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