Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bedeviled

Too much is being made out of Maryland's recent success against Mike Krzyzewski's teams. The three game winning streak is all well and good but I'd gladly trade each of those wins for two wins against Clemson and Miami the last few seasons. I dislike Duke as much as the next guy but I never understood the attitude that it is the most important game of the season. When you have a team of potential All-Americans and go 15-1 in the ACC I guess it is the most important game of the year. When you have a bunch of kids who have struggled to play .500 ball in the ACC it has far less importance than defeating the teams you should beat.

The players on the current squad have internalized the attitude of the fan base that seems to imply that the Duke games are the only ones that matter. The disparity in effort and focus between the Duke games and Clemson games last year was embarrassing. This current group is unafraid going into Cameron Indoor in a way that is unlike any other ACC team. They probably learned this from Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas as freshmen, but Blake and Nicholas understood that while you may need to pick up your focus for a team like Duke you can't overlook the opponents before and after they come to town. In their careers at Maryland Blake and Nicholas only lost to Clemson and FSU once in 18 combined games, the one loss coming on the "Valentines Day Massacre" game to FSU at Cole Field House. After that loss Maryland surged to its first Final Four ever. Even if Maryland pulls out an unlikely win tonight it will all be for naught if this group cannot carry that intensity through the rest of the season.


Around the ACC

Two team's NCAA hopes may have been dealt fatal blows last night. Virginia Tech and Boston College now both sit at 0-3 in the ACC after home losses last night. Virginia Tech is now shooting for an NIT bid, which may not even be a strong possibility. North Carolina looked like a bunch of freshman with heaps of turnovers and inexplicable mental lapses. Their mistakes nearly lost the game as it was close for most of the second half. Hokie guard Zabian Dowdell decided to turn into Stephon Marbury and refused to feed the ball to Coleman Collins on the inside. He jacked up a slew of ill advised shots with the momentum favoring Tech. Tyler Hansbourgh has all but locked up the freshman of the year voting at this point. He dominated Collins and the other players Seth Greenberg tried to throw at him. The conventional wisdom is that younger teams get better as the year goes on but with the baby Tarheels I think the greater likelihood is that they'll wear out in the second half of ACC play. North Carolina has yet to play at Wake Forest, Duke, Maryland and NC State. They passed their first league road test however.

NC State thoroughly dominated Boston College in Chestnut Hill. I think it is safe to end any talk about the Eagles finishing second behind Duke. At this point they are fighting to try to keep their NCAA hopes alive. I was amazed at how poorly Boston College played on defense. They were never a great defensive team but with the way they are playing now a double digit deficit is almost insurmountable. They just gave up in the second half, it was a pitiful display. Al Skinner is getting almost no production from their guard spots, although Rice has some potential. The return of Sean Williams was supposed to bolster their inside defense but he was routinely abused by a good, but not great, Cedric Simmons. Williams looked totally lost and out of shape. It didn't help that their arena was like a mausoleum for most of the night. If BC is going to have a competitive team in the future their fans will have to do a much better job.

The Wolfpack are better than I expected but the loss at UNC on Saturday also showed that they have vulnerabilities. They do have a fairly easy schedule in the 2nd half of the ACC season with all of their difficult opponents, save a end of year trip to Wake Forest, at home. NC State only gets top ranked Duke once this season. Right now they have the easiest path to finish behind Duke among the contenders.

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