ACC still a wide open affair
Posted January 15, 2013
Saturday's contest between NC State and Duke was such an impactful local sporting event that folks are still discussing peripheral issues left in its wake. There has been debate as to whether or not the win itself was an upset at all, if the Wolfpack will suffer a letdown against Maryland on Wednesday, if the result would have been the same had Ryan Kelly been healthy and whether or not Duke should still be considered the top team in the country based on their early season résumé.
And, of course, there's the viral phenomenon of Will Privette, the wheelchair-bound NC State student who had the student body president push him into the center of the post-game pandemonium. Privette has done countless interviews, including a spot on "Today" with Matt Lauer, and inspired an officially licensed shirt with "Roll Pack" emblazoned on the front.
All of this has taken attention away from what's happening in the rest of the ACC, which has been confusing to say the least. One could run themselves in circles trying to gauge where various teams stand at this point, so maybe all the talk about NC State and Duke is for the best.
Virginia, floated by the Sporting News to potentially finish second in the conference after a home win against North Carolina, was hit with a double-dose of head scratching losses to Wake Forest and Clemson. The Demon Deacons? They've got an opportunity to push their league record to 3-1 with a game against the Tigers Tuesday night.
Georgia Tech was a trendy selection to make the NCAA Tournament because of its defensive play, but now the Yellow Jackets find themselves winless early in the conference slate. At one point Miami was thought to be in serious trouble because of Reggie Johnson's injury, but the Hurricanes have seen the emergence of Kenny Kadji and have reeled off wins against the Jackets, the Tar Heels, and Maryland. And those Terrapins? The shine has come off rather quickly despite a talented roster.
Of course, it's still too early to make sweeping generalizations about the ACC. All of the above simply illustrates why it's senseless to jump on or off any bandwagons in the middle of January. Don't be like Phillip Bridges, '86 graduate of North Carolina, who wrote a ridiculous letter to the Daily Tar Heel following a win over Florida State.
North Carolina certainly doesn't lack talent. Just compare their roster to programs outside of Durham and Raleigh. Most of them would be more than happy to take the court with that personnel. The issue is execution on both ends of the floor. Some of it relates to inexperience, which is why Marcus Paige has struggled. Most of it relates to staying focused, which manifested itself as North Carolina suffered defensive lapses as Florida State went 6-of-10 from beyond the arc in the 2nd half. However, the Tar Heels managed to avoid the same let downs against the Cavaliers and Hurricanes by absorbing the punches and closing the deal.
That's why I never understood the existential crisis that unfolded in Chapel Hill following an 0-2 start in conference play. Ultimately, the stupidity of the ACC will save the Tar Heels from a potentially horrendous season. The key is for North Carolina to solidify on-court leadership from Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston while actually learning some basketball IQ while the conference sorts itself out.