ACC Tournament Blog

Posted Saturday, March 15 at 5:55 p.m.

by Simit Shah

The Day After

A few thoughts on a day when folks have one eye on basketball and the other on the weather around the southeast. It’s been interesting to walk around the media work area today and see as many laptops showing radar maps as scoreboards.

And who would have figured that Georgia Tech’s logo and Buzz would be plastered all over the SEC Tournament? Certainly a strange sight earlier this afternoon, and the pictures from the displaced SEC Tournament elicited more than a few humorous comments among the media prior to the start of action in Charlotte today.

Back to basketball and a few random bits from the locker room last night.

One more tip of the cap to seniors Jeremis Smith and Anthony Morrow. Folks can debate about the successes and failures of their careers, but there’s no doubt that these two young men have represented the Institute with plenty of class the last four years.

This has been a year filled with painful losses, and the duo is often asked to talk to the media afterwards. Morrow and Smith have always been accommodating and forthcoming, even in difficult circumstances, and you’ll find a lot of respect for them among the media contingent both in Atlanta and around the ACC.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock yesterday, Morrow and Smith embraced at the end of the Tech bench for a moment before walking off the court. It was an emotional moment for both, and Smith was still clearly overwhelmed in the locker room.

“This is big-time emotional for me,” he said. “I just wanted to thank all the people that I’ve developed relationships with, even the referees. You’ve seen me out there talking to them all the time. The refs, the fans, my teammates, coaches, everyone — we’re talking four years, so these kinds of relationships are hard to come by.”

“I knew Jeremis going back two or three years before Georgia Tech,” added Morrow. “I told him that it’s been great playing with a guy that put his body on the line for the whole program. That really rubbed off on me and I lot of other guys. He established that toughness. He made me tougher and the whole team a lot tougher.”

Most assume that the loss to Duke was the final game of the season, but is it? Paul Hewitt mentioned the NIT several times in postgame interviews, and he hopes the tournament will look at Tech’s 15-17 record and factor in the strength of schedule, as well as some of the narrow losses this season.

“I hope that we get invited to the NIT,” he said. “I don’t know how, but if we can just to get a chance to play more basketball, I think we could do some really good things.”

I asked him if there was a process to lobby the committee, and he laughed, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

Saturday, March 15 at 11:30 a.m.

“The Word From Wes”
Third Edition

GAMES IN CHARLOTTE WITH AN EYE ON ATLANTA

Good morning from Charlotte, where it’s semi-final Saturday at the ACC Tournament. But to be honest, it’s been weird to be in Charlotte and know that there was severe weather in our hometown last night.

When the news broke around Charlotte last night, things were calming down at Bobcats Arena from the first semi-final game between Duke and Georgia Tech. Instantly, reports started coming out and those of us with Atlanta ties were on the phone with someone letting us know what had happened and the impact on the remainder of the SEC Tournament.

Today, as Carolina – Virginia Tech square for a second time this season at 1:30, there will be plenty of interest in how Georgia Tech hosts the remainder of the SEC Tournament at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

EARLY MORNING AT AMC

Before the sun came up this morning, work was already being done by people in the athletic department at Georgia Tech to help insure as smooth a transition as possible for the SEC Tournament to continue.

It won’t be the same, but everyone involved will try to make it as seamless as possible.

Facility, game operations and video production will all play a role in helping the SEC continue their event today.

Last night, the TV trucks for the SEC were moved from the Georgia Dome to AMC, so that they could begin putting cameras and other elements in place this morning for the telecasts. Those become more critical as only a limited number of people would be allowed in the building.

That limited number of tickets also means that parking will likely not be as crazy as one would think. With a track event scheduled across the street, it won’t be easy, but not nearly what it would be if there were 9,000 people expected three times in a 27 hour time frame on campus.

One bit of relief on that front is that Spring Break started on campus this weekend, so most of the students are gone for the upcoming week.

Hope everyone is safe today…radio coverage on ISP Sports starts at 1 p.m. for the semi-finals from Charlotte.

Posted Friday, March 14 at 3:50 p.m.

by Simit Shah

High Fashion

One of the best stories this week is the homecoming of Anthony Morrow. The Charlotte native is playing in front of a healthy contingent of friends and family this weekend, including his grandmother who is seeing him play collegiately for the first time.

When I talked to him Monday, Morrow said that he had been wheeling and dealing with teammates to help him get enough tickets for the tournament, and at last count he had gotten his hands on 14.

“I was tracking some guys down,” he said.

He was the final Yellow Jacket introduced last night, and the PA announcer emphasized his hometown. He got a nice hand, and he seemed to have plenty of the neutral parties rooting him on during his 18-point, seven-rebound performance.

Morrow certainly rose to the occasion and played with emotion and bravado that I have rarely seen in his four-year career. Paul Hewitt told me that some guys put too much pressure on themselves when playing in their hometown, but he wasn’t worried about Morrow.

During the first session yesterday, I was flipping through the official program, which always features a player from each team. Not surprisingly, Tech’s representative was Morrow, but rather than the standard game action photo, the program used an, um, interesting casual shot. Morrow, who has often showcased his vast eclectic wardrobe and shoe collection, was photographed in a sweater with a striped pink collar peeking through the top. I’m not sure how to describe his pose, but please check out the photo I took.

In the locker room after the Virginia game, I noticed a program in D’Andre Bell’s locker. I urged him to check out Morrow’s photo, and he and Jeremis Smith howled when they flipped to page 90.

Bell described him as a “chocolate Easter bunny” and caused enough of a commotion that Morrow broke away from an interview to defend himself. He tried to get Smith to agree that he’s GQ-worthy, but the fellow senior wasn’t biting.

Posted Friday, March 14 at 1:35 p.m.

by Simit Shah

Preparing for Duke

As the first session gets underway, the Yellow Jackets are back in their hotel preparing for tonight’s matchup against Duke. Rather than scheduling a workout at a local high school or college, Paul Hewitt had his team go through a morning and afternoon walk-thru in one of the hotel meeting rooms.

Team managers applied tape on the floor to create a makeshift court. Associate sports information director Mike Stamus took a few pictures of the setup.

The team also had a film session this morning. Otherwise, the schedule is almost exactly identical to yesterday. The team will board the bus to the arena around 5 p.m. and warm-up at Bobcats Arena about 30 minutes prior to tipoff.

Georgia Tech will be trying to avenge their February 27 loss in Durham. The Jackets kept the game close for a while, but they didn’t shoot a free throw until about the nine minute mark in the second half.

At last night’s post-game press conference, Paul Hewitt said that replicating the tempo of the Virginia game will be a key to competing with Duke.

“We are going to try and push the pace and run the floor, and I’m sure they will too,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to establish something around the basket so we can get to the foul line. I think our guys battled that last game, and they played great defense. We weren’t aggressive enough to get to the foul line….If that happens tomorrow night, it is going to be really tough to beat them.”

Inside the numbers

I’ll offer up a few more stats that may mean nothing.

This will be the third time that Georgia Tech has played on a Friday this season: the season-opening loss to UNC-Greensboro and a first round victory over Charlotte in the Paradise Jam.

Last night, the Jackets had five players score in double digits — Anthony Morrow (18), Jeremis Smith (18), Moe Miller (14), Zack Peacock (14) and Alade Aminu (11). That has happened five times this season (Charlotte, Notre Dame, at Virginia, at Wake Forest and Clemson). Not surprisingly, Tech won all those games.

Georgia Tech’s worst loss this season in terms of margin of victory was 82-67 at Clemson. The Jackets exacted revenge with a victory at home three weeks later. The 71-59 loss to Duke was tied (with Vanderbilt) for the second-worst of the season.

Tonight is the third time that the Jackets play on back-to-back days. They were 1-1 in that situation in St. Thomas. I remember Hewitt telling me in St. Thomas that he likes those in-season tournaments, because they provide a good simulation for the ACC Tournament.

Posted Thursday, March 13 at 11:00 p.m.

by Simit Shah

All about fun

The cramped locker room in Bobcats Arena couldn’t contain the pure joy exuding from the Yellow Jackets following their first round victory over Virginia Thursday night. There were smiles and jokes all around after winning their first ACC Tournament game in three years.

Jeremis Smith was grinning ear to ear as he talked about how much fun the team is having right now.

“Before each game instead of (ending the huddle with) ‘1-2-3-Family!’ we say ‘1-2-3-Fun!’ That’s our new thing, and we want to have as much fun as possible out there,” he said. “Having fun contributes a lot to winning. That’s been a big difference these last four or five games.”

Paul Hewitt added that the coaching staff is having a lot more fun as well.

“I’m having fun watching them playing good basketball and good team defense,” he said. They’ve been doing some good things all year, but we just haven’t had the payoff at the end of games. Sometimes, it’s just luck.”

Stopping Singletary

You can’t say enough about the defensive shackles put on Sean Singletary. It’s a team effort, but much of the credit goes to D’Andre Bell. In three games, Singletary has been held to 14-46 shooting, including 2-14 from behind the arc.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” said Bell after the game. “I love defending. I looked up to Mario West whether he knew it or not. He led by example, and I used his tactics out on the floor today.”

“That’s unbelievable,” said Smith, pointing to Bell. “Even though he had 20 (points) and 10 (assists), he almost had a triple-double with turnovers. Six turnovers from an all-American are big. That’s all we can ask for. Who cares about the points? Who cares about the assists? We just wore him down. That was huge.”

Change in plans

After the game, Hewitt said that the team’s change in travel plans helped tonight. Originally, the Jackets had planned to fly to Charlotte Tuesday night, but late Monday, Hewitt opted to come to Charlotte Wednesday.

He said some exams and study hall played a factor, and the team practiced Wednesday in Atlanta for about an hour and 45 minutes, which is about 30 minutes longer than normal for a day before a game.

“Thinking about it, I don’t think it made much sense coming here and sitting around the hotel Tuesday and Wednesday night,” he said. “We wanted to give them another night in their own beds.”

Posted Thursday, March 13 at 10:15 p.m.

“The Word From Wes”
Second Edition

JACKETS “RETRO FIT” A WIN IN CHARLOTTE

Watching Georgia Tech play here on Thursday night was almost like seeing a team play for the first time. The Jackets looked like the Hewitt teams of the early years at the corner of 10th and Fowler Streets. They were pressing, shooting threes, running the floor, cashing in on transition chances.

Fitting in a lot of ways that Darryl LaBarrie and Jon Babul, who were critical parts of Hewitt’s first team in Atlanta, were in the stands at Bobcats Arena.

Babul just confirmed it for me. Tech was like the “Old Tech” in some ways.

Maybe it’s the fresh start. No expectations.

Smith and Morrow were excellent. They scored, rebounded and led. Morrow did a lot of this on emotion, as he normally does, while Smith was just tough.

Sean Singletary was worn out at halftime and then saw his Virginia career ended on a 2-for-7 shooting spree in the second half. It was textbook Jacket defense reminiscent of the early Hewitt years.

A final word about Singletary, who saw his Virginia career end tonight at Bobcats Arena. He got a standing ovation from the crowd when he was lifted in the final minutes of the game. He has essentially carried the Cavaliers this year, and at times over the last three years. Recruited by Pete Gillen, he got the same send-off Matt Harpring did in 1998 from the fans at the tournament and it was deserved.

Tech wore down Virginia and has to hope they have something left in the tank for Duke on Friday night.

KRZYZEWSKI GETS HENDERSON FOR BATTLE AGAINST JACKETS

In his pre-tournament press conference, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked to reflect on the quarterfinal round suspension of Gerald Henderson a year ago in Tampa. You may remember that Henderson was suspended for one-game following his hard foul on Tyler Hansbrough of Carolina in the regular season finale the previous Sunday.

According to Luciana Chavez of the Raleigh News & Observer, Krzyzewski and Duke were told 45 minutes prior to their game against NC State last year in Tampa by the ACC that Henderson could not sit on the bench and had to sit in the Duke section of the arena.

Krzyzewski stated in his comments on Tuesday that a precedent had already been set in the league and that the player could be on the bench.

It was likely that he was referring to Wake Forest and Chris Paul in the 2005 tournament at the MCI Center. Paul had been suspended by the conference for a shot below the belt on Julius Hodge of NC State in the Deacons’ final regular season game at Raleigh.

In the rematch in the tournament, Paul was suspended by Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser. But the point guard sat on the Deacons bench for their tournament loss to State in Washington.

Whatever the precedent, Henderson plays in the tournament tomorrow night for the first time.

A-B-C (Anybody But Carolina) OR A-B-D (Anybody But Duke)

One of the curiosities tomorrow here in Charlotte will be who the crowd gets behind when Florida State meets Carolina and tomorrow night as Georgia Tech faces Duke.

Duke fans are likely to fall in behind the Seminoles, who beat Wake earlier today. Meanwhile tomorrow night, you can bet the Jackets will have the Tar Heels and most others behind them when they beat Duke.

One of the oddest sights in recent tournament history was watching the Devil faithful, cheering wildly for Tech in the 2004 quarterfinal round win over Carolina, then the next day, watching the same crowd root for their beloved Devils against Tech in the semi-finals.

The tournament certainly does make for strange bedfellows at times.

Posted Thursday, March 13 at 4:15 p.m.

by Simit Shah

Setting the scene

The second game of the opening session is underway at Charlotte Bobcats Arena. This is my first trip to the two-year-old facility, and it is impressive, to say the least. As Wes noted yesterday, this is one of the smaller venues that has hosted the ACC Tournament, but it is definitely the most modern.

For those watching on TV, you’ll probably get a few tangential views of the massive scoreboard that sits above the court. The arena’s website boasts that it is the “most technologically advanced scoreboard in the country,” and I don’t doubt it.

All four sides feature colossal video screens that show all the action. During the games, the picture is scaled down a bit to show the clock and score, as well as game stats. None of the old-fashioned LED stuff here, folks.

Charlotte native Anthony Morrow has seen a few NBA games here, and he told me earlier this week that the arena reminds him of Philips Arena with the exception of the funky club seating configuration in Atlanta. That’s a pretty good comparison. Charlotte has its own unique club section that spans around three-quarters of the arena, but otherwise the upper and lower levels are almost identical.

Given that this is the first session, there’s a pretty healthy crowd. The writers around me guess that it’s at least 80-percent full. Not sure what the actual attendance is, but I’d wager that this exceeds some of the early sessions in previous years.

Georgia Tech’s seating allotment is the behind one of the baskets, which will be on the left side of your TV screen. There is already a good bit of gold in that section, so expect some strong support for the Jackets tonight.

During one of the timeouts of the N.C. State-Miami game, there was some sort of announcement for the winner of an Alltel promotion. They trotted out a few finalists on the floor, and the guy who ended up being the winner was decked out in a Florida basketball jersey. Given a chance to say a few words, he said he was supporting all the teams here, but then wished his Gators good luck in Atlanta. He was heartily booed. You can’t do that in the heart of ACC country.

As for the game tonight, the Jackets board their bus for the arena at 5 p.m. They are staying on the outskirts of town, so they should be here by 5:30 to begin preparations for Virginia.

Incidentally, the coaching staff is not scouting the early session since they wouldn’t potentially face any of these teams until Sunday. Normally, an assistant coach is assigned to scout each potential opponent. If the Jackets win tonight, they’ll have someone here watching the early session tomorrow.

Hewitt did stress the importance of not looking ahead in a situation like this.

“This is a clean slate, and you take care of it, pardon the cliché, one game at a time,” he said Monday. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We have to be focused on each possession. There are so many one-point and one-possession games in the ACC, so you never know which possession is going to be difference. You play as hard as you can for as long as you can. If you’re lucky to move on, then you worry about the next day.”

Posted Thursday, March 13 at 8:30 a.m.

by Simit Shah

NUMBERS GAME

Everyone knows that engineers love their numbers, so here are a few obscure ones to chew on while you try to kill time at work today. Do these really mean anything? I’m pretty sure they don’t, but I’ll let you be the judge.

This is Georgia Tech’s 29th ACC Tournament, but tonight marks the first time the Jackets have been the seventh seed. They are 6-2 in first round games where they were the higher seed.

Virginia and Georgia Tech have met eight times in the ACC Tournament, splitting those contests evenly. Six of those games have been in the first round, and five were decided by seven or fewer points.

Georgia Tech and Virginia are 11th (3.4 per game) and 12th (2.17) in the ACC in blocked shots, respectively. However, the Jackets swatted 13 Cavalier attempts in their two regular season contests, while Virginia recorded only a pair.

Tonight’s game will be televised on ESPN2 (and more importantly, ESPN2HD). The Jackets have appeared on the network three times this season and have a 2-1 record (wins against Clemson and at N.C. State, loss to Maryland).

This will be the eighth time the Jackets have tipped off at 7 p.m. ET this season, and they are 5-3 in those games. In case you are wondering, the Jackets are 2-0 on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

The Jackets won two of their three ACC Tournament championships in Charlotte (Steve Phillips’ recap of the ’90 and ’93 title runs is a great read), but the Queen City hasn’t exactly treated Georgia Tech like royalty since then. They are winless in the four tournaments the city has hosted since 1993.

To end on a high note, the last time the Jackets won their final regular season road game (2004), they ended up in the tournament championship game.

FOLLOWING THE GAMES

If you are stuck at work today and tomorrow, there are several options for following the action in Charlotte. Wes mentioned the myriad of school radio networks that are covering the tournament, and many of them offer streaming coverage online including 790 The Zone.

For those with generous corporate firewalls, you can watch the Raycom telecasts online at accselect.com for a fee.

If you’d rather keep your credit card in your wallet, the site is also offering the post-game press conferences for free. ACC coaches, especially after a victory, can put on a show (Roy Williams had some fun with a Coke cup a few years ago), but entertainment value aside, you might find it interesting to see some of the context around the sound bites that end up on SportsCenter or in the newspaper.

Posted Wednesday, March 12 at 1:00 p.m.

“The Word From Wes”
First Edition

WELCOME TO RADIO ROW

Good afternoon from Charlotte, where the 55th ACC Basketball Tournament begins at noon tomorrow, with Wake Forest meeting Florida State.

During the tournament, Simit Shah, the outstanding feature writer for Ramblinwreck.com and I will be “blogging” from Charlotte with tournament items, thoughts and stories about the event. Most of my writing to you will come from “Radio Row”…but more on that later.

This is the first time the tournament has been held at Bobcats Arena, which is the home of the latest NBA expansion team. Apparently, owner Robert Johnson is still waiting for the “right price” from a corporate sponsor to name the 19,026-seat arena…and hasn’t found it yet. That is unique in today’s corporate sports world, but so is the size of this arena.

This venue is the smallest since the conference staged the 1989 event at The Omni (16,378) in Atlanta. In 1987, the conference held their marquee event at Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, which sat 18,756, for the last time, after going there in 1976 and 1981.

About a decade ago, the athletic directors started talking about moving the event around to different parts of the conference footprint. Curiously, it means that three of the last four tournaments have been held in some of the smallest venues ever to stage the event.

2005: MCI Center, Washington – 20,173
2006: Greensboro Coliseum – 23,500
2007: St. Pete Times Forum – 20,500
2008: Bobcats Arena – 19,026

That will all change next year and in coming years, when the event is going to be staged exclusively in Atlanta (Georgia Dome – 40,000) and Greensboro. But the AD’s who decided to move the event around accomplished their goal.

Things this year in Charlotte are made a little tighter from a ticket perspective because this is the first year that Boston College will receive a share of tickets. That means all 12 schools get a full share of tickets. Add the ACC and their needs and you see where for the first time it’s tight on tickets. That will mean “commerce” will be big once a team gets beat, especially if they have good seats.

LEGENDARY RADIO ROW

It’s not really “legendary”, but it is easily the busiest spot in the building. Georgia Tech is one of several schools that have traditionally broadcast every game of the ACC Tournament. One of the reasons being that while the Jackets might not be playing, there are several alums in the Atlanta area that had no other way to hear the games in the early days of the Jackets in the ACC.

Believe it or not, full radio coverage of the tournament still exists, but in a different way now because of 11 games and also because of the unique bond Georgia Tech has with Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Florida State. Each school is part of ISP Sports, who holds the radio and other media and marketing rights for the schools.

When the conference expanded to include the Hokies and Hurricanes a couple years ago, Chris Ferris (VP, Radio), Stan Cotton (Voice of the Deacons), Bill Roth (Voice of the Hokies) and myself thought it might be good to “mix and match” the games that our schools were not involved in, and get those games aired to all of our affiliates combined.

It started a couple years ago in Greensboro and will continue here Thursday and Friday. When Saturday and Sunday roll around, things will get back to normal and you will hear me and Randy Waters doing the semi-finals and title game, regardless if the Jackets are in them or not.

When Tech plays Virginia on Thursday night, Randy and I will do the game for our affiliates, while another duo will do the game for the remaining networks and ISP’s national affiliates. 790 The Zone will be carrying every game of the tournament as well, so you will have an Atlanta station to hear all the different teams we have working together.

Here’s the breakdown for Thursday’s game with play-by-play announcer, network and analyst and their network:

12 noon, Florida State v. Wake Forest
Wes Durham (Georgia Tech), Mike Burnop (Virginia Tech)

2:30 p.m., Miami v. NC State
Bill Roth (Virginia Tech), Randy Waters (Georgia Tech)

7 p.m., Georgia Tech v. Virginia
– Normal broadcast team of Wes Durham and Randy Waters on Georgia Tech affiliates.
Other networks will hear Gene Deckerhoff (FSU), Mark Freidinger (Wake Forest)

9:30 p.m., Maryland v. Boston College
Bill Rosinski (ISP), Wimp Sanderson (ISP)

The Friday schedule is set up as follows (subject to change):

12 noon, Carolina v. Florida State / Wake Forest
Bill Rosinski (ISP), Randy Waters (Georgia Tech)

2:30 p.m., VT v. Miami / NC State
Wes Durham (Georgia Tech), Mark Freidinger (Wake Forest)

7 p.m., Duke v. Georgia Tech / Virginia
If the Jackets advance, Tech stations will have Wes Durham and Randy Waters, other Networks will have Bill Roth (Virginia Tech) and Wimp Sanderson (ISP).

9:30 p.m., Clemson v. Miami / Boston College
Stan Cotten (Wake Forest), Keith Jones (Florida State)

To be honest, it’s a lot of fun. Working with other guys covering great basketball makes for a very enjoyable four days of work.

It would not be possible without the efforts of our engineers though. Chris Ferris has done a great job of putting all these broadcasts on the same page technically, while Miller Pope, our Georgia Tech engineer is joined by veteran John Brockwell and others who help get the thing sounding just great from Charlotte.

This year’s tournament coverage will be hosted by Alan York and Nathan Ealy. Both guys will do a good job of setting up the day’s events and keeping you locked in during our coverage with highlights and scores from other tournaments around the country.

With 35 conference games decided by three points or less, or overtime, this year’s tournament has a chance to be quite a thrill.

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