Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Top 10 UNC Basketball Players Since 1996

Last Friday, the Daily Tar Heel (UNC's student newspaper) compiled a list of the top 10 UNC basketball players in the school's history to celebrate the kickoff of the 100th season of Carolina Basketball. While the list seemed accurate and I have no major issues with inclusion or exclusion of any of the players, I also had only seen three of the players on the list play in the powder blue. Consequently, I took it upon myself to create a list of the top 10 players in UNC history since 1996, which was when I first began watching college basketball. Hopefully this list will be a little more relatable to those who did not see Rosenbluth, Ford, or even Jordan play at Carolina.

I'm sure the selections and order of this top 10 will create controversy regardless so while I'm trying to be objective, stats are not the ultimate determinant of inclusion and position on this list. Likewise, the NBA careers are irrelevant to me so don't complain how Forte does not belong on the list. Finally while some of the one and done 'ers have made an impact, none so far have managed to That out of the way, here we go. Lets count down backwards just for the sake of suspense.

10. Wayne Ellington- Before I delve in to the 10 spot, I want to give quick honorable mentions to Jackie Manuel, Danny Green, Shammond Williams and Rashad McCants all of whom were great college players. I went with Ellington over McCants because of his slightly better shooting, greater consistency, and more team-oriented attitude. Williams was every bit the shooter that Ellington was but the ring and a Final Four MOP win out. Ellington had one of the smoothest strokes in Tar Heel history, and was probably my favorite player on the 2009 title team.

Career College Stats:
14.7 Points Per Game
39.6 3-Point Field Goal Percentage

9. Brendan Haywood- In terms of sheer size and skill Haywood may be higher on this list. He made an impact on both sides of the ball. Heywood finished with the highest field goal percentage in ACC history and also recorded the first triple-double in UNC history. However as far as national recognition Haywood received only second-team all American recognition and was not involved in any title teams.

Career College Stats:
10.0 Points Per Game
6.0 Rebound Per Game
63.9 FG Percentage

8. Sean May- Like Haywood, May was a force in the post during his junior year of college after an inconsistent first couple seasons at Chapel Hill. May had some of the softest hands in college basketball and went strong to the basket both in scoring and rebounding. His junior season which included first team all American recognition, the Final Four MOP, and a national championship earns him the eighth spot on this list.

Career College Stats:
15.8 Points Per Game
10.0 Rebounds Per Game

7. Ty Lawson- In 100 years of basketball littered with talented point guards Lawson may be the fastest of them all. If looking for two plays that sum up his career as a Tar Heel I would point you to his crossover vs. LSU, and his last minute running buzzer beater against FSU. Lawson certainly belongs on this list and was perhaps more important than #50 to UNC's title run last year.

Career College Stats:
13.1 Points Per Game
5.8 Assists Per Game
1.8 Steals Per Game

6. Joseph Forte- Its hard to praise Forte without simultaneously wondering what could have been had he managed to stick around another year. Forte had great talent at the 2 guard position and played the game very well. He was the ACC freshman of the year and gained first team all American recognition his sophomore season. Had he stuck around he may have been national player of the year and the 8-20 season may never have happened. That said Forte was very good during his first two years at UNC and thus deserves recognition.

Career College Stats:
18.7 Points Per Game
5.8 Rebounds Per Game

5. Vince Carter- While Jordan will always be "his airness," Carter may be the most impressive and vicious dunker in UNC history (and he reminded us all of that at the UNC Alumni Game). Carter evolved as a player and in his junior year was one of the best players in the nation. He earned first team all American honors, but Vincantiy will always be most remembered for his ability to throw it down.

Career College Stats:
12.3 Points Per Game
36.8% 3-Point Field Goal Percentage
1.7 Highlight Reel Dunks Per Game (okay so I made that stat up)

4. Raymond Felton- Some may feel this is too high for Felton, who had a similar skill set to Lawson and received similar national recognition (All-American, Cousy Award). However, while Lawson could shoot and drive as well as Felton, Raymond was a better leader (especially as he had to satisfy McCants) and better defender and thus earns a spot above Lawson. Like Lawson, Felton not only excelled as a scorer but also as a passer, averaging 6.9 assists per game during his junior season.

Career College Stats:
12.5 Points Per Game
6.9 Assists Per Game

3. Ed Cota- One thing I felt the DTH definaltey got right was honoring Cota among their top 10. While he averaged a respectable 9.1 points per game, he was the embodiment of a pass first guard. He was honored as the ACC freshman of the year and through his career he became the first player to score 1,000 points, and have 1,000 assists and 500 rebounds in a career. While Jamison, Carter, and Haywood mad the highlight dunks and shots, it was often Cota who was the one setting these plays up.

Career College Stats:
7.5 Assists Per Game

2. Antawn Jamison- One on one I would take Jamison every day over the #1 player on this list. Jamison has a knack for scoring and was widely acknowledged as the best player on a team that included Carter, Haywood, and Cota. He was named national player of the year and was also a class act who represented UNC well on and off the court.

Career College Stats:
19.0 Points Per Game
9.9 Rebounds Per Game

1. Tyler
Hansbrough- If this were a list for most athletic or most exciting players, Hansbrough would have trouble cracking the top 10. However it is pretty much impossible to put anyone above Psycho T on this list. He has the edge in statistics, awards, and national championships over everyone on this list. He Holds the ACC record for points scored and holds the NCAA record for free throws made. Hansbrough gets the top spot on this list and deserves consideration as the best UNC player of all time.

Career College Stats:
20.2 Points Per Game
8.6 Rebounds Per Game
79.1 Free Throw Percentage
0.7 Contacts Lost Per Game

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Same Old Tar Heel Football

During my walk back to my apartment from Kenan Stadium, after watching the Tar Heels look completely incompetent on offense for the second week in a row, I heard the fans around me assigning blame and offering their personal suggestions on how to help a team that now looks to be in danger of another losing record after a promising 3-0 start. From "We need to fire Butch, a team is only as good as its coach" to "Yates is chickenshit outside of the pocket," every Carolina fan seemed to have an opinion.

What's my opinion on this team? On defense I think we deserve the credit we have been given. Throughout the first 3 quarters the defense limited the Cavaliers to three field goals, all of which were longer than 35 yards. For the second week in a row the defense allowed a back breaking touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. While this shows we are not a premiere defense in college football, the blame falls partly on the offense for these drives. In the past two weeks there have been WAY too many 3 and outs which gives the defense little rest. By the time the 4th quarter rolls around, even the most talented of defenses would be tired from having to be on the field in the heat for so long. All in all the defense is not something that should overly concern most Tar Heel fans. Holding a team to 16 points should be good enough for a team to win the game.

The offense is a different matter. I said a week ago in my NFL picks post that the Cleveland Browns would have trouble scoring in a brothel. Well right now I think the Tar Heels would have trouble scoring in a postapocalyptic world in which only strippers had survived. For my money there are three main people (or groups of people) that need to be held responsible for the fact that our offense has been absolutely putrid. The first is the offensive line. The line cannot run block or protect the passer effectively at this point. Shaun Draughn is a quick back like Willie Parker who will excell when the offensive line creates holes but does not run North-South and break tackles effectively (more on the RB situation in a moment). Their line's pass protection is no better and Yates rarely got time to let plays develop and was often flushed out of the pocket (where as my fellow fan so eloquently put it "he is chickenshit"). While this lack of protection certainly limited his effectivesness, Yates also deserves some of the blame for the offense. Yates hardly threw anything more than 5 yards down the field all game and always checked down. While I occasionally get annoyed with Ben Roethlisberger's unecessary sacks at least he is willing to chuck the ball down field and find open receivers. Yates is a mediocre pocket passer who can play fairly well with protection, but most of the promise he showed early last year seems to be more a consequence of a better offensive line and the best wideout in UNC history. UNC does have talented freshman wideouts in Highsmith and Boyd (Greg Little is a good slot reciever but has not lived up to his high recruiting ranking) but they are obviously not at Nicks' level just yet.

More than anyone though, John Shoop deserves the bulk of the blame for the offensive ineptitude. Shoop is at least partially responsible for the overabundance of swing passes that netted hardly any yards. He decided to keep Shaun Draughn in when Draughn obviously could not consistently run the ball instead of putting in the tougher Ryan Houston. He continued to attempt a wildcat offense that has so far only netted one big play all year (the pass to Boyd from AJ Blue against ECU). He never took advantage of the fact that the running game was picking up late in the game by trying for play action. He (or perhaps Butch Davis) refused to go for it on 4th and a foot from the UNC 40 in the 4th quarter when the Tar Heels were down by six and had Ryan Houston who had just converted an earlier 4th and 1. Ultimately Shoop is like a timid 12 year old kid playing Madden who is just trying to get some yards and never actually getting agressive in his play calling. While Yates and the offensive line still have time to improve, Shoop needs to be shown the door.

So where does this put the Tar Heels for the rest of the season. Well unless the team is really awful they should get a win against Georgia Southern next weekend. That would put the Heels at 4-2 (but 0-2 in the ACC). The issue is after Georgia Southern, the only game left in which the Tar Heels can be expected to win is Duke, and the Blue Devils may actually be playing better football right now. Unless things change we could certainly be looking at a 5-7 or even 4-8 season in a year where many expected UNC to get 8 or 9 wins. However don't abandon all hope just yet. With better play calling the offense does have enough talent to improve and the defense should keep us in games. Ultimately though we have to get away from what we have been doing the past two weeks, which is playing the same old Tar Heel football.