RTC Conference Primers: #2 – ACC

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2009

seasonpreview

Steven Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. North Carolina (13-3)
  2. Duke (12-4)
  3. Clemson (10-6)
  4. Maryland (10-6)
  5. Georgia Tech (9-7)
  6. Wake Forest (8-8)
  7. Boston College (8-8)
  8. Virginia Tech (7-9)
  9. Florida State (6-10)
  10. Miami (5-11)
  11. Virginia (5-11)
  12. North Carolina State (3-13)

All-Conference Team (with 2008-09 per-game averages):

  • Greivis Vasquez (G), Sr., Maryland – 17.5 points, 5 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 33% 3-pt
  • Malcolm Delaney (G), Jr. Virginia Tech – 18.1 points, 4.5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 35% 3-pt
  • Kyle Singler (F), Jr., Duke – 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 39% 3-pt
  • Trevor Booker (F), Sr., Clemson – 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Ed Davis (F), Soph., North Carolina – 6.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks

6th Man. Gani Lawal, F, Georgia Tech – 15.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

Impact Newcomer. Derrick Favors, F, Georgia Tech

acc logo

What You Need to Know.

With Tyler Hansbrough off saving puppies in cell phone commercials, and Greg Paulus quarterbacking a sub-par college football team, who is left to watch in the ACC this year?  Well, as you might have expected, the prime candidates will both wear a shade of blue and still play on Tobacco Road.

But don’t sleep on those in purple, red, or even Yellow Jacket gold.

North Carolina and Duke set a new record for ACC equality this season when they equally shared the top spot in the coaches’ preseason poll. Their Feb. 10 showdown in Chapel Hill is already circled on every hoop fan’s calendar, while their season-ending tilt in Durham (March 6) already has Dick Vitale in a tizzy. The reigning National Champs lost not only Hansbrough, but also Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. And still, they are expected to win the ACC, thanks to a new shift of power to the frontcourt (more on that later). Duke also may rely heavily on its big men, which is a change of pace, since jump-shooting, floor-slapping guards usually reign supreme at Cameron Indoor.

Without those big names, you might think the ACC is lacking in star power this season. But if you want to be the smartest guy (or girl) in the room, tell your friends to watch Greivis Vasquez play. Make them sit down and watch a Maryland game. Just do it. The guy is pure energy, and always looks like he’s having the time of his life. Kyle Singler and even Trevor Booker might be the names you hear in 2010 NBA Draft projections, but Vasquez will have more to do with his team’s success than any other player in the conference.

While the Heels and Devils battle it out, the most interesting ACC subplot may lie in the race for NCAA Tournament berths. Don’t be surprised to hear Digger and Bilas discussing as many as eight or even nine possible candidates come February. While Clemson, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest seem like prime candidates for dance tickets (and even top-6 seeds) come March, Virginia Tech, Florida State and even Boston College and/or Miami could be in the conversation with a few key wins.

That’s the one great equalizer for the lower-tier teams in a conference like the ACC. Steal one or two big wins against the Dukes, North Carolinas and Clemsons (especially on the road), and you’ll be hard to ignore in that selection room.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Hansbrough: Wow!

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2009

Psycho-T was a busy little bee this offseason.  When he wasn’t rehabbing his shin for his rookie NBA season or saving wayward puppies with Andy Katz’s clone, he was hawking Acuras for a local outfit in Chapel Hill.  Fair Warning: they let him speak this time.

Share this story

Boom Goes the Dynamite: 2009 Midnight Madness Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2009

BOOMEd. Note: for our Midnight Madness wrapup post, click here.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our first Boom Goes The Dynamite of the new season.  And now, we can say those words — “new season.”  For tonight is the final hurdle in that long lull of the off-season that we have to cross.  Maybe it’s inappropriately named, but who cares?  Tonight is Midnight Madness across the country.  Schools all over the place have got the festivities going, the first official games are less than a month away, and we can finally say that the new season is here.

ESPN-U’s broadcast is minutes away from starting.  I’m John Stevens, one of the editors here at Rush The Court, and I’ll be live-blogging the whole way with RTMSF, our founder and guru, behind the scenes watching message boards, Twitter accounts, and getting texts and video from all over, and we’ll put up everything we get.  So settle in, enjoy the coverage, and let us know your opinions as always.  Keep hitting that refresh button, and we hope you enjoy it.  Most of all — welcome.  It’s finally here.

9:01pm:  Here are some tweets RTMSF has already procured from various sources:

Mike Davis, Illinois

IlliniBalla24… @BuckWildBill33:  Three point contest tonight, i’m looking to go 15 for 15 <—- I like ur confidence but I like @dkeller23 for a bill lls

Abdul Gaddy, Washington

gaddy0uw…Midnight madness tonight! Everybody come support

Jim Boylen, Utah

JimBoylen…Talking to the media for a few minutes before practice starts. We’re going to hit the ground running!

Tom Crean, Indiana

TomCrean…http://twitpic.com/lr6zu – The first four in line for Hoosier Hysteria

Gary Williams, Maryland

MDCoachWilliams…MARYLAND MADNESS IS HERE!!!! Come out to the Comcast Center and check out all the action.

9:12:  Evidently the University of Kentucky had recording artist Drake at the festivities.  No report on Ashley Judd’s whereabouts.

9:16:  Right now, just lots of talk by Katz, Gallindo, and Branch.  Mostly about North Carolina.  Keep in mind, in the race for all-time wins, UNC is only 4 behind Kentucky, and the two face off on December 5th.  Might be REALLY important.

9:20:  Nice UNC picture:

unc pic

9:24: And here’s Drake from Kentucky:

drake and cal

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

What Psycho-T’s Doing These Days…

Posted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2009

We got a tip about this ad today and almost didn’t believe that it was true.  Could the four-time all-american known as Psycho-T for his warriorlike demeanor on the court really be doing a lovable, snugglerific, nice-guy lost puppy ad?  What are the odds that this is brought up oh about a million times during his training camp with the Pacers?  Really, all that’s missing from this clip is Tebow.  Then we’d have enough aw-shucks likeableness for everyone.   

(ed. note: is that Andy Katz at the 0:11 mark???  or his son?)

Share this story

07.29.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 29th, 2009

Things were VERY quiet over the weekend, but as always, RTC brings you the hostess with the mostess…

  • Summer Hypocrisy Trail.  We spend a lot of time around here criticizing the NCAA, its administrators, coaches and enablers for their acute sense of self-serving righteousness mixed with hypocrisy as it relates to their various policies of doing business.  A couple of stories caught our eye to this effect over the past few days.  The first was Pete Thamel’s NYT piece exposing how summer camp organizers are charging exorbitant fees to coaches for the privilege of watching its players in the stands (along with a fancy-schmancy binder of player names and hometowns, whoop-de-damn-do).  Prices range from $175-$350, depending on the locale, but coaches are uniformly annoyed with such a major additional expense to their recruiting budgets.  Vandy’s Kevin Stallings has taken the lead on criticizing the practice (he refused to pay the fee at a Memphis camp, turning around and driving back home), but predictably, those coaches who get their bread buttered by virtue of cozy relationships with the camp organizers (K, Howland, Matta, etc.) will not speak out publicly about this trend.  And as Dana O’Neil showed in her article about a coach’s banquet in Las Vegas put on by camp organizers, there’s often very little accountability with respect to where all these fee dollars are flowing.  Organizers make claims about funding AAU trips, tournaments and “feeding their families,” but as we’ve seen with allegations involving Renardo Sidney and others, the paper trail on where money ends up is often ambiguous and fraught with obfuscation.  Of course, none of this should surprise you or us – the system is so completely dirty at the AAU level that we truly wonder if the NCAA will ever succeed in rooting it out.  The genie is already out of the bottle, and for every World Wide Wes out there, a hundred others are gunning to take his place.  Mike DeCourcy, for what it’s worth, thinks that the coaches should just STFU, and he’s probably right.  Still it doesn’t change the fact that, without regulation of these camps, nobody except the organizers really know what these dollars are being used for.  
  • Summer of Lawsuits.  An odd lawsuit has arisen over a clause in a head coach’s former contract that unequivocally states that he may not continue to recruit players he was recruiting at his old school if he leaves for a new school.  Matt Brady, the second-year head coach at James Madison and formerly at Marist, was sued by Marist for violating what many people suggest is an unenforceable clause that they’ve never seen employed elsewhere.  Creative contract negotiations or willful ignorance of the law?  Regardless, four players whom Brady was recruiting at Marist – Julius Wells, Devon Moore, Andrey Semenov and Trevon Flores – ended up at JMU instead last season, although only Wells had signed a national letter of intent (which Marist released him from).  Of course, the key issue that the NY state court will consider is whether there is an obligation on the part of the coach over third parties (the recruits); we can’t imagine that the long arm of any contract would suggest such a thing, but we’re not lawyers, we just play them on tv. 
  • UNC Title Tilt.  If you’re of the opinion that the 2005 NCAA Champion UNC squad would mop the floor with the 2009 NCAA Champion NCAA squad, as we are, then you’ll have an opportunity to see players from those two teams settle the debate at the UNC Pro Alumni Game on September 4 at the Dean Dome.  Nine players from the ’05 team – Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, Byron Sanders, Reyshawn Terry, Jackie Manuel, Quentin Thomas, Marvin Williams and Jawad Williams – are scheduled to appear, along with six players from last year’s champs – Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor and Michael Copeland.  The scrimmage will allow for ad hoc division of rosters, and we’d expect to see several possessions where the starting lineups for each team are on the floor facing off against each other.  For the record, if the two teams actually were to play at full strength, the frontline of May and M. Williams would dominate the Hansbrough/D. Thompson side, especially with the superior playmaker Felton (over Lawson) distributing the ball.  The 2005 Heels weren’t as dominant in the NCAAs as the 2009 version, in part due to a lack of experience, but the talent on that team was far better. 
  • Quick Hits2012 Olympic team: projecting a rosterBen Howland: on noticeBob Knight: teacher, leader, comedianKatz: stock watch for 2010 prospectsLebron Tape: what was it worthFlorida St.: fine, you pay our legal fees thenBig Monday: Big 12 ScheduleCanadian Elite Hoops: doing great, until thisFather/Son Recruiting: play for dad or UCLAIsiah: checking in on him at FIU.
Share this story

Summer Bracketology: 07.23.09

Posted by zhayes9 on July 22nd, 2009

Did you all miss Bracketology as much as I did? While the intense days of February and March seem like eons away, here’s a dose of bracket madness to keep you college basketball diehards happy in the heart of Summer 2009. Some brief notes regarding the bracket:

- The preseason #1 seeds are (in order) Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and Michigan State. As the number one overall seed, Kansas plays the closest to home in St. Louis, Kentucky is placed in Houston as higher priority over Texas, and so on. The only #2 seed that was considered for a top seed was Purdue, but I gave the slight Big Ten edge to last year’s national runner-up from East Lansing.

- They lost Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Danny Green…and North Carolina is still a #2 seed? It’s true. Due to an outstanding recruiting class, an overall decrease in talent across the board in college basketball (especially from upperclassmen) and returnees like Ed Davis, Larry Drew and Deon Thompson expected to make a significant leap in production, North Carolina will most likely be at the top with Duke as preseason ACC favorites.

- The other difficult call was in the Pac-10 between Washington and California. While the Golden Bears return all of their talent from an overachieving season, I’m in love with the Huskies backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy. As the returning champions, I gave them the slight nod as the #3 seed in the Salt Lake region, with Cal sliding to a #4 seed.

- This might be painful to swallow for all the Big Ten haters out there (I’m definitely not one of them), but it’s going to be the best conference in the land this season. Michigan State and Purdue are both potential number ones, Ohio State returns nearly everyone besides the disappointing B.J. Mullens, Illinois returns a talented group (losing Frazier and Meachem could hurt initially), and both Minnesota and Michigan have plenty returning. You can never discount Wisconsin either.

- The last team in? Vanderbilt from the SEC. The last team out? Pittsburgh from the Big East. Really, I wanted to put the Panthers in, but they lost DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Sam Young, Jermaine Dixon and Tyrell Biggs. That’s just too much to overcome, even if Jamie Dixon is their head coach and the Petersen Events Center is one of the most difficult places to play.

- The Pac-10 has only three teams in at this point. I expect them to receive more bids when it’s all said and done, but right now I just can’t put anyone else in the field besides Washington, Cal and UCLA. Both Arizona and USC are total messes. Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State appear to be NIT clubs at this point.

07.22.09 bracketology

Last Four In: Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, LSU

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Mississippi, Miami (FL)

Next Four Out: Marquette, Creighton, Florida State, Arizona

Bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), Big Ten (7), SEC (7), Pac-10 (3), Atlantic 10 (2).

Automatic bids: Binghamton, Dayton, North Carolina, Jacksonville, Kansas, Villanova, Montana, Radford, Michigan State, Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Tulsa, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Akron, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, BYU, Mount St. Mary’s, Murray State, Washington, Holy Cross, Kentucky, College of Charleston, Sam Houston State, Prairie View A&M, Oakland, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State.

Share this story

Boom/Bust Cycle

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2009

It’s a little less than an hour before tonight’s NBA Draft, and this should have probably been done days ago, but we wanted to use our undeniable RTC expertise when it comes to projecting college hoops talent to the pros so we can say “told ya so” when the one undervalued player we said would be a star pans out (while the other ten we said would be don’t, but let’s not quibble).  We’ll use Andy Katz’s final mock draft from this morning, and we’re only going to evaluate college players (because we’ve seen them play for at least one year).  The criteria is BOOM or BUST – either that player is undervalued or overvalued based on his selection.  That’s it.  Here we go…

SKU-000062925_COVER.indd

1.  Blake Griffin, Oklahoma – BOOM, although the fact that he’s going to ClipperLand means drug addiction and/or horrific injury.  Bill Simmons agrees

2.  Hasheem Thabeet, UConn – BUST, his offensive game won’t develop any further and he’s no Dikembe.

4.  Tyreke Evans, Memphis – BUST, not seeing it at this selection; opposing defenses can lay off of him out to 18 feet. 

5.  James  Harden, Arizona St. – BOOM, a Joe Johnson/Monta Ellis clone.  Kid can really play.

6.  Stephen Curry, Davidson – BUST, limitless range but really, #6?  Too many question marks to be this high.

7.  Jordan Hill, Arizona – BUST, nice player but he’s not even as good as Big Baby.

8.  Jrue Holiday, UCLA – BUST, classic example of being a better athlete than player. 

9.  Demar DeRozan, USC – BOOM, DeRozan really came on at the end of the season and appears poised to break out.

10.  Jonny Flynn, Syracuse – BUST, is Flynn really the best true point in this draft?  No way. 

11.  Terrence Williams, Louisville – BUST, seems like the kind of player who will be out of the league in 3 years (does everything well, nothing great).

12.  Gerald Henderson, Duke – BOOM, second best guard in the draft behind Harden.

13.  DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh – HEDGE, this is about the right position for an undersized beast like Blair. 

14.  Earl Clark, Louisville – BOOM, should have been higher but has a reputation for being lazy.  Will shed that and become an excellent NBAer.

15.  Austin Daye, Gonzaga – BUST, we used to love this guy, but he hasn’t shown much improvement in two years of college.  We don’t believe in him.

16.  BJ Mullens, Ohio St. – HUGE BUST, this is a joke.  Either he’ll be washing cars in two years with Patrick O’Bryant or turn into Chris Kaman, who knows?

17.  Ty Lawson, UNC – BOOM, he’s proven that he’s a winner and has improved his game substantially.  Could be TJ Ford w/o the back problems.

18.  James Johnson, Wake Forest – BOOM, has a reputation for being lazy, but he’s silky smooth at his size and will succeed in this league.

19.  Tyler Hansbrough. UNC – HEDGE, we all know what kind of player he’ll be.  Average at best.

20.  Sam Young, Pittsburgh – BOOM, an absolute steal at this pick; Young could end up being a star.

21.  Jeff Teague, Wake Forest – BOOM, would have been a lottery pick had he not packed in the second half of the year; the talent and athleticism is apparent.

24.  Eric Maynor, VCU - HEDGE, nice pickup for this position. 

25.  Jon Brockman, Washington – BUST, sorry, but Brockman just isn’t NBA material in the long run.

26.  Toney Douglas, Florida St. – HEDGE, could go either way here, but we’d expect Douglas to find a niche in the League.

27.  Darren Collison, UCLA – BUST, Collison has always struck us as someone who should have been better than he was. 

29.  Nick Calathes, Florida – BOOM, Calathes will find a way to make himself a good pro if he decides to play in good ole USA instead of Greece.

30.  DaJuan Summers, Georgetown – BUST, but it’s worth a gamble given his natural abilities.  Could become a defensive stalwart at some point if he tried.

Share this story

Davidson and UNC Lose 3 Star Juniors: Coach K Pumps Fist

Posted by nvr1983 on April 23rd, 2009

After arguably being the third best team in the state of North Carolina the past 3 years (behind UNC and Davidson in 2008 and behind UNC and Wake Forest in 2009), Duke may have just ended up with the best team on Tobacco Road and the ACC by simply holding onto its stars this off-season with the possible exception of Gerald Henderson. Let’s run through the challengers for Duke in the state of North Carolina (NC State left out for Sidney Lowe obvious reasons).

TP_261586_CASS_fenlons_

Wake Forest? Having lost James Johnson and Jeff Teague to the NBA Draft, Dino Gaudio will be hard-pressed to replicate this year’s success (outside of their embarrassing first round loss to Cleveland State) with just Al-Farouq Aminu returning to lead the Demon Deacons. I’d say they’re going to be worrying more about playing for a NCAA bid than about challenging Duke for the ACC title (although Teague may ultimately return).

Davidson? Although Davidson’s drop-off this year (from a missed Jason Richards‘ 3-pointer at the buzzer away from the Final 4 to a NIT also-ran) made the Wildcats seem like an unlikely threat this coming season, having Stephen Curry in the mix meant that the Wildcats had the potential to threaten any team in the country (even if some people think he isn’t quite all that he’s hyped up to be). However, today in a move that wasn’t surprising to all but the most deluded fans, Curry announced that he will turn pro and hire an agent ending any chance of stealing Pete Maravich‘s career scoring record (done in 3 years without a 3-point line). Good luck playing for a Southern Conference title and a 15-seed for the next few seasons Wildcats.

UNC? Going into the off-season, the Tar Heels posed the greatest threat to Duke next season even with the loss of all-time ACC leading scorer Tyler Hansbrough (I know it sounds weird to me too), Danny Green, and Bobby Frasor (the Deadspin commenters will miss him more than Tar Heel fans will). As all Tar Heels knew the fate of their 2009-10 season hung on the decision of juniors Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. If either of them returned (both returning was just a pipe dream), Roy Williams would have another national title contender with Marcus Ginyard, Tyler Zeller, and Ed Davis returning and John Henson, David Wear, and Travis Wear (and potentially John Wall) coming to Chapel Hill next year. Instead, both Lawson and Ellington declared for the draft today. Assuming that Ty can hire a designated driver from now until the NBA Draft, I don’t expect to see either of them suiting up in Carolina blue again as they are both at their peak value. The Tar Heels are a shoe-in for the NCAA tournament next year and will probably will be in contention for a top 4 seed particularly if Wall decides to not listen to his handler Brian Clifton and play for Roy.

What does all this mean for Duke, which has struggled to live up to its reputation and ESPN’s infatuation since Chris Duhon left?  Although Coach K will have to wait a year to add Seth Curry, and there has been no official communication from Durham, I’d have to guess that it would look something like this. . .

So for all of you Duke haters, get ready for an unbearable next 11 months (especially if the Devils, and not UNC, garner the services of John Wall). For all the Duke fans, the pressure is now back on. Just making it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament won’t cut it this time.

Share this story

Hansbrough Whistled for First-Ever Travel Sets Him Off in Exhibition Game

Posted by nvr1983 on April 22nd, 2009

From the he-better-get-used-to-this department, we came across this story of Tyler Hansbrough making an arse of himself at a recent barnstorming exhibition game against something called the Crossfire Ministries in Asheville, NC, Sunday night.  From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

psycho-t-exhb-game1

Fans who attended Sunday’s exhibition game at the Asheville Civic Center between the ACC All-Stars and Crossfire Ministries noticed that North Carolina All-American Tyler Hansbrough made a hasty exit.  Crossfire’s Richie Stevens was fouled on an impressive move toward the basket and made two free throws for a 101-100 lead late in the game.  With the All-Stars trying to maneuver for a potential game-winning shot, Hansbrough was whistled for traveling in the final seconds. Apparently annoyed — and you know poor Tyler never gets a call from the refs — Hansbrough left the court, followed by some other members of the team, before the final horn sounded.  To be fair, an announcement had been made that there would be no postgame autograph session like the one that was held after Saturday night’s game because the players had a commitment and had to get on the road.  More than one fan has mentioned that they were a bit surprised by Hansbrough’s reaction.

This comes on the heels of a story last week of Psycho-T acting the spoiled jerk in a previous exhibition game against a bunch of high schoolers from Hickory, NC, by woofing at the players on the court and clamming up in the autograph session afterwards.

The good news is that Hansbrough already appears to have this NBA prima donna thing down.

Share this story

Shocker: Blake Griffin declares for the NBA Draft

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2009

With all the suspense on college campuses about whether or not underclassmen will be leaving perhaps the least suspenseful announcement of the week came earlier today when everybody’s national Player of the Year Blake Griffin announced that he will forgo his final 2 years of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft. In his second year at Oklahoma, Griffin became the 3rd straight national player of year from the Big 12 (save your e-mails and comments UNC fans; we both know that Michael Beasley deserved it last year).

Blake Griffin dunk

Griffin, who averaged 22.7 PPG and 14.4 RPG, was clearly the best player in college this season and was only derailed in the Elite 8 by eventual champion UNC when his Sooner teammates went 2/19 from 3-point range. Even in defeat, Griffin showed everyone why he will be the most clear-cut #1 pick since LeBron James in 2003 as he dominated Tyler Hansbrough and the other UNC interior players. Griffin finished the year with 30 double-doubles (second all-time to only David Robinson‘s 31) and 504 rebounds (second all-time to only Larry Bird‘s 505).

While everyone knows that Griffin will go #1 (assuming some brain-dead NBA GM doesn’t do something completely insane–not outside the realm of possibilities), the big question is what will happen in Norman where Jeff Capel turned down numerous job offers to stay as the Oklahoma head coach. The Sooners will be losing Taylor Griffin, Austin Johnson, and Omar Leary with only the first 2 contributing significantly. Although the Sooners will certainly take a step back next year, they can still compete in the top half of the Big 12 next year if freshman Willie Warren can resist the temptation of the money that comes with being a lottery pick and sticks around Norman for another year (or two). With a nucleus of Warrnen, Tony Crocker, and Juan Pattillo, Capel has a team that should challenge Kansas and Texas next year.

Share this story

UNC Overwhelms Michigan St. to Win the 2009 National Championship

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2009

Carolina is the 2009 National Champion.

Head Over Heels (John McDonough/SI)

Head Over Heels (John McDonough/SI)

If we had to pick one series of plays from tonight’s shellacking that perfectly illustrated Michigan St.’s problems throughout, it was a series from early in the second half.  If MSU was to make any attempt at a comeback, it had to happen soon.  Immediately was more like it.  Goran Suton had just hit a three to reduce the lead from 21 to 18, and at the other end, the Spartans forced a contested three that rattled out by Wayne Ellington.  The Spartans’ Durrell Summers looked ahead to start the break, but instead he threw the ball into the waiting arms of the defensive back thief extraordinaire Ty Lawson, who saved it to his Carolina teammate, who then immediately found a waiting Ed Davis underneath the basket, foul, and-one.  Ballgame.

That Kind of a Night for MSU (Andy Lyons/Getty)

That Kind of a Night for MSU (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Yeah, the game was decided in the first five minutes, but that singular play seemed to happen to Michigan St. a hundred separate times tonight.  But by saying it ‘happened to’ MSU doesn’t give the proper amount of credit where it lies, which is that UNC was doing the happening all over the Spartans.  It was UNC’s defense that was forcing all thirteen of those first-half turnovers; it was UNC’s offense that was nailing everything (no rim) en route to a 24-8 start to the game; it was UNC’s preparation and poise that silenced the 60,000 green-clad Spartan fans by the game’s first TV timeout, never to be seriously heard from again.

Once Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green decided to return to Chapel Hill, we wrote last June that UNC was #1 with a bullet, because on paper at least, there is “nobody on the horizon who can pretend to match up with the Heels.”  Part of the reason for this was seredipity – Carolina kept its pro prospects while the teams better than it last year (Kansas, Memphis, UCLA) didn’t.  The silly talk about going undefeated in the preseason was just hyperbole gone wild, but there should never have been any question about which team had the strongest combination of talent and experience returning this season.

The MOP Splits the Double Team (Eric Gay/AP)

The MOP Wayne Ellington Splits the Double Team (Eric Gay/AP)

When the brackets came out, we thought UNC had the easiest road to the Final Four, and we only saw three teams that could realistically give the Heels all they wanted there – Pitt, UConn and Louisville.  UNC avoided playing any of them.  But that’s not their fault or any kind of a hedge against the validity of their 2009 national title – you can only play the teams in front of you, and each of those other schools blew their chances along the way.  Even that’s not to say that any of those three would have necessarily won such a fictional game – it’s only to say that they would have had a reasonable chance to do so.

We won’t bother going through all the particulars of tonight’s game or cast all the platitudes about the illustrious career of Tyler Hansbrough; there’ll be plenty of others who will do that for us.  But what we will do is talk about how tonight Roy Williams went from merely a great coach to one joining the pantheon.  As CBS pointed out tonight during the broadcast, only thirteen coaches have won multiple national titles, and several of those (most recently Billy Donovan at Florida) did so with the core nucleus of the same players.  Ol’ Roy has now done it with two completely different teams, both within the last five seasons.  He’s also been to five of the last eight Final Fours, and to say that he’s figured outthis whole recruiting/coaching/tournament success balance is the understatement of the new millenium.  It seems like eons ago when Williams was known as a coach whose players came out tighter than a drum in big postseason games.  Did you see any tightness among tonight’s players wearing the light blue and white?  We didn’t either.  And at this point, it wouldn’t shock us in the least if Roy gets a couple more of these things before he hangs it up.

Roy Could Realistically Do This a Couple More Times (John Blever/SI)

Roy Could Realistically Do This a Couple More Times (John Blever/SI)

For Carolina fans, this is exactly what they were hoping for when they lured Williams away from Kansas in 2004.  Five short years later, in the 1-and-done era no less, Williams has already equaled the number of national titles that his mentor and resident deity Dean Smith brought back to Tobacco Road.  Enjoy #5, Heel fans, but don’t insult us by claiming six.  Yet.

Share this story

NCAA Title Preview: Meet the Real Team of Destiny…

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2009

Much of what has been written in the last 36 hours about tonight’s UNC-Michigan St. showdown in the national title game has applied liberally the use of the word “destiny.”  And on the surface, we can understand some of the hyperbole.  Detroit, in fact the entire state of Michigan, is going through hard times.  Harder than the rest of us, at least.  MSU, personified by its tough-as-nails coach who also happens to be one of the very best preparation NCAA coaches of all-time, has gutted and clawed its way back from multiple injuries this year to put together a Big Ten regular season championship season and two straight victories over #1 seeds from the very talented Big East Conference.  The game is 92 miles from their campus, and roughly 80% of the available 75,000 seats are expected to be filled with green-and-white clad Spartan fans.   Their opponent, UNC, was the prohibitive favorite prior to the season and came into the Tournament as the prohibitive favorite once again (both in the pools and in Vegas).   When the two teams played in this same venue 126 days ago, Carolina looked like it possibly could become the greatest team in the history of history, as it eviscerated, immolated and annihilated Sparty by a score of 98-63.  Despite MSU’s 27-4 record since that point (not dissimilar than UNC’s 25-4 in the same interim), there’s a perception that this is still a team of underdogs, fighting for their town, their neighbors, their state. 

So the narrative seems clear: the NCAA Tournament, the most magical postseason event in all of sports, filled with glorious upsets that have become de riguer in the national consciousness, will once again work its sorcery tonight in Detroit.  Michigan State’s gutty bunch of tough guys who happen to play a little ball will bring home the golden crystal trophy in front of its adoring fans, sorely in need of a caffeinated jolt of good fortune to rally around. 

The problem is… it’s not gonna happen. 

destiny

If there’s a Team of Destiny in this year’s Tournament, it’s the team residing in a state that has also gotten hit fairly hard by the downswing of the textile, banking and tobacco industries.  More contextually, Carolina’s destiny was secured on June 6, 2008, when Ty Lawson, who at the time was leaning toward staying in the NBA Draft, was picked up by Chapel Hill police for ‘drinking while driving,’ a head-scratching offense that may have put just enough doubt in Lawson’s mind about his being a certain first-rounder on draft day. 

So he came back to Carolina, and like dominoes, so did Wayne Ellington and Danny Green.  Tyler Hansbrough wasn’t ever leaving, and suddenly Roy Williams enjoyed a fortuitous situation where a majority of his Final Four team was returning while every other major contender (Kansas, Memphis, UCLA) was getting parceled up like an auction for engine parts.  It’s not just the players who returned, mind you, it’s also how they’ve improved as this season (which could have been their rookie years)has progressed. 

Lawson, Green & Ellington: There's Your Destiny (photo credit: AP/Haraz Ghanbari)

Lawson, Green & Ellington: There's Your Destiny (photo credit: AP/Haraz Ghanbari)

For the fake Team of Destiny to defeat the real Team of Destiny tonight, three things ALL have to happen.  If any one of these three things doesn’t happen, Carolina assuredly will cut down the nets.  The likelihood of any one thing happening is good; of two things happening is not-so-good; and all three, damn near impossible.  Still, these are the three things…

1) Travis Walton must get into Ty Lawson’s head.  Good luck with that.  Lawson is generally unflappable, having committed a ridiculously low six turnovers in 128 minutes of play over four NCAA Tournament games.  Granted, four of those were against Villanova, but he also dished out eight assists and had 22 pts in that game.  Walton, who has harassed AJ Price (5-20) and Terrence Williams (1-7) into terrible games the last two outings, will this time be at a quickness disadvantage.  If he (and by proxy, Izzo) can figure out a way to slow down the mercurial Lawson, then the Spartans will have a chance.  In three of Carolina’s four losses this season, Lawson shot the ball poorly (~33%) and he turned the ball over at least four times per game. 

2) MSU must dominate the boards.  Where MSU excels, they must continue to do so.  Izzo’s Spartans are the #1 reb% team in America, securing 58% of all caroms.  In the game against UNC in December, the Heels actually won the battle of the boards in addition to the score (40-39).  But in the Spartans’ most recent two games, they dominated Louisville and played even with the super-sized UConn frontline through hustle and aggressiveness.  Michigan St. will need a +10 rebounding margin with multiple second-shot opportunities to win this game. 

3) The Spartans Need Others to Step Up.  Against Louisville, it was Goran Suton’s 19/10; against UConn, it was Korie Lucious’ three treys off the bench in the first half.  The Spartans will need someone unexpected to provide offensive punch against a team that is going to score 70+ points against them.   Tom Izzo has a multitude of options, including Draymond Green, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Marquise Gray, but he’s going to absolutely have to have one or more of these players contributing points for his team to have a fighting chance tonight. 

franklin-street-unc

Assuming Michigan St. accomplishes all three of these things, they’ll have a chance to win tonight’s title game.  Three of UNC’s four losses were one-possession Ls, so it’s impossible extremely unlikely the Heels will lay an egg and get blown out tonight, no matter what happens.  But like we said above, the odds of all three of these occurrences happening simultaneously tonight are not good.  MSU should feel great about its accomplishments this season, but the ony Team of Destiny for 2009 is going to take another trophy back to the party on Franklin Street tonight. 

Share this story