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Entries in North Carolina (6)


College Football Notebook: Week 1 Review

College Football Notebook

One Great Season

Here are a few takeaways from the first weekend of college football:

+ Don't get me wrong; I absolutely adore the Mark Herzlich story. So great to see the Boston College linebacker suited up and flying around on Saturday. But do you think his story would get as much attention if he was, say, a Miami wideout?

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No. 21: North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina Wide Receiver Greg Little

The One Great Season College Football Countdown continues Friday. We'll be counting down the preseason Top 25 teams in 2010. Today's No. 21 is North Carolina.

One Great Season

Continuity. Consistency. Experience. Whatever you want to call it, North Carolina's got it in 2010.

At least on defense.

That's where six NFL-ready players return from a stellar unit that was among the nation's best in 2009. A total of nine defensive starters return and are expected to dominate the ACC and again be one of the finest in the country.

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No. 8: Georgetown vs. North Carolina, 1982

Fred Brown, John Thompson

Each Monday until the national championship is played in Indianapolis on April 5, One Great Season will count down the Top 10 National Championship games since 1979, when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson squared off in Salt Lake City. In observance of President's Day, OGS took last week off, but today's No. 8 is the 1982 title game between upstart Georgetown and a stacked North Carolina team.

One Great Season

It will forever be remembered by casual sports fans as the game where that one guy threw the ball to the other team.

But those who've followed college basketball closely over the years would say the 1982 national championship game between Georgetown and North Carolina was one of the best in the last 30 years.


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An imposing Georgetown freshman center named Patrick Ewing repeatedly was whistled for goaltending early in the game, but his coach, John Thompson, an intimidator himself, urged Ewing to keep doing it to send a message to the favored Tar Heels.

And eventually, Georgetown found itself in position to win the game until UNC's own rookie sensation, Michael Jordan, swished a baseline jumper with 15 seconds left to give his team a 63-62 lead. When the Hoyas brought the ball up to try to set up a game-winning shot, unpressured guard Fred Brown accidentally threw the ball to North Carolina's James Worthy near midcourt, and Worthy raced the other way until he was fouled with two seconds left.

The win gave legendary coach Dean Smith his first national championship, but Ewing and the Hoyas would play in two more title games in the next three years, winning the 1984 championship over Houston.


Thursday Hoops Notebook: Duke, Syracuse Survive Scares

Syracuse Beats Connecticut

One Great Season

On the surface, two Top 10 teams won a pair of high-profile games against conference rivals on national television Wednesday night.

On talk radio and in the blogosphere, however, Syracuse and Duke are looking like a couple of teams who won't get past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

My dad used to tell me you're only as good as your last game, and I've always agreed with that to an extent. But a team's body of work throughout a season also merits equal consideration.

And that's why two narrow victories over inferior teams five weeks before the tournament even starts shouldn't worry fans of Syracuse or Duke. Teams play more than 30 games every season. What doesn't kill you in one will make you stronger in the next, right? And these are wins we're talking about!

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Bloggers are always looking for an angle they think hasn't been considered -- or at least published -- often times abandoning clear logic for the sake of uniqueness. Being original gets you noticed, but sometimes for the wrong reason.

What gets lost in all the analysis and doom and gloom are these facts: both squads are on top of their leagues, they're riding nice conference winning streaks and have top NCAA tournament seeds well within their grasp. A team couldn't possibly ask for more than that heading down the stretch.

SYRACUSE SIDESTEPS UCONN: The Orange held off a game Connecticut team Wednesday at the Carrier Dome, beating its Big East rival to remain on top of the conference.

Syracuse got balanced scoring en route to the 72-67 win that stretched its best start in school history to 24-1. The Orange are 12-1 in the Big East, a half game ahead of Villanova.

While Syracuse certainly didn't play its best game of the season, at this point, when players are trying to avoid the wall that often approaches in February, even a home win over a struggling UConnn team is a feather in the Orange fedora.

I still think 'Cuse -- with offensive balance; a late-game, go-to guy; a perimeter marksmen; blue-collar interior guys; a cool-under-pressure freshman playing beyond his years and of course that outstanding zone defense -- is a Final Four team.

Duke Beats North Carolina

DEVILS STEP ON HEELS: Neither North Carolina nor Duke did much outstanding, but Dick Vitale described it accurately maybe 10 or 12 minutes in when he said on the ESPN broadcast, "nobody's shooting all that well, but the effort is certainly there."

That was true in the second half of Duke's 64-54 win as well. North Carolina hit some big shots, like Connecticut, to keep it close late in a game with a superior rival, but in the end, it was the more experienced, more poised team that finished.

Just because Duke struggled to beat one team that clearly has many, many shortcomings, that hardly means it's time to hit the panic button. If they're hitting their shots, the Devils are once again a dangerous team for anyone who can't play an up-tempo style.

But since Duke wasn't hitting shots, it was stuck on the 49-point mark with six minutes left in the game. That was probably the biggest surprise to me. I thought the Devils would approach 100, but the low-scoring win was good enough to keep Duke (20-4, 8-2) atop the ACC, a full game ahead of Maryland, which visits Duke on Saturday. That's when we'll get a better idea whether the Devils are a threat to make a deep run in March.

THROW OUT THE CLICHES: It's 2 a.m. ET Thursday and the SportsCenter repeat just began on ESPN.

"You know what they say ... Throw out the record books when Duke and North Carolina get together," is how the anchorman opened the show.
Does anyone really say that? It seems these days that the only people who say that are broadcasters who claim that everyone else says it. But no one I know ever says that in seriousness. They only say that others say it.

BIG TEN, BIG FUN: Since the league's expansion a few years ago, the Big East race seems to be by default the best in the sport.

But I'm really intrigued by what's happening in the Big Ten. Michigan State has lost its three-game grip on first place in the last nine days. The Spartans went from 9-0 in the league to 9-3, and will play with a gimpy Kalin Lucas for the rest of the season. I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty sure Lucas' ankle will not heal by playing on it.

Illinois and Ohio State, meanwhile, we're two of four teams tied for second place last week, and now they're the two teams tied with Michigan State for first place. The Illini pulled off a rare win at Wisconsin Tuesday, and will welcome Ohio State to Assembly Hall on Sunday.

That large game begins a huge stretch for Ohio State, which follows its Illinois visit with a home date against Purdue on Wednesday, then travels to Michigan State on Feb. 20.

Meanwhile, those Boilermakers are lurking just a half game back at 8-3 and Wisconsin is 8-4. One game separates five teams. That will be fun to watch.

Are you following me on Twitter? @onegreatseason | @johnpwise


Rivalry Weak? Duke Should Roll North Carolina

Duke, North Carolina Renew College Basketball's Best Rivalry

One Great Season

Sports fans -- even worse, broadcasters -- love to say you can throw out the record books when "these bitter rivals get together."

They'll tell you it doesn't matter how badly North Carolina might be struggling, that no extra practice or motivational speech is needed for the Tar Heels to get up for a game against rival Duke.

The No. 8 Blue Devils (19-4, 7-2 ACC) make the short bus ride to Chapel Hill to take on UNC (13-10, 2-6) Wednesday night (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) to renew one of the best rivalries in college sports.

YOUR THOUGHTS: Which Rivalry Is Better Than Duke-UNC?

North Carolina is not good. A preseason No. 6 ranking and early wins over Michigan State and Ohio State offered up nothing more than fool's gold. The Tar Heels have long been loaded with McDonald's All-Americans, stacked with talent at every position, particularly in the backcourt in recent years.

But Larry Drew II is not Ty Lawson. Nor is he Raymond Felton. Shoot, he isn't even Ed Cota.

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UNC's problems run far deeper than Drew, but under coach Roy Williams, as the point guard goes, so go the Heels. Ed Davis is a nice interior player, but the supporting cast around these two, while not lacking talent, just isn't even coming close to clicking.

Duke, on the other hand, has been waiting for a game like this against its hated neighbor. I suspect Mike Krzyzewski will keep his foot on the gas once his team earns its first double-digit advantage, which should be about three minutes in. The Devils have lost three straight in this series and six of the last seven meetings, so look for a payback-driven rout.

Annoyingly scrappy John Scheyer (can't wait until next year so we'll never have to see him play basketball ever again) and backcourt mate Nolan Smith average 37 points a game between them. Devils Scheyer, Smith and Kyle Singler are among the top seven scorers in the ACC.

If you scan the league standings, you'll see North Carolina is looking up at nine teams above it. That's usually the case during football season, but when a potent Duke team that has designs on a deep March run gets to visit an inferior North Carolina team in the best rivalry in college basketball, I can't help but think the Devils will want to stick it to the home team.

And that's exactly what will happen at the Dean E. Smith Center Wednesday night, when Duke could very well put up 100 against the NIT-bound Tar Heels.

Are you following me on Twitter? @onegreatseason | @johnpwise


College Basketball Notebook: Tar Heels In Trouble

Roy Williams

One Great Season

With exactly two months left until Selection Sunday, it's about time I start posting on college basketball.

Let's do it in notebook fashion, shall we?

+ Defending champion North Carolina is in trouble this year. The Heels only lost four times last season, but already have five losses this year, three of them by double figures, including last night's 83-64 dismantling at the hands of Clemson.

+ Speaking of Clemson, don't be fooled by the Tigers' 14-3 record. It's not uncommon for them to rush out of the gate, win a bunch of games and even earn a nice national ranking. But once the February doldrums set in, for some reason, Clemson teams are rarely up to the grind and they often flame out.

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+ And speaking of flaming out, has anyone seen Cincinnati the last few games? I used to criticize Bob Huggins' teams for not being mentally strong enough to finish tight games against good teams. Late mental mistakes cost the Bearcats many close ones back then, and that seems to remain the trend under Mick Cronin, now in his fourth year there. But unlike Huggins' teams, Cronin's don't finish seasons well, missing out on the NCAA tournament with weak late-season showings the last two years.

Ashley Judd

+ Just down the road in Lexington, it's great to see John Calipari restore the tradition at Kentucky, but given his track record, you can't help but wonder what kind of trouble looms there. Nonetheless, John Wall isn't just the best freshman in the country; he's the best player. And he and DeMarcus Cousins are the best young tandem in the nation, and with Patrick Patterson manning the post, look for the Wildcats to play deep into March.

+ Back to Huggins ... As much as I wanted him out at Cincinnati long before he was fired, he's like that ex-girlfriend that I just can't get over. If West Virginia is on television, I will almost always watch. I even became a one-and-done Kansas State fan when he had a cup of coffee there. But he's got his Mountaineers playing solid basketball, and I reckon they'll get a nice tournament seed and advance to at least the second weekend.

+ The best game left on the regular-season schedule is a no-brainer. Former No. 1 Kansas visits current No. 1 Texas on Monday, Feb. 8. Each side boasts a core of veterans, a good mix of perimeter and interior players and a star freshman. Kansas' Xavier Henry is a nice scorer with three-point range and a great body for such a young guard. Texas' Avery Bradley is improving on offense, but he's a lockdown perimeter defender and a fierce competitor.

+ Don't sleep on Ohio State. Sure I'm a homer, but the earlier-than-expected return of all-everything star Evan Turner already has paid huge dividends. ET scored 23 of his career-high 32 points in the second half of a huge comeback win at No. 6 Purdue Tuesday. OSU doesn't have a great record (12-5, 2-3), but a road win like that, coupled with a healthy conference player of the  year candidate, can only boost the Buckeyes' confidence.