When to worry and when not to worry
Posted November 23, 2012
As we wake from our turkey induced slumber and struggle to move from the couch, figured it would be a good time look back on some of the newsier items of the week. Blessed be the new era of 140 characters or less sports punditry, but sometimes stories need to brine for a couple days just like that bird from Thursday night.
When not to worry? Losing college basketball games in November.
NC State and North Carolina are back on the mainland after dealing with separate island setbacks. The Wolfpack looked more interested in their post tournament Puerto Rican lechón than they did playing Oklahoma State on Sunday, while North Carolina never recovered from an early punch to the gut from Butler in Hawaii.
Each loss raised red flags of varying severity, but the stakes of November basketball are of slightly less import. It's unfortunate both the Pack and the Heels return from their holiday invitationals empty handed, but the only consequence suffered at this point is a few spots in the early rankings. It's foolish to judge either team beyond the immediate quick fixes.
North Carolina is a work in progress with a variety of players learning to execute their new roles, so the key takeaway from their trip to Maui was how they shook off the loss and dominated Chaminade in the consolation game. Now the Tar Heels will get another developmental look-in when they travel to top-ranked Indiana. It's a contest not many expect the Heels to win, but there is an expectation for North Carolina to assert themselves better than they did against Butler.
While the "don't freak out, it's November" mode of thinking still applies to the Wolfpack, their loss to Oklahoma State raised a few more eyebrows because guys were either oddly quiet or fell into bad habits from last season. Lorenzo Brown, CJ Leslie, Scott Wood and Richard Howell combined to score 20 points.
It's important to remember NC State was a team that spent most of last season learning how to finish games and didn't put it together until a condensed period of time in March. Most, if not all, of the hype going into this season was based on that window. Now they're expected to look like that all the time, even if Mark Gottfried has correctly pointed out his team has ways to go in the different grind of the regular season. The Wolfpack get an opportunity to bounce back Friday night against UNC Asheville, but the real test arrives Tuesday against Michigan.
If last season was a gradual progression to playing good basketball at the right time, this season should be about NC State playing at that level against equally talented teams regardless of when the games are in the calendar.
When to worry? Losing a $50 million buyout clause.
Lost in all the conference realignment hysteria following Maryland's departure from the ACC is the true impact of their move to the Big Ten. It's not what John Swofford lost from his conference, it's how he goes about losing it.
Let's be blunt -- Maryland is replaceable. They only value the Terrapins brought to ACC football was in the form of hideous Under Armour uniform combinations. While it's a shame Maryland's basketball tradition is lost at a time where Mark Turgeon seems to be turning it around, college sports isn't driven by the round orange ball these days.
Conventional wisdom says the ACC can add Connecticut or Louisville as the replacement 14th member and not skip a beat. Best case scenario is Swofford somehow convinces Notre Dame to join the conference full-time. Regardless, it should be the least of his worries.
It's all about the $50 million dollar exit fee.
Along with Florida State, Maryland was the other school to vote against raising the exit fee when Notre Dame was introduced as a partial member of the ACC. University president Wallace Loh downplayed how much it would cost for his school to leave the ACC and seemed rather confident it could be negotiated down to a reasonable amount.
For the sake of the conference, Swofford better make sure Maryland pays every penny of that $50 million. The attitude should be to take Maryland to court, bring out the lawyers who were in the room when the bylaws were rewritten to included the increased penalty, drive up Maryland's legal costs and win. Swofford has to show a strong hand to the rest of the conference, that leaving just isn't worth the hassle.
Otherwise Maryland's success in leaving the ACC for the greener pastures of another conference will embolden those at Florida State who were rattling their swords this past summer. And if that happens, the ACC could find itself in the same position as Big East -- fighting for stability and relevance.