More to ACC Saturday than Virginia at Duke
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More to ACC Saturday than Virginia at Duke

Miami's Chris Lykes presents North Carolina with a small throwback challenge

Photo: Chris Lykes

Virginia and ESPN’s College GameDay crew are at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday for an ACC first-place showdown. The unbeaten Cavaliers (16-0) are 4-0 in conference play and the Blue Devils 14-2 and 3-1.

But what about the other 3-1 teams in range of a first-place tie if Duke wins?

After all, there are four of them, led by original Tobacco Road OG North Carolina. Other Saturday games feature the Tar Heels (13-4, 3-1) at Miami (9-7, 1-3), Virginia Tech (14-2, 3-1) hosting Wake Forest (8-8, 1-3), Louisville (13-4, 3-1) is at Georgia Tech (10-7, 2-2) and Syracuse (12-5, 3-1) has a home game against Pitt (12-5, 2-2).

It’s way too early to pare down the ACC to a two-horse race, especially with North Carolina capable of blending its experience and youth into a potent combination.

Old-time ACC fans complain about the footprint expanded beyond the original Tobacco Road schools, but the conference race isn’t over until North Carolina and Duke meet twice on the most heavily trod Tobacco Road turf in the last month in the ESPN-orchestrated schedule.

North Carolina has eight conference games before the first of the two ACC tests with Duke, starting Saturday with Miami led by point guard Chris Lykes. He’s enjoying a breakout sophomore season despite his lack of size as a 5-foot-7, 157-pounder.

Williams isn’t underestimating Lykes, who has improved his numbers as a freshman last year from 9.6 points a game to 17.9 this year, from 2.3 assists to 3.6 and 0.8 steals to 1.4. He said Lykes quickness on the drive and ability to shoot make him tough to guard.

“You back off of him and he can shoot,” he said. “You get up on him and he goes by you. He’s small so he gets through the cracks; he can split ball screens.”

In fact, Lykes is a throwback player The Tar Heels’ 68-year-old coach was an assistant for the late Dean Smith, even though this is an era in basketball with an emphasis on perimeter players with length. Muggsy Bogues (5-3, 135) played at Wake Forest (1983-87) and Spud Webb (5-7, 133) played at N.C. State (1983-85); both went on to long NBA careers.

“Muggsy Bogues is one of the greatest players I ever seen. I was here when Spud Webb played. We had some little guys that were hard to handle, but it starts with Mugsh. I thought he was the best player of that size I’ve ever seen. Guys were afraid of him. Guys that were high school All-Americans were turning their heads wondering where he was instead of playing the game.”

North Carolina freshman guard Coby White (6-5, 185) and freshman forward Nassir Little (6-6, 220) are 5-star recruits the Tar Heels are counting on to continue to mature in time for the ACC stretch run against Duke and the post-season.

In Tuesday’s comeback win against Notre Dame, White and Little sparked a 12-1 during a 5:35 stretch in the second half that allow the Tar Heels to turn a 58-57 deficit into a 69-59 lead. Little and White both scored five points.

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Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light

-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.


David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer; "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."

Click here for the link to order from August Publications



Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer,, and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."