• Virginia point guard Majestic Mapp have a season where he is strong and healthy and give fans at least a glimpse of what they would have seen if his knee wasn't held together with duct tape and bailing wire.
• Fans fill up the Leon County-Tallahassee Civic Center to support the Seminoles and the program that Leonard Hamilton is building practically from the ground up.
• Miami and Virginia Tech bring in quality recruits to reduce their chances of being embarrassed when they begin ACC competition next season.
• The schools in the Big East, particularly Connecticut, grow up and quit trying to reverse the course of events through litigation. In regards to their losing three members to the ACC, the horse is already out of the barn, so don't try to get a judge to order it back in or pay damages. Move on and go raid another conference. Oh wait a minute; I guess they've already done that.
• The middle of the pack in the ACC earn NCAA bids and return the conference back to where five or six teams in the tournament is the norm, even without the inflated win totals that will result from Miami and Virginia Tech entering the league next season.
• The rash of early season injuries abate, allowing the conference standings to be determined by which players are on the court, not by of which ones are unable to play.
• ACC fans savor this final season of the conference as we have known it.
• Roy Williams manage to avoid public crying for the entire season.
• Gary Williams make it through another year without his head exploding during a game.
• Wake Forest fans realize that the most important event in their program's history since Tim Duncan signing was the day Skip Prosser said no to Pittsburgh.
• Duke's Shavlik Randolph stay healthy so we can all find out just how good he is.
• Clemson fans show patience and support for new coach Oliver Purnell while he rebuilds the Tigers' basketball program.
• How many three-pointers will be shot when NC State and Georgia Tech play each other. With no established low-post presence and gifted perimeter players, it should be bombs away when these two teams get together.
Finally, after all the news that has been made off the court the last few months, I would love to just focus on writing about the events on the basketball court this season.
The Big East gets bigger (and better?)
The Big East (now known in this column as the Enormous East--give me a break, 16 teams!) has made it's anticipated moves, adding Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul, and South Florida to replace Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. Columnists around the country are jumping on the bandwagon of Enormous East superiority. In the immortal words of announcer Keith Jackson, woooaaa Nellie!
True, the new Enormous East has six teams in the current preseason Coaches' Top 25 vs. four from the new ACC. That equates to 37.5% of Enormous East members vs. 33.3% of ACC schools, hardly an overwhelming advantage. Also not being addressed is the question of how the smaller Catholic schools like Georgetown, Seton Hall, and St. John's will be able to compete in this new configuration. I think we will find that the answer is not very well.
A case can be made that the Enormous East has more quality teams than the ACC, but they should; they have more schools! Does that make it a better conference? Not necessarily. Those Cincinnati-Seton Hall and Louisville-Providence mid-season contests won't exactly have the nation buzzing. How will these new schools even develop rivalries when it's not even certain they will play each other? With 16 teams, there is no way all of them can participate in the conference tournament, causing even more drifting and less bonding between league members.
Columnists like Laura Vescey of the Baltimore Sun, who wrote on Thursday "The ACC is now a second-class conference to the Big East for Division I basketball" and, "Tobacco Road is as dead as chest passes and the four corners offense" need to get a grip. Vescey and others like her should stick to writing about baseball or pro football and leave the analysis of college sports to those who follow it on a regular basis. Anyone who calls the ACC a second-class conference in basketball, even with a watered down lineup, is obviously out of his or her depth.
Question for the jury: Do you think the ACC will play second fiddle to the Enormous East? Should ACC schools be worried about that conference's additions? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regarding my last question, several readers let me know that they thought I underrated University Hall at Virginia. That will be a moot point when they move into their new arena in 2006.
David Noel, a key frontcourt reserve for North Carolina, tore a ligament in his right thumb on Tuesday that will require surgery. Noel is expected to be out 6-8 weeks. With depth already a question mark, the Tar Heels' bench just got a lot thinner.
Wake Forest guard Taron Downey underwent emergency appendectomy surgery Wednesday. He certainly will not play in the Deacons' opener vs. Memphis on November 12, but hopefully will return to action shortly after that.
It was EA Sports week in North Carolina this week, as the traveling EA Sports squad lost exhibition games to Wake Forest, NC State, and Duke.
Wake dominated the first half of their 100-80 win. The Deacons held a 52-31 advantage at the break, led by Justin Gray's 17 points in the first half. Wake controlled the boards by a 50-30 margin and overcame 26 turnovers.
EA Sports put a scare into NC State, making their first 14 shots en route to a 29-19 first half lead. The Wolfpack turned up the defensive pressure to take a 41-36 halftime lead and won going away 81-67. State was led by Julius Hodge with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Ilian Evtimov, coming back from knee surgery, added 7 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals.
Duke also had turnover issues, totaling 24 for the game, but still won easily, 105-74. Daniel Ewing came off the bench to lead the Blue Devils with 23 points. Chris Duhon overcame a shaky first half to finish with 11 points and 10 assists.
The ACC won one and lost one in the recruiting wars this week. Two top ten recruits made their choice of schools known, Rudy Gay, a 6'8" swingman from Baltimore, and Shaun Livingston, a 6'7" point guard from Peoria, Illinois. Gay spurned Maryland and chose Connecticut, while Livingston picked Duke over Arizona and Illinois.
Livingston is an unusual player for Coach K to recruit. His point guards have been smaller, more traditional style players like Bobby Hurley and Chris Duhon. At 6'7", Livingston should cause matchup nightmares for ACC coaches during the 1-2 years he is likely to play for the Blue Devils before turning pro.
Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at email@example.com. Please let me know where you read my column when you contact me.
Next time, I'll give you my predictions for the season. Until then, court is adjourned!