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All about the ACC: Three for the road

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All about the ACC: Three for the road
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Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt has little to smile about vs. Duke – or this season

With only two ranked teams and a handful of others on the NCAA tournament bubble, the mediocrity of the tradition-rich ACC is tough to ignore. As the regular season begins to wind down, questions about the future of some of the league’s struggling coaches will surely begin to surface.

If they haven’t already.

Unless they leave for other jobs, nine of the ACC’s 12 coaches seem like safe bets to return next season. There are three coaches, though, who appear to be on shaky ground. Here’s a look at each.

Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech – It’s hard to believe how far the Yellow Jackets have fallen since Hewitt led them to the national championship game in 2004. Saturday’s loss to Duke dropped them to 11-15 overall and 3-9 in ACC play, which means Georgia Tech will likely finish with a losing record for the fourth time in the last six years. Fan apathy, understandably, is high. Last week’s home game against Virginia Tech drew 5,794 fans to the 9,191-seat Alexander Memorial Coliseum. With a $45 million renovation project on the arena set to begin in April, the Yellow Jackets need to do something to rejuvenate fan interest in the program.

Firing Hewitt – whose team lost to Kennesaw State this season – seems like the obvious move, but it may not be that easy. Hewitt’s contract has a six-year rollover agreement that includes a $7 million buyout. That amount would have to be paid in full if the school ever decided to go in another direction. It’d be a costly move but, at this point, Georgia Tech may not have any other choice.

Frank Haith, Miami – Now in his seventh season, Haith has done little to convince Hurricanes fans that a significant run in the NCAA tournament will ever be in the cards. Haith led Miami to the 2008 NCAA tournament, where it advanced to the second round. But Miami’s 8-8 league record that season marks the only time the Hurricanes haven’t finished with a losing ACC record under Haith, who has lost 20 of his last 28 conference games. Currently Miami is 16-11 overall and 4-8 in the ACC. Each of Miami’s four wins were by one or two points, and three of the victories came against lower-tier teams.

Haith is in the third year of a five-year contract extension he signed in April.

Sidney Lowe, North Carolina State – Lowe won 20 games and took the Wolfpack to the NIT quarterfinals during his first season in 2006-07. But since then, things haven’t worked out for Lowe at his alma mater. Lowe has yet to lead the Wolfpack to the NCAA tournament, and he’s just 24-52 all-time in ACC play. This season has been particularly disappointing. Lowe brought in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes but hasn’t been able to succeed with it. North Carolina State (14-12, 4-8) has lost eight of its last 11 games and has yet to defeat a quality opponent. Lowe, who replaced Herb Sendek, still has two years remaining on a contract that runs through 2013.

LEAGUE RANKINGS

(Last week’s rank in parenthesis)

1. Duke (25-2, 12-1) – Coach Mike Krzyzewski was whistled for a technical foul in Sunday’s victory over Georgia Tech. (1)

2. North Carolina (20-6, 10-2) – Tyler Zeller is being more assertive for the Tar Heels. (2)

3. Virginia Tech (17-8, 7-5) – Being swept by in-state rival and ACC doormat Virginia is not the best way to get off the bubble. (3)

4. Boston College (16-10, 6-6) – As long as they don’t self-destruct during these last two weeks, the Eagles appear to be headed toward the NCAA tournament. (5)

5. Florida State (19-7, 9-3) – With 9.6 points per game, Derwin Kitchen is now the Seminoles’ active leading scorer. (7)

6. Maryland (17-10, 6-6) – Jordan Williams and Terrell Stoglin combined for 51 points Sunday against N.C. State. (6)

7. Clemson (18-9, 7-6) – The Tigers were 0-5 in games decided by five points or less before defeating Miami 63-59 on Saturday. (4)

8. North Carolina State (14-12, 4-8) – Three of the Wolfpack’s final four games are at home. (11)

9. Miami (16-11, 4-8) – The Hurricanes’ roster features just one senior. (8)

10. Virginia (13-13, 4-8) – Mustapha Farrakhan came up huge down the stretch in Saturday’s win over Virginia Tech. (9)

11. Georgia Tech (11-15, 3-9) – Iman Shumpert has been the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreadful season. (11)

12. Wake Forest (8-19, 1-11) – The Demon Deacons wouldn’t can Jeff Bzdelik after just one season. Would they? (12)

WHO’S HOT?

Greivis Vasquez, Maryland – The former Terrapins star and 2009-10 ACC Player of the Year had his jersey retired Sunday at the Comcast Center. Now a member of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, the outspoken Vasquez is the only player in ACC history to have more than 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds.

Florida State sans Chris Singleton – The Seminoles defeated Wake Forest on Saturday in their first game without their leading scorer and rebounder. From here, though, Florida State may not be as fortunate. Florida State plays at Maryland on Wednesday and still has a game against North Carolina.

ACC tournament – Even though this isn’t the best year for ACC basketball, the fact that so many of the league’s teams are evenly matched should make for a good conference tournament featuring loads of close games.

WHO’S NOT?

Miami in close games – The Hurricanes are 5-6 in games decided by four points or less, including a 4-5 mark in the ACC.

Kyle Singler, Duke – The Blue Devils’ All-American candidate is in a funk. Singler has made just 15 of his last 48 field goal attempts, including a 3-of-15 mark from 3-point range. A senior, Singler is averaging just 10.3 points in his last four games compared to 16.9 points on the season.

Boston College at North Carolina – The Tar Heels defeated Boston College 48-46 at the Dean Dome on Saturday, and you can bet the game was as ugly as the score. The 19th-ranked Tar Heels finished with their lowest-point total ever under Roy Williams.

THREE TO WATCH

Florida State at Maryland, Wednesday – A victory here would put the Terrapins in the NCAA tournament conversation.

Miami at Boston College, Wednesday – The Eagles can’t afford to lose at home.

Duke at Virginia Tech, Saturday – The Hokies are usually good for one major upset a year. Could this be it?

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