Friday, February 26, 2010

ESPN GameDay coming to Duke on March 6

Duke has announced its plans for the ESPN College GameDay crew's appearance on campus on March 6, when the Blue Devils will play host to North Carolina at 9 p.m.

ESPN will air live, one-hour segments beginning at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. in preparation for the game and the day in college basketball.

Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Bob Knight will do the morning show inside Cameron Indoor Stadium and the evening show outside the arena. Doors will open to the public at 9:30 a.m. for the morning show, and Duke is encouraging fans to arrive early because ESPN's SportsCenter will be doing live cut-ins at Cameron from 10 to 11 a.m.

The public will enter from the South entrance, and Duke's students will enter through the North lobby. Parking will be available in campus lots beginning at 8:30 a.m., with the exception of the Public Policy Lot. Cars must be moved out by 2 p.m.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

College Hall to enshrine Laettner, Thompson

Former NCAA champions Christian Laettner of Duke and David Thompson of N.C. State will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, which announced its eight-person 2010 class on Wednesday.

The induction ceremony will be held Nov. 21 in Kansas City, Mo. Also set for enshrinement as players are Sidney Wicks and Jerry West as players, Tex Winter and Davey Whitney as coaches, and Tom Jernstedt and Wayne Duke as contributors.

Laettner led Duke to four Final Fours and NCAA championships in 1991 and 1992. He received national player of the year honors in 1992 and ranks third in Duke history in career points (2,460) and rebounds (1,149).

He is the NCAA Tournament’s career scoring leader with 407 points and made one of the most famous shots in NCAA history in overtime in a 1992 regional final to lift Duke to a 104-103 win over Kentucky.

Thompson, who is from Boiling Springs, N.C., was one of the most athletic players in the history of the game and was named national player of the year twice. He led N.C. State to the 1974 NCAA title and was selected as ACC player of the year in 1973, 1974 and 1975.

He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.

Ken Tysiac

Krzyzewski to meet with Duke students

Coach Mike Krzyzewski has a message for Duke's students.

He has invited them to a meeting Wednesday night at the basketball practice gym in preparation for the Blue Devils' home game Thursday with Tulsa.

No. 5-ranked Duke (23-4, 11-2 ACC) is the only ACC team ranked in The Associated Press' poll. The Blue Devils hold a one-game lead in the loss column over second-place Maryland (19-7, 9-3), heading into the Terrapins' Wednesday night home game against Clemson.

"I'd like to show you a few things on how we get prepared, a couple things that we've done during the year, so that we can be prepared on Thursday," Krzyzewski said in a video blog directed at the student body.

Duke's nonconference game Thursday is its last home game until the regular season finale on March 6 against North Carolina.

"The last game of the season is a long way off," Krzyzewski said. "You don't get better just by preparing for that game. You get ready to be at your best by preparing for this game on Thursday night."

Krzyzewski said the meeting will last about an hour.

"You guys are doing a great job," he said. "We appreciate the support. We want to get hungrier. We want to play better. And you can help us do that."

Ken Tysiac

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tar Heels fear Wear has torn labrum

The Tar Heels are waiting for test results, but coach Roy Williams said Monday night that freshman David Wear might miss the rest of the season because of his hip injury.

"To be honest with you, we may have lost David for the rest of the season ... it's a possible labrum tear in his hip, and we don't fee real good about it,'' Williams said on his weekly radio show. "...So we'll find out late tomorrow about David."

Wear, a reserve forward, was limited to eight minutes on Saturday at Boston College because of the hip injury and underwent tests Monday night. He was averaging a modest 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds -- but his 10.4 minutes were key, because of UNC's multitude of injuries in the frontcourt.

Earlier Monday, Williams said that David's twin brother, Travis, might be able to return Wednesday night against Florida State, depending on how he fares in practice Tuesday. Travis Wear has missed four games because of a sprained left ankle. -- Robbi Pickeral

Horner gives N.C. State a lift

Senior forward Dennis Horner's resurgence has been a bright spot for N.C. State as the Wolfpack enjoys a week off before visiting Miami on Saturday.

"We're a better ballclub because we count on Dennis to do several things for us, rebounding and scoring and defending as well," coach Sidney Lowe said Monday during the ACC coaches' teleconference. "When he's on track and doing those things, it just makes us a different team."

Horner scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds Saturday as N.C. State broke a seven-game ACC losing streak with a 68-54 defeat of Wake Forest. He also posted 19 points and 10 rebounds earlier last week against Maryland.

Despite a clunker of a game against North Carolina (two points, one rebound), Horner has averaged 11.6 points and 8.6 rebounds over his last five games, scoring at least 10 points in four.

That productive stretch follows a period of seven games when he was held to single-digit scoring five times. Lowe said he's not sure what sparked Horner, but he hopes it continues because Horner loosens up defenses when he makes shots.

"That gives us the opportunity to pull the opposing team's four man out on the perimeter and keep them honest that way," Lowe said. "And if we have Tracy [Smith] inside it opens up Tracy."

Lowe practiced the Wolfpack on Monday morning and will hold practice Tuesday before giving players Wednesday off. N.C. State will practice Thursday and Friday in preparation for the game at Miami.

Ken Tysiac

Krzyzewski won't speculate on Singler and NBA

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called it "ridiculous" to speculate yet on whether junior forward Kyle Singler will leave school after this season for the NBA draft.

Krzyzewski said Singler needs do finish his junior season and evaluate his options afterward before deciding whether to return as a senior.

"I don't expect anything," Krzyzewski said Monday morning during the ACC coaches' teleconference. "We're getting ready for Tulsa [on Thursday]. Every kid after the season is over looks at things and they should do things based on guidance from appropriate people."

In Duke's last two games, Singler has scored 25 points with 10 rebounds against Virginia Tech and posted 22 points and 11 rebounds at Miami. Krzyzewski said Singler is playing his best basketball of the season and has been a joy to coach.

"Kyle Singler will be a pro player," Krzyzewski said. "Whether he does it after this year or after next year I think is a matter of development. Kyle is going to be a pro, and you want him to be the best he can after he does that."

Ken Tysiac

Friday, February 19, 2010

Heels' Williams: Parent-agent talks not uncommon

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he wasn't surprised to learn that forward Ed Davis' family had been in contact with at least one agent; he says it happens all the time. And he reiterated that it isn't an NCAA violation unless and oral or written agreement for representation is made between the athlete or family and an agent -- and in this case, he said, it hasn't been.

The subject came up during Williams' Friday news conference because on Thursday morning, Davis' biography briefly ended up on the website of Chicago-based PTA Sports Management, making it look as if the injured sophomore was ready to leave early for the NBA. Vincent Foster, founder of the agency, said someone hacked his site and that he had no agreement with Davis, although he had been in touch with the Davis family.

"I think it was something, that in their minds, was something harmless and something small,'' Williams said of the Thursday incident. "But if you are Ed Davis, a basketball player at the University of North Carolina, there is nothing small. And there is nothing harmless, and I think I brought that out to the team yesterday, and made sure they understood that.

"And I've had conversations with Ed and [his dad] Terry throughout the year, and after the season is over, we'll sit down and talk, and I'll give them my opinion, my recommendation, and they get to make the decision [about the NBA]. It was more educational than anything, because I really do believe it was something that was not nearly as big as it ended up being. But that's educational, too, because it tells you what this world is."

Davis, who broke a bone in his left (shooting) wrist earlier this month, is likely out for the remainder of the season. He is still considered a first-round draft pick. Terry Davis, Ed's father, told The News & Observer that his son had not yet made a decision about his NBA future.

Williams spoke with both of Davis' parents, and the agent, Thursday, and said that they made contact via a mutual friend in Richmond.

"It was questions about going through the process,'' Williams said. "I have that all the time -- all the time. People say, 'Do I need to be doing anything right now?' I have questions from the parents, questions from the agents. I'm not up real high on most agents' list, but there are some guys that are very, very reputable that let people know what's going on and operate through the front door. And I'm not saying this guy didn't; I wouldn't know him if he came in and sat down in front of me.

"... This stuff, sharing information or getting information, people do it all the time. Baseball, people negotiate: 'If you'll give me one more dollar, I'll come. If you don't, I'll go to college.' Well, you can't do that at our level. So parents see baseball players doing it, see football players doing it, and they have questions. I had discussions with Tyler Hansbrough -- just to use one of the perfect kids, use him as an example -- I had discussions with him and his family. It's something that goes on all the time."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Is Duke vulnerable to Hokies' strengths?

DURHAM - On the few occasions when Duke has struggled this season, a couple of deficiencies have been to blame.

In a key ACC game at 7:45 p.m. Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Virginia Tech (21-4, 8-3 ACC) appears to have the talent to take advantage of both of Duke's problem areas. No. 6-ranked Duke (22-4, 10-2) will try to extend its lead atop the ACC standings over the Hokies and Maryland, which are tied for second place in the conference.

It may not be easy. In losses at Wisconsin and N.C. State, Duke's guards failed to stop the penetration of some guards who have the quickness to get into the lane and create scoring opportunities. And in ACC scoring leader Malcolm Delaney (20.2 ppg), the Hokies have a point guard who excels at getting into the lane and getting fouled.

"I just have to play smart," said Duke junior Nolan Smith, who will guard Delaney. "Be smart defensively, but at the same time still be aggressive, like I like to play defense. Just make him take tough shots and not foul him, as he likes to get to the line. Just make him shoot tough, contested shots. And at the same time I need to be aggressive offensively as well and stay in the game without fouling."

Another problem area for Duke has been getting back on defense to guard against the fast break. Georgetown frustrated the Blue Devils with fast-break layups in an 89-77 thumping on Jan. 30, and guard Jon Scheyer said Maryland got four layups in the first half on the fast break last week at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Virginia Tech guard Dorenzo Hudson averages 14.0 points per game, and Scheyer said he's getting a lot of his scoring because he is an excellent finisher on the fast break. Scheyer said rotating back on defense has been a priority for Duke in practice.

"Because we're playing motion [on offense], we'll be in different positions now," Scheyer said. "Sometimes I'll cut through and I'll be under the basket, so that means someone has to cover for me. Or if Nolan's down, I need to get back. So that's something we've worked on."

It's also something Virginia Tech will test Sunday in a meeting of two teams that have both won five games in a row.

Ken Tysiac

Heels' Williams pauses to watch Tiger, too

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams is an avid golfer and golf fan. So it wasn't surprising to hear that he had taken few minutes to watch Tiger Woods' televised statement Friday. Williams' reaction to Woods' mea culpa:

"I watched it. I thought he did a nice job in a very difficult situation,'' Williams said. "I really struggle [with it] myself because I think it's a personal matter and yet it can't be personal because it's Tiger Woods. I saw a person that seemed to be harmed a great deal by it and I think everybody wanted to see that and I like the idea he's not saying, 'I'm running back and I'll be on the first tee tomorrow.' He feels like he's got some work to do and I probably talked on that a heck of a lot more than I should." -- Robbi Pickeral

UNC's Zeller will return Saturday

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller, who has been sidelined for 10 games because of a stress fracture in his right foot, will play at Boston College on Saturday.

"I'm hoping we can get him in and get some productive minutes out of him,'' coach Roy Williams said Friday. "That with each and every game, he can build on it. But it's hard; he's been out for 10 or 11 games ... so it's been quite a while. But we're going to give him a chance to see what he can do when he does get in there."

The Tar Heels have won only two games without the sophomore, who was averaging 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 16.4 minutes before his injury. His return is particularly key, because starter Ed Davis is out likely for the rest of the season with a broken left wrist, and freshman reserve Travis Wear remains sidelined with a sprained ankle. -- Robbi Pickeral

Zoubek finally making an impact

DURHAM - Brian Zoubek, Duke's often-criticized 7-foot-1 senior center, said he's in better shape than ever.

He's more mature and playing smarter.

There's no arguing with the results as Zoubek has moved into a key role with No. 6-ranked Duke (22-4, 10-2 ACC) playing host to Virginia Tech (21-4, 8-3) in an important ACC game at 7:45 p.m. Sunday. For the second time in his career, Zoubek has scored at least 10 points in back-to-back games.

He grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds to go with 16 points Feb. 13 against Maryland. At Miami on Wednesday, Zoubek scored 10 points and had a career-high five steals.

"It's the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of pain and a lot of struggle," Zoubek said Friday afternoon during a Duke media availability. "A lot of criticism has been out there, and it's just been amazing to be able to string a couple of really good games together.

"I'm getting to start now, and we're making a really good run at it, and the best thing for me is, we haven't won the regular season [in the ACC] in my four years here, and to have a chance to do that, that's the best thing for me."

For most of Zoubek's career, he hasn't played a significant role. Foot injuries slowed him as a sophomore and junior. Even early in his senior season, he saw his minutes cut short at times because of foul trouble when he was otherwise playing well.

But he has started the last two games, setting a career high with 22 minutes against Maryland and then topping it with 29 minutes at Miami.

"I feel great," Zoubek said. "I think that I'm a lot more poised out there. I'm not rushing to do everything. I'm just playing with a lot of confidence, especially on the offensive end a lot more. I feel really good. I'm just glad to be out there on the court a lot."

Zoubek was the subject of some teasing Wednesday night, when a fan at Miami held up a sign asking him to marry her. Apparently TV cameras captured her holding the sign upside down, and some of Zoubek's friends sent him text messages letting him know about it.

For the record, though, Zoubek already has a girlfriend, whom teammate Kyle Singler said is "hot." Singler sounds like he appreciates Zoubek almost as much as his girlfriend.

"He just does so much for us that goes unnoticed," Singler said.

Finally, though, people are starting to notice. And Zoubek is enjoying every minute.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A rare blowout for Davidson's McKillop

-- Davidson fans might want to look at Wednesday's lopsided loss against Wofford as an odd kind of compliment to the Wildcats, at least for the kind of sustained excellence the program has enjoyed over the years under coach Bob McKillop, the Southern Conference's all-time victories leader with 217.

Look at the 22-point, 73-51 loss (in which Davidson made an all-time low 13 baskets) to the Terriers this way:

It's taken 21 seasons -- since 1989, when he came aboard -- for a McKillop-coached Wildcats team to lose a Southern Conference game by more than 20 points. Their previous worst loss to a league foe under McKillop was an 18-point home defeat against The Citadel last season.

Davidson (13-13, 8-6 SoCon this season) hadn't lost a home conference game that badly since 1975, when the Wildcats fell to East Carolina 110-78 in old Johnston Gym (the Wildcats did lose a designated home game -- played in what's now Bojangle's Coliseum -- 87-64 to Marshall in 1978).

Wednesday's loss was Davidson's most lopsided in conference play -- home or away -- since 1984, when the Wildcats lost 85-57 at Chattanooga.

It was also Davidson's worst home loss since a 76-51 defeat against Georgetown in 2004.

-- Some of Davidson's problems Wednesday against Wofford didn't stem from atrocious shooting (the Wildcats made a school-record low 13 baskets and shot 29.5 percent). They were also attributable to first-half foul trouble. Forwards Jake Cohen and Steve Rossiter and guard Will Archambault each had two fouls and spent lots of time on the bench.

According to McKillop, foul problems -- especially when they're offensive -- mean more than simply not having key players on the floor.

"An offensive foul not only means a loss of the ball, but it's a step in the direction of the bonus and a foul against one of your players," said McKillop. "But it's also deflating because you don't get a shot at your basket." -- David Scott

Agent says Tar Heels' Davis hasn't signed

North Carolina forward Ed Davis' biography was on a sports agency's Web site Thursday morning, but agent Vincent Porter said the sophomore has not signed, or verbally committed, to his agency - even though Porter has had contact with the family.

"I don't even know if he's going to go pro ... this injury has opened up all possibilities,'' Porter said in a phone interview.

Porter said he believes someone hacked his site,, and added information that looked as if it had been cut-and-pasted from the UNC's media guide -- such as where Davis played in high school, his high school statistics and his family information. Davis' picture had not been added to the site, and the information looked different from what was listed for other clients.

All of Davis' information had been taken off the site by 10:10 a.m.

"We have no commitment, nothing verbally or written from Ed Davis,'' Porter said.

The agent, though, said he has had contact with the Davis family; Davis' father, Terry, is a former NBA player. Asked who contacted who, Porter said he and the family had a mutual friend in Richmond, Va., and "initially, they would have contacted me through that friend."

Asked when the contact was made, Porter would offer no more details.

Davis, who is considered a first-round draft pick, broke his left wrist earlier this month and is likely sidelined for the rest of the season.

Informed that Davis' bio was on the site this morning, a UNC spokesman said the school was looking into it. Davis has not been available to the media since his injury.

NCAA bylaws state that "an individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics abiltiy or reputation in that sport."

An athlete can also become ineligible if his or her family accepts transportation or other benefits from an agent, but the bylaws do not state that there is anything wrong with an agent having contact with the family.

NCAA bylaws state that "an individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics abiltiy or reputation in that sport."

An athlete can also become ineligible if his or her family accepts transportation or other benefits from an agent, but the bylaws do not state that there is anything wrong with an agent having contact with the family.

- Robbi Pickeral

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Can ACC really get 7 teams in NCAAs?

ESPN “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi is extremely good at what he does.

When he projected earlier this week that based on their accomplishments as of Monday seven ACC teams would make the NCAA Tournament, he probably was right. Lunardi has a good handle on what other teams are doing throughout the nation and how they might fit into 65 slots.

Still, it’s easy to look at that projection and think, “No way.”

On this much, Lunardi is correct. North Carolina (gasp), N.C. State, Boston College, Miami and Virginia don’t have the credentials to make the NCAA Tournament. Virginia is the only team that's even close.

But Lunardi’s projection has everybody else in the conference making the tournament, and that just doesn’t seem right.

If the season ended today, Duke, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech would be in, especially after the Hokies made their case stronger with a home win over Wake Forest on Tuesday. But it’s easy to even have reservations about Virginia Tech because its best win outside the conference is against Seton Hall.

The four other ACC teams have serious flaws:

- Georgia Tech is 3-6 in road games and its most impressive nonconference wins came at home against Siena and at Charlotte.

- Maryland doesn’t have a single win of note outside the ACC. According to, the Terrapins’ strongest nonconference victim was Fairfield (No. 100 in the RPI).

- Florida State’s best win outside the conference came against Marquette (No. 60) in Orlando, Fla.

- It wasn’t too long ago that Clemson lost four times in five games. The Tigers might be in the best shape of these four teams, though, because of an impressive win over Butler on a neutral court.


Every time North Carolina gets blown out is an occasion to gain greater appreciation for the job Tyler Hansbrough and his merry band of freshmen did in 2006 after the Tar Heels won the 2005 NCAA title.

It was easy to get “Hansbrough fatigue” by the time he was a junior and senior because the leader of the 2009 NCAA champions had been celebrated so long and didn’t have much to say.

But Hansbrough’s first-team All-ACC performance as a freshman grows more remarkable each time the Tar Heels play now – and so does the leadership of 2006 senior David Noel.

- With N.C. State wallowing in last place in the ACC, has the moment finally arrived when most N.C. State fans regret losing Herb Sendek to Arizona State four years ago?

After Sendek left, I wrote that sooner or later, fans would regret losing Sendek after he’d built the Wolfpack into a team with solid character that was making yearly trips to the NCAA Tournament.

But it’s a measure of Sendek’s failure to connect with the fans that even now, even though the Wolfpack hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since he left, that many fans still are glad he’s gone from Raleigh.

The night that Sendek wasn’t more upset over losing to North Carolina than he would have been over losing to any other ACC foe demonstrated a disconnect with the fans that he could never overcome.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stop the presses. . .Zoubek dunked

Give junior guard Nolan Smith credit for what might have been Duke's best twitter post of the season, which apparently was made over the weekend while he was watching an unimpressive NBA slam dunk contest.

"Put Zoubs in the dunk contest," Smith tweeted, referring to teammate Brian Zoubek. "He's ready."

Smith, of course, was referring to the two-handed tip dunk by Zoubek on Saturday against Maryland that shocked his teammates and his coaches. Zoubek is 7-foot-1 but hadn't made a dunk this season and made just one as a junior.

"He was even playing above the rim," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "He was above the rim a couple times."

That a 7-foot-1 player who can barely dunk can have such a profound impact on a key ACC game (16 points, 17 rebounds against Maryland) speaks volumes about the lack of premier big guys in college basketball today. It also speaks to Zoubek's smarts, as he has learned as a senior to make the most of his skills despite his limitations.

But the reality is that for Duke to take another step forward and continue improving, athletic big guys Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee will have to continue to develop. They're not ready for the dunk contest either, but they do play above the rim, and Duke will be better off when they to maximize their talent the way Zoubek has.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, February 15, 2010

N.C. State coach appreciates recruit's support

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe was appreciative and impressed by a message delivered by recruit Ryan Harrow to Wolfpack fans on Sunday.

Harrow, a 5-11 point guard from Marietta, Ga., wrote an open letter to Pack Pride, a popular N.C. State message board, defending Lowe and promising a brighter future for the Wolfpack, which is 2-9 in the ACC and in last place.

"That's incredible," Lowe said Monday. "I've never heard of any player going out and doing that."

Harrow, a high school senior who signed with State in November, praised Lowe and asked N.C. State fans to stop being so negative about the current state of the program.

"Coach Lowe works hard and is very passionate about the game," Harrow wrote. "...Every bad game we cannot criticize coach Lowe. It comes down to the players performing on the court. I know [c]oach Lowe is going to help my game and make me the best point guard I can be."

James Henderson, the editor of Pack Pride, said Harrow sent him the letter as a text message on Sunday and asked Henderson to post it on the site's message board.

In less than 24 hours, Henderson said the letter received 342 replies and more than 10,700 page views on the free forum. Henderson locked the thread on the free forum but kept it on the premium forum, where it received 146 replies and more than 4,100 views before noon on Monday.

Henderson said the response from the fan base has been generally positive.

"I think he just wanted to say what he was feeling," Henderson said. "Really, all of these recruits, not just at N.C. State, read the message boards and he didn't like some of the comments he was reading about the program."

Lowe said the letter was an example of Harrow's strong character and a show of loyalty.

"No. 1 it shows incredible loyalty and my relationship with him and the way we've treated Ryan with a lot of respect," Lowe said.

Erasto Hatchett, Harrow's brother-in-law and the basketball coach at Word of God in Raleigh, said he didn't know about the letter until after Harrow had sent it to Pack Pride.

He said Harrow wanted to reach out to the N.C. State fan base.

"He doesn't want the fans to discount how much coach Lowe has meant to him and the affect he has on his life," Hatchett said "To see the fans, in his eyes, bash coach Lowe or his future teammates, it does affect those kids that are coming in."

Harrow promised a brighter future for the program, which hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament under Lowe, who is 65-58 in his fourth season.

"We are going to be a great team and one of the best teams to come through NC State," Harrow wrote. "It just takes time."

-- J.P. Giglio

Tar Heels Zeller, Wear likely out for Ga. Tech game

UNC forward Tyler Zeller, who has been out five weeks with a broken bone in his foot, will practice today, but is unlikely to play against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, coach Roy Williams said.

Fellow forward Travis Wear, sidelined by an ankle sprain, will not practice today, and therefore won't play in Atlanta.

That means freshman John Henson will likely make his second straight start at power forward.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Deacs close to wrapping up NCAA bid

Wake Forest's win Saturday over Georgia Tech did more than avenge a loss from earlier in the season.

The Deacons (18-5, 8-3 ACC) are close to joining Duke on the list of ACC teams that have wrapped up NCAA Tournament bids in what's been a redemptive season for coach Dino Gaudio.

Last March, Gaudio's coaching was questioned after Cleveland State's shocking upset eliminated an extremely talented Wake Forest team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. After losing guard Jeff Teague and forward James Johnson early to the NBA draft, Wake Forest was expected to fall back into the middle of the ACC standings.

The media picked Wake Forest sixth in the ACC preseason poll. Thanks to strong seasons by Al-Farouq Aminu (16.5 ppg, 10.9 rpg) and Ish Smith (13.0 ppg, 6.1 apg), though, the Deacons are in second place behind Duke.

"We have some pretty driven guys and they are starting to pull this team with them," Gaudio said during Monday's ACC coaches teleconference.

Wins over Gonzaga and Xavier outside the ACC also have helped Wake Forest achieve an RPI rating that puts the Deacons in good shape to gain a high seed if it keeps winning. Wake Forest is No. 11 in the RPI, according to

The Deacons' schedule still presents challenges. On Tuesday they visit Virginia Tech, which hasn't lost at home yet this season. Three of Wake Forest's final five games are on the road.

But games at N.C. State on Feb. 20 and at home against North Carolina on Feb. 27 also give the Deacons good chances to add to their conference wins total in the closing weeks of the season.

And Gaudio hopes the lessons learned from last season's early NCAA exit will pay dividends for his players if they can get to the tournament again.

"It was our first experience in the NCAA Tournament with a young team," Gaudio said. "We did not play well. I'd be remiss if I said we did. But the Cleveland State team, as we've now learned, was a very talented team. . . .It wasn't like we lost to St. Rita's Church here that I go to here in Winston-Salem. We later found out that they had two pros on that team. I hope the experiences that we went through last year lend itself well for a stretch run for us."

Ken Tysiac

Is it too soon to proclaim Duke the ACC's best?

With six straight ACC wins, Duke (21-4, 9-2 ACC) has climbed to the top of the conference standings, and Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said there's no doubt the Blue Devils are the best team in the league.

"Right now we all know they're having the best year," Hamilton said Monday on the ACC's weekly coaches' teleconference. "They have a good mixture of experienced players that have been around a while and. . .freshmen that kind of blend in."

Hamilton also said that despite the problems North Carolina (14-11, 3-7) is having, the Tar Heels have a great coach and great players.

"People should take note that as they move toward the end of the season and as they move toward the ACC Tournament, Carolina is not going to be a team that anyone is going to want to face," Hamilton said.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked whether his program - which won seven of eight ACC Tournaments from 1999 to 2006 - has re-established itself as the ACC's top program. Krzyzewski said he's not going to go week to week or month to month discussing who's got the best program.

"There's so many good programs in our conference that you want to be one of the top programs," Krzyzewski said. "You may go and win the conference for a couple years. That doesn't mean you're necessarily the top program. That means for those two seasons you're the best team. We had that for a long time, and we didn't bill ourselves as the top program. We just said, 'We won the league.' Because it's too fluid now. There are too many good players and there are too many good programs.

"We're just happy we had a really good week and we're hoping to have another week and we're in contention for the regular season crown. They don't give awards based on a week. . . .Those things go away quick. But if you win something big, if you win a championship, that stays forever. And that's what we're trying to do."

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, February 13, 2010

UNC notes: Williams says Haiti comments were misconstrued

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams on Thursday issued a statement apologizing for comments he made earlier in the week that compared his disappointment in his struggling team's season to the suffering Haiti.

At the conclusion of his post-game Saturday press conference, he brought up the subject again, chastising the media for misconstruing what he said.

"Guys, you don't have to write anything; it's your choice. But c'mon now,'' he said. "You guys know the other day, when I said that about disappointment and catastrophe, c'mon, there's a huge, huge, huge, huge immeasurable difference. Us playing basketball at times is a disappointment. What's going on in Haiti is just awful.

"But everybody that sat here, in my opinion ... there's not one person sitting in here that heard me say that that really took it that way, but I've been blasted by saying that I compared our basketball season [to it]. I never said that. What they're having is unbelievable. What we're doing, we're playing a game. Know why my job is? Think about it, it's entertainment.

"And hopefully we'll help kids get a college education and do those things. But I don't really think that was quite right -- I won't say fair, because I don't need to pick fights; you guys have got more ink than I've got. But let's be honest, if you heard me say those things, you knew I wasn't doing that."

ZELLER, WEAR LIKEOUT OUT FOR GEORGIA TECH: Without starting forward Ed Davis (broken wrist) and back-ups Tyler Zeller (broken foot) and Travis Wear (sprained ankle), freshman John Henson - who began the season playing small forward - made his first start of the season at power forward on Saturday. He also spent some time at center, while Will Graves - the starting small forward - also spent some time at power forward.

And they'll likely have to do it again Tuesday at Georgia Tech. Although Zeller has been going through limited practice, coach Roy Williams said he doesn't expect the sophomore to be ready to play against the Yellow Jackets. And, "my guess is ... is that we'll get Z back before we do Travis,'' he added.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Friday, February 12, 2010

Teammates hopeful Duke's Thomas will play

Although Duke has listed senior forward Lance Thomas as doubtful for Saturday's game against Maryland with a bruised right knee, his teammates are hopeful that he will play.

"Lance might play tomorrow," junior forward Kyle Singler said during a media availability on Friday. "We haven't really counted him out right now."

Thomas was injured in Wednesday's 64-54 Duke win at North Carolina. Duke junior guard Nolan Smith said Thomas wore a protective sleeve on his knee and went through some of the drills the Blue Devils did Friday during practice.

"He did a little bit today and he looks good, so I think he's going to be ready," Smith said.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has said Thomas is Duke's best defender. Thomas averages 5.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Ken Tysiac

Singler scoffs at report on Nets and Krzyzewski

Duke junior forward Kyle Singler smiled Friday afternoon when asked about reports that the New Jersey Nets will target Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski for their coaching job.

"I just saw it on ESPN," Singler said during a Duke media availability Friday. "But he's not leaving."

Krzyzewski, 63, said last June that he plans to spend the remainder of his coaching career at Duke. But Internet reports on and citing anonymous sources Friday said the Nets will try to persuade Krzyzewski to coach them.

Singler said Krzyzewski hasn't addressed the reports with the team.

"I'm actually not too worried about it," Singler said.

Ken Tysiac

Tar Heels struggling to find big bodies

Remember when North Carolina's frontcourt was going to be the strength of its team? With sophomore Ed Davis out for six weeks -- essentially, the rest of the season -- with a broken bone on his left wrist, the Tar Heels are going to be scrambling for big bodies when they play N.C. State on Saturday.

Reserve 7-footer Tyler Zeller, who has already been sidelined five weeks with a broken bone in his right foot, isn't due to return until the end of next week at the earliest. Reserve freshman forward Travis Wear is still out with a severely sprained ankle, and wont play against the Wolfpack.

That leaves normal starter Deon Thompson at one slot in the post, David Wear or John Henson (who has recently moved from small forward to power forward) starting in the other slot, and Will Graves (usually the starting small forward) to fill in.

The Tar Heels enter Saturday's game with the Wolfpack on a four-game losing streak, and 2-7 in the ACC.

Davis will be the seventh UNC player this season to miss at least one game because of injury. In addition to Zeller and Travis Wear, senior Marcus Ginyard missed four games because of a sore foot, then sprained ankle; freshman Dexter Strickland missed a game because of a hamstring injury; and Graves and reserve sophomore Justin Watts each missed a game because of sprained ankles.

Heels' Davis out six weeks with broken wrist

In what's already been a difficult, injury-filled season, North Carolina announced Friday morning that sophomore forward Ed Davis (left) will be sidelined at least six weeks with a broken bone in his left wrist.

Davis broke the lunate bone in his left wrist when he fell to the floor in a collision with 9 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in Wednesday's 64-54 loss to Duke. He is the Tar Heels' leading rebounder and shot blocker, and their second-leading scorer.

His wrist will be immobilized for at least the next six weeks. Tests Thursday showed a fracture but not ligament damage. Surgery is not planned at this time.

North Carolina (13-11, 2-7 ACC), which has lost seven of its last eight games, plays host to N.C. State at 4 p.m. Saturday.

"We're all extremely disappointed for Ed and for our entire team," coach Roy Williams said. "It's hard to lose any starter, but when you lose someone likely for the rest of the season who does so many different things for your team it's a significant loss. . . .However, we have to band together and try to overcome this latest adversity caused by the injury."

Davis is one of three North Carolina players who are out with injuries. Sophomore Tyler Zeller has been out since the Clemson game on Jan. 13 with a stress fracture in his right foot. He is out until at least next week. Freshman Travis Wear missed the Duke missed Wednesday's game against Duke and is out indefinitely with a severely sprained left ankle.

Davis is averaging 13.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, has blocked 64 shots and is shooting 57.8 percent from the floor this season. He leads the ACC in blocked shots, is second in rebounding and would be first in field goal percentage but he has not attempted enough shots to qualify for the conference leaders.

-- Ken Tysiac

Reports: Nets to pursue Krzyzewski

In June, Mike Krzyzewski said he planned to spend the rest of his coaching career at Duke.

That may not stop NBA teams from approaching him, though. Citing unnamed sources, and reported Friday that the New Jersey Nets have plans to target Krzyzewski in their coaching search.

Krzyzewski will coach his 1,000th game at Duke on Saturday against Maryland on his 63rd birthday. Duke spokesman Matt Plizga said the school won't comment on rumors.

The next media availability for Krzyzewski will be after Saturday's game against Maryland.

During his yearly summer news conference last June, though, Krzyzewski said he will remain at Duke for the rest of his coaching career. At the time, he was responding to reports that he would be sought again to coach the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I'm not leaving Duke," Krzyzewski said in June. "Whatever you hear about anything like that, I will never leave Duke until I leave coaching."

In July of 2005, Krzyzewski turned down an offer to coach the Lakers that was worth a reported $40 million over five years. He previously considered offers to coach the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Duke's Thomas doubtful for Maryland

Duke forward Lance Thomas is listed as doubtful for Saturday's 1 p.m. game against Maryland with a severe bone bruise on his right knee, a team spokesman announced Thursday.

Thomas was injured during Wednesday night's 64-54 Duke defeat of North Carolina when he collided with Tar Heel point guard Larry Drew at the Smith Center early in the second half.

Teammates carried Thomas off to the locker room after he was injured, and he did not return to the game. Thomas, a senior co-captain who coach Mike Krzyzewski has called one of the top defenders in the nation, is averaging 5.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Does schedule change favor Terps over Duke?

The schedule change prompted by the incredible accumulation of snow in Maryland and Virginia will put both of those schools in a bind next week.

Today's game was rescheduled for Monday, so both teams will be forced to play three times in five days next week. That means that on Wednesday, Feb. 17, Florida State (at Virginia) and N.C. State (home vs. Maryland) could be catching tired opponents in key ACC games.

But the rescheduling also will give yet another team (Maryland) an advantage of extra rest against Duke. The original ACC schedule called for 10 of Duke's opponents to have at least one day of extra rest against the Blue Devils.

Duke was scheduled to have more days of rest than its opponents twice (including tonight's game against North Carolina). The amount of rest was supposed to be equal four times.

Now Maryland's postponement shoves the Terrapins into the category of having more rest than Duke. And Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski already was questioning the fairness of having Duke play both of its "permanent partners" on the schedule - presumably its biggest rivals - in the same week.

"I don't know how that's happened," Krzyzewski said earlier in the week.

Of course, the weather is completely out of the ACC's control. And Krzyzewski presumably could have scheduled his team some breaks by playing more nonconference games in the first two months of the season rather than playing Georgetown on Jan. 30 and Tulsa on Feb. 25.

But having Duke scheduled for 10 games with less rest than opponents and just two games with more rest seemed unusual. At the very least, it seems to disprove the conspiracy theorists who think the ACC arranges everything to favor Duke and North Carolina.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Heels' woes have Thompson in isolation

Deon Thompson doesn't leave his apartment unless it's absolutely necessary anymore.

North Carolina's recent struggles (seven losses in the last nine games) have been so traumatic Thompson spoke Tuesday of isolating himself.

"I don't even go out of the house," Thompson told reporters Tuesday during North Carolina's news conference to preview Wednesday night's home game against Duke. "I go to class, but I just try to leave the house as little as possible. When things aren't going the way you plan them to, it's kind of hard to be around (the community). It makes you just want to stay away."

This season has been a huge change for Thompson, who experienced nothing but success until now. During his first three seasons, the Tar Heels advanced to the NCAA Tournament regional finals, then the Final Four, then won an NCAA title.

He said he eats his meals at home and plays video games to pass the time.

"I just try to avoid going out as much as possible," Thompson said. "I try to get food delivered to the house and just stay in my room. . . .I have a great life. XBox 360 and stuff. So it's good."

Despite his frustration, Thompson was gearing up for success against No. 8-ranked Duke.

"Like coach said, how much worse can it get, you know?" Thompson said. "I don't think there's any added pressure. We're just going to go out there and play as a team and get this win."

Ken Tysiac

Heels' swoon puzzles ESPN's Bilas

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas admits that he’s baffled by the turn for the worse of North Carolina (13-10, 2-6 ACC) as the Tar Heels prepare to play host to No. 8-ranked Duke (19-4, 7-2) at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Bilas said there’s nothing wrong with the schemes, defenses or technical aspects of the game Roy Williams is coaching. For whatever reason, Bilas said, the Tar Heels seem to be suffering from a crisis of confidence and a lack of fight.

"I think there are knowledgeable basketball people around the country that are shocked and have no answer for it," said Bilas, who lives in Charlotte and played at Duke. “We can sit here and pretend like, ‘Well, here’s the reason.’ There’s nothing you can point to - that isn’t thumping inside their chests – for an answer."

According to Bilas, North Carolina was a good team in December. The Tar Heels posted impressive wins over Big Ten foes Ohio State and Michigan State early in the season, but a loss at the College of Charleston started them on a 2-7 swoon.

"They went from being a good team in December to being a bad team now,” said Bilas, who will be working in ESPN’s studio in Connecticut on Wednesday night. “They’re not a good team. They’re getting drilled by teams that are good teams. I think it has more to do with their lack of confidence and sort of collective fight than anything else.”

Bilas said North Carolina has great kids and talented players. He said it’s rare when they line up against an opponent more talented than they are.

He said he has never seen the Tar Heels lose confidence in this way, and he’s sure Williams has never seen it happen, either.

“Ed Davis is an All-American,” Bilas said. “Deon Thompson has been a really good player in the league. All their players have been highly rated and they’re not playing. They’re not fighting, more importantly. They’re playing, but they’re not fighting.”

Ken Tysiac

Monday, February 8, 2010

UNC notes: Williams using more timeouts?

It's widely known -- love it or hate it -- that North Carolina coach Roy Williams prefers to let his team play through a run, rather than call a timeout and settle his players down, because he thinks it helps them in the long run to play through adversity.

So its another sign of how much the current Tar Heels -- now 2-6 in the ACC -- have faltered, that Williams called early timeouts in losses at Virginia Tech and Maryland.

"It's been hard for me, because I don't really believe in that,'' he said during Monday night's radio show. "I think it helps your team in the long run to be able to handle adversity, and I believe that from the bottom of my heart. And yet, at Virginia Tech, and yesterday [at Maryland] ... there's been three of the last six or seven games that I've called a timeout, and I've been so dadgum mad at myself for having called a timeout, but I thought it was the right thing to do at the time for this team.

"So I do believe it is something different with this team, because they have shown me that they haven't handled it as well. I've had teams in the past, even when Bobby [Frasor] and Tyler [Hansbrough] and Danny [Green] and Marcus [Ginyard] and those guys were freshmen, we'd have some runs by the other team -- and long term, that made that team so much stronger and they could handle things and do what we needed to do. But with this team, I have [in] at least three games called a timeout, and in years past I would have never called a timeout."

DEFENSIVE DOLDRUMS: The defensive performance against Maryland was so bad on Sunday that only one player -- freshman John Henson -- qualified to be named UNC's defensive player of the game. The criteria? A 2-to-1 ratio of good plays to bad, Williams said. -- Robbi Pickeral

Lowe regrets hasty exit

Forty-eight hours later, N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe still felt bad about how he reacted after the Wolfpack's 73-71 loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Lowe walked off the court after Julius Mays' 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer without stopping to shake hands with Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt.

"I've never reacted that way before," Lowe said. "Ever."

Lowe stopped to talk with Hewitt, and apologized, before meeting the media on Saturday. He said he was frustrated because of the way his team came back and how the game ended.
State trailed by 14 points with 5:01 left but rallied back to the point that Mays' shot, which was hurried by Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert, would have won the game.

"The kids worked their tail off to get back in the game and to give us a chance," Lowe said. "I felt we should have maybe been on the line shooting to tie or win the ball game.

"I just got caught up [in the moment]."

Les Jones, Gary Maxwell and Sean Hull were the game officials. -- J.P. Giglio

Krzyzewski questions ACC scheduling

DURHAM - Add Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to the voices questioning the ACC basketball schedule this season.

The imbalance in teams' schedules puzzles Krzyzewski. Duke played Clemson twice in its first six ACC games and will play Maryland twice in 18 days later on.

Georgia Tech and Florida State had met twice by Jan. 24.

"There are a number of teams in our league that we haven't played yet, but this is our 10th game," Krzyzewski said. "There should be more balance, because teams change positively from January to February. So everybody in the league - and I'm not saying it benefits us or doesn't benefit us - but overall you have more equity involved if you play a team in January and you play a team in February."

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe also has said he would prefer to play at least eight ACC games before facing any opponent for a second time.

ACC associate commissioner Karl Hicks, who creates the schedule, told the Raleigh News & Observer last week that he prioritizes the scheduling concerns coaches have communicated to him in the past while trying to get all of the league's TV partners premier games.

That means minimizing instances when teams play twice in three days; trying to balance 9 p.m. tipoffs among the teams in the league; and balancing Sunday night games among all teams. Hicks has a rule where he won't schedule two ACC teams to play each other twice in a two-week period.

Beyond that, there's nothing preventing teams from playing twice in a three-week period. Krzyzewski doesn't like the current format.

"How we've done it this year, I just think it's not very good, for everybody," he said. "To play in a condensed manner is not an equitable way of doing the league."

Ken Tysiac

Duke players still respect Heels

DURHAM - As Duke prepares to visit North Carolina on Wednesday, the Blue Devils' players obviously are aware of the Tar Heels' struggles.

Duke (19-4, 7-2 ACC) moved up to No. 8 in The Associated Press' rankings on Monday, and North Carolina is 13-10 overall, 2-6 in the ACC.

"My reaction is, 'What's going on?' " said Duke junior guard Nolan Smith. "Because when I look at them, I know some of their players. I know they are a very talented team. They have guys that are probably going to be lottery picks. It's very surprising to me. But they're a very talented team."

The Blue Devils don't sound like they're taking North Carolina lightly despite its struggles. Forward Kyle Singler said youth might have contributed to the Tar Heels' losing record in the ACC.

"They're just young," Singler said. "Obviously that's what people talk about, that they're young. And they are. They have a lot of talent. You just really can't look at them losing games because they can beat anyone. They've definitely won some good games. So you can't necessarily say they're struggling."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski also said the Tar Heels are talented, and he expects their best shot Wednesday.

"They're very talented and deep," he said. "They can keep coming at you. (Ed) Davis is one of the most talented players in the country. And (Deon) Thompson is just a seasoned veteran, and so is (Marcus) Ginyard. And (William) Graves is old. So they have a really good blend of veterans and a lot of talented young players. I just think they're a very talented basketball team, and obviously they represent a program that is proud and they have one of the best coaches of all time."

If the Tar Heels were looking for bulletin board material, they didn't get it from Duke's media session Monday. Then again, it doesn't take harsh words to inspire passion in this rivalry.

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hewitt: Singler's toughness something to strive for

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt wasn't happy with his team's toughness in the Yellow Jackets' 73-71 victory Saturday against N.C. State. Tech led by 16 points in the second half, then wilted down the stretch under the Wolfpack's full-court pressure. It wasn't until N.C. State's Julius Mays missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that Tech prevailed.

Hewitt knows of an ACC player whose toughness his team should for: Duke's Kyle Singler. Playing with a sore wrist, Singler scored 30 points against Georgia Tech last week in an 86-67 Blue Devils victory.

"That takes a lot of toughness that, quite honestly, we haven't seen around here in a little while," said Hewitt, who coached Singler as a high school player for USA Basketball. "We see a lot of calls for 'I need touches' and 'I need more minutes.' That kid played with a bad wrist. I coached I know that if he shaking his wrist, he is hurt. No complaints, no excuses, he dropped 30. That took a level of toughness."

Saturday's victory notwithstanding, Hewitt said Georgia Tech's last two games have not been anything he's been proud of.

"After (the Duke game), I told (the team) that was the most embarrassed I've been since I've been here, in the second half against Duke," he said. "Well, I topped that (against N.C. State)." -- David Scott

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tar Heels bus dug out, team makes practice

With 17 inches of snow surrounding the team bus at noon, North Carolina feared it wouldn't be able to make it to the Comcast Center to practice today in anticipation of Sunday's 2 p.m. showdown with Maryland.

But just after 4 p.m., the bus was plowed out of the hotel parking lot.

"We got here in about 23 minutes,'' team spokesman Steve Kirschner said. "And we went real, real slow."

Starting small forward Will Graves, who sprained his right ankle Thursday, is practicing, Kirschner said. But his status for the game is questionable. -- Robbi Pickeral

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More numbers coming to Smith Center rafters

It’s going to be busy during North Carolina’s final home games of the season – even when the current players aren’t competing on the court.

Former Tar Heel guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, starters on last year’s national championship team, will have their jerseys honored prior to the Feb. 13 game against N.C. State, a team spokesman said.

As previously reported, former Tar Heel guard Donald Williams, Most Outstanding Player of the 1993 Final Four, will also have his jersey honored, and raised to the rafters, during halftime of the March 2 game against Miami.

Four-time All-America Tyler Hansbrough will have his No. 50 retired during halftime of Wednesday’s game against Duke; he is only the eighth Tar Heel to have his jersey retired.

-- Robbi Pickeral