Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook
by Michael Protos
Tigers and Deacons Earn Their Props
As the ACC opens its conference season, three teams remain undefeated. Few would be shocked to see No. 4 Duke dominant at the top, especially if you check out most of the cupcake teams the freshmen devoured en route to a 6-0 start. Not as expected, however, are the other two undefeated teams – Clemson and Wake Forest.
The Clemson Tigers are 7-0 with an impressive victory over Cincinnati last Sunday. The same Cincinnati team that embarrassed the No. 3 Oregon Ducks earlier last week. Senior guard Ed Scott drains 47 percent of his three point shots, contributing to his 19.4 points per game. He leads the squad with nearly six assists each game. Clemson has two remaining games in 2002 – home games against Liberty and Coastal Carolina. Odds are the team will be 9-0 heading into a Jan. 5 meeting with the aforementioned undefeated Duke Blue Devils. Clemson versus Duke – an epic battle of unbeatens… sounds too good to be true for Tiger fans.
Meanwhile, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons are building a case to be ranked soon. The team is 6-0 including solid victories over Wisconsin and St. John’s. Both teams had formerly been undefeated before facing the Deacons’ ambush. Like Clemson, Wake Forest features dominant senior leadership in a league filled with many heralded freshmen. Senior forward Josh Howard delivers 16 points and nearly nine rebounds each night. Wake Forest also fields a cast of freshmen who are delivering strong first seasons under the media’s radar, for now. Watch out for freshman guard Justin Gray who leads the team in assists and posted 20 points in the victory at Wisconsin and 17 points against St. John’s.
Florida State Hosts North Carolina in ACC Opener
The Seminoles battled the No. 23 Tar Heels to a 30-30 tie at halftime, but failed to repeat last year’s rare victory over North Carolina. Of course, this team is not last year’s Tar Heel squad. In fact, a second sweep of two games in New York later this week will give the young Heels nine wins, one more than they won all of last year. Sophomore forward Jawad Williams notched 16 points for the second time in a week against Florida State.
Virginia’s Top Senior Misses Billet’s Homecoming Game
Virginia senior forward Travis Watson missed the team’s 61-57 victory at Rutgers Saturday with a sprained right ankle. He leads the team in rebounds with over nine a game. He is second in points only to junior Todd Billet, who transferred from Rutgers. Billet showed his former team what they lost by scoring 22 points to lead the Cavaliers to their sixth victory this season.
Games the ACC Wants to Forget as Quickly as Possible
To maintain journalistic integrity, the ACC’s humiliating moments must be reported with the upstart surprises of Clemson, Wake Forest and North Carolina. Georgia Tech received a wintry welcome from Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last Saturday. The Orangemen spanked the Yellow Jackets from start to finish. Syracuse led 57-25 at the half, extended the lead to as much as 40 in the second half and then coasted to a 92-65 victory. The game was an opportunity to earn Georgia Tech greater respect after last-second defeats to No. 25 Minnesota and Tennessee in recent weeks.
NC State failed its toughest test in the non-conference season. The Wolfpack lost to Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic, named for Jimmy Valvano who led the Pack to a national championship in 1983. Gonzaga overpowered State 69-60 despite junior guard Scooter Sherrill’s season-high 22 points. Like Clemson, NC State must wait until the New Year to play another top tier opponent, when the Wolfpack face Virginia in Raleigh on Jan.5.
ACC Player of the Week:
Clemson senior guard Ed Scott tore apart the competition this week, averaging 22 points, 5.5 rebounds and five assists in two games. The most impressive performance was Scott’s unstoppable play in Clemson’s 58-51 victory over Cincinnati to keep the Tigers undefeated.
ACC Rookie of the Week:
Another undefeated team gives the ACC its top rookie of the past week, and he doesn’t wear a Blue Devil uniform. Center Eric Williams torched South Carolina State and St. John’s and averaged 13.5 points and nine rebounds. Wake Forest’s freshmen do not receive the attention of Chris Bosh, Rashad McCants or Shavlik Randolph, but Williams and company have led the Demon Deacons to a perfect 6-0 start.
Games of the Week:
North Carolina returns to its favorite place this season – New York City. The Tar Heels face Iona in the first game of a four-game tournament and will play the winner of St. John’s and Manhattan.
Other Intriguing Match Ups:
Saturday: Virginia vs. Georgetown
Sunday: No. 24 Maryland vs. Georgia Tech
Sunday: No. 4 Duke vs. Dayton