State Looks Great
With two senior guards leading the Pack, North Carolina State is on its way to its first NCAA Tournament since 1991.
“Anthony Grundy and Archie Miller are certainly not only providing us with outstanding play, but more importantly just great leadership,” NC State coach Herb Sendek said of his senior guards. “We all get excited about the young freshman we have, but there’s nothing like seniors.”
The dynamic duo is combining for 25 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists per game this season. Grundy is performing so well that he has a good chance of leading the Wolfpack in points, rebounds and assists. The latest ACC Player of the Week leads the team in all three categories. Miller is playing his best basketball despite not being able to practice because of edema in his left leg, a condition that could have led to a stress fracture in the bone. After not practicing for most of the month of January, the point guard’s leg now feels better and he is practicing again.
Opposing coaches are taking note of the stellar play of the senior pair.
“I think Grundy and Miller have done a great job throughout the season,” UNC coach Matt Doherty said after NC State beat the Tar Heels for the first time in four years. “They provide so much more than just points. You watch closely and you see Archie Miller talking during every dead ball. He’s a coach on the floor.”
Sendek has also earned praise for the way he persevered during the down years and into the good times that lie ahead for the Wolfpack. His team compiled a very impressive 6-2 record in January, with three of its wins coming on the road against ACC teams. Time away from Raleigh has been very successful for NC State, as the school has already won its most road games since 1990-1991, winning five of six road contests.
The next four games may determine whether the Wolfpack are able to advance to the field of 65. Three of State’s next four opponents are ranked (at Maryland, Virginia, at Duke) and the team will have to beat these teams without forward Levi Watkins, who is out for the year after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee.
Carolina Blue Sky
In the early 1980’s, Michael Ray Richardson of the Nets said this famous quote when asked about his struggling team: “The ship be sinking.” When asked “how far can it go?”, he had another creative response: “The sky’s the limit.”
Second-year North Carolina coach Matt Doherty has to be muttering the same words to himself in recent days. His Tar Heels are 6-13 overall and 2-7 in the ACC, perhaps on their way to the worst season in Carolina history. It cannot get much worse for the 39-year-old coach and his team. His hair is quickly turning whiter and whiter as the pressure to win in Chapel Hill intensifies after each unusual loss.
To make matters worse, the other two schools in the Triangle area in North Carolina – NC State and Duke – are both having fabulous seasons. NC State is on the verge of advancing to its first NCAA Tournament in 11 years and Duke has only lost once and seems to be destined to win its second consecutive title.
Fortunately for UNC, five top recruits are coming to Chapel Hill next season. Three of the prospects – Sean May, Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton – are in the top ten, according to many recruiting experts. Also, Carolina filled its big man void by recently snatching up 7-foot-1 Damion Grant. The 245-pound Jamaica-native has only been playing basketball for a few years since moving to New Hampshire, meaning that he is very raw, especially on the offensive end.
Blazin’ Blue Devils
Clark Kellogg, one of the best college basketball analysts around, has coined the term “spurtability” to describe a team that goes on many, quick runs. Duke is the perfect definition of a team with “spurtability”. As seen at Cameron recently against top 25 ACC opponents Maryland, Wake Forest and Virginia, the Blue Devils are able to put away opponents quickly and seemingly easily.
Against the Terrapins, an early second half spurt led by all-world guard Jason Williams put the vital game out of reach. After 30 lead changes in the first 23 minutes of the game, Williams scored seven points in one minute. His three baskets kick-started a stretch in which Duke scored on eight straight possessions to open the second half. The Blue Devils went on to score 26 of the final 34 points and stomp the Turtles 99-78. The game was seen by many, as it reached nearly three million TV homes, the largest audience ever for a regular-season college basketball game on ESPN.
Two days later, a similar spurt accelerated the top-ranked team past Wake Forest. After the Demon Deacons closed to within three points with a little more than 10 minutes remaining, it was Williams again who opened up the lead for the Blue Devils. The junior point guard started a 16-0 run by scoring on a driving layup that resulted in a three-point play. Later in the surge, Williams made two more layups less than a minute apart and Mike Dunleavy hit a 3-pointer as Duke closed the 103-80 win on a 27-7 run.
First-year Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser had this to say about the Blue Devils: “They are sharks. They see that blood in the water and all it takes is one drop and they’re ravenous.”
Duke’s second-half success continued last Sunday against the Cavaliers. With the score tied at 42 at halftime, the Blue Devils turned it up a notch and came out for the last 20 minutes recharged and refocused. In the opening five minutes of the second stanza, Duke hit seven of its first nine shots and led by 11 with a little more than 15 minutes to play. The Blue Devils hit 19 of 28 field goals in the period (68 percent) and rolled past Virginia 94-81.
The Blue Devils have rebounded from their loss at Florida State by winning eight straight games and have now won 20 games in a season for the 38th time in school history. If Duke’s “spurtability” continues during March Madness, then Coach K and his team should be cutting down the nets again when the calendar turns to April.
After playing half of its ACC schedule, Florida State has already won more total games than it won last season. The Seminoles are 10-10 and 3-6 in the ACC. This follows a miserable season in which Steve Robinson’s team finished 9-21. Although the season probably will not conclude with a postseason appearance, the Seminoles and their fans can be proud about beating Duke and North Carolina in back-to-back home games in early January.
The key player thus far for Florida State has been senior co-captain Delvon Arrington. He is second on the team in scoring with almost 11 points per game. The point guard leads FSU and is third in the conference with 6.95 assists per game. He also leads the Seminoles and ranks fifth in the ACC with 2.11 steals per contest. Arrington has done this while turning over the ball less than four times per game. Without him, it is likely that Florida State would not be having close to the success that it has had so far in this 2001-2002 campaign.
Wake Forest recently announced that backup point guard A.W. Hamilton has transferred to Marshall. The 6-foot-3 Hamilton attended Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy under current Marshall assistant coach Kevin Keatts. He will be eligible to play starting the second semester next season and has two-and-a-half years of eligibility remaining.
Virginia swingman Maurice Young has decided to transfer to St. Bonaventure. Young was selected twice last season as the ACC Rookie of the Week and he averaged 2.6 points, 1.3 rebounds and 6.7 minutes in 25 games as a freshman in 2001. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Young left the Cavaliers in November after seeing limited playing time in their first two games. He will have two seasons of eligibility left when he begins playing for the Bonnies at the end of the next fall semester.