Heels, McAdoo facing rare Big Four run
Posted February 19
With the postponement of the Duke at UNC game from Feb. 12 to Thursday, one of the ACC’s most unusual basketball scheduling sequences is at hand.
For only the fourth time since 1967, UNC will face Big Four rivals Duke, Wake Forest and N.C. State in succession -- Thursday (9 p.m. WRAL-TV) in Chapel Hill against the Blue Devils, Saturday in Chapel Hill against Wake (noon, WRAL-TV) and Wednesday at State (8 p.m., WRAL-TV).
For Carolina, this general alignment last happened in the 2006-07 season, when the Tar Heels lost to State on Feb. 2 in Raleigh, and then beat Duke in Durham on Feb. 7 and Wake in Chapel Hill on Feb. 10.
But maybe the strangest rivalry run in ACC history came in 1997-98, when Bill Guthridge succeeded Dean Smith as Carolina’s coach.
En route to the Final Four, that Carolina team had an absolutely uncanny series of games against in-state rivals that included three straight at the end of regular season, followed by two in the ACC tournament.
It began in Chapel Hill with a ringing Wolfpack 86-72 upset win over a No. 1 ranked UNC team on Feb. 21.
Three days later, Feb. 24 in Chapel Hill, UNC rebounded for a 19-point over the Deacons. Four days after that one, Duke won 77-75 in Durham to end regular season.
Guthridge’s team, then ranked 4th nationally and seeded 2nd to Duke in the ACC Tournament, opened with a payback 73-46 elimination of State in Greensboro. After ousting Maryland in the semifinals, Antawn Jamison had 22 points and 18 rebounds in an 83-68 stunner against the top-ranked Devils.
Including an NCAA second-round win over Charlotte, that team faced four in-state foes a total of eight times during a 13-game stretch.
Earlier, there are still a few fans around who can recall the 1967 league tournament in Greensboro, when Dean Smith’s sixth team ran the Big Four table behind the play of Larry Miller, Bob Lewis, Franklin (Rusty) Clark, Dick Grubar and Bill Bunting.
Those Tar Heels, seeded first after going12-2 in regular season, defeated No. 8 State in the quarterfinals, 56-53, and had an easier time against 5th-seeded Wake in the semifinals, 89-79, when Miller scored 31 points.
In the title against 2nd-seeded Duke, Miller had 32 and Lewis 26 to pace an 82-73 win.
From Greensboro, Smith went on to his first of 11 NCAA Final Fours.
Then, back in Greensboro for the 1979 league tournament, Carolina stopped Duke from a Big Four sweep by defeating the Blue Devils, 71-63. Duke had edged Wake, 58-56, in the first round and State, 62-59, in the semifinals.
But ‘79 was a postseason most folks in North Carolina want to forget. Duke and Carolina advanced to the NCAA and opened in State’s Reynolds Coliseum. The Heels were ousted by Penn, 52-51, and Duke by St. John’s, 80-78, in what instantly became known as “Black Sunday.”
This Carolina team escaped Tallahassee with an 81-75 win over Florida State to begin the week, but only after standout forward James Michael McAdoo had a “Blue Monday” experience.
In 13 minutes playing time, the 6-9, 230-pound junior fouled out, failed to score and get off only two field-goal attempts.
Freshman center Kennedy Meeks (23 points, seven rebounds) and reserve forward Brice Johnson (14 points, 11 rebounds) absorbed the interior slack.
But given the way that game went, McAdoo’s first few minutes against Duke will be interesting to chart. Odds are, McAdoo has enough big-game experience to put the Florida State distress behind him fairly quick, but it’s not unusual for star players to have a once-burned, twice-shy immediate reaction to such outings.
The strangest aspect about the foul calls in the game was that there were 46 personals called (25 against UNC) but five players were charged with 24 of the 46 and in quick order to say the least.
McAdoo and Johnson (21 minutes) fouled out. So did Florida State’s Michael Ojo (13 minutes) and Boris Bojanovsky (18 minutes). Another Seminole, forward Okaro White, was tagged with four fouls in his 17 minutes.
Kennedy, who sometimes seems to pick up fouls in bunches, survived 24 court minutes with only three. Teammate Jackson Simmons, who can be physical, went 12 minutes and was called for only one.
Then there was FSU wingman Aaron Thomas, who is a frequent hand-checker by anyone’s definition. He went the full 40 minutes and was whistled twice.
At any rate, look for the Blue Devils to launch a few early sorties at McAdoo, if for no other reason than to see if he’s still game for inside challenges.