Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Duke gives ACC a lift

Karl Hicks, the ACC's associate commissioner in charge of men's basketball, was smiling Sunday night shortly before he left Reliant Stadium in Houston.

"We're still dancing," Hicks said after Duke defeated Baylor 78-71 to get to the Final Four.

The Blue Devils' deep run has improved the ACC's record to 7-5 in the NCAA tournament. Aside from Duke, the ACC didn't fare well in the tournament.

Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest each won one game, but the Blue Devils were the only one of the ACC's six teams to survive the second round. But getting a team into the Final Four gives the ACC some credibility and helps make the ACC's record similar to those of some other power conferences.

The Big 12 (8-6), Southeastern Conference (6-4) and Big East (8-7) all have records that are just barely over .500 in this tournament where upsets by mid-major teams seemed to be the norm.

That means the Big Ten, which is 10-4 with Michigan State in the Final Four, has been the big winner thus far. But there's more out there for the ACC to accomplish.

Duke, the only No. 1 regional seed remaining in the tournament, has a chance to win an NCAA title and give the ACC back-to-back titles by different teams after North Carolina won in 2009. That also would give the ACC half of the NCAA titles from 2001 to 2010, with two apiece by Duke and the Tar Heels, and one for Maryland.

There's no doubt that the ACC overall in the NCAA tournament in recent years. But there are a lot of conferences that would be proud of five titles in 10 years, and rightly so.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WVU guard gets help from Duke doc

DURHAM – Duke sports medicine’s orthopaedic surgery chief, Dr. Jim Nunley, sent a message this week to coach Mike Krzyzewski after treating a player the Blue Devils could meet in the Final Four.

"I’m still a Duke fan,” Nunley told Krzyzewki through an intermediary.

Krzyzewski said no explanation was needed. West Virginia point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant is trying a special insert for his shoe as he hopes to play in the Final Four on Saturday despite a fractured fifth metatarsal of his right foot.

The insert will take some of the weight off the foot, which was injured during practice on March 23. If he can play, Bryant could give West Virginia a boost against Duke in the NCAA semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Krzyzewski wasn’t the least bit miffed that Bryant got the insert from Duke.

"We should take care of those kids,” he said. “If they come up with an orthotic or whatever, and Duke is the one [that makes it], you should do that.”

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Duke to face another zone defense

HOUSTON -- Although the presses haven't even started to run with the stories detailing Duke's 78-71 South Regional final win over Baylor, it's not too early to look ahead to Saturday's NCAA semifinal meeting with West Virginia.

Duke's win over Baylor could be good practice for the game against the Mountaineers. Both teams have confounded opponents with zone defenses this season.

"They play in the Big East, where it's a tough game every single night," said Duke senior center Brian Zoubek. "They're a really tough, scrappy team, and they play hard defense, and it's going to be a tough matchup. We're going to have to match their intensity. We're going to enjoy this, and we're going to get to work on them some time this week."

Having five days to prepare for the zone will provide a different and better scenario for Duke than it had against Baylor. The Blue Devils had just one day to get ready for the Bears' zone, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski thought the focus on the zone hurt Duke in other areas.

He told his players at halftime that they were doing just fine dealing with the zone, but needed to remember to defend and rebound the way they usually do.

"We need to remember who we are," Krzyzewski said. "And we did that."

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Regional final Q&A

HOUSTON _ Quotes from Duke and Baylor coaches and players from Saturday’s interview sessions in advance the NCAA South Regional championship game, which will be played at 5:05 p.m. Sunday in Reliant Stadium.

Q. What is it about this group that has made it so receptive to coaching? When you tell it to do something, these guys do it. And how does that rate? Have you had a lot of groups like that or is this unique?

KRZYZEWSKI: No, we've had a lot of groups. I think it starts with trust from the time they were freshmen. What was told to them and what they told us was the truth. We've been together for a long time, and we not only like one another, but we respect one another and we trust one another.So you can say things in a moment that you might not say to other people in the manner in which you would say it, whether it be in anger, in joy, whatever. You can express your emotions right away with them. We have those type of relationships. We have a great relationship. The staff, the players, the managers, everybody.But we've had that on a lot of our teams. We've had it on our teams the last few years. It's just that we're a little bit better this year and a little bit older.I think in order to be a consistent winner, it has to start with trust.

Q. You've obviously been a part of an enormous number of these tournaments and we've seen a lot of upsets this year. Are we at a point where a team like Butler could actually win this thing?

KRZYZEWSKI: Oh, yeah. A lot of it has to do with match-ups. The basketball gods don't give you seven games and best out of seven. You know, I hate to say this about you all in the audience, but every once in a while you have a bad day. I know you see us when we have our bad days and write about them. That's cool. But everybody has bad days.In our tournament, one kid can have a bad day, and it can affect if he's the key kid on your team or key in your defense, another team that's maybe a little less talented, and that's where the talent differential is, it's not here anymore, it's here. There are still some teams more talented than others. But all you need is one thing to go wrong and you're out.One of my best friends, Jim Boeheim, you know, his team -- I'm not sure every kid on that team played to the best -- not because they didn't want to, but Butler played better. So Butler's got a chance to win.I think different teams have a chance to win right now unless you get that super team that has guys sticking together who are pro caliber, pro caliber for a while. It will be like this from now on, which I don't think is bad. It's pretty darn interesting (laughing). But it's tougher to maintain high level.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the defensive philosophy that you teach that never waivers? And then what you might have tinkered with to fit the personnel of this team?
KRZYZEWSKI: Well, we always change our defense to fit the personnel that we have. I think that just, you know, is what you should do. But it starts with playing man-to-man defense, and team man-to-man where you have zone principles.I like man-to-man because you can pinpoint responsibility, and you can defend -- you can defend all types of offense. You can adjust accordingly. I don't know if you can do that completely in zone.I don't like open looks. I hate open looks. Obviously when someone hits a three, you hate that. I hate an open look. I can't stand if a team does that, because that means a team can beat you. You're just lucky if somebody misses an open look.For me, teaching man-to-man defense gives our staff more of an opportunity to eliminate open looks. Then for this team in particular, we're not a team that can extend as much, but we're a team that can rebound, so we don't give up many second shots. We don't force as many turnovers, but we don't give up as many second shots, and we block a few more shots or alter shots because of length.A key thing for our team is what Lance and Brian do when they're in. They're really good talkers, not to the other team. But when you can have an inside voice talking on defense, it really galvanizes you. It galvanized this team. It brings you together.In the past, Laettner did that, Brand, Boozer, Battier. Some of our best defensive teams were as a result of guys being able to talk well inside. And both those kids really do a good job of that.

Q. With the zone defense they run, is there anything you guys are going to be keying on in order to try to gain an advantage on it?
KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you have to be careful that when you think you have an open shot, you may not have it because of their length and athleticism. So I think being ready to shoot is huge. Then you have -- it may look like you have a larger window than you actually do when you get the ball. You've got to be ready to shoot the ball when you get it.I think it's a defense that forces you to really rely on a team attacking it. Not like a man-to-man. Like last night some of the things we did were as a result of Nolan and Jon attacking on their own, which we do after one ball screen or whatever. You can't do that against the zone. It's got to be more of a coordinated effort. So we're anxious to go through a few things that we want to try against it when we go out on the court in a few minutes.

Q. How do you prepare your upperclassmen? You know they want to get to the Final Four so badly. Part of the preparation for tomorrow is not allowing the moment to overwhelm them. How do you handle that with them?
KRZYZEWSKI: I think you're so absorbed. One is having a game that we got out of here at midnight. We're a little bit tired right now, but we'll be fine for game time. We told them right after the game that they needed to be very selfish during these next 36, 40 hours in how they take care of themselves, who they talk to. Not using energy for other things, whether it be their buddies. I told Nolan not to play my game during this time period and wait till Monday or on the trip back if we win (smiling).Just to try to focus on this moment. Not focus on the Final Four, but focus on this. Which is what, you know, they've kind of done that all year. They've been able to go on to the next thing, and I think our conference exacts that from you in the schedule that we play. We play a hell of a schedule. And our conference is a great conference, so you better be ready to play right away.So this is more like that Thursday-Saturday turnaround sometimes you get in the ACC. So we've had an opportunity to do that a couple times.

Q. What is the pressure like coaching the Olympic games compared to coaching in an NCAA Tournament?
KRZYZEWSKI: I'd say the Olympics is much greater. It's your country. Although a lot of people say Duke has won, so you're -- you've got to win a certain level to do it. When you think about it, you don't always have the best team in the country or the most talent. But for the U.S., we are going to have the most talent. But just the talent differential and the game has come closer. And the game is different internationally.But there is much more pressure. Though we have the resources to do it. Again, getting back to one of the first questions -- developing trust with those guys was huge. Like you're in Denver. We have a great relationship with Carmelo and Chauncey. I mean, those guys are good friends. And as much as they're part of the Nuggets, they would tell you that they're part of the US Team, too. They take pride in that. But there is more pressure at the world platform, so to speak.

Q. You said you were surprised at how good of an offensive player Baylor big man Ekpe Udoh was. What exactly about his game surprised you?
KRZYZEWSKI: Well, yeah, I knew Udoh from -- Tommy coached him. He recruited him at Michigan. Actually when he was transferring we tried to get involved with him because he's a good student, great kid. At Michigan, and I don't watch a lot of basketball over the country, but a little bit. I knew that he was a double figure scorer and rebounder and blocking shots. I knew he was really good. But I figured he scored off of offensive rebounds and stuff inside.Then now that you study him, I mean, he can hit 15, 17 feet. He's pretty automatic. And with the ball, he can spin. It's not just one move. He can make a multiple move. He's very good. He's one of the better players in the country, I think. I can see why he's rated so high with the NBA.

Q. You hit a three-pointer early in the second half. How much did you need that shot? How much did that kind of help you springboard through the rest of the second half that you had yesterday?
SCHEYER: It was fine. We just needed to get rolling as a team. I thought in the first half we weren't in a great flow offensively, so Nolan hit me with that pass. We just needed to get something started. Offensively we weren't in a great rhythm, so that's the biggest thing for our team.

Q. What do you see when you look at Baylor's guards? What kind of things jump out at you?SCHEYER: Both of them are really great three-point shooters. They can create off the dribble. So with guys like that, it's not like they're one-dimensional where they just do one thing. So it's important when we're guarding those guys just to make them work for everything. You're not going to shut guys out like that, they're great players.So just try to make them work for everything you can and try to make them put the ball on the floor and have a hand in their face and try not to foul them.But they're great players, so you can't take away everything.

Q. What is the key to attacking their zone and to make sure that you don't get too reliant on the perimeter shots that you're probably going to get from that?
SCHEYER: I would say we need to be patient. You know, we can't just pass the ball around the perimeter and make one pass and shoot it right away. We need to go inside and out. You know, you get better looks when you go inside and then out. We can have some great looks inside with our bigs.So I think the main key against the zone is to be patient.
KYLE SINGLER: Just going off what Jon said, I think the main thing is to be poised. Just take what they give us. You know, we'll try to penetrate their zone as best as we can, and I mean, we'll take outside shots and then, you know, we'll crash the boards.

Q. I know you were just asked about their zone, but Baylor's been very effective guarding the perimeter and also preventing the ball inside. What do you see from them in terms of their quickness to the perimeter and getting to the guys once they've had the ball that's made them effective? How do you combat that?
SCHEYER: I think their length has a lot to do with it too. They're a real tall team. When you have that much length on the floor they can cover a lot of ground. And they play really good zone.I just think it's important for us to really work at it today and see what's there. I don't know all the answers. I think we need to figure it out today. But I think their length has a lot to do with it, and the way they play their zone, they do a really good job.

Q. Is one of the challenges the fact that you're going, after going up against a Purdue, really tough man-to-man defense, that now you're going to be playing a different kind of defensive style, even though they're still going to get after it, the fact that you're going from a man-to-man team to playing a zone team? Is that a big challenge?
SMITH: It is a challenge. Like Coach said, it's a quick turnaround, and now we have to adjust. We're going to use our team on the court to get to the next play. Really start learning and getting ready to attack the zone.

Q. With Baylor wingman LaceDarius Dunn, do you guys want him taking jump shots? Is there any other way that you try to contain him?
SMITH: No. A player like that, he shoots a lot of threes, but he also can go to the rack. So a player of his caliber can score in so many ways.Our focus is just going to be to check him. Just stay with him, defend him, try to run him off the three, knowing that we have help inside. Just play great team defense on him.

Q. On Thursday you said you didn't mind playing the role of the bad guy. It kind of gets you going. Tomorrow in here it's probably going to be pretty decidedly a Baylor crowd. What do you expect from the atmosphere and being the bad guy, how much is that going to charge you guys up?
THOMAS: Well, the atmosphere is going to be hectic. They're a home state team. We've won in hostile environments, and it's not going to change our game plan not one bit. With our guys, we have a confident group. And we're not going to allow sways of momentum to actually throw us away from our game plan.We have no problem being those guys coming in and trying to take something away from, I guess, what's supposed to actually happen. They have everything behind them, but us sticking together is going to be key in this game. Not one person is going to be able to do it by themselves. So us sticking together and just playing like there's no tomorrow in a hostile environment. I mean, we have nothing to lose, we're going to go for it.

Q. How much has the tag team with Mason and Miles Plumlee that you guys have now, has that helped you and Lance inside? Has it really kept you fresh to have these 14- and 15-rebound games?
ZOUBEK: Yeah, it's been great being able to rotate with those guys and knowing that there's not going to be a drop-off when they come in. I think they provide something a little bit different as well, a little more athleticism and blocking some shots. So they give the other team a little more look, a different look. Rotating in with them, we can just play till exhaustion, go get a break, then come back in, so you're a lot more fresh when you come in and a lot more aggressive on the boards and on defense.

Q. You have talked about Duke being one of the examples of what you'd like this program to be based on, the academics and small schools and all of that. Just talk about getting to the point now from what seemed like an unrealistic opportunity and vision when you took over seven years ago, to here you are facing the same team you looked at as an example.
DREW: I think the first thing with that comes consistency, and the fact that this is our third straight 20-win season, and our third straight postseason. Last year having postseason success, making it to the championship game of the NIT. I think those are all building blocks and things that have put us in motion to become one of those talked about programs and one of those programs people consider one of the top in the nation.I think a big key to that, besides the players and their characters, is the academic success as well. Because if you're not graduating players, we're Top 10 in the country in APR for a four-year rolling average, if it you're not graduating players and being successful academically, you're not keeping them around long enough to be successful.So as long as we keep getting players with leadership like these, we'll be in good shape.

Q. Regarding the no-cuss rule, what is your strongest language? What word do you say when you're really blanked off?
DREW: I think we all mess up at times, so let's put that out there. And the reason we do a no-cussing policy is simple. We know we have a lot of kids and people that come around us, and the right thing to do is not have that type of language. We don't want a 7-year-old coming to our practice and going home and telling mom and dad something they picked up. So we try to be good role models, good examples.When you mess up, you've got push-ups. So you can probably tell the strongest guys on the team, they cuss the most -- no, just kidding. Anyway, that's one thing we try to do to be good role models.

Q. Are there any special origins to this zone? Looking at it last night for the first time, it seemed to remind me of the point zone that Dean Smith developed at North Carolina. Is there any similarity there?
DREW: One thing about basketball, there is really no new inventions. Everything has been around, it's just recycled and kind of personnel-driven. You always put tweaks according to who you're playing.So I think you can go back to UNLV and Tark's days, something like that. So, again, we adjust our zone every game to the team we're facing.So it might look one way one night and it looks completely different the next night.

Q. Obviously your greatest coaching mentor is your dad. But also do you try to take any characteristics from watching a coach like Krzyzewski?
DREW: Oh, absolutely. The best coaches are the ones that learn from everybody else, that way you can learn from their successes and failures rather than experiencing it all yourself. And Coach K's been phenomenal as far as being a great teacher and leader for all the coaches out there and the coaches across not only the United States, but the world.

Q. The first three years, what was the one low point, the one crystallized day or moment that you looked around and said: What have I gotten myself into? When was it? Do you remember anything in particular?
DREW: The good thing is it's like a businessman opening a restaurant or starting a new business. You're so busy you really don't hit that point. And I was blessed to have a staff that worked extremely hard. Because head coaches are only as good as your staff, and staff are only as good as your players. So we've put the nose to the grindstone, and worked as hard as we could every day, and let God take care of the rest.

Q. What do you feel like are some of Duke's strengths? Do you see any similarities with them on your team?
COACH DREW: Well, yes, any team that is still alive has not only quality players, but they can hurt you a variety of ways. Very good defensively. Really pressure. They've got great size, we have good size. They rebound it well. We rebound it. We've been in the top 10, top 12 most of the year in rebounding margin. Then they have guards who can play. And if you don't have good guards, you're probably not around and probably didn't get in the tournament. And they have guards with experience, and we have guards with experience.So to us, two good teams going at it, and we're hoping we have a great fan backing for the state of Texas, the Big 12 in Baylor.

Q. Why did you take the Baylor job at the time you did? What kinds of things did you see? And if you'd also talk about what influence did Butler have on your coaching career?
DREW: First of all, whenever you do anything you pray about it, and I felt led to come down here. I saw Baylor as attractive because of the great leadership and vision they had for the school. The fact that it has a niche. It's the only private school in the Big 12. Largest Baptist school in the nation. Great facilities. So saw a lot of opportunity for growth.Then as far as Butler when you're around people like Coach Collier, Coach Jay John, Coach Thad Matta , you learn a lot from those guys.

Q. A lot of times when players talk, coaches cringe. But I see you quite a bit as your players were talking nodding your head quite a bit. Talk about the people that you have, and the combination of the players that you have and how that has built the success?
DREW: Well, I think a lot of programs have good players. Coaches try to obviously have not only good players, but high-character kids that do the right thing off the court. We've just been extremely blessed to have great people a part of this program. Part of the reason why we've been able to attract other good players is because when they come and visit and spend time, that is the best thing that we can sell to our school is spend time with our players and see what they're like. We've been very blessed to have quality young men that are going to be successful in life besides just basketball.The maturity, and the answers, the way in which they carry themselves, there is a reason we've been successful this year, and it's because of them.

Q. Kyle Singler of Duke, 6'8" guy, can go out on the perimeter. Is he an X factor that you're really going to have to watch as far as where he can find spots in the zone. And have you played anybody this year that's that tall?
DREW: I don't know if he's an X factor. He's probably an A, B, C, D, E, F, G factor. But I think, again, the Big 12 prepares you for anything you're going to face. Quite a few players in the Big 12. If you take a Damion James, similar size, athleticism, can go inside, outside. Singler is one of the best players in the nation for a reason. He's tremendous.But the good thing at least with the Big 12, you have somebody you can compare him to or give your players a feel for what they might be able to do or be similar to doing.So he's been playing great basketball, and he's a great player.

Q. Can you talk about when Baylor offered you the job, did your dad or anybody else you sought advice for say you don't really have to leave. You can stay and maybe wait for another program because this one had so many things on the horizon as far as violations and punishments. When you got there to Baylor, what was the environment like? Was it doom and gloom? What was the mood like after everything that happened?
DREW: First of all, you always consult people you trust and respect. When I tell him I felt led to go there and we looked at everything, everyone was very supportive.As far as Baylor, it is the oldest school in the state of Texas. When you spend any time on the campus, as you would with most of the schools in the state of Texas, people are great. Very outgoing, very warm. And for us it wasn't a situation where it was doom and gloom. But shoot, we had every student on the campus excited. Not only could they play on the team, but they had a chance to get minutes. So everybody was pretty fired up (laughing).

Q. Tweety, your signing with Baylor seemed to launch this whole revival of Baylor basketball. Can you go back to the recruiting process a little bit and tell us who did you pick Baylor over and what did Drew tell you, the one thing that he told you that made the difference?
CARTER: Well, I really -- there were guys before me: Aaron Bruce, Tim Bush, Curtis Jerrells, Kevin Dugat, Kevin Rogers, Mark Shepherd, all those guys came before me and really set the tone for this program.You know, when I committed I really didn't get recruited by anybody else, really. I got recruited by other teams, but it wasn't as serious as Baylor. When I committed, I knew this is where I wanted to be. I didn't take any other visits. I did not talk to any other coaches. So I knew Baylor was the place that I wanted to be and play for a program like this.

Q. You were the highest scoring player in U.S. history. What was the knock on you?
DREW: I think we just recruited him before everyone else did.
CARTER: That's what it was. That's what it was.

Q. Can you talk about the confidence level of this team, and I guess playing a team like Duke, it's probably the kind of team you pictured to try to get to the Final Four. The team you pictured you had to beat?
CARTER: Well, gaining confidence, we've been having that all through the season. It started in the summer, and it just carried over towards the season. But like Lace and Ekpe just said, a great team, a well-coached team. They're going to come ready to play. So we've got to come out and with the same intensity that we had last night, but better. You know, we just have to prepare for them, you know, really know what they like to do and try to take away what they like to do.

Q. If you guys beat Duke to go to the Final Four, does that mean this program -- I don't want to say is back -- but it's arrived, and it's all been in the past, the legacy is restored and you guys are where you've been trying to get to?
CARTER: It will be great to win tomorrow and go to the Final Four. But we didn't prepare as much as we prepared for this season to just make it to the Final Four. We know we've got to continue to take one game at a time. But our goal is to win a National Championship, and that's something we set in the summer, and something we're striving for.You know, a win tomorrow is just a step closer to, you know, receiving our goal, and that is getting to the Final Four and hopefully just getting a National Championship. But we've got to take one game at a time and just focus on Duke right now.

Q. You guys obviously have gotten here by beating three double-digit seeds. Now you get to face a top-seeded Duke team. It's a team with similarities as far as the programs, small schools, private schools, academic excellence. Talk about the challenge of facing Duke and just a chance to prove yourself and show yourself against a team like that.
DUNN: Well, great team, first of all. Going up against a great team. Well coached, great coaching. And we're just looking forward to coming out and having a good game tomorrow and just preparing for these guys like we prepare for everybody else.We know they're a great team, and we're going to have to come out and play for 40 minutes, and I think we're willing to do that.

Caulton Tudor

Friday, March 26, 2010

Purdue fans flock in for Duke

While Baylor will have a huge fan advantage at tonight’s South Regional NCAA semifinal games in Reliant Stadium, there’s a surprisingly large Purdue contingent in town.

Boilermaker backers are fired up about an opportunity for the team get back close to home for next weekend’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

Another Indiana favorite, Butler, advanced to the West Regional championship on Thursday with an upset win over top-seed Syracuse.

Purdue (29-5) faces top-seeded Duke (31-5) in tonight’s second semi (scheduled for a 9:57 p.m. Eastern time start). Third-seed Baylor (27-7) plays No. 10 Saint Mary’s (28-5) at 7:27 p.m.

During Thursday’s open practice session in the stadium, Purdue fans showed up in swarms and were delighted when injured star Robbie Hummel worked out with the team for the first time in weeks.

A 6-foot-8 junior from Valparaiso, Ind., Hummel was averaging almost 16 points and seven rebounds per game when he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a Feb. 23 win over Minnesota. He’ll be on the sidelines tonight for the first time since surgery on March 8.

In practice Thursday, Hummel took a few shots but hasn’t yet been cleared to do any running.

"It's good for him to be here, to enjoy the experience of being in the Sweet Sixteen and hopefully advancing," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "He's a great teammate and he helps guys.”

Doctors have told Hummel that it will be another 4-6 months before he can actually play in pick-up games.

-- Caulton Tudor

Duke coach calls on team to make changes

Duke women's basketball coach Joanne P. McCallie joked earlier this week that her players may be sandbagging when it comes to taking charges in recent games.

Freshman center Allison Vernerey took two in a game against Hampton, but no Duke players took a charge against Louisiana State on Monday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

McCallie would like to see a few on Saturday when the second-seeded Blue Devils face 11th-seeded San Diego State in the regional semifinals at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.

"We've been passing the charge baton, it's been driving me bananas," McCalllie said. "Can't everybody take a charge? Are they against it? Is it against their religion? What?"

This season, after collecting only five charges in the first 11 games, the Devils have taken 27 charges over the past 23 games. Sophomore guard Shay Selby leads the team with ten, while Vernerey has seven.

McCallie said if a player takes two charges in a game, they can should respond with two more in the next.

"It's funny it's like they take a few charges and then they go a way for a while," she said. "You think about Shay taking a few charges and then it's like, 'When's the last time Shay took a charge?' You can't remember now."

Players want to remind their coach it's not that simple.

"It hypes the team for sure," Vernerey said. "It's cool, but it's painful sometimes. It's not the best feeling."

Duke's junior guard Jasmine Thomas injured herself last season taking a charge.

"When I got hurt last year for that little bit of time, it was from that take-a-charge drill," Thomas said. "So I was anti-charge for a while. I've gotten over that and I like taking charges, but I have to say to myself, 'Think about a charge.'"

Sometimes thinking about them is not enough.

"I think it's hard some times because I don't just fall," Duke senior Joy Cheek said. "You have to have a little art to it. ... I think all my charges I've gotten my whole four years have been accidental. They don't really work too much for me."

While at this time of the season, the Devils don't practice taking charges - to avoid injury - their coach certainly want to see more players sacrificing themselves during games.

"You just want to be attitudinal about your defense," McCallie said. "Charges show position, they show confidence. There sort of like gotcha. ... And you want to have those when you're playing somebody, gotcha, beat you to the spot, sorry, we got that. It communicates more than just a physical nature of what happens in a charge. It really electrifies the team that takes them."

Former UNC ballboy faces Tar Heels

If Rhode Island freshman Akeem Richmond buries a couple of 3-pointers or makes a key steal against North Carolina in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday, a tiny bit of the credit – or perhaps blame – should probably go to former Tar Heel Raymond Felton.

Richmond, who grew up in Sanford as a "die-hard" Carolina basketball fan, was a ball boy for UNC's 2005 NCAA championship team. And snagging rebounds for the former All America (and current Charlotte Bobcat) made an impact.

"He used to give me pointers on what to do or what not to do,'' Richmond, who is averaging 8.9 points and making almost 40 percent of his 3-pointers as Rhode Island's sixth man, said during a phone interview on Friday. "I was playing in middle school at the time, and that really stayed with me. He even called me on my birthday – when he was at the beach, on a date with his girlfriend. … I'd been a Tar Heels fan all my life, so even now, that means a lot to me."

Richmond, who set a Rams record for 3-pointers made by a freshman this season (81), was recruited briefly by the Tar Heels. "I remember watching him in high school – a young man who could really score,'' said UNC coach Roy Williams.

The shooting guard was front-and-center for a Duke-Carolina game during his high school freshman season, and was invited to attend the "Late Night With Roy" Midnight Madness event at the Smith Center his next season. But by the end of his sophomore year, Richmond said, the Tar Heels pulled back from recruiting him, and it rankled.

"I had a hard time with that, but my father – he's my mentor, he told me to pick my head up, it's not the end of the world,'' he said. "There's a million other schools out there that would love to have you, other than Carolina."

In the end, the three-time Associated Press all-state pick chose the Rams – who just so happen to share the same school colors and mascot as UNC – over Western Kentucky, South Florida and Charlotte.

He said he has no hard feelings about not being offered a scholarship to UNC: "Coach Roy Williams is a great coach; he's a Hall of Fame coach. I ain't got noting against him. Obviously, he's coached some great players – Rashad McCants, Wayne Ellington, Sean May -- and I guess he felt like I wasn't good enough to play for them. But I have nothing against them."

Although he wouldn't mind showing the Tar Heels what they might have missed by not signing him – perhaps even by harkening back to some of those old Felton pointers.

"Of course I feel like I have something to prove, but I'm not going to go out there doing too much, I'm just going to try treat it like a normal game, and try to treat it as normal as possible,'' he said.

"… I'm just so excited. When I realized we were going to play Carolina, I just had to pinch myself. It's an honor to be able to play them."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NCAA tournament links for Thursday

Thursday's NCAA tournament links:

For Kentucky's John Wall, the time is now / Charlotte Observer

Wake Forest looking for a fresh start / Charlotte Observer

Wofford coach heads for games his dad loved / Charlotte Observer

NCAA tournament Gameday / Charlotte Observer

Last-minute help filling out your bracket / Charlotte Observer

Enter our bracket contest for shot at $1 million / Charlotte Observer

Live NCAA tournament scoreboard / Charlotte Observer

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Carolinas college basketball links

Wednesday's Carolinas college basketball links:

Tar Heels win in raucous Carmichael / Charlotte Observer

Wolfpack beats the clock, South Florida / Charlotte Observer

Winthrop bounced in NCAA opener / Charlotte Observer

Tom Sorensen's NCAA bracket picks / Charlotte Observer

Duke gets rare JUCO transfer / Charlotte Observer

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Duke gets rare JUCO commitment

Duke has a commitment from a junior college transfer for the first time in coach Mike Krzyzewski's 30 years.

Carrick Felix, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound small forward at the College of Southern Idaho, has accepted a scholarship offer from Duke, CSI assistant coach Josh Dees confirmed.

The Blue Devils offered Felix a scholarship after failing to land their top two choices at the position. Harrison Barnes, the top-rated recruit in the nation according to, signed with North Carolina. Roscoe Smith then committed to Connecticut.

Felix gives Duke a small forward who has some college experience, which could be especially valuable if current junior Kyle Singler leaves after this season for the NBA.

Krzyzewski isn't allowed to talk about specific recruits, but talked generally about his philosophy on junior college players Tuesday at the end of his on-campus, pre-NCAA tournament news conference.

"In regards to general junior college recruiting we would never recruit a youngster who only had two years of eligibility, so it would be impossible to graduate from Duke," Krzyzewski said. "So as we look in the past, present and the future, we would only look at situations where a youngster might have three years of eligibility."

Felix redshirted his first season at the College of Southern Idaho because of a hand injury. He averaged 14.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game this season.

As a senior at Millenium High in Phoenix, Ariz., Felix was most valuable player of the state championship after averaging 19.7 points and 13.2 rebounds per game over the course of the season.

He joins point guard Kyrie Irving, guard Tyler Thornton and power forward Josh Hairston in Duke's recruiting class. A fifth player, guard Seth Curry, will become eligible next season after sitting out this season as a transfer from Liberty.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, March 15, 2010

UNC notes: Williams says he's been a 'brat'

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams went to watch signee Harrison Barnes win a high school state championship in Iowa over the weekend, and constantly had to avert his eyes from the television showing college teams qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

"I've been like a spoiled little brat, I've taken my ball and gone home,'" Williams said Monday. "I haven't watched one play. And it's the most unusual feeling I've ever had; it's a feeling I never want to experience again. It's painful, it's frustrating ... my first year, we were not eligible to go. And since then, in our mind, there was ever any doubt we were in."

This year, however, the Tar Heels were relegated to the NIT after a 16-16 finish; they will play William & Mary on Tuesday night. Hosting a game came as a surprise to Williams, and the fact that his team is still playing pleases him. But it doesn't take much of the string out of failing to make the NCAA touranament, especially after winning the national title last year.

"It was a fantastic 20-year run, and I'm ticked off that it was overwith,'' he said. "So I haven't been a very good basketball fan. My wife even left, said she wasn't hanging around; she went to see the grandbaby. She got tired of me going around and kicking the furniture and everything."

PLAYING FOR NOW: After such a disappointing season, it might be tempting for Williams to use the NIT to start preparing solely for next season.

However, "I'm playing for this year,'' Williams said. "I don't think I can cheat Deon [Thompson] and Marcus [Ginyard, who are seniors], that's not fair. When you run a program instead of just coaching a team, you're always thinking about the future and how your decisions affect that, I'm not throwing that out the window.

"But I'm coaching for this year, and trying to get this team to win one more game. And if I can to that, I'll try to get them to win one more game. And that's the best way I can do it."

DAVIS STILL OUT: Sophomore Ed Davis, who broke his left wrist mid-way through the season, was scheduled to meet with doctors again this week. But even if UNC makes a deep NIT run, Williams doesn't expect the forward to play again this season.

"He's beeen in a cast for six weeks, and it happens to be his left hand,'' Williams said. "So I don't think there's any way ... but am I going to say it's 100 percent? No. But in my mind, it is."

WEAR'S SURGERY A SUCCESS: Freshman forward David Wear had successful surgery on his left hip last week. Right now, Williams said, the player is on crutches and is wearing a protective brace around his hip, so not to put too much weight on it. "Everybody feels great about the surgery, and for sure, he's not going to play for three months," Williams said.

TICKET SALE: Williams said he's excited about playing at Carmichael Arena, where the Tar Heels played before the Smith Center (which is currently undergoing renovations to its offices) was built.

"I'm going to enjoy it,'' he said. "I hope we sell the tickets. I hope we fill it up. I think that would really help a great deal to have a great atmosphere in there, because I used to think it was the best, it was so loud. ... I know it's 9:30 on Thursday night, I know it's the NIT, but I hope our people will come and help fill it up."

UNC dropped the price of NIT tickets from $40 to $20 because of the late tip.

-- Robbi Pickeral

UNC slashes NIT ticket prices

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina, which will play William & Mary in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night, has cut ticket prices from $40 to $20. The change was made, team spokesman Steve Kirschner said, because of the lateness (9:30 p.m. tip) of the game.

It will be played at Carmichael Arena because of renovations to the Smith Center offices.

According to the UNC Web site: Rams Club members may request tickets on Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. either through an online application on their Rams Club account or over
the phone at 800-722-4335. Rams Club members will be notified of what tickets they receive by 8 p.m. on Monday. Any leftover tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, March 16th, at 10 a.m. Tickets are $20, a change made from the original $40 price because of the game's late starting time.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Saturday, March 13, 2010

3 things to watch in ACC final

GREENSBORO - The ACC final set for 1 p.m. Saturday features a Duke team that’s gotten the most out of its talent all season against a Georgia Tech team whose talented players finally are living up to their potential.

It boasts a talented, physical front line of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal for the Yellow Jackets against a three-player perimeter scoring tandem of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler for Duke.

Here are three things to watch at 1 p.m. Sunday in the ACC title game:

1. To press or not to press. Erratic Georgia Tech point guard Iman Shumpert committed five turnovers in the semifinals against N.C. State.

And the Yellow Jackets have turned it over 25 and 16 times in their last two games. Because Georgia Tech also is playing for the fourth time in four days, the Blue Devils, who received a first-round bye, might be inclined to use a full-court press to wear down their opponent.

That means Georgia Tech’s guards – and Shumpert in particular – will have to be strong with the ball.

2. Rebound margin. Rebounding has been one of Duke’s most improved areas this season, and that phase of the game has been critical in both previous games with Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets outrebounded Duke by six in a 71-67 win in Atlanta on Jan. 9. Duke held an eight-rebound advantage to split the regular season series with an 86-67 win Feb. 4.

Foul trouble limited Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors in that game and could be an issue for both teams again in the championship game.

3. Free throws. If the last two meetings are any indication, this will be an extremely physical final.

Since the ACC doesn’t want its signature event to turn into a bloody mess, the referees probably will call the game tightly. That should mean lots of free throws, and that could turn the game in Duke’s favor.

The Blue Devils are shooting an ACC-best 75.9 percent from the foul line this season. Georgia Tech is shooting an ACC-low 64.3 percent. The two or three points’ difference over the course of the game that will make could be significant.

Ken Tysiac

5 things to watch in ACC semis

GREENSBORO -- One of the most unusual ACC tournaments of history is unfolding as the weekend dawns at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Seeds 2 through 6 have been eliminated before the semifinals. But the No. 12 seed (Miami) and the No. 11 seed (N.C. State) remain. As the Wolfpack prepares to meet No. 7 seed Georgia Tech and top-seeded Duke tries to eliminate Miami, here are five things to watch in the ACC semifinals:

1. N.C. State's motivation. Before Georgia Tech met Maryland in the semifinals, we mentioned that the Yellow Jackets would be motivated for the game because they'd lost on a heartbreaking, Cliff Tucker buzzer beater at Maryland.

Sure enough, Georgia Tech built a big lead at the start and held on to eliminate No. 2 seed Maryland. But now N.C. State has the motivation against the Yellow Jackets.

Remember, when these teams met in Atlanta on Feb. 6 N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe was infuriated when referees didn't call a foul on Julius Mays' 3-point attempt just before the buzzer. Mays missed, and Georgia Tech held on to win 73-71.

In the postgame news conference Friday night, N.C. State point guard Javi Gonzalez mentioned the Wolfpack's poor start in that game at Georgia Tech. There's no doubt that Gonzalez, Lowe and the rest of them are eager for another shot at the Yellow Jackets.

2. Great Scott. Miami freshman point guard Durand Scott gave Duke fits with his penetration as the Hurricanes raced out to a 12-point halftime lead on Feb. 17.

Duke ultimately won that game, but ought to be wary of Scott's forays into the lane again. Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said the Hokies' failure to guard Scott, and his ability to make difficult shots, were keys as the Hurricanes won in the quarterfinals.

Duke junior guard Nolan Smith almost certainly will draw the assignment on Scott and needs to keep him out of the lane at all costs.

3. Javi's defense. Gonzalez's defense in the second half against a suspect Florida State backcourt had a significant impact on N.C. State's win in the semifinals.

He pressured the ball, forcing Florida State to start its offense farther out than it wanted. He turned steals into fast-break baskets. And now he has another opportunity to decide a game with his defense.

Georgia Tech's ball handlers are shaky, and that's putting it mildly. The Yellow Jackets committed 25 turnovers and Maryland had 16 steals in the Georgia Tech quarterfinal win.

If Gonzalez can get Iman Shumpert to cough up the ball again, he might be able to negate high-rising Georgia Tech freshman forward Derrick Favors' impact on the game.

4. Driving the gaps. This is a junior-high fundamental basketball tactic that many teams forget when they're playing against a zone like the one Miami has used to win two straight games in this ACC tournament.

It's difficult to beat a zone by driving all the way to the basket, so offenses sometimes don't even try. They pass around the zone and then hoist up 3-point jumpers.

The way to beat a zone is to drive into the gaps between defenders and force two or three of them to converge on you. Then you pass to the teammate who's left open for an easy shot when the defense collapses.

Duke did this in the second half on Feb. 17 at Miami but not in the first half. The guess here is that the Blue Devils won't make the same mistake again.

5. Freshmen vs. veterans. Scott and Reggie Johnson have led Miami in scoring in their two games.

Favors and Scott Wood (N.C. State) also have been team scoring leaders in games in this tournament. All these players are freshmen.

There's only one team remaining in this tournament that hasn't been counting heavily on freshmen to do its scoring. That's Duke. The Blue Devils rely on juniors and seniors.

That may be why they're the No. 1 seed, and still the favorite to win the tournament.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, March 12, 2010

Yellow Jackets Finally Sting Vasquez

For a player with such a flair for the dramatic, it was a short, ugly ACC tournament stay for Maryland's Greivis Vasquez, the ACC player of the year.

Vasquez scored 17 points but he went just six for 21 from the field, including a two-for-11 effort from 3-point range in the Terps' loss to Georgia Tech. Toss in six turnovers and it was a one and done for Vasquez and his Terp teammates.

It ended a nine-game Maryland winning streak over the Yellow Jackets, a run that dated back to 2004.

"They got me for the first time. What a time to get me," Vasquez said.

Vasquez made a point of crediting Georgia Tech for outplaying Maryland, particularly in the first half when the Terps trailed by as many as 19 points.

"No excuses. We lost," Vasquez said. "I take responsibility. I'm a man."

Does the NIT want UNC Tar Heels?

GREENSBORO -- North Carolina wants to play in the NIT.

Now the question is: Does the NIT want UNC?

Les Robinson, N.C. State's former athletics director and a member of the eight-person NIT selection committee, said this morning he was not allowed to reveal who was on his list of 32 teams that he will submit to begin the selection process. (Each committee member submits a list, and they begin whittling down from there.)

"I would be surprised if they [the Tar Heels] weren't on the board, but I can say that about 25, 30 teams," he said, adding that that includes the Wolfpack, which
hasn't hurt themselves" by upsetting Clemson Thursday night in the ACC tournament's first round.

State faces Florida State in the league quarterfinals tonight.

Robinson, who was sitting in the airport preparing to fly to Indianapolis to meet with the committee, said that beating Georgia Tech on Thursday night would have helped UNC's chances, "but the thing is, a bunch of good teams lost in the first round."

Carolina's "plusses," he said, its .500 (16-16) record, a "respectable" RPI (No. 85 as of Monday, according to, and some close losses. The NIT uses the same procedure as the NCAA to select its 32-team field, meaning injuries are taken into account.

That could help the Tar Heels, given that nine different UNC players missed at least one game because of an injury. One of those, Tyler Zeller - who missed 10 games - is back and playing well.

What could hurt the Tar Heels, as well as UNC-Charlotte, though, is the fact that the NIT automatically invites the regular-season champion of any NCAA Division I conference that doesn't make the NCAA tournament. So far, there are eight automatic qualifiers: Kent State, Weber State, Troy, Coastal Carolina, Quinnipiac, Jacksonville, Stony Brook and Jackson State.

That leaves only 24 more invitations, as of right now.

The NIT field will be announced at 9 p.m. on ESPNU; first-round games begin Tuesday and Wednesday.

UNC coach Roy Williams, who never has coached in the NIT, said his team would accept an invitation if asked.

"Are we worthy enough to be invited? That I don't know,'' he said Thursday night. "There's people ... that get to make those decisions, maybe that won't even invite us. But if somebody invites me to go play, we're going to go play."

Point guard Larry Drew II said the team wanted to continue to play to prepare for the future - and maybe find a way to make a brighter end for this disappointing season. He knows there are fans out there who think the Tar Heels - who won the NCAA title last season - should turn down the NIT and end the season at .500. Asked how he would respond to that mindset, he said:

"To those people, honestly, to those people, I would say that they can't have their way all the time. Some people are just so spoiled, man. Especially Carolina fans, just because, you know, the whole tradition. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just the way it is. But to those fans: Yes, we haven't been performing up to the standards of the usual North Carolina basketball team, but we can't be perfect all the time, and we're human, too."

-- Robbi Pickeral

5 things to watch in ACC quarterfinals

GREENSBORO - After North Carolina and Wake Forest choked Thursday, N.C. State held on to salvage some of the in-state interest (along with Duke) for the quarterfinal round of the ACC tournament.

Here are five things to watch on Day 2:

1. Pack’s persistence. N.C. State will be exhausted Friday night after spending 40 minutes battling Clemson’s press in the first round.

How well the team can push through its fatigue will be a huge factor against Florida State. Tracy Smith played 37 minutes for N.C. State in the first round and faces a huge front line with Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton that’s a challenge even for a rested player.

You know N.C. State can’t count on Scott Wood making seven 3-pointers again vs. the Seminoles, so Smith is going to have to show a whole lot of toughness against those big guys.

2. Jerome Meyinsse. The Virginia senior center’s out-of-nowhere strong finish has included a career-high 21 points in a loss to Duke on Feb. 28.

Meyinsse needs to have that kind of game again if the Cavaliers are going to have any kind of chance to pull a shocking upset against the No. 1 seed. The reality is, Duke’s perimeter players will pressure Virginia guard Sammy Zeglinski with much more determination than Boston College did when Zeglinski scored 21 points Thursday.

That means Meyinsse needs to get a lot of offense going for the Cavaliers in the low post against a physical Duke front line.

3. Zone busters. Miami’s zone caused Wake Forest fits Thursday, but the fact is, the Deacons don’t have the kind of perimeter shooters that Virginia Tech does.

ACC scoring leader Malcolm Delaney and catch-and-shoot specialist Dorenzo Hudson give the Hokies a backcourt that should be able to make enough 3-pointers to abuse Miami’s zone.

The last couple years, Clemson and then Florida State have made appearances in the ACC finals as schools better known for football than basketball. If they can do it, why can’t Virginia Tech?

4. Buzzing with motivation. If not for a crushing defeat on a last-second Cliff Tucker 3-pointer at Maryland on Feb. 20, Georgia Tech would have entered this tournament with an NCAA bid just about wrapped up.

The Yellow Jackets know they can play with this Maryland team, and that makes them dangerous. Point guard Iman Shumpert’s play against ACC player of the year Greivis Vasquez will be a key.

5. Favorites advance. The lower seed won in three of the four games Thursday.

Contrary to popular thinking, though, that makes it less likely that the top four seeds will fall Friday. No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Maryland, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Virginia Tech are rested and playing opponents that did not finish with .500 records in ACC play.

That bodes well for the four top seeds advancing to Saturday’s semifinals.

Ken Tysiac

A Different Kind Of ACC Tournament

Having been to more than 30 ACC Tournaments, I'm not sure I've ever been to one like this one.

It's only one day old but this one feels different -- and not in a good way. On Thursday, the tournament was missing several things, most notably a full house, a sense of passion and brilliant play.

The games were hard-fought but generally ugly. Wow moments were harder to find than Florida State fans.

Field goal percentages stayed in the 30s like the temperature did for too long around here. Even when N.C. State shot 52 percent in its victory over Clemson, it was workmanlike.

Tournament games tend to be quieter than regular-season games because of the make-up of the crowds. They're long on rich alums, short on noisy students. When the games get close, the noise cranks up but it never got seriously loud on Thursday. Maybe had the Tar Heels won but that, of course, didn't happen.

And there was a time when the thought of empty seats at the ACC Tournament was outrageous. But there were big chunks of empty seats on Thursday afternoon and noticeable gaps during the evening session. With the Tar Heels and Wake Forest already gone, seeing a full house today seems unlikely. Ditto for Saturday.

This tournament can still be saved. It's only one day old and the top teams play Friday. Maybe the electricity returns.

Maybe the saving grace will be a Duke-Maryland championship game on Sunday.

But that's still a long way away.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meyinsse wins Prosser Award as top scholar

GREENSBORO -- Virginia senior center Jerome Meyinsse has been named the winner of the Skip Prosser Award as the top scholar-athlete in ACC men's basketball, the conference has announced.
Meyinsse is a three-time Academic All-ACC and ACC Academic Honor Roll selection. He is a member of the President of Virginia's student-athlete advisory committee and an economic major.
He is averaging 6.3 points and 4.1 rebounds, including 15.8 points and 5.5 rebounds over Virginia's final four regular-season games.

Ken Tysiac

5 things to watch in ACC Tournament first round

While the four top seeds – Duke, Maryland, Florida State and Virginia Tech – watch and relax, seeds 5-12 in the ACC will try to survive their dreaded first-round conference tournament games Wednesday in Greensboro.

Roy Williams will try one more time to rouse his underachieving North Carolina team against an opponent (Georgia Tech) that’s defeated the Tar Heels twice. A surging N.C. State team will attempt to recapture the magic from its run to the finals from its first season (2007) under coach Sidney Lowe.

Wake Forest has a chance to continue the momentum from a win over Clemson in the regular-season finale that was preceded by four straight losses. Here are five things to watch on the opening day of the ACC tournament:

1. N.C. State center Tracy Smith vs. Clemson’s front line.

Smith is to N.C. State’s offense what Emily Procter is to CSI: Miami. If you lose that one appealing character, it’s suddenly a crime show with some PG-rated gore and science that even the cast probably doesn’t understand.

If you shut down second-team All-ACC selection Smith (17.0 ppg), N.C. State doesn’t have many options on offense who are guaranteed to make an opponent pay for the extra attention given to Smith.

And in Trevor Booker and Jerai Grant, the Tigers have a pair of players who could give Smith trouble. Booker made the ACC’s all-defensive team and averages 1.5 blocked shots per game.
Grant averages 1.8 blocks – third best in the ACC – and had a huge block late in Clemson’s 73-70 win Jan. 16 at N.C. State. Smith scored 13 points in that game.

“You’ve just got to deny him the ball,” Booker said. “. . .The farther out he catches it, the lower his percentage is.”

If the Tigers can hold Smith to 13 or fewer again, the Wolfpack will have difficulty advancing.

2. Ish Smith in transition.

Without question, Wake Forest senior point guard Ish Smith is the fastest player in the ACC.
As such, he has faced all kinds of defensive strategies designed to keep him from getting the Deacons’ fast break going.

“We’ve seen it all,” Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said Wednesday. “We’ve seen it all at some point in the season.”

Smith listed some of them Wednesday:

- After opponents’ made baskets, the forward guarding Wake Forest’s inbounds passer has faceguarded him.

- Opposing guards have picked him up full-court and tried to bump him early to keep him from getting a quick head of steam.

- Some opponents who don’t usually play zone defense have retreated quickly to their spots.
Late in the season, Smith faced a new strategy that proved successful to a certain extent as Wake Forest lost four straight games. Instead of bumping him early, opposing guards began sprinting back to the top of the key in an attempt to beat him down the court and force him to initiate a halfcourt offense.

If they continue to do that, the key for Smith will be to pitch it ahead to teammates who can get free runs to the basket because opponents are spending so much energy trying to locate and slow down Smith. Gaudio said it’s imperative for the rest of the Deacons to run up the floor and not just wait for Smith to make a play on his own.

3. Early evening turnover count.

Two young backcourts, with a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing their first meaningful ACC tournament minutes, could make for a sloppy game with North Carolina meets Georgia Tech at 7 p.m.

North Carolina has averaged 18 turnovers in its two losses to Georgia Tech.

On Feb. 16, Georgia Tech turned it over 20 times against the Tar Heels.

“Whoever doesn’t turn the ball over is going to have a great chance to win,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt. “Because I think we’re both very talented teams. We’ve got good frontcourts. Both of us have good wing players. It just comes down to guard play and making sure we’re taking care of the basketball.”

4. Ugly opener.

If you have difficulty getting out of bed this morning, there’s no reason to rush to the first game of the tournament, which starts at noon.

Virginia has lost nine in a row and suspended its best player, Sylven Landesberg, for the rest of the season. Boston College has dropped six of its last nine.

One big question about the ACC tournament after the conference expanded to 12 teams was what impact two straight days with four games each would have.

For years, fans in this part of the country said that Friday at the ACC tournament was one of the best days in sports because there can be four great games on the same court on the same day.

That still can be true. But there also can be four ugly games on the same court Thursday. If you can’t handle eight games in two days, missing the opener this year would be a good way to conserve your energy for the more interesting action later.

5. Booker on the low block.

Clemson first-team All-ACC forward Trevor Booker said he’s comfortable if teams make him catch the ball on the perimeter.

But the reality is, that’s where opponents – and that should include N.C. State today - want him to catch it.

Booker said teams have tried all manner of defense against him this season.

“They’ve doubled me,” he said. “They’ve tripled me. They’ve played a sagging defense, trying to make our other guys make plays to beat them. They’ve denied me. I’ve seen it all.”

How important is Booker’s offense to Clemson? He has shot 50 percent or better from the field in five of the Tigers’ last eight games. Clemson has won all five – and lost the other three.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Clemson hones pressure for N.C. State

GREENSBORO - While some teams used Wednesday’s open practices for half-speed shooting drills, Clemson worked hard on its full-court pressure defense in preparation for Thursday’s ACC tournament game against N.C. State.

“We just believe in going hard and sharp the day before the game,” said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. “The more you go harder and sharper, you have an opportunity for it to spill over into the game.”

That strategy has worked for Clemson all season. The Tigers have forced an ACC-high 17.4 turnovers per game, so protecting the ball will be a key for N.C. State in the 9 p.m. first-round game against N.C. State.

The Wolfpack did an excellent job of that in the teams’ first meeting, a 73-70 Clemson win on Jan. 16 in Raleigh. Both teams committed 11 turnovers in that game.

Clemson shot just 30.1 percent from 3-point range during conference games, so getting easy baskets in transition off turnovers is an important part of its offense.

“It’s all about pressure defense,” Clemson center Jerai Grant said. “The more turnovers the other team has, the better chance we have of winning.”

Ken Tysiac

Hewitt hopes he's wrong about Heels

GREENSBORO - Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt doesn’t want to be right again.

Duke’s Kyle Singler shot 2-for-13 from the field against Georgia Tech in the teams’ first meeting. Hewitt said afterward that if Singler got as many open shots the next time the teams played, the Yellow Jackets would be in trouble.

Sure enough, Singler shot 8-for-10 and scored a career-high 30 points against Georgia Tech in the second meeting.

On Wednesday, Hewitt was reminded of that exchange as he spoke of the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets’ ACC tournament opener against No. 10 seed North Carolina. Georgia Tech has defeated the Tar Heels twice, but Hewitt has said he wouldn’t want to face North Carolina in March.

“I hope I’m not right again,” Hewitt said. “They’re a lot like us. They’re a young basketball team. You take a look at the turnovers, and we’re near the bottom. That’s what it’s going to come down to. Whoever doesn’t turn the ball over is going to have a great chance to win.”

Hewitt and Georgia Tech (19-11, 7-9 ACC) probably have more at stake than any other team in this ACC tournament. Every Yellow Jacket win will add more credibility to a somewhat shaky resume for the NCAA tournament.

But with the team’s accomplishments through Wednesday, ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi projected Georgia Tech as making the NCAA field with an at-large bid.

“It’s somewhat comforting, but it also may not be true,” Hewitt said. “They do get it wrong. Somebody said Lunardi gets 96 percent or 97 percent right? There’s that three percent I’d like to erase.”

Ken Tysiac

Miami's season rewarding for N.C. native Adams

Former Middle Creek High guard Garrius Adams knows Miami is facing a difficult road in the ACC tournament as the No. 12 seed.

“We have to win four games in the next four days,” Adams said after the Hurricanes’ open practice Wednesday at the Greensboro Coliseum, “and that’s the toughest road you can take.”

This has been a challenging season for Miami as a team, but it’s been rewarding in many ways for Adams, a freshman who was recruited to the Hurricanes by coach and Burlington, N.C., native Frank Haith.

When he left his hometown of Apex, he was strictly a shooting guard and was just a shade under 6-foot-5. Now he says he’s a legitimate 6-6, and he’s been playing a lot of small forward.
He put on 17 or 18 pounds in order to be able to handle a more physical position. He started seven games, all in ACC play, and has averaged 4.0 points per game. On defense, he has provided a spark with 23 steals, third on the team.

“My role has changed since high school,” he said. “. . .It’s made me grow up. It’s made me get stronger. It’s made me much wiser.”

Along with Durham’s Julian Gamble and Winston-Salem’s Reggie Johnson, Adams gives Miami three players who are from North Carolina hometowns. Haith, who has spoken often about following the ACC tournament while growing up, said it’s special for them to be playing in their home state.

“I think there’s no question for the North Carolina kids they’re excitedabout this,” Haith said. “They’re like me -- they grew up in this state, knowing the passion for basketball and being a part of ACC basketball and now havingthis opportunity.

“For those guys, it’s exciting. And for all our guys, youwalk out in that arena and you feel the atmosphere. Being here inGreensboro, I have a definite appreciation of it being here in Greensboro.”

Ken Tysiac and Luke DeCock

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Maryland's Williams is ACC Basketball Coach of the Year

Maryland's Gary Williams is a landslide winner for the ACC coach of the year award in a vote by members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

The outcome was announced Tuesday, shortly after Terp senior Greivis Vasquez was voted league player of year. Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors was the winner in the top-rookie vote.

Tudor: Five ACC tournament 1st-round upsets to remember

When the ACC Tournament begins Thursday in Greensboro Coliseum, don't be shocked if 12th-seeded Miami eliminates No. 5 Wake Forest.

The 12-seed has won three of four first-round games since the league expanded to its current size in the 2006-07 season.

Georgia Tech did it just a year ago in Atlanta, knocking out No. 5 Clemson, 86-81.

The first resounding upset in ACC Tournament history was No. 6 Clemson’s first-round win over No. 3 N.C. State on the Wolfpack’s Reynolds Coliseum home court in 1962. That Clemson team, which finished 12-15 overall, did in Duke in the semifinals but eventually lost to Wake in the championship game.

Following are the five most memorable first-round stunners.

1. Maryland 71, N.C. State 49

March 10, 1989, Atlanta

The 8th-seed Terps (1-13 ACC,9-20 overall) won with such ease over the top-seeded Wolfpack (10-4, 22-9) that both sides were left virtually speechless. In fact, Terps coach Bob Wade was feared to have suffered a heart attack in the minutes following the game. John Johnson and Tony Massenburg combined for 42 points while Wolfpack star guards Rodney Monroe and Chris Corchiani were held to 20 combined. Wade was on the bench a day later when reality set in and North Carolina destroyed his team, 88-58, in the semifinals.

2. State 66, Duke 60

March 7, 1997, Greensboro

Seeded No. 8, the Pack (4-12, 17-15) had to beat Georgia Tech in a play-in game to earn a shot at the top-seeded Blue Devils (12-4, 22-9). Herb Sendek’s first State team was down by six points at halftime but took over in the second half behind freshman playmaker Justin Gainey and wing sharpshooter C.C. Harrison (28 points).

The Pack then stunned Maryland in the second half before falling to No. 3 seed Carolina in the championship game.

3. Wake Forest 69, Clemson 62

March 6, 1987, Landover, Md.

The 7th-seeded Deacons (2-12, 14-15) knocked out what may have been the best Clemson team (10-4, 25-6) of all time. Bob Staak’s second Wake team got 21 points each from 5-foot-3 playmaker Tyrone Bogues and wingman Rod Watson and put on a spectacular second-half performance after Clemson led 34-22 at intermission. The Deacons almost duplicated the win a day later but finally fell to N.C. State in double overtime when Pack forward Mike Giomi sparked a late surge.

4. Wake 54, UNC 52 (OT)

March 8, 1973, Greensboro

In the seven-team era, the Deacons (3-9, 12-15) had finished last in regular season while Carolina (8-4, 25-8) had a lineup that included Bobby Jones, George Karl and Mitch Kupchak. Carl Tacy’s first Wake team was a 20-point underdog but controlled the tempo from the start and got 18 points from guard Eddie Payne. Against powerful Maryland the following day, Wake led by four at the half but eventually fell, 73-65

5. Miami 67, Maryland 62

March 8, 2007, Tampa, Fla.

The No. 12 seeded Hurricanes (4-12, 12-20) got 17 points from guard Jack McClinton and used a match-up zone defense to frustrate the No. 5 Terps (10-6, 25-9), who trailed by 13 at halftime and couldn’t fight all the way back. McClinton got 16 points in the second round against Boston College, but Eagles held on for a 74-71 win after going to halftime down by 10.

-- Caulton Tudor

Maryland's Vasquez named ACC Basketball Player of the Year

Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez has been voted Player of the Year in ACC basketball by members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

A senior from Caracas, Venezuela, the 6-foot-5 guard was named on 39 of 53 ballots cast. Duke guard Jon Scheyer was second with 12 votes and Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney received the other two.

"This means so much to me," Vasquez said. "After four years of working so hard, to be the ACC Player of the Year is unbelievable. I don't have enough words to express how happy I am for my teammates, my coaches and my whole country. People in Venezuela have been so supportive and making me a better player and a better person."

Vasquez is the sixth Maryland player to win the award and the first since Juan Dixon in 2002.

-- Caulton Tudor

ACC open practice times set

One of the best days of the ACC basketball season happens on the eve of the ACC tournament.

That's when teams hold a one-hour shootaround practice at the tournament site that's free and open to the media and the public. It's a good chance for fans who can't get seats for the games to see the players and coaches in a relaxed environment. Duke and North Carolina are the only teams that aren't participating in the open practices this year.

Here's the schedule for Wednesday's open practices at the Greensboro Coliseum:

Virginia 10-10:55 a.m.; Boston College 11-11:55 a.m.; Miami noon to 12:55 p.m.; Georgia Tech 1-1:55 p.m.; Wake Forest 2-2:55 p.m.; Clemson 3-3:55 p.m.; N.C. State 4-4:55 p.m.; Virginia Tech 5-5:55 p.m.; Florida State 6-6:55 p.m.; Maryland 7-7:55 p.m.

Ken Tysiac

Is Duke as good as Roy Williams says?

During a postgame news conference that was extremely classy considering the magnitude of Duke’s 82-50 hammering of North Carolina, Tar Heel coach Roy Williams paid the Blue Devils a huge compliment Saturday night.

“This is the best Duke team that’s been here in the seven years I’ve been here,” Williams said.

It was an interesting point that’s worth a closer look. In Williams’ first season at North Carolina, the Blue Devils went to the 2004 Final Four. In 2006, Duke was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the end of the regular season before falling to LSU in a regional semifinal game in Atlanta.

Both of those teams boasted one of the ACC’s best shooters ever in J.J. Redick and a strong post presence on offense and defense in Shelden Williams. Is this Duke team really better?

Probably not. The ACC was stronger in each of those seasons than it is in 2009-10, but Duke still won the conference outright during the regular-season in both 2004 and 2006.

The Blue Devils are a better rebounding team in 2010 than the 2004 and 2006 teams. But that strength is offset by the fact that the current team lacks a big guy like Williams who can physically dominate an opponent by scoring in the low post.

Duke’s 2006 team was flawed, though, because it relied so heavily on Redick and Williams; no other player averaged more than nine points per game. In that respect, the three big scorers on the current team (Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler) give the Blue Devils more options if one player is cold.

But the 2004 team had the most balance, which probably was why it reached the Final Four. Redick, Luol Deng, Daniel Ewing, Williams and Chris Duhon all averaged at least 10 points per game on that team.

Four of those players still are in the NBA, and it seems unlikely that the current team has that many players who are going to have that kind of NBA longevity. So the 2004 team probably is the best one Williams has faced since he came back to North Carolina.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, incidentally, is staying out of this discussion.

“This is a good Duke team,” he said. “This is a very good Duke team. I’m not big on comparisons.”

In that respect, Krzyzewski took the same position as former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, who didn’t like to compare his Tar Heel teams to one another.

As for Williams, his appreciation for the 2010 Duke team might be heightened by his admiration for the seniors who were honored Saturday night, especially guard Jon Scheyer.

“To go from a quote ‘shooting guard’ to one of the primary ball handlers and have seven assists and no turnovers (Saturday), that’s sensational,” Williams said. “I’ve really enjoyed him as a college basketball player and think he stands for so many great things.”

Williams went on to say that Lance Thomas does all the dirty work and helps the Blue Devils, and complimented Brian Zoubek on his play late in the season. All three of those players represent something the Tar Heels haven’t had this season.

North Carolina tried to convert Dexter Strickland from a shooting guard to a point guard and found out how difficult it was. The Tar Heels could have used a fiery senior like Thomas who can defend multiple positions. They would be a better team if they had some players who’d responded to adversity throughout their careers as well as Zoubek.

This may or may not be the best Duke team Williams has faced in his seven seasons as the Tar Heels’ head coach. But it’s easy to see what he likes about this team.

- Members of Duke’s incoming freshman class – point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Josh Hairston – sat in the locker room after Saturday’s game, taking in the spirited atmosphere.

Thomas said it was good for them to be there and see Duke (26-5, 13-3 ACC) celebrating its share of the regular season ACC championship. He said there was a sense of passing down the tradition to the next generation.

“Definitely,” Thomas said as Irving listened from the chair next to him. “Them being here and seeing what this feels like, getting a taste of it before you even get here, is big time. Because when they get here, they’re going to have to do everything in their power to get this feeling again. This is something that me and my team will share. They haven’t felt this yet. They didn’t earn this yet. So when they come, they know what they will have to do to be in this position. There’s no better feeling.”

Ken Tysiac

Monday, March 8, 2010

Heels' Henson soon will have reason to cheer for Duke

Despite his team's 32-point loss Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, North Carolina forward John Henson will have reason to root for Duke a couple years from now.

Well, for the women's team, that is.

Henson's sister Amber, a junior at Tampa's Sickles High, verbally committed to the Blue Devils on Sunday night, according to The St. Petersburg Times.

Duke beat out Florida, Maryland, Stanford, Texas and UNC for the 6-feet-4 player, who averaged 22.1 points per game and 12.1 rebounds this season.

"Even though going to school with John would be great, I tried to ignore all the pressure to go there because of him and think about where I'd be most comfortable without him," Amber Henson told The Times. "But make no mistake, when he plays Duke, I will definitely be sitting being the Carolina bench in light blue supporting my brother."

John Henson, who moved into UNC's starting lineup late in the season, will be a junior by by the time his sister is a freshman at Duke -- if he stays in school that long, rather than hopping early to the NBA.

On his Twitter account Sunday night, John Henson tweeted: "Tried my hardest but, Congrats to my Sister on her commitment to dook....guess ill be making a few more trips over there than expected lol."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Heels' McDonald to miss Duke game

DURHAM - North Carolina freshman wing Leslie McDonald is in street clothes at Cameron Indoor Stadium and will miss tonight's game with Duke because of a strained hamstring.

McDonald is the ninth Tar Heel to miss at least one game with an injury this season. He is averaging 3.5 points and 1.6 rebounds per game, and scored a season-high 16 points a week ago at Wake Forest.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, March 5, 2010

Duke's Smith to return for senior season

DURHAM - Duke junior guard Nolan Smith confirmed Friday that he will return to the Blue Devils for his senior season.

Although Smith ranks fourth in the ACC at 17.5 points per game, he has not been the subject of nearly as much speculation about leaving early for the NBA as junior teammate Kyle Singler.

Nonetheless, Smith was asked during a Friday media availability whether he'll be back.

"I'm coming back next year, of course," he said.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has said Singler will wait until the season ends before deciding whether he wants to forgo his senior season and leave for the NBA.

Ken Tysiac

Finger injury won't stop Zoubek

DURHAM - A finger injury suffered Wednesday at Maryland won't stop Duke senior center Brian Zoubek from playing in Saturday's 9 p.m. regular-season finale against North Carolina, coach Mike Krzyzewski said Friday.

Zoubek went to the locker room with his left index finger bent grotesquely. But he returned to the game, and Krzyzewski said he will play with the finger taped against the Tar Heels.

Krzyzewski said that he doesn't expect the struggles of North Carolina (16-14, 5-10 ACC) to take away from the excitement at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He expects it to be the same kind of atmosphere as it's been when the Tar Heels are highly rated.

"I think it will be," Krzyzewski said. "They've won their last couple, and they're very talented."

The game will be a chance for fourth-ranked Duke (25-5, 12-3) to clinch at least a share of the ACC regular-season championship. The Blue Devils also can clinch the No. 1 seed for next week's ACC Tournament with a win.

Duke had a chance to clinch first place outright with a win Wednesday at Maryland, but fell 79-72 on the Terrapins' senior night.

"There is a little bit of frustration," said senior guard Jon Scheyer. "We watned to win it Wednesday night. We were pretty angry. And coach told us to use that anger [for motivation]."

Scheyer, Zoubek, forward Lance Thomas and walk-on Jordan Davidson will be honored Saturday on senior night. Last night they had the traditional dinner with Krzyzewski and his family that all Duke players have before their senior night.

They talked about how far they have come since they were freshmen and Duke finished 22-11 with a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Virginia Commonwealth in 2007.

Today, Scheyer recalled the 74-47 loss at Clemson last season. He watched film of the game and was thorougly disappointed at how he looked, and it motivated him not to repeat the performance.

"Those are moments you need to have to get better," Scheyer said.

Thanks to those moments, they have a chance to gain at least a share of an ACC regular-season title for the first time in their careers.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Duke to play in November tournament

Duke will join Kansas State, Gonzaga and Marquette in Kansas City, Mo., in November for the championship round of the CBE Classic on Nov. 22-23, tournament organizers announced Thursday.

Those four teams also will play host to two of what are being called "regional round" games from Nov. 14-17. But the four host teams will advance to Kansas City regardless of the outcome of their "regional" games.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SoCon men's, women's postseason awards

Southern Conference men's basketball awards

All-Conference Team
Donald Sims, Appalachian State
Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston
Jeremy Simmons, College of Charleston
Cameron Wells, The Citadel
Amu Saaka, Furman
Willie Powers, Georgia Southern
Ben Stywall, UNC Greensboro
Brandon Giles, Western Carolina
Noah Dahlman, Wofford
Tim Johnson, Wofford

All-Freshman Team
Willis Hall, College of Charleston
Harrison DuPont, The Citadel
Jake Cohen, Davidson
JP Kuhlman, Davidson
Kyle Randall, UNC Greensboro

Player of the Year
Noah Dahlman, Jr., F, Wofford

Co-Defensive Players of the Year
Jeremy Simmons, Jr., F, College of Charleston
Brigham Waginger, Sr., G, Western Carolina

Freshman of the Year
JP Kuhlman, G, Davidson

Coach of the Year
Mike Young, Wofford

Southern Conference women's basketball awards

All-Conference Team
First Team
Tonia Gerty, College of Charleston
Shanara Hollinquest, Chattanooga
Jenaya Wade-Fray, Chattanooga
Ali Ford, Elon
Emily London, Samford

Second Team
Ashlen Dewart, Appalachian State
Anna Freeman, Appalachian State
Sam Ramirez, Appalachian State
Alex Thompson, Davidson
Savannah Hill, Samford

Player of the Year
Shanara Hollinquest, Chattanooga

Freshman of the Year
Ali Ford, Elon

Coach of the Year
Darcie Vincent, Appalachian State

Monday, March 1, 2010

Davidson's wild finish

Here's video of the final few seconds of Davidson's 99-96 double-overtime victory against Elon on Saturday -- certainly one of the wildest finishes in college basketball this season.

Here's how it unfolded: After Elon's Chris Long hit two free throws to give the Phoenix a 96-93 lead with 14.4 seconds left in the second overtime, Davidson's JP Kuhlman missed a jumper that would have cut the lead to 96-95 with 10 seconds left. It was just as well that Kuhlman's shot missed: The Wildcats' Nic Cochran got the rebound and passed it to point guard Brendan McKillop, who hit a tying 3-pointer with three seconds left.

The Wildcats' Steve Rossiter then stole Elon's inbounds pass and hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to win it for the Wildcats.

The loss was especially tough to take for Elon coach Matt Matheny, a former Davidson player and assistant coach.

Davidson's next game is a first-round Southern Conference matchup Friday at Bojangles' Coliseum against, who else, Elon. -- David Scott

All-CIAA tournament teams

Angelo Sharpless, G, Elizabeth City State; Chris Jordan, G, St. Augustine's, Lando Morrison, F, Chowan; Trent Bivens, G, Elizabeth City State; Haywood Fain, F, St. Augustine’s'; Raheem Smith, G, Shaw; Blake Price, G, Elizabeth City State; Jaleel Nelson, Sr., Chowan; Greg Henry, F, Livingstone; Shaun Washum, F, St. Augustine’s.
MVP – Chris Jordan, St. Augustine's.
John B. McClendon Sportsmanship Award- Elizabeth City State.
Tiffany Haywood, F, Fayetteville State; Bianca Lee, G, Bowie State; Kenyatta Gill, F, Elizabeth City State; Leslie Phillips, G, Virginia State; Deja Middleton, C, Fayetteville State; Lakisha Walker, G, Bowie State; L’Oreal Price, G, Fayetteville State; Juliette Turner, G, Bowie State; Tatiana Ellis, G, St. Paul's; Danielle Russell, G, Fayetteville State.
MVP-Tiffany Haywood, Fayetteville State
John B. McClendon Sportsmanship Award- Elizabeth City State