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.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

‘Tis the season. The season when young basketball stars get to decide if they want to go for the gold or stay for a shot at the golden ring. Truthfully, I think most probably aren’t really thinking about the ring. If they stay, the college life and a possible good team probably are factors, but not as much as the idea that they can improve their draft position for the next year. It’s all about getting drafted as high as possible.
So far this week we’ve had Brandan Wright, Thaddeus Young and Sean Singletary all announce that they’ll be putting their names in the draft. What’s interesting is that you have three ACC underclassmen apparently doing the same thing, but they are all three in very different situations. Wright is a sure-thing top-five pick. Coming out is pretty much a no-brainer for him. Yes, he’s the rare case where he could actually be that highly regarded and still improve his position for next year, but why take that chance? The difference in money isn’t worth the risk of injury or failed expectations. While Wright says he isn’t going to hire an agent (or at least hasn’t yet), he’s not coming back. Nice knowing you. Wish we could have watched you develop.
Young is an interesting case. Like Wright, he would have been a top 5-10 pick last year, but unlike Wright, played his way out of that position this season. Make no mistake, Young is a very promising player with loads of potential, but he didn’t dominate like everyone expected him too. So he makes for an intriguing draft decision. Do you just look at the good things he did and can do or do you focus on the fact that he didn’t live up to the hype? My guess is that if he stays in, he’ll be picked in the middle to lower-half of the draft. Is that good enough to stay in? I say no. He could be a top-five guy and his game could use a little seasoning. It’s not hard to see a first-team All-American when you look at Young’s future.
Sean Singletary is yet a third case. As a shortish, scoring point guard, he’s going to have a hard time impressing NBA scouts. While he’s a wonderful college player – certainly better than either Young or Wright at this point – players like Singletary are a dime a dozen in the NBA. He certainly can play at that level, but he’s not going to be drafted until at best the late first round. So why announce? Simple. You are allowed to do that and go through all of the pre-draft workouts and evaluations one time in your career. It would be stupid not to take advantage of the opportunity to have disinterested third parties evaluate and critique your game after they watch you play against other NBA hopefuls. I’m sure he’ll hear that he needs to improve his outside jumper and his game-management skills. Unfortunately for Singletary, he’s probably not going to have the teammates to help him too much in that latter point next year (Virginia’s going to need his points), but he can improve his shot before the 2008 draft.

Rabbit, Run

Have you ever wondered why Florida, south Florida in particular, churns out so many fantastic, blazingly fast football players? ESPN the Magazine thinks they know why.
Now, I don’t normally seek out ESPN Mag articles, because they tend to be the sports equivalent of People magazine or maybe USA Today, but this one was pretty damn interesting and well written. Yeah, it’s quite a stretch to give all the credit to chasing bunnies in fields, but this could certainly be a factor for some kids.
Update: I forgot to mention that I found this link via the Swamp over at the Sports Frog. Poster wlu_lax6 is always digging up cool links over there.

We Are Virginia Tech

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few days about Virginia Tech’s response in the early hours of Tuesday’s tragedy. Did they take the matter seriously enough? Did they respond quickly and effectively enough? Did they really have the best interest of their students, faculty and staff in mind?
Those issues can and will be debated for some time. They should be. What can NOT be debated though is just how impressive the Hokie nation has turned out to be. Almost immediately after the disaster, the community rallied around itself and started addressing their own problems. If there’s anything that can be learned about Virginia Tech from all of this is that the school, the administration, the students and the alumni have built an incredibly supportive and united community. How could anyone watch the way they’ve responded and still think that the university doesn’t care about its own students and employees? You can’t watch the obvious love that those people have for their school and not be incredibly impressed.
I mentioned in my previous post that incidents like this always make sports seem so inconsequential. Well, maybe I need to reconsider. Virginia Polytechnic University is NOT just a football team, but it’s clear that the football team, along with all the other athletic teams, IS a huge part of the school. A huge part of the culture. A hugely positive part of the culture, experience and pride of being a Hokie. Students, alumni and fans everywhere – including the Washington Nationals – have been wearing the maroon and orange all week. They repeatedly refer to themselves as Hokies. That unity and common identity comes directly from the athletic teams.
Sports do matter.
Finally, to wrap up the two points I’m making, you need to watch this video from yesterday’s convocation in Cassell Coliseum. An English professor gives an incredibly stirring speech that clearly inspired everyone in the crowd. Watch the whole thing and see what spontaneously erupts near the end. I promise you, you’ll get a bit choked up. And you’ll see why sports can be so important.
We all are Virginia Tech.

Video Of The Day

Sports still seem incredibly unimportant today, but this video is still worth posting. Normally, there’s absolutely no good reason to watch a regular season MLB game, but this isn’t normal. I don’t think. A fan tries and fails to catch a foul ball, while simultaneously spilling his and his buddy’s beer all over the place. Then, just after he fumbles it, a flying pizza slice nails him on the shoulder. He’s named the Red Sox Fan Of The Game just as he launches into an angry, profanity-laden tirade against the pizza chucker.
It’s pretty damn funny.
The whole story.

Remembering Coach Eddie Robinson

You probably saw it in the news yesterday, legendary Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson passed away at the age of 88. Robinson is famous for being a great football coach and great leader of young men, particularly the predominantly poor, southern black men who played for them.
The Sports Frog posted a story by Bob Pentland about meeting coach Robinson several years back. You may remember Bob as the author of the fantastic Eleven series here at Dave Sez. Go read it and you’ll understand a bit better what a great man Robinson was.

Forward Thinking

As soon as a season ends, the first thing most fans do is wonder about the next season. Will my team be better or worse? Is anyone going to leave early? What will I do without Jason Cain’s mustache?
Thankfully, some of the answers to those questions have been answered by ACC guru Dave Glenn. In a three-part series, he previews next year’s ACC taking educated guesses about who’s leaving and who’s staying. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
The bottom line? The league should be quite good next year. Unless Hansbrough or Lawson leave, Carolina should be even better. Georgia Tech could be really good. Duke will be better too. The only two teams who are really being decimated are Maryland and Virginia Tech. The Terps had some promising freshmen though and it might actually be a good thing to continue to sweep out another post-title recruiting class. Actually, Miami probably counts in the decimated category as well, but they weren’t too impressive to begin with, so that’s no big loss.
2008 should be a hell of a season!

Guerrilla Radio – Greatest Teams Since 1980

I’m going to be on Grant Thompson’s Internet Radio show again today at 2:35. In previous appearances, I talked about the ACC and it was going to do/was doing in the NCAA Tournament. Well, now that that’s all over and Florida repeated, the inevitable question comes up – where does this team rank among the all-time teams? They have to be in the conversation, since they are the first to repeat in 15 years and just the second in over 30 years.
For this particular discussion, Grant asked me to come up with my top four teams since 1980. I’m going to cheat a bit and break things into two categories – teams the won the title and teams that did not. College basketball can be a bit capricious and so sometimes the best team doesn’t win. I don’t think we should forget those teams.
So here are my nominees:
1982 UNC – Worthy, Perkins and Jordan
1984 Georgetown – Ewing, Williams, Wingate, etc.
1990 UNLV – Augmon, Johnson, Anthony, Hunt
1992 Duke – Laettner, Hill, Hurley
1996 Kentucky – Anderson, Walker, McCarty, Delk, Mercer
2001 Duke – Battier, Boozer, Williams, Dunleavy
2005 UNC – May, McCants, Felton
2007 Florida – Noah, Horford, Brewer
1984 UNC – Jordan, Daugherty, Smith
1984 Houston – Olajuwon, Drexler, Young
1986 Duke – Dawkins, Alarie, Amaker
1991 UNLV – Augmon, Johnson, Anthony, Hunt
1999 Duke – Brand, Langdon, Avery, Battier
And the winner are ….
1982 UNC – Worthy, Perkins and Jordan
1984 Georgetown – Ewing, Williams, Wingate, etc.
1992 Duke – Laettner, Hill, Hurley
1996 Kentucky – Anderson, Walker, McCarty, Delk, Mercer
1984 UNC – Jordan, Daugherty, Smith
1984 Houston – Olajuwon, Drexler, Young
1991 UNLV – Augmon, Johnson, Anthony, Hunt
1999 Duke – Brand, Langdon, Avery, Battier
Discuss …

And Then There Was One

One game left in the 2007 season. Sigh.
I always hate to see the season end. It just means months and months of tedious baseball coverage. Oh well. At least it’s a good matchup. You could definitely make a case that we have a game tonight featuring the two best teams in the country. I just checked and Pomeroy has Florida and Ohio State rated as 3 and 4, respectively. Neither of his top two teams, UNC and Kansas, made the Final Four.
The matchups on Saturday were both extremely promising, but neither produced a memorable game. Florida simply took UCLA part, pretty much exactly the same way they did in the finals last year. In the other game, Georgetown was curiously absent of the fire they showed against North Carolina. If the Hoyas had played the same way against the Tar Heels last week, they’d have lost by at least 10. Hell, they couldn’t even be bothered to bitch about every single call this time. It was curious.
Either way, in both games the better team won. I suspect that Florida will win tonight, becoming the first repeat winner in nearly 15 years. Pretty impressive. I’ve never particularly like Florida athletics, but I really like this team and they way it played the past two years. Sure, they could have been more dominant this season, but when it really mattered, they always won.
Two interesting side-stories tonight. The first one is the amazing fact that the same two schools are playing for the basketball title that played for the football championship. That really is incredible. For even one school to achieve that in one year is epic. I doubt we’ll see this happen again in our lifetime.
The other story is the nearly-as-amazing fact that Billy Donovan might actually lead Florida to back-to-back titles and then voluntarily leave for another job – one within his own conference! It may not happen, but clearly it’s still a possibility or he would have squashed the rumor as soon as Tubby Smith left Kentucky. For the record, I think Donovan would be crazy to leave. There’s no question that Kentucky has a greater program, but he’s built something special in Gainesville. Even before this run, he’s had the Gators at the top of the recruiting rankings nearly every year. It seems like every other top player every year has Florida among the schools they are considering. In that respect, they are really no different than Duke, Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, UConn and UCLA. Billy The Kid is building a Program at Florida. If he stays and coaches another 20 years there, they could join those few elite programs right at the top of the college basketball world.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
But that’s for tomorrow. Tonight, we still have a game. One last game.

The Duke Hatred Report

Everybody loves an enemy. You can’t have an “us” without a “them.” There’s no greater uniter than a common adversary.
And boy do people love to hate Duke. It’s pretty fascinating really, to see just how far this national obsession with the Blue Devils has gone. There have been a lot of hated teams in my lifetime – the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, Notre Dame football, North Carolina basketball, the Cobra Kai – but nobody has seen a backlash quite like Duke.
The Duke Basketball Report has a long article today taking a look at the phenomenon. It’s an interesting read, but I get the feeling that they never quite nailed the reasons why they are hated. I think it’s hard to be that close and still see what’s happening. It’s like trying to describe the Empire State Building while standing at it’s base.
To me, the hatred boils down to a few key points:
1. Duke wins, a lot, and has won for a long time . After a while, Americans tire of a winner.
2. Duke is everywhere. This is an offshoot of the first point, but it’s important enough to stand on its own. Nobody hates the Carolina women’s soccer team. Duke is on TV all the time and even when they aren’t, Dick Vitale and the other announcers talk about them. This has been going on for nearly two decades now.
3. Duke University is an elite school filled with largely rich kids. The kids who go to Duke are the ones you hated in high school – the ones smarter and richer than you. Then you see those kids on TV chanting and jumping and getting credit for being so much more clever than other schools’ fans.
4. Duke has had a lot of very good white players. I can’t explain why, but nobody pisses off opposing fans quite like a good white player, and Duke has had quite a few very good (OK, and some not-so-good) ones – Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, JJ Redick, Steve Wojciechowski, Chris Collins, Josh McRoberts, etc.
5. Mike Krzyzewski isn’t exactly the most lovable guy in the world. He screams at refs, his voice is whiny, he rarely talks to local reporters and he makes TV commercials about what a great guy he is. It’s like he wants folks to hate him. Seriously, I think he probably does want this.
Add it all up and you have a perfect storm of virulence.