Let’s be honest: From Syracuse to Charlottesville down to Tobacco Road, the real holiday season has little to do with Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas lights or menorahs. The true reason we celebrate in ACC Country is the start of college basketball season. Each week in this space we’ll take a look at the most interesting and important happenings around the league that made college hoops a national phenomenon.
NEW OL’ ROY: Roy Williams is getting less sentimental, and in many ways that’s a good thing, as evidenced by North Carolina’s 96-72 beatdown of Stanford on Monday. Stanford is coached by Jerod Haase, who was a player and assistant under Williams, and those type of games with emotional connections caused issues for Williams for many years.
Early on in his coaching career, Williams avoided scheduling games against former players and assistants, but at times it was unavoidable, such as the 2002 Preseason NIT, where Matt Doherty and a UNC team that won just six ACC games dominated Williams’ Kansas team. And Tar Heel fans don’t need to be reminded of Williams’ NCAA Tournament struggles against the Jayhawks since he returned to North Carolina.
But an ever-growing coaching tree and conference realignment has made it tougher and tougher to avoid matchups against coaches and programs in which he has a deep connection. But handling those games has apparently become easier and easier.
Maryland was still in the ACC when it hired former Williams assistant Mark Turgeon, and UNC went 7-0 against Turgeon before the Terps left for the Big Ten. Now, Williams has reached a point where he’s voluntarily scheduling games against Haase, both at UAB and now Stanford.
GOOD DAY FOR ACC: When Selection Sunday nears and talk turns to conference strength and quality wins, Wednesday night will be one to remember.
Early in the evening, North Carolina State knocked off No. 2 Arizona, a huge win for an unranked team that, from a league perspective, helps balance out some of the terrible losses Wake Forest and Pittsburgh have been racking up.
It also showed how much the NCAA granting eligibility to Braxton Beverly could make a difference for the Wolfpack going forward.
It took some time for the guard who originally signed with Ohio State to get settled in, scoring two total points in his first two games, but his 20 off the bench to spark Wednesday’s win.
In the nightcap from Maui, Notre Dame showed the value of a veteran roster as the Fighting Irish put together one of the most impressive comebacks you’ll see to beat No. 6 Wichita State.
Mike Brey’s team trailed at one point by 16 and with a minute to go, ESPN gave the Shockers a 91 percent chance to win. But the Irish made the plays down the stretch and showed remarkable poise.
TROUBLE AT THE LINE: It may be nitpicking to criticize much about a young team that is undefeated and hasn’t really had a close game yet, but you have to think free throw shooting is going to cost Miami at some point.
The Hurricanes have been atrocious from the stripe, shooting less than 51 percent on foul shots through four games. Prized freshman and potential lottery pick Bruce Brown is shooting just 22 percent. As much as he’s going to have the ball, that’s got to get a lot better.