Thursday, July 28, 2011

Impact of Butch Davis being fired on this football season

No caption necessary
Last week I began working on a UNC 2011-2012 season football preview post.  I wrote from the angle that because of all the hoopla surrounding the NCAA's investigation, people were somehow ignoring a team that could build on the previous season's success and compete for an ACC title.  Included in what I had written last week was this quote:

Also, despite the cries by some media members for Butch Davis's head, I think his job is safe at least for this season.  Despite all of the allegations Davis still has plausible deniability, regardless of whether John Blake was doing some pretty devious stuff.  Also if UNC was going to fire Davis they would have done it already.  It would make no sense to fire Davis with only a little over a month before the season kicks off. 

Fast forward to Wednesday evening at about 5:00 PM.  Over the last 24 hours Butch Davis was suddenly fired without any real warning (unless you believe Art Chansky has a huge pull on Holden Thorpe) and UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour basically fell on his sword, announcing that he would step down as AD as soon as his replacement was found.  My immediate reaction to all of this?

Lest you think this overstatement, remember the state of UNC football before Butch Davis was hired.  UNC was bringing in mediocre recruiting classes and putting together 3-11 seasons (trust me I was there for it my first two years at Carolina).  Given how this went down and the NCAA allegations cloud still ominously looming over the football program, UNC fans shouldn't expect any blockbuster hire.  UNC's recruiting, which Davis helped elevate to a level of competing for (and actually gaining commitments from) 4 and 5 star prospects, is about to take a serious nosedive.  UNC also is liable to lose some of their better young players to transfer.  Ultimately, even if Carolina can come away with a surprising hire, the Tar Heels are almost guaranteed a few lousy years in the not too distant future, and if things go wrong they could end up in the same place NC State basketball has been over the past 5 years.

Consequently, the current season could be a last hurrah for what looked only a little more than a year ago to be such a promising future for the UNC football program.  The Blue Zone has been completed, but if things go poorly this season the sight of the sparsely filled seats of the massive expansion in the east end zone could simply add salt to the already festering wounds of the UNC fanbase.  At least for one season it is IMPERATIVE that the seats be full, and for that to happen Carolina is going to need to go out with a bang. 

While no one would really fault this year's team if this firing coupled with the NCAA investigation ultimately proved to distracting to allow success on the field, the fact remains that even minus a head coach UNC has a pretty talented roster.  Defensive Coordinator Everett Withers has been promoted to head coach and it is conceivable that Davis' firing may not have too much of an impact on in-game play calling given that Withers and Offensive Coordinator John Shoop remain in place.  There is always the possibility that the NCAA comes down hard on UNC in October, delivering a postseason ban and ending any hope for "one last run," but my guess is they will avoid that particular punishment now that everyone associated with the scandal has resigned, graduated, been deemed ineligible, or been fired.  Now with regards to the actual football team...

Renner's play will dictate how good UNC is on offense
On the offensive end of the ball, the Tar Heels will have a (relatively) new face at quarterback with Bryn Renner set to take over after a couple years of waiting in the wings.  Renner has received almost unanimously positive reviews while at Carolina, and going into last season some expected him to usurp the starting position from TJ Yates.  That said, Renner remains an unproven commodity and the Heels will go as far as he takes them this year.  Renner with be facing the biggest uphill battle mentally given that in addition to the pressures of any new started, Renner also has to deal with the distractions of the looming NCAA investigation and the firing of his head coach a week before camp.  Luckily for Renner he is surrounded by a strong supporting cast on offense.  Dwight Jones really broke out during the second half of last season and could be one of the best receivers in the nation in 2011.  Erik Highsmith and Jhay Boyd have both shown flashes of brilliance in their first two seasons but could really help the team out by becoming consistent threats.  The backfield is not as deep as last season, but has talented experience with Devon Ramsay and Ryan Houston.  Not surprisingly Renner's play will be the real tipping point here.  If he struggles Carolina will be mediocre at best on offense.  If he plays to the flashes of brilliance he has shown in the past two springs UNC could have a dangerous offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, Carolina will field what could be the nation's best defensive line with leas season's breakout star Quinton Coples at one end position and another potential breakout star in Donte Paige-Moss at the other.  At the tackle positions Tydreke Powell, Jordan Nix, and newcomer Sylvester Williams make up a pretty fearsome trio.  The next level of the defense should also be strong with Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick returning at linebacker.  While standouts Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter graduated, both Brown and Reddick looked ready to step in and be stars last season and will likely be joined by sophomore Darius Lipford.  The secondary is much more of an area of concern after the departures of Duanta Williams, Kendric Burney, and Da'Norris Searcy.  Charles Brown returns after missing last season due to suspension as a result of the NCAA investigation and he will be joined at the cornerback spot by sophomore Jabari Price who showed flashes last season in a few starts.  At safety Jonathan Smith will be joined by either Tre Boston (moved from CB) or Brian Gupton.  Carolina's success on defense will be contingent on solid play from some young players in the secondary combined with the ability of the defensive line to create constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Ultimately the future of UNC football that seemed to shine so brightly only slightly more than a year ago has been replaced by anger, frustration, and perhaps what is worst of all, the threat of slipping back to irrelevance.  Writing those last two paragraphs gave me hope that perhaps a memorable season can be salvaged from all this wreckage.  A lot of that is contingent on how much the players are able to distance their thought from these massive distractions and focus on football.  One way we as fans can help is to show up to games and give the team the unyielding support they will need.  All the online threats of wanting season tickets back and boycotting the program/administration is understandable but ultimately detrimental to the players and the program we love.  Kenan Stadium should be packed and as loud as ever as we cheer on what still could be a very exciting team.  Hell it may be the last chance for us to do so for a long time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Top 10 Television Drama Seasons (That I've watched)

Following Dallas' defeat of the Miami heat we entered the doldrums of the year with regards to sports.  With the exception of the NBA draft, for the next few months Sportscenter will be dominated by MLB highlights from relatively meaningless games, NFL/NBA lockout discussion, and in all likelihood a unrelenting dissection of why LeBron's fingers are still conspicuously lacking of any jewelery.  As I find any one of these topics as boring as the next, I figure it is time for my third non-sports related post (which is quickly becoming an annual summer tradition).  In a nice twist of irony my breakdown of the LOST finale last summer remains the most viewed entry in this website's history.  While LOST may be over, another show has captivated an hour of my time on a weekly basis.  Indeed, LeBron's title hopes were not the only source of drama over the past few Sundays.  HBO's new series Game of Thrones just wrapped up an excellent first season this past Sunday night.  Consequently, I decided ranking the best single TV seasons would make for a fun break from sports posting.

Before I begin with the rankings, let me announce a few stipulations.

Firstly, I am only ranking television seasons that I have watched, so while I don't mind people sharing their feedback on their favorite seasons, don't rip me for not including a season of Mad Men, The Sopranos or Breaking Bad.  I'm sure those are excellent shows and ones that I would love to watch had I infinite time, but at the moment I do not and thus they are not included in the list.

Secondly, I have limited this list to only include television drama, because I feel including drama and comedy shows in the same category is comparing apples and oranges.

Lastly, because the write ups for the seasons on the list are SPOILER heavy, I have split them onto separate pages which you can access by clicking on the title of each season on the list below.  I know this may be slightly obnoxious, but it was the only way to ensure avoiding accidentally spoiling great seasons of televisions for readers of this post.  Having said that, if you want to avoid having a show spoiled for you, don't click on that particular link in the countdown.  With that said let's begin!

Honorable Mention: Heroes, Season 1

10) House Season 1

9) 24 Season 1

8) LOST Season 4

7) Dexter Season 1 - Guest Written by Daniel Tobben

6) Game of Thrones Season 1 

5) The Wire Season 1 

4) 24 Season 5

3) Band of Brothers (Mini Series) - Guest Written by Michael Tobben

2) The Wire Season 4

1) LOST Season 1

Friday, April 22, 2011

UNC 2011-2012 - Fun with Rosters

The Black Falcon is Back, and he will have plenty of help
As you undoubtedly know by this point, Harrison Barnes announced on Monday that he would be returning for his sophomore year.  It proves that Barnes is a unique type of superstar and has goals for his college basketball career beyond making it to the NBA.  While Barnes is being lauded for passing up sure money people also need not forget about John Henson and Tyler Zeller who also passed up guaranteed first round money to come back and make a run at the national championship next season.  I'm holding off on proclaiming UNC the undisputed preseason #1 until it is assured that at least Knight and Jones (and hopefully Liggins as well) are done at Kentucky, but at the moment it does look like UNC will be expected to cut down the nets in New Orleans.

Since the expectations for UNC and Barnes' decision have been discussed ad nauseum, I figured I'd go a different way with this post and play around with some possible lineups UNC could  throw out on the floor.   In addition to having a star-studded starting lineup, UNC has one of the deepest rosters in the nation.  Justin Knox was the only player who saw significant minutes this past season who won't be on the team in 2011-2012 and the Heels get back a (hopefully) healthy Reggie Bullock as well as a 5 man recruiting class ranked #4 in the nation by  Consequently the number of lineup possibilities are endless. 

Starting Five - no real explanation required here. 

PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Dexter Strickland
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: John Henson
C: Tyler Zeller

UNC should be starting the exact same lineup they started this past season.  The only concern with this group remains 3 point shooting, but I would expect Marshall and Barnes to both improve in that category.  Strickland keeps the starting shooting guard spot due to his defense.  He showed at times how dangerous he can be in transition and when attacking the rim.  If he improves his shooting and becomes more assertive driving to the basket, he could perhaps be the most improved player on the team next year.  The frontcourt is absolutely loaded.  They could barely be stopped last season and might become completely unstoppable next year.

Make it Rain - The ultimate 3 point shooting lineup

PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Leslie McDonald/PJ Hairston
SF: Reggie Bullock/PJ Hairston
PF: Harrison Barnes
C: James McAdoo

I'm not sure we see this lineup much, but with these players out on the floor, UNC has good shooters at every position.  McAdoo showed off his three point range in both the McDonald's all All American game and in the Jordan Classic.  McDonald, Bullock, and Hairston are all pretty interchangeable at this point with regards to shooting.  As mentioned above, Marshall will probably be an improved shooter as well, but his main role in this hypothetical lineup is finding the open shooter (which shouldn't be too hard).

Murderous Press- stealing this one from Bill Simmons' book, in which he took the idea from Rick Pitino, who said that if he went back into the NBA he would take 5 of his bench players and have them press relentlessly 5 minutes each half.  It doesn't seem likely UNC will do this next year, but I like the idea and think it would be interesting if UNC adopted the concept and went to this lineup a couple times a game.

PG: Stillman White
SG: Dexter Strickland
SF: Justin Watts
PF: Jackson Simmons
C: Desmond Hubert

White, Hubert, and Simmons are all middle to lower level recruits coming in next season who probably won't see significant playing time.  I put Strickland on the press due to his great defense/to have a second ball handler.  Justin Watts may see his minutes diminish this year but he would be PERFECT for this press.  Hubert could be replaced with Henson if he isn't able to execute this, but I wanted it to be mainly composed of bench players

The Monstars - Go big or go home

PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Harrison Barnes
SF: James McAdoo
PF: John Henson
C: Tyler Zeller

This lineup has been talked about quite a bit already and ESPN's Eamonn Brennan's called it the "'screw it, I'm doing it' video game lineup" in one of his chats earlier this week.  While I doubt we actually see this lineup much on the floor, Barnes could potentially play the 2 guard and McAdoo is thought by some to be a hybrid forward along the lines of Marvin Williams.  They may have issues keeping up with smaller guards on defense, but on the offensive end a lineup with 4 players 6'8" or over would be a nightmare for opposing teams.

Lockdown Defense
PG: Dexter Strickland
SG: Reggie Bullock/PJ Hairston
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: John Henson
C: Tyler Zeller

Dexter Strickland takes over at point for Kendall Marshall whose one weakness is on the defensive end.  Once again if Bullock is healthy he could give opposing shooting guards problems with his 6'7" frame.  Alternatively Hairston is 6'6" and also seems like a solid defender from what I've seen.

Crunch Time -the lineup in the last minutes of a close game when UNC needs to score/make free throws

PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Leslie McDonald
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: James McAdoo
C: Tyler Zeller

A good case for Strickland, Hairston, or Bullock could be made at the 2 guard position, but I ultimately think that I may trust a junior Leslie McDonald the most to knock down a big shot.  Marshall, Barnes, and Zeller are no-brainersMcAdoo the edge at power forward due to having a better offensive game and being a better free throw shooter than Henson.

and just for fun The Best Biscuits Lineup Ever!
PG: Stillman White
SG: Patrick Crouch
SF: Justin Watts
PF: Jackson Simmons
C: Desmond Hubert

Outside of crouch I actually think all of these players are/will be solid college contributors, but with the talent UNC has on their roster they may not see the floor too much until mop up time.  Still this is definitely a roster that can get you from 94 points to 100 points in the last couple minutes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

UNC Basketball 2010-2011 Season Wrapup: Part II

Note this is part 2 of a 2 part season wrapup.  For part one, click here.

Lowlight #5: Oh Offense, offense, wherefore art thou offense?
UNC rebounded from their disappointing second half in Durham with wins against Clemson and Wake Forest, neither of which were particularly pleasing from an aesthetic point of view.  Their next game was against Boston College who they had managed to score 106 points against in their previous meeting.  This time the Heels failed to score half that, tallying 48 points, the lowest of the Roy Williams era.  Luckily BC scored two points less and Carolina got the win, but it was an ugly game that made people wonder whether Kendall Marshall was hitting a wall and whether the team had peaked too early.  It also was just a painful game to watch.

Highlight #6: Black Falcon Blood > Tigerblood

The Tar Heels answered their doubters with back to back double digit victories at NC State and at home against Maryland (and in the meantime Charlie Sheen's antics captivated America, thus the).  Their next matchup was against Florida State in Talahassee, the site of Duke's first loss of the season.  The game was neck and neck the whole way through and with 18 seconds remaining Derwin Kitchen hit a free throw to give the Seminoles a one point advantage.  To the surprise of some, Roy Williams called a timeout with 10 seconds left.  Barnes was given the ball about 8 feet from the top of the key and went iso with his man, looking like he would drive to the hoop. Instead he pulled up from three and hit an absolutely cold blooded three pointer to give UNC the win.  Perhaps the most surprising thing was how muted Dickie V's response was to the shot.  Perhaps he genuinely had come to expect that from Barnes, but I would bet he would have yelled and waxed poetic for a good five minutes had Singler or Smith made the shot.

Highlight #7: ACC Regular Season Champions in the Sweetest Way Possible

With both Duke and UNC coming into the final game of the regular season at 13-2, the rematch in Chapel Hill had the added stakes of being for the outright regular season ACC title.  Now time for a confession.  I wasn't able to watch this game in its entirety.  I was in Charleston with a group of friends from medical school on spring break, and everyone decided to get dinner at 8:30.  Consequently I was stuck getting up from the table every five minutes to go watch the game on the TV at the bar.  To be fair I caught all of the final 5 minutes and probably slightly over 50% of the rest of the game,  but I hate missing any of a Duke-UNC game.  As for the game itself, UNC made an early statement by starting three walkon seniors who proceded to help UNC to a 3-0 lead before being pulled.  Kendall Marshall was the star of the game with 15 points, 11 assists and only 2 turnovers.  Harrison Barnes hassled Singler into only 8 points on 3-14 shooting.  Dexter Strickland also put an exclamation point on the victory with a thunderous dunk on Miles Plumlee (13:55 in the above video).

Highlight #8: 40 for 40

After capturing the regular season title, UNC had their letdown in the ACC tournament with three consecutive slow starts.   Carolina was down 19 to Miami in the second half of their ACC tournament game before a furious comeback was capped by a Tyler Zeller buzzer beater with time expiring.  The Heels then proceeded to fall behind early again in their third meeting with Clemson in the ACC semifinals.  With the Heels down 5 and 1:23 remaining on the clock, Barnes hit a three to bring UNC within two (Zeller scored the tying bucket), then scored 15 points in overtime to finish with 40 points, tying Tyler Hansbrough's single game freshman scoring record.

Lowlight #6: A Dish Served Cold

Carolina's ACC tournament habit of surrendering big leads early against came back to bite them in the ACC tournament finals against Duke.  It was a game I had a bad feeling about as soon as the matchup was set and UNC was thoroughly outplayed by a Duke team that looked like a bunch of seasoned veterans.  Nolan Smith bothered Kendall Marshall all game and Duke shot 9-20 from beyond the arc.  While the refs were not as awful as some Carolina fans claimed, there was an atrocious charge called on a Dexter Strickland posterization of Kyle Singler that did kill some early momentum from Carolina.  In many ways it may have been best had UNC lost to Clemson in the semifinals.

Highlight #9: John Henson Also Likes to Live Dangerously

After an opening round game against Long Island that was closer than it should have been for much of the first half, Carolina faced off against the PAC-10 tournament champ Washington Huskies.  Washington jumped to an early lead, then the game was back and forth.  John Henson came up with a huge play with five seconds remaining and Carolina up one when he deflected Washington's inbound pass to Dexter Strickland, who appeared to seal the game with two free throws. However John Henson attempted to catch Venoy Overton's desperation shot, only to drop it out of bounds with a second left.  Washington inbounded the ball to Isiah Thomas whose shot was off mark.  Henson for some reason attempted to goaltend the shot (he didn't touch the ball) which would have been the dumbest decision in college basketball history had Thomas's foot not been on the line and had the ending of the Pitt-Butler game not occurred only a night earlier.

Highlight #10: Derrick Williams Dominates Duke, UNC Dominates Marquette 

A night before UNC's sweet sixteen game the Blue Devils faced off against the Arizona Wildcats.  Duke seemed poised for a blowout in the first half and the only reason I kept watching was Derrick Williams' buzzer beating three to cut Arizona's halftime deficit to six.  In the second half Arizona looked like the Monstars in the first half of the space jam game, thoroughly dominating Duke including a couple sick jams to upset the Blue Devils.  The next night the Tar Heels eviscerated the Marquette Golden Eagles, who were never able to find any semblance of offense against UNC's length.

Lowlight #7: Kentucky en Fuego
With a final four field that already included VCU, Butler, and Connecticut, I felt like Carolina suddenly had a chance to cut down the nets in Houston if they could get past the Kentucky Wildcats in the elite eight.  Kentucky had upset overwhelming favorite Ohio State in the sweet sixteen, but I figured Carolina had a good chance since they had already beaten Kentucky once and since it would be hard for the Wildcats to reproduce their 9-21 shooting beyond the arc from the previous matchup.  I was wrong.  Kentucky shot a ridiculous 12-22 from 3 and John Henson spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble.  UNC did roar back in the final minutes due to an 8-0 run by Harrison Barnes, but down one with 1:02 left, DeAndre Liggins blocked a Kendall Marshall layup and then converted on the other end with a three to win the game and end the UNC season.

Final Thoughts 
Despite the fact the season ended with a lowlight, it was one of the most enjoyable seasons of Carolina basketball I've witnessed.  We saw an inconsistent team full of young talent mature into a Final Four contender, in part due to the departure of Larry Drew II.  In a year where Duke was penciled in as the best team in the ACC all year, UNC managed to capture the ACC regular season title by beating the Blue Devils in the Dean Dome.  Despite the ups and downs of the season, Carolina finished ranked exactly what they were ranked in the preseason, #8.  If the rumors are true and Barnes comes back, next year could be something special.  However, there will also be enormous expectations that at times may take some of the fun out of watching UNC next season (trust me I was there for 2009).  On the flip side the NIT debacle last season makes one really appreciate how much fun it is to see a UNC team like this year's team.  I will never forget 2010-2011.

Friday, April 8, 2011

UNC Basketball 2010-2011 Season Wrapup: Part I

Note: This is part 1 of a 2 part season recap.

Kendall Marshall taking over at point guard was a turning point in the season
With the college basketball season coming to an end this week, I figured now was as good as a time as any to look back once more on the past season for UNC before focus completely shifts to next season (which it will as soon as Barnes makes his announcement).

To set the stage, the 2010-2011 season came in on the heels of one of the most disappointing Carolina basketball seasons ever.  In what may have been one of the worst title defenses of all time a team that was ravaged by injuries and never seemed to gel on or off the court stumbled to a 16-16 regular season record (5-11 ACC) and ended up losing in the final of the NIT.  To make matters worse, Duke, with the help of an advantageous draw, cut down the nets in Indianapolis to bring the Devils within one national championship of UNC.  One of the few high moments what was otherwise an unmitigated disaster from a Tar Heel fan point of view was the commitment of top recruit Harrison Barnes, the nation's top recruit and perhaps the most heralded high school senior since LeBron.

Entering this season it was apparent that the roster contained a substantial amount of talent, but nearly all of it was unproven.  The natural leader of the team, redshirt senior Will Graves, was kicked off the team prior to the start of the season.  Larry Drew II, a junior point guard who had faced significant criticism the previous season was the only returning starter.  In fact the previous season there were even rumors of him transferring (*foreshadowing*).  Tyler Zeller was also a junior who had shown promising flashed but had spend much of his first two seasons injured.  John Henson, Dexter Strickland, and Leslie McDonald were the remaining pieces of what had been a highly heralded and highly disappointing (at least to some impatient UNC fans) freshman class.  Justin Knox was a graduate transfer from Alabama, who seemed like a useful stopgap without true star power.  Lastly, Barnes was joined by fellow highly rated freshmen Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock who many hoped would make an immediate impact to restore the program to national prominence after a one year leave.

The offseason was characterized by high expectations from the media and intense debate among fans.  Despite the dearth of proven qualities on the roster, the Tar Heels were ranked #8 in the preseason rankings, largely in part to the stratospheric expectations for Harrison Barnes who was voted a preseason All-American and even picked by some to end up national player of the year.  Among fans, debates raged about starters and playing time, with a particular emphasis on the point guard position.  Due to Larry Drew's poor play the previous season and moments that some fans thought reflected a lack of commitment to the program, many fans advocated starting freshman Kendall Marshall over Drew.  In what was not a surprise to anyone who knows Roy Williams' tendencies as a coach, Drew got the starting nod to begin the season.

I could continue recapping the season in this manner, but if you are reading this post you probably already know rest of the story.  So instead I'm going to go through the major highlights and lowlights in a sequential manner (complete with youtube links when appropriate).

Lowlight #1: Puerto Rico: Land of Sunshine and Disappointment
After dispatching Lipscomb and Hofstra  in their opening two games, Carolina faced Minnesota in the Puerto Rico tournament semifinals.  Larry Drew was unimpressive, the frontcourt was bullied by Ralph Sampson and Trevor Mbakwe and Harrison Barnes went 0-12 from the field.  Just two days later, Vanderbilt sent the Tar Heels to a 2-2 record.  Barnes was again unimpressive shooting and looked lost and Drew failed to inspire much confidence.  Tyler Zeller was the only Tar Heel to impress in Puerto Rico, but had moments where he appeared timid in the paint.  Puerto Rico was certainly not encouraging to many Tar Heel fans who still had the previous season's NIT debacle etched into their mind.

Highlight #1: Tyler Zeller gets UNC its first signature win

Things didn't get immediately better for the Heels after Puerto Rico.  The Heels did avenge the previous season's loss to College of Charleston, but Illinois beat Carolina by 12 in Champaign in the Big 10-ACC challenge.  The next game was against the Kentucky Wildcats, who like the Tar Heels carried high expectations but little experience.  In a game staged in front of a raucous Dean Dome the score was always close, though Kentucky held the advantage for most of the game.  However, the Wildcats had to battle foul trouble and Tyler Zeller, who seemed to hold a grudge against the team that injured him his freshman year.  John Henson's length rendered freshman superstar Terrence Jones ineffective.  Josh Harrelson (pre-steroids and magical coordination pills) was a nonfactor for the Wildcats.  In fact the only reason Kentucky was able to hold the advantage for most of the game was the fact that they shot 9-21 from beyond the arc (*more foreshadowing*).  Harrison Barnes remained underwhelming but did manage a nice run in the second half punctuated by the putback dunk shown above.  In the end Zeller's free throws down the stretch made the difference and Chapel Hill was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Highlight #2/Lowlight #2: Dammit Cory Joseph

A couple weeks later UNC faced off with Texas in Greensboro.  The game was well played by both teams, and for the first time, Carolina showed off their potential.  After Texas came back to take the lead in the final minutes, Harrison Barnes showed the first glimpse of a clutchness that would define the rest of his season by hitting a huge 3 to tie the game.  However, fellow freshman Cory Joseph of the Longhorns hit a Kobe-esque turnaround jumper from the free throw line to give the Longhorns the victory.  All in all it was not a performance to be ashamed of, but it prevented UNC from returning to the rankings for the next month.

Lowlight #3: Beatdown in A-town
Following the Texas loss, UNC won five straight including their first two ACC games in come-from-behind victories against Virginia and Virginia Tech.  Both of those games were ugly and featured slow starts from UNC, but nonetheless the Heels seemed poised to reenter the top 25 if they could beat 8-8 Georgia Tech in Atlanta.  Nothing of the sort happened and instead the Yellow Jackets outhustled and manhandled UNC, forcing the Heels into 18 turnovers and 27.6% shooting from the field (which I thought was the worst a team could shoot until I saw Butler in the National Championship game).  In the end Georgia Tech beat Carolina by 20 which sparked both good things (the switch to Kendall Marshall as starting point guard) and bad things (IC temporarily turning into an insane asylum, Roy Williams making some angry comments on his radio show).  While I consider myself a pretty reasonable and realistic fan, even I was worried that UNC may miss a second consecutive NCAA tournament.

Highlight #3: Enter Black Falcon

UNC beat Clemson in a close game at home to keep the Tigers winless in Chapel Hill then traveled to Miami to play the Hurricanes.  UNC again started slow but managed to keep the game neck and neck for most of the second half.  With the score tied at 71 and 8 seconds on the clock, Barnes hit a three to win the game for Carolina.  He followed his clutch antics by putting up 25 against NC State (the first time he broke 20 points) and then 26 in a 32 point beatdown against Boston College.  Barnes' breakout propelled the Tar Heels back into the top 25 and made Tar Heel fans aware of his nickname "The Black Falcon" (which while I have embraced it, still comes across as trying a bit too hard to be Kobe).

Highlight #4: Larry Who?

The switch to Kendall Marshall at point guard after the GT game seemed to go more smoothly than expected.  Drew gave UNC a defensive boost off the bench in the four games following Kendall Marshall's promotion.  Then, out of nowhere, word came out that Larry Drew had left campus in the middle of the week and would be transferring.  In retrospect the decision to leave in the middle of the season still seems bizarre, but it has become more and more clear that his parents (especially his psycho mom) had a lot to do with the decision.  With questions of whether a freshman point guard would be able to carry the increased load, Kendall Marshall put on a passing clinic for the ages against Florida State, a team with one of the best defenses in the nation that had beaten Duke just a week earlier.  Marshall finished with 16 assists, 9 points, and only 3 turnovers and helped make UNC the first team all season to shoot above 50% against the Seminoles.

Highlight #5/Lowlight #4: Heels Make a Statement in Durham then Nolan Smith Makes a Louder One
While Carolina was suddenly starting to play to their potential, they were still considerable underdogs going into their matchup against Duke in Durham.  While Duke had lost freshman phenom Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith was playing at a national player of the year level.  So when the Tar Heels came out and jumped out to a 14 point lead at the half in Cameron Indoor, most people were stunned.  In the first half, UNC flexed their superior talent and Duke seemed unable to match UNC's athleticism.  However, Nolan Smith and Seth Curry led a furious comeback in the second half which was aided by poor perimeter shooting from the Heels.  While it stung to lose a game to our arch-rivals in which we held a 14 point lead at halftime, the game proved that Carolina could compete with any team in the nation when playing to their potential.

We'll stop here.  Make sure  to check out part two.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reasons For Each of UNC's Big 3 to Stay

Needless to say I was disappointed with the outcome of yesterday's elite eight game, but when the other team shoots 12-22 from 3 and one of your best players is on the bench in foul trouble it makes it hard to win. I am in the midst of a test week so I will hold of on my UNC season wrap up. Instead I wanted to quickly address the topic that will be on most Carolina fan's minds the next few weeks: whether Henson, Barnes, and Zeller will be back next year. This is not meant to try and convince any of the players to stay (I doubt this blog has 0.001% impact on their decision making process), but rather to break down the reasons of why each of the players may come back next year. Obviously the reasons they would leave are high draft stock following great tournament performances (excluding Henson yesterday) and the guaranteed money that comes with being picked. Also winning a national championship would be an obvious reason all might want to come back. Here are a few more individualized reasons each may decide to don the light blue jerseys one more season:

Tyler Zeller
Zeller wasn't thought to be much of a risk to leave early, but the big man saw his stock rise after a dominant tournament.  However, he was an academic all american and may be interested in attaining his degree from one of the top business schools in the nation before he goes on to the NBA.  Zeller also has a chance to even further boost his stock if he puts on more muscle, expands his already impressive post game, and begins hitting shots consistently out to 18 feet like Hansbrough did his senior year.  His jump hook is a thing of beauty, and if he adds a couple more post moves to his repertoire he may be unstoppable next season.  He could build on his tournament dominance and be an All-American next year and see his name up in the rafters.

John Henson
Henson would be a lottery pick right now because of his absurd athleticism and potential.  His defensive skills are impressive and he could help NBA teams in that role off the bat.  However, his offensive game is inconsistent outside of 5 feet.  He improved his FT shooting throughout the season and another year could prevent him from being a liability at the line in the NBA.  For someone as long as Henson he actually has a very nice shooting stroke, and one more season could go a long way to developing a consistent jump shot out to 12 feet.  He would have a great chance to move up UNC's record books in the blocks and rebound categories.  He seems to enjoy being at Chapel Hill, and staying would allow him to be close to his sister who will be playing basketball at Duke next year.  His parents financial situation is secure, so he probably does not feel intense pressure to make money right away.

Harrison Barnes
Barnes is an interesting case.  He could be a top 3 pick right now.  He has a bright future in the NBA.  It would be hard to blame him for going pro, because 95% of kids in his situation would.  However, those people aren't Harrison Barnes.  I have talked to two people who had "connections" to Barnes and the program that claim he's not leaving.  Barnes himself entered college talking about a 3 year plan.  Does any of this mean he's staying?  Not at all.  But it does show he's not your typical freshman sensation.  He seems to have a business oriented mind and he may realize that while he could be picked early this year, another year in college would allow him to enhance his brand and come into the league with a superstar aura not seen since LeBron.  It's the difference between being a hyped rookie in 2011 and possibly entering with a Nike Black Falcon shoe brand in 2012.   He also seems to be very cognizant of his legacy and if he returned he would have a chance to not only help hang a championship banner, but also have #40 hung alongside #12, #50, and most importantly, #23.

Who knows what these guys will decide.  The truth is they are all 19-21.  Whatever they decide I, and hopefully the rest of Tar Heel nation will support them.  I'll never take for granted how awesome they were this year.  But if they do decide to come back.... man would next season be something special.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things I liked and Things I Didn't From The First Weekend

Unfortunately I am in the midst of a nightmare of a couple of weeks of work so I won't be able to blog as much as I would like during the tournament.  I have had a chance to see a decent amount of the action this week and while I don't have time to do an in depth breakdown here are some things I liked and some things I didn't from the first weekend of action.

Things I liked:
1) The ACC in March.  A common theme in the media this year was how weak the ACC was this year.  However, the conference that owns the past two national championships is again coming up big in March Madness.  Clemson had one of their classical meltdowns in the round of 64 against West Virginia, but UNC and Duke are on to the second weekend and Florida State took down second seeded Notre Dame last night.  Right now there are more ACC teams in the sweet sixteen (3) than there are Big East teams(2).

2) TV Coverage of the Tournament.  It makes so much sense to put the game on 4 different networks so that you can flip to any of the games.  Turner's rights to the broadcast have been a plus too with the addition of Charles Barkley, who just turned Rick Pitino bright red with a rant against the Big East, Kenny Smith, Steve Kerr, Marv Albert, and Craig Sager.  Gus Johnson has already had some signature moments announcing close games and he continues to be the most exciting announcer in the nation.

3) The Chip of VCU's Shoulder. The Rams caught the blunt end of a lot of experts' rants on Selection Sunday about them being less worthy than teams like Colorado and Virginia Tech which got left out.  All they have done since being selected is dominate big conference teams USC, Georgetown, and Purdue by a combined 49 points.  Their matchup with the defensive minded Seminoles should make for an interesting Sweet 16 game.

4) Games Decided in the Final Seconds.  I won't even attempt to recap all the games that have that have come down to the buzzer in the tournament, just today the Carolina-Washington, Duke-Michigan, and Texas Arizona games were one possession games with less than 10 seconds on the clock.  March Madness truly has no equal and a year that lacked juggernauts has made for an exciting tournament.

5) North Carolina's Sunday.  First the Tar Heels edged out a talented Washington team in Charlotte thanks to the fact that John Henson may be the best player in history at defending the inbound pass.  Then Marquette managed to upset Syracuse whose 2-3 zone would have given the Tar Heels nightmares.  Buzz Williams' squad is not to be overlooked, but if the higher seeds advance in the East, it would set up a fantastic showdown in the Elite Eight between Carolina and an Ohio State team that looked dominant today against George Mason.

Things I Hated
1) Decision Making in the last two seconds of Pittsburgh-Butler.  Shelvin Mack's foul with 1 second on the clock was boneheaded, but at least to his credit a lot of bumps with time expiring are ignored (see Kansas-UCLA earlier this year).  Gilbert Brown also deserves a share of the shame for missing the second free throw which would have iced the game for Pitt.  But he missed and what followed was inexcusable.  Nasir Robinson blatantly fouled Matt Howard on the rebound which allowed Howard to win the game for Butler at the line.  With one second on the clock Robinson had no business even aggressively trying to rebound.  If the opposing team makes a 7/8 court shot to win the game then it happens, but you don't foul.  I feel for Pittsburgh fans who have had their share of heartbreak (Scottie Reynolds comes to mind), and this loss may have taken the cake.

2) Texas in March.  Not much really needs be said other than that no one consistently gets less out of amazing talent in March than Rick Barnes.

3) My Bracket.  Five of my Elite Eight teams have been eliminated with only Connecticut, Kansas and Ohio State remaining.  Granted I could care less if it means the Tar Heels make a championship run, but for someone who feels like they know a lot about college basketball I have really stunk it up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bracket Thoughts and Predictions

 Thanks to spring break and the start of neuroanatomy this site unfortunately went in to radio silence during one of the most exciting weeks of the year in college basketball.  Only bigger and better things await in the next week with the NCAA tournament, but to quickly recap thie highlights of what happened since I last posted:

UNC laid a beat down on Duke in Chapel Hill to win the ACC regular season title, then Duke returned the favor in Greensboro to nab their 19th ACC tournament title.  Kemba Walker went into beast mode for 5 straight games leading Connecticut to the Big East tournament title.  It seemed to rain buzzer beaters, from Tyler Zeller Princeton to Kemba to Isiah Thomas (bonus points for the Gus Johnson call on that one). Jimmer scored 52.  Harrison Barnes scored 40.  VCU and UAB are dancing while Colorado and VT are playing in the Not Invited Tournament.  Kansas and Ohio State won their conference tournaments and earned #1 seeds.  Seth Greenberg is just confused and Dick Vitale is still yelling somewhere....

Yup, its definitely March.

Anyways I'll lead off with my bracket and follow with my thoughts.
(Click to Enlarge)
For the first time in a while I did my best to pick with my head and not with my heart (no worries though I definitely have a second ESPN bracket which has the Tar Heels cutting down the nets in Houston).  I realize I went a bit chalk with three one seeds in the Final Four, but Ohio State and Kansas are playing very well right now and Pittsburgh has a cushy road to Houston.  The one #1 seed not picked to make is Duke.  I can't claim I'm unbiased when approaching the Blue Devils, but I think Texas has the athleticism to give the Dookies problems out west.

The East bracket is pretty loaded with talent. With Ohio State, Syracuse, Kentucky and UNC it's not lacking for big names either.  Potential Sweet Sixteen pairings of OSU-Kentucky and Syracuse-UNC would be must see TV.  The West may be a shade under the east but also has heavy hitters in UConn, SDSU, Duke, Texas and Arizona.  Tennessee is a bit of a dark horse in the west, as they have amazing athleticism but lack consistency.  In the Southwest, a Purdue-Notre Dame matchup in the Sweet Sixteen would be a treat for basketball purists, but don't be overly surprised if FSU manages to knock off the Irish.  With a healthy Chris Singleton, the Seminoles have the ability to defend Notre Dame on the perimeter.  In the Southeast, I still don't like MSU making the tournament, but their draw sets up pretty well for an Elite Eight run if Tom Izzo can once again capture lighting in a bottle in March.

Players to Watch
East: Jared Sullinger (OSU),  Terrence Jones (UK), Corey Fisher (Vilanova), Demontez Stitt (Clemson), Tu Holloway (Xavier), Scoop Jardine (Syracuse), Isiah Thomas (Washington), Harrison Barnes (UNC)

West: Nolan Smith (Duke), Scotty Hopson (Tennessee), Derrick Williams (Arizona), Jordan Hamilton (Texas), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), Kemba Walker (Connecticut), Lavoy Allen (Temple), Kawhi Leonard (SDSU)

Southwest: Marcus Morris (Kansas), Demetri McCamey (Illinois), Kenneth Faried (Morehead State), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), JaJuan Johnson (Purdue), Chris Singleton (FSU), Ben Hansbrough (ND)

Southeast: Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh), Jacob Pullen (KSU), Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin), THE JIMMER (BYU), Durrell Summers (MSU), Chandler Parsons (Florida)

Five First Round Games Not To Miss
 1) 12 Clemson vs. 5 West Virginia (12:15 Thursday - CBS) - Bit of a risky prediction since Clemson has to win tonight against UAB to even have a chance to play WVU.  Also risky given Clemson's recent tournament history.  Still I think Brad Brownell is an upgrade at coach over Oliver Purnell and Clemson has a strong frontcourt and a talented senior leader at guard in Demontez Stitt.  Look for the Tigers to pull the upset.

2) 13 Morehead State vs. 4 Louisville (1:40 Thursday - TBS) - Louisville is the better team, but Kenneth Faried is the all time NCAA leader in rebounding and could have a field day with Louisville's smaller frontline.  I'm still going with Louisville in a close one.

3) 10 Michigan State vs. 7 UCLA (9:20 Thursday - TBS) - The Bruins finished the season strong and freshman Josh Smith really began to come into his own in the second half of the season.  Next year paired with the Wears, the Bruins could have a pretty formidable frontline.  As disappointing as Michigan State was during the regular season, they still have talent on their roster and final four experience.  I'm going with Izzo over Howland in this one.

4) 9 Villanova vs. 8 George Mason (2:10 Friday - TNT) - The Wildcats limp into the tournament and have to face a team on the opposite end of the spectrum in George Mason.  I don't expect a return trip to the Final Four for the Patriots this year, but I do think they put Villanova out of their misery.

5) 5 Georgetown vs. 12 USC (9:50 Friday - TNT) - Again this is presupposing that the Spartans knock off VCU, but I think Georgetown could be in a bit of trouble with their smaller frontcourt if they have to face Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson.  Assuming Chris Wright is relatively healthy I think the Hoyas squeak this one out in a close one, but if Wright is not himself look for the Trojans to pull the upset.

I hopefully will be updating this blog with thoughts after each round so keep checking back.  This last part is aimed at Carolina fans so if you aren't interested in how I think UNC could manage to win it all then feel free to navigate away.

Also in this scenario this is not called a charge
Okay, well as a Carolina fan I wasn't overly thrilled with UNC's draw.  I hated not picking the Tar Heels to win it all, but they have so many obstacles in their way and are such a young team I don't really think its going to happen.  Still I do believe there is a somewhat realistic draw for the Heels that would allow them a shot at a sixth NCAA banner.  In the first round the Heels should light up LIU, who likes to play uptempo.  They will probably face Washington in the second round, who has become somewhat of a trendy pick to upset Carolina.  Still I think UNC is a better team and will have the home court advantage in Charlotte.  The Sweet Sixteen is where things will have to fall into place for the Heels.  I have a really hard time seeing UNC cracking Syracuse's zone defense, so for UNC to advance I think Xavier will have to upset the Orangemen in the second round then catch Tu Holloway on a mediocre shooting night.  That puts Carolina in the Elite Eight where they probably will face Ohio State.  While perhaps Kentucky would be an easier matchup, I expect Sullinger to wreak havoc on the Wildcats.  Furthermore, despite the fact they are a #1 seed, Ohio State doesn't scare me as much as Syracuse.  Henson and Zeller's length could bother Sullinger and if the Heels can avoid giving Diebler too many open looks from beyond the arc I think the Heels could take down the Buckeyes.  Now in this hypothetical scenario UNC is playing San Diego State in the Final Four who knocked off Texas in the Elite Eight (Duke lost to Tennessee in the second round... hey it's my hypothetical).  Carolina has the athletes to match up with the Aztecs who are a little overwhelmed by the Final Four.  In the Championship Carolina faces off with Pittsburgh who coasted to the Final Four and took out the Purdue Boilermakers in the other semifinal.  Harrison Barnes goes off and UNC gets Pittsburgh playing an uptempo game in which they can't keep up with the Heels.  Strickland is in Gibbs' grill all day and prevents him from getting good looks from beyond the arc.  UNC wins by six.  Party on Franklin Street.

For the record I don't think this happens, nor do I expect it to.  Considering where UNC was last year it would be a victory for the Tar Heels to make the second weekend and have Duke lose at some point.  Still it can't hurt to hope.... HARK THE SOUND!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Random NCAA Basketball Musings

The sound you hear is hundreds of facts about bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites rushing out of my brain (though in seriousness most of it was pretty cool).  After perhaps the most intimidating test of med school I finally have a chance to get back on here and write about college basketball.  I was going to write a UNC-Duke column, but I haven't finalized the angle I am going to take, so expect that sometime tomorrow.  In the past couple months the posts I have managed to find time to write have all been focused on either ACC basketball or Carolina basketball.  Since we are 11 days from selection Sunday, now is as good a time as ever for a survey of the college basketball landscape.

BYU does not approve of the Lonely Island's recent single
The Role of BYU will be played by Jessica Alba
Perhaps the biggest story this week was BYU big Brandon Davies being kicked off the team for an honor code violation.  The violation?  He admitted to having premarital sex with his girlfriend.  I completely respect that BYU has their honor code and that students who go there agree to abide by that honor code.  However, from a basketball perspective, BYU went from a potential #1 seed following their sweep of SDSU this weekend to possibly a 3 seed.  The Cougars sans Davies got waxed last night by New Mexico.  They still have the Jimmer, but going into the tournament now fall more into the Davidson '08 category as opposed to having a shot to make the finals like Butler did last year.  It personally just amazes me an athlete would be kicked off a team for something that a large handful of college basketball players are probably doing as I write this.  The whole fiasco already has sparked a lot of jokes (Bill Simmons wrote on twitter that "Breaking the BYU honor code" is his new favorite euphemism for sex), but as I said before BYU has the right to create and uphold their own honor code regardless of whether I, or anyone else on the outside agree with it.  Still it would have been fun to see how far a full-strength BYU team could have gone in the tournament.

Finding Goliath
No one team seems to stand above the rest.  Ever since OSU suffered their first loss to Wisconsin, no team has taken a hold of the top spot in the polls for more than a week.  There doesn't appear to be a single team in the nation without vulnerabilities.  Duke has a great frontcourt and a mediocre backcourt.  Pittsburgh is tough and defends well but isn't explosive offensively.  Kansas can get inconsistent play from their backcourt.  Texas looks dangerously close to another march meltdown under Rick Barnes.  Ohio State is probably the closest thing to a dominant team with their only losses coming on the road at Purdue and Wisconsin.  Still they are a far cry from the dominant team that was the 2009 Tar Heels, 2007 Gators, or any of the top seeds in 2008.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple #1 seeds fall early in this tournament.

At least one of the following red-hot teams are going to make the Final Four: Purdue, Louisville, St. Johns, Wisconsin, North Carolina
With the aforementioned lack of a dominant team, the field is wide open for a team ranked in the 6-15 range to make a national title run.  In their past 5 games the combined record of these teams is 23-2 with one of the losses coming when Wisconsin played Purdue.  Purdue is exceeding all expectations sans Robbie Hummel.  St. Johns has made a living out of beating top teams in the Garden over the past two months.  Wisconsin has a great pair of players in Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor and the Badgers slow paced style allows them to hang with any team.  Since Kendall Marshall was inserted in the lineup at UNC, their sole loss came by 6 at Cameron Indoor after holding a 14 point lead at the half (more on UNC later).  Louisville is probably the weakest of the bunch, but they are playing well and Rick Pitino remains one of the best coaches in the sport.

If Barnes, Henson, and Zeller return for UNC next season college basketball may have another dominant team
Harrison Barnes Tigerblood > Charlie Sheen Tigerblood
Zeller has had a breakout year this season and leads the Tar Heels in scoring.  Barnes got off to a slow start and still can be inconsistent shooting, but he has really broken out in the second half of the season.  The Black Falcon (as he is sometimes called) hit an absolutely cold blooded three to beat FSU last night, and his late game heroics and recent trend of ferocious dunks have inspired my new favorite website on the internet.  As much as Barnes has improved, John Henson, who many labeled a bust after last season, has elevated his play even more.  Henson has become a terror in the paint with his ability to block shots and rebound and he has added a pretty nice arsenal of post moves to his game on the offensive end.  Even his much-maligned free throw shooting has been significantly better as of late, which could come up big in the tournament.  Furthermore, Rasheed Wallace, who has been practicing with the team lately, seems to have rubbed off on Henson.  In a recent interview Henson listed 'Sheed as his favorite past Tar Heel and Henson is playing with a 'Sheed-esque swagger as of late (in true 'Sheed fashion he even was whistled for a technical last night). 

While Zeller will probably be back next year, Henson and Barnes are projected to be lottery picks.  Both seem to enjoy Carolina and neither come from backgrounds where there is a pressing need to make money as quickly as possible.  I think both could use one more year to really elevate their games, but it is always hard to turn down the opportunity to be a lottery pick.  If they do return though, mark down the Tar Heels as the odds-on favorite for 2012.  Anyways, this wraps up my college basketball thoughts, check back tomorrow for a UNC-Duke post.

Oh and Virginia Tech is on the bubble, what else is new?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rapid Reaction to Larry Drew Leaving

This picture is of a Tar Heel, not Larry Drew II
When I first saw the ESPN article this morning by Pat Forde reporting that Larry Drew was immediately leaving the Tar Heels I was floored.  I was in class so I wasn't able to consistently check up on the situation but by around 1:00 PM it became apparent that Drew was indeed bolting.  After watching Roy Williams' press conference and letting things sink in I've come to a couple conclusions concerning this whole mess.

1) Larry Drew Sr. was pulling the strings on this one
Look, it is highly possible that Drew II decided he was done with UNC when he was supplanted as the starter.  Still, he seemed to be taking his demotion well and was quietly playing some of the best basketball of his career.  Based on how surprised all his teammates seemed, I don't think he really detested being at UNC.  I think his father decided that Drew II needed to start and told him that to do so he needed to get out of Chapel Hill.  That brings me to my next point.

2) The timing does make sense, but only in the most selfish of ways
For the first 3 hours after the announcement I just couldn't understand the rationale for leaving now.  Drew would have to sit out a year whether he left now or at the end of the season and it wasn't like the Tar Heels were middling in mediocrity like last season.  Then I realized that at this moment Drew II's stock is about as high as its going to get this season.  He just had a great 3 game stretch and perhaps may have convinced some smaller D1 schools that he is a valuable asset.  My guess is that Daddy Drew recognized this and basically told his son that if he wanted to keep his dream of playing in the NBA alive he needed to get out and get out now.

3) If the rationale I just mentioned is true then UNC is well rid of Drew and his father
I supported Larry Drew much of last season and this season.  Even when it became apparent to me early on that Marshall needed to be the starter I still held off on bashing Drew and thought he could be a valuable asset at backup and with his significantly improved defense.  However, this move was remarkably selfish and demonstrated that he put the name on the back of the jersey ahead of the name on the front.  Perhaps he still will end up a decent player, but I'm happy he's no longer a Tar Heel.

4) With regards to recruiting I think people are blaming the wrong culprit
I've seen a lot of people on IC today that Roy Williams needs to stop recruiting from California.  True he has had 4 Cali boys transfer out of the program but I don't think being from California was the deciding factor.  Alex Stepheson handled his transfer gracefully and whether or not it was really due to a sick father it made sense.  UNC had Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson returning in the frontcourt and had two high profile freshmen in the incoming class in Zeller and Ed Davis.  I think the Wears and Drew both can be attributed more to micromanaging parents rather than being from the golden state.  Admittedly, were I Coach Williams I may be a little less likely to pursue California recruits, but I would be way more cautious with regards to the player's parents.

5) The Case for UNC being better off without Drew II this season
Drew's departure opens the door for Kendall Marshall to take full reins of this team and be its leader.  Marshall will likely see 30+ minutes a game now and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up leading the ACC in assists by the end of the season.  The Domino effect on the depth chart will also open up more minutes for both Leslie McDonald and Reggie Bullock, both of whom have showed promise in reserve roles.  Most players seemed to enjoy playing with Marshall more.  UNC's FG% and 3PT % is bound to improve.  The team seems to be very close and could use this incident as further motivation.  The whole team will be in Chapel Hill during the summer.  UNC didn't have backups who saw significant minutes behind Raymond and Tywon.  Did I mention Kendall MF'ing Marshall?

6) The Case for UNC being worse off without Drew II this season
Marshall is still not that great of a defender and may not be in good enough shape to handle 30+ minutes per game.  Dexter Strickland has improved playing off the ball this season but was ineffective at point guard last year (to be fair to Strickland he was playing PG for the first time).  Drew II sometimes seemed to spark UNC's defensive intensity and there could be a trickle down effect due to his departure.  IC trolls will begin to attack another player on the team now that Drew II is gone.

7) TJ Yates is the man
This seems to be out of nowhere but I just want to draw the contrast between how each handled his situation.  Both entered this academic year with many detractors and both seemed poised to be upended by younger, more promising prospects.  Yates ignored the critics, worked to improve and helped lead UNC through a season full of adversity, breaking school records along the way.  It ended with him leading a game tying drive in the Music City bowl which UNC would eventually win to secure its first bowl victory in a long time.  Drew spend the summer in California working with his father instead of in Chapel Hill getting used to playing with his teammates.  He was thoroughly mediocre throughout most of the season and eventually was replaced in the starting lineup by Marshall which ended with this whole debacle.  Lets put it this way.  When TJ Yates is out at a bar in Chapel Hill, most Tar Heel fans will want to buy him a beer.  Drew II will be lucky if he gets served by the bartender.  Larry Drew is no longer a Tar Heel.  I'm really not sure if he ever was.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Streak Lives

I needed this one.