Most Unlikely Editorial Ever

I’m not getting something here.
The Duke Chronicle, like most college papers, is independent. It has no official connection with the school, so it can print articles that might be deemed offensive, critical or in poor taste.
That independence and the edgy tone that many college rags seek doesn’t begin to explain this article. It’s part of a series in the Chronicle named Monday, Monday, which is supposed to be a satirical editorial penned by an anonymous scribe.
Read that piece and see if you can find the satire. While it has some humor, it’s really a scathing attack on the Duke basketball program – something you’d expect to see at a UNC or Maryland website.
Why the school newspaper would decide to run that about their own team completely baffles me. Maybe that Tar Heel mole that planted the trick Maryland cheers also writes for the Chronicle.
If so, it may be the greatest UNC-Duke prank ever. If not, well … I really have no other explanations.

The Hot Zone

When a coach begins to lose the support of his team’s fans, it’s like coming down with a serious illness. The coach can fight back due to his personal strength, or maybe he’ll get a critical shot in the arm from a game-winning shot or maybe a supportive AD. In many cases, the illness spreads until it’s terminal, with only one possible outcome.
Last year, Pete Gillen got several necessary life-saving elixirs in the form of Todd Billet’s three game-winning needles. Gillen lived to coach another year, but his life signs never really returned to normal. This year, the illness has consumed him to where he’s just picking out the funeral arrangements.

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Mid-Season Prouty Ratings

You may recall that at the end of the non-conference season (more or less), I calculated the Prouty ratings of every player in the league to see who had had the best start. (Click here for those ratings and for a definition of Prouty ratings).
Well, now that we are halfway through the conference season (Clemson and Miami have played nine games), I ran the numbers again. Ideally, I’d use statistics from conference games only. I think when you are comparing ACC players to each other, it shouldn’t matter how they did against Western Nevada Tech and Southern West Virginia. Unfortunately, I can’t find a good, handy site for conference-only games. If anyone knows of a good site for this data (and I’m not counting the official ACC site as “handy”), let me know in the comments.

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Is Good Good Enough?

When you study law, they often teach priciples by exploring the gray areas. You’ll learn a law, like it’s illegal to kill unless it’s self defense. Then you’ll explore the boundaries by looking at cases where maybe a man is attacked by another man and he shoots him. If the orginal attacker didn’t have a weapon other than his fists, is that self defense?
For an ACC basketball program like NC State, it’s a fact that fans expect excellence. They’ve won two national championships and want a program that reflects those standards. They won’t tolerate mediocrity. Pretty clear, huh? Well, what then to make of Herb Sendek, a coach who has presided over a steady climb in the program’s fortunes, but never quite reached greatness? He’s had teams that were very good (last year) and he’s improved every so slightly in each of his first eight years (more or less – work with me here). Is that good enough? Will he reach greatness or should State start over?
Caulton Tudor wrote a really good piece on this issue this morning. He doesn’t say that State should fire Sendek, but he points out that he has only reached “good.” He also points out that many great coaches didn’t win titles until they were at their programs for many years.
When Sendek arrived at State, it was probably the worst team in the conference. It was clearly behind the other Big Four schools. Duke was on the mountaintop, smirking down at its rivals, and it’s still there. Carolina was right there with Duke, but fell down for a few years before shooting back up past State again. Wake was ahead of State then and has improved a bit to stay clearly ahead of the Pack.
So, is good or even very good good enough? Does it matter that “good” includes being not quite as good as the other three in-state schools? Is it reasonable to fire a guy who went 11-5 and won Coach of the Year last year?
I don’t know the answers, but it’s a damn interesting debate. It’s one that’s raged among Pack fans for years, like an unextinguishable tire fire that smolders for years.
One thing is for sure though. If the Pack isn’t invited to the dance this year, the fire will heat up and the gray will turn ever so much blacker.

Joel Power

That was a heck of a game last night in Winston-Salem. It had a bit of everything. While watching Wake build up a seemingly insurmountable lead in the second half, I decided that Chris Paul is hands-down the ACC POY at this point. He was simply dominating. He ran the offense. He scored. He stole the ball (and tipped countless passes). He fouled Ewing out (and Dockery ended with four fouls). In short, he controlled the game on both ends and took over when things got close, just like he did against Carolina earlier this year.
But then something funny happened. J.J. Redick nearly stole the game single-handed, scoring 11 points in the last two minutes and had his game-tying buzzer-beater bounce off the rim. What an incredible effort. I still think I’d take Paul as the POY, but this is the first time I’ve genuinely considered Redick for it.
I did come to one clear conclusion last night though – I don’t think Wake is going to make it to the Final Four.
Duke exposed a couple of critical weaknesses. The Deacon’s defense is often unholy (or just plain holey). Justin Gray couldn’t keep me from going to the rack (little tip, Justin – Redick goes to his right 9 times out of 10). Look at what his man has done in recent games – Von Wafer of FSU had a career high in the first half, all of the Miami guards went off (can’t remember which one he had) and Redick dropped 33 on him last night
Also, Wake’s big men rarely slide over to help when the guards get beat. I think Eric Williams fouled out so much in in his first two years that he’s gun shy.
Wake’s other problem is that their halfcourt offense is average at best. When they are up 10 with 6 minutes left, they aren’t able to slow things down and still score. Basically, they just stop scoring, but their D isn’t good enough to keep the desperate opponents from scoring on them. They wake back up once it gets close again, but it could be too late by then.
To get to the Final Four, you need to be able to stop good teams from scoring and you need to be able to put away games when you have a slight lead. I’m not convinced Wake can do that three games in a row (they’ll win their first game in a blowout).
Also last night, the Hokies won in Miami. I was wrong. This team is legit. They are getting no love as a bubble team, but Virginia Tech really should be in the conversation now.
In the other conference game, Georgia Tech played juuuust well enough to win against Florida State. At home. A loss would have been crippling to the Yellow Jackets.
I actually stopped watching midway through the second half. They had come back from a halftime deficit and had built a double-digit lead and I thought the game was a done deal. Nope. The Jackets, like Wake, don’t play consistent D and also like Wake, they struggle in the halfcourt. On the flip side, the Seminoles are finally starting to play like the team they were supposed to be this year. I was impressed with Diego Romero, the guy who got so much hype last year. He’s got some moves for a big man, although he managed to grab not one rebound.
Lastly, I guess I have to mention that Virginia traveled up to Providence, Rhode Island and got whacked yet again. They lost by 19 to a team that is currently 0-7 in the Big East. In the process, they allowed Friar Donnie McGrath to hit 9-9 three pointers, tying an NCAA record. McGrath is normally a 40% shooter.
Despite Pete Gillen’s best efforts, Virginia AD Craig Littlepage showed further restraint by not firing Gillen immediately after the game. I’m thinking that for their next game, at NC State, Gillen will probably walk to center court and take a dump during a timeout and see if that does the trick. As someone cracked on the boards at thesabre.com, I hope the RBC Center scoreboard operator has made sure that the lights in the number one work for when State cracks 100.
By the way, the guys at Duke Basketball Report found a great article about former Virginia guard Majestic Mapp. You may recall that he had one year of eligibility left (although he would have had to appeal to the NCAA for it), but Gillen told him to take a hike. Virginia didn’t need him and his leadership abilities this year. Even though he had already completed his undergraduate AND masters degree at UVA, Mapp decided that he wanted to play one more year of hoops. He went to the State University of West Georgia, a Division II school and is starting there and averaging 18.2 points per game. His team is 12-1 and ranked #12 in the country. I think he made the right choice. As for Gillen, well, the results of his decision to cut Mapp loose kind of speak for themselves.

The Tortoise And The Tiger

There was only one ACC game last night, but it was a doozy. Clemson played their best game (that I’ve seen) this year and completely dismantled a seemingly disinterested Maryland team. I guess their two wins got to their heads. The thing about Maryland’s recent streak of two “good” wins is that it was deceiving. Yes, they had a great win over Duke in Cameron – maybe the best win of any team in the ACC this year – but one win does not make a trend. In their second game, they beat Georgia Tech, another team that’s up and down and just coming off a big win. Well, one of those two teams had to win that game. Did that clearly mean that the winner had now solved their problems and the other was still up and down? No, it didn’t.
A quick shout out and congrats to Jeff Quinton, a Clemson fan and one of my regular readers (and blogger extraordinaire). He was quick to send me an email last night about the Tigers’ big win.
There are four games with ACC teams tonight, three conference games and Virginia stepping out to take a beating from Providence. The big game tonight is Duke venturing into The Joel to play Wake Forest. For the Blue Devils, it’s the beginning of tough stretch for them. Their next four games are at Wake, home against Georgia Tech, home against UNC and at Maryland. That’s the payback for their earlier easy schedule. I guess we’ll see how legit they (and others) are.
The other game of some interest tonight is Virginia Tech at Miami. The two football-playing interlopers have had surprisingly good seasons, but odds are that one or both will drop off severely in the second half. The winner of this game will have the upper hand. I’m guessing the Canes by a couple of touchdowns unless the Hokies can establish their clock-eating ground game.
FSU also visits Georgia Tech tonight. The Yellow Jackets simply cannot afford to slip up again.
The other big game of the week is tomorrow night’s rivalry game when NC State heads to Chapel Hill. The Pack lost Levi Watkins, but have Tony Bethel back. They need Bethel against Carolina’s pressure, so that’s a net gain. Still, they better keep up their good shooting or they’ll get torched in the Dome.
To finish things off, take a look at this “What would a Dook ref call?” thread at TerpTown. I tire quickly of the Duke-gets-all-the-calls stuff (although I’m clearly in the minority there), but this was actually pretty damn funny. It’s gets old after a few pages, but there are some gems. Props to the tortured Jeremy Gold at Terrapin Soup for the find.

Short Corner = Profit

Mark Cuban has a pretty interesting statistical article up showing just how valuable the three from the corner is in the NBA. The three point line on the sides is shorter than the top, with the corner being the closest.
Cuban’s stats show that the league hits 37.6% from the corner vs. 33.6% from the long portion of the line. That’s a pretty significant difference. You can be sure that NBA teams use that in their strategies.
BTW, does anyone else find it amusing that Mark Cuban is incapable of posting without several typos/spelling errors/grammatical mistakes (they often get slowly cleaned up a few days after posting)? I guess my high school teachers were wrong. You can be a billionaire without solid writing skills.

Recruiting SEC Style

I’ve somehow missed this story, but it’s a good one. There’s a federal trial going on in Memphis where a high school coach has testified to collecting $150,000 to steer a football player to Alabama. But wait, it doesn’t end there. He also took money from Kentucky (who says they don’t care about football?) and Georgia.
Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Michigan State(Big Ten representin!) and Memphis also offered money (or tuition for the coach’s wife in Memphis’ case).
To recap, that’s six different SEC schools who either did pay or offered to pay. For one athlete. Hmmm. Do you think this is just an isolated case?
And what’s up with Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU? Don’t they care anymore or were they already over the salary cap?
Edit: I forgot to give the SportsProf credit for finding that article.

Finding Barry Jacobs

The ACC Hoops Blog did me a service today. They found Barry Jacobs.
Apparently, he wasn’t really missing; I just didn’t know he was writing for TarHeelDaily.com, a site I didn’t know about. It’s kind of odd, because I always thought that Jacobs was a Duke alumnus.
For the younger readers, Barry Jacobs used to put out a yearly publication called the “Barry Jacobs’ Fan’s Guide To ACC Basketball.” It was THE magazine to get about the ACC. Just an incredible publication. He wrote it all himself, and it was thick and filled with glossy photos and arcane statistics. He wrote something about every single player on every team.
It was truly an ACC fan’s dream. Back when I was in high school and college (and had WAY too much free time), I read every word in there. As I got a bit older, I was more selective, but kept the guides around as reference. Then, a number of years ago, he stopped making them for some reason. Last I heard, Jacobs was elected to some public office, so I didn’t expect to find him writing again regularly. Now that I’ve found him again, I’ll be watching closely for his new pieces.
The article that the ACC Hoops guys linked to is one on the myth that free throw shooting is in decline. He’s right of course and I should mention that Ken Pomeroy has made the same point in the past.