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Men’s ACC basketball notebook


By Andy Johnston                   For the AJC

Some folks say it’s parity. Others are beginning to worry that this is a down season for the ACC.

The ACC continues to be the top-rated conference in the Sagarin and Pomeroy rankings, but only Duke and Georgia Tech are ranked in the AP Top 25, and the Blue Devils might have knocked the Yellow Jackets out of next week’s poll with their 86-67 victory on Thursday night.

Every team has at least four losses, and Duke, which is considered the ACC’s best team, was crushed by Big East-power Georgetown on Sunday. One thing is for certain: The conference doesn’t have a dominant force like last season’s North Carolina team that won the national championship.

“It’s where we are now. It’s where this conference is at,” North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe said. “Any given night, you don’t know who is going to win. One team can knock off a nationally ranked team and then play another team that’s not ranked and lose to them. One thing you do know is that this league has a lot of talented players. If those talented players decide they’re going to be better and they’re going to get after it, they’re going to win.”

The fall of North Carolina (13-9, 2-5 ACC) has corresponded with the rise of both Maryland (15-6, 5-2) and Virginia (14-6, 5-2), which are tied for second behind Duke (18-4, 6-2). The parity is evidenced by the fact that 22 of ACC’s 46 games have been decided by eight points or less, including 13 by fewer than four points.

The balance might lead to only six ACC teams making the NCAA tournament, but all 12 entered this week in the top 110 of the RPI.

“It’s become a night-in and night-out grinder,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “It’s a challenge of every team to be at their best.”

Out of his shell

Freshman Jordan Williams is providing Maryland with an inside boost.

He posted his third double-double of the season in Maryland’s loss at Clemson on Sunday. The 6-foot-10 Williams then added 14 points in a win at Florida State on Thursday, reaching double-figures for the seventh time. His 13 rebounds Sunday were a career-high.

“[He provides] what we didn’t have last year, [which] is an inside presence,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “This year, when we’re playing well, we can throw the ball into Jordan and expect something good to happen.”

Possible return

Clemson guard Demontez Stitt has missed the past two games with a sprained foot, but coach Oliver Purnell hopes to have him back for Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech. Stitt had started 52 consecutive games before the injury.

On the ball

Malcolm Delaney, who scored 21 points in Virginia Tech’s 74-70 victory over North Carolina on Thursday, leads the ACC in scoring (19.8) and 20-point games (11).

N.C. State’s Julius Mays has made 20 consecutive free throws and is shooting 89.5 percent from the line (51-for-57).

Trevor Booker needs 19 rebounds to become the second player in Clemson history with 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. With 1,584 career points, he would join Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody and Texas’ Damion James as the only active players with 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Kyle Singler, playing with an injured right wrist, had career highs with 30 points and eight 3-pointers in Duke’s victory over Georgia Tech.

Must-see TV

Don’t sleep in, or you might miss Wake Forest’s game at Virginia, which begins at noon Saturday (WATL). On Wednesday, Duke plays at North Carolina at 9 p.m. (ESPN) in the first game of the season in that heated rivalry. They’ll also meet at Duke on March 6.

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