Quid Pro Quo

There are only two more shopping days until Christmas and if you are still trying to find just the right thing for a special ACC fan, I have your solution. The 2005 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
I got an email a while back from Chris Dortch, the editor of this tome asking me if I’d like a copy to check out. Never one to pass up a freebie, I took him up and I’m damn glad I did. Like any hoops fan, I was aware of the Blue Ribbon books – they’ve been out forever – but I guess I didn’t know them as well as I thought I did. In my mind, I lumped them in with dreck like the Street and Smith’s magazines – stuff in black and white that was written months before the season started and was largely out of date by the time I read it. I was wrong.
Blue Ribbon College Basketball YearbookThe Blue Ribbon book is nothing like those Street and Smith’s magazines. Yes, it’s black and white, but it’s thorough. The thing is huge, nearly an inch thick and with comprehensive reviews of every team in the country. The Duke preview alone is four small-print pages – probably the equivalent of ten Sports Illustrated pages. All of the ACC teams, even the doormats like Virginia, get at least two full pages. I’m telling you, it covers everything.
You may think you can get everything you want on the Internet, and maybe you can, but nothing can beat the convenience and completeness of this book. Do you want the skinny on Ole State U’s matchup with Southwestern Utah State A&M? You can read all about SWUAM’s zone press and experienced backcourt here, but you would have to use all of your Google-Fu to find that info out on the web.
The closest book I can compare it to, and this is the highest of praise, is Barry Jacob’s Fan’s Guide To ACC Basketball that is no longer published.
So if you still need to do some last-minute shopping, or if you think you’ve been good yourself, go get a copy of the Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook.

More On Expectations

In my article on Shavlik Randolph the other day, I wrote about why I rarely make absolute predictions. I don’t because I understand that humans and athletic competitions are inherently unpredictable. If outcomes could be 100% determined ahead of time, competition would be no fun.
Al Featherston recently wrote a much longer and better article on the same general topic. He focused those same principles on the subject of expectations for very good and great teams. As he points out with plenty of statistics and examples, the great teams rarely win all of their games and the best team rarely wins the national championship.
Think of some classic examples – Duke with Brand, Battier, Langdon, Avery and Carawell in 1999, Illinois last year, North Carolina with Jordan, Dougherty, Doherty, Smith, Perkins in 1984 and Wolf) and UNLV in 1991 with Johnson, Augmon, Hunt, Anthony and Scurry. Were those teams failures because they didn’t win the national championship? Were their seasons disappointments? No! The endings of their seasons were disappointings, but the seasons were still great.
Think about that as you watch Duke and Connecticut this year and listen to folks tell you that they should win it all and it’ll be a shock if they don’t.
Featherston also throws in a bit at the end where he brings up an old memory of mine – of the differences in stats keeping in the ACC in the early 80s. I remember watching great point guards at Virginia – Jeff Jones and Othell Wilson and not understanding why they never ranked near the league lead in assists. It turns out, as Featherston points out, that the UVA stat-keepers just didn’t like giving out assists, while the folks at places like Clemson and UNC doled them out freely. Check the league stats from those days to see what I mean.

Twenty-Win Seasons

Barry Jacobs of the Duke Basketball Report has a very interesting chart of twenty-win seasons by ACC teams since 1980. Twenty wins is a good cutoff point for a good year, since it likely means a team either made the NCAA tourney or made a deep run in the NIT.
While the two titans are, as you’d expect, Duke and UNC with 21 and 23 years out of 26, the next tier is very interesting.
The teams at the next level, all with either 13 or 14 years of success, are Maryland, NC State, Virginia and Wake Forest. It’s easy to only think about programs in terms of where they are right now, but folks forget that Maryland, NC State and Wake Forest all had extended dry periods in the late 80s or 90s. Virgina sucks now, and has for several years, so it’s easy to forget that they were one of the dominant ACC programs for much of the 80s and were consistently good up until Jeff Jones’ teams fell apart in 1996.
Georgia Tech is a bit surprising with only nine good years out of 26 and no one should be surprised to see Clemson and Florida State down at the bottom.

The Curious Career Of Shavlik Randolph

If you knew me personally, you’d know that I’m not really a black and white kind of guy. I always see shades of gray. Maybe it’s my scientific background, but if a future event has even a slight possibility, I consider that a real possibility and I won’t declare any other outcome as absolute. That’s why I could never be one of those shouting heads on TV who proclaims that Team A HAS NO WAY to win on Sunday or that IT’S 110% CERTAIN THAT TEAM B will win the championship. I know better than that. Human nature, sports in particular, is not predictable. Stuff happens, and often it’s stuff that no one expected.
Another thing you’d know about me is that I like to be funny. And gray areas are rarely funny. So, in order to make a joke, sometimes I have to skip all of the rationalization about why something might happen or not, and just take a stance.
Why am I writing this? It’s because of Shavlik Randolph. Or rather it’s because of what I wrote about Shav way back when he announced that he would be testing the NBA draft and the reactions to that article. In that article, I was going for a laugh or two. I took the (obvious) stance that Randolph was crazy and that there was no way he would make the NBA. I mean, the guy had a 6 points per game career scoring average! It was an easy mark and I went for it. I’m not Richard Pryor; I have to go for the chippies.

Continue reading “The Curious Career Of Shavlik Randolph”

Detroit Pissed Fans

Now this is funny. You’ve probably picked up on the frustration in Detroit with the state of their football team. The team has generally been bad for decades, but ever since Matt Millen took over as GM, things have gotten even worse, despite drafting a wide receiver in the first round every year.
The Lion organization fired coach Steve Mariucci a few weeks ago, but that did little to assuage the angry fans. If anything, it just fed the fire, as most wanted both Mariucci and Millen gone. With only one target to focus on, things are turning ugly.
Fire Millen signs and chants are showing up with increasing regularity and not just at Lions games. The signs and chants have been present at Michigan and Michigan State basketball games and Red Wings games. Even away Red Wings games.
You could say that Detroiters are fed up.
So, as you might imagine things are going to be pretty interesting this wekeend when the Lions host the Cincinnati Bengals. The great thing is that fans aren’t just planning on skipping the game or showing up and complaining. No, they are organizing. They have a march planned – the Angy Fans March – for before the game. They will chant together. They will carry signs. But the most interesting plan is being pushed by website TheLionFanatics.com.
TheLionFanatics.com is organizing what they are calling an “orange out.” The plan is for Lions fans to wear orange, the color of the Bengals. From what I hear, this plan is taking off. Stores are running out of orange shirts! While I think there’s something inherently wrong about wearing the colors of your opponent at a home game, you can’t deny that it will be a very powerful image. Can you imagine a home stadium jam-packed with angry fans “supporting” the road team? I can’t see how Matt Millen will make it through the week.
The Detroit News has an article about the whole affair and what really cracked me up is that they have a handy sidebar outlining the planned protests. They want to make sure it’s really easy for everyone to get involved!
If this “orange out” comes off as planned, and it sounds like it will, look for it to become the hot trend in angry fan behavior. Obviously, the old standard of not going to games just doesn’t have the same cachet anymore. People are inured to it. Sure, owners notice, but it just doesn’t have much bang these days. Paper bags on the head are so 1980’s New Orleans. But a stadium full of angry seemingly-road-team fans? That’ll get everyone’s attention.
Maybe if NC State loses a few basketball games the Wolfpack faithful will start showing up in baby blue to try to run off Sendek. Naaaaah, probably not.

Title To Terrapins

This past weekend (yeah, it’s been a busy week for me), Maryland’s men’s soccer team defeated New Mexico to win the national championship. All championships are special, but this one was extra nice for the Terps, since it was their fourth straight trip to the College Cup (that’s soccer’s name for the final four. The NCAA won’t let them use the more obvious name of Final Four.) and they had failed to bring home the hardware in their previous three tries.
Maryland becomes the fifth different ACC team to win a soccer title. Clemson and Duke won three between them in the 80’s, Virginia won five in a span of six years in the early 90’s and UNC won an unexpected title four years ago.
It’s somewhat odd that it has taken Maryland so long to win a national championship, as they’ve been one of the ACC’s strongest programs. Maryland has won 18 ACC titles, by far the most of any school (Virginia and Clemson are next with 13 and 12), but most of those came back in the 50’s and 60’s when the Terrapins won 16 in a row.
Congratulations to the overdue Maryland program. It’s always nice to see an ACC school win a national championship in any sport.

NCAA Scandal Tournament

Every wonder who the most corrupt college basketball programs are? Every wonder which one was/is the worst of them all? Well, so did Bob Cook of Flak Magazine, so he picked the top 32 and made a tournament out of it.
The champion? Kentucky barely edged out UCLA largely due to a longstanding tradition of cheating that has bridged several different coaches. Congratulations you crazy Wildcats!
The ACC is well-represented with Maryland, NC State and Clemson in the brackets. If you’re like me, you’re thinking “Clemson?” According to Cook, coach Tates Locke paid players in the 70s and then wrote a book about it. First I’ve heard of it. I guess they didn’t pay very well.
It’s a fun read with a lot of links to information about various scandals.

Sublime

J.J. Redick is easily the most hated player in college basketball. He’s the most hated player in years. In fact, you probably have to go back to another pair of Dukies, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley, to find someone who generates so much ill will. But for whatever reasons you have for not liking the guy (he’s cocky, he’s good, he plays for Duke, he’s white), if you’re a basketball fan at all, you had to love the performance Redick put on Saturday against Texas.
Here was a big game, #1 versus #2, and a game that many people thought Duke would lose. The Blue Devils simply hadn’t looked that good so far this year and Texas is very talented. Most people, myself included, thought the Longhorns would be able to lock down on Redick and Shelden Williams, the only two Blue Devils who seem capable of scoring this year, and win the game.
But it didn’t happen that way. Redick turned in one of the finest regular season performances I’ve ever seen in scoring 41 points. He hit all kinds of shots – runners, leaners, quick hitters, shots off of pump fakes. You name it, he did it. But he didn’t do it courtesy of a zone defense or some lax man-to-man. No, Texas played him pretty tightly. I can remember only one wide-open look and that was off of a set out-of-bounds play. It wasn’t like J.J. was running around curling off of screens like Reggie Miller; most of his points came off the dribble when he’d create space with jab step or utilize a ball screen. And there was always a hand in his face.
I don’t think Texas did anything wrong (in regards to guarding J.J.); they just had nothing for him.
As I’ve watched Redick over the past four years, like a lot of people, I’ve wondered how his game will translate to the next level. Most people think he’ll fail, because college jump shooters don’t usually pan out in the League. Ralph Wiley once wrote an article on espn.com about this. He called the shots of those college stars “counterfeit.” What he meant was while those jumpers looked great, they wouldn’t be legal tender in the NBA, because the open looks just aren’t there. Guys are bigger and faster at the next level, and they close in on open shooters frighteningly fast.
When I watched J.J. tear up Texas and their three NBA-caliber players, I had to wonder if maybe he would make it in the NBA. His game had all the look of an NBA shooter on a roll. Watch how Allen Iverson gets his points – he zigs and zags and uses screens and jab steps to create just that tiny little crack that he needs to get his shot off. If he has that little bit of space, he can hit the shot whether his feet are set or not. That’s exactly what J.J. did on Saturday.
I may not love the guy, but I loved that game.