TWO DUKIES PICK THE ACC
Volume IX, Number XXIX - February 21, 2006
Welcome to this edition of the ninth (we truly wish just as much as you do that we were making that up), yes, ninth, season of Two Dukies Pick the ACC. Rob and Matt invite you to sit back, fall on your ass laughing at all the ice dancers who fell on their ass, prepare yourself for the weakest offensive in entertainment history, and, we admit it - - nothing can really prepare you for how utterly devoid this material is, below.
The TWO DUKIES name and material are, for some ridiculous reason, affiliated with http://www.dukies.com, and for even more ludicrous motivations, copyright 2006 Rigel Enterprises, Ltd. All rights reserved, and even though you may have had reservations yourself, we'd like to seat you anyway.
Matt's comments in blue.
Rob Mac K's comments in green.
#11 BOSTON COLLEGE (21-5, 8-4) @ VIRGINIA (13-10, 6-6)
Ah, late again. Such an unfamiliar feeling for me, really - - ask anyone. U.S. district judges; owners of financial services companies; psychotic blind dates - - I'm the guy who's half an hour early for them all, out in the parking lot preparing. Yeah, right. Anyway, sorry about the tardiness here. Judging from the traffic lately, someone accidentally listed our URL as the Internet residence of the Paris Hilton sex tape (there isn't one? Oh, well - - wait, there must be) or something, so for those five of you who are here by design, welcome, and thanks for your patience.
At a bar on the East Coast - - full of media bias - - earlier tonight, ESPN was playing, and it indicated on the crawl that Boston College has won "8 out of 9." That's true. Even more impressive? The Merletons have also won 10 of their last 11. I guess the ESPN guys were either running out of fingers to count on, and panicked, or they just wanted to damn with faint praise. Incidentally, I have been ridiculously unamusing for nine of the last nine years. And seven of the last seven.
Idiots at work in Bristol aside, the only loss in that skein was to Duke, and so you have to hand it to the Nutcracker. Jared Dudley has rebounded from his early season woes and is now serving as a worthy complement to Craig Smith (and now that I just checked the score after finally posting this, and saw Dudley's performance, it's pretty clear that I wasn't cheating), and the backcourt . . . well, let's just say that Congressional Democrats are more consistent. And hence, the reason why the Iggles allow underpowered teams like Stony Brook and RoadMiami to stay in the gym, always keeping it interesting.
If it weren't for Horseface, Dave Leitrine would be the choice for ACC COY. Did you think that Virginia would be 6-6 at this point in the year? Oh? Yeah, well, me too; I just kept it close to the vest. Heh. Sadly, this is the next-to-last game in UFO Hall (well, except for the NIT, which will assuredly place some games in Charlottesville for sentimental reasons), and it's Alien Night in Albemarle County! (Yeah, I know that they're two separate legal entities.) Yes, all of the great extraterrestrials who have visited UFO Hall over the years will be there, and this way, they won't interfere with Senior Night ceremonies, so as to avoid any confusion. Slated to appear: the Cantina Crew from Star Wars; a group of itinerant Romulans; the Greys; both surviving Roswell pilots; and Junior Burrough. Should be fun! Meanwhile, the Dew Drop Fairies should win easily.
Boston College 79, Virginia 70.
This has the potential to be an interesting game - BC has continued to gut out closer-than-expected wins over unimpressive competition, while Virginia is playing about as well as they can given their personnel. Unfortunately for them, that's been less and less effective as the other teams in the league have matured this season and have started rounding into shape.
The Hoos have been utterly hopeless away from U-Haul, but within its rotund confines they've been a tough team to beat, having dropped just one game on their home floor this season (87-82 to FSU back on January 11). On the other hand, after their horrid start, BC has won their last four road tilts, all by seven points or less.
Al signs point to another tight one, but I'm guessing that BC's experience in playing and winning close games will help them eke out the W here (though it should be noted that UVa is 4-2 in ACC games decided by 5 points or less). Of course, all this means it will probably be a massive blowout, but it should be worth tuning in.
Boston College 85, Virginia 83.
CLEMSON (15-10, 4-8) @ WAKE FOREST (13-13, 1-11)
Okay, so two 24 episodes ago, Jack was forced to impersonate the now-dead computer guru to whom the Chechen terrorists had turned for help in liberating that nettlesome Sentox VX nerve gas. Luckily, in the most headshaking plot contrivance on the show since a helicopter failed to follow an easily catchable Jeep driven by the lead terrorist last season, CTU came through in the clutch to provide the 'rists with a real, fully functional detonator. Huh? This didn't cause any problems, however, at least not until the Chechens decided to take UndercoverJack with them while they went and tested the chemical weapon in a shopping mall - - again, using CTU's handy detonator. A real moral quandary arose when Jack, able to hear everything happening back at HQ over a hidden earpiece, was ordered by Hobbit tool Sean Astin to permit the release of the gas, because there was just no other way out of this! You see, if the terrorists were bothered by anything like an arrest to foil their plan, they wouldn't lead the good guys back to the remaining 19 canisters of material. Hence, the order to allow them to proceed, endorsed by the spineless (but incredibly well-portrayed and acted) president.
Now, how about this - - stop the Chechens, save the 800 to 900 people in the mall, and interrogate them? (The Chechens, not the mallgoers, although it would be fun to see Kiefer yelling "WHO DID YOU BUY THIS FOR??" at some guy coming out of Victoria's Secret.) Last season, CTU tortured the bejesus out of anyone who so much as shared a stick of gum with one of the baddies, but this year, it's all about individual rights - - the rights of the terrorists. And as a card-carrying ultra-conservative, that offends me! Hehe. Oh, and did CTU really think that the Chechens were going to take Jack back to their lair? Hey, how about putting a tracking device in their van, then foiling their plan and allowing them to escape? Nope - - none of that, and when the terrorists found a way to work around the detonator after Jack heroically refused to obey Astin's order, it became a bad day to be grabbing an Orange Julius at the Westside Pavilion (the food court of which I used to visit all the time when I worked there post-obtaining French degree and pre-heading to law school). Only 10-20 people actually died, but still. What a false dilemma. I knew they were going to show us the Sentox in action at some point this season - - 24 is not a show for those who don't like shocks - - but it's too bad they had to be so unclever about it. Anyway, of course, the surviving terrorist went back to the group's hideout, and chose the Self-Inflicted Gunshot career option upon finding that he'd been abandoned. Kiefer: "DAMMIT!!" No leads, and really not a terrific episode.
This past week's episode, however, was one of the best ever, and I'll talk about that at some boring juncture over the weekend, if I don't get Patrick, Elmore and Vitale to come back.
Rob is usually right about these kind of matchups, which is why I'm four games behind him, and I agree with him that if Weak can stay with the Tools for much of the game at home, they can handle Hamilton-less Clemson.
Wake Forest 79, Clemson 69.
Clemson broke a five-game losing streak with their win over Maryland, their fourth straight victory over the Terps. That was humorous enough in itself, but even better was reading the College Basketball chat on the Washington Post site afterward, as several people wrote in to ask when the Post would be doing their big feature on how Clemson "owns" Maryland, to complement their ridiculous spread earlier in the season where they trumpeted how Maryland "owned" Duke. The consternation on the part of the Post sportswriters was palpable. Good times.
I've already grown tired of discussing how wretched Wake Forest is this season. I'll just note that the Damned Churchmen were utterly non-competitive in their last two losses to Duke and UNC-CH. But to be fair, let's note that UNC-CH shot 30 free throws to just 10 for Wake Forest. Conspiracy! Suspend the referees!
Clemson's chances don't look too good without Vernon Hamilton at full strength against the Deacs. Shawan Robinson was brilliant in torching the Terps for 24, but it's a bit much to expect him to replicate that kind of performance against Wake. Not that Wake plays good defense - they don't - but I just don't see the Tigers knocking down 12 treys again.
I should know better, because Wake sucks, but I just have a hunch they'll randomly get a win here. Call me crazy, 'cause I probably am.
Wake Forest 78, Clemson 74.
VIRGINIA TECH (13-12, 3-9) @ MIAMI (FL) (14-12, 6-7)
The Hurryclowns have three relatively winnable games to close out the season, and that's good for them, because they need to win all three in order to have any prayer of an NCAA bid - - even 9-7 might not be enough considering their weak OOC sked. 8-8? No way. The hardest of the three matchups is the regular season finale, in which they host their in-state neighbors from TeeHee, so this is an absolute must-win.
As I figured, everyone on Miami (except Diaz) looked pretty road-weary at Cameron on Sunday, wearing down in the second half to a visible extent, and no longer hitting the circus shots they were making in the first half. This game is still a relatively short turnaound, but at least it's at home.
VPI has Collins back now, and remember, this is a team that has lost a busload of nailbiters this season. In their last six, the Hokums are 3-3, with the margins of loss at one, six, and four points. Moreover, as we all noted last weekend, the Convo has a tendency to turn into a museum during game action. Hm - - potential upset for Surly Seth? It wouldn't shock me, although Miami is probably seriously overdue to bounce back from their latest streak, a four-gamer of the L-word variety. Let's go with that.
Miami (FL) 71, Virginia Tech 64.
Miami returns home after a brutal and demoralizing stretch that saw them play the top four teams in the ACC - all nationally ranked - and lost all four by an average of 12.8 points. Visiting Tech comes in having played six straight close games, going 3-3 in that stretch.
At 14-12 and 6-7, Miami could still delude themselves into thinking that they have a chance at the NCAAs (heck, they could even be right). They close the season with three straight conference games - all winnable - which would send them into the ACC Tournament at 17-12 and 9-7. Wins on Thursday and Friday would give them a respectable resume at 19-13, with five wins in six games to close out the season.
Tech doesn't have much to play for, other than they need two more wins to assure themselves of finishing at .500 on the season, and possibly getting a trip to the NIT. Determining the value of the NIT as a motivator is left as an exercise for the reader.
Despite their recent slide, I still think Miami has the better team, though I do have to give grudging credit to the Sethster for keeping his team together even when the season went horribly awry. If this game was being played in Blacksburg, I'd probably go with the Chokies, but since it's not, I won't.
Miami 74, Virginia Tech 72.
#1 DUKE (25-1, 13-0) @ GEORGIA TECH (10-14, 3-10)
I can't overstate how fantastic it was to see J.J. Redick become Duke's all-time leading scorer in person. And, of course, on a three-point shot - - which was a whole lot better than if he had set the mark at the line. With the possible exception of UNC-CH games, I have never heard Cameron so loud as it was after J.J. canned the shot; that was pretty seriously impressive. Even more impressive: the record. As I said before, I looked at that pretty carefully prior to the season and concluded that J.J. really had a pretty distant shot at it, and that it would be broken, if at all, in the hoped-for later stages of the NCAA Tournament. February 19? Not so much with that guess. What a season.
J.J. is now shooting a amazing 51.3/88.4/44.8%. I'm hoping he clears 90% at the line for the year, and that three-point percentage would be nice to see in the NCAA Tournament. Interestingly, while everyone thinks that J.J. collapsed in the NCAAs for three straight years, actually, he started having shooting troubles after roughly the ACC halfway point each time. Not so this year, to put it mildly, which augurs well for the tourney. In fact, he's gotten stronger and more accurate as this season has marched on, and he's playing fewer minutes than in 2004-2005, at least fractionally. What a fantastic player, and a worthy successor to Johnny Dawkins. I have a feeling that J.J.'s record will stand for a long, long time. Next up: Dickie Hemric. Incidentally, J.J. had a busy week, didn't he? All-time NCAA made three-point field goal leader on Tuesday, all-time Duke leading scorer on Sunday. I imagine that his POW selection was one of the easier tasks in recent ACC history.
As for the other members of the team, the defensive rebounding wasn't there in the first half on Sunday night, but it materialized in the second, and Shelden and Josh finished with strong boarding totals, augmented in Shelden's case by a nice scoring night. I assume that K has given Josh some sort of green light from the arc, and that's a highly clever strategy. DeMarcus had a strong game, and one of his assists was a pass to J.J. for the record - - for the second time that week (he also passed it off when J.J. moved ahead of Staples). Dockery looked good. It's become fashionable to rip Melchionni, but he hit a nice three that was a big basket, bounded well and didn't turn the ball over. Paulus had a lost effort, but it didn't make a difference in the final result.
Duke is now third in FG%, fourth in FT%, and fifth in 3PFG% in Division I. Those totals do not fail to astound me upon repeated viewings. And yes, we're still ahead of the Fighting Camels (as opposed to the Mediating Camels, or the Truce-Calling Camels) of Buies Creek for the DI scoring lead.
Just a note about that free-throw shooting mark: whereas it's common for teams to slack off at the stripe as the days wear on, Duke has rocketed up the charts instead. And my suspicion, express to Al White at Cameron on Sunday, that Shelden and Josh are shooting nearly 80% at the line in ACC play was (remarkably!) correct: Shelden is at 79.2% in league action, while McBobs checks in at 78.4%. The team? 80.4% in conference play.
The BugThugs are really not a threat, because they match up very poorly with Duke. They do have some size, so I'd expect a relatively close first half with some tip-ins and other nonsense for the Jerkets, but the Ambercoats have trouble stopping anyone on the perimeter, and their rebounding margin in league play isn't too wide, which minimizes a traditional Duke disadvantage. Then there's that ballhandling - - was that the sound of a pass being airmailed into the stands?
If Duke does not take this game seriously, they could drop it, but I think that's unlikely. The chief danger is making sure everyone is okay after the first of the two games in Goon Week. As I'll mention later in the week, I'm not sure I'd even play Redick against the Ancient Thug and his hoods.
Duke 87, Georgia Tech 73.
Now that J.J. Redick has passed Johnny Dawkins to become the leading scorer in Duke basketball history, a scoring record that stood for roughly 20 years (and one that may never be surpassed - how long do you think it will be until a scorer like Redick will come along and stay in school long enough to rack up nearly 3,000 points?). Next up for J.J. is the ACC career scoring mark, which has been held by Wake Forest's Dickie Hemric for over 50 years.
Here's an interesting bit of trivia that I just learned about. I'd always thought that Hemric's mark was all the more remarkable because he played back in the days of freshmen ineligibility, so he set it in just three seasons. I was mistaken. It turns out that there was a brief period because of the Korean War draft that the NCAA allowed freshmen to be eligible, and Hemric came along at the right time to take advantage of that - so he actually played four seasons (two of them, in fact, in the Southern Conference - the ACC was actually formed while he was a player, so only his last two seasons were actually played in the ACC). So part of the reason that his scoring mark stood for so long is that for decades other players only had three seasons to try to accomplish what Hemric did in four.
That said, freshmen have been eligibile since 1973, and only a couple of players (Johnny Dawkins and Rodney Monroe, and now Redick) since then have even approached his record. So be sure to enjoy watching this while it lasts, because we're seeing legendary feats being accomplished before our eyes.
Incidentally, on a team note, with their win over Miami, Duke clinched at least a share of the mythical ACC regular season title for the season. Unless I'm mistaken (and I often am), that means Duke has won either the ACC regular season or Tournament titles (and often both) for ten straight seasons. Like Redick's accomplishments, that is something that I don't know if we'll ever see done again.
Anyway, Duke travels to Atlanta on Wednesday night for the first of what is likely to be two trips to the unofficial capital of the South this season. This time they'll be taking on Georgia Tech, and hopefully return in a month for the NCAA regionals (I say hopefully, because I've just made my travel plans to be there). The Devils have been cruising lately - after an exhausting stretch that saw them gutting out close games, Duke has seemingly found its second wind, and has defeated their last three opponents by an average of 17.3 points. Tech, on the other hand, has won just once in their last eleven games (a 71-68 home win over lethargic NC State). Only four of those eleven games were played at the Arena Formerly Known as the McDonald's Dome. This will be their first home game in 10 days, since that win over State, and is the only time Duke and Tech will play this season.
So, is there any chance Duke could lose this game? Oh, certainly. But it's not very likely. Duke should be relatively fresh, having played their last two games at home (this is the beginning of a three-game road swing for the Devils, before they return home for the season finale with UNC-CH). A concern has to be keeping everyone healthy for the stretch run, given that Duke will be facing the BugThugs in this one and John Chaney's goon squad at Temple in their next game. A win would be nice, and a win where no one winds up getting decapitated by Hewitt's hackers would be the ideal outcome.
Duke 85, Georgia Tech 68.
MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK (16-9, 6-6) @ FLORIDA STATE (16-7, 6-6)
Whoops - - this game is the dog of the week. Maryland has quit on Sweaty, that master motivator, and as Rob discusses below, they're not going to make the NCAA Tournament; in fact, only the top four teams from the ACC are - - Florida State is the only other one that has a chance to break into the Sizeable Salsa. In fact, I'd also be tempted to put Virginia's chances above Maryland's, given the Cravs' upset over the Sugar Plums on Tuesday night. Maryland has no quality wins to speak of, really, and they can't do squat on the road except emit fluid. Perspiration!! Perspiration. Come on, now. Longwood has still not joined the ACC.
Florida State 89, Maryland, College Park 81.
Maryland and FSU will meet for the first time since 2004 (seriously! Thanks, Swofford!) in the TLC^23 in a game with serious implications for NIT seeding. As things continue to shake out, it looks more and more like the ACC will be sending just four teams to the NCAA Tournament this season, with Maryland and Florida State still theoretically in contention for a fifth spot, which neither will get (hey, predicting the future - badly - is what this web site is all about!). In truth, neither of these teams is going to finish with the RPI or other "soft factors" that would merit their inclusion. Maryland's season has essentially gone into a death spiral since Chris McCray took his textbooks to the Polish League, and Florida State doesn't have a single impressive win this season (though they do have Duke coming to Tallahassee next week). They're both two games behind BC and UNC-CH in the loss column as far as the ACC standings go, and failing to get into the top four seeds would mean that either would have to run the impossible gauntlet of winning four games in four days at the ACC Tournament to steal an automatic bid. That's not going to happen.
So which of these mediocre teams is going to come out on top in this one? Well, given that the Terps have won just once on the road in ACC play this season - against even-more-awful Georgia Tech - I'm not optimistic about their chances here. Look for the Noles to get their seventh ACC win.
FSU 80, Maryland 73.
#21 NORTH CAROLINA-CHAPEL HILL (17-6, 8-4) @ #15 NORTH CAROLINA STATE (21-5, 10-3)
Well, I don't think it's quite as crazy as my partner does to believe that NCSU has a chance in this game. But here's the problem - - the lack of Coach Evtimov on the floor. Consultant Herb was being pretty cagey about that as late as today, so I'm assuming he won't play, and one thing about the INCREDIBLE MODIFIED PRINCETON OFFENSE is that it's not easy to pick up, so if you lose a key cog - - especially the player-coach - - it's devastating. I understand that the Hokoids have come back a bit and are playing better basketball, but State really should have beaten them by more than six, even in Blacskburg. (And in fairness - - Duke should have beaten VPI by more than one point in Durham.) Add in the Tools' 5-1 road record, and I think this will be a tough game for NCSU to win. They can do it, even without Alien Vasectimov, but it won't be easy, and I'm certainly not going to risk a pick over it. But I always root hard for the Pack in these silly affairs.
North Carolina-Chapel Hill 79, North Carolina State 76.
Just for fun, I looked up UNC-CH's free throw differential over the last couple of games. UNC-CH 30 FTA, Wake Forest 10 FTA. UNC-CH 35 FTA, Georgia Tech 19 FTA. The Tech game is interesting because not only did UNC-CH shoot 16 more free throws than Tech, but Tech was called for 31 personal fouls to just 16 for UNC. All-NBA Tyler "Hopalong" Hansbrough shot 19 free throws alone, while the man responsible for "guarding" him collected 4 fouls in just 17 minutes, one of four Tech players to finish with four fouls.
Conspiracy! Suspend the referees!
Anyway, let's talk about Hopalong for a minute. Since the kid already has NBA moves (travelling is never called in "The League" either), and given that this is going to be an abnormally weak draft class (the high schoolers who would normally jump straight to the NBA have to wait an extra year, so guys like Greg Oden and several UNC signees who aren't going to college for an education won't be in the draft until next year), Hansbrough would be crazy to come back for a second season in the baby blue. This year he's had to be "the man" for UNC because they don't have anyone else who can score. Next year he will have to share the shots with several other scorers, so his draft stock is unlikely to get any higher, plus big men like Oden will jump ahead of him. If he stays, he'll cost himself big money. Back in the Dean Smith era, El Deano would have certainly advised Hansbrough that he needs to go pro after this season, but it's unlikely that Ol' Roy has the gumption to tell him the same thing.
Despite my impression that the 'Pack has been struggling lately, they've actually won six of their last seven games since the inexplicable meltdown against Seton Hall nearly a month ago. However, all seven of those games were played against the ACC's collection of also-rans, so I don't read much into it.
It's interesting that after UNC-CH beats State (and come on, does anyone think otherwise? It's about as unlikely as Maryland beating Clemson.), there will be a three teams tied in the loss column - State at 10-4, UNC-CH at 9-4, and BC at 9-4 assuming they do in fact beat Virginia. One of those three teams is going to be the unfortunate recipient of the #4 seed at the ACC Tournament, which gets you a presumptive semi-final game against top-ranked Duke. State and BC play their next game against each other, so the loser of that one is in bad shape - but Carolina still has to play at Duke on Senior Day for Redick, Shelden Williams, Sean Dockery, and Lee Melchionni. Lots of intrigue coming down the stretch at the top of the standings!
UNC-CH 78, NC State 70.
Last Edition: Rob 6-0 (1.000) Matt 6-0 (1.000) Guest 2-0 (0.833) This Season: Rob 71-24 (0.747) Matt 67-28 (0.705) Guests 23-16 (0.590) TD in Guest Editions 46-28 (0.622)