Duke Blue Devils

ACC Crystal Ball

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

This is my favorite time of year. Not just because of the holidays, but we have several sports going on simultaneously.

Football, basketball and hockey being played means there’s a game to watch every night. We’re going to preview the ranked ACC basketball teams.

#1 North Carolina: The Tar Heels advanced to the national championship game last season. It was the first season as the head coach for Hubert Davis. They return their best player, senior forward/center Armando Bacot. He leads the team in scoring (22 PPG) and rebounds (7.5 RPG).

Junior guard Caleb Love is second in scoring with 21 PPG, 6 RPG and 3 assists per game.

UNC is the rare blue blood program in this era that relies on upper classmen. Teams like Duke, Kentucky and Kansas rely on one-and-done players.

The schedule has been weak so far, but starting on Thanksgiving the Heels will play the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland. The first game is against Portland. Villanova, #25 UConn, Iowa State, Oregon, Michigan State and Alabama are also in the tournament.

After this they play at Indiana before conference play begins.

I expect UNC to get back to the Final Four.

#7 Duke: The Blue Devils got to the Final Four last season but were beaten by archrival North Carolina. They rely on star freshmen players and this season is no different.

They had the top recruiting class of 2022 with four five-star players and two four-star.

Dereck Lively II is a 7’1 center and No. 1 recruit in the class. Small forward Dariq Whitehead (6’6) is the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2022.

Center Kyle Filipowski (6’11) add depth and length at the position. He was also the No. 4 recruit in the nation. So far, he leads the team in rebounds with 11 per game.

Power forward Mark Mitchell (6’8) rounds out the five-star players. He leads the team in scoring with 15.5 PPG.

Last season was Jon Scheyer’s first as head coach in Durham. It has not slowed down their ability to recruit.

Duke has a blockbuster matchup against #6 Kansas in Indianapolis November 15th. After that they have a couple of easy home games against Delaware and Bellarmine.

This is where we enter parallel universe territory. They also play in a Thanksgiving tournament in Oregon named after Nike’s co-founder. The Phil Knight Legacy tournament begins with a game against Oregon State. Florida, #2 Gonzaga, Purdue, West Virginia and Xavier are also in the tournament.

It’s hard to tell how young players will develop but they have a tough schedule that will answer that question.

#16 Virginia: It is hard to believe the ACC only has three ranked teams. I have to mention the shooting on the UVA recently, where three football players and two students were injured.

The home game November 14 against Northern Iowa was cancelled because of that.

The Cavaliers are scheduled to play in the Continental Tire Main Event tournament in Las Vegas later this week.

They will play #5 Baylor in the first game. They will face #8 UCLA or #19 Illinois in the following game. They play at #20 Michigan to end the month of November in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Senior guard Armaan Franklin leads the team with 14.5 PPG and makes 53% of his shots.

I think Virginia can go deep in the NCAA Tournament.

 

The Coastal Life

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are getting closer to the start of the 2022 football season.

Let’s take a look at the ACC Coastal Division and predict the final standings.

#7 Duke 3-9 (0-8 ACC): The Blue Devils struggled in 2021. Head coach David Cutcliffe is now gone and former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko has taken over.

The offense averaged 14.9 points per game in conference play last season. They lost quarterback Gunnar Holmberg and leading receiver Jake Bobo to the transfer portal and running back Mataeo Durant (1,241 yards) departed for the NFL.

The defense allowed 46.6 ppg and 7.1 yards per play in ACC games.

#6 Georgia Tech 3-9 (2-6 ACC): Head coach Geoff Collins is 9 – 25 over the last three years. The roster only returns four starters and the non-conference opponents are Ole Miss, UCF and Georgia.

Tech lost two offensive pieces in quarterback Jordan Yates, who transferred out, and running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who left for Alabama.

Jeff Sims returns at quarterback after passing for 12 TDs and 7 picks, but there isn’t a ton to work with around him moving the ball.

Drastic improvement is needed for the defense that has ranked 13th or worse in the ACC in points allowed in each of Collins’ three years at the helm. The offense averaged 24 ppg last season, which was third worst in the ACC.

#5 Virginia 6-6 (4-4 ACC): The Cavaliers will be led by first-year head coach Tony Elliott.

He previously served as a coach at Clemson from 2011 – 2021, most recently as associate head coach, offensive coordinator, tight ends coach and running backs coach. He has learned a lot from Dabo Swinney, which should mean good things for UVA.

Elliott inherits one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks (Brennan Armstrong) and receiving corps (Billy Kemp IV, Dontayvion Wicks, Keytaon Thompson and Lavel Davis). Armstrong led all Power 5 quarterbacks by averaging 427.3 total yards a game last fall.

They need to establish balance in the running game and take some of the pressure off of him. They lost all five offensive line starters.

#4 Virginia Tech 6-7 (4-4 ACC): Brent Pry takes over as the head coach in Blacksburg. Pry was the defensive coordinator at Penn State from 2016 – 2021. His experience should help make an impact immediately for the Hokies defense that’s returning seven starters. They held opponents to 25.3 ppg but only had 16 sacks in ACC play.

Transfer quarterbacks Grant Wells (Marshall) and Jason Brown (South Carolina) are battling for the starting job.

#3 North Carolina 6-7 (3-5 ACC): The Tar Heels lost QB Sam Howell, four offensive line starters and the bulk of the rushing attack.

Coach Mack Brown recruits well and a couple of good recruiting classes should make the difference.

Talented redshirt freshman Drake Maye will battle Jacolby Criswell for the starting quarterback job.

#2 Pitt 11-3 (7-1 ACC): The Panthers shocked everyone by winning the ACC last year. QB Kenny Pickett and receiver Jordan Addison are major losses.

USC transfer Kedon Slovis should win the quarterback job. They have a solid stable of running backs and the defense returns seven starters.

#1 Miami 7-5 (5-3 ACC): Mario Cristobal left Oregon to take the head coach job at his alma mater.

He hired Josh Gattis as offensive coordinator. Gattis led Michigan to the College Football Playoffs last season.

QB Tyler Van Dyke returns after throwing for almost 3,000 yards, 25 TD’s and 6 interceptions. He had seven games without a turnover and the U went 5-2.

The O line returns three starters, including All-America candidate Zion Nelson.

ACC Pulse

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As you all know 2020 was a year like we’ve never seen in our lifetime. Everything was affected by the global pandemic, including sports.

We’re going to take a look at the current state of the ACC up to this point.

The two blue blood programs, Duke and North Carolina are both unranked for the first time since 1982.

The only undefeated team in conference play is Virginia (9-2, 5-0). The Cavaliers are the highest rated team in the ACC, ranked 13th. When is the last time the first-place team in this conference wasn’t in the top 10?

Right now, UVA is the most consistent team and they play great defense. Senior forward Sam Hauser is the team leader in points per game and rebounds per game with 13.8 and 7.5.

#16 Virginia Tech (11-2, 5-1) is in second place. The lone conference loss was at Louisville 73 – 71.

The Hokies don’t play their archrival until January 30th. If they can get past Boston College, Syracuse and Notre Dame before that then that game will be for control of the conference. Junior forward Keve Aluma is the best player on the team with 14.8 ppg and 7.3 rpg.

Florida State (8-2, 4-1) is one of the most dangerous teams in the country. The Seminoles are full of tall and athletic playmakers.

They recently beat Louisville on the road 78 – 65. That was only the second conference loss for the Cardinals so that is an impressive win. I’m not sure how FSU is not ranked.

Pitt (7-2, 3-1) may have the best player in the conference. Sophomore forward Justin Champagnie is averaging 18.7 ppg and 12.9 rpg.

They’ve had three games against Duke, Florida State and Georgia Tech postponed. The lone conference loss was against Louisville. We’re going to learn a lot about the Panthers soon when they play Duke this week.

It’s surprising that Duke is the fifth ranked team in the conference. The Blue Devils (5-3, 3-1) rely heavily on talented freshmen and they are having a hard time adjusting.

They have had five games cancelled or postponed so they lost valuable time to gain experience. All three loses were to ranked teams: #8 Michigan State, #6 Illinois and #20 Virginia Tech.

I think this is a pretty good team and that will show as the season progresses.

Georgia Tech (5-2, 2-1) has to be the most surprising team. The Yellow Jackets have had four games postponed or cancelled.

They lost to Georgia State, Mercer and FSU.

The next four games are against Clemson, Virginia, Duke and FSU. I think Tech’s record is inflated and they’ll come back down to earth after that.

#20 Clemson is 8th in the ACC but nationally ranked above several teams in front of them.

The Tigers (9-2, 3-2) lost to UVA and Virginia Tech.

The team’s leading scorer, Aamir Simms only averages 11.6 ppg. I think Clemson is a decent team, but they are not a contender.

North Carolina is coming off of a disappointing 2019-20 season. The Tar Heels (8-5, 3-3) are following that trend this season.

The next five games are against Wake Forest, NC State, Pitt, Clemson and Duke. They need to win four of those games to position themselves to make the NCAA Tournament.

They lack talent so I don’t think it’s possible. Armando Bacot leads the team with 11.2 ppg.

NC State, Miami, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Boston College and Wake Forest are the remaining teams. These teams do not have a chance to get in the NCAA Tournament.

ACC Still King

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We’re heading in to the second week of March Madness and so far, it has been exciting. We have the usual upsets like 12 seed Murray State beating Marquette, a five seed. \

The ACC is known as the best basketball conference and to some extent, they proved it. They also have raised some questions with the overall performance after the first weekend. They have sent the most teams (5) to the next round.

Duke is the number one overall seed in the tournament and top seed in the East. They are the only clear-cut favorite to win it all but they struggled in the round of 32. The opponent was No. 9 seed Central Florida and they won a nail biter, 77-76.

This game was much closer than anyone expected and the Blue Devils took the lead in the final minute. I’m not sure if this is a cause for concern for Duke or just a close game that can happen during the tournament.

For instance, 5th seed Auburn beat 12th seed New Mexico State by one point in the first round. Then they turned around and beat Kansas.

The Sweet 16 opponent for Duke is an ACC team, 4th seed Virginia Tech. The Hokies beat Duke at home last month. That was a game without Zion Williamson and the Blue Devils went 0-3 during that stretch. Duke is a completely different team with Zion so Va Tech cannot put much stock in their previous game.

We did not expect UCF to almost beat the Blue Devils so anything can happen. I do believe this will be a very close game but Duke should win.

No.1 seed Virginia has rebounded well after last season’s debacle. They became the first one seed to lose to a 16 seed in last year’s tournament. They appeared to be headed in the same direction this year. Gardner-Webb led Virginia by as many as 14 points in the first half. They went into the half leading by 6.

UVA came back in the second half and won71-56. In the second round, they beat Oklahoma. I have little faith in the Cavaliers because of what they did last season.

They play 12 seed Oregon in the next round. The Ducks lost their best player, Bol Bol for the season back in December. Virginia should win easily.

Florida State is the 4 seed and they play the top seed in the West, Gonzaga. These teams have recent history since they played in the tournament last season.

The Seminoles won easily, 75-60. You know Gonzaga is looking for revenge and that will make this the must watch game of the Sweet 16.

FSU is a team full of tall and athletic players that can defend. With that said, I think the Bulldogs are a better team this season and they should walk away with the win.

North Carolina is the top seed in the Midwest and they will face off against 5 seed Auburn.

The Tigers are a very good team and they won the SEC tournament. They are not a traditional powerhouse in basketball but Coach Bruce Pearl has turned that program around.

UNC is too talented though and I think they will win the national championship. That means I’m picking the Tar Heels to win the game.

NCAA Tourney Contenders and Pretenders

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NCAA tournament begins this week. This is the biggest sporting event other than the Super Bowl. Let’s take a look at some of the teams from around the Southeast that made it in.

The Pretenders…

Georgia State: The Panthers (24-10) won the Sun Belt conference tournament. Coach Ron Hunter also led GSU to the tournament in 2015. GA State is the No. 15 seed in the South bracket and they play No. 2 seed Cincinnati. This would be a huge upset but I don’t see that happening.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide (19-15) snuck in the tournament. They finished 9th in a pretty weak conference. Advancing to the SEC Championship game is why they are in.

Freshman sensation Collin Sexton will be an NBA lottery pick in this year’s draft. Bama is the No.9 seed in the East and they face No. 8 Virginia Tech in the first round. I think they will win that game but they would play No. 1 Villanova in the next round. Their dreams will end after that game.

Arkansas: It must seem like I’m just picking on the SEC. The Razorbacks (23-11) finished fourth in the SEC. They are also in the East region and the No. 7 seed. They face No. 10 Butler and that will be a tough game. If they win they should face No. 2 Purdue in the second round. That means exit stage left.

Florida State: Another football school is having a resurgent year on the court. The Seminoles (20-11) are No. 9 in the West and take on No. 8 Mizzou. Talented freshman Michael Porter Jr. is returning from injury so I’m not sure if he will be rusty. The 6’10 forward was the top recruit in the country for the class of 2018 so he will give Missouri a great chance to win the game.

Clemson: honestly if this was a team with a winning history I would be more confident. The Tigers (23-9) had a very good year and finished third in the ACC. In the Midwest region they are the dreaded fifth seed. The twelve versus five game typically has several upsets each year. They will play New Mexico State. If they win they face the winner of No. 4 Auburn and No. 13 Charleston. I actually like their chance to advance to the Sweet Sixteen but not beyond that.

The contenders…

Kentucky: The Wildcats (24-10) had a very inconsistent. They finished the regular season fourth in the conference but won the SEC tournament. Coach Cal always complains about seeding but he actually has a point this year. Kentucky is the fifth seed in the South and play No. 12 Davidson in the opening round. Round 2 should be against No. 4 Arizona.

The Wildcats recruit so well that they are more talented than most teams they play.

Duke: The Blue Devils are the No. 2 seed in the Midwest and they play No. 15 Iona in the first round. They would get the Oklahoma/Rhode Island match up in the second round. This is another blue blood program that has top 3 recruiting classes every year.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels are the defending national champions. They have the No. 2 seed in the West and take on No. 15 Lipscomb. They will get the Texas A&M/Providence winner.

UNC isn’t as good they were last year but they have upperclassman leadership. They advanced to the national championship the past two years and look to make a new dynasty.

 

A League Of Their Own

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There are only a few games remaining in the college basketball regular season. At this point we know who the contenders and pretenders are.

The ACC has been the best conference for several years and this season is no different. Currently there are 10 teams that will qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Things have played out differently than we initially expected before the season began though. Duke was the top ranked team in the preseason so expectations were very high. The Blue Devils always compete with Kentucky for the top recruiting class and they had a lot of incoming talent.

They landed the top recruit in the class of 2017, power forward Marvin Bagley. Point guard Trevon Duval also committed to Duke and he was ranked 6th nationally. Teaming these young stars up with senior Grayson Allen sounded like a slam-dunk.

Bagley is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder and he’s missed some games with a right knee sprain.

They are 22-5 and the No. 5 team in the country so they are having a pretty good season. The surprise is that Virginia is the best team in the conference and they have a three game lead over Duke.

The Cavaliers have only lost one conference game and their top ranked nationally. They have sustained success over the last five years so maybe we should have expected this.

North Carolina has been inconsistent this season. We know the Tar Heels are the defending national champions and they played in the championship game the past two years. They lost several players from that team so we expected some growing pains.

They lost to Wofford at home in December. In ACC play they had a three game losing streak to Virginia Tech, NC State and Clemson.

They ended the streak against a terrible Pitt team then beat Duke. The Heels are a good team but too inconsistent to advance far in the tournament.

The most shocking team is Clemson because their typically doormats in basketball. The Tigers are No. 15 in the nation and fourth in the ACC. They have not made it to the NCAA Tournament since 2011. They are a legit team and they have a chance to win a couple of games once they get there.

Virginia Tech is also playing well. The Hokies are fifth in the ACC and have a winning record in conference play. After a 10-year absence from March Madness they made it in last season. This will make two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for a program that has only been nine times.

NC State is tied with Va Tech. The Wolfpack as a program have struggled with maintaining success. They beat Duke and North Carolina, which is a major accomplishment.

Louisville has performed well but they are on probation. I believe they have a post-season ban.

Two football schools, Miami and Florida State are both currently 19-8. These two programs have been very good over the last four years so maybe this should be expected at this point.

Syracuse is the final team that will make the tourney. They used to be an elite team in the Big East. After making the switch to the ACC they have been fairly disappointing.

The conference tournament will be very competitive. There is always the possibility of an unexpected team winning it.

ACC Coastal Week 1 Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s my favorite time of year again, football season. Seriously, the opening weekend should be declared a national holiday. Lucky for us it coincides with Labor Day weekend, so we get three days of games.

I’m going to break down the matchups of the best conference, the ACC. I’ll focus on the weaker Coastal division.

North Carolina vs. California: The Tar Heels are replacing the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky. LSU transfer Brandon Harris is his replacement. Frankly, Harris was not a good player in Baton Rouge so I can’t imagine him being great in Chapel Hill.

The Golden Bears were 5-7 in 2016 so they aren’t very good. Sophomore QB Ross Bowers will be making his first collegiate start so I give the advantage to UNC.

Miami vs. Bethune-Cookman: This is a game against an FCS opponent to start the season. The Hurricanes are replacing their all-time passing leader Brad Kaaya. Junior Malik Rosier is hoping to take his place and lead Miami to their first ACC Championship. He’ll have the chance to build a lot of confidence in this game. This will be an easy 40-point win.

Pittsburgh vs. Youngstown State: Youngstown State is also from the FCS but their pretty good, especially against Pitt. They beat the Panthers in 2012 31-17.

They met again in 2015 and lost 45-37. Pitt is coming off of two consecutive 8-5 seasons and their looking to improve. That will be difficult because they lost five players to the NFL Draft including QB Nathan Peterman and running back James Conner.

Sticking with the theme of breaking in a new quarterback Max Browne will make his debut. I expect a close game but Pitt should win.

Virginia vs. William & Mary: The Cavaliers are one of the few teams that return their starting QB, senior Kurt Benkhert. At first glance it seems like he was pretty decent last year, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns. He set the all-time record for single-game passing against Central Michigan, with 421 yards. Unfortunately, his 56% completion rate was the lowest for a UVA starter since Dan Ellis in 2000.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall is in his second season and looks to improve after a disastrous 2-10 campaign. The Wahoos lost to an FCS opponent (Richmond) to open the 2016 season so it won’t be unheard of for them to lose. I’m expecting them to win by single digits.

Duke vs. North Carolina Central: The Blue Devils got the memo to play an FCS team. They are coming off a 4-8 season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2011. They do return quarterback Daniel Jones and they’ll get a blowout win.

#21 Virginia Tech vs. #22 West Virginia: This game is played Sunday night at the home of the Washington Redskins, FedEx Field. This is actually a rivalry game where the winner gets the Black Diamond Trophy.

This is their first meeting in twelve years and I expect it to be intense. The Hokies will start redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson. I expect him to struggle against the Mountaineers and Va Tech will lose.

Georgia Tech vs. #25 Tennessee: This is a prime time game on Labor Day at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Both teams are breaking in new starting quarterbacks.

I think Tech’s biggest concern is replacing B-back and leading rusher Dedrick Mills. He was dismissed two weeks ago for violation of unidentified athletic department rules.

Even without Mills I believe the triple option will be too much for Tennessee and the Yellow Jackets will win.

Win Or NFL Success?

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the NFL Draft barely in the rear view mirror and the NBA Draft on the horizon, there is an awful lot of grandstanding this time of year.

Instead of discussing the outcome of the past season, the argument tends to veer towards the level of success or failure of past players on a professional level.

For recruiting purposes, it makes complete sense. It’s much easier to sell a recruit on your school if you have examples of players who played the same position and found success at the next level.

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ACC Is Better Than SEC

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Let me start by saying I picked North Carolina to cut down the nets this past Monday night and I have the SSE article from a couple of weeks ago to prove it.

I have been mulling this article over on my mind for a few weeks now. Folks that know me know that I am a die-hard SEC supporter and I make no bones about it.

So, take notice when I type this this next sentence. The ACC is better right now than the SEC. Yes, I said it. Now that I have that out of the way here is why.

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NCAA One and Done Working?

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When a team makes it to their first Final Four in school history, defeating the 2,3, and 4 seeds to get there, it seems pretty obvious that’s what you should write about.

South Carolina will have plenty of stories documenting their improbable run that will be much more succinct than anything I could say, so I’m going in a little different route today.

With both Duke and Kentucky missing the Final Four, the talk concerning them ultimately turns to one and done players. More specifically, is it working?

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