The Good Side Of Coach K

Mike Krzyzewski takes a lot of grief from fans and media, much of it deserved, for being a bit of a pain in the ass. He can be arrogant, gruff and condescending – all common traits among the super-driven, but he can also be a hell of a good guy as well.
The Duke Basketball Report found an article from a small paper in Ohio about one of those times when K was an outstanding human being. He somehow heard about a family in Ohio who had recently lost their teenage son (a Duke fan) in a car accident. Krzyzewski tracked down the father’s cell phone number and, out of the blue, gave him a call. He followed that up with a box full of signed memorabilia that the family could use in an auction to raise funds for a scholarship in their son’s name.
It’s really a great story.

ACC Bible

I love ACC basketball. I love statistics. I probably spend an inordinate amount of time gathering, reading and thinking about ACC basketball stats, but I’ve got nothing on this guy. Michael O’Hara has collected and is publishing a book with box scores and game reports for every ACC men’s basketball game ever played.
Wow.
And it’s going to be a hell of a book. The whole thing will printed as three volumes, each 8.5 by 11 inches and 800 pages. That’s a lot of book.
When I first read the headline and saw what they were talking about, I was really hoping that they were talking about a database, preferably a freely accessible database, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I can dream though.

Terps To Lose Scholarships?

When the NCAA released its 2007 APR report last week, it generated the usual slate of articles looking at how local schools fared. Those that did well were praised and excuses were generally provided for those who didn’t do well. Normally I would have written something about the report, but it just seemed repetitive this year and no ACC schools seemed to be in serious trouble.
Well, I was wrong. Maryland basketball is in a bit of hot water. According to The Baltimore Sun, as paraphrased at AOL’s NCAA FanHouse, two of Maryland’s seniors this year are not on track to graduate. If either of them fails to catch up and earn his sheepskin on time, the Terps will fall below NCAA standards and be punished by losing two scholarships. Ouch. Two scholarships is a pretty serious penalty, but on the plus side, think of all the extra excuses it could provide Gary Williams!

Three The Hard Way

The other night, I was playing in a local rec league basketball game. My team was getting drilled by the top team in the league. One of their players showed up for just the second half. He is a short, overweight, unathletic guy. If you saw him, you’d never think he was a good basketball player and you’d be right. Obviously, they didn’t play this guy much, but late in the game they had him out there, trying to get him a bucket. For the last 2-3 possessions it was almost a joke. They’d throw him the ball in the hopes that he’d get in the scoring column. Well, lo and behold, in the last few seconds, he caught a pass, took one dribble and launched a three-pointer. Swish.
When the old fat dude who couldn’t even play ball when he wasn’t old and fat is hitting threes, the shot is too easy.
Well, the NCAA Committee is doing something about it. In a rare correct move, they have voted (of course, it still has to be approved) to move the line back a foot, to 20 feet, 9 inches starting in the 2008-09 season. No, it’s not a huge change, but it will help. It will be slightly more difficult and it might help spread the college game out a bit more. It should also make the mid-range game a bit more significant. Everybody wins!
(Here is where I point out the one crappy part. The women’s committee did NOT approve the same change, so now there will be an extra line on the court. Two lines just one foot apart. Ugh.)

Black And White Zebras

The New York Times published an article yesterday about a recent study on the racial makeup of referees and their calls in NBA games. The study (you can read it here), done by two Ivy League economists, looked at data from 13 NBA seasons between 1991 and 2004. They broke down the racial makeup of the three-man referee crews in each game and using multivariable regression analysis, looked at how calls were made against white and black players.
My first thought about this was that it was a bunch of crap. How could they really account for all the reasons why players do or do not commit fouls? What about the superstars, most of whom are black, who tend to get the benefit of the calls? Well, then I read the article and found that they accounted for that:

The economists accounted for a wide range of factors: that centers, who tend to draw more fouls, were disproportionately white; that veteran players and All-Stars tended to draw foul calls at different rates than rookies and non-stars; whether the players were at home or on the road, as officials can be influenced by crowd noise; particular coaches on the sidelines; the players’ assertiveness on the court, as defined by their established rates of assists, steals, turnovers and other statistics; and more subtle factors like how some substitute players enter games specifically to commit fouls.

Continue reading “Black And White Zebras”

The Talent

USA Today put out a list the other day of the top 100 high school basketball players in the class of 2007. The first thing any ACC fan should notice with this list is the dearth of elite players headed to the ACC next year. Duke’s Kyle Singler is the only top ten guy and just four of the top twenty are headed our way. That’s not horrendous, but it’s not really up to ACC standards either.

The most obvious explanation for the drop in talent headed to the ACC is that UNC decided not to sign any 2007 players. Carolina routinely nabs a McDonald’s All-American or three and they just decided to pass this year. Carolina and Duke are really the only two ACC programs who get those kind of players year-in and year-out. The rest of the ACC usually lands a few more and that’s what happened here, with NC State signing #11 J.J. Hickson and Georgia Tech landing #19 Gani Lawal.

Another explanation is that there just weren’t very many seniors in the ACC this past year. Look around and you’ll see that a lot of the teams lost just a player or two. Of course, there are a lot of underclassmen who might be leaving, but it’s hard for coaches to anticipate that and recruit for those spots.

Back to the list, a breakdown by ACC school:
Boston College – 47. Rakim Sanders
Clemson – none
Duke – 6. Kyle Singler, 20. Nolan Smith, 29. Taylor King
Florida State – 39. Solomon Alabi, 68. Julian Vaughn
Georgia Tech – 19. Gani Lawal, 87. Maurice Miller
Maryland – 60. Braxton Dupree
Miami – 96. Julian Gamble
North Carolina – bupkis
NC State – 11. J.J. Hickson, 85. Tracy Smith
Virginia – 50. Jeff Jones, 80. Mustapha Farrakhan, 95. Mike Scott
Virginia Tech – 56. Augustus Gilchrist, 61. Jeff Allen, 70. Dorenzo Hudson, 88. Malcolm Delaney
Wake Forest – 52. James Johnson, 81. Jeff Teague

So actually, while there aren’t as many super-elite players as most years, the ACC is bringing in 21 of the top 100, or about one in five. Considering that there are six power leagues plus a few other programs like Memphis and Gonzaga, that’s not too bad.

It’s particularly interesting to see that the two Virginia schools are pulling in a total of seven top-100 players. That has to be a record for those two! Of course, all seven are in the bottom half (well, Jeff Jones – no not that Jeff Jones – is right at 50.).

Glasper vs. O’Brien

Eagle In Atlanta has an interesting post today about some controversy involving former BC and current NC State coach Tom O’Brien. The story, as detailed in this ESPN.com piece, is that O’Brien promised safety Ryan Glasper that he’d redshirt him last year while Glasper recovered from hip surgery. In the middle of the season, just after BC lost that heartbreaker to the Wolfpack, O’Brien went to Glasper and told him that he needed to play; O’Brien would NOT grant him a redshirt, so unless he wanted his career to be over, he needed to play then, injured or not.
Now, on the surface, the story sucks, especially as presented in this article. Coaches shouldn’t go back on their promises to their players and they shouldn’t put their guys in the position of possibly suffering a career-ending injury. But keep in mind that all of the information in this story comes from Glasper (and a few short quotes from some assistants) and remember that TOB probably hurt a lot of feelings when he bolted Chestnut Hill for another school in the same conference.
Another point to consider is that this sort of thing probably isn’t that uncommon, at least not the part about playing guys who were planning on redshirting. You hear it every year with teams that are struggling. Invariably, they have a few freshmen studs that they are hoping to redshirt, but under the pressure of losing, they put those guys on the field in the middle or even late in the season. Basically, those kids get an abbreviated and rushed start to their career, maybe playing in just a couple of games but burning a year of eligibility. Is that unethical, or is that just a coach doing whatever is in his power to win? Which is greatest, the obligation to the program as a whole, the obligation to a particular team or the obligation to an individual player? It’s a tough situation. Most coaches will tell you that they never sacrifice the present for the future, but the truth is that they do it all the time. The future isn’t guaranteed to any coach. Redshirt too many guys today and your predecessor may reap the benefits next year.
It’s an interesting story. If it went down exactly as described (and I bet it didn’t), then O’Brien is an asshole. But then, aren’t most football coaches assholes?

Terrapin Captain A Dukie?

This is crazy. Almost all college students root for their own school in every sport. In a few cases, you find a kid who sticks to their childhood team despite going to a different school. But an athlete rooting against his own school (not in his sport)? That’s unheard of (by me)! To make this even more unlikely, we’re talking about a Maryland athlete rooting for Duke. In basketball! It’s hard to think of too many more vitriolic rivalries right now than Maryland-Duke, with the bulk of the hatred coming from College Park.
So how does this guy do it? I mean, he’s even a captain of the lacrosse team! I think you can find the answer in his size – the dude’s 6-4, 240. Who’s going to say anything?
Hat tip to the DBR for finding this one.

Nash Vs. Starbury

The guys (guy?) over at the Georgia Tech Sports Blog have an interesting post about the joy of watching Steve Nash play and remembering when he faced off against Stephon Marbury in college. The comments on that game 12 years ago are great. Tech fans were just trying to figure out how good their new phenom was going to be and then he gets outplayed by some scrawny, no-name white kid who plays for Santa Clara. Of course, their fears were unfounded as Marbury ended up as one of the greatest one-year ACC players ever and of course, that scrawny white kid turned out to be pretty good too.

BTW, click on the link just to see Nash sporting a Hurley cut!

If I Go There Will Be Trouble

Yesterday I wrote about the NBA draft decisions of Brandan Wright, Sean Singletary and Thaddeus Young. Well, I guess I should have waited a day because as I was typing that up, Javaris Crittenton and James Mays were announcing that they too wanted in on the party.
Like Young and Singletary, Mays and Crittenton say they aren’t hiring agents and may yet come back. I hope so. While NBA scouts are certainly interested in young Crittenton, legit 6’5″ point guards aren’t too common even in the League, he could use a bit more seasoning. No position takes longer to learn than point guard and Crittenton isn’t ready yet. He could be special, and Georgia Tech has quite a history of special point guards, so I’d hate to see him rush things.
Mays’ decision is even more suspect. While he’s a talented player who I could see in the NBA, I don’t think too many scouts are paying him any attention. Big, athletic guys like Mays are tempting, but not when they score under 13 points per game. I think Mays would have a slim chance of even being drafted. That kind of gamble just doesn’t seem worth it to me.
With all of these underclassmen declaring, or at least testing the waters, it might be useful to look at some projections of where they might go. Now, keep in mind that the guys who do these sites really have little to no inside information. They are guessing like the rest of us, just with a bit more diligence. That said, if you look at them in total, you get a pool of likely draftees that’s about 90-95% accurate. Looking at nbadraft.net, Draft Express and Inside Hoops, you can get an idea of how the ACC guys are generally viewed. Brandan Wright is a unanimous top-four selection. Thad Young is in the high teens, Javaris Crittenton is in the late first round and neither Sean Singletary nor James Mays are even projected as draftees. Going by that, I’d say that everyone but Wright should be thinking about what classes they want to take next fall.