, they aren’t as good as they were last year and they probably won’t make a run to the ACC finals.

In addition, they were over-rated in the pre-season polls, and now, with the clear benefit of hindsight, their performance isn’t as bad as the bemoaning would lead outsiders to believe.

We don’t hold out much hope for a run in Charlotte to match last year’s in Tampa. In fact, Sid’s boys might be done as early as tonight after a date with upstart Miami.

Just the same don’t lose faith in Father Sid. Don’t lose your basketball religion. It’s Lowe’s mission to lead the Pack back to the promise land he knows so well.

They’re will be better days in Raleigh, and these days might not be as bad as they are being made out to be.

Simply put: The space between this squad and last year’s group is smaller than one might think.

Keep the faith.
(AP Photos/Gerry Broome)


So, a University of Maryland student is walking down the beach one morning and he happens upon a sea turtle. The turtle speaks to the kid saying “I’m a slight variation of the bottle for a genie. Flip me on my back, give me a good spin and my genie will pop out and endeavor to sort out your wishes.”

The student was somewhat befuddled by this strange occurrence, but seeing no apparent or immediate downside, flipped the reptile over and gave him his best spin-the-bottle twirl.

Imagine his surprise when out popped an exasperated Gary Williams.

(Yes, we know Coach Williams always looks exasperated, but these days he sort of hair-on-fire while pumping gas and can’t find the fire extinguisher exasperated).

Williams immediately begins waving his hands around and peppering the student with questions:

“Do you speak English? On a separate, but not totally unrelated, note, do you understand English? Do you consider yourself to be someone who can follow simple instructions? Do you know what a stupid foul is? Can you shoot the three consistently?”

The student looks at the turtle and says, “What’s up with him?”

The turtle replies, “I’m not sure, but he’s been like this all year.”

+ + + + + + + +

…and now we know why.

The Terps, thought to be one of the second tier teams in the pre-season (picked 6th in the preseason poll), have been building a mystery. And by God, they’ve whipped themselves up a doozy. In most phases, a war of regression, so to speak.

If you can figure out the 2007-2008 Terps go straight to the head of the class. How can a program just a few years removed from the National Championship be reeling so? It’s as if Williams’ team just doesn’t understand what he’s saying…

Part of the issue is expectations. Williams’ Terps are not so far removed from a National Championship we all still expect them to contend for the ACC title every year. No doubt the same is true at Florida (4th Eastern Division of S.E.C., 21-10) and Ohio State (5th in the Big 10, 19-12) where fans are no doubt puzzled as well.

Maryland features talented seniors in Gist and Osby, first rate underclassmen in Vasquez (2nd team All-ACC) and Hayes and a solid group of role players, and yet they have struggled at the beginning and end of this season. They are currently on a five-out-of-seven losing spree which punctuates early season losses to Ohio and American. ( Mind you, American at 20-11 is pretty good, and Ohio (19-11) turned out better than folks thought.)

None the less, Maryland continues to underachieve, and we aren’t sure why. According to Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun:

“Maryland's Rating Percentage Index has dropped to 70, its lowest since the end of January. After several weeks of being projected as an NCAA tournament team, Maryland was removed from all the updated brackets yesterday.

While the team's inconsistent offense has been the biggest problem this season, its defense had kept the Terps in most games. Defense was the issue, however, against the Cavaliers, who scored 55 points in the second half.”


We’re gonna add some insult to a season full of injury and predict that Maryland doesn’t make it past Boston College in the opening round of the ACC tournament.

Sorry, Coach. Back in the shell.

Having been raised on Jim O’Brien, Steve Gillmartin, Lefty Driesell, Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, John Lucas and the gang, it hurts to say that.

What would Mo Howard say?

(Williams: Photo by Brian Cassella/Tampa-St. Pete Times and AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(Florida: AP Photo/John Bazemore)


There’s a blog about Clemson sports called DANNY FORD IS GOD. The subtitle these days is something of an instant blogshpere classic: “The 320th Best Free Throw Shooting Team In The Country.”

Coach Oliver Purnell must have nightmares about Clemson’s free throw shooting. They finished last in the league at 62.3%. They finished the season 22–8 overall and 10-6 in the conference.

The gang that couldn’t shoot free throws straight was just 26 made freebies from being 27-3, and 13-3. In terms of pure math, the misses from the charity stripe wouldn’t have saved the day against Carolina in Chapel Hill, Duke or UNC-Charlotte. In the other five losses , the free throw margin could have reversed the outcome.

Now, nobody makes all their free throws. But if Clemson had made enough to win the five games in question they would have improved from 369 out of 592 to 396 out of 592. That would have upped their percentage from a league-last 62.3% to 66.8% -- good enough for... last.

Long story short, Clemson didn’t need to be a whole bunch better from the free throw line to be 27-3. They still could have been last in the conference in free throw percentage if they had just made the right shots at the right time.

For Clemson the new right time is now.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


Mount St. Mary's joined the line-up for the Big Dance with a 68-55 victory over Sacred Heart in the Northeast Conference basketball tournament championship game Wednesday, March 12, 2008, in Fairfield, Conn.

(AP Photo/Douglas Healey)


THE 80'S...They were a fashion nightmare.

Wake Forest's Dino Gaudio and Skip Prosser had coached together as far back as 1981 at Wheeling Central Catholic High School in West Virginia.

(Photo courtesy of Dino Gaudio and the Winston-Salem Journal)

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