Let’s face it, the ACC isn’t what it’s supposed to be


Last night the No. 6 Duke Blue Devils took on the Maryland Terrapins, and the nostalgia sparks were flying throughout the Comcast Center.

Not only did it provide flashbacks to one of the fiercest and most underappreciated college rivalries that has since severely tempered itself, a former integral character was honored at halftime to remind us all of how great these matchups once were.

Unless you’re delusional as to the dilution this conference has seen in recent years, then you’ll agree that the ACC is not once what it once was.  Depending on your age, it’s either not the ACC you grew up on or not the ACC you introduced to your kids.

You may even be too young to know how top-to-bottom great the league used to be.

When I was growing up in the late ’90s and early aughts the league was at its prime and Duke was my team. I was one of those fans who had zero affiliation to the school, but was a causality of the overexposure the Blue Devils received from the media. Despite my fandom, I really appreciated and enjoyed the league as a whole.  It looked the best on television and didn’t play second fiddle to its football brethren.

I remember in the weeks leading up to John Feinstein’s March to Madness hardcover release I did a few more rounds of dishes to earn extra allowance money. Two weeks later, I knew every head coach’s and assistant coach’s name. Dave Odom, now a complete afterthought, was like a quasi-superstar to me.   Now, I think that Jeff Bzdelik mans the Wake Forest sidelines.

Today the league somehow manages to get labeled as both top heavy and full of parity.  The Blue Devils and North Carolina have won or shared the last eight league titles with minimal competition. During this span, the aforementioned Terrapins have simply struggled to keep up, North Carolina State hasn’t been able to consistently recruit elite high school talent,  Virginia Tech began building a new part of their campus on The Bubble, and Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have become a collection of anonymous athletes.

Florida State, many congratulations are in order for them, but as fantastic as their recent play has been, it  just makes the conference even more confusing. Now the Heels, once National Championship favorites, have major question marks, and Duke just doesn’t have the look of a premier team.

The go-to counter argument here is that top heavy and parity in the ACC is a great year in, oh, the Mountain West. But for the past season and a half the ACC has actually found themselves ranked behind the MWC in conference RPI rankings.  They’ve also taken an inordinate amount of non-conference losses on the chin this season, which is part of an two-year low in wins out of conference since before 1980.

They’ve also lost that dang Big 10 – ACC Challenge the past three years!

Hasn’t a higher level of precedent been set for this “basketball first” BCS conference?

Within the league, yeah, Duke and UNC have almost always been the two most feared predators, but every other team seemed to at least boast one or two scoring threats that could keep games interesting and gyms packed.  Now, famed student sections like the Cameron Crazies are showing up at a decreasing rate year-over-year.  Something about camping out to see your school play middling Clemson on a Sunday night just doesn’t sound appealing.

You can say there is not enough fact to back up the claim this league is not what it once was, but to a man we know that the ACC simply felt different years ago. It provided excitement that generated chatter in school hallways and workplace water coolers every winter morning.

A lot of people used to want to talk about the ACC. Now we just talk about what it used to be.

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.