The Devil’s In The Details

Last night, Boston College beat Wake Forest 72-66 in Winston-Salem. In that game, BC attempted 50 free throws while Wake had just 14 – a 3.5 to 1 ratio. The Demon Deacons were whistled for 31 fouls, while the Eagles were nabbed just 17 times.
Oddly enough, unlike last week when Boston College lost to Duke, there was no hue and cry over the officiating. After the Duke game, BC coach Al Skinner gracefully commented that “[he didn’t] remember us getting the benefit. Even the last play. There’s contact on that last play and it’s OK. We make contact and it’s a foul. We played well enough and I thought we would earn the respect of the officials. Maybe it didn’t work out that way.” In that Duke game, the Blue Devils shot 37 free throws to the Eagles’ 13 (a less-than-3 to 1 ratio). Duke committed 19 fouls to BC’s 27.
Similarly, after the Duke-Florida State game, the nation erupted in articles debating not whether or not Duke “gets all the calls,” but just how much benefit they get and why they get it. In that game, Duke shot 43 free throws to Florida State’s 11. Duke committed 15 fouls to the Seminoles’ 28.
The strange thing is that I don’t recall any outrage after FSU’s previous game, a win over Clemson. In that game, played at Clemson, the Seminoles shot twice as many free throws as the Tigers (35 to 18) and committed one third fewer fouls (17 to 26). In the game before that, a loss to Miami, FSU attempted 23 freebies to the Hurricanes’ 9.
Such disparities, but no complaints? I wonder why that is? Could it be that these sorts of differences in fouls and free throws are completely ordinary? Could it be that the numbers don’t add up to incontrovertible evidence of a double-standard?
Hmmmm.
p.s. In the game before they played Duke, BC shot nearly three times as many free throws as Georgia Tech (32 to 13) while committing 10 fewer fouls (13 to 23).

The Big Game

It’s always a big deal when you can score a big upset over your arch-rival. We almost saw that on Tuesday night. With just a few minutes to play, in fact, the upset by the younger, less talented team seemed likely. But in the end, experience and talent won out, like it usually does and Virginia had to go home a loser.
What?
What game did you think I was writing about?

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Duke – UNC

Odds are that I won’t get time to do any sort of decent preview of tonight’s UNC-Duke game, so I’m going to reward the efforts of others.
Check out the link compilations at the ACC BasketBlog and the Duke Basketball Report. You’ll find way more than you’ll ever need.
Quickly, I’ll say that I really don’t have a good read on this game. I don’t think Carolina is exactly the sort of team that gives Duke trouble (long, athletic teams that drive to the basket), but they are pretty close. Hansbrough should be able to score inside, but I’m concerned about their ball-handling (insert Chris Paul joke here). You just can’t turn the ball over 25 times against Duke and hope to win. On the flip side, given the current climate, I suspect that Carolina might expect to get some favorable calls tonight. I’m sure the refs will be extra careful after the bashing they’ve taken after the past two Duke games.
BTW, if I were Carolina, I’d put a good defender on Redick and otherwise just let him go. Don’t build any elaborate schemes for him. If he gets 30 or 40, so be it. Just don’t allow the focus on him enable the other Blue Devils to beat you.
I’m looking forward to an exciting, intense game. I’m also interested in seeing the first installment in what could be a nice rivalry between Greg Paulus and Bobby Frasor (although Frasor will probably lose his job next year to Tywon Lawson).

Prosser Feeds Monster

For the first time (that I’ve noticed), Skip Prosser talked a bit about the rumors that have him going to Cincinnati next year. He only talked about it because a recruit brought it up, nervous that the coach he thinks he’s gonna play for may not be at Wake Forest next year.
The thing is, Prosser didn’t come out and state unequivicably that he would not pursue the Cincy job. Instead Prosser pointed out that he has a personal policy of not talking about coaching rumors. Well, that’s fine and actually I agree with that stance. Mostly. It’s a great attitude to have for most college jobs. You just never know for sure what opportunities you will or won’t have in the future and there’s just no advantage to saying you will or will not look at other jobs.
But Wake Forest isn’t most jobs. Prosser says that he formed his policy while at Xavier. That’s fine, but let’s be honest, Xavier isn’t a final destination job. Xavier has a long history of hiring good coaches and then watching them go on to bigger programs. It’s the way things are. But Wake Forest is a final destination job (Dave Odom excepted). You don’t normally leave a place like Wake for another school unless a super-elite program like Kansas or Kentucky comes calling.
Skip Prosser says that speculation is “a monster that’s never satiated,” but he’s wrong. He could not only satiate the monster, but kill it by simply stating that he will not interview for the Cincinnati job. He could say that he will stay at Wake Forest for as long as they’ll have him. What’s the harm in that unless he really thinks he might pursue other jobs?

The Week That Was – 1/30 – 2/5/2006

01/31/06 Virginia Tech 63, Georgia Tech 62 – Blacksburg, Va.
A good win for the Hokies in that they needed another conference win, but honestly, it’s hard to see it being that significant for either team in the long run. Georgia Tech is already too deep in the hole to realistically consider any postseason tournament and Virginia Tech is in nearly as much trouble. The best news for the Hokies is that it was their second consecutive ACC win. The bad part is that they don’t get to see Wake Forest or Georgia Tech again.
01/31/06 Miami 78, Wake Forest 69 – Coral Gables, FL
It’s telling that this result is not surprising at all at this point. It would have been almost a shock if Wake Forest had gone down to Miami and won. Miami has quietly established themselves as a top-half ACC team. A little too quietly, apparently. Only 4124 fans deemed the game worth the effort to attend. Is that an indictment of Miami’s program or Wake Forest’s?

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Rolling In The WRGPT

I apologize in advance. This post is pure vanity. Feel free to move on without reading this one.
Back in September, I posted about an email poker tournament called the WRGPT (The World rec.gambling.poker Tournament). It’s a very slow poker tourney and it’s for free, but it does attract some poker heavyweights, or at least, it has. Chris Ferguson and Greg Raymer have both played in it in the past. I don’t really know a lot of poker pros, but I understand that there are several in this tournament.
Anyway, I’m posting to brag. Not only am I still alive in the tourney, but I’ve moved up to third place! (That’s the live standings. Click here for an archived version.) Considering that I’ve never played no-limit hold-em against real people before, I’m pretty pleased with myself. Over 1200 people started the tournament and about 285 are left.
I’m looking to win this thing.

Missing Free Throws, A Tiger Tradition

We all know that Clemson has likely cost themselves a win or two this year with their poor free throw shooting. What you may not know is that the 2006 Tigers are on pace to set a new ACC record for free throw shooting futility.
The really interesting thing about Barry Jacobs’ look at the worst free throw shooting times of all time is just how many of them are Clemson squads. It’s funny, because it does just feel like Clemson should suck at free throws. I guess it feels like that because they so often do. Counting this season, the Tigers have the four worst shooting seasons in ACC history and seven of the worst nine. Seven of the worst nine!
We all know that Clemson has the poorest basketball tradition in the conference, but that doesn’t really explain this. It seems to me that free throw shooting is almost orthogonal to overall success. Many crappy players can hit their freebies while guys like Tim Duncan struggle. So what explains Clemson’s institutional free throw futility? I can’t even think of a good joke for it.

2006 Mid-Season Prouty Ratings

Now that we are at the middle of the ACC season (except for Carolina and Maryland who have still only played seven conference games), it’s a good time to take a look at how players are doing. Just like I did last year (here, here and here), I calculated the Prouty Ratings of all ACC players who play at least 15 minutes per game. Since each team has played only eight (or seven) conference games, I’m using the full season stats here. Normally, I like to look at conference-only stats when comparing conference players, but you need more games played to make that fair.

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More Calhoun Bashing

A few months ago I linked to a very interesting column from Gregg Doyel savaging UConn coach Jim Calhoun. The article was fascinating because it’s so rare for a reporter to be so honest in their feelings about a college coach.
You may recall that a few years ago, Maryland coach Gary Williams went public all but accusing Calhoun of bribing the AAU coach of Rudy Gay. Calhoun paid the coach $50,000 to have an all-star team play UConn in an exhibition game. It was largely because of this controversy that the NCAA changed the rules and said that NCAA schools could not play non-college teams.
Well, now there’s this. Jeff Jacobs, a sportswriter for the Hartford Courant wrote a whole article about his ongoing feud with Calhoun. While I think it might have been poor form to use the newspaper to air his problems with Calhoun, it’s equally bad for Calhoun and the Connecticut athletic department to single out and ostracize certain reporters. Worse still, Calhoun physically threatened Jacobs in a press conference. Apparently Jacobs had had enough.
Regardless of what you think about Jacobs’ writing the article, you have to agree that he must have felt pretty frustrated to have reached that point. He knew the criticism he would receive by attacking a popular local coach – one with the #1 team in the country.
At least one other local writer has spoken up and taken Jacobs’ side.
So what does this all mean? In the long run, probably nothing. Calhoun isn’t going anywhere and he’ll win this pissing contest. But people shouldn’t forget. You have to be a hell of a miserable person to get this many different writers making public personal attacks against you. Writers frequently criticize coaches for their coaching or their handling of discipline, but rarely do they make the generalizations that have been made here. Jim Calhoun must be a special kind of asshole to bring about this many articles bashing him. The only other coaches I can remember being attacked this way are Bobby Knight and Jerry Tarkanian (well, and Dave Bliss, but that was different).

Chase On Prosser

With Wake Forest not just on the decline but in full blown death spiral, I’ve been thinking a lot of Chris Chase. You see, Chris has always hated Skip Prosser. I thought he was overly hard on Wake’s coach the last couple of years, but now I’m seeing that maybe Chris was right all along.
Sadly, I’ve fallen way behind in reading Chris’s hilarious blog. I was certain that a quick persousal would find me some Prosser-bashing.
I was right. Chris takes his most recent shot here, courtesy of a damaging quote from freshman Harvey Hale. Chris previously went after Coach Skip here and here.
Sadly, it’s not Chris’s funniest stuff, but he does work Keanu Reeves into his criticism. You can never go wrong with Keanu Reeves.