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ACC Notebook

January 28, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

Home Sweet Home

As the nine ACC teams approach the midpoint of conference play, no single team appears ready to dominate the conference. Each team must defend its home court to earn the right to appear in the post-season. Last week’s ten contests proved this point.

The upset of the week occurred Jan. 22, when the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils exited Raleigh with their second consecutive conference loss. The NC State Wolfpack won a crucial game that could send the Pack onto a winning streak that will erase memories of bad losses on the road to Massachusetts and at home to Boston College. Senior guard Clifford Crawford turned in one of his best performances of the season with 21 points, propelling NC State to an 80-71 victory.

A few days later, NC State outlasted its other Triangle rival, North Carolina, 86-77. The resounding statement made by the Wolfpack in these two solid ACC victories is that no team can enter Raleigh and expect to win. Based on the way the NCAA tournament selection committee has acted in recent years, home victories are essential to building a strong resume. Road wins are of an even higher quality, especially in the nation’s top conferences.

And that brings us to No. 13 Maryland and its journey south to face North Carolina and then Clemson. That’s two roads games in hostile arenas, and two great wins to post on an increasingly impressive Terrapin resume. Maryland stormed into Chapel Hill to out-rebound the Tar Heels by ten and out-shoot them by 23 percent. Maryland went ice cold from the floor, though, against Clemson, shooting 34 percent. But they held Clemson to 32 percent and out-rebounded the Tigers by ten, too. And Clemson is no pushover on the boards.

Outside of Maryland’s road success, every other ACC team lost when leaving the security of home. No. 17 Wake Forest traveled to Virginia and lost 85-75, but defeated Florida State at home 71-60. Aforementioned Florida State defeated Clemson in Tallahassee. Georgia Tech waxed Elon University, then received a waxing from an angry bunch of Blue Devils in Durham. The only other non-conference game last week sent Virginia on the road to Virginia Tech. Guess which team won? The home team, 73-55.

So, with this theme in mind, keep an eye on the ACC teams that can post road victories. Each road win over a conference opponent is a piece of the puzzle that could yield an NCAA berth in March.

Putting Virginia Back on the Mapp

Sorry, it’s just too easy. Virginia’s heart and soul resides in one man, junior guard Majestic Mapp. Gradually working his way back into the lineup, Mapp energizes the Cavaliers every time he steps on to the court. Mapp returned from a knee injury that forced him to miss two years. His presence transforms University Hall into a deafening environment. Wake Forest learned first-hand last week that winning at Virginia will not come easy. Mapp played 17 minutes, scored three points and dished out four assists to his teammates. This week Florida State will come to visit Virginia and attempt to keep the crowd out of the game. But with fans willing to roar at the sight of one man doing nothing but stepping onto the court, the Seminoles essentially must ignore the crowd and play their game regardless of the hostile conditions.

ACC Player of the Week

NC State sophomore guard Julius Hodge lit up the North Carolina Tar Heels for a career-high 30 points. Add 18 points from an 80-71 victory over Duke and you have a 24 point per game average. Hodge also contributed 7.5 rebounds and 5 assists to the Wolfpack in two impressive wins.

ACC Rookie of the Week

North Carolina guard Raymond Felton single-handedly kept the Tar Heels close against NC State, scoring 28 points and making 8 of 12 shots from three-point range. For the week, Felton averaged 21 points per game, 5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. The rebounds are perhaps the most significant statistic considering Felton stands 6-0 and still pulled down all those boards. Think UNC misses injured freshman forward Sean May?

ACC Coaches’ Clipboard

North Carolina coach Matt Doherty has the unenviable task of finding a way to stop the bleeding against tough ACC opponents this week. The Tar Heels travel to Georgia Tech Wednesday and host Wake Forest Sunday. Doherty must find a way for his team to score in the paint and to keep opponents from dominating the Heels on the glass.

Game of the Week

The most intriguing game this week features No. 3 Duke against… Butler. It’s a classic battle between the best of a major conference and the best of a mid-major conference. Every year, match-ups like this provide the drama in March that shocks the basketball world. Last year, Kent State rode the mid-major euphoria all the way to the Elite 8. Is Butler for real? A trip to Durham may answer that question.

Other Great Games

Thursday: No. 13 Maryland vs. NC State
Sunday: North Carolina vs. No. 17 Wake Forest


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