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The Morning Dish – Monday, February 9, 2015

February 9, 2015 Columns No Comments

If you ever go to the Dean Smith Center at the University of North Carolina, a look up in the rafters will give you an idea of why the building is named after the man. It’s an amazing collection of college basketball history.

Smith passed away late Saturday night at age 83. It came late enough in the evening that word did not get out about it until yesterday morning. And so we begin to remember him, including that like so many legends, he was more than just a coach.

We’ll start with the basketball side: Smith won 879 games, 13 ACC titles, 11 Final Fours and two national championships. He had one losing season and 27 20-win seasons in 36 years at North Carolina and turned them into a national power. That, and many jerseys in the rafters are from players during his time as head coach there.

But there was much more to Smith, and as someone who unfortunately never covered a game he coached, I’ll let others tell the story. For one, even a tough rival coach respected him greatly and showed a lot of concern for him towards the end of his life. Smith also fought for integration, much like his father did, and that went beyond signing one of the first black players at a school south of the Mason-Dixon line. Michael Jordan called him his “second father.” Numerous people involved in the game and of significance released statements about his passing, which tells you all you need to know; you can find many of them right here and much more. Among those who released a statement was Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team had many great battles against Smith’s as that became one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.

Simply put, college basketball – and the world, really – is better because of Dean Smith. And now, we are quite a bit poorer than we were on Saturday afternoon with his passing.

Over the next few days, we will surely see many more great stories come out about Dean Smith, just like those already out there. Sit back and enjoy them, because just like a trip to the arena that bears his name, they will contain some good college basketball history. Our thoughts go out to Dean Smith’s family.


Side Dishes

Rhode Island pulled into a tie atop the Atlantic 10 on Sunday by virtue of their victory at Richmond. With this win, they join VCU at 8-2 in Atlantic 10 play, and they are also trending up while VCU looks like a bit of a question mark. VCU has lots of talent, but Briante Weber is a big loss, and Treveon Graham has missed a couple of games due to an ankle injury he first sustained, ironically enough, at Rhode Island several weeks ago.

Staying in the Atlantic 10, UMass is making it more interesting, as they’re now just a game back after a 66-59 win over La Salle. The Minutemen also look to be trending up, with Donte Clark’s 23 points to lead them on Sunday standing as more evidence, as the freshman continues to play well of late.

The race in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin got a little more interesting on Sunday. Indiana held off Michigan 70-67, then Iowa beat Maryland 71-55 thanks in part to a 40-17 halftime lead. Indiana and Maryland are now 7-4, while Iowa is even in the loss column at 6-4. Ohio State is also 7-4 after a 79-60 win at Rutgers behind a triple-double from D’Angelo Russell (23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists).

Another conference race that got more interesting is the Mountain West, as Boise State beat San Diego State 61-46 to pull within a half game of the Aztecs.

Oregon handled Washington State 95-72 on Sunday without forward Jordan Bell, who they suspended after he was cited for harassment last week. The school released a statement saying that Bell interfered with a university officer who was citing him for a parking violation. The suspension was only for Sunday’s game, so Bell should be back in the lineup when the Ducks travel to USC on Wednesday night.

Staying in the state of Oregon, Oregon State forward Victor Robbins appears to be in more trouble now. Already suspended for ten games for violating athletic department rules, the junior was cited for driving under the influence on Sunday morning. Details appear sketchy right now; of note, Robbins was actually on the bench with the team for some of their 64-50 win over Washington on Sunday, which brings the surprising Beavers to 7-4 in Pac-12 play.


Tonight’s Menu

There are some interesting games on tap this Monday. Once again we also have to keep an eye out for possible issues with games on Tuesday in parts of the northeast as another snowstorm hits.

  • The ACC has a couple of games on tap as Florida State hosts Duke and Virginia Tech hosts Georgia Tech.
  • The Big 12 has a couple of key games as Oklahoma State visits Baylor and Oklahoma hosts Iowa State.
  • A little bit of the logjam atop the Big South will be broken as UNC Asheville travels to Gardner-Webb in a matchup of two of the seven 8-4 teams.
  • Stephen F. Austin tries to keep its winning streak in Southland Conference play going in a trip to Northwestern State, one of the teams chasing them.

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