Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Big Carolina Blue Enigma

Well after a painful three game slide which had people seriously doubting whether UNC is a tournament team (and make no mistake, the answer has yet to be determined), the Tar Heels finally reverted back to the early season form that had some people thinking they could make a run at the Elite Eight or Final Four. Yes, it was only State, but it was the first true road win for the Heels. Furthermore, aside from a brief dry spell to start the second half, it was the most composed and consistent performance the team has put together since beating Michigan State back in December.

Assuming Davis's ankle is recovered and does not become a nagging injury, the team should be able to build on last night's win. Doing so will be crucial given the next four games: UVA at home, @VT, @Maryland, and Duke at home. The Tar Heels pretty much have to win the UVA and VT games if they want to make sure they get a NCAA bid. To remain in contention for a wide open ACC, the Heels will need to win at least one of the other two games, neither of which will be easy. The Terps actually may be playing the best of any team in the ACC right now, and it will be a major chore to try and slow down General Grevis and Eric Hayes in College Park. As far as Duke goes, Scheyer and Singler will be looking to get some revenge for all the losses they suffered at the hands of Hansbrough, Lawson, and Co.

So can the Tar Heels go 3/4 in that stretch? I think so. Will they? It depends on a lot of things. Following are my short thoughts on some of the players and culminating in what I think the starting lineup should be.

Marcus Ginyard- In a weird way I think the worst thing for Marcus Ginyard was the preseason comparisons to David Noel. Whereas Noel was able to carry the 2006 team (even though Hansbrough was the leading scorer) Ginyard has failed to do so and honestly looks as lost as the freshman at many points during the game. Ginyard is not Noel, and he is trying to do too many things right now. He was at his best as a role player who could come into a game, give great effort on defense, grab some boards, and knock down a couple shots.

Deon Thompson- Deon hasn't evolved in the dominant player some thought he could be when Hansbrough left, but neither does he deserve the criticism some have heaped on him. He leads the team in points, and is the only player other than Davis who can be consistently relied upon to score. As seen last night, he works best when Davis is in the game and he can become isolated with his man. I would like to see him hit the boards harder and go to the rim stronger during games.

Will Graves- Graves is and always has been a volume shooter. If he's knocking down a bunch of threes then he's probably also missing a fair number. Where he has impressed me is on the defensive end and with his rebounding. He's working his way into better shape and giving a more consistent effort. He shouldn't be the primary scoring threat, but is the best outside shooter on the team. On a slight tangent I absolutely loved the "eff you" three Graves knocked down at the end of the game. It showed a swagger this team has been desperately been missing.

Ed Davis- Nothing to really say here. He's been the best player on the team bar none. Here's to hoping his ankle injury was just a minor blip.

Larry Drew II- Drew II is perhaps the biggest enigma on the team. He seemed to really catch on during the nonconference schedule, then has been extremely underwhelming during the three game losing streak, looking unconfident with his shot and turning the ball over. I was almost ready to give up on him, then he put on a great performance last night with 18 points, 7 assists, and only a single turnover. Hopefully this will lead to Drew playing confident throughout the rest of the schedule, but the true test will be against Vasquez and Scheyer.

Dexter Strickland- Strickland is the best talent on the team aside from Davis. However he has yet to consistently take advantage of this talent and for every performance like last night's he will have a game with a 5 points, 2 assists, 4 turnovers stat line. He attacks the basket better than anyone on the team and at his best looks like a poor man's John Wall. He seems to be most effective when playing off guard alongside Drew II.

The rest of the freshman have all shown flashes (John Henson continues to flash potential at points without truly breaking out) but have not put up any consistent performances. McDonald has become more comfortable on the court and deserves more PT. The Wears are sound players, but they never dominate. While Henson could bolt after next season if he puts on some muscle and live up to his potential, I expect these freshmen to really come into their own their junior year, ala May, McCants, and Felton.

Quickly, Tyler Zeller for the second straight season is missing significant time due to injury. While I was very frustrated with his play against Virginia Tech, the truth is that UNC is only 1-3 in his absence and could definitely use him.

So with all that covered here is how I would like to see the starting lineup and rotation shake out for the next few games.
PG: Drew II (30 min), Strickland (10 min)
SG: Strickland (15 min), Ginyard (17 min), McDonald (8 min)
SF: Graves (24 min), Henson (8 min), Ginyard (8 min)
PF: Thompson (30 min), Wears (8 min), Graves (2 min)
C: Davis (32 min), Wears (8 min)

When Zeller gets back he can take a chunk out of Thompson, Davis, and the Wear's minutes as necessary. I think getting Ginyard 25 quality minutes off the bench will help get him back settled into his natural fit of being a productive role player. All of the freshmen aside from Strickland are getting a solid 8 minutes (based on recent trends Travis may get a larger share of the 16 split between the two twins), which should let them continue to develop. The starting lineup give UNC its most effective backcourt, its one major 3 point threat, and about 30 points and 15 rebounds per game in the frontcourt.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Breaking Down the NPOY Candidates Jersey Shore Style

As we pass the midway point of the college basketball season the national championship picture remains as murky as ever. Kansas has showed in the past week that they are far from being the perfect team some may have thought they were early in the season. Texas is great but lacks championship pedigree. Kentucky is as streaky (during games, I realize they are undefeated) as they are talented. Basically I wouldn't recommend putting down serious money on any team this season.

While trying to get a gauge of what teams will be the legitimate contenders in March may be near impossible, the National Player of the Year Race is beginning to become more clear. In my opinion there are five major candidates to win the award. I could just list them and share unbiased thoughts on each candidate but what would be the fun in that. Instead why not combine college basketball with something I have found almost equally entertaining this winter, Jersey Shore. In all honesty I have never been a fan of reality television, and have never watched a single episode of the Real World. But after being urged on by several people I finally caved and watched an episode of the cultural phenomenon that is Jersey Shore. Halfway though the first episode I was hooked. So like it or not, I'm breaking down the NPOY candidates by comparing them to Jersey Shore characters.

Pauly D- Evan Turner (Ohio State)
Here's the thing. I'm totally convinced Pauly D would be the most entertaining character on a majority of reality television shows. I mean for Christ's sake the dude packed an entire suitcase full of hairgel for his summer trip to the Jersey Shore. He came on strong, faded into the background a bit but has recently re-emerged as extremely entertaining with the addition of his stalker. Turner came out looking like a consensus NPOY candidate, then broke his back and faded into the background as John Wall and others took over the spotlight. He has reemerged in a big way with his 30+ points in the win over Purdue, but still may miss out on the award due to consistent performance of his competitors throughout the season. Also it is quite likely that Evan Turner also "loves a challenge" almost as much as Pauly D does (though he does not say so every 30 minutes).

Vinny- Wesley Johnson (Syracuse)
When the show started, Vinny was a bit of an afterthought. He seemed strikingly normal and did not offer the dramatics or theatrics of characters such as "The Situation," Pauly D, or Snookie. Vinny was the more traditional Italian mama's boy who seemed to be along for the ride. However Vinny has consistently been picking up steam (starting with hooking up with his boss's girl and culminating in his amazing impression of the Situation) as the show has gone on. Much like Vinny Wesley Johnson was a relative unknown going into the season but has continuously increased his stock and worked his way into the NPOY picture. Johnson, like Vinny is also of more humble origins, having transferred from Iowa State.

Snookie- Jon Scheyer
With this one I'm just going to jump right into the comparisons. Both are completely polarizing, you either hate them or you love them. Both completely and consciously embrace their stereotypes (Guido for Snookie, Duke basketball for Scheyer). Both have faces that are topics of conversation in and of themselves (Snookie's apparent lack of lips due to her fake tan and the now infamous Scheyerface). However, ultimately both are ruthlessly effective at what they do and deserve recognition. Scheyer is the clear leader of the Blue Devels and has an outer worldly assist to turnover ratio. Snookie carries the show and has an outer worldly failure to attempted hookup ratio.

Ronnie- Luke Harangody
Ronnie has been fairly entertaining and predictable throughout the show. He is always puts up a consistent performance with occasional moments of immense entertainment including several fights. However he could be so much better were it not for the fact that he is completely whipped by Sammie. The 'Gody has put up perhaps the best stats of all the contenders, averaging just under 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. Unfortunately he is also being held down by his relationship with Notre Dame.

Mike "The Situation"- John Wall
Over the past year two figures have taken their genres by storm and become overnight phenomenons: John Wall and The Situation. Both are reason enough to turn on the television and watch just for the few moments when they absolutely take over the show. With both you never know what is going to happen next. In fact the only thing that keeps this comparison from being absolutely perfect is that John Wall has been at his best closing out games while The Situation has serious issues sealing the deal. These are the two most engaging people on TV right now. And that is why John Wall is currently my favorite for NPOY.

That pretty much wraps up the major contenders for the NPOY, but as you may have noticed there are a few Jersey Shore cast members left and VFSS never leaves a job undone. So here you go. While these aren't NPOY favorites, here are a few more Jersey Shore comparisons.

Sammie "Sweetheart"- Deon Thompson
Like Sammie, Deon showed early promise coming out strong in the first couple games of the season. No one thought he would be a NPOY contender, but some expected him to provide leadership and carry what some thought to be among the best frontcourts in the nation. I am not a Deon hater and think he still deserves to be a starter for UNC but I must admit he has been disappointing just as Sammie.

J-Woww- Demarcus Cousins
Outside of Lexington Demarcus Cousins has become public enemy number one in college basketball. He has a tendency to commit hard fouls and doesn't seem to be trying too hard to shy away from the thug label some people have bestowed upon him. J-Woww likewise embraces her tramp status from her fake boobs to the minimal clothes covering them. Both can take over in spurts and become the most entertaining/effective people on the court/Jersey Shore, which is no easy feat considering their supporting casts.

Angelina- TIE Andrew Goudelock, Chandler Parsons
Angelina was quickly on and off the show and didn't make any lasting impact on the show. She did, however have one of the best quotes of the entire series in response to having to work at the T-shirt shop "I'm a bartender, I do like... great things." As such Goudelock and Parsons who both came out of anonymity to hit highlight reel shots are the best comparisons thus far in the college basketball season.