Big Money To Get Paid

Virginia tight end Heath Miller announced yesterday that he will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft.
Miller set pretty much every ACC season and career record for tight ends. He was a unanimous first team All-American this year and won the Mackey award as the nation’s top tight end.
Miller redshirted his freshman season (he was a quarterback initially), so he is already in his fourth season at UVA and is on track to graduate in May.
Earlier, Miami’s Frank Gore and Roscoe Parrish and Clemson’s Justin Miller announced that they too would leave college early and enter the draft.

Forgetting State

You may have noticed that I have a tendency to poke fun at NC State fans from time-to-time here. The reason why is simple – it’s so easy! For one, I live and work near Raleigh, so am surrounded by State fans. The Pack faithful are also by-and-large very rabid and extremely sensitive to any perceived slights. It’s like growing up as the younger brother to the high school class president/football star/homecoming king. They never feel they get their due and are quick to point that out (as well as make sure you know that Mr. Perfect has a hairy mole on his back). To sum up, they are a fun bunch to needle.
So, I ran across a new site today, a blog for NC State sports, and it had a very interesting read about an incident that happened this weekend during the UNC – Maryland game. The ESPN announcers, Brad Nessler and Dick Vitale were talking about NASCAR and North Carolina (the state, not the school) and Nessler came out with this quote, “Other than Duke and Carolina basketball around here…and Wake…Tobacco Road in general, (NASCAR) would be the biggest thing.”
Notice something missing?
Jeff certainly did, and had this to say about it:

Nessler forgot us. Period. Would he ever forget Duke, Carolina or Wake? Obviously not.
Put quite brutally – After NINE YEARS of opportunity to re-establish NC State as a meaningful participant in the college basketball landscape, Herb Sendek hasn’t even made enough of an impact to pop in the mind of ESPN’s lead college basketball play-by-play commentator when he was discussing a topic that directly related to NC State as he sat 20 miles from our campus.

Now, before you State fans jump down my throat for daring to attack one of the Pack, note that I think Jeff wrote a great piece here. He did a good job of both showing that State fans are sensitive and then explaining why that is. He wasn’t whining, he was justifying.
It’s true – State doesn’t get the national attention that Carolina and Duke do. I’m not so sure that a casual sports fan in, say Utah, knows that there is an NC State and that it’s different than North Carolina. It’s not really State’s fault – Carolina has the simpler name, the longer success and the greater alumni. People just know them (and Duke) better. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s what happens when one school has more success than the other over a long period of time.
I understand State fans’ frustration. I feel for them. Maybe some day they’ll get Mr. Perfect in a headlock and give him a big ol’ noogie on national TV. Then everyone will know their name.

No Tark In Hall

The SportsProf has a nice article up debating Doug Gottlieb’s article on espn.com about the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Gottlieb’s beef is that certain coaches, including Eddie Sutton and Jerry Tarkanian belong in the Hall (and unfortunately, he denigrates John Wooden and Pete Carril to make his point). Of course Gottlieb likes Sutton, he played for him at Oklahoma State, but Tarkanian? The Tark was a snake who bent every rule there was and thumbed his nose at the NCAA while doing it. Sure, he won a ton of games and an NCAA title, but it’s a whole lot easier when you cheat. By Gottlieb’s reasoning, Ben Johnson should be Track and Field’s Hall of Fame. I mean, sure there was that whole steroids thingy, but he did win a gold medal and set a world record while doing it, right?
Tarkanian may well have been a great basketball coach (I think he was), but he was a lousy person and a terrible role-model for student-athletes.
As for Sutton, it’s a bit tougher call. He has also had a great coaching career, but he was part of a pretty serious scandal at Kentucky. He seems to have moved past that though, and I’d be inclined to let him in. I think that’s really the point that Gottlieb wanted to make with the whole article, but he threw Tark in there as a smokescreen. I think his reasoning was that if they can let Tark in, they’d have to allow Sutton.
So, what do you think? Should NCAA troubles keep a coach out of the HOF?

The Second Coming?

Ralph Sampson hasn’t been the greatest father in the world. He’s had to pay some fines for non-payment of childsupport, an indefensible crime in my book.
But, it looks like he did pass on some good genes to his kids. His son, Ralph Sampson III, is a freshman in Alabama. He’s 6’10”. A 6’10” freshman! He played his first game the other night and scored 18 points to go with 18 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
Pretty impressive. With that name, size and game, you can bet that he’ll be getting whole mailbags full of recruiting letters for the next several years.
For those to young to remember his dad, think Kevin Garnett, but five inches taller. He was very athletic, could run, jump and shoot, and of course, he was (is, I guess) 7’4″.
If Ralph III has anything close to his dad’s talent, and it sounds like he might, he won’t play a minute of college ball.
Nervesmiffs already has a discussion thread going here.

ACC Notes – 1/10/05

I’ve complained about ACC expansion many times in the past and I fully promise to do it some more, but this weekend I had a little revelation – two extra ACC teams means one more game over the weekend! That was pretty cool actually, having a fifth game, even if it did bring us Virginia Tech at Florida State as a conference game. Actually, on second thought it sucks.
A quick rundown of those five games, plus Duke’s “legends” game with Tulane.
Carolina 109 – Maryland 75 – Damn. Damn. Daaayum. I watched part of the first half of this game. At the time, Carolina had a slight lead, but looked extremely sloppy, turning the ball over possession after possession. At one point, they had something like thirteen turnovers in eleven minutes. My math’s a bit foggy, but that projects to something like 132 turnovers in a game, and you don’t normally win games like that. Obviously, they turned things around and ran the Terrapins over. Then the Heels turned around and ran the turtles over one more time, just for kicks. Or maybe it was payback for that time a few years ago when Juan Dixon the boys pulled a similar job on Coach Doh’s poor troops.
It got ugly. I mean, Carolina scored 109, the most they’ve ever scored against Maryland and they actually let up in the last few minutes. You’d think that most-points-ever record would be attached to Bob Wade’s picture in the program, not Gary Williams’. And this team is (or was – they might get dropped) ranked!
Carolina is very good. Maryland is not.
Wake Forest 103 – Clemson 68 – This was blowout weekend, wasn’t it? Given how strong some of the ACC teams are and they styles they play, this is going to be a theme. The lesser teams, and that’s everyone not named Carolina, Wake or Georgia Tech right now, better learn to take their beatings and move on. Brush your shoulder and off and get ready for the next game or you’ll likely get whacked again.
Fortunately, Clemson has plenty of practice at that.
Florida State 77 – Virginia Tech 70 – The new ACC! Gotta love it! I wonder if the legions of Hokie basketball faithful will ever get over this crushing loss to their bitter rival from the Sunshine State?
Georgia Tech 92 – Virginia 69 – The Cavs have played two ACC games and gotten smoked twice. Like I said, they better get used to it and move on. As in the Wake Forest game, they weren’t horrible in this one, unless you consider giving up open shots on nearly every possession “horrible.”
The games between the Jackets, Deacons and Heels are going to be awesome this year. Just awesome.
Duke 82 – Temple 74 – This was a good, if not terribly impressive win for the Blue Devils. Sure, Temple has a losing record, but it’s one of those schools that you can never sleep on. They are always tough.
You may have noticed that I left Duke out of a few mentions above of the best teams in the conference. There’s a reason. They are good, but they aren’t really good. I think they are going to have real problems when they go up against a team with great, quick guards and lo-and-behold, Carolina, Wake and Georgia Tech have great, quick guards. Not that Duke can’t beat them, they can, but they could just as easily break down and get spanked.
Miami 67 – NC State 66 – The Hurricanes get a win over a (formerly) ranked opponent in their first home ACC game. Who could have seen this coming? Well, everyone who’s been paying attention, that’s who. NC State is having serious problems in composition and confidence. Without Bethel, they (like Duke) have a quickness gap at the guard spots when compared to most other teams in the league. Also, they just don’t seem to be playing very well, particularly Julius Hodge who inexplicably has turned into Shaq at the free throw line. Hodge missed six of his ten free throws. Last year, he would have hit eight of those and State probably would have won.
The Pack will right the ship, they seem to have this slide every year, but it has to be frustrating as hell for their fans.
As for Miami, watch out. This team has the guns to shoot some good teams down.

Felton Fixed Form

This is a pretty interesting read from the N&O about how Raymond Felton fixed his jump shot over the summer. He practices hard on his form, moving his elbow in closer to his body so that his forearm was vertical instead of across his face. That change to a more classic form seems to have paid dividends this season.
It’s good to see him fix that problem, because his shooting woes last year really affected his whole game. When he’s hitting shots like he is now, I really think he’s the best point guard in the conference (and probably the country). That may not be a popular opinion, what with Chris Paul and Jarett Jack in the league, but I think Felton runs an offense better than either of those guys. He’s quicker too, so when he’s hitting his shots, he’s almost impossible to stop. What I like about Felton’s game is that like great PGs of the past like Hurley, Corchiani and Kenny Smith, he only looks for his shot after he’s exhausted all other possibilities or maybe just to keep the defense unsure. The other great points in the league (Paul, Jack and Gilchrist) could learn a bit of game management from Felton.
One notion in this article that I take some exception to is the notion that it’s nearly impossible to change a shooter’s form after high school. That’s preposterous. As a counter-example, take Tiger Wood’s golf swing. He changed his swing after he was already on the pro tour and winning! A golf swing is even more complicated and critical than a basketball shot, but the world’s greatest player learned to modify his swing and was damn effective with it. Anyone can change with proper dedication.

Rebounding Not That Important?

In my quest to post about every one of Ken Pomeroy’s posts, I’m gonna dissect his new stat, Total Rebounding. This statistic is a sum of a team’s offensive and defensive rebounding efficiency, meaning a ratio of the rebounds they get versus their opponents.
I’ve always heard and believed that strong rebounding is a key to a good team. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Well, take a look at Ken’s updated stats page.
The first thing you’ll notice is that three Big East teams are at the top of the list. Not too surprising, as it’s a good conference with a history of tough rebounding teams. If you look closer though, you’ll see that of the top twenty rebounding teams, only two, Villanova and Syracuse, are also in Ken’s top 20 overall teams.
Pretty surprising, huh?
On that same stats page, Ken has two other efficiency ratings, offensive and defensive. If you sort those (here, I’ll do it for you, you lazy bum – offensedefense), you’ll see that nine of the top ten offensive teams are in the top 20 and seven of the top ten defensive teams are in the top 25.
What does that tell you? It tells me that the old adage that offense wins games and defense wins championships may not be true. It looks to me that the correlation to quality basketball is higher for offense than defense and rebounding comes in much lower than both.
Something to think about.

Sheldon = Okafor?

Ken Pomeroy has an interesting (as usual) post up comparing Sheldon Williams’ numbers this year to Emeka Okafor’s last year. Surprisingly, Williams is pretty comparable. Actually, it’s not that surprising to folks who know the ACC. Williams is good and is having a good year so far.
A key difference to me is that Okafor was the clear leader of his team and a critical part of their offense, maybe the second choice behind Gordan. Williams’ points mainly come when Duke can’t get a good look for Redick or Ewing. Also, good as he is defensively, he’s not at Okafor’s level. Few players ever have been.
Still, Sheldon’s good and as Pomeroy says, he should be considered as possibly the best all-around player in the ACC.

Duke’s Pros Greater Than Carolina’s? Can’t Be!

There are certain laws of life that are so immutable, so ingrained that we never even think of them anymore. You don’t question gravity; you just know that it’s there and if you jump, you’ll fall. The sun will rise. The grass will grow. Clemson will play in the Thursday Night Les Robinson Invitational Play-In Game. We need these certainties in an uncertain world. They are our anchors.
One given in the ACC has always been that North Carolina produces the most and the best NBA players. It was never questioned. It was fact. Jordan. Perkins. Worthy. Cunningham. Wenstrom. Giants, all.

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