Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wake could be headed toward 0-16

Wake Forest bottomed out in the ACC Tournament again last year and then in the NCAAs, prompting athletics director Ron Wellman to fire Dino Gaudio and hire Jeff Bzdelik. Given Wellman’s brilliant hiring record, it was easy to assume he saw much beyond the 36-58 record he had as the head coach of Colorado for three years.
Bzdelik did not inherit the ’74 Wolfpack by any means, but the disaster unfolding in Winston-Salem is beyond expectations. Wake fans who saw the team early shook their heads at the talent on the floor, and what has unfolded meets those concerns. The Deacons are now 0-5 in ACC play and 7-13 overall, and the only surprise from their 83-59 loss to Duke Saturday in Winston-Salem is they kept the game as close as they did.
All of this could point to a winless ACC mark for Wake, which has happened only five times in league history. Here are those previous five:
1987: Maryland 0-14, 9-17
1986: Wake Forest 0-14, 8-21
1981: Ga. Tech 0-14, 4-23
1955: Clemson 0-14, 2-21
1954: Clemson 0-14, 5-18
Note team has ever gone 0-16 in conference play, which Wake has a shot at this season.
The question has been raised as to whether Wake could be the worst team ever in the ACC, and the answer to that is a definitive no. Clemson’s lousy records in the league’s early years speak for themselves, and the ’55 squad allowed 73.7 points per game and allowed 93.3. The 1981 Tech team was truly terrible at a time when the league featured giants at UNC and Virginia. Tech scored 55.7 points and allowed 71.5 in an era in which teams often slowed the pace.
The view here is Wake Forest’s Wellman remains the best athletics director in the ACC, and his ability to turn around the football program and develop nonrevenue sports is remarkable. But Wellman rushed the decision to hire Gaudio after the death of Skip Prosser, and so far, the hiring of Bzdelik is off to an ominous start.

Olympic skating champ Lysacek in Greensboro Jan. 30

2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek will participate in the Smucker's Skating Spectacular held on the final Sunday of the 2011 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. The Spectacular will be taped on Sunday, Jan. 30 for broadcast on NBC Saturday, Feb. 5 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. ET.

Following the Smucker's Skating Spectacular, ticket holders will be invited to remain in the arena for the taping of two uniquely choreographed performances that will be broadcast as part of the U.S. Figure Skating event RISE, on February 17. Randy Gardner, 1979 World pairs champion and choreographer on the television show "Skating with Celebrities," will choreograph both special skating pieces for RISE, including the exhibition by Lysacek.

As an official spokesperson for RISE, Lysacek will be in Greensboro during the Championships to promote the February 17 event by skating in the Spectacular and filming his RISE exhibition performance.

Tickets for the 2011 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships All-Event, Weekend, Matinee and Evening ticket packages, as well as single-session and Smucker's Skating Spectacular tickets are on sale. To purchase tickets, visit http://www.northcarolina2011.com/all-event-tickets.html.

The event starts today and runs through Jan. 30. There are free practice sessions available to the public as well as tickets starting as low as $10. The U.S. women's, mens, pairs and ice dancing champions will determined during the event.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Duke, N.C. State are two teams heading different directions

N.C. State and Duke were two teams going in separate directions Wednesday at the RBC Center, as the Blue Devils rolled to a 92-78 victory over a Wolfpack team that still struggles to play defense.

Duke's depth was evident, and the play of sophomore Andre Dawkins was particularly impressive. Dawkins skipped his senior year of high school to enroll a year early last season after Gerald Henderson left for the pros, but he had little impact on the championship year as Duke favored a big lineup. Dawkins averaged just 4.4 points and with Kyrie Irving coming in and Seth Curry eligible, you expected him to get swept aside this season.

Instead, he appears to be solidifying a spot in the starting rotation as Curry's defensive woes are highlighted in the rugged conference play. Dawkins played 23 minutes and scored eight points at the RBC Center, and as you watched the game, he clearly seemed comfortable on the court. Irving's situation is hard to predict - and you can't blame his family for being cautious with an NBA future ahead - and so there are minutes to be had in the backcourt. Dawkins looks like he can hold the job, and that gives Duke real depth there with Curry available for sharp-shooting duties.

Last year, Duke used its loss at N.C. State to redefine itself and become a halfcourt, grind-it-out team. This year, the Devils are heading toward more balance as players like Dawkins exert themselves.

N.C. State is spiraling down a different path. Losing to Duke is no reason for shame, but the Wolfpack now faces a huge game Sunday at the RBC Center against Miami. The Hurricanes are 12-5 overall and 1-2 in the league and a team State should beat. But the Pack can't take anything for granted.

"There are still a lot of games left," coach Sidney Lowe said after the game, according to The News & Observer. "But we need a run. We need a nice run. It's not a panic situation. But too many of those [losses], and yeah, it will be."

Games at Clemson and UNC follow the Miami game, and State's 11-7, 1-3 record could soon take a beating.

All it takes against Duke is to have three bad minutes

One can make the argument that Duke's game at N.C. State tonight was won (or lost, depending on how you look at it) during a three-minute period of the first half.

With Duke leading just 16-14, the Devils went on a 16-4 run in just under three minutes, starting with an Andre Dawkins bucket at the 11:09 mark and ending with a three-point shot by Tyler Thornton with 8:15 left in the half.

State went from just two down to 14 down at 32-18, the same margin of defeat - 92-78.

The Wolfpack really played the Devils evenly in the second half, in fact each team scored 50 points. What a game it would have been had State played the first half the same way - or at least those three minutes.


ECU football coach makes statement about his health

East Carolina University football coach Ruffin McNeill had weight reduction surgery last week in advance of a hip surgery later this year. He released a statement today:

"I am appreciative and deeply touched by the caring support so many have extended to me as I work through another one of life's journeys. My first priority is to regain an active lifestyle that will not only benefit myself physically, but put me in a position to provide uninterrupted leadership to our football program and service to East Carolina University.

"It is a blessing to be under the best of care by two of the finest doctors in the country, who have implemented a team approach to allow me to reach these goals. The first step was to address the strain I was putting on my body and I am pleased to announce I am successfully in the recovery phase of bariatric surgery last Thursday (Jan. 13). It is our plan that this procedure will precede hip replacement surgery later in the spring that will allow the pain-free mobility I have longed for over the last few years.

"While I understand the process has only started, my commitment to get back in the weight room and resume a daily workout routine runs deep. My wife Erlene, my daughters, our football team and the Pirate Nation has and continues to serve as an inspiration for me."

Roy Williams not happy with effort, being questioned by fans

Roy Williams used the postgame news conference Tuesday to rip Carolina fans who asked questions about the team. And he used his radio show Monday to rip his players, who he feels doesn’t hustle as much as he would like.

Williams, no question, is a demanding coach with a strong sense of what he wants from his program. But there is little question the team didn’t perform well at Georgia Tech Sunday, and when you read the quotes from the radio program on InsideCarolina.com, it’s jarring how sharp Williams is in his criticism.

When a caller asked about defending shooters and said, “It’s painful watching those guys hit wide open 3-pointers,” Williams shot back, “You think it’s painful for you? What the [heck] do you think about our staff? We don’t enjoy that stuff, either.”

And in discussing the nature of today’s athletes, Williams made a long, and interesting, point.

"And you know the old stories about people shoveling snow so that they could play on an asphalt court? I did that. You’ve heard the story – I used to break into the gym so much and the policeman got so concerned that I was going to break my neck, he got the principal to give me the dadgum key. I get frustrated when I feel like my team doesn’t invest enough or cares about it enough or loses itself in the team,” he said, according to the InsideCarolina.com transcript. "And in today’s culture, it’s hard. I’ve got half of the guys on my team that their mom and dad and their friends and everything think that they’re going to make $88 million. They could give a flip whether we win a game or not. They want their guy to get 37 shots and play 50 minutes in a 40-minute game. The culture is hard on kids nowadays, and I understand that, but it makes coaching harder…

"It’s something that I’ve told many teams – if you cared one-tenth about it as much as I do, [gosh] it would be a lot of fun.”

After the Clemson win, he was still miffed about those radio questions.

"My radio call in show last night stunk," Williams told reporters. "Everybody's talking about there being Carolina fans for nine million years and how bad we were. I don’t give a damn how long they've been Carolina fans. …"So don’t call me next week saying how good we are. Keep your damn phone calls to yourself.”

Needless to say, we can’t wait for next week’s radio show. But all those comments continue a trend in which Williams is rarely wrong. Fans are wrong to question the program … players don’t show the hustle of the past.

This prompted Mark Armstrong of WTVD to make a smart comment on his Twitter account: “The meta-question re Roy's annoyance is whether it drives him into early retirement. Wonder if he's getting much joy out of his job.”

Interesting point. But regardless of what fans say on call-in shows - and the view here is fans have a right to their opinion - is the coaches are ultimately responsible for how their teams perform.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

After Tigers go to 0-55 in Chapel Hill, UNC coach defends his team against critics

UNC coach Roy Williams was a little salty after his team's 75-65 victory at home over Clemson.

He was happy with his team - and why not, they clamped down on defense and held a good Clemson team to 35 percent and the Heels outscored the Tigers 12-2 over the last five minutes to make Clemson zero for 55 in Chapel Hill.

But Williams was salty because he got an earful from Carolina fans on his Monday night radio show about Sunday's lackluster performance at Georgia Tech. "Don't call me next week and tell me how good we are," he said speaking in general to Carolina fans. "Keep your damn phone calls to yourself."

Williams said he had great restraint during the radio show but after his team played well over Clemson, he evidently couldn't hold it in any longer.

It's good to see Williams defensive in support of his team. However, that was a sorry effort in Atlanta - so sorry that longtime Carolina fans had never seen anything like it. And they said so but Williams said he didn't care how long people have been Carolina fans, that these are 18, 19 and 20 year old kids.

Williams did say that his team was more enthusiastic and aggressive than it had been in any ACC game so far over 40 minutes. "Our defensive intensity in the first half set the tone," Williams said.

Reggie Bullock's three triples and 16 points in the first half helped the Heels to a 46-38 halftime edge. The game was tied, however, with five minutes to go before the 12-2 final run.

For more on the Clemson game, please click here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Heels suffer embarrassing loss at Georgia Tech

North Carolina's 78-58 loss at Georgia Tech is truly embarrassing. The Yellow Jackets have struggled all year, losing by 25 to Carolina's next opponent Clemson just a few days ago and starting the season with a 17-point loss to Kennesaw State, a Division II team.

In addition, the Tar Heels had about 40-45 percent of the fans in the stands at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta yet played uninspired, careless basketball.

UNC had been living on the edge with close victories after falling behind. But the team showed no heart and just kinda faded away in this one.

The starters were particularly inept as UNC coach Roy Williams removed them on several occasions. At one point of the first half, the Carolina starters had been outscored 22-4.

Larry Drew II, playing before his father and other friends and relatives, had no points and two assists in 21 minutes of play.

"We stunk," UNC coach Roy Williams said bluntly. "The coaching stunk and we stunk."

The loss was historic in some ways. Carolina shot its poorest field goal percentage since 1955 at less than 28 percent and scored its fewest points during the Roy Williams era.

For more on the Georgia Tech game, please click here.