North Carolina came into the ACC tournament off of two weeks of under performing. The Heels went 4-4 in their last eight games, losing their only two series of the season back-to-back at Georgia Tech and against Virginia.
Georgia Tech was ranked 30th at the time. To say the losses there were a surprise would be an understatement. And then to make matters worse, the Heels didn't exactly bounce back. They followed it up by dropping the series to then No. 7 Virginia at home.
The win Monday against No. 8 Florida State was a much needed confidence booster heading into post season play.
North Carolina barely grabbed the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament with one win over Virginia but for anyone that watched their first game in ACC tournament play Thursday it would definitely not appear that way.
After struggling the past two weeks, Carolina came out and dominated from the opening pitch.
Colin Moran earned his 84th RBI, setting the single-season school record and putting the Heels on board first.
Starter Kent Emanuel pitched a gem of a game, losing a no hitter in the fifth inning but not allowing any runs to score for the entire game.
Skye Bolt has had just enough time to get back into the swing of things after fracturing the second metatarsal in his right foot on Apr. 12. Bolt who has only been back playing since May 14th, had three hits, including a double and a run.
Most people attribute heckling and name calling to NASCAR drivers, heck that's why a lot of people even follow the sport. Want fights? Tune into an NHL game, especially during the height of a Stanley Cup run.
The NBA playoffs boast out-of-this-world performances by some of the league's stars.
An unexpected triple-OT game where Nate Robinson goes off for 34 points to carry the Bulls to 142-134 win over the Nets (on top of that Robinson was on the bench getting sick days later with the flu). Then there's injured Stephen Curry going 4-4 from the three with 14 points, 4 assists in the third quarter to will the Warriors from a 42-40 halftime deficit to a 92-88 win and series win over Denver.
Four game six's on one night? Happened Friday, hasn't happened since May 1, 2003. Friday night was the first time in just over 10 years that at least four teams were knocked out of the NBA postseason on the same day.
The NBA playoffs pave the way for brilliant performances. But this year on top of all that, add some heckling, some name calling and some fighting. We're still in round one and the NBA playoffs have already brought entertainment on all levels.
Miss Clippers' Blake Griffin and Grizzlies' Zach Randolph's rendition of Wrestlemania Friday night? The announcers even mention a half-nelson taking place. Oh yeah, and all that after Griffin was a game-time decision due to a sprained ankle.
Indianapolis is familiar territory for Duke and Michigan State. It was just three years ago that the two teams played in Lucas Oil Stadium during NCAA tournament play, but that weekend, the stage was a little bigger.
In 2010, Duke and Michigan State joined West Virginia and Butler in the Final Four with a trip to the National Championship game on the line. This time in Indy, the two teams will face each other with the hopes of keeping Final Four dreams alive.
In that 2010 meeting, then freshmen Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee sat court side at Lucas Oil and watched as Nolan Smith, Brian Zoubek and Kyle Singler carried the Blue Devils to a national championship victory. This time around, it's their team -- and the seniors aren't ready to end their careers at Duke just yet.
"There are certainly some good memories from this building," said Kelly, "We're looking forward to making some better ones."
So what will it take?
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said Thursday that Duke isn't the type of team that will beat themselves. They are well disciplined and shoot the ball well. They aren't going to make mistakes. And there is no question that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will make sure that his team is prepared.
Krzyzewski, meanwhile, can expect the same from an Izzo coached team. A sound defensive effort, a mistake-free game and a group full of offensive threats.
Friday at 12:15 p.m. (WRAL-TV, 99.9 FM The Fan) Duke will face Albany in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but it won't be the first time that the two schools have met.
During the 2006-07 season Duke played Albany and won. But Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn't care about the past ,and he certainly doesn't care about the Blue Devils early exit last season either.
"If we keep looking back at our experiences then we'd really get overconfident, because we've won four National Championships and been to 11 Final Fours," joked Krzyzewski Thursday. "There is no need to go back to good or bad experiences because not all of these guys were involved in that."
The Blue Devils find themselves entering NCAA play on the heels of a loss to Maryland in the ACC Tournament last week. They are also a No. 2 seed, the same seed they held in 2012. Unlike last year where Duke fell to No. 15 Lehigh, the squad is looking forward to a win.
"Our motivation isn't a loss from last week, it's the opportunity that this team has to do something special," said Duke forward Mason Plumlee. "I feel no pressure."
With everyone on the team finally healthy and with plenty of rest, Duke focuses on what lies ahead instead of what has already been done.
And though the Devils are quick to dismiss the early 2012 exit and their doozy of a game in the ACC Tournament a week ago, the Albany players can't help but think it puts the Great
Eric Staal (12) during the Carolina Hurricanes vs. Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey game, Thursday, February 14, 2013 in Raleigh, NC.
The Carolina Hurricanes came back from a six game, 12-day road-trip Thursday to face the Toronto Maple Leafs and interest was high as fans waited to see if the road production would continue.
During the road trip the Hurricanes grabbed nine of a possible 12 points, winning four games, three in regulation and one in overtime. Things seemed to finally be clicking for the team behind the play of captain Eric Staal.
With the lockout, new additions to the squad Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin and no real training camp, team chemistry took time to develop. Skepticism was natural as the Canes struggled through the first few games, but the team that look destined for success on paper has come to life in the past two weeks.
"In the beginning we had about seven new guys, when that happens they are trying to get the system down and even just get to know the players," said head coach Kirk Muller. "I think they are now, they are playing well together, they're having fun and they're playing for eachother. It's their team."
Eric Staal is on an 11-game point streak (the longest such streak in the NHL this season), notching 17 points off of eight goals and nine assists. The center currently leads the league in plus-minus at 12. Much of the captain's success can be attributed to the addition of Semin to the first line. Semin has three goals and seven assists so far this season. With Staal's play being complimented
Rodney Purvis (0) gets fired up after a dunk during the Duke vs. NC State game on January 12, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Usually a noon tip-off is synonymous with slow team starts or tardy fans to fill arena seats. That was not the case Saturday at PNC Arena when No. 20 NC State played host to the No. 1 team in the country.
Team and fans alike were ready for a showdown with the top-ranked rival from just down the highway, after all, this year was supposed to be State’s year.
NC State fans had been waiting for this opportunity and could not have brought more energy to the arena. Students lined up prior to sun rise, barely containing their excitement once inside.
"Our crowd was unreal. Our students started getting out there at four o’clock last night and this morning," said NC State head coach Mark Gottfried. "Our crowd was a lift today. It got loud in there, really loud."
The players fed off of the ear-piercing cheers as the game tipped. A defensive stop and a Scott Wood three to open play nearly blew the roof off.
Duke’s Mason Plumlee showed his size would be an issue, but Richard Howell showed he wasn’t backing down.
The Blue Devils continued to answer each Wolfpack surge until an 8-0 run by Duke and a five-point lead stirred nerves around the arena.
Minutes later, Wood regained control and momentum for the Wolfpack with a four-point play. As he drained a three, David Thornton fouled him – a double technical called on some extra-curricular activities canceled out and an eight-point Duke lead becomes four in mere seconds.
Reggie Bullock (35) looks to pass during the North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Miami Hurricanes NCAA basketball game, Thursday, January 10, 2013 in Chapel Hill, NC.
North Carolina took a 68-59 loss to Miami Thursday night at the Smith Center and it was a tough loss to swallow for the Tar Heel squad.
"I've got some really good kids that are hurting right now and they are also feeling a little stressed," said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.
It's how Williams described the way his team felt and how he felt following the team's second consecutive loss to open ACC conference play.
A team with four nationally touted freshmen, a sophomore who could have gone pro after last season but opted to stay and three upper classmen ready to lead wasn't supposed to go into ACC play and lose two in a row.
That's only happened three times prior in North Carolina's basketball history. And the players are well aware of one of those times, the 2008-09 season.
That year, North Carolina entered ACC play undefeated and took two tough losses to Boston College and Wake Forest, and that season, the team went on to win the 2009 National Championship.
Reggie Bullock said that they were well aware of that instance and even though they didn't want to start that way they know the losses are not indicative of how their season could end up.
And yet, even with an example of hope, the word of the evening was stressed.
"It's extremely stressful. You play the game to win, and when you have a lot of opportunities like we did and then to just see it kind of slip
Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during tonights game. Miami Heat defeats Charlotte Bobcats 98-92 during the the pre-season game at PNC Arena in Raleigh North Carolina.
I'm not a die hard NBA fan, I keep up with who's who and what team's doing well, but I don't tune in to watch every game.
Tuesday night was an exception. The reigning champs were in town and I had to see LeBron James play.
Like all sports fans, I'm sure you have a check-list of stadiums you want to visit, games you'd like to attend and players you'd like to see. For me, LeBron is on that list.
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA and quite arguably the best athlete of our era. Hot off of an NBA Championship, an MVP award and a gold medal, the King is having a banner year. And yet it was him who said he was humbled by his experience at the PNC Arena.
"It’s amazing though the reception that we get here and the places that we go," said James. "The least we can do is go out there and play as hard as we can and show them good basketball."
James played for most of the game, opening with an alley-oop and then a dunk, netting ten points and eight assists on the night. Afterwards the fans could barely wait for their opportunity to get close to the King.
Follwing his post-game interview, James attempted to leave the court but was met with a flock of fans snapping photos and screaming with outstretched hands. Security wasn't prepped for that, and James didn't expect it. But he took the time to shake hands and acknowledge their adoration as he tried to make his way into the tunnel.
Duke's Sean Renfree and mates during the Blue Devils' 54-17 victory over in-town rival North Carolina Central on Saturday, September 15, 2012 in Durham, NC (photo by Jack Morton).
After Duke's 42-17 smashing of Virginia at Wallace Wade last weekend it seemed possible that the Blue Devils could steal one from Virginia Tech Saturday.
After Duke scored on their first three drives of the game and added a defensive pick-six, it seemed highly likely that Duke would in fact steal that win.
With quarterback Sean Renfree back in as the starter, the Blue Devils were highly effective passing the ball. The defense, lead by a big Kenny Anunike sac, was keeping Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas from moving the ball. Virginia Tech looked really bad and the Blue Devils looked really good.
We've been saying it, the Blue Devils have talented players and they've been winning. It would be great to see them grab bowl eligibility in Blacksburg, but it is still Duke football and it was hard to believe what was happening.
And while we were all trying to convince ourselves that Duke was in fact killing Virginia Tech, the Hokies woke up.
Somewhere between Jordon Byas' interception for a Duke touchdown and a Virginia Tech 7 play, 76 yard drive that resulted in their first points of the game, the Hokies started to roll.
A 20-0 Duke lead with 3:12 left in the first quarter started to disappear. On six of their next nine possessions Virginia Tech netted points. On five of Duke's remaining ten drives, they turned the ball over – two interceptions, a turnover on downs and two fumbles.
Duke quarterback Anthony Boone during Wake's 24-23 victory at Duke on Saturday, October 22, 2011 (Photo by Jack Morton).
As Virginia faced off against Duke Saturday both teams were relying on first-time starting quarterbacks. Duke’s Anthony Boone started in place of Sean Renfree who has a shoulder injury and Virginia’s Phillip Sims took the place of Michael Rocco after he had three costly interceptions in the Wahoos loss to Louisiana Tech.
Both back-ups proved to be able to handle their own. In the first quarter each quarterback drove their team into the end zone twice, keeping a quick pace and tying it at 14.
But the second quarter was a different story, neither side could put together anything consistent offensively and it became a punting battle.
Boone was accurate, showed he had the arm strength to pull off the long passing plays and did it without any interceptions. At the half he was 12-23 with 134 passing yards and two touchdowns.
It was Duke’s defense that didn’t do their part in stopping the Virginia rush and the Wahoos grabbed the halftime lead with a late field goal.
Out of the half, Duke’s defense stepped up, making several big stops and easily handling Virginia. Midway through the third, Virginia opted to go for it on fourth and one but Walt Canty wasn’t having it. He stopped the run himself and Duke took over on the UVA 45.
The turnover would set up another Duke touchdown and a 28-17 lead. From there Duke just continued to roll. Later in the fourth Boone threw an absolute bomb to Vernon for a 47-yard touchdown.