Wednesday, December 30, 2009

UNC's Ginyard, Watts out tonight

CHAPEL HILL — UNC shooting guard Marcus Ginyard will miss his second straight game with a sprained right ankle tonight against Albany -- and his back-up, Justin Watts, will also miss the game with a right ankle sprain.

Watts sustained his injury during Monday's game against Rutgers. A replacement starter has not yet been named.

Monday, December 28, 2009

ACC awards weekly honors to Vazquez, Scott

GREENSBORO -- Maryland's Greivis Vasquez and Miami's Durand Scott are the Atlantic Coast Conference's players of the week.

The ACC on Monday named Vazquez its player of the week while Scott was the top rookie.

Vasquez averaged 26.5 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in victories against Winston-Salem State and Florida Atlantic. He won the award for the fifth time in his career.

Scott claimed his second rookie award after finishing with 13 points and five rebounds in a victory against North Carolina A&T. -- Associated Press

Ginyard sprains ankle, to miss Rutgers game

North Carolina senior guard Marcus Ginyard sprained his right ankle during practice Saturday and will not play tonight against Rutgers.

He is also listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game against Albany.

Ginyard is Carolina's third-leading scorer with 11.0 points per game.

He leads the team in steals (19) and is second in assists (47) and three-pointers made (15).

Ginyard sat out the Presbyterian game on December 12 due to a bruised left foot. -- Staff reports

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Haze Hansbrough? Duke alums give up

You'd think the former Duke players on the Indiana Pacers roster -- Mike Dunleavy, Dahntay Jones and Josh McRoberts -- would have a field day hazing rookie North Carolina alum Tyler Hansbrough, but apparently Hansbrough's demeanor has made that impossible.

From an profile of Hansbrough and his typically intense early NBA career, an excerpt:

The downside of Hansbrough's automaton intensity? Rookie hazing is no fun for his teammates. He goes about the usual chores of bringing newspapers and donuts, but the trash talk has no impact. And why anger someone who's so eager to dish out punishment in practice?

Even the three former Duke players -- Dunleavy, Josh McRoberts and Dahntay Jones -- have given up.

"He doesn't take crap from anybody, so we'd be wasting our breath," Dunleavy said.

Is Duke better equipped for March?

It’s not much of a stretch to call the margin of Duke’s 76-41 defeat of then-No. 15 Gonzaga on Saturday downright stunning.

The Blue Devils stayed at No. 7 in The Associated Press’ poll this week, but Duke’s 9-1 start – and the blowout of a quality opponent - is begging the question of whether Duke is better equipped to advance in March than in recent years. The answer?


And no.

Here’s why.

Over the last five seasons, Duke has failed to advance past the regional semifinals in the NCAA Tournament. That’s not necessarily alarming in most programs.

But when you consider that the Blue Devils went to 10 Final Fours from 1986 to 2004, it’s clear that they have taken a step backward in March. One of their biggest problems in their last five NCAA Tournament losses has been rebounding.

In four of those five games, Duke was outrebounded, the lone exception being the 2007 loss to Virginia Commonwealth. The margin in the last two losses (49-34 against Villanova and 45-19 against West Virginia) was so significant that it gave the Blue Devils little chance of winning.

The bottom line is that Duke hasn’t been powerful enough to deal with physical teams from the Big East (Villanova and West Virginia) and players such as Glen “Big Baby” Davis of LSU and Paul Davis of Michigan State.

That should be different this season.

With Miles and Mason Plumlee, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek in the post rotation, the Blue Devils have the muscle to avoid getting overpowered in the lane. Duke’s current rebound margin of plus-7.6 per game is its best mark since 1998-99.

That number is likely to decrease once the Blue Devils begin ACC play because the competition will be stronger. But Duke’s season rebound margin has been better than plus-3 just once since 1999-2000.

And against a Gonzaga team that started a 7-footer and brought a 7-foot-5 player off the bench, Duke posted a 41-29 rebounding advantage. Duke’s big guys also made their mark on defense.

"Their physical play bothered us as far as finishing shots,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few.

So it’s clear that in terms of ruggedness, Duke seems better prepared for March. But two deficiencies on the perimeter still leave questions for the Blue Devils as they seek their first Final Four trip since 2004.

Duke admittedly doesn’t have a player who’s good at creating his own shot. That’s not a problem most games because few opponents have three players as gifted at scoring as the Blue Devils’ Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.

But in Duke’s loss to Wisconsin in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Blue Devils failed to create a basket for themselves with a chance to take the lead in the final minute. This team doesn’t have a Jason Williams to create instant offense, and that could pose problems in the NCAA Tournament.

Wisconsin also exposed Duke’s defensive weakness. Greg Paulus is gone, but the Blue Devils still don’t have a guard who can stop a strong perimeter player from scoring in the lane or from 3-point range.

Guard Trevon Hughes hurt the Blue Devils with his outside shot and then penetrated for more points, scoring 26 in a 73-69 win. It’s easy to predict that Duke would have similar problems stopping John Wall of Kentucky or Sherron Collins of Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.

So the Blue Devils have solved their biggest problem with their rebounding, so perhaps they’ll be better in March. But the question mark on the perimeter remains a nagging doubt as the team seeks to end its Final Four drought.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 21, 2009

More with Matt Doherty

In a story that ran in Sunday's N&O, former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty said that, thanks to a February heart-to-heart with current head coach Roy Williams, he doesn't feel like a black sheep in the Tar Heel family anymore, and has "forgiven the people that really matter to me,'' after being forced to resign six years ago.

Here are some additional excerpts from the hour-plus long interview, which took place in Doherty's office last Thursday at Southern Methodist University in Dallas:

Q: What was it like to watch that national championship game in 2005, knowing that most of the guys playing were your recruits?

A: Hard. It was my team, my starting five. To see them climb the ladder and cut down the nets, [there] were really mixed emotions. And the tough thing was, I was doing TV at the time, for CSTV, which is now CBS College Sports. And I'm sitting in the green room, and we're taking notes, and it's a group of about 10 people, and I'm watching this. And I get real quiet, and people are talking, and they're like, 'Hey, we need to go on the set.' And I'm like, 'I need a minute.' I just sat there. And the phone rang, and it was [ECU athletics director] Terry Holland, and he just said, 'I'm thinking about you. Congratulations. You put that team together, and you should feel good about it.'

My assistants that were with me at North Carolina texted me, and called. And it was really weird, because selfishly, it was good - because I was almost like the general manager that put that team together. But emotionally, to see those other coaches climbing the ladder to cut down the nets was really tough, really tough.

And I don't think we as a staff every got a lot of that recognition. It's hard when I see the coaches at North Carolina wearing those rings. It's like, it would have been nice to get a note, it would have been nice to get maybe a picture of the ring. You know, some acknowledgement that 'you guys put together a heck of a team.' So that was hard.

Q: What do you think, six years later, that you took away from those three years at UNC?

A: I learned a lot from that experience, from a personal standpoint, as far as trying to balance a career with your family, your career with God. I think I'm closer to my family as a result, closer to God as a result. I think you realize, like anything in a relationship ... in anything, it's a team effort. They made mistakes, I made mistakes.

What were my mistakes? I was young, I was eager, and I tried to institute change too rapidly in an institution that was set in its ways -- that, quite frankly, needed some change, but didn't welcome change. What I had success with was the change we incorporated at Notre Dame [where he was head coach for a year before taking the Tar Heels job], and that was welcomed. They wanted change. And I instituted change and it was successful, and I was rewarded for it, celebrated for it.

I get the job [at UNC] in July - most people get hired in March or April, I get the job in July, right in the middle of recruiting season - so instead of going slow with change, I go fast with change. And it's drastic change. I told them I was going to bring my own staff -
'Is that OK?' Well it wasn't OK, but I asked the question, but maybe I should have asked that question of Dean Smith.

Q: So you asked the question to....?

A: I asked the question to [athletics director] Dick Baddour, but I probably should have asked the question to Dean Smith. And I said, 'Hey, I'm going to bring my own staff; is that OK? And if it's not OK, I'll stay at Notre Dame.' But it wasn't OK, because of how it was viewed - yet Coach Williams brought his own staff. But that's the political side of it that I didn't understand as a head coach - the politics of being the head coach at a place like North Carolina. And I'm embarrassed to say that, because I played there, I was an assistant at Kansas for seven years, I was a head coach at Notre Dame for one, but I wanted the change. So I thought I asked the right question, but ... part of me, I should have recognized that, but part of me, I should have gotten better answers. You know?

Instituting change right away was like - hey, I want everybody on the same computer system at work. We had four secretaries, and they all have four different operating systems; it didn't make sense to me. So OK, we need to get on this, let's do this right now. I walked in the office, and the office was a mess. Coffee stains on the carpet, same pictures hanging - the wooden clock from the Stanford Invitational Tournament from 1983 was still on the wall ... there was no picture of Michael Jordan in there. And I was thinking, in terms of recruits, when they come in here, there's a dead plant in the corner. So I told my assistant, Doug Wojcik, get this place cleaned up.

...Well, it was done in a week. My mistake was I didn't ask for input from the people that were already there. That's what I learned in some classes I took afterward about leadership; people say sometimes 'don't change anything in the office that is within 25 feet of someone's desk without their input'. But I got the job July 11; I went to see Carmelo Anthony the next day on the 12th - boom, we've got to get it done, because recruits are coming on campus the end of August. I was put in a bad position, but I also didn't have the experience to help manage it.

And that's where they [the administration] could have helped me by saying, 'Too fast, you can't do that, no you can't bring your staff,' or 'Bring your staff' but what I should have done was bumped everyone down a position and retained a Phil Ford. I should have done that, I should have been told to do that.

And then my style was different than Coach [Bill] Guthridge. I was very much demanding, I yelled, I was a product of Roy Williams. ... [where] you don't accept certain things. You can't just walk off the court because your back bothers you. You can't not dive on a loose ball - and I'm going to let you know it. That team almost didn't make the NCAA tournament the year before. If it wasn't for Julius Peppers, they wouldn't have. In fact, my Notre Dame team deserved to be in the NCAA tournament more than North Carolina did. And what as worse, they went to the final Four, so now I've got players who think they can just wade through things. No, no, no. ... So I'm incorporating these changes into a successful program. And it wasn't embraced for a lot of reasons. And I understand those reasons now. Politics is real, but I'm very anti-politics. ... Within the first 90 days on the job, you forge your reputation, whether it's accurate or not - that's another thing I've learned. So if you come in and the first 90 days, they think you're a good guy, and you're not, they're always default to, 'well, he's really a good guy.' If you come in and the first 90 days, they think you're a hard-butt, and they don't like you and you do something nice, well, they'll default to, 'I don't trust him. He doesn't respect the program, he doesn't respect the tradition, he doesn't respect the previous coaches, he didn't retain the staff.'

Q: How are you a different coach now?

A: At times, I think I'm a little guarded. Like I'm afraid to let go, or be too fiery. Because you have a reputation. You have that in the back of your mind. I've asked my staff, 'Was I too hard on that kid? How did I handle that situation?' But maybe that's good.

Also, I'm more experienced now, I'm older. And I think I probably manage things more like Coach Williams does now. He's probably not as fiery as he was at 38 and the head coach at Kansas. There were classic stories of him then, and there were classic stories of me at Notre Dame. There are classic stories of Mike Krzyzewski during his first couple of years at Duke - I talk to Jay Bilas all the time. So as you get older, you mature a little bit and change, and hopefully for the better.

Q: So if Carolina was once the dream job, what's the dream now?

A: The dream is to get SMU basketball back to relevance, to get it turned around. I told my team the other days, you've got to have dreams, and you know, I would love to see us win 20-plus games and go to the NCAA tournament. That would be as big of an accomplishment of any of had, certainly as a coach. -- Robbi Pickeral

N.C. State's Smith suspended for Arizona game

N.C. State suspended forward Tracy Smith for one game for criticizing the officiating after the Wolfpack's loss at Wake Forest on Sunday night.

Smith, who fouled out after a playing a season-low 23 minutes, said the officiating crew of Karl Hess, Sean Hull and Joe Lindsay "favored" Wake Forest and called too many "touch" fouls.

Smith, who will miss State's nonconference game at Arizona on Wednesday, apologized on Monday for his comments.

"I was caught up in the heat of the moment, but should not have made the comments I did," Smith said in a statement released by the school. "I want to apologize to my coaches, my teammates, and last night’s officials for this situation."

Foul trouble limited Smith, State's leading scorer and rebounder, to 9 minutes in the first half. He picked up his second foul with 8:27 left and sat the remainder of the half. He then fouled out with 5:28 left in the game, which State lost 67-59.

Smith finished with 11 points and a team-best 10 rebounds but wasn't happy with the way the game was called.

"The refs, I don't think they did a good job tonight," Smith said after the game. "I think they favored Wake Forest all the way but that's ACC basketball. You've got to play through that."

State was called for 25 fouls, compared to 17 for Wake, and the Deacs had a 23-19 advantage at the free-throw line.

"I felt like there was too many touch fouls," Smith said on Sunday. "It's a man's game, I mean there's going to be touching and hitting, you can't call every little touch foul."

The ACC confirmed Monday that it was N.C. State's decision to suspend Smith, not a league-imposed penalty. Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe declined to comment on Monday.

Smith leads the Wolfpack (8-2, 0-1 ACC) with 17.6 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. The junior ranks third in the ACC in both categories.

Freshman forward Jordan Vandenberg played 11 minutes on Sunday with Smith mired in foul trouble. Vandenberg was 0-for-3 from the floor and finished with two rebounds and two blocks.

Fellow freshmen Richard Howell (6 minutes) and DeShawn Painter (5 minutes) also figure to get more time against the Wildcats (4-5) on Wednesday. None of the three freshmen forwards have made a start yet this season.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Duke's Czyz to transfer

Duke sophomore Olek Czyz had decided to leave Duke and is expected to transfer to another Division I school, the team announced Friday.

Czyz started the first two games of the 2009-10 season and has averaged 2.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 10.2 minutes this season.

"Olek has a bright future ahead of him and we wish him the best of luck," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a prepared statement. "He has been a valued member of the Duke basketball family and we will support him through his impending transfer."

The 6-7, 240-pound native of Gdynia, Poland has played in 19 career games, recording a total of 23 points, 24 rebounds, eight assists, a block and two steals.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gardner-Webb coach picks Duke over Heels

DURHAM - Gardner-Webb coach Rick Scruggs didn't hesitate to pick between Duke and North Carolina when asked which team gave the Bulldogs a more difficult time.

"Duke shoots it a lot better," Scruggs said Tuesday night after Duke crushed Gardner-Webb, 113-68. "Carolina runs athletes at you, and they're long and athletic, a lot like Duke. But Duke shoots the ball so well. Carolina was 1-for-4 against us from the 3-point line. And the one they hit was at the end of the game, the game was over and we had our subs in."

The Tar Heels defeated Gardner-Webb 93-72 on Nov. 23 in Chapel Hill. North Carolina also has won six of the last seven games in the series with Duke.

But 2009 NCAA champion stalwarts Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are gone from North Carolina. And Scruggs said some opponent is going to force the Tar Heels (8-2) to make perimeter shots, although Gardner-Webb wasn't athletic enough to do that.

"Duke, it opens up the inside so much because of (Jon) Scheyer and (Kyle) Singler, and the guys that can shoot it so well," Scruggs said. ". . .When you shoot the ball well, everything opens up on the floor."

North Carolina and Duke (8-1) meet Feb. 10 in Chapel Hill and March 6 in Durham. Scruggs said they should be good games because the teams are well coached and intense. Scruggs said the Blue Devils, not North Carolina, were able to open up Gardner-Webb's defense with their shooting ability.

"I think a good team has to be able to shoot and go inside," Scruggs said. "I think you've got to have a good mix of that to be a solid team. Carolina may have it when it's all said and done, but they didn't show it the night we played them."

Ken Tysiac

UNC's Williams consoles Duke's Dawkins

DURHAM - North Carolina coach Roy Williams has taken a lot of grief for confronting a Presbyterian fan who was ejected from Saturday night’s game in Chapel Hill after hollering for the Tar Heels’ Deon Thompson to miss a free throw.

But Williams showed his class last week, too, after Duke freshman guard Andre Dawkins’ sister died in a car wreck on Dec. 5.

"He sent some flowers,” Dawkins said.

Dawkins returned to the court Tuesday night, scoring 16 points in a 113-68 rout of Gardner-Webb. He said he appreciated the support of Williams and many other people who called or wrote letters of sympathy.

Ken Tysiac

Singler starts for Duke

DURHAM - Junior forward Kyle Singler is starting for Duke tonight against Gardner-Webb at Cameron Indoor Stadium despite an ankle injury.

Singler was listed as probable entering the game. He is joined by Miles Plumlee, Lance Thomas, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer in the starting lineup. -- Ken Tysiac

UNC's Ginyard practices; Strickland does not

North Carolina senior Marcus Ginyard, who missed Saturday's game because of an injury to his left foot, practiced Tuesday, team spokesman Steve Kirschner said in an e-mail. However, freshman reserve Dexter Strickland, who also missed the game because of a left hamstring injury, did not.

Ginyard, the Tar Heels' starting shooting guard, is averaging 10.4 points and 3.8 rebounds. His injury is a bruise, Kirschner said, and is not related to the foot injury that caused him to redshirt last season.

Strickland is averaging 3.4 points per game.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Bad timing for Roy Williams SI blurb

The timing couldn't have been worse for a short item in Dan Patrick's Sports Illustrated column on North Carolina coach Roy Williams.

Patrick wrote that Williams told him that Williams likes it when opposing fans go crazy. The issue date of that Sports Illustrated was Dec. 14.

Two days earlier - but well after the magazine went to print - Williams shouted at a Presbyterian College fan seated about 20 rows behind the North Carolina bench at the Smith Center. Then Williams motioned for security officers to move in the fan's direction.

The fan - Brian King of Concord has come forward to say he was the one Williams targeted - was ejected from the Smith Center. What transgression did King commit to raise Williams' ire?
He encouraged North Carolina's Deon Thompson to miss a free throw.

"I just don't think anybody should yell negative things toward our players that come in on our tickets to watch the game," Williams said.

That's a marked contrast from the Williams portrayed in Patrick's one-paragraph piece in Sports Illustrated. It said Williams traded good-natured banter with Michigan State students last season when they accused him of going to a tanning bed to get his healthy color. Williams said he told the students that he'd just been to Maui with the team.

Betcha he wouldn't mind going back to soak up the sun for a few days after his confrontation with the Presbyterian fan.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ejected fan: I had tickets, wasn't drunk

Presbyterian fan Brian King said he is not mad at North Carolina coach Roy Williams after being tossed out of Saturday's game at the Smith Center. But he is upset about how he was portrayed.

"I didn't say anything vulgar, I was not intoxicated ... I was cheering for Presbyterian," King, who is from Concord, said. " I was excited to see my little team play a big team. ... When it happened, it was so quiet in the arena; at that point, everyone was talking about their golf scores and portfolios, and I was still cheering. Coach Williams didn't like it, that's all. I don't blame him, but he did over-react."

King was sitting about 20 rows behind Carolina's bench with about six minutes to go when he yelled for Tar Heels forward Deon Thompson to miss a free throw. Williams turned around the looked up at King, and soon three officers were on their way into the stands, and asked King to leave.

"I asked why?" King said in a phone interview. "And I was told, 'Because this is Roy's house, and when Roy says you need to go, you go.' I thought it was sort of amusing."

However, he added: "Never did anyone ask me for my ticket, because ... I had at least two in my pocket, from people who didn't show up."

Steve Kirschner, UNC's associate athletics director for communications, said Williams did not ask for King to be tossed out.

"Coach Williams asked security to go find out if the guy was supposed to be sitting there, because where the guy was sitting is very close -- it's right across, the aisle, I think -- from where Coach Williams' seats are," Kirschner said. " ... When he has seats that he gives himself, personally, or from the basketball office, he wants to make sure those are Carolina people sitting in those seats. So when he turned around and he's looking up there and people are pointing the guy out, he thought those were seats he had given out. So he asked the security guy behind the bench.

"He did not tell the security guy to go get the guy and throw him out."

Randy Young, spokesman for UNC's department of public safety, said that King initially ignored police officers when they approached him.

"Then he began a conversation with them, and he was still not cooperative," Young said. "When he finally made his way across the aisles, they tried to engage him in conversation. He was still relatively uncooperative. At that point it was in the officers' opinion that he had been drinking. At which point they made the decision that it would be better for himself and others that he was escorted from the building. He was not arrested, no charges were pressed, no trespass orders were issued. That was it. He was simply escorted from the building."

King, who was attendting the game with a half-dozen of his former elementary school friends (who were UNC fans) reiterated that he was not drunk. He said again that he was not angry with Williams, but about how the situation was "spun" afterwards: "I've coached little league basketball, and I understand emotions get hot, I really have no problem with happened there. But they tried to portray me as an intoxicated person and that wasn't true."

-- Robbi Pickeral and Ken Tysiac

Duke's Dawkins returning; Singler questionable

Freshman guard Andre Dawkins will return to Duke's lineup for Tuesday's 7 p.m. game with Gardner-Webb at Cameron Indoor Stadium, team spokesman Matt Plizga said Monday.

Dawkins left the team for about a week after his sister, 21-year-old Lacey Dawkins, was killed in a car wreck in West Virginia while attempting to travel to Duke's Dec. 5 game with St. John's.

Some other Duke players are battling injuries despite having 10 days between games. Junior forward Kyle Singler, who is averaging 17.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, is questionable for the game because of an ankle injury.

Guard Nolan Smith still is bothered by a knee injury suffered Dec. 2 at Wisconsin, and Center Brian Zoubek suffered a bruised hip and back during practice Sunday. Smith and Zoubek are expected to play despite their injuries.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Strickland out for Heels

CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina freshman guard Dexter Strickland is out for today's game with Presbyterian because of a sore left hamstring, team sports information director Steve Kirschner said.

Senior wing Marcus Ginyard also is out with soreness in his left foot, which required surgery last season. Ginyard has been replaced by sophomore Justin Watts in the starting lineup.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ginyard to miss game

North Carolina senior guard Marcus Ginyard will sit out the No. 11 Tar Heels' game Saturday night against Presbyterian because of some pain in the same foot that required surgery last season.

According to a news release issued by UNC's sports information office Friday, the decision to sideline Ginyard is a precautionary measure, as he completes a medical evaluation of his left foot.

Ginyard missed all but three games of the Tar Heels' 2008-09 championship season and received a medical waiver from the NCAA allowing him to return for a fifth season this year.

"Marcus has some 'early' pain in his left foot in an area unrelated to the stress fracture he had last year in his fifth left metatarsal," Dr. Tom Brickner said in the statement released by the UNC athletics department. "We are putting him through an evaluation at this time, but preliminary tests are encouraging. He does not have a fracture." -- Staff reports

Tucker leaves Wake program

WINSTON-SALEM -- Guard Konner Tucker is leaving the Wake Forest program for undisclosed reasons.

School officials said Friday that the sophomore's future plans are undecided. He played in six games with the Demon Deacons.

Tucker thanked coach Dino Gaudio for the opportunity to play at Wake Forest.

The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 2.2 points after joining the program this summer from Lon Morris Junior College. -- Associated Press

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

ACC basketball lacking at the top

A look at The Associated Press' men's basketball Top 25 in Tuesday's newspaper demonstrates that the ACC has a lot of work to do to gain national respect this season.

Just three ACC teams - No. 8 Duke (7-1), No. 11 North Carolina (7-2) and No. 24 Georgia Tech (6-1) - are in the Top 25 one week after the ACC lost 6-5 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Big Ten's first win in the 11 years of the event.

The Big East, which is the conference ACC fans like to say they're battling for national supremacy in basketball, has three teams (Villanova, West Virginia and Syracuse) in the top seven alone - ahead of all the ranked ACC teams.

The Big 12 has the top two teams - No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Texas - and four ranked teams overall. The SEC - which just finished a shellacking of the ACC in the football rivalries in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina - has three top-10 teams (Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida) and four Top 25 teams.

And the Big Ten has used its success in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge to get four teams ranked. Wisconsin, which owns wins over ACC members Duke and Maryland in recent weeks, made its season debut in the poll this week at No. 20.

Only the struggling Pac-10, with only Washington in the Top 25, has fewer ranked teams than the ACC among the so-called power conferences.

The bad news for the ACC is that a Clemson team picked third in the conference preseason media poll isn't living up to that prediction. With K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby gone from last season's team, the Tigers lack the perimeter shooting to draw defenders and clear space for powerful post player Trevor Booker to operate in the lane. Clemson has quality wins over Butler and South Carolina, but appeared uninspired in a loss to Texas A&M and suffered an incredible collapse against Illinois after leading by 23 at home in what turned out to be the decisive game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Maryland also has failed to deliver for the ACC in losses to Villanova, Cincinnati and Wisconsin, all of which are ranked. None of those defeats will take the Terrapins out of NCAA Tournament consideration, but they're missed opportunities for marquee nonconference wins. With Gary Williams at the helm and a veteran backcourt featuring Greivis Vasquez, Maryland could have done itself and the ACC a favor by winning at least one of those games.

The ACC has had some pleasant developments, too. Miami (8-1, with its lone loss against conference foe Boston College) has played an easy early schedule but managed to defeat South Carolina and Minnesota. Miami, Duke, Florida State and N.C. State all won early-season tournaments. N.C. State (at Marquette) and Wake Forest (at Gonzaga) both pulled off unexpected road wins over quality opponents over the weekend. North Carolina coach Roy Williams appears to be steeling his young team for the NCAA Tournament with nonconference games against four teams (Texas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Michigan State) ranked No. 12 or higher. And N.C. State, which was picked in the preseason to finish last in the ACC, received three points in this week's AP voting.

But what appears to be emerging is a league that possesses excellent depth without a lot of Top 25 talent and without a top-five team. In other words, ACC basketball is resembling ACC football.

Anybody who follows ACC football knows that's not a good thing.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 7, 2009

AP Top 25: Duke, UNC down; Clemson out

Kansas, Texas and Villanova held the top three spots in The Associated Press college basketball poll for the second straight week Monday. For the third consecutive week at least three teams moved into the Top 25.

Duke player's sister dies in car wreck

Duke freshman guard Andre Dawkins' sister died of injuries suffered in a car wreck Saturday while attempting to travel to Saturday's game against St. John's, team spokesman Matt Plizga said Monday.

Lacey Dawkins, 21, of Columbus Ohio, died in the wreck. Dawkins' mother, Tamara Hill, also was in the Chevy Lumina, but Duke officials did not have an update on her condition Monday.

According to a West Virginia State Police incident report, the three-vehicle wreck occurred at the 53-mile marker on I-77. Those injured in the wreck were taken to local hospitals.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Andre's sister, Lacey," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. "Andre is a terrific young man and his family is very important to him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Dawkins family during this trying time."

Dawkins graduated early from high school in Chesapeake, Va., to join Duke's program after the team learned guard Elliot Williams was transferring to Memphis. After immediately becoming one of just three scholarship guards on the Blue Devils' roster, Dawkins has been one of the ACC's top freshmen.

He is averaging 9.9 points per game and leads the Blue Devils with 20 3-pointers and a 3-point percentage of .513.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 4, 2009

Williams says he was taken out of context

At a Friday press conference, North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams said his words were taken out of context by members of the media.

After Tuesday's 89-82 win over Michigan State, Williams was asked about Spartans forward Delvon Roe.

Williams called Roe a "great kid, a wonderful kid that we tried very, very hard to recruit."

Williams was questioned about mentioning Roe in his recently-released autobiography and said, "No. I've got some people that I said a heck of a lot [more] bad things about; I didn't say anything bad about Delvon. I said that we thought we were going to get him, and we didn't get him. I said he's a great player. If there's any fallout from that, then people are looking for it."

Williams also said, "He told me he was coming. He didn't come. I've looked every day at practice, and I haven't seen him yet."

In Michigan, two pieces were published on the topic after Tuesday's game: this column in The Detroit News and this story in The Grand Rapids Press.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo fired back at Williams in The Grand Rapids Press in this story, which was published Thursday.

Izzo told the paper Williams "picked on the wrong kid," and "he picked the wrong program," among other things.

So at Friday's press conference, Williams fired back at the reporter whose questions initiated the above stories. That reporter is apparently a radio broadcaster from Michigan and was not in attendance Friday.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tom [Izzo]," Williams told reporters. "And that young man that sat right there, he had his own story made up before I said anything. And that's the problem I have. ... He had his mind made up, because you guys were here, I said great kid, great family. You guys remember me saying that. And one thing I said was, don't try to make something out of something that's not there. And that kid had his mind made up so he got what he wanted. That's fine.

"One person tried to make something out of something that's not there. Bottom line is, that's not right. But I'm a big boy. I know that kind of stuff happens."

-- Javier Serna

Michigan State's Izzo miffed at Roy Williams

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is miffed at North Carolina coach Roy Williams over comments Williams made in his book and to a reporter Tuesday about Spartans forward Delvon Roe, who spurned the Tar Heels at the last minute. Williams suggested Roe was not truthful about his intentions.

Here's the story from the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press.

Funny Marcus Ginyard Twitter post

Root for Duke over Wisconsin so that the ACC can win the Big 10-ACC Challenge? Not North Carolina's Marcus Ginyard, who lets rivalry trump conference pride. Here's his twitter post:

@MG1NYARD Big Ten can have this challenge. Duke loses, we all win...

Know of funny, interesting or outrageous Twitter posts from athletes, or an athlete readers should follow? Post your thoughts in comments below.

Kentucky's Cousins retracts 'not impressed' comment

Kentucky freshman forward Demarcus Cousins has asked for a do-over on his widely reported comment on North Carolina.

Cousins, who earlier had said he was "not impressed" with the 10th-ranked Tar Heels, told the Louisville Courier-Journal he didn't mean it.

“After I saw them play against Michigan State (on Tuesday), I've got a new respect for them,” he said of the Tar Heels. “They're pretty good. They've got good post players, and they're fast.”

The full story is here.

According to this story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Cousins also said he expected fellow freshman John Wall, from Raleigh, to take his already-accomplished game to "another level" against the Tar Heels.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Calipari, Kentucky must beat UNC

Lexington Herald-Leader columnist John Clay outlines why John Calipari (above) and the Kentucky Wildcats need to beat North Carolina Saturday in Lexington, Ky., in his column today. In essence, he says games like Saturday's matchup of the No. 5 Wildcats and No. 10 Tar Heels is why Calipari was hired.

The key passage of the column:

"John Calipari was hired to win NCAA championships.

"And to do that, you have to compete with North Carolina.

"Better still, you have to beat Carolina."

Read the full column here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kentucky sports radio slams North Carolina

A Kentucky website,, does its best to fan the rivalry fire in advance of Saturday's game between No. 5 Kentucky and No. 10 North Carolina in Lexington, Ky., with a feature they call "North Carolina: FAQ."

Among the "Frequently Asked Questions" they address:

Where is North Carolina? Is it a state?

Yes, North Carolina is a U.S. state located in the southeastern corner of the country. Though you may not have known it, you may have driven through North Carolina many times to reach better places like Florida, or Florida.

What are North Carolina’s state bird and song?

North Carolina’s official state song is “I Wanna Be Rich,” by the popular singing duo Callaway, and the state bird is the mosquito.

What are the people like in North Carolina?

Did you ever see any of the Smokey and the Bandit movies? Everyone is like someone from the cast of one of the Smokey and the Bandit movies.

How will I know when I’ve left North Carolina?

If everything terrible in North Carolina suddenly seems to be multiplied by a hundred, you’ve just crossed into South Carolina.

For the full FAQ, click here.

ACC needs to stop the bleeding

There’s a lot riding on the five ACC-Big Ten Challenge games to be held tonight in men’s basketball.

Simply put, the ACC needs momentum in what’s been a difficult year for the conference, to put it mildly. North Carolina, which provided the ACC with its shining moment in the spring, came through Tuesday night with a marquee, 89-82 defeat of Michigan State that helped even the ACC-Big Ten Challenge at 3-3 heading into tonight’s games.

It’s up to Duke, Clemson, Boston College, Florida State and Miami to come up with three wins between them to avoid the ACC’s first loss in the 11 years of the made-for-ESPN challenge with the Big Ten. A Big Ten breakthrough would be the second major blow to the ACC in a week.

On Saturday, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida State combined to go 0-3 in high-profile games against their in-state rivals in the SEC in football. The ACC had performed respectably against non-conference competition this season until that debacle.

Now Saturday’s ACC title game between Clemson and Georgia Tech in Tampa, Fla., has become a meeting between two less-than-elite teams while the SEC steals the show Saturday in Atlanta.

The SEC’s domination in football has become a huge problem for the ACC and every other Bowl Championship Series conference. Florida and LSU from the SEC have combined to win the last three BCS championships, and Florida and Alabama are both 12-0 as they head to Atlanta to decide which team will participate in this season’s BCS title game.

That football success helped the SEC land blockbuster TV deals with ESPN and CBS that began this season. They’re worth a reported $2.25 billion and $825 million, respectively over 15 years, or an average of $205 million a year, according to the Sports Business Journal. They are so lucrative that ACC commissioner John Swofford has conceded that other conferences aren’t likely to equal them.

The revenue isn’t the only problem there. While the SEC seems to be gobbling up the prime TV slots on Saturdays, ACC games often are relegated to ESPN-U (which still doesn’t reach many households) or (which is available only over the Internet).

That’s probably appropriate in view of the comparative stature of the football programs in the two conferences. But it doesn’t help the ACC recruit as it tries to catch up in football.

There may be some hope for the ACC on the TV front, though, in the future. If you look hard enough, you can see a possible challenger to ESPN’s domination of sports broadcasting in the headlines of this week’s business sections.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, is planning a takeover of NBC Universal that could eventually provide a competitor to ABC/ESPN. It’s not difficult to imagine the new conglomerate changing MSNBC, for example, into an all-sports network.

That would give Comcast a long-standing over-the-air network in NBC plus an all-sports network, just like ABC/ESPN. In addition, Comcast would control the delivery mechanism that sends cable into approximately 24 million homes, according to reports. This could put ABC/ESPN at a competitive disadvantage, because it doesn’t control the cable wires.

This might all be fantasy. The folks running NBC decided to put Jay Leno into the 10 p.m. slot five nights a week, so they might not be smart enough to figure all this out. And the feds might have something to say about how anti-trust laws apply to one company cutting such a broad swath in the communications industry.

But it’s possible the sports broadcasting industry will get much more interesting in the near future.

That’s a long way off, though. Tonight, meanwhile, on the ESPN family of networks, the ACC needs to stop the bleeding in a difficult year with at least three wins against the Big Ten.

Ken Tysiac

UNC notes: Crowd key to win over MSU

CHAPEL HILL -- After berating UNC fans on Sunday for not showing up for the game against Nevada, coach Roy Williams complimented them for being so loud and boisterous during the Tar Heels' 89-82 victory on Tuesday against Michigan State.

" I've been chastising our crowd, and rightfully so because they've been sorry,'' Williams said. "But God Almighty, they were good tonight. There with six people that asked me for tickets, and I said no to six different people because they didn't come to watch Valpo or Gardner-Webb, so I wasn't going to give their butts tickets to come and watch a big game. But the crowd was important to us tonight. We've got to have that kind of participation from the student body and the alums and everybody."

TALKING DELVON: Williams called MSU forward Delvon Roe a "great kid, a wonderful kid that we tried very, very hard to recruit."

Asked if he was worried that there was any controversy about mentioning Roe in his autobiography, Williams said, "No. I've got some people that I said a heck of a lot [more] bad things about; I didn't say anything bad about Delvon. I said that we thought we were going to get him, and we didn't get him. I said he's a great player. If there's any fallout from that, then people are looking for it."

Roe, who had eight points and 10 rebounds before fouling out Tuesday, was not named specifically in the book. But Williams did refer to a player who told him he was coming to UNC before ultimately choosing Michigan State, instead.

"He told me he was coming,'' Williams said Tuesday. "He didn't come. I've looked every day at practice, and I haven't seen him yet."

OBSERVATIONS: Williams recently added a new title to his resume: bestselling author. His autobiography, "Hard Work," written with Tim Crothers, has climbed to No. 15 on the the New York Times Hardback Nonfiction bestseller list, marking the third week in a row it has made the list. ... UNC's coaching staff was wearing red ribbons for awareness of World AIDS Day, which was Tuesday. ... It was bad enough that UNC quarterback T.J. Yates was pinged in the helmet while walking off his home field earlier this season. But what happened during Tuesday's basketball game was worse. When his image flashed on the video boards as part of the "I'm a Tar Heel" montage, the boos from the crowd were audible. Really, Tar Heel fans?

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No more calling Duke 'soft'

A different story line is emerging this week as No. 6-ranked Duke (6-0) prepares to visit Wisconsin at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

The traditional take on Duke against a muscular team like Wisconsin in recent years would to examine whether the Blue Devils can use their speed and perimeter shooting to offset their opponent's physicality. But a look at the lineups for Wednesday's game shows that Duke is just as beefy as the Badgers.

Centers Miles Plumlee of Duke and Jon Leuer of Wisconsin both are listed at 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds. Wisconsin does have an edge in girth at power forward with 6-8, 245-pound Keaton Nankivil against Duke's 6-8, 225-pound Lance Thomas.

But at small forward, Duke's Kyle Singler is 6-8 and 235 pounds and has an advantage of two inches and 27 pounds over Tim Jarmusz.

The Blue Devils also will have Brian Zoubek (7-1, 260) and probably Mason Plumlee (6-10, 230) coming off the bench.

"We're big," said Duke guard Nolan Smith. "So we have to be physical. Our big guys, they have a lot of fouls to give. With Zoubs, Lance, Miles, and whenever Mason comes back (from a fractured wrist), we have a lot of fouls to give with our big guys. So they can be as physical as they want and not worry about their playing time. We're going to take fouls and we're going to be physical against teams. So no more calling Duke 'soft.' "

Coach Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged before the season that Duke has not been a strong rebounding team in the past. But this season, the Blue Devils are outrebounding opponents by 9.8 rebounds per game after demolishing Connecticut on the boards in a win Friday in the NIT Season Tip-Off final.

Thomas, a senior, said Duke is prepared to establish a physical presence again at Wisconsin.

"I'm not backing down from any one of those guys," Thomas said, "and I'm not going to let my teammates (back down)."

In other words, Duke won't rely just on its skill, because it has the size to match even a physical team like Wisconsin.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 30, 2009

Duke's Mason Plumlee may play at Wisconsin

DURHAM - Freshman center Mason Plumlee, who has missed Duke's first six games with a broken wrist, may return for Wednesday's game at Wisconsin, team spokesman Matt Plizga said Monday.

Plumlee's brother, sophomore forward Miles Plumlee, said Mason went through a full practice with the team Monday. Mason Plumlee suffered a non-displaced fracture of his left wrist during practice on Nov. 11.

The injury didn't require surgery, prompting coach Mike Krzyzewski to say Plumlee might be out for weeks rather than months. Plizga said team medical personnel will monitor Plumlee's progress after practice early this week.

Barring complications, Plumlee probably will dress and play in the 9:15 p.m. ACC-Big Ten Challenge game at Wisconsin, Plizga said. Plumlee is a 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American who was named a likely starter by Krzyzewski before preseason practice started.

Junior guard Nolan Smith said he has seen Plumlee's spirits improve as the date of his return to practice became closer. Miles Plumlee said Mason's return will bring another dimension to the Duke offense.

"He's big," Miles said. "He can finish inside. He's athletic. We can run the ball through him and (he can) pass. When he's on the floor, it's a whole other person we can go to."

Ken Tysiac

Krzyzewski jabs Gottlieb over 'athletic' comment

You know basketball season is hitting its stride when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is jousting with the media over treatment of the Blue Devils.

Following Duke's 68-59 defeat of Connecticut in the NIT Season Tip-Off final Friday, Krzyzewski was asked if the win answered ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb's questioning of the Blue Devils' athletic ability. Krzyzewski showed his sarcastic wit with his response.

"He should be an expert on alarmingly non-athletic," Krzyzewski said of Gottlieb, formerly a pass-first point guard for Oklahoma State. "So I'll have to take a look at that a little bit closer because it comes from an expert who actually knows what it feels like to be alarmingly non-athletic.

"Actually we're pretty athletic; we're just not as athletic as Connecticut. (Kyle) Singler is a really good athlete. Lance (Thomas), Miles (Plumlee). Jon (Scheyer) is not leaping tall buildings with a single (bound), but he's a really good athlete. But I wouldn't call us like, this athletic team, but we're not amazingly non-athletic. And I would rather not get into a discussion with Doug because I have respect of his stature and he should have his arguments with people of similar stature. That would be a good thing."

Although Krzyzewski hit that softball question out of the park, Gottlieb made a legitimate point. He just overstated it a bit. Because of the stature of its program and coach, Duke has an overwhelming recruiting advantage over most schools.

So it's surprising to see that schools in the ACC such as Clemson and Florida State have a collection of guys who probably move their feet more quickly and jump higher than Duke's.

It's true that Scheyer and Brian Zoubek aren't going to win many foot races with other guys who play their position in the ACC. Also, Singler doesn't move laterally as fast as a lot of the small forwards he will guard this season.

But Nolan Smith and Miles Plumlee are as athletic as anybody else at their positions. Lance Thomas has the size and quickness to guard just about any position on the floor, and Mason Plumlee will add to Duke's athletic ability at center when he returns to the lineup.

So the Blue Devils are hardly a bunch of stiffs.

The most important thing about Duke, though, is that it has three players in Singler, Scheyer and Smith who all are among the best players at their respective positions in college basketball.

Singler and Scheyer will never throw down a 360-degree dunk on a breakaway, but they're highly skilled and smart and always play hard. Yes, Duke could struggle when it plays a freakishly athletic opponent like Kansas or Kentucky.

But any team would. On most nights, the Blue Devils will have enough athletic ability to win as they head into Wednesday night's game at Wisconsin in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge with a 6-0 record.

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, November 29, 2009

UNC notes: Ol' Roy unhappy with empty seats

CHAPEL HILL -- Most of the tickets for UNC's 80-73 win over Nevada on Sunday night were sold, a team spokesman said.

But the Smith Center appeared to be less than three-quarters full, and only half-full at tipoff, a rather embarrassing turnout for coach Roy Williams' 600th victory.

And Williams noticed.

"Six hundred wins, I've been very lucky,'' Williams said. "I've been at two great institutions, I've been at places that really are passionate about basketball. I wish some of our fans who weren't here tonight would get a little more passionate and get their rear ends here. That was discouraging at the start of the game. But I love those, the ones that were here. The other ones, I think I should take a camera shot, and anyone who wasn't here tonight — stop them at the door if they try to come in for Michigan State [on Tuesday]. Tell them I sold their dad-gum ticket."

LOSING THE TIE: Williams may have to go back to the mock-turtleneck look for the next month or so, until he can get rid of the sling on his left arm that he had to start wearing after his Tuesday shoulder surgery. He began the game in his customary shirt-and-tie, but had lost the neckwear by halftime, probably because it was bugging him with the hefty arm contraption.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Heels coach Williams has shoulder surgery

North Carolina coach Roy Williams will be wearing a sling on his left arm for the next four weeks after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, the school announced.

He suffered the injury in early October when he slipped on a wet step at a golf course during a charity event.

The surgery lasted 90 minutes, Williams returned home later in the day, and he expects to return to work later this week. He should be on the bench Sunday when the 11th-ranked Tar Heels play Nevada, according to the news release.

The rehabilitation on his shoulder is expected to last several months.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Monday, November 23, 2009

ACC honors Duke's Smith, Ga. Tech's Favors

GREENSBORO -- Nolan Smith of Duke and Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech have captured the weekly honors in Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.

Smith was named player of the week after averaging averaging 22 points, six assists and four rebounds as the seventh-ranked Blue Devils took victories over Charlotte and Radford.

On the week, Smith shot 56 percent from the field, including 60 percent from three-point range.

Favors earned the rookie of the week award. The 6-foot-10 freshman forward averaged 14 points and seven rebounds while shooting 81 percent to lead the Yellow Jackets to wins in two of three games in last week's tournament in Puerto Rico. -- Associated Press

AP poll: Duke, Clemson up, UNC down

Syracuse was so impressive in the 2K Sports Classic that it made one of the best entrances ever into The Associated Press' college basketball poll.

The Orange, who beat California and North Carolina by an average of 19 points in winning the tournament at Madison Square Garden, went from unranked to No. 10 on Monday, the third-best jump-in in poll history.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Heels, Wildcats to play in Puerto Rico next season

North Carolina will be packing its bags the week before Thanksgiving next season, too.

The Tar Heels will be one of eight teams participating in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off; they will play Nov. 18, 19 and 21.

They will be joined by Davidson, Hofstra, Minnesota, Nebraska,, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, and Western Kentucky.

Tickets will go on sale next summer.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Duke faces familiar foes in New York

Duke will face a familiar foe in the NIT Season Tipoff semifinals on Nov. 25 in New York - and it's not just Herb Sendek.

With a 52-49 defeat of Texas Christian on Tuesday that ended long after midnight on the East Coast, Arizona State advanced to the meeting with Duke. Sendek, the former N.C. State coach, credited an ex-Duke player with carrying Arizona State against TCU.

Center Eric Boateng, a former McDonald's All-American who played just one season with the Blue Devils before transferring to Arizona State, posted career highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Arizona State wasn't nearly as dominating in its second-round game as Duke was in a 101-59 thrashing of Charlotte. But Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said the 49ers might have been more competitive if he'd had some practice time to prepare them to adjust their uptempo pace and play at a slower tempo.

As N.C. State fans know (for better or for worse), Sendek is a master at playing at a slow tempo. And he has time to prepare, plus a big man in Boateng who will be eager to prove himself to his former teammates in New York.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wake's Aminu is ACC player of the week

GREENSBORO - The Atlantic Coast Conference has honored Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu and Miami's Durand Scott.

The ACC on Monday named Aminu its player of the week while Scott is its top rookie.

Aminu averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 64 percent in the Demon Deacons' two season-opening wins.

Scott had 10 assists in an 83-53 rout of North Carolina Central — the most by a Miami player in three years. -- Associated Press

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Duke's Mason Plumlee fractures wrist

Duke's big lineup just got smaller.

Freshman Mason Plumlee, the athletic, 6-foot-10 center who was on track to possibly start for the Blue Devils, is out indefinitely after suffering a fractured left wrist in practice Wednesday, the school announced.

The injury will not require surgery and will be evaluated weekly by the Duke medical staff.

"We are confident that he will make a full recovery," coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. "Mason is going to be a very good player for us and we look forward to him getting healthy and returning to the court."

Plumlee is a McDonald's All-American who averaged 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots in exhibition wins over Pfeiffer and Findlay. Duke begins the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday against UNC Greensboro.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Devils expect pressure without Smith

Senior guard Jon Scheyer says Duke is ready.

With junior guard Nolan Smith sitting out a two-game NCAA suspension for playing in unsanctioned summer league games, the Blue Devils are down to two scholarship players in the backcourt.

On Friday and Monday, Duke will play without Smith against UNC Greensboro and Coastal Carolina, respectively. Those teams won't have the size to match up against the Blue Devils, who have their biggest team in coach Mike Krzyzewski's 30-year tenure.

So they're likely to pressure Scheyer, freshman Andre Dawkins, walk-on Jordan Davidson and whoever else handles the ball in the backcourt for Duke. Scheyer says the Blue Devils are ready.

"Obviously we're a better team with Nolan," Scheyer said. "There's no denying that. He gives us a lot, adds a lot, and of course takes pressure off me. So of course for the first two games we have to be ready to just handle the ball.

"I'm sure defenses will try to pressure us a little bit more, and that's something we're prepared to do. And it's something that, we can't have any excuses."

It's unclear exactly how Duke will rotate its backcourt. Without Smith in the first half of an exhibition game against Division II Findlay, the Blue Devils actually started with four forwards on the floor with Scheyer.

Krzyzewski wasn't pleased with the way that lineup played, but Scheyer said the team hasn't abandoned it.

"We didn't take advantage of it like we could have (in the exhibition)," Scheyer said. "We were a little sloppy and didn't go inside as much as we should have. So I think that lineup is really good for us. Just, when it's in there, we've got to go inside, get the ball in there."

Regardless of which lineups are used, playing without Smith should be good practice in overcoming adversity early in the season for Scheyer and the Blue Devils.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Duke plans huge basketball reunion

Duke is planning a huge celebration of coach Mike Krzyzewski's 1,000th game with the Blue Devils and the 70th year of basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Duke Varsity Club will play host to what's being billed as the biggest men's basketball reunion in the history of program on Feb. 12-13. Krzyzewski's 1,000th game at Duke will be the 1 p.m. meeting on Feb. 13 with Maryland at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Over 300 former players, coaches, managers and trainers will be invited back. The weekend will include a reception hosted by Duke athletic director Kevin White and an after-game party with the current Duke coaching staff.

"This will be an exciting weekend and a great way to celebrate the history of Duke basketball," White said in a statement.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Duke tops Findlay; Smith suspended 2 games

DURHAM – As junior guard Nolan Smith sat on the bench in the first half Tuesday night, Duke wobbled like a truck with one under-inflated tire.

Like it or not, though, the Blue Devils will have to get used to playing without Smith for a couple games. After Duke defeated Findlay 84-48 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that Smith will miss the first two games of the regular season because of an NCAA suspension.

Smith was suspended because he played in a summer league that wasn’t sanctioned by the NCAA. He will miss games Nov. 13 against UNC Greensboro and Nov. 16 against Coastal Carolina.

Outside of normal play on their own teams, college players are forbidden by the NCAA from participating in organized games that aren’t sanctioned or approved in advance by the NCAA. The NCAA rule governing this is in place in part to preserve players’ amateur status.

"He shouldn’t have done it,” Krzyzewski said. “The guys know. And this is what every basketball player has to know, don’t play in a game that has time and score (being kept), unless it’s a sanctioned game.”

Smith, who’s from Upper Marlboro, Md., said he played in a summer league game in the Washington, D.C., area while he was home before the second session of summer school. He said he didn’t realize he’d made a mistake until he got back to campus.

Krzyzewski said the suspension was for two games because Duke’s staff was uncertain whether Smith had played in one game or two and wanted to err on the side of caution in reporting to the NCAA. Smith said he accepted the punishment.

"I was definitely disappointed in myself,” he said. “. . .With the rules the NCAA has, you’ve got to get permission as a college athlete. I definitely learned my lesson.”

This will be the second time in six years that a guard from a Triangle ACC school served a suspension to open the season because of unsanctioned summer play. In 2004, North Carolina point guard Raymond Felton was suspended for the season opener for playing in an uncertified summer league.

The Tar Heels lost that game against Santa Clara but they went on to win the national title.

Maryland’s James Gist and Landon Milbourne were suspended for the 2007 opener for participating in a non-sanctioned summer league game.

Smith’s impact on Duke’s lineup was obvious against Findlay, as he was held out of the first half but played 12 minutes after halftime. Without him in the first half, a Blue Devil team that already was thin in the backcourt looked disjointed against the defending NCAA Division II champions.

Senior Jon Scheyer and freshman Andre Dawkins are the only other scholarship players on the team who are true guards. Kyle Singler, a post player in previous seasons who’s the starting “small” forward at 6-foot-9, moved to shooting guard in the starting lineup.

Walk-on Jordan Davidson was the first guard off the bench and played five minutes in the first half, which ended with Duke leading just 36-23. Without one of their primary ball handlers in Smith, the Blue Devils committed 10 first-half turnovers.

"Where’s Greg Paulus when you need him?” a female Duke student wondered late in the first half, referring to the 2008-09 senior guard.

In the second half, Smith scored seven points and handed out three assists as Duke outscored Findlay 48-25.

"We’ve known about it since the summer,” Krzyzewski said of the suspension. “So it’s no big deal. We’re ready to move on. We’re a different team without him, though. There’s no question about that.”

Ken Tysiac and Robbi Pickeral

Duke's Smith suspended two games

DURHAM - Duke junior guard Nolan Smith has been suspended for the first two games of the regular season for playing in a non-sanctioned summer league, team spokesman Matt Plizga said Tuesday.

Smith will miss the Nov. 13 season opener against UNC Greensboro and the Nov. 16 game against Coastal Carolina. Plizga said Smith thought the league he was playing in had been approved by the NCAA and didn't find out otherwise until he returned to campus.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will address the issue after tonight's exhibition game against Findlay is finished, Plizga said. Duke struggled without Smith in the first half, committing 10 turnovers, but led 36-23 at the intermission.

This will be the second time in six years that a guard from a Triangle ACC school served a suspension to open the season because of unsanctioned summer play.

In 2004, North Carolina point guard Raymond Felton was suspended for the season opener for playing in an uncertified summer league. The Tar Heels lost that game, against Santa Clara, but they went on to win the national title.

Ken Tysiac and Robbi Pickeral

Monday, November 2, 2009

Singler named preseason All-American

Duke junior forward Kyle Singler was the only ACC player named to The Associated Press’ preseason All-America men’s basketball team Monday.

Singler, who also was voted the preseason ACC player of the year by the media, averaged 16.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season.

He received 30 votes from the 65-member national media panel to become the final member of the team. Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody was the top vote getter with 57.

Kansas teammates Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins also made the team along with Patrick Patterson of Kentucky.

Singler has 1,060 career points and last season became the sixth Duke player to surpass the 1,000-point mark as a sophomore. He also earned ACC All-Tournament team honors after helping Duke capture its first tournament championship since 2006.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wall cleared to play at UK

Former Raleigh Word of God basketball star John Wall has been cleared to play this season -- after he sits out an exhibition game and regular season game, and pays back almost $800 in travel expenses "incurred during Wall's unofficial visits to various institutions during his junior year at Word of God Christian Academy."

Here's the full news release from Kentucky after the jump:

Lowe has mixed feelings about recruiting rules

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe is glad to see the NCAA trying to clean up men’s basketball recruiting, but also is concerned that in some cases the college sports governing body is throwing out the baby with the bath water.

On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors approved rules meant to stop college programs from funneling money to associates of recruits. College coaches who run afoul of the rules could be suspended from postseason or even regular-season games.

Here are some things the NCAA is targeting:

- Hiring associates of recruits to non-coaching staff positions at their schools, and employing them at camps and clinics.

- Donating to non-profits (Summer club basketball programs for top high school-aged players often are run as nonprofits.

- Subscribing to recruiting services that don’t provide much useful information (these services sometimes are run by club basketball coaches).

It appears the rules would have prevented Baylor, for example, from hiring Dwon Clifton to a director of player development position. Clifton was serving as the club coach for Greensboro-based D-One Sports, which had highly recruited guard John Wall of Raleigh on its roster.

Wall went to Kentucky despite Baylor’s hiring of Clifton.

"I think what they’re trying to do is eliminate any wrongdoing, and for that, it’s hard to question the NCAA and what they’re trying to do,” Lowe said. “There certainly needs to be something done to get a hold of it.”

At the same time, Lowe laments the loss of opportunities for high school or club coaches who are doing things the right way to get a foot in the door at college programs.

"That’s a tough deal because you do have some high school coaches and you do have some AAU guys who do a nice job with their program,” Lowe said. “A lot of them are striving to become college basketball coaches. If you, I guess, discriminate against them, how do they ever get an opportunity to move to the next level?”

Although some deserving, up-and-coming coaches might be adversely affected, conference commissioners, that Amateur Athletic Union and basketball coaches backed the proposal, according to the NCAA. Lowe understands, but he also has reservations.

"I think it’s tough,” he said. “I know what they’re trying to do, and definitely there needs to be something done about the stuff that’s going on, but I think. . .it would really impact some people that probably are unfairly judged.”

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who is Duke's best end-of-game option?

When Duke needed a basket in the closing minutes of a close game last season, there was no secret where the ball was going.

Duke's players knew it. Opponents knew it. Fans knew it.

Gerald Henderson was going to get the ball on the wing with an opportunity to drive off a ball screen. He was athletic enough to get to the rim when he saw even a crack of daylight.

He was a rare college player who can hit a pull-up, mid-range jumper. He won a lot of games for the Blue Devils as they finished 30-7 with an ACC Tournament championship and a berth in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

"We tried to put the ball in his hands as much as possible in tough situations, and he responded," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Now the Blue Devils have to come up with a different plan because Henderson left school after his junior season and was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats. Duke doesn't have a player who's capable of scoring off the dribble as proficiently as Henderson did.

So now Duke will rely on three players rather than one on critical possessions. Senior Jon Scheyer (top) and juniors Kyle Singler (middle) and Nolan Smith (bottom) all will have opportunities to make winning plays late in games, but they will have to do it off the pass rather than the dribble.

"Now I think we can put the ball in the hands of three guys on the perimeter," Krzyzewski said. "We have more guys who are capable of doing that."

As N.C. State fans familiar with the Herb Sendek regime can attest, relying on a passing game and motion offense in a one-shot situation at the end of the game can be a dicey proposition. The dribble is a surest way to get your best player the best shot at the end of a close game.

There's a reason the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and the Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe Bryant have won so many NBA championships. Those teams could count on highly skilled playmakers to create shots on their own in pressure situations.

Duke doesn't have a player in that mold. But Singler is the preseason ACC player of the year. Scheyer is as steady and heady as any guard in the ACC and Smith seems to be improving rapidly.

Even without Henderson on the floor, Duke will have more and better options than most of its opponents as the clock wanes in its tight games.

-- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

UK president admits eligibility issue

Kentucky guard John Wall excites the crowd with some wicked dunks during Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky, on October 16. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

Without ever saying John Wall's name, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, University of Kentucky president Lee Todd acknowledged on Tuesday that one of the school's basketball players faces questions about his amateurism that could affect his eligibility.

Last week, Southeastern Conference Mike Slive last week told that the player was Wall, a heralded freshman point guard and former Raleigh Word of God star.

"I think the commissioner made his statement which I'm not sure he intended to make, but he made it," Todd told the paper after a meeting of UK's Board of Trustees.

Todd told the newspaper he felt "very comfortable" with no UK official admitting a question existed on a player's eligibility until Tuesday because "there's no reason to expose him to a whole lot of newspaper articles when it's not necessary till we get a final decision."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Krzyzewski: New rule will become 'a joke'

GREENSBORO - Count Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski among the objectors to the new rule that specifies an unmarked zone under the basket where referees will call only blocks, not charges, on offensive players.

"It'll be a joke, because it will become a joke," Krzyzewski said at the ACC's Operation Basketball media event Sunday afternoon.

Krzyzewski agrees with the intent of the rule, because he believes players shouldn't be called for charging underneath the basket. But he said the no-charging zone - which extends from the backboard to the front of the rim - should be marked on the floor.

"It probably hasn't been taken to the step it should be taken to," Krzyzewski said. "If you can imagine it, you should do it."

Other critics of the rule have argued that without markings on the floor, referees will be forced to estimate whether players were in the no-charge zone at the time of contact.

"There are absolutes, and that's why boundaries are used (in sports)," Krzyzewski said. "You shouldn't approximate the distance from the pitcher's mound to home plate."

-- Ken Tysiac

Duke making substantial changes

GREENSBORO - Mike Krzyzewski said that because Duke is playing with one of the biggest lineups he has coached, he has made significant changes to how the Blue Devils will play.

At the ACC's Operation Basketball event on Sunday, Krzyzewski laid out two major changes:

- The Blue Devils will break down opponents with screens rather than the dribble. Duke has traditionally heavily emphasized penetration and kick-out passes to open 3-point shooters. But Nolan Smith is the team's only threat to penetrate, so Duke will rely on screening and will look for more post feeds. "We need to have more vision when we pass the ball," Krzyzewski said.

- Because it has size rather than quickness, Duke won't extend its defense or trap as much as in the past. There's been a lot of talk that the Blue Devils might play some zone defense, but the change will be obvious even when Duke is playing man to man. "You'll be able to see the zone principles in our man to man more," Krzyzewski said.

-- Ken Tysiac

Observations | ACC preseason poll

The tie atop the ACC preseason poll was the first in the 41-year history of voting, although if pressed to pick a winner, Duke had 25 first-place votes to North Carolina's 20.

Other observations on the poll:

1. This is the 19th time North Carolina has been picked to finish first. The Tar Heels won the league in 11 of the first 18 times they were picked. Duke has been picked to finish first 12 times before, winning in seven of those years.

2. Wake Forest, picked sixth overall, received one first-place vote. Georgia Tech, picked fourth, received two.

3. Four of the five returning members of the first, second and third ACC teams from last season were picked on the preseason all-conference team: Maryland's Greivis Vasquez (second team), Clemson's Trevor Booker (second team), Duke's Kyle Singler (second team) and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney (third team).

North Carolina's Ed Davis moved past Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal (third team) and Virginia's Sylven Landesberg (honorable mention) to fill the fifth spot.

4. The 144-point gap between Duke and North Carolina and third selection Clemson is the largest gap between any spots in the poll. Clemson-Georgia Tech (third-fourth, 122 points) and Boston College-Miami (eighth-ninth, 116 points) are the other demarcation points.

5. Biggest jump: Georgia Tech, which finished 12th last year, was picked to finish fourth. Biggest fall: Boston College, which finished tied for fourth last year, was picked to finish ninth. The Eagles were picked to finish 11th last year.

6. Good news for N.C. State: The team picked to finish 12th hasn't actually finished last since expansion. (Clemson was correctly picked to finish last in 2004, the last year of the nine-team ACC.) The average finish of teams picked to finish last since 2006, the first year with 12 teams, is eighth.

7. Even though Duke had the edge on North Carolina in first-place votes, Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association director Rob Daniels said the two teams share first place.

"It's like the AP poll or any poll. It's by points and the ties aren't broken," Daniels said.

-- Luke DeCock

Duke, UNC tied in ACC preseason media poll

GREENSBORO - Media members at the ACC's Operation Basketball event on Sunday placed their votes for the conference's 2009-10 predicted order of finish, and it was the first time in 41 years there's ever been a tie for first place. Duke and North Carolina both received 545 points.

Here's the predicted order of finish, with first-place votes and total points:

1. Duke (25), 545
1. UNC (20), 545
3. Clemson, 409
4. Georgia Tech (2), 387
5. Maryland, 378
6. Wake Forest (1), 315
7. Florida State, 314
8. Virginia Tech, 273
9. Boston College, 251
10. Miami, 135
11. Virginia, 116
12. N.C. State, 76

2009 ACC pre-season all-conference team

Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, 45
Trevor Booker, Clemson, 44
Kyle Singler, Duke, 43
Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech, 24
Ed Davis, North Carolina, 21

Player of the year:

Kyle Singler, Duke, 19
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, 15
Trevor Booker, Clemson, 8

Rookie of the year:

Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech, 40
John Henson, North Carolina, 8

-- Edward G. Robinson III

ACC Tournament downsized in 2012

GREENSBORO -- The ACC Tournament set attendance records in its last two visits to Atlanta, but at the occasional expense of early round atmosphere in the cavernous spaces of the Georgia Dome.

Sunday, the ACC announced that in the tournament's next trip to Atlanta, in 2012, the event will be held at Philips Arena, where the NBA Hawks and NHL Thrashers play, instead of the Georgia Dome.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said the league decided to move to the smaller venue, which will seat about 20,000 fans for the tournament, "to protect the tournament's brand and atmosphere."

"This was a visceral kind of decision collectively with our schools and our staff," Swofford said. "We thought this was the right place to be in Atlanta for the future."

The 2001 tournament at the Georgia Dome set a conference-tournament record with 182,525 total fans and an average of 36,505 per session. Last March, the numbers were down to 158,112 total and 26,352 per session -- still the second-most in NCAA history, but the crowds were swallowed up by the dome's open spaces.

"With 40,000 people in there, it was pretty phenomenal," ACC associate commissioner Karl Hicks said. "The ADs thought, 'If we can't get that many people in the dome, what's in the best interest of the league?' "

The Georgia Dome already had been announced as the host site for 2012, but the league never had a contract with the venue, Hicks said.

The ACC Tournament was held at The Omni, Atlanta's old basketball arena, in 1983, 1985 and 1989 before moving to the dome. After visiting four other cities over the past five years, the 2012 tournament is the only one in the next six years that will be held somewhere other than Greensboro.

Originally, the 2015 tournament had been a possibility for somewhere other than Greensboro, but that site has been confirmed. Hicks said the league would likely consider sites for 2016 and beyond after the 2012 tournament in Atlanta.

-- Luke DeCock

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Barnes watches Duke thump Pfeiffer

DURHAM – Before Duke’s exhibition opener even started, a security guard ordered students to hand down the signs they’d brought to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Harrison Barnes, a 6-foot-6 forward from Ames, Iowa, who’s rated the top high school senior in the nation, was about to enter the arena to watch Duke’s 128-70 pasting Pfeiffer in its exhibition opener Saturday.

The signs were photocopies with Barnes’ head superimposed on the body of a Duke player in uniform. NCAA rules prohibit students from participating in organized wooing of prospects on their campus visits, so the signs were collected and taken away.

“If you’ve got one of these, I’ve got to have it,” the security man said. “I’ve got to have all of them.”

Barnes walked into the arena along with Duke’s players, taking a seat behind the bench with his sister and mother on his right. Junior forward Kyle Singler made two 3-pointers in the first two minutes on a 21-point evening as senior Lance Thomas missed the game while recovering from an illness.

But Barnes’ mere presence was bigger news than a game against an NCAA Division II opponent that didn’t count toward Duke’s record.

Duke freshman forward Ryan Kelly, meanwhile, was on the periphery of some different news at week’s end. Kelly, who’s from Raleigh, formerly played on the D-One club team that made headlines last week.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive told on Thursday that the NCAA is looking into the eligibility of Kentucky freshman guard John Wall of Raleigh.

Wall was a teammate of Kelly’s on D-One. The club’s founder and CEO, Brian Clifton, was a certified agent from 2007-08 according to, and NCAA eligibility rules prevent players from receiving transportation or other benefits from agents.

But Kelly’s mother, Doreen, and Duke have said the NCAA has approved Kelly’s eligibility. He provided a spark for the Blue Devils off the bench Saturday with 18 points.

Afterward, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said “there’s nothing there” in terms of an eligibility issue with Kelly and Clifton.

“They’re looking at an association between a coach and a player, not a coach and a team,” Krzyzewski said. “At least, that’s my indicator on it.”

Barnes, meanwhile, is heading back to Iowa with plans to visit UCLA and Iowa State before announcing his school choice by the time practice starts in mid-November. He’s also considering North Carolina, Kansas and Oklahoma.

For the most part, Barnes sat poker faced as security officers tried to keep the Duke students’ enthusiasm in check. But Barnes cracked a smile before guards removed a giant cardboard cutout of his head on top of the body of a Duke player in uniform.

You can read something into that if you like. But with the disciplined, guarded way Barnes is handling his recruiting, it would seem foolish to view a simple grin as confirmation of anything.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Krzyzewski respects UNC, touts Duke's success

One of the most interesting discussions of the pre-practice basketball media events in North Carolina last season struck at the heart of the sport’s best rivalry with a big recruiting battle looming in the background.

At his preseason news conference, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked about the effect of North Carolina’s 2009 NCAA championship. The Tar Heels have won twice in the last five years.

“First of all, I respect that,” Krzyzewski said. “I’ve respected Carolina’s program from the day I got here. I think overall that’s great for our conference. We’ve won four national championships in this decade from our conference. So as far as our motivation, we don’t need North Carolina or Maryland or anybody to motivate us. We’re motivated by trying to win a championship.”

Krzyzewski also was eager, though, to make sure Duke’s accomplishments are recognized. He has won three NCAA titles with the Blue Devils.

“We’ve had excellence of our own,” he said. “When this decade is done we’ll end up being the winningest program of this decade in college basketball, or of any decade in college basketball.

“People have things to hang their hats on. The thing you’d like to hang your hat on the most is the national championship. Because that’s the ultimate. And they deserve it. So I think they’ve set the bar high.”

The discussion was particularly relevant as highly regarded forward Harrison Barnes of Ames, Iowa, gets set to visit Duke this weekend. North Carolina and Duke are among the final suitors for Barnes, who’s 6-foot-6 and regarded by many as the top player in the Class of 2010.

Whichever team lands him will take a huge step forward, even if he’s there for just one season. Duke, which hasn’t been to a Final Four since 2004, would instantly be among the NCAA championship favorites in 2011.

If North Carolina lands Barnes, Roy Williams’ train would be likely to just keep rolling and mowing down everybody in its path. If Kansas, Oklahoma or UCLA get him, Duke and North Carolina both will miss out on a big opportunity.

Against that backdrop, Krzyzewski made sure last week that the media didn’t forget Duke’s accomplishments.

“Last year, Carolina had great team ego and great team talent,” he said. “That’s the ultimate. And we’ve had that here. So I understand how they feel. But it doesn’t last forever, and that’s why they play seasons. We start it over and they don’t bring any records along with it.”

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Plumlee, Devils add size, speed

Duke sophomore forward Miles Plumlee exudes a lot of confidence for a guy who averaged just 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds and didn’t even play in 13 games last season.

“I know there’s no one faster than me at my size,” said Plumlee, who has undergone a significant offseason transformation.

Along with his brother, freshman Mason Plumlee, Miles was named as a likely frontcourt starter for Duke on Thursday by coach Mike Krzyzewski. Miles has added about 15 pounds to his 6-foot-10 frame and increased his standing vertical jump from 32 inches to 36 inches.

He now has the highest vertical jump on the team. He also said that along with his brother and senior Lance Thomas, he gives Duke unusual speed at the forward positions.

“I don’t think people realize how fast we are,” Plumlee said. “We’re going to be able to keep up with everyone in the open court. We’re big, long and athletic.”

The starting lineup Krzyzewski described has the Plumlees at 6-10 apiece and 6-8 Kyle Singler on the floor in an unusually big alignment for the Blue Devils.

Duke also has just three guards on scholarship. But Krzyzewki said the Blue Devils still are going to try to push the ball up the floor to get easy baskets more often than last season.
Senior guard Jon Scheyer sounds optimistic that it will work.

“Even though we’re a bigger team, we can really run,” Scheyer said. “With Miles and Mason inside, they can really run the floor. They can jump. They’re long. So even though we’re bigger, we’re just as athletic.”

Ken Tysiac

Plumlees to play big role for Duke

DURHAM - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that if he had to name a starting lineup at the beginning of preseason practice, brothers Mason and Miles Plumlee would be in the frontcourt.

Veterans Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler would work in the backcourt, with senior forward Lance Thomas playing a significant role off the bench.

Mason Plumlee is a freshman, and Miles is a sophomore who Krzyzewski said has improved significantly in the offseason, putting 18 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame. He now weighs about 240 pounds.

"He's really a good athlete, and he's gotten bigger, stronger," Krzyzewski said Thursday during his news conference to preview Duke's Countdown to Craziness practice-opening event.

Here are more notes from Krzyzewski's news conference:

- Krzyzewski had freshman Ryan Kelly of Raleigh work exclusively on the perimeter for much of the offseason so he could develop his footwork.

"He'll help us right away," Krzyzewski said. "He can really shoot the ball."

- Seth Curry, a Charlotte native, who's transferred from Liberty, will make his only public appearance during the blue-white scrimmage at Countdown to Craziness.

Curry has to sit out the season under NCAA transfer rules.

"Seth is really good," Krzyzewski said. "I wish we could go back to high school and have him come in early."

Ken Tysiac

Monday, October 12, 2009

Duke to hold basketball open house

Duke's men's basketball team will hold an open house for fans beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Players and coaches will be available for autographs (but not photographs) from 11 to 12:30. During the autograph session, fans will be able to take their photos with Duke's 1991, 1992 and 2001 NCAA championship trophies.

Fans will be allowed to watch practice from 1 to 3 p.m. Doors to the arena will open at 10 a.m., and admission is free.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ellington, Williams to have jerseys honored, too

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina four-time All-America Tyler Hansbrough was already scheduled to have his jersey retired, and former teammate Ty Lawson, a first-team All-America, was already scheduled to have his jersey honored.

But two additional jerseys -- those of Wayne Ellington and Donald Williams -- will soon be hung in the Smith Center rafters, as well.

UNC officials recently decided to add "Final Four Most Outstanding Player" and "ACC Player of the Year" to the qualifications that allow numbers to be honored. Formerly, a player had to a first- or second-team All-America, an Olympic gold medalist, or the MVP of a national championship team (as voted on by the squad).

Ellington was the MOP of UNC national title team last April; Williams was MOP in 1993.

Dates have not yet been set for the jersey-raising ceremonies.

– Robbi Pickeral, News & Observer

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Scheyer, Thomas named Duke captains

Seniors Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas have been named co-captains of Duke's basketball team, coach Mike Krzyzewski announced Thursday.

Scheyer, a starting guard who was the most valuable player of the 2009 ACC Tournament, also served as a captain last season. Thomas is a forward who has started 62 of the 100 games he has played during his career.

"Jon and Lance have both been great leaders on and off the court for our program," Krzyzewski said in a statement released by the school. "Jon has a great approach to the game and is one of the most consistent performers in practice and during games. Lance brings a work ethic and fiery competitiveness that teammates rally around."

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Duke changes basketball start times

From Duke:

Three early season contests at Cameron Indoor Stadium have changed start times beginning with the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Duke will still face Coastal Carolina on Monday, Nov. 16 in a 7:00 p.m. tip-off on ESPNU, while Charlotte and Elon will now play at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday’s championship game remains a 6:00 p.m. start time with the consolation game following at 8:30 p.m.

Duke’s game against Radford on Saturday, Nov. 21 has been moved to a 2:00 p.m. start time and will be shown on ACC Select.

Single game tickets will go on sale on Monday for Countdown to Craziness (Oct. 16) and Findlay (Nov. 3) as well as regular season games against Gardner-Webb (Dec. 15), Long Beach State (Dec. 29) and Pennsylvania (Dec. 31). Ticket prices are to be determined by seat location.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Coaches lose a friend in troubled times

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski spoke for a lot of coaches when he said Myles Brand was a “true friend of college basketball.”

Losing Brand, the NCAA president who died Wednesday afternoon of pancreatic cancer at age 67, is a blow to the sport and its coaches when they need a friend more than ever.

In almost seven years as president of the NCAA, Brand constantly sought input from college basketball coaches who’d often been demonized by the NCAA leadership. College basketball’s long, sordid history of exploiting athletes who often failed to get their degrees was a black eye for the NCAA that Brand sought to heal. But even as he built the Academic Progress Rate system designed to withhold scholarships from sports programs who failed to meet benchmarks in the classroom, Brand worked with coaches rather than blaming them for all the sport’s flaws.

“The game made great strides as a result of him looking at things out of the box - trusting coaches, trusting players and making appropriate changes that have brought along more dialogue than there has ever been about our game,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “He will be missed as a man, he’ll be missed as a leader and he’ll be missed as a friend.”

Coaches said it wasn’t fair to punish programs for players in good academic standing who left early for the NBA draft or transferred to get more playing time at another school. Brand listened, and the APR formula no longer penalizes programs in those cases.

Ironically, Brand earned coaches’ respect after he rose to national fame in 2000 while president at Indiana by putting volatile basketball coach Bob Knight on a zero-tolerance policy after a former player said Knight choked him during practice.

Four months later, Brand fired Knight after a freshman at Indiana accused Knight of grabbing him. Two years after that, Brand became NCAA president.

Brand spoke at N.C. State last fall as part of the Millennium Seminar Series, which later became the center of controversy because of the way Mary Easley, the wife of former Governor Mike Easley, was hired to land speakers.

On that evening in the Stewart Theater on campus, Brand explained his view of how academics and athletics can complement each other. He said athletics teach life skills and help schools become engaged in the community and beyond.

He recalled taking the subway to Ebbets Field to watch Jackie Robinson play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and said Robinson’s breaking of the baseball color barrier encouraged social justice long before integration took place on a large scale in the United States.

That’s why Brand believed in the marriage of athletics and academics along with the many college basketball coaches he befriended. But the lure of easy money has put that marriage at a crossroads, at least where college basketball is concerned.

There’s so much money to be made off young basketball players even before they get to college that street agents may have eclipsed overzealous boosters as the most insidious force in the sport.

The NBA’s age limit, which critics say has forced some basketball players with little interest in academics onto college campuses for a year, is a source of consternation among coaches. Should they recruit top players who aren’t interested in attending class? It’s difficult to win big if they don’t.

At the heart of the matter is the question of why players with enough talent to make millions of dollars should play for the price of a scholarship when the NCAA is getting $6 billion over 11 years from CBS to broadcast the NCAA Tournament.

John Calipari is making about $4 million a year to coach Kentucky, and other coaches are making multiple millions, too. The NCAA paid Brand $1,610,340 in the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2008, according to tax records.

With all this money out there, it’s no wonder that young basketball players are surrounded by handlers hoping for a payday of their own. The money endangers the principle of the student-athlete and jeopardizes college basketball as a result.

It won’t be easy for Brand’s successor to guide college basketball through these turbulent waters. More than ever, basketball coaches could use a friend who has high principles and is willing to listen.

They lost one on Wednesday.

Ken Tysiac