The Best Week Ever

How about that eight-day stretch for Virginia Tech? They went down to Durham last Saturday and knocked off the Blue Devils in Cameron – exorcising the demons from last year. They beat patsy UNCG during the week like enjoying a bit of sorbet between courses to cleanse the palette. Then they hosted the #1 ranked Tar Heels in Cassell and damn near ran them out of the building.
Pretty amazing, huh? Not too many teams get to knock of UNC and Duke in succession, particularly programs like Virginia Tech. I can’t say for certain, but it might well have been the best three-game stretch in Hokie history. If it’s not, you’d probably have to go back to the days of Bimbo Coles and Wally Lancaster or even Dell Curry to find something better.
Frankly, if that’s not enough, the big wins helped propel the Hokies into the top-25 for the first time in over a decade!
So what’s up? Are the Hokies really this good? If so, what about their losses to Western Michigan, George Washington and Marshall?
The answer is that the Hokies are quite good. Now. A month ago, they weren’t very good. This is an experienced team, one of the most senior in the ACC, and as they showed against the Heels, they are deep as well. Tech also boasts one of the best two or three backcourts in the league and a tenacious defense. So why the struggles against bad teams? I’d say their problems go back to last season when everything that could go wrong did. That team was also good, but fell apart after an endless series of on- and off-court troubles. The problem was, all of last years losses left this team without a good idea of how to win. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s really true that teams need to learn how to win. They need to expect success, not just to hang close against good teams. And it looks to me like the Hokies have finally figured that out.
If you look at Ken Pomeroy’s numbers (and I don’t think he stacked the deck for his alma mater), you’ll see that they are ranked #20 overall and boast the 16th best defense in the nation. They rank #28 in turnovers forced, #19 in blocked shots and a #9 in steals. All those steals of course lead to plenty of easy baskets. Give a team 3 extra cheap baskets a game and they’ll win 4-5 more games a year. The Hokie offense is pretty good too, at #37 overall. They are particularly adept at taking care of the ball (#7 in turnovers and #23 in steals) and they also excel at hitting the three (#33).
The bottom line – the preseason prediction for a sixth-place finish in the ACC might be a bit low, particularly if youngsters AD Vassallo and Nigel Munson continue to improve and bring production off the bench.

ACC Video Of The Day

If you younguns haven’t seen Randolph Childress in action, check this little vid out. This is Childress knocking Jeff McInnis down with a crossover and then drilling a three in his face. This was during the 1995 ACC Championship, the year that Childress dominated the entire tournament.
And for extra goodness, there are links off of that YouTube page to highlights of each of Childress’ three games that weekend. Truly magical stuff.

ACC Review – 1/12/2007

Saturday, Jan. 6
Va. Tech 69, Duke 67 (OT)
I talked about this one here. The bottom line is that Duke is going to have problems with any team with good guards and/or athletic wings and the Hokies have very good guards.
With this loss by Duke, the ACC no longer has a clear #2 team. It could be just about anyone other than Miami, NC State or Wake.
BC 74, N.C. State 58
The Eagles have definitely cured whatever was ailing them a few weeks ago. Of course, getting Jared Dudley back was the main medicine. The Eagles were just too deep, too strong and too organized for the Wolfpack in this game. That said, I was again impressed by the play of the Pack. Gavin Grant, Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley are three of the most skilled and versatile players in the league. The problem is that the Pack has no real point guard (even when Engin Atsur plays) and not enough depth. That means that everything comes too hard and they are exhausted by the end of games.
As for McCauley, he is the best interior passer in the league, and that includes Josh McRoberts. Of course, that’s a bit of a trick answer, because McRoberts never goes in the post.
If Costner played for Duke or Carolina, he’d be in the discussion for freshman All-America.
Clemson 75, Ga. Tech 74
A terrible last defensive play by Georgia Tech and yet another good win for the Tigers. It pays to be a little lucky here and there.
Wake 59, Miami 58
If there were still a Les Robinson Thursday Night Invitational Play-In Game, this would have been a preview. Good for the Deacons in getting a conference win so early in the season. I was honestly concerned that they’d get shut out this season.

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Hodge For Blake

Just a week or so ago, Julius Hodge finally made it back to the NBA, getting some run with the depleted Nuggets. But now that their stars are about to come off of suspension, Les Nuggets felt like they needed to deal with their chemistry. There are only so many shots to be had, so Liliputian gunner Earl Boyken was shipped off to the Milwaukee Bucks for point guard Steve Blake. Hodge was tossed into the deal as well for some unknown reason. If Hodge and Blake cross paths in the airport, think Hodge will throw a forearm Stevie’s way just for oldtime’s sake?
BTW, I’d tried several times over the past year or so to track down Blake’s infamous college paper about Johnny Rockets (“Johnny Rockets, a restaurant that brings people happiness.”). Evidently the pages have been taken down from Maryland’s servers, but god bless the Internet Archive!
And Byron Mouton’s page is here. (“Before televisions, there were only radios. People could just listen and would not see a picture of the information. Television allows communication to be seen and heard.”)

Step One: Open Your Phone

Step Two: Take a pick of your junk
Step Three: Make her look at the pic
This is a great story (and I know I’m late to this. I need to make Deadspin a daily read.). ESPN’s smiling moron (well, one of their similing morons) Sean Salisbury evidently whipped out his cell phone one day not too long ago, snapped a picture of his Li’l Sean and sent it around to some coworkers, including at least a few women.
That’s just great! Isn’t Salisbury exactly the kind of guy you’d expect that out of? It’s like he’s still the bigshot high school quarterback being obnoxious and getting away with it, because well, he’s the bigshot high school quarterback.
Don’t be afraid to click that link up there. There is no photographic proof.
(Edited to fix stupid typo)

Pomeroy On Paulus

If you watched Duke’s loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, you certainly noticed the play of Greg Paulus. Paulus turned the ball over three times on Duke’s first four possessions and finished with six TOs in just 18 minutes of play. And that doesn’t even count the last possession when he took a Josh McRoberts pass off of his face and then had his last-second three-point attempt swatted into the stunned crowd. Put simply, Paulus was awful. And that’s a huge part of why Duke lost.
Ken Pomeroy wrote up a nice (well, unless you’re in the Paulus family) piece looking at Paulus’ performance this year and pointing out that he’s actually not playing much worse than last year. That last part really surprised me. I thought Paulus was a bit overrated last season, but I would have guessed that he’s been WAY worse this year. Nope. His turnover rate was pretty damn putrid last season as well.
BTW, while I’m bashing Duke I’ll go ahead and voice a thought I had while watching that game. This year’s team reminds me of the infamous 1995 team that fell to the ACC cellar. Both teams have a pretty decent array of players but lack on-court leadership and don’t play well together. It’s a rare Mike Krzyzewski team that is less than the sum of its parts, but that’s the case right now for this group. Fortunately for the Blue Devils (who also lost their first home ACC contest to a football school in 1995), I don’t think Coach K is going to check into Duke Hospital and hand the reins over to an unprepared assistant this time around (coincidently, current assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojelvjioahvoihashski were prominently featured on that ’95 squad). There’s time to right the ship, but they need to get better point guard play.

Pay To Play

The Boston Globe ran a great, disturbing article the other day about the relationship between Pop Warner youth football leagues and Disney. Each year, Pop Warner hosts age-group national championships at Disney’s facility in Orlando and charges the teams ridiculous amounts of money for the honor.
The agreement between Pop Warner and Disney stipulates that each participant on every team stay four nights at an official Disney hotel and buy at least two day passes to a Disney park.
From the article:

While rooms were available at a nearby Comfort Inn through for $51.43 a night during Pop Warner’s championships, Disney’s least expensive package for the Pop Warner teams required a three-night stay (four persons per room) at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort and a four-day theme park pass for $319 per person. At that rate, Disney received $1,276 per room, or nearly $425 a night.

Given that Pop Warner often caters to inner-city kids (the league are only $30 to join for a season) and the teams have a short time to raise funds for their trips (and find flights), many teams and coaches take on tremendous debt to get the kids to the tournament.
The whole thing makes me sick. First up on “deserves an ass-kicking” podium is the Disney spokesman who had the balls to say “We understand it can be difficult for some teams. That’s why we do all we can to work with them.” Please. For Disney, “doing all that they can” would include making it free. I understand that they are a business, but extorting kids is bad enough. Don’t lie to us too.
Next up on the podium are the Pop Warner leaders who agreed to this ridiculous arrangement. They claim that no other venue can handle the tournament, but that’s ludicrous. There are probably hundreds of locations that could support the tournaments. Maybe they wouldn’t quite as nice as Disney, but they wouldn’t require volunteer coaches to max out their credit cards to get the kids there either.
Last up are all the parents and coaches who agree to go through with all of this. Why would you go to debt for a damn youth football tournament? So little Johnnie can get another trophy? Do they really think the kids wouldn’t be perfectly satisfied with a regional or state title? Is it really worth having no Christmas for or having your heat turned off? Somehow I don’t think the power company is going to be sympathetic that you just had to take a week’s vacation to Orlando so you can’t pay the bill this month.
People piss me off sometimes.

ACC Review – 1/5/07

With my holiday travels, I didn’t really get to see much basketball over the past couple of weeks. I’m just now starting to catch up to what I missed as we head into the meat of the ACC season (five conference games this weekend). Since I saw few of these games, my comments probably will be a bit thinner than usual.
Friday, Dec. 22
Ga. Tech 78, Georgia 69
A nice win for the Yellow Jackets, who had been on a skid. It’s always nice to beat an in-state rival, but this game actually meant even more for Tech. The Bulldogs were the third top 50 (Pomeroy) that Tech has beaten. That’s a pretty nice non-conference record.
UNC 69, Saint Louis 48
Not the Tar Heels’ best effort, but check out the points allowed. If this team can play defense, watch out.

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