A new year is here, technically, but if you live ACC Country your calendar likely centers around college basketball meaning January isn’t the beginning, it’s simply when the season really starts to get interesting. 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.
INEXPLICABLE STREAK: Some things in sports defy all logic.
After Tuesday night’s loss to North Carolina, Clemson has now lost 59 straight games in Chapel Hill. In fact, the Tigers have never won on the Tar Heels’ home floor, a fact that’s close to unfathomable among the long-time ACC rivals.
No, it’s not surprising that UNC has dominated the series. That’s to be expected actually. But that Clemson has never even gotten lucky in Chapel Hill is hard to wrap one’s head around. North Carolina is usually good, but has had some average to poor teams over the past six decades. Clemson isn’t known as a basketball power, but Rick Barnes, Oliver Purnell and now Brad Brownell have occasionally had some pretty solid teams. And compared to Duke, former ACC foe Maryland or current-day Virginia, North Carolina isn’t known for having an incredibly intimidating home crowd. Wine and cheese is the term Roy Williams has been known to use.
The Tigers made 15 straight field goals Tuesday night, were lights out from 3-point range and still couldn’t get over the top against a UNC team that had been struggling a bit. Over the past 20 years Hampton, Ohio and Davidson (the non-Steph Curry version) are among those that have managed to win at the Dean Dome. Just this season, another team from Clemson’s backyard, Wofford, took down the Tar Heels at home.
Yet it’s seemingly impossible for the Tigers to take down the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.
As far as crazy sports streaks go, this one is one of the more under appreciated. Perhaps because the actual stakes involved are generally pretty low, it doesn’t get talked about a lot outside the Carolinas, and even there it’s mostly during the lead up and aftermath of the game itself.
But it’s just an insane streak. Maybe someday a Clemson team can get it done at UNC.
THE DEVILS YOU KNOW: Midway through the second half Monday night’s game at Miami, Duke trailed by 12 and the world was getting ready to talk about the Blue Devils road woes.
Had Miami held on, it would have been Duke’s third ACC road loss and caused fair speculation this young Blue Devil team wasn’t particularly special without the Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd behind it.
But the Blue Devils rallied, largely behind an explosive second half from freshman Gary Trent, and now it’s safe to wonder if Duke received its wake up call just in time for the brunt of the ACC schedule.
There have been some growing pains for a lineup that’s ridiculously talented but inexperienced, save senior Grayson Allen, who isn’t exactly known for his mental toughness.
The Devils have been notoriously bad on defense this season (and really since Coach K embraced the one-and-done era), but the comeback in Coral Gables wouldn’t have happened without Duke coming up with key stops down the stretch.
The rest of the ACC, and the nation, has every reason to worry Duke may be figuring out how to utilize its near limitless potential.
HITTING THE ROAD: Virginia leads the ACC with a 5-0, conference record, but the Cavs are preparing for Thursday night when they play their first league game outside the Commonwealth of Virginia.
UVa heads to Georgia Tech, a game the Cavs should win, but there’s certainly some great road challenges ahead, including a trip to Duke later this month.
Virginia has been nearly unbeatable at home the past four seasons, but five of its next seven are on the road. The Cavaliers lone loss this season was at West Virginia, but their last trip out of John Paul Jones Arena was a thorough destruction of Virginia Tech against a hostile crowd in Blacksburg.
If UVa can steal a few road wins, it will be well on its way to a third regular season ACC crown in five seasons.