Doesn't seem like much happened in the two weeks I was gone.
Merely: East Carolina's dream season imploding at Carter-Finley; N.C. State losing its two most important players; North Carolina losing its QB; the Hurricanes losing Rod Brind'Amour and Justin Williams while the NHL was rejecting Eric Staal's new contract; Florida State capitulating to Wake Forest; Charlotte running out of gas; the U.S. winning the Ryder Cup in dominating fashion and Clay Aiken announcing he is gay.
Quiet couple of weeks.
A few of those demand further exploration.
1. There must be a curse on West Raleigh, because there's no way to explain State losing Russell Wilson and Nate Irving to injuries while the Hurricanes continue to hemorrhage players. Brind'Amour may not be out for long, but Williams' torn Achilles' tendon could be one of the little straws that make the difference between missing and making the playoffs. Then again, the Canes were just fine down the stretch in 2006 without Erik Cole, a comparable loss. So go figure.
(Irving, by the way, was the best local player at any position so far this season, with apologies to Brandon Tate.)
2. Paul Azinger has gotten a lot of credit for the way he prepared the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but he benefitted from an arrogant, uninspired performance from his counterpart, Europe's Nick Faldo. Faldo is an excellent television analyst but as a captain he failed to preserve the mentality that has brought Europe so much success lately.
Also, and it has to be said, the U.S. players talked repeatedly about their team spirit. It's possible that anything Tiger Woods is involved in becomes the Tiger Show. That's not necessarily his fault, but part of being the greatest player in the game. As much as leaving a healthy Tiger behind in two years may be unthinkable, the U.S. captain -- and it could be Azinger again -- should consider it. It may be impossible for the U.S. golfers to make the transition from individual contractors to team players with a dominant figure like Woods in the mix.
3. The way the Hurricanes have played in their two preseason games so far -- and this is about as small and meaningless a sample as you can get -- does not raise confidence that they have put the past two seasons behind them. If nothing else, you'd think even their kids would have liked to make a statement to the Caps that the division isn't Washington's by divine right, as everyone seems to think. Instead, the Caps clinically dismissed the Canes in both games. I'm the first to say winning doesn't matter in the preseason. But at some point, this team HAS to build some confidence. So far, it isn't happening.
4. At halftime of the North Carolina-Virginia Tech game, I thought my eight-win prediction for the Heels was looking pretty good. Given the ensuing events, that's going to have to be revised downward. If UNC can win seven games without T.J. Yates, that would be sensational. Six would be just fine. That may seem a little disappointing given Carolina's schedule and the possibilities that were open to the Heels before the season, but such is life when you lose your quarterback. Just ask N.C. State.
5. Duke may be favored over Virginia on Saturday, but it's a big leap forward to start beating ACC teams. Even if the Devils don't win, they need to make a statement that the days of easy wins in Durham are over.