Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jackets, Terps: A cautionary tale for fans everywhere

The decline of Georgia Tech and Maryland in the ACC -- those teams are a combined 4-11 in the ACC -- ought to help fans of Duke and North Carolina cherish their teams’ basketball success even more.

Maryland followed a Final Four appearance in 2001 with an NCAA title in 2002, and has a coach in Gary Williams who seemed to have the longevity and intensity to keep the program in the top 10. But the Terrapins have struggled to maintain continuity through staff turnover and are in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.

Georgia Tech reached the NCAA title game in 2004 and seemed destined to remain a top national contender with personable, young coach Paul Hewitt recruiting in Atlanta. But the talent Hewitt has recruited isn’t meshing, and Tech is one of the worst teams in the ACC for the second straight season.

Meanwhile, the standard for ACC basketball continues to be set in that 11-mile stretch between Chapel Hill and Durham. North Carolina stumbled briefly under Matt Doherty but is a national title contender for the second time in three seasons.

Duke is ranked No. 8 by The Associated Press with what is supposed to be one of its worst teams in years – a team without a scholarship senior and just one junior in the rotation.

That longevity, which is a credit to the coaches at both schools, is the reason the Feb. 7 Duke-North Carolina game probably will be one of the highest-rated regular-season college basketball games of 2006-07.

– Ken Tysiac