Friday, December 31, 2010
Strickland has started at shooting guard all season and over the past month seems to have really elevated his offensive game. With respect to Drew ‘s much improved defense and Henson’s penchant for shot-blocking, Stickland has been the best defender all season. He is 6th in the ACC in steals with 1.62/game. In fact, one could argue that Strickland, who switched his jersey to #1, a number worn last season by Marcus Ginyard, has been a more effective lockdown defender than Ginyard was last season. Playing out of position last season, Strickland often seemed out of control and couldn’t consistently finish in transition despite his impressive speed. This season Strickland looks much more impressive in transition, pushing the ball on fast breaks and finishing consistently. He also has done a good job at the charity stripe shooting a respectable 72.9%. While not an outside shooter, he has knocked down 50% of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Strickland’s backup, Leslie McDonald has also shown marked improvement this season. McDonald is not the defensive pest that Strickland is on the defensive end of the ball nor is he as explosive in on the fast break. However, McDonald has done a pretty damn good Wayne Ellington impression (McDonald is now wearing #2, the number Ellington wore as a freshman) on several occasions this season. McDonald is the most assertive scorer on the team, one of the things that impressed me last season when he seemed at times the only player outside of Will Graves willing to confidently throw up a shot from beyond the arc. While not Ellington, I feel Wayne is best comparison for McDonald who some have compared to Danny Green (McDonald is shooting an impressive 43.2% from 3 point range). While McDonald has certainly disappeared at times this season, he has been an explosive scoring force off the bench who by his junior and senior seasons may be able to do an even better job of making it Wayne on a more consistent basis.
While, Strickland and McDonald’s complementary skill sets do sometimes make fans wish the two could be combined into one player (Lester StrickDonald?), the improvement of the two sophomores show just how silly it is for players to be declared busts or disappointments after their freshman season. The two will continue to improve over their four (or maybe three) years at Carolina and could be stars as upperclassmen. This year don’t be surprised if the Heels go as far as their pair of sophomore guards take them.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
|Larry Drew could take a lesson from him|
Missed Time but Cleared (games missed): Shaun Draughn (1), DaNorris Searcy (2), Linwan Euwell (5), Ryan Houston (season-decided to redshirt).
Suspended (games missed): Deunta Williams (4), Kendric Burney (7), Charles Brown (season), Brian Gupton (season), Jonathan Smith (season)
Declared Permanently Ineligible: Marvin Austin (dismissed from the program), Greg Little, Michael McAdoo, Devon Ramsay
Considering that Austin, Quinn, Williams, and Burney were all projected to go in the first 3 rounds, the fact that UNC's defense was able to field even a respectable unit it a testament to the depth and coaching of the unit. The fact that the entire linebacker core avoided missing games due to suspension (though Sturdivant did miss a few due to injury) played a big part in holding things together. Perhaps more surprising than the defense's performance however was T.J. Yates' transformation into a very good college quarterback in his senior season. While the loss of Little and Houston were significant the offense was more a victim to injuries than suspensions. Yates' favorite target, tight end Zach Pinalto, broke his fibula and has been injured on all 3 of his collegiate touchdowns. Johnny White, who stepped up in a big way as a senior and was well on his way to a 1000+ yard season, broke his clavicle against Florida State. Even with those injuries Yates' stellar play kept the offense together. Dwight Jones broke out this season and is 105 yards short of a 1000 yard season going into UNC's bowl game. Ultimately considering how many key players missed time, a 7-5 record and a trip to Nashville for the Music City Bowl and a meeting with Tennessee seems an overwhelming success. On the other hand though, UNC was picked by some to win the ACC and was even considered a dark horse contender before Marvin Austin's tweets launched the team into a maelstrom. So the obvious question arises: "Was the 2010 UNC football season a success or a failure."
In attempt to answer this question lets quickly take a look at the high and low points of the season.
- TJ Yates' and Jhey Boyd leading a furious comeback against and LSU squad that would only lose 2 games this season despite UNC missing 12 players on the defensive side of the ball
- UNC's dominant second half against ECU a game in which both Johnny White and Shaun Draughn both broke 100 yards on the ground
- A home win against Clemson and watching my med school class president, a Clemson alum, wear a UNC shirt the next day as a result of me winning our bet on the game
- Ending a 29 year draught at UVA with a dominating 44-10 victory
- The entirity of the UNC-FSU game. One of the most entertaining games of the year. And a special mention for Hunter Furr's late game heroics.
- TJ Yates putting together a great season and taking hold of most of the UNC passing records
- Injuries and Suspensions covered in depth above
- Watching UNC's depleted defense fail to stop GT's triple option offense
- Blowout losses to Miami and VT after promising starts to each game
- Blowing yet another 4th quarter lead against NC State and the resulting explosion of Wolfpack ego
- Jhey Boyd disappearing from the offense after what seemed like a breakout game against LSU
|Dwight Jones could be a star next season|
While whether you view the season as a success or a failure is largely a matter of perspective, oddly enough I think the result of UNC's bowl game will go a long way in determining the ultimate answer to the question. Over the past two seasons UNC posted 8-4 records, but failed to win their bowl game match ups (both of which yours truly attended). Tennessee is certainly not top competition, but they do hail from the vaunted SEC. Furthermore, in an enterating twist of irony Tennessee had played millions to back out of a deal that would have pitted the Tar Heels and the Volunteers in a home-away series over the next two seasons. If UNC wins, I will still always wonder what might have been, but in the end I will consider this season somewhat of a success.