NC STATE FOOTBALL
R. Cory Smith (N&O)
Pack’s Burris eager for first Carolina Showdown
Growing up, it was The Game in a household that bleeds Wolfpack red.
Now, N.C. State redshirt freshman defensive back Juston Burris can’t believe he actually gets to play in it.
“This was the biggest game in my house growing up,” Burris said, breaking into a huge smile. “I have a mom and dad who both went to State and came to those games when we played Carolina 20 or 30 years ago. So I’m proud to be playing in it for the first time as a State player.”
The former Broughton standout learned quickly about the N.C. State-UNC rivalry – and choosing sides – after moving here from Virginia.
“I was born in Virginia, so I was a Cavaliers fan when I was little,” Burris said. “But when we moved here, my mom loved N.C. State and helped me fall in love with them. So playing in Carter-Finley Stadium is basically like living out a dream.”
Wolfpack Aims To Continue Dominating UNC At Line
North Carolina (5-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) knew the line would be a strength with the return of senior guard Jonathan Cooper and junior tackle James Hurst, who had a combined 60 college starts entering the season. The line has allowed just five sacks all year, best in the ACC and eighth nationally in fewest sacks per game (0.63).
N.C. State (5-2, 2-1) leads the league and ranks tied for eighth nationally in sacks, including 10 in the past two wins against Florida State and Maryland. The Wolfpack averages better than three sacks per game.
“Just getting pressure, on the back end it makes our job easier covering (receivers),” Wolfpack safety Earl Wolff said. “With them bringing that pressure, it allows us to try to hold our receivers not as long as we’d need to, which opens up a lot for you. Hopefully we’ll bring that pressure and hopefully that’ll eventually turn into turnovers.”
To listen to UNC’s players, N.C. State also played with more intensity than they did in the past two games. The Tar Heels, who haven’t beaten the Wolfpack since O’Brien took over before the 2007 season, know they’ll have to figure out a way to match it – something they haven’t been able to do so far.
“They’re a well-coached team and they’re going to play hard,” Renner said. “They’ve got the upper hand so we have to try to match their intensity and try to get out early and play a good, clean game. We know what they’re going to bring to the table every time we play them.”
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Mike Glennon knows stakes are high
Glennon and the Wolfpack are aiming for their sixth straight victory over North Carolina at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Chapel Hill. Glennon and the seniors can reinforce their legacy with another strong performance.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be that class, since we’ve been here, that’s all that we know of,” Glennon said. “That’s something we are focusing on. I think people know what is at stake, so it’s not something we talk about. Our senior class wants to keep that streak alive.”
Glennon said the team expects a special visitor Thursday in what has become a tradition of sorts.
“The person that comes in and talks to us is [former Wolfpack great] Tory Holt, and he does a great job with it,” Glennon said. “The freshmen kind of learn quickly when he comes and talks about it. He tells us what is at stake and how important it is to the University, and how much you’ll miss it when you aren’t playing anymore.”
Glennon is from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in Centreville, Va. He has gotten an indoctrination on the NC State/UNC rivalry.
“The reality is that when you come here you learn about it and learn how important it is,” Glennon said. “Not a whole lot needs to be said about it.
“There is a little more buzz around campus and everyone is excited in the whole area. I’m sure UNC students are as excited as us.”
The proximity between the schools, 22.6 miles between the two stadiums, heightens the rivalry.
“I figured when I came down here it was a big rivalry, but didn’t know how much it means to the University,” Glennon said. “It’s a little unique because we are so close to one another. There are so many NC State and UNC alumni that live in this area. For schools like Virginia Tech and Virginia, no alumni really live in the Virginia Tech area. It has a different feel to it and it’s a great rivalry.”
James Henderson (PackPride.com)
O’Brien Talks North Carolina
Sean Fairholm (technicianonline.com)
The numbers behind the streak
14 is the magic number:
During the five-game winning streak, State has forced 14 Carolina turnovers and is a +10 in turnover margin. Perhaps even more impressive than winning the turnover battle in such a decided fashion. The Heels have only converted a combined 14 third down attempts during the five losses. The 21 percent conversion rate has been particularly painful for UNC in the 2007, 2009 and 2010 games, where the Tar Heels went a combined 7-for-39 during narrow losses. Interestingly, they are currently third in the ACC for third down conversion percentage (42.7 percent).
The red steel curtain:
No stat in the past five years has been more eye-popping than Carolina’s inability to run the football coupled with State’s uncharacteristic success rushing the football. In addition to only averaging 44.6 rushing yards per game, UNC has failed to run for more than 12 yards in three of the five match ups. On the other side of the ball, State has effectively slashed through Carolina’s defense for 133.6 rushing yards per game and has only been held to under 100 yards on one occasion. To put this in perspective, UNC has played the conference’s best two teams — Florida State and Virginia Tech — a combined seven times in the past five seasons and Carolina has averaged 163.7 yards per game on the ground while limiting the Seminoles and Hokies to an average of 104.1 rushing yards per game.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Fedora brings fire back to UNC-State rivalry, but it’s execution that wins games
It’s one thing for Fedora’s interim predecessor Everett Withers to take a verbal jab at the Wolfpack’s athletic graduation rate, as he did a year ago.
But when you’re looking to send out a message to a team that has lost five straight to a team to its most hated opponent, nothing says rivalry quite like decorating your team’s locker room decorated from top to bottom in Wolfpack red — as Fedora did Monday.
It was a message his player got loud and clear.
“When I came in, it was all ripped down and in the middle of the floor,” senior guard Jonathan Cooper said Monday. “But I grabbed a few of the things and taped them up in my locker. This game means a lot and I’m excited for it.”
It hasn’t always been that way, of course.
During the four seasons Butch Davis was the Tar Heels coach, N.C. State was considered nothing more than “just another game on the schedule” for the state’s “flagship university.” That ambivalence was a direct contrast to approach taken by the Wolfpack’s Tom O’Brien, and the difference showed on the field.
According to Cooper, a graduate of Wilmington’s Hoggard High, State has been “two times better a team than when they were playing anybody else” whenever they’ve been matched up with UNC.
If that isn’t enough of a lesson on the power of one team “wanting it more” than the other, the Tar Heels need only look back a few days to their loss at Duke for reinforcement.
“You don’t base your entire season on one game, but I also understand the importance of the game because of the rivalry,” the coach said. “…It’s been a one-sided situation for the last five year. It’s something our players are aware of and are fans are very aware of. I think everyone in the program is aware of it and what needs to be done.”
Andrew Jones (FoxSports)
NC State, UNC rivalry to have grittier feel
So do rivalries, and with N.C. State going to Chapel Hill this weekend, it doesn’t get any more intense or hate-filled in the Old North State than when the Tar Heels and Wolfpack get together.
Also factor in the heightened sense of angst by UNC fans toward their red-clad neighbors – thanks to an almost unhealthy obsession with Carolina’s recent NCAA issues – this series should take on a grittier, more compelling tone.
For decades, N.C. State’s supporters have almost dutifully worn large chips on their shoulders with respect to all things North Carolina. But in the last couple of years, as what was once “The Carolina Way” was officially debunked, and UNC was dragged through the local and national mud, NC State fans found a rallying point to unify and stomp on the hated Heels. And as a result, the constant beating has ignited a new-found anti-State passion among the majority of Carolina fans.
That animosity should be on display among the pines at Kenan Stadium this weekend. And quite frankly, this is great for the rivalry.
Carolina folks can’t stand Duke basketball but may be developing the same loathing for N.C. State, especially its football program. Having lost five consecutive games to Tom O’Brien’s Wolfpack has aided in the dislike, and so have some of the spewings from O’Brien’s mouth the last few years.
N.C. State isn’t being dismissed as the insignificant other by UNC anymore. Maybe that’s why first-year Carolina coach Larry Fedora spoke differently about this week’s game than he did last week’s bout at Duke.
“It’s a big rivalry game, obviously,” O’Brien said Monday. “That’s been pointed out to me since the first handshake when I took the job and, again, like I’ve said before it’s what makes college football so great… This is a big game.”
It sure is.
Greg Barnes (InsideCarolina.com)
Winning the point of attack
The stats alone make the 102nd meeting between these programs intriguing. UNC ranks third in the ACC and 21st nationally in scoring offense (39.0 ppg), 29th in rushing offense (206.4 ypg) and eighth nationally in sacks allowed (8 total, 0.6 per game).
N.C. State counters with the 28th-ranked scoring defense (20.1 ppg) and 35th-ranked run defense (127.4 ypg), while leading the ACC in sacks (3.1, 8th nationally) and tackles for loss (8.4, 4th nationally).
For the sake of comparison, North Carolina held a more significant advantage in the statistical rankings prior to last season’s matchup, but those results mirrored the 2010 loss.
In that 29-25 N.C. State victory in 2010, North Carolina was held to minus-seven rushing yards on 26 attempts. Those numbers, of course, were dramatically skewed by seven Wolfpack sacks.
Then-UNC quarterback T.J. Yates, a fifth-year senior, offered a telling comment in the days following that loss: “That’s the most I’ve ever been hit in a football game.”
“I think probably the main thing you look at is to see the intensity level at which they’ll play,” Fedora said. “That’s something that we’ve got to do a good job of – we’ve got to match the intensity level.”
When asked to explain his team’s ability to dominate the line of scrimmage following last season’s victory, former N.C. State linebacker Terrell Manning pointed to preparation and being fired up.
“We’re always ready to play against Carolina,” Manning said.
Compare that approach with Bernard’s postgame comments from the 13-0 loss: “I didn’t feel right going into the game. I felt guys were just joking around and not taking this game seriously. I knew guys were just not really focused in.”
Playmakers, schemes and banter will all factor into the equation of Saturday’s contest. If North Carolina doesn’t match N.C. State’s energy at the line of scrimmage, however, none of those other aspects will matter much.
“Every year since I’ve been here, they always play with a ton of intensity,” Renner said on Monday. “They’re a very well-coached team and they’re going to play hard. They’ve had the upper hand, so we have to try to match their intensity and get out early and try to play a good, clean game.”
Renner summed up the five-game losing streak rather well on Monday.
“We know what they’re going to bring to the table every time we play them, so it kind of just depends on us,” Renner said.
If Fedora’s offense fails to match N.C. State’s physicality and intensity at the line of scrimmage, then its success thus far will be overshadowed by news of a record sixth-straight loss to the Wolfpack.
Greg Barnes (InsideCarolina.com)
Fedora painting rivalry Red
Publicly, Fedora has been subtle in acknowledging the rivalry with N.C. State ever since accepting the North Carolina job last December.
On Apr.25, Fedora assumed he was talking in a private setting at a Ram’s Club booster event in Charlotte when he answered a question about the rivalry by saying the game was 184 days away.
He then added his now infamous remark: “I don’t want to talk about it too much, because I don’t want to legitimize their program.”
On the way to the airport following the event, Fedora check his Twitter feed only to find it overrun by N.C. State fans. He played the politically correct card at his next booster outing, only noting the countdown of days and saying that he had learned his lesson.
Fedora would stress the importance of the rivalry in a different way less than a month later. In a series of hype videos for the upcoming season, the team mascots of every team on the schedule were named in rapid succession all in white lettering, except for one.
There was a “state” in red lettering slotted in between “blue devils” and “yellow jackets.” The implied emphasis promptly became a hit with the Tar Heel fan base.
There’s a fine line with regard to embracing rivalries that is difficult to manage. Place too much emphasis on one game (see former UNC head coach John Bunting) and you can be saddled with inconsistency in other areas of the schedule. Adopt the NFL approach of “all 12 games are equal” (see former UNC head coach Butch Davis) and you can fail to match the intensity level of a hated rival.
Thus far, Fedora is playing his hand just right. He’s providing the proper sound bites while making strong statements with his actions leading up to the first benchmark game of his tenure in Chapel Hill.
Lauren Brownlow (tarheelmonthly.com)
Go Figure: Running on the Pack
The Tar Heels have also struggled with turnovers, committing 14 over the last five games to just four by NC State. The Wolfpack has yet to lose a fumble in the last five years against Carolina, and have gone two full games (2008 and 2009) without committing a turnover. Two of their four turnovers came in the 2007 game.
Carolina did have six of its 14 turnovers in the error-riddled 2008 game in Chapel Hill, but the Tar Heels are still losing the turnover battle 6-2 over the last three games since. In Carolina’s two biggest losses in that span – 2008 and 2011 (31 and 13 points) – the Tar Heels lost the turnover battle 9-1.
But somehow, those turnovers haven’t cost them. NC State has turned Carolina’s 14 turnovers into just 30 points, including just three points in the last three years off of six Carolina turnovers. The Tar Heels have 17 points off of four NC State turnovers, but 14 of those points were in one game (2007).
Where it has hurt them – as have their struggles running the ball and on third down – is in time of possession. Carolina has trailed in that stat every year for the last five years by an average of nearly eight minutes per game. NC State has had the ball as long as 16 minutes more (in the 2008 game) than the Tar Heels. The shortest deficit Carolina faced was in 2010 (just 2 1/2 minutes). It shows as the game goes on: Carolina has only been outscored 64-54 in the first half by NC State. But in the second half, that advantage grows to 74-39.
Carolina has the best running back it has had in quite some time in Giovani Bernard, but as Saturday showed, he can’t do it alone. The Tar Heels will have to have a balanced offense and play relatively mistake-free football to beat yet another determined rival that will certainly be playing some of its best football.
Adam Lucas (tarheelmonthly.com)
Rivalry Recap: Bottom three State losses
Where were we? Oh, right. The worst three losses to NC State. Now, let me admit up front that I did not see the 2008 or 2010 games in person due to basketball travel. In 2008, we were in Maui. It was SLIGHTLY better than sitting in Kenan Stadium watching State win 41-10. In 2010, we were in Puerto Rico, and while we had a great crew to watch the game with, I would rather buy a vacation home in Afghanistan than go back to Puerto Rico ever again. So that takes two of the most painful State losses of the past 25 years off the table. Unfortunately, there were others to choose from. I only considered the games in this series that I have seen in person, which means all of them since 1986 except for the above two. The alternate title for this story was “Three days when I didn’t talk to anyone for hours after the game was over.”
1. Sept. 29, 1990: NC State 12, Carolina 9. Factor in that in the previous two years–both of which were 1-10 campaigns for the Tar Heels–State had beaten Carolina by a combined score of 88-9. That is not an exaggerated score that was made up to prove a point. State won 48-3 in 1988 and 40-6 in 1989. Beating the Wolfpack was a priority in 1990, when it felt like Mack Brown was starting to turn the corner with the program. The game was at Kenan Stadium, and it felt like the Tar Heels caught a break–already trailing 9-6– when State kicker Damon Hartman missed a field goal late in the fourth quarter. That enabled the Tar Heel offense to chug down the field and tie the score on a 21-yard field goal. There was less than a minute remaining. This was a tie, but it was going to feel like an incredible victory for the Tar Heels. Remember, this was the pre-overtime era, and games could end in ties–which this one surely would.
But it didn’t. Aided by a pass interference penalty, State quarterback Charles Davenport drove his team across midfield, and eventually reached the Carolina 39-yard-line with one second left. What came next was one of the most deflating moments in the history of Kenan Stadium: State kicker Damon Hartman booted a 56-yard field goal as time elapsed. It was the longest field goal in Wolfpack history. It prolonged a UNC losing streak to the team from Raleigh that would eventually stretch to five straight games before being mercifully ended in 1993.
I’m surprised video of this exists, considering I thought witchcraft was usually invisible on film. I vividly remember sitting in Kenan and watching the State players storm the field.
Bryan Ives (InsideCarolina.com)
Wolfpack looking to extend streak
Matchups to Watch
N.C. State’s Front Seven vs. UNC’s Offensive Line The biggest question mark surrounding N.C. State entering the 2012 season was the front seven on defense. The Wolfpack lost four starters, linebackers Audie Cole and Terrell Manning as well as defensive linemen Markus Kuhn and J.R. Sweezy, to the NFL Draft in April. While the front seven did return three starters, the loss of talent up front appeared difficult to replace.
Despite the personnel losses, the N.C. State defense has picked up where it left off last season. A year ago, the defense led the ACC in sacks and was second in tackles for loss. In 2012, the Wolfpack are tops in the ACC and rank fourth in the country in tackles for loss (8.43 per game). The defense continues to excel at getting to the opposing quarterback as well. N.C. State once again leads the league and ranks eighth overall in sacks (3.14 per game).
“To start off, defensively for them, they’re really big upfront,” Fedora said. “They’re athletic upfront. They’re leading the league in sacks so they’ve done a great job getting pressure on the quarterback… They’re linebackers were young or inexperienced I should say, but they’ve really come on. I wouldn’t say they’re inexperienced now. They’ve played eight games so I wouldn’t say they’re inexperienced now. They’re coming into their own and they’re playing very well on defense.”
Saturday pits the most productive front-seven in the ACC against arguably the best offensive line in the league, if not the country. Led by All-America candidate and left guard Jonathan Cooper, the Tar Heel offensive line has only surrendered five sacks through eight games this season. The group of three seniors, one junior and one sophomore also pave the way for running back Gio Bernard (103 car, 795 yards, 8 TD), who leads the ACC in rushing.
Last season, albeit with four current NFL players along the front seven, the Wolfpack held the Tar Heels to just three yards rushing in a 13-0 victory. Bernard ran for 48 yards, but on 18 carries, and quarterback Bryn Renner was sacked four times for a loss of 47 yards.
N.C. State’s Mike Glennon vs. UNC’s Defense It is no secret that as Glennon so goes N.C. State. In losses to Tennessee and Miami, Glennon threw six total interceptions. In the five Wolfpack wins, Glennon threw nine touchdown passes against just one interception. If Glennon avoids mistakes, it typically leads to a N.C. State win.
North Carolina’s secondary can best be defined as hit-or-miss. The Tar Heels lead the ACC in interceptions (11), but rank sixth in the league and 69th in the country in pass defense (233.38 ypg). It is the only major statistical category in which North Carolina does not rank in the top-45 nationally.
Glennon is a very accurate quarterback when given time to throw and it will be hard for the Tar Heel secondary to stop the fifth-year senior signal caller and receivers Quintin Payton (29 rec, 551 yards, 1 TD) and Bryan Underwood (22 rec, 342 yards, 8 TD) if North Carolina is unable to generate pressure upfront.
Glennon is not known for his mobility, so the more North Carolina can force him out of the pocket, the better off the defense will be. If Glennon is able to sit comfortably in the pocket look for him to pick apart the North Carolina defense just like Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price and Duke quarterback Sean Renfree were able to do.
Both Price and Renfree led their teams on late scoring drives to beat North Carolina. In the past two games against Florida State and Maryland, Glennon navigated his team on game-winning drives with less than two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game. The Wolfpack are 3-0 in games decided by six points or less while the Tar Heels are 1-3.
Jim Young (accsports.com)
ACC Football Power Rankings, Oct. 23
3. N.C. State (5-2, 2-1)
I absolutely love my angst-ridden N.C. State friends. Thanks to the stingy left goal post at Byrd Stadium, the Wolfpack managed to break their rollercoaster ways by winning at Maryland after having upset Florida State two weeks ago. But now I keep seeing tweets from State fans predicting that all this recent good fortune will only spell disaster this week against North Carolina. I’m not saying the Wolfpack doesn’t have reason for concern, but I’d say the cause of those worries should be the 206 yards rushing State yielded to the previously anemic Maryland ground game. In other words, worry about Gio (Bernard) not Mojo.
Last week’s ranking: 4
Next game: at UNC, 12:30
4. Duke (6-2, 3-1)
I’m not going to use this space to talk about refs and suspensions. You can go here if you want some of that. To me, the most significant thing about the Blue Devils’ win over UNC was the way Duke won. As someone who has watched the Blue Devils find every way imaginable to lose to the Tar Heels, I was certain of the outcome when Gio Bernard pounced on the Erik Highsmith fumble that seemed to be in Ross Cockrell’s grasp and then strolled into the end zone. It was vintage Duke.
But these Blue Devils showed they really aren’t the “same old Blue Devils” with their clutch drive for the game-winning touchdown. And this may not be a flash in the pan (see, 1994) either. As Ben Swain noted, a good chunk of Duke’s scoring this season has been done by freshmen and sophomores.
Still, I think the magical ride takes at least a small detour this Saturday in Tallahassee.
Last week’s ranking: 8
Next game: at FSU, 3:30 p.m.
5. UNC (5-3, 2-2)
I’m not surprised UNC played another nail-biter against Duke. And – despite all the recent history – I’m not too surprised the Blue Devils knocked off the Tar Heels. But I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that Duke, which hardly has an identity as a smash-mouth team, managed to grind out 234 yards on the ground against one of the league’s best run defenses (at least statistically). And almost all of those yards came on runs between the tackles.
The Tar Heels need to figure out what happened and fix it, pronto. If not, UNC will have to endure another Tom O’Brien post-game press conference filled with snarky comments and sniffs of laughter.
Last week’s ranking: 3
Next game: vs. N.C. State, 12:30 p.m.
NC STATE BASKETBALL
Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)
Dominic Woodson to pick between N.C. State and Baylor, according to report
According to a report from Scout.com, Class of 2013 big man Dominic Woodson has narrowed his recruiting list to N.C. State and Baylor.
Robbi Pickeral (ESPN)
The Buzz Is Back At North Carolina State
NC State forward Richard Howell has taken the same route to class since he was a freshman and never had any problem making it there on time.
“I really can’t walk to class without being late,” the 6-foot-8, 257-pound forward said, shaking his head as he grinned. “You can leave 15, 20 minutes earlier and people are still going to stop you.
“Mainly, they want to talk about the NCAA championship. Most of them just skip over the ACC championship and skip right to the NCAA championship. … You really can’t go anywhere in Raleigh without hearing about NC State basketball, but it’s a good problem to have.”
It’s an exciting time for second-year coach Mark Gottfried, but he also knows he and his team have to keep things in perspective.
“We want to keep improving; it’s important we continue to do that,” Gottfried said. “I think our guys are very well aware that you get to January and the ball goes into the air and you’ve got two teams playing, that how you were picked back in October has very little relevance to anything. So we’ve got to go play. We know that. But I do like the fact that I believe our program is improving. We’re getting better.”
“It’s new territory for our team,” Gottfried said of the expectations. “This is unchartered waters. And we have to learn how to accept that responsibility. And when you start playing games, you have to understand that you’re viewed differently than maybe you were a year ago. So we’ve got to be ready for that.”
No matter how many times fans stop them en route to campus.
“I have class at 11:40, and the latest I’ve maybe gotten there is 11:53,” Howell said. “It’s not that bad, but when you’re probably the biggest person walking into class and you’re last [there], and everybody just turns around and looks? It’s pretty bad.”
Jason King (ESPN)
What I can’t wait to see: ACC
Here are five storylines I look forward to following during the ACC this season.
What I can’t wait to see:
Will North Carolina State live up to the hype?
For the past nine seasons, the conference title has been won by North Carolina or Duke. But this year NC State is the heavy favorite. The Wolfpack are the logical pick thanks to the return of players such as C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, and the addition of highly touted newcomers like Rodney Purvis. It also helps that Duke and North Carolina each lost most of their key players. Still, let’s not forget that this is a team that finished in a three-way tie for fourth in the ACC last season with a 9-7 record. Mark Gottfried’s squad went on a nice run in the NCAA tournament and almost upset Kansas in the Sweet 16. Is that the Wolfpack team we’ll see this season? Or will we see the squad that was marginal for most of 2011-12? My guess is the former.
Who is the fourth-best team?
Let’s assume North Carolina State, Duke and North Carolina — and not necessarily in that order — will occupy the top three slots. Who comes next? Maryland and Miami certainly have to be considered. Nick Faust, James Padgett, Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len all return for the Terps, who have added a top-flight recruit in 6-foot-9, 270-pound forward Shaquille Cleare. Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott and Kenny Kadji are back for Miami. The coaches of both teams (Turgeon at Maryland and Jim Larranaga at Miami) are in their second season, which means each program should take significant strides. Still, I think the “next best” team outside of the top three will be Florida State. Not only that, but come February, I wouldn’t be shocked if Leonard Hamilton’s squad was in the mix for the ACC title. Year after year, the Seminoles lose good players. And year after year, Hamilton finds a way to keep his team relevant. Not many squads in the country defend as well as Florida State, which returns standout guard Michael Snaer.
Alex Wolff (SI.com)
1964 UCLA Bruins crowned college hoops’ most influential team
It’s an old and much-renewed debate when college hoops fans gather: Which team was best, greatest, or most dominant?
We decided to put a finer point on that argument and ask a slightly different question. Which teams have had the most far-reaching and long-lasting influence on college basketball? To which can we trace some essential characteristic of the game today? Which teams both reached up to shape the pros, and down to touch the playgrounds?
We sifted through college basketball’s past to separate teams that were truly influential from those that were merely dominant or entertaining. And the result included some omissions that might surprise you.
Take, for instance, the UCLA teams of 1967 through ’69, which featured Lew Alcindor anchoring the middle. The Alcindor Bruins of John Wooden collected 88 victories in 90 games, as well as NCAA titles at the end of each season. But those UCLA teams were sui generis. They rode their precocious center’s dominance and didn’t have much ripple effect beyond striking awe in those who watched them. Few other coaches could realistically hope to emulate what Wooden did in Westwood over those seasons — building a team around a 7-foot prodigy.
Or consider Loyola Marymount and its revved-up attack during the late 1980s. Paul Westhead’s Lions entertained us, surprised us and, after the sudden death of forward Hank Gathers, engaged us emotionally. But LMU was a comet across the college hoops sky. The Westhead system was too quirky to inspire disciples who could take it and, Appleseed-like, plant it elsewhere.
Conversely, you will find on our list a number of teams — from Michigan’s Fab Five of 1993 to Memphis’ near-champs of 2008 — that failed to win titles. They’re cited for their role in popularizing or paving the way for a lasting trend, or impacting basketball culture, or clarifying some deep hoop truth, or otherwise firing the pebblegrain imagination.
5. 1974 N.C. State
Here was the human pageant: 5-5 Monty Towe, 7-4 Tom Burleson, and everything in between. And here was the human spirit, unbroken despite years under the UCLA jackboot. After the Bruins’ seven straight championships, the title went to a team led by neither an Alcindor nor a Bill Walton, but a 6-4 swingman, David Thompson. Suddenly people throughout basketball were using a phrase almost unheard of before, “vertical leap.” By proving that anything was possible — even 42 inches of elevation from a standing start — the Wolfpack kindled the hopes of every team beyond Westwood that it too could bottle a moment. And the sport soon broke wide open.
Jerry Palm (CBSSports.com)
Predicting the 2013 men’s NCAA tournament
Here is a look at the first projected bracket of the season. Unlike every other bracket I will do this year, this one is based on how I think it’ll look on Selection Sunday.
The battle for the top should be very interesting as the year goes on. The top three overall seeds (Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana) would all love to host the Indianapolis regional, but only one can.
The Big Ten looks like it will make up for its football woes with a very strong year. The Pac 12, which has been a laughingstock the last couple years, still comes up short on bids, but does have quality at the top now.
Projected Champion: North Carolina State
At-large bids: Duke, Florida State, Maryland, Miami (FL), North Carolina
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
ECU student charged with “unacceptable and disappointing” Dowdy-Ficklen vandalism
An East Carolina freshman has been arrested on charges that he and an unknown number of accomplices vandalized Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
According to a report filed by the ECU police department, William Banks was charged with breaking & entering, first-degree trespass, injury to real property and injury to personal property for an incident that occurred during the early hours of Sunday morning.
Investigators believe that the suspects broke into the stadium, took three Kubota utility vehicles and dug numerous doughnuts into the turf between the 30-yard lines. They also did damage to concession stands and two water fountains.
Banks became a suspect and was subsequently arrested after he returned to the stadium to look for a cell phone he allegedly dropped during the vandalism spree.