The Summit of Silliness: What is ESPN’s problem with the ACC and the Tar Heels?


I’m going to be the first to admit that the ACC is not the best NCAA basketball conference this season. The conference is nowhere near the status that it was in the 1980s and 1990s. This is mostly because after Coach Williams, Leonard Hamilton and the rat down the road, Tony Bennett is next in seniority among ACC coaches. And Bennett is merely in his third season with the Cavaliers. Wake Forest lost Skip Prosser a few years ago way too soon. Clemson ran Oliver Purnell out of South Carolina, and Frank Haith wisely left Miami before his involvement in the school’s NCAA violations made his decision for him. So once the freshmen and sophomore coaches in the ACC get a few more seasons under their belts, the quality of ACC play will markedly improve. Mark Gottfried and NC State in particular.

Jayson Williams, ESPN commentator and former Duke guard, however seems to have all but given up on the conference he once played in. Jay Williams has said some dumb things this season. Back in January he predicted that Syracuse would run the table this season and implied that Virginia was the best team in the ACC. However, he approached the summit of silliness this past Saturday when he tweeted his opinion regarding the top college basketball conferences. And here they are in order:

Best Conferences: 1. Big10 2. Big12 3. BigEast 4. SEC 5. ACC 6. MWC 7. WCC

I agree with Jay in his top choice. The Big 10 is hands down the best top to bottom conference in the country. But, that doesn’t mean one of their schools will win it all. If you recall UNC’s path to glory in 2005, they beat three, consecutive Big Ten teams (Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois). The joke was that Carolina had also won the Big Ten conference crown in their quest for the national title. But that is pretty much the only thing I agree with @RealJayWilliams on. Here are my rankings:

  1. Big 10 2. Big East 3. ACC 4. Big 12 5. SEC 6. MWC 7. WCC

Some of you might have a problem with my Big 12 ranking, but I’m sorry I have yet to jump on the Baylor bandwagon. And I refuse to drink the Missouri Kool-Aid. I predict that Baylor will be one of the premature exits in the tournament. Plus, Texas is having a way down year and in danger of not making the tournament. However, the most laughable of Williams’ rankings is putting the SEC ahead of the ACC! What are you smoking Jay, and how can I get some? I will give you Kentucky, but you can add Florida to my list of premature exits. Ever since Joakim Noah and Florida’s back-to-back national championships, the Gators have perennially been overrated and ranked higher than they should be. Furthermore, SEC basketball is a joke. Right now, they would get probably three teams in the tournament. After living in South Carolina for so long, I once fell into the trap of thinking a SEC team not in Kentucky or Florida was legitimate. I picked Vanderbilt and Alabama to advance to the sweet sixteen in my bracket, and both teams disappointed. The fact that they play in the SEC is the reason Kentucky only has one loss, and in the end I think the low quality of conference play compared to power conferences will hurt UK in the tournament. I would rather play stiff competition and earn a #2 seed than a #1 after a season of playing cupcakes. Though to his credit, Calipari did schedule a pretty difficult non-conference schedule for his Wildcats resulting in their one loss and the nail biter with the Heels.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let’s break it down by ranked teams shall we according to this week’s ESPN/Coaches Poll:

  1. Big Ten: 5 teams (Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana)
  2. Big East: 4 teams (Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville)
  3. ACC: 4 teams (Duke, UNC, Florida State and Virginia)
  4. Big 12: 3 teams (Missouri, Kansas and Baylor)
  5. Mountain West: 3 teams (New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State)
  6. SEC: 2 teams (Kentucky and Florida)
  7. Ohio Valley: 1 team (Murray State); Atlantic 10: 1 team (Temple); Missouri Valley: 1 team (Wichita State); West Coast Conference: 1 team (Saint Mary’s)

Speaking of rankings, I’m not sure why UNC (this week is an exception) is almost always ranked higher in the AP poll than in the ESPN/Coaches. I’m not big on rankings except when it relates to tournament selection. Right now, I am hoping for a #2 seed for the Heels in the East or the South. But, this week’s rankings really did rub me the wrong way when Michigan State is ranked ahead of the Heels in both polls. Let’s forget for the moment that the Spartans have one more loss than the Tar Heels. Apparently, everyone has a very short memory and has forgotten about the November season opener when Carolina BEAT MSU 67-55 aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. And don’t even get me started as to why Kansas is ranked ahead of us as well as Duke who has the same record. I understand the Florida State game made a lot of people lose faith in the Heels, but two of Duke’s losses were at home and to teams that were unranked at the time. Two of UNC’s losses were by one point. I guess the people casting their votes haven’t been watching Duke play lately. In a word: sloppy. They didn’t so much beat the Tar Heels as the Tar Heels beat themselves, and I think we all know that there was a sixth man dressed as a zebra in the second half of the State/Duke game in Durham.

So, maybe ESPN lets Jay Williams say such outlandish and foolish things just to stir the pot a little. Or maybe it’s because he went to Duke so ESPN automatically gives him the green light to do and say anything he wants. But how about throwing Hubert Davis a bone every once and awhile? I have seen Davis commentate a few times this year, but it was only on ESPNU. Davis has far more experience than Jay Williams and actually thinks before he speaks. Of course we are talking about ESPN here, the entity that thought it was ok to use the word “chink” in a headline about a Chinese basketball player.