North Carolina faced its first major-conference opponent on Monday at the Maui Invitational, but you wouldn't have realized it watching the game. The Tar Heels jumped out to an immediate, impenetrable lead and coasted to a cringe-worthy 95-49 victory over Mississippi State.
Prior to this contest, sophomore James Michael McAdoo had been Carolina's star. But after a quick beginning he recognized the Bulldogs' personnel issues — the club has been decimated by injuries — and happily deferred to his teammates. His comrades responded, as the Heels shot a blistering 15-32 on threes.
UNC advances to Tuesday's semifinals, where it will face Butler at 8:00pm EST. Click here to view the box score from MSU.
The ACC last contracted in 1971, when founding member South Carolina left in a dispute over academic standards. Since then, the ACC has only gotten bigger: Georgia Tech joined in 1978, followed by Florida State in 1991, then Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College in 2005.
That last expansion was supposed to secure the league’s future, by allowing for a two-division, twelve team football league with a championship game at season’s end. The traditional home-and-home double round robin in basketball fell by the wayside.
But even that wasn’t enough to assure the ACC’s survival as a top-tier league, in the view of ACC Commissioner John Swofford. In 2011, Pittsburgh and Syracuse were accepted as new members, and just this fall, Notre Dame announced it will join in all sports except football.
Losing Maryland? That idea was surely not part of Swofford’s vision, and on the radar of very few people. Would an original member of the league, with long-standing rivalries with Virginia, North Carolina and Duke, located in the geographic center of the expanded league, really jump ship to play ball against the likes of Iowa and Michigan State?
The idea seemed unthinkable, but not to decision-makers at Maryland, who confirmed the move to the Big Ten today. Maryland will have to pony up a $50 million exit fee to leave the ACC. They will also have to leave behind six decades of history and memories.
As for the final five minutes of the first half, well...
On a night when N.C. State fell by 20 points to unranked Oklahoma State in Puerto Rico, the Blue Devils laid any upset notions to rest in Durham with a dominating 30-0 run. Quinn Cook's three-pointer with 4:54 left in the first half put Duke up for good at 32-30; the next time FGCU scored again, early in the second half, they were down 59-30. Welcome to the big stage, newbies.
The final score was 88-67. The scrappy Panthers hit 11 threes on the night but simply couldn't match up with Duke's 6-10 senior Mason Plumlee, who racked up 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting with nine rebounds.
"They didn't have an answer for Mason inside, so we took advantage of that," Duke coach MIke Krzyzewski acknowledged, noting that he was particularly pleased by Plumlee's "incredibly efficient" 10-of-11 performance from the line.
Teammate Ryan Kelly powered his way to 14 points and nine boards and keyed Duke's game-changing run with a three-point play after rebounding Plumlee's lone free-throw miss. He credited Plumlee's offseason determination to improve upon his career 55.8 percent mark from the line. "People can't foul him now," Kelly said. "That's something he's worked hard on all summer and all fall, and he's showing it now."
Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon also showed his potential to spark the Duke attack, with 19 points including three three-pointers and 6-of-6 from the line. Krzyzewski praised Florida Gulf Coast guard Bernard Thompson, whose 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting (including 6-of-8 from three-point range) were a career high. "They play hard, and they play together," he said of the Panthers. "I would think they'll challenge for their league."
Check the box score here.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke takes the floor for its second game of the season 19 hours after the tipoff of its first game.
The foe is MAAC member Iona, which is 2-1 after losing by nine at a good North Carolina A&T team Friday night. Duke is coming off a 49-point victory over Presbyterian.
The Blue Devils still face injury questions, especially with superstar center Elizabeth Williams who has been recovering from a stress fracture in her right leg since the NCAA Tournament in March. Williams played 11 minutes against the Blue Hose.
Also probably close to recovery is Richa Jackson, who is recovering from a knee injury and warmed up against Presbyterian as well as today.
Again it’s not close, as the Blue Devils roll 100-31 to tie their biggest victory margin since the 117-28 annihilation of N.C. Central on Dec. 28, 2009.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke will open its women’s basketball season a little late, with both of its ACC Triangle rivals already having three games under their belts.
The Blue Hose have already had a nice win this season, prevailing in a 49-46 shocker at Clemson six days ago.
And Duke will be without the services of junior guard Chloe Wells (leg), junior forward Richa Jackson (knee) and redshirt freshman forward Amber Henson (knee) as the Blue Devils look to win their 14th straight home opener.
That happens without much trouble, as the Blue Devils roll 84-45.
N.C. Central is taking on archrival North Carolina A&T in the biggest game of the season for either team. There is no love lost between the MEAC rivals, and both teams come in at 6-4.
A&T is coached by Rod Broadway, the most successful NCCU coach in recent history (33-11 from 2003-06) and likely the only man on the planet who has officially worn the colors of both schools as well as UNC and Duke.
It takes overtime, and the Aggies prevail 22-16 on a day when ineptitude rules on both sides of the ball as well as with the officiating crew.
North Carolina embarked on a western journey that will lead to the Maui Classic next week, and on Friday night the Tar Heels made a pit stop to play a late contest at Long Beach State. After another offensively sluggish first half, they put separation between themselves and the 49ers in the second frame and eventually won 78-63.
Carolina won't replicate last season's big scoring numbers, when the Heels frequently topped 100 points. This year, surpassing the 80-point threshold will be an accomplishment. Roy Williams said in the preseason that his club must shoot accurately from deep to compensate for sub-optimal interior scoring, but through the first three games inconsistency has been the rule. In the second half versus LBSU, at last, UNC converted 7-for-13 on threes.
We'll learn much more about this team next week, when they play three games in three consecutive days against high-major competition. I'll check in next week with a longer column, and in the meantime click here to view the LBSU box score.
UNC, despite all its off-the-field troubles, guaranteed itself a winning season (7-4, 4-3 ACC) to start the Larry Fedora era on the heels of Thursday night’s resounding 37-13 win at Virginia.
The other two local ACC teams are both bowl-bound, while N.C. Central has guaranteed itself a winning season heading into its probable finale tomorrow.
The Eagles (6-4, 5-2 MEAC) have Saturday’s only home game, and will kick off with historic archrival North Carolina A&T (6-4, 4-3) at 2 p.m.
Both ACC games are at 3:30, with Duke (6-4, 3-3) traveling to Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-3) and N.C. State (6-4, 3-3) going to No. 10 Clemson (9-1, 6-1) in the annual Textile Bowl clash. Duke’s game will be shown on ESPNU, while State-Clemson will be on WTVD.
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State plays the third of its four-game stretch at home to open the season, looking to stay perfect and continue building momentum.
The Lancers will have several local connections. Their top assistant coach is former Duke forward Wanisha Smith.
Durham Hillside product Erin Neal is a senior guard for the Lancers, while Clayton High alumna Jessica Parker is a redshirt freshman forward.
The Wolfpack goes over the century mark for the first time in 15 seasons, rolling to a 102-49 rout.
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL UNC tries to take yet another step toward a prestigious early-season title tonight.
UNC won the title in its only other appearance, that coming in 2008. The Tar Heels lead the series with the Hoyas 1-0, but the visitors are familiar with the arena after having won one game before losing to Georgia Tech in the NCAA subregional in March.
Georgetown has a new coach in Keith Brown and an All-America candidate in Sugar Rodgers, who poured in 35 in a six-point second-round win over Delaware.
UNC leads for the final 38 minutes, rolling to a 63-48 victory.