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December 1, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

Georgia Tech defies the odds

For the second straight year, an ACC team arrived in New York for the final
two rounds of the Preseason NIT and was expected to fall to greater foes.
But Georgia Tech stormed through the Big Apple, bringing down No. 1
Connecticut and Texas Tech en route to winning the Preseason NIT
championship.

Last season, North Carolina shocked the college basketball prognosticators
by upsetting highly ranked Kansas and Stanford to claim the title. This
year, Georgia Tech, who few expect to finish anywhere near the top of the
ACC, proved the Yellow Jackets are worthy of attention. They can beat
anybody in the country who is not ready to handle Georgia Tech’s swarming
defense.

The Yellow Jackets held Connecticut and Texas Tech to fewer than 70 points
and under 40 percent shooting. Georgia Tech defeated the Huskies 77-61 Nov.
26 then matched that performance with an 85-65 victory against the Red
Raiders Nov. 28.

Against Connecticut, the Huskies never seemed able to establish any type of
offensive rhythm. Preseason All-American Emeka Okafor struggled with back
pain during the game, but nobody else managed to step up for the Huskies. In
the championship game, Texas Tech’s star, senior guard Andre Emmett, lit up
Georgia Tech for 25 points. But the Yellow Jackets prevented any other
player from making a significant contribution.

Offensively, junior forward Isma’il Muhammad had two breakthrough games,
scoring 22 against Connecticut and sixteen against Texas Tech. Muhammad has
been one of Georgia Tech’s best defensive players and athletes with the
ability to dunk over anybody in the ACC. But the knock on Muhammad was that
his offensive talents were limited when opponents force him to shoot farther
than three feet away from the hoop.

Muhammad broke out a much-improved jump shot that defied his scouting report
and caught the Huskies and Red Raiders by surprise. In addition to Muhammad,
sophomore guard Jarrett Jack scored twelve in the first game and seventeen
in the championship. More importantly, Jack proved he may be the ACC’s most
underrated point guard, as he delivered seven assists in each game.

And Jack and Muhammad were not supposed to be the Yellow Jackets’ most
lethal offensive weapons, with junior guard B.J. Elder and senior guard
Marvin Lewis expected to lead the way.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt has the Yellow Jackets playing dominant
defense and has had some pleasant offensive surprises. Combined, the Yellow
Jackets are suddenly playing like one of the nation’s better teams.

The season is long, and Georgia Tech must maintain its defensive pressure
and offensive efficiency to compete for the ACC championship and an NCAA
berth. Wins against Connecticut and Texas Tech are a great start.

Player of the Week:

Isma’il Muhammad, Georgia Tech

Although teammate Jarrett Jack is also well-deserving of this award,
Muhammad delivered with fewer expectations. Muhammad guided Georgia Tech to
the Preseason NIT championship behind his newfound offensive prowess, added
to his documented defensive excellence.

Rookie of the Week:

Gary Forbes, Virginia

In three Cavalier wins against Mount St. Mary’s, Virginia Tech and High
Point, Forbes proved he may be critical in Virginia’s attempt to right the
ship from last season’s swoon. Forbes averaged 15.7 points per game to get
Virginia to 3-0.

ACC Coach Watch:

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

In any sport, there are few more entertaining activities than watching a
master at work. Following Duke’s loss to Purdue in the Great Alaska
Shootout, Krzyzewski must draw up an ingenious remedy to get the offense
going in crunch time. Duke shot only 32 percent in the second half, in which
Purdue outscored Duke 45-29. Every team will have weaknesses to iron out,
perhaps Duke is fortunate to find them sooner rather than later.

Team news:

Clemson (3-0) Last week: 2-0

Seven was the magic number for Clemson this past week, as the Tigers beat
High Point and Wofford by seven. Junior guard Chey Christie led the Tigers
with nineteen points against High Point, while junior forward Sharrod Ford
dominated the boards with eleven rebounds. Against Wofford, Ford and senior
forward Chris Hobbs logged double-doubles as Clemson won 84-77. Ford scored
a game-high 25 points and grabbed twelve rebounds. Hobbs had thirteen points
and also grabbed twelve rebounds.

Fresh off a victory against Duke, Purdue hosts Clemson Dec. 3 in the ACC/Big
Ten challenge. Clemson then hosts in-state rival South Carolina Dec. 6.

No. 2 Duke (3-1) Last week: 2-1

Not many people would have guessed that Duke would be the first ACC team to
lose a game this season. But Duke lost Nov. 29 against Purdue, 78-68, in the
championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout. Duke had defeated Pacific
and Liberty en route to the match up against Purdue. Duke couldn’t stop
senior guard Kenneth Lowe, who finished with 22 points to mark the fall of
another preseason heavyweight.

The schedule does not give the Blue Devils time to lick their wounds because
Duke plays Michigan State in Lansing, Mich., Dec. 3 in the ACC/Big Ten
challenge. Duke returns home to play what has become an annual clash with
St. John’s, which always plays Duke tough.

Florida State (4-0) Last week: 3-0

The Seminoles played Georgetown (Ky.), Nicholls State and South Carolina
State in the span of five days, and Florida State won all three games by an
average of more than 31 points. Senior guard Tim Pickett averaged 15.7
points in the three games. The Seminoles out-rebounded their opponents by at
least six in each game. Florida State held Georgetown and Nicholls State to
36 percent shooting and absolutely smothered South Carolina State, holding
the team to 23 percent shooting from the field.

Florida State continues the rapid fire games this week, playing three more
in six days. The Seminoles play Northwestern Dec. 1 in the ACC/Big Ten
challenge, then Mississippi Dec. 3 and finish the week against Fairleigh
Dickinson Dec. 6.

Georgia Tech (5-0) Last week: 2-0

For the Yellow Jackets, the highlight of last week clearly was claiming the
Preseason NIT championship in New York by beating Connecticut in the
semifinals and Texas Tech in the finals. Georgia Tech looks to build on the
Preseason NIT success by taking on Ohio State Dec. 3 in Columbus, Ohio, in
the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Georgia Tech plays Tennessee State in Atlanta
late in the week.

Maryland (3-0) Last week: 2-0

The Terrapins won two home games last week against George Mason, 79-64, and
Hofstra, 87-72. Senior forward Jamar Smith has emerged as Maryland’s leader
who gets it done at both ends of the floor. Smith averaged fifteen points
and 11.5 rebounds in the two games. A JuCo transfer last season, Smith is
one of the few upperclassmen on a young Terrapin team. Smith does need to
work on free throws – he made only five of ten attempts from the line
against Hofstra, and Maryland figures to be in many close battles this
season.

The young Terrapins will face their first difficult challenge this week in
the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Maryland plays Wisconsin Dec. 2 before the
Terrapins play Gonzaga at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., in the first
game of the BB&T Classic. Maryland will play either George Washington or
West Virginia in the Terrapins’ second game of the tourney.

NC State (3-0) Last week: 2-0

The Wolfpack beat Howard, 71-51, and then destroyed Florida A&M, 92-62.
Junior forward Julius Hodge, despite being the opposition’s focus every
game, turned in solid lines for each game. Hodge scored fifteen, grabbed
eight rebounds and dished seven assists against Howard and followed that
performance with sixteen points, six rebounds and six assists against
Florida A&M.

The Wolfpack’s schedule gets significantly more difficult this week when NC
State takes the road for Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten challenge then hosts
Wisconsin – Milwaukee later in the week.

No. 8 North Carolina (3-0) Last week: 2-0

North Carolina defeated Davidson, 91-68, in Charlotte then struggled to get
past Cleveland State, 82-76, in Cleveland. In both games, junior forward
Jawad Williams stepped up to deliver huge games. Williams averaged 26 points
and nine rebounds in the two victories and saved his best for clutch time in
a close game against Cleveland State. With under two minutes to go, Williams
hit a three-pointer that helped put the game away for the Tar Heels.

An already shallow Tar Heel squad saw junior guard Jackie Manuel leave the
game against Cleveland State when Manuel and sophomore guard Raymond Felton
collided and hit knees. North Carolina is playing without sophomore forward
David Noel, who is out for several more weeks with a hand injury. The Tar
Heels hope Manuel will be ready for games against Illinois Dec. 2 in the
ACC/Big Ten challenge and George Mason later in the week.

Virginia (3-0) Last week: 3-0

Although the Cavaliers were the last ACC team to begin play this season,
they have not disappointed fans this week by winning three games against
Mount St. Mary’s, Virginia Tech and High Point. Starting next season, with
the addition of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC, Virginia
will play Virginia Tech at least once every season in conference play. The
Cavaliers warmed up for playing the Hokies in conference contests by
defeating Virginia Tech 80-65.

Three games into the season, the Cavaliers appear to have one of the
conference’s best freshmen in Gary Forbes. Forbes is the type of swingman
the Cavaliers need to jumpstart their offensive attack. The ACC rookie of
the week will look to continue his hot start this week against Minnesota and
VMI.

Wake Forest (3-0) Last week: 1-0

The Demon Deacons played one game last week and defeated Yale 86-61 in New
Haven, Conn. Junior forward Jamaal Levy led Wake Forest with nineteen points
and seven rebounds. Wake Forest played a balanced game with even
contributions from seven or eight players and strong play at both ends of
the court. Wake Forest plays Indiana Dec. 2 in the ACC/Big Ten challenge
then Richmond later this week.

     

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