The College Basketball Notebook

January 14, 2010 7:19 AM

Tumult On Tobacco Road

The ACC might be not up to snuff as an elite conference this year, but there’s no shortage of excitement on Tobacco Road. Four days after Duke fell, the league’s other blue blood went down last night. North Carolina turned in a horrid outing at Clemson and lost 83-64, sending a clear message that this conference championship is up for grabs.

Carolina turned the ball over 25 times and had zero starters in double-figures. No starters had more than five rebounds. Meanwhile, Clemson was getting contributions everywhere on the floor. Forward Trevor Booker had 21 points and nine rebounds. In the backcourt, Demontez Stitt provided the offense, with 20 points, while Tanner Smith provided the defense, with five steals.

Georgia Tech, the very team who beat Duke on Saturday, couldn’t keep the focus going, and they lost at Virginia 82-75. Looks like there was some serious home cookin’ in this one, as the Cavs went 23-26 from the foul line, while Tech only got 11 free throws. Even worse, they only made three of them. As for the Blue Devils, they got back on track with an easy home win over Boston College. It all adds up to a raucous race in the ACC, but the flip side is this—if teams like Tech can’t sustain the momentum after an upset, it just brings Duke and Carolina right back into it, making it likely that one of the two will prevail again.

Pitt’s turnaround remains the top story of January in college basketball. With a 67-57 win at UConn, they are 4-0 in the Big East. Amazingly, all four wins have been on the road, including this one at Storrs and another one at Syracuse. Even a great team wouldn’t be expected to do that, and this Panther team looked NIT bound in December. I always did respect Jamie Dixon and his ability to rebuild a program, but the speed of this turnaround is stunning. Last night, guards Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker stood out, each scoring 19 points and each being perfect from the line (6-6 9-9, respectively). They outplayed the more heralded Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker, which marks the second straight rough game for this backcourt tandem. Dyson turned it over six times last night.

Elsewhere, Michigan State held off Minnesota at home and remains the frontrunner in the Big Ten. Down in the SEC, Ole Miss got back on the board, edging Georgia, while South Carolina and Vanderbilt each got off to 2-0 conference starts. Texas and Kansas held serve in the Big 12. No Pac-10 games have been played this week, but four are on the schedule for tonight.

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