Disgust

disgraceI’m not a reactionary fan. I’m not one of those guys who feels the need to talk trash and predict national championships after every win and then calls for the coach’s head after every loss. I don’t like those fans. Actually, I do like to make fun of them, which is why you’ll see a lot of jabs here at NC State and Clemson, two schools who seem to harbor lots of those guys.
So generally, I try not to get too worked up over games, particularly losses. These are college kids after all, and I know they want to win, but not all teams can be good.
But today was different. I have never seen a game quite like the one that Virginia played against North Carolina today. If Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage had decided to fire Pete Gillen immediately after the end of that game, I would have applauded. The game was a travesty.

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Cameron Crazies Punk’d

This is pretty funny, a Maryland fan succeeded in tricking Duke’s Cameron Crazies into chanting about their own Myron Piggie scandal (info) during Wednesday’s game against Maryland.
The Terp fan pretended to be a Dukie (JerseyKidatDuke) and gave the CheerSheets folks some “inside information” about Nik Caner-Medley. He told them that Nik’s girlfriend is named Myra and her nickname for NCM is “Piggie.” Convinced, the info made it onto the sheets that the Duke fans pass around before games. During the game, they did chant “Piggie” at Caner-Medley.
Score one for the Terps!
Thanks to the DBR for finding this (and admitting it).

Jacked Up

Last night’s Wake Forest-Georgia Tech game was a lot of fun to watch, wasn’t it? It wasn’t the most beautiful execution you’ll ever see, but both teams went after each other with abandon. There’s just something fun about watching backcourts full of athletic, aggressive players attack each other. Jack, Bynum, Paul and Gray – those are four damn fine guards. They might all end up in the NBA.
Some people might have been surprised that Georgia Tech triumphed, but really you should be beyond the point of being surprised by ACC results this year. When things get tight like this, you can often determine who’s gonna win be asking who needs the game more. Wake wanted the win, but the Yellow Jackets needed it.
A smattering of thoughts about the game:
1. Wake needs to play better defense. Time and again, the Tech guards would beat their men off the dribble (because that’s what they do) and Wake’s big men never seemed to help out. While it was very polite of Williams and Danelius to waive them on by, it would probably help if they stepped in once in a while.

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Roll The Dice

Follow the sequence from this weekend – Duke crushes FSU in Tallahassee, NC State stomps Maryland in College Park, Florida State beats State in Raleigh and then Maryland beats Duke at Duke. It doesn’t make much sense, does it? Games seem like they are completely random – a roll of the dice.
It seems that way, but it’s really not so random. Sure, FSU, Maryland and NC State are among the most bipolar teams in the country, but if you consider where they were expected to be, last night’s results don’t seem so crazy. Maryland was picked as a tournament lock, at least the fifth best conference team. NC State was just below that, but a near certain tournament team, while FSU was picked as a strong bubble team. The fact that each team has struggled to live up to those predictions notwithstanding, what we saw last night wasn’t that shocking. Frustrating to fans of those teams, sure, but not really shocking.
In that Duke-Maryland game, we finally saw a team pull off what everyone was waiting for against Duke. Maryland put pressure on Ewing, who doesn’t have the true point guard skills to handle severe pressure. They also chased J.J. Redick (duh) and challenged Sheldon Williams enough to force Duke to use its thin bench. Under pressure the whole game, Duke got tired. Also, since the Blue Devils rely on those three stars for so much of their offense, a bad game by two of the three (Ewing and Redick) doomed them. It’ll happen again, but as Shavlik Randolph gets back in shape, they’ll be a bit more resilient.
For Maryland, the hope is that this game springboards them to better play throughout the season. We’ll see. One game is not a trend. They have the players and they have the coach. It’s time to find out if they have a team.
Aside: I rip on Gary quite a bit here, largely because he’s such an easy target. The thing is though, the guy completely baffles me. He does so many things the “wrong” way. We are taught that winners don’t complain. Winners don’t make excuses. Leaders don’t panic under pressure. Leaders don’t lash out at others when things don’t go well. Gary Williams does all of those things, yet he wins. It’s amazing. Just goes to show that there lots of ways to be successful.
One side effect of State’s implosion last night which greatly crippled their tournament hopes (they aren’t dead yet at all, but they are going to need some more upsets) is that it brought out some good humor. Check this thread about their meltdown over at Pack Pride. It started at 7:36 last night and already has 14 pages.
Even better was the post at StateFansNation.com explaining NC State’s offense. The best bit:

Should, however, the defense reject our playbook and choose to play zone, then our offense switches into the patented “Standing Around the Perimeter” (SAP) offense. It is similar in concept to Dean Smith’s famous “Four Corners” offense in that it allows several minutes to elapse without scoring a basket. The only difference between SAP and the Four Corners is that SAP allows the other team numerous possessions.

That’s great. JPS is a funny dude.

TV Schedules And The Art Of Whining

I know this may be old news to some of you. I’ve been meaning to post about it since the story came out, but I’m just getting around to it.
What I’m talking about is Andy Katz’s article from a couple Fridays ago about TV’s influence on ACC schedules.
It’s something I didn’t know and it’s actually pretty interesting. Once the ACC figures out the schedule, not the dates but who’s playing whom, the various television partners bid on the games. It’s like a draft, where the UNC-Duke games go first every year. The networks pick and choose in some order (probably stipulated in their contracts) and that’s how the schedule is built.
The end result of this is that certain less desirable games, Duke-Clemson is the example they pick, end up early in the season when ratings are naturally lower and bigger games come later when fans are tuned to college hoops. That’s why Clemson has opened with Duke four years in a row and Duke and Carolina always play the last game of the season.
Oliver Purnell thinks this is unfair.

“I raised it at the meetings and I raised it with my athletic director the other day,” Purnell said. “I understand the importance of the ratings but at the same time there needs to be some equitable competitiveness as well.”

And surprise, surprise, Gary Williams has a problem with it too:

“I’m glad Fred [Barakat] said that because I’ve been in the league for 16 years and I know they do that,” Williams said of giving the Duke-UNC games preferred treatment. “The year after we won the national title, Duke-Carolina was still the ultimate game. It’s always the last ACC game. It makes every other team in the league look secondary. That’s what I object to. Whoever is good should get the publicity. “

Waaa, waaa, waaa. What a bunch of crap.
First, Coach Purnell, what kind of message are you sending your team and your program? That you will always lose to Duke? That’s a great attitude. What difference does it make if you play them first or last? Do you know before the season starts who will or won’t be injured at different times of the year? Do you know that your team will improve more or less than Duke over the course of the season? No, you don’t. You’re just whining and blaming someone else for your failures.
Same with you, Gary. I know you like to play up the “woe is me” angle and blame all of Maryland’s troubles (real or imagined) on the evil North Carolina schools, but it’s really tiresome. Again, who cares when you play Duke?
They argue that it’s unfair that Duke gets the “easy” games first, but on the flip side, is it fair that Duke has to play Wake, G Tech and Carolina in consecutive games? Would you rather lose a bunch of games early or late? Do you really know which game are “easy?”
And then there’s Gary’s notion that it’s somehow unfair that Duke and Carolina is the game that everyone wants to see, as if that’s the choice of the teams involved. He argues that the league should pump the top two teams each year (as if UNC-Wake didn’t get attention this year and Duke-Maryland didn’t several years ago). His quote was “there’s nobody better than Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and North Carolina this year. They’re the top three.” Really? Is that right Gary?
You see the problem here? When Coach Williams said that, he might have been right, but less than two weeks later, he’s dead wrong. Duke is #2 in the country. You just can’t predict who will be strongest, so it makes sense to play up the established rivalries. The TV networks have no particular marriage to the Duke-UNC game. They want whatever games will get the most viewers, and nowhere near as many viewers want to see a Wake Forest-Maryland game.
So, in the end, this is all just complaining for complaining sake. Duke gets no benefit from this schedule and Clemson and Maryland suffer no harm. I think some coaches just have a reflexive tic whenever they hear the words “choice” and “Duke” in the same sentence. Shut up and coach and maybe you’ll find that the networks want you next year.

Ignored Eagles

Boston College, who will be joining the ACC next year, is having a tremendous basketball season. They are one of only three undefeated teams left in Division 1 at 16-0 and ranked #8.
While I’m glad that they are strong and will add a good team to the conference, I still think Boston College is a horrible fit in the ACC. What does the city of Boston have in common with the ACC? Do the people of Boston care about the ACC?
Read this article about BC coach Al Skinner. He’s done a great job there and by all accounts seems like a good guy, but no one in Boston cares.
Check this quote about their game last week with Villanova, a strong conference foe:

The Eagles were thankful to draw the second sellout of the season (8,606) to their campus arena Wednesday night and were not overly concerned that it was telecast nowhere in a conference built on TV markets.

Their second sellout of the season in an arena that holds just 8,606? In a city the size of Boston (over 5 million people)? That’s disgraceful.
The ACC suits fell in love with the idea of getting the Boston TV market, but they failed to recognize that no one there cares about BC. They already get a ton of ACC games on TV there (including almost all of Duke and Carolina’s games), so what’s the incremental addition of a few more games involving a team they don’t care about now?
Check the sports section at the Boston Herald. No mention of BC at all. The only Eagles are the ones in Philly. The only way to find a BC story is to click on “College” in the left navigation – just below Golf, Soccer and Auto Racing.
Did I mention that I don’t like expansion?

ACC Notes – 1/25/2005

I go away for one weekend and the whole conference goes berserk!
OK, that’s not exactly true. Things were already starting to get pretty nutty before I left, and honestly, do things ever go like we think they will? Each year, we see teams play a few times early in the season and think we know how good they are and who they can and can’t beat. Then, each year, teams go up and down and have good and bad games and we act surprised. The only real surprise is that we get fooled again each time.
All that said, I just can’t figure out most of the teams in this league. Outside of maybe Clemson and Duke, is there a team that we know for sure about?

  • Duke is undefeated and getting stronger, but everyone, coach K included, keeps waiting for them to start losing.
  • Wake has looked great, but got spanked by Illinois and lost to a weak Florida State team.
  • Carolina has also looked great, but their big wins over Maryland and Georgia Tech don’t look too impressive anymore, do they? In their one game against a top conference opponent, they lost.
  • Is Georgia Tech a good team? Sure, B.J. Elder is good, but is he that critical? Losing to the Hokies at home? Maybe the title of the one true “Tech” is up for argument!
  • Just how bad is this Maryland team? It’s starting to look like Gary has lost this team. They are selfish and fragile. One stat that stood out in that State debacle was that star point guard John Gilchrist had three assists. Maybe he should stop hanging out with Exree Hipp’s old posse.
  • Is NC State good or bad? Can they only beat old-guard ACC teams? It seems like they always lose to decent non-conference teams. Maybe they didn’t realize that Miami and Virginia Tech are in the conference now.
  • How good is Miami? They looked pretty tough until they ran into Duke and Carolina, but then that’s been the story for countless teams over the years. I say the Hurricanes can make the tourney.
  • Has Florida State already had their one good game of the year? Was that Wake game an accurate depiction of their potential or a mirage? I’m guessing mirage.
  • What’s up with Virginia Tech? Didn’t they get the memo? We asked you in for your football money. Don’t go beating us in basketball.
  • Some things are sane in this world – Clemson is still Clemson. They provided Virginia with their first conference win, just like they did for Duke and Virginia Tech previously. The Tigers are like the school slut in high school – everybody’s first time.
  • And then there’s Virginia. Clearly they aren’t going to live up to their early season hype, but can they fight their way to respectability? To near-respectability? They can, but I bet they’ll manage to only get on the bottom of the bubble, but then lose a critical late game to fall to the NIT.

Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News says that he agrees that ACC isn’t quite as strong as people (irrationally) believed it might be, but at the same time, it’s deeper than expected. No one thought Miami and Virginia Tech would bring anything to the league, but they’ve both been surprisingly competitive. Somewhere, John Swofford is smiling a greasy smile.
Well, through it all, the hope and despair, hype and hyperbole, the season is shaping up to be pretty damn exciting. We knew it would be, but as always, it’s a little different than expected. There are no sure things this season. Except maybe Clemson.

Waking Up The Doze Dome

When I saw this article in the Winston-Salem Journal about how Roy Williams wants to spice up the Dean Dome crowd, I assumed he was pushing for more students near the floor. Unfortunately, this article talks more about improving the TVs and piping in music. Um, Roy, that’s not what made Carmichael so great and it’s not what makes Allen Fieldhouse and Cameron Indoor Stadium rock. What makes a great crowd is a great crowd. By and large, the only way to get a consistently great, loud crowd is to have the students near the court where they can make noise and be seen. They create the atmosphere, not the old-timers with the deep pockets.
The problem at Carolina, and any other school with a modern arena, is that they sold those good seats long ago for big dollars. They can’t just take them back without some lawsuits. The only option is to buy them back. That would be expensive, but if any booster program can do it, it’s the Rams Club, especially now, while the Heels are winning.
The article does have a great anecdote about Carmichael from a game when Virginia and Ralph Sampson came to play:

Williams is hoping for nights in the Smith Center to be as menacing as one night in Carmichael in the ’80s. UNC was playing Virginia and Ralph Sampson and Carmichael was in bedlam before tipoff. The noise was deafening. Nothing could be heard on the floor.
Williams helped Virginia with the starting lineup introductions because he was standing next to the public-address announcer, who couldn’t be heard. Williams yelled the names of Virginia’s players when announced to Craig Littlepage, a Virginia assistant, so that Littlepage could tap each player when his name was called to go out on the floor. Littlepage, who was 10 feet from Williams, couldn’t hear a word Williams said and had to read his lips.