Tough Tar Heels

It was another tough weekend for the ACC bubble teams. NC State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Miami all had chances to help or cement their chances. Only NC State and Georgia Tech helped themselves. The Hokies and Hurricanes both really needed to finish with a bang, but lost golden opportunities.
Virginia Tech came out flat in Raleigh and got blasted by the Wolfpack. On the flip side, the win was just what NC State needed; their loss earlier in the week to UNC didn’t so much hurt them as it cost them an opportunity to make a statement. The win over the Gobblers helps, but I think State will still need to either steal one against Wake next weekend or make a deep run in the ACC Tournament. Of course, a win in Charlottesville on Wednesday is a must (but not a gimmie).
For the Hokies, I think the loss puts them in a situation where they’ll need to win a few tourney games. They have to go to Clemson and have Maryland at home. A sweep would put them at 9-7, but their RPI would still be terrible. Like I’ve said, they are a team that the committee is going to be arguing about for a while (unless they lose both).

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Featherston On Recruiting

Yes, I’m linking to another Al Featherston article. As long as he keeps writing these great pieces, I’m going to link to them. This one is a great look at college basketball recruiting, focusing of course on local stories and Shavlik Randolph in particular. Like his earlier works, this one has some nice stories from days gone by.
Was Featherston this good when he worked for the Durham Herald-Sun? If so, I completely missed it. Either it’s this format that sets him free (as I mentioned before), or maybe just being fired relit his spark. Either way, he’s putting out some great stuff – the kind of writing that reminds me that I’m as amateur as they come.

And The Nominees Are …

It’s getting close to the end of the season and time to start thinking about the all-conference teams. With eleven teams in the league now, competition for the fifteen spots on the three teams is especially fierce. At least six teams, more than half the league, are guaranteed to have no players represented on the first team All-ACC. This year, with three teams dominating the league, it’s entirely likely that only players from those teams will take the top spots.
Instead of picking my teams just yet, I’m just going to select nominees team-by-team. Only players that I feel have been truly exceptional will be nominated. It’s entirely subjective of course, but I am perusing the conference stats as I pick these guys. Generally, I only care about stats in conference games as I think that’s the fairest measure against other players in the same league.

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Shrinking Bubbles

Today’s update is a bit late, so I’ll keep it a bit brief.
After my rant yesterday on the piss poor effort of the ACC’s middle tier, you should know that I wasn’t surprised at all that Duke won at Georgia Tech. In fact I even picked it.
The game was pretty horrid, but I was fortunate to watch just the good parts. I saw the whole first half, which was actually pretty fun with J.J. Redick and Jarrett Jack trading buckets and then just the last two minutes. The part I missed while putting the kids to bed must have been some Star Jones-ugly basketball. Georgia Tech managed just 22 points in the second half!
The key plays were the two threes that Lee Melchionni hit late and then the two offensive rebounds Duke got. On each of those boards, Tech would have had a chance to tie, but couldn’t get the ball. The second one was particularly egregious. Daniel Ewing had just missed the second of two free throws and Shelden Williams went right around the coniferous Luke Schenscher for the board. Did you know that you can tell which direction is north by looking at which side of Schenscher the moss is growing? It’s true!
Brief tangent here – it drove me nuts to hear Dick Vitale screaming about how Melchionni is a walk-on. I guess Vitale’s trying to show what a hard-worker Melchionni is and what a genius Krzyzewski is for using such an untalented player. The problem of course, is that Melchionni was NOT a walk-on. Not even close. No, he was a non-scholarship player for a year, which is a huge difference. Melchionni was ranked by some recruiting services as a top-100 player in high school. He wanted to go to Duke, but because of that bizarre 5-8 rule, the Blue Devils didn’t have enough scholarships to go around. Since Melchionni is well-off (his dad was head of a Duke alumni group and his sister already attended the school), he paid his own way for a year. He’s now on scholarship.
Very different from a walk-on. Doesn’t mean that Melchionni isn’t a good player or hard worker, but it just annoys me to hear the supposed voice of college basketball get such a basic fact wrong (OK, here is the point where you rightly tell me that Vitale gets nearly everything wrong).
The other game last night was that utterly unexplainable matchup between Wake Forest and Longwood, the worst D-1 school in the country. I understand that it’s sometimes fun to have a chippy late in the season, but that’s ridiculous. A practice would probably have been more useful for the Deacons. All a game like that teaches you is bad habits. Even with the win, the game certainly hurt Wake’s RPI as well, although I guess they are high enough that it doesn’t really matter.
There are some good games this weekend with Maryland hosting Carolina (and you know the Terps are going to continue their weird ways and win that one), Virginia Tech traveling to NC State and Georgia Tech at Miami. At least two schools will probably knock themselves out of NCAA contention.

McDonald’s All-Americans Announced

Fast food makes me think of fat. Looking at this year’s list of McDonald’s All-Americans makes me think of the fat getting fatter.
Duke and Carolina each have three recruits selected to the prestigous team. NC State has one. No other ACC team has any.
What’s that mean? You know. It means that Duke and Carolina will continue to dominate the conference (and country) and these guys will be the new players you’ll love and hate.
There’s a good chance that some of these players will never pull on a college jersey, but still, it’s an impressive haul for both the Heels and Devils.

There Is No “D” In Wake Forest

It was supposed to be the night when Tar Heels and Blue Devils joined hands. From what I read in the paper, Carolina fans (and players) everywhere would be cheering as hard they could for their beloved Dukies to knock off Wake Forest last night. You see, Carolina and Wake were tied at the top of the conference and don’t play again. Duke was already two losses behind so a win from them didn’t really hurt Carolina.
The thing is, I don’t think that happened at all. No Carolina fan I know would admit to cheering for Duke. Most seemed to think that they’d rather Duke lose no matter who they were playing. They’d instead hope that Wake faltered elsewhere.
Fortunately for those stubborn Heels, Duke won anyway. They showed more physical toughness and defensive intensity than Wake and knocked them off. Some, including Skip Prosser evidently, believe that Duke won in large part because it played dirty last night. I find that kind of funny considering that many of those same people rip on Duke for being a bunch of soft pretty boys who don’t like mixing it up.

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Best Sixth Man Ever?

Caulton Tudor says that he thinks Wake Forest’s Taron Downey is the ACC’s best sixth man ever.
Wow.
I have a hard time believing that, but as I’ve thought about it all weekend I realize that I have a hard time disproving it too. I know there have been some great non-starters, but I just can’t think of them right now.
I think to qualify, he can’t be an underclassman just waiting for a starting spot to open (i.e. Christian Laettner, Vince Carter, Corey Maggette, etc.). Instead he’d need to be an upperclassman who just fits the team’s role better coming off the bench.
Can anyone come up with some good names?
BTW, out of conference, one name that pops to my head is Johnny Newman of Richmond (and the NY Knicks). He scored 20+ ppg off the bench for the Spiders.

Running Zebras

The News & Observer ran a nice, long piece this weekend on college basketball referees, focusing largely on how much they work. I really didn’t realize how many games these guys officiate, but apparently it’s common for them to work 80-100 games a year!
Think about that. The guys are typically older and they are out there running up and down the whole game. No, they don’t run as much as the players, but they also don’t get to sub out and they don’t sit during timeouts. That’s a 40 minute game for each. Check this anecdote about the working schedule for Steve Welmer:

One non-ACC official, Steve Welmer, has worked more than 80 games. From Nov. 26 to Dec. 23, Welmer worked 28 straight days.

28 straight days! I checked online and it looks like Welmer is about 54 or 55 years old. Does it make sense that he could really be sharp working that many days in a row?
The thing is is that college refs are independent contractors who are paid by the game. The more they work, the more they are paid. In contrast, the NBA hires its refs as full-time employees and limits them to 14 or fewer games in a month and never more than two nights in a row.
In fairness, when I watch NBA games, the officiating doesn’t really look all that good, certainly no better than college games. NBA games seem rife with inconsistent calls. I have to think that despite that, they are physically and mentally fresher than their college counterparts.
Gottfried One other aspect of reffing that is touched on a bit in this article is a particular pet peeve of mine. That’s the issue of coaches and players yelling and complaining about calls. Maybe my memory is faulty or I’m just becoming a curmudgeon, but I don’t remember it being this bad 20 years ago. It amazes me what the refs allow coaches to get away with. To me, it sets a terrible precedent for kids to watch. They see Mike Krzyzewski and Gary Williams red-faced screaming in a guy’s face with no repercussions. Players get away with it to. It tells kids that you don’t really need to respect authority.
If I had any say in the matter, I’d make that a point of emphasis in future seasons. If you scream at a ref, it should be a technical foul. I understand that the game is passionate and tempers flare, but there’s no reason coaches and players couldn’t learn to control themselves. Ever notice how upset a coach gets if an opposing coach dares to utter a word in their direction? Clearly they think they deserve a lot more respect than they give the officials.