The spirit of the ACC captured in first few games

Dec. 13, 2005, midnight | By Payal Patnaik | 18 years, 7 months ago

Virginia Tech gives number one Duke a scare

With the start of the ACC season, the followers of the conference were in for a surprise.

Duke, ranked number one in the nation with an undefeated record, was almost overpowered by Virginia Tech, an unranked team with a 5-2 record at the time. Yet only a few days later, Duke slaughtered the number two Texas Longhorns 97-66, the third largest margin of victory in NCAA history in a 1-versus-2 game. In the game against Tech, Duke was down by a point and Virginia Tech was just about to overthrow their formidable opponent. But in the last second, Sean Dockery made a desperate 43-foot shot, giving Duke a two-point lead over Virginia Tech and dashing Tech's hopes of defeating the nation's top basketball team.

But with unranked Tech so close to defeating Duke, we wonder, is the King invincible this season? Tech played admirably against Duke, going toe-to-toe with the Blue Devils like they were having a ball at a country square dance. The display of basketball that first ACC Sunday was indicative of why we love ACC ball.

Duke has an amazing squad this year, with seniors JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams leading the team and freshman Josh McRoberts delivering the shots. But their narrow victory showed that no one in the ACC is invincible. Duke is simply a duke in the feudal system that is the basketball court, where no true kings can exist. In the ACC, we find ourselves at times cheering for the underdog, for sometimes the underdog beats the big bulldog. Like a Cinderella story, the big guys are the evil stepmothers, and the little guys are the ones who turn heads. They get the media's attention, they make us realize that they are a force to be reckoned with, and they force us to remember that rankings are never set in stone in college basketball.

That is the true beauty of college ball. There is no dominant force. When asked about which team is the most forceful in basketball history, many will readily answer "Duke." But in the past ten years, even when Duke was ranked number one in its NCAA Regional Division, the team has won one only national championship. The number of upsets is larger, and college ball keeps the followers constantly on their toes more than in the NBA.

It was suitable that the game that opened the ACC season demonstrated the spirit of the conference.

Even though Tech did not manage to beat Duke, the team is definitely on the radar screen. Rankings, for some reason, never determine the real outcome of games in the NCAA. I have got to make a note to myself when I fill out my brackets in March; the sure way to lose money is to depend on rankings instead of anticipating upsets. Take last night's Maryland game against Boston College as an example. Number 19 Maryland managed to beat Boston College, previously number six, 73-71. With 2.2 seconds left in a two-point game and the ball in Boston College's hands, Maryland managed to steal and hold the ball for the final second before the buzzer rang and another upset was recorded in ACC logbooks. The captivating spirit of ACC basketball is back, and it has shone stronger than ever in the first week of conference play.

Payal Patnaik. Payal's bad habits include compulsive apologizing, and....sorry. More »

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