Brandan Wright Is Going To The NBA

This announcement was to be expected. Even though he hasn’t hired an agent, I expect him to stay in the draft. He’s a potential top 5 pick now, and Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson should have no problem picking up the slack in his absence. Still, it was great having him at UNC, if only for a year.

What I’ll Miss: The pure athletic ability of this guy. He can take over a game physically, or he can use finesse, which he could afford to do alongside Tyler Hansbrough in the paint. He doesn’t have a lot of range, but his shots are nearly unblockable. There are question marks regarding his level of focus, but when he wants to play defense…wow, can he play defense.

Watch this play. There may be only five other players in the NCAA who can make this play, and four of them played in the Final Four this year:

What I Won’t Miss. The free throw shooting. Good lord, his free throw shooting was painful to watch, and I made no secret of that in this space. I also think he needs to play with more consistency, increase his shooting range, and put on about 20 more pounds of muscle.

NBA Draft.net has a more detailed analysis of Brandan Wright’s prospects. If he can make the necessary adjustments to his game, he definitely has the talent and the athleticism to perform well in the NBA. If he doesn’t, all bets are off. I wish him the best of luck, and to an extent I will root for whomever picks him. Unless it’s the Lakers.

UNC Spring Game Notes: Practice? You Talkin ‘Bout Practice?

I attended the Spring Game on April 14th, and I have to say it wasn’t as exciting an event as I had hoped. Here are a few observations from the scrimmage/practice:

  • During the warmpus, I noticed that a few of the UNC players’ stretches were basic yoga poses (such as downward dog). What this means, I have no idea. Hopefully it means that our team will be less injury prone this season, but it could just as easily mean that they will play like girly-men. But hey, whatever gets wins.

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  • It looks like the battle for starting quarterback is down to incumbent Cam Sexton (#11) and redshirt freshman T.J. Yates (#13). Mike Paulus did not play, so where he stands in the race remains unseen. I will say that Yates has the stronger arm, and is able to quickly deliver the ball on passes that lead to good runs after the catch. For a conservative offense or an inexperienced quarterback, delivering the ball for yards after the catch is very important. The best example of this was a WR screen pass he fired to Hakeem Nicks on the right side; he was able to avoid tacklers and take the ball for a 65 yard touchdown. Yates ended up completing 10 of 15 passes (although 2 passes were near interceptions) for 3 touchdowns.

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  • Even when Joe Dailey is a wide receiver, passes thrown to him get intercepted. I’m not kidding.

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  • UNC played four tailbacks during the scrimmage. Of the four, two played well: Anthony Elzy and Justin Warren. If the Heels play with two backs, Elzy would likely take runs to the inside, while Warren would be able to make inside and outside rushes. Richie Rich and Anthony Parker-Boyd did not accomplish much when in the game.
  • I’m anxious to see how our wide receivers will fare this season. Hakeem Nicks and Brooks Foster were rare bright spots from 2006, and the arrival of Greg Little, Rashad Mason, and Dwight Jones from this year’s recruiting class makes the position one of UNC’s biggest strengths. But the best athlete I saw at the Spring game was 6-4, 225 pound sophomore WR Kenton Thornton. His game is unrefined, but he definitely has the capacity to be a big contributor in the passing game.
  • Both in the warmups and in the scrimmage, UNC’s defensive line seemed to have a clear advantage over the offensive line. I like to think that means the D-line is a strength rather then to think the O-line is going to suck. It is likely a combination for the two, but we’ll see.
  • Secondary may also be a concern. Overall they played solid, knocking down intermediate passes and making good tackles. For the first time in a while, I saw a UNC player, Jermaine Strong (#38), deliver a decleater. Those are the kinds of plays that make me a football fan. Still, they allowed a few big plays, including that screen pass and a big run by Justin Warren. Brian Dixon (#30, Safety) had several chances to intercept passes, but he appears to have hands of stone.
  • I was concerned by special teams. Brandon Tate is an excellent returner, and we now have not one but two good placekickers (Connor Barth and Lane Clemmons). However, our punter can’t kick the ball 40 yards, and the long snapper botched several snaps both in kicks and punts. In the ACC, games can be lost with bad snaps in crucial situations, so this needs to be remedied before the season.

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  • Butch Davis is trying to steal Jim Tressel’s thunder (or maybe after coaching in Miami, Chapel Hill is cold for him). He sported a navy blue sweater vest on the sidelines, and he is wearing the vest on promotional items. Let’s just hope that after chemotherapy, he can grow his hair back in time for the season. Recent history tells us that you can’t win championships in college football without good hair.
  • In the middle of scrimmage, there were several people talking on their cell phones, especially to wave to their friends in other parts of the stadium. It absolutely killed the atmosphere, especially since everyone could hear them. Speaking of atmosphere…
  • Considering this was the dawn of the Butch Davis era, the atmosphere at Kenan Stadium was decidedly underwhelming. Tar Heel Blue says about 10,000 fans attended, and I would agree with that number. There was no band, concessions were limited, and the Alumni Lunch before the scrimmage made me sick for two days. There wasn’t even any scorekeeping for the game; how were we supposed to know who was playing well? By actually paying attention? Please. By comparison, look at these attendance numbers:

Spring Game at the University of Alabama: 92,138 (sellout)

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Spring Game at the University of Oklahoma: 40,000

Spring Game at the University of Florida: 70,000

Spring Game at Ohio State: 75,000

Late Night With Roy (UNC’s opening basketball practice): 21, 500 (sellout)

UNC Spring Game: 10,000

April 15 home opener for the New York Red Bulls, professional soccer team in the US’s most international city, coached by the U.S soccer coach who led America to their best World Cup finish in their modern history: 8,865

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It’s comforting to know that meaningless practices by bad college football teams are still better attended than meaningful top-level soccer games in America. Take that, terrorists!

The Spring Game was fun, but it left a lot to be desired. At some point in the next couple of weeks I’ll write an article on If I Ran… about the college football Spring Game.

Pray For The Hokies

I live in ACC country, so the massacre in Virgina Tech hits hard. About a year ago, UNC was attacked when Mohamed Taheri-Azar drove through the middle of the Chapel Hill campus at midday with the intent to run over and kill as many students as possible. Ultimately nine students were injured, but no one was killed. I was reminded of the incident when I first heard the news, but nothing could ever compare to what happened in Blacksburg yesterday. Words simply escape me. To say that I was deeply shocked and sickened by the shootings could not adequately describe one’s emotions after such an event.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone at Virginia Tech.
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(from Our Book of Scrap)

I will be back this week with notes from the UNC Spring Game.

Video: Roy Williams Dancing

Every time I’m starting to feel bad about our collapse against Georgetown, I think about this and I cheer up. Seeing UNC’s coaches (and for that matter, their players) try to dance is just hilarious.

UNC vs. Tennessee: Wow, I Just Had the Worst April Fools Joke Played on Me

Yesterday someone tried to pull the WORST April Fools joke on me. Last night I was watching last night’s women’s final four game between UNC and Tennessee, and I saw UNC gain a 12 point lead with about 8 minutes to go, and then Camille Little and Latoya Pringle fouled out on questionable calls. Then the Heels couldn’t buy a basket late, committed 29 turnovers for the game, and the Vols stormed back to win by 6. I can’t believe I almost fell for that joke! The game and the comeback was so believable until the Little foul, and the late turnovers. People are getting really good at this April Fools thing.

Wait…that really happened? Oh, crap.

Some thoughts from yesterday…

  • I said at some point in my liveblog that if Larkins couldn’t score, we were going to lose. With 8 minutes left, Larkins scored UNC’s last field goal of the game. I don’t remember her taking a good shot after that, scoring only 4 points for the game. Tennessee did a very good job of keeping her in check offensively, even though she had her normal monster day rebounding.
  • Rashanda McCants played the game of her life last night. 13 points, 50% FG shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 steals, a block and an assist. She seemed fairly ineffective during the regular season, seemingly not giving complete effort. I certainly can’t say that about last night. She will be very exciting to watch next year if she can have more games like that.
  • Both teams played exceptional defense last night. McCants, Latoya Pringle, Shannon Bobbitt and Nicky Anosike in particular played some of the best individual defense I’ve seen in quite some time, in men’s or women’s basketball. The Tennessee-Rutgers game should be a defensive clinic by both teams.
  • I don’t care how good you are. If you turn the ball over 29 times in a game, you can’t win. Although, Tennessee had 21 turnovers in their own right, bringing the game total to 50. Again, phenomenal defense by both teams.
  • Next year’s lineup, as I project it (assuming no freshmen): Larkins, Pringle, Jessica Breland, McCants, and Alex Miller in the starting lineup, with Iman McFarland and Heather Claytor getting substantial minutes off the bench. UNC will continue to emphasize the paint.
  • I will sorely miss seeing Ivory Latta and Camille Little in Carolina Blue. I will be rooting for them both in the WNBA. In particular, Latta is about to take that league by storm. You go girl!

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UNC vs. Tennessee Live Blog: NCAA Women’s Final Four

Tonight UNC plays Tennessee in game 2 of the Final Four for the right to play Rutgers in the National Championship. The game can come down to who will dominate the paint. Candace Parker is the most talented player in America, but UNC has four players that can make big contributions inside. The Vols will likely need good three point shooting if Parker struggles. Ivory Latta will also need to come up big for the Tar Heels.

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9:10 pm: I may not be a Dook fan, but Trey Wingo, why do you have to make Lindsey Harding relive that moment? No one should have to put up with that.

9:19 pm: Candace Parker’s boyfriend is Dookie Shelden Williams. Boooooo….

Tennessee has played a extremely well, but they haven’t been challenged by a good team in the tournament yet.

9:30 pm: 2-0, Tenn. Parker gets the games first points of the game on the free throw line.

9:32 pm: Neither team has shot the ball well so far. This game is a lot faster than the LSU-Rutgers game. However, it is also decidedly sloppier.

9:35 pm: Latoya Pringle is playing great defense, but she already has two fouls.

9:36 pm: 4-0, Tenn. Parker gets the first field goal of the game, a floater inside. Alex Miller had no chance.

9:40 pm: 5-0, Tenn. I have been shocked by 1) how well both teams have played defense and 2) how bad UNC is shooting. I think both teams have combined for 1 of 20 shooting.

9:41 pm: 5-2, Tenn. Hallelujah!!! Rashanda McCants scores a layup off a great pass by Latta to end the scoring drought of the Tar Heels.

9:46 pm: 7-6, Tenn. The Heels bring the lead down to 1, as Ivory Latta hits a jumper over 5’2″ Shana Bobbitt.

Official Timeout. 11:30 left. Latta has two fouls.

9:49 pm: 8-7, UNC. Latta scores again over Bobbitt, and UNC takes their first lead of the game.

9:51 pm: This game has been really sloppy so far. Give credit to the defense, but when there are more turnovers than points on the board, something’s wrong. Tennessee has just committed their second shot clock violation.

9:54 pm: This is not good. Ivory Latta has 3 fouls, and is forced to sit on the bench. Parker is on the bench with 2. Let’s see if Alex Miller can step up.

9:55 pm: 10-9, UNC. Larkins gives the great pass to Iman McFarland, who scores to give UNC the lead back.

Neither Larkins nor Little have scored yet.

9:56 pm: 12-9, UNC. Little finally gets on the board with a turnaround shot inside.

This game is a lot more physical than I expected. It’s going to take a lot of energy out of both of teams, which benefits Rutgers no matter who wins.

Official timeout. 7:17 left, first half.

9:59 pm: 12-12. How do you allow Sidney Spencer to get such an easy layup? Even worse, how do you commit such a bad foul afterwards?

10:01 pm: 14-12, Tenn. UPDATE: Total points: 26. Total turnovers: 23.

10:02 pm: 16-14, UNC. McCants scores to tie game, and LIttle gives UNC the lead.

10:03 pm: 17-16, Tenn. Shannon Bobbitt hits the three to give the lead back to the Lady Vols.

Both of these teams are spending a lot of energy trying to win this game.

10:06 pm: No matter who wins, you have to commend the effort given by both of these teams. 3:22 left, first half.

Latoya Pringle is playing insane defense right now.

10:10 pm: 18-17, UNC. Larkins hits two free throws to give the lead back to the Heels.

21-17, UNC. Who knew that Rashanda McCants would be our biggest offensive threat? She drains a three to bring the lead to four.

10:11 pm: 21-20, UNC. After being decleated on a Camille Little screen, Bobbitt hits a three from the baseline to cut the lead to 1.

10:12 pm: 22-21, Tenn. Great passing by Tennessee give them a open look inside to give the lead back to the Lady Vols.

UNC continues to turn the ball over. I know it doesn’t concern Sylvia Hatchell, but it really concerns me.

Suddenly Tennessee is getting all the rebounds! What the hell?

10:16 pm: Tennessee commits another shot clock violation near the end. Tennessee leads, 22-21 at halftime. The game was very, very sloppy, but that was in part because of both teams’ defensive hustle. Parker and Latta have both been ineffective in foul trouble. For UNC, they to take advantage of the opportunities that their defense gives them. That means making their inside shots and continuing to dominate the boards. Right C. Vivian Stringer is smiling, because both of these teams are spending a lot of energy trying to beat each other. Which team does that favor? Rutgers!

10:32 pm: Wow. I just looked up that guy from the Orbitz commercials, Wink Martindale, and only now do I find out that’s he’s an actual former game show host. You know, I actually wish I didn’t know that.

10:34 pm: 24-21, Tenn. Anosike hits a shot inside to start the second half. UNC continues to turn the ball over. I think they have 17 now.

10:36 pm: 26-21, Tenn. Candace Parker gets the basket and the foul on Erlana Larkins. A great play by Parker.

But that reminds me: Larkins has yet to hit a field goal in this game. If she doesn’t score, we lose. Simple.

10:39 pm: 27-24, Tenn. Ivory Latta hits a three, only our second of the game, making it a one possession.

10:40 pm: 27-26, Tenn. Larkins hits a tough layup inside, her first basket of the game.

Shannon Bobbit is decleated again on a screen, this time by Latoya Pringle. She may have gotten a concussion. These teams are starting to play this like a football game.

10:42 pm: 28-27, UNC. Little’s turnaround jumper rattles in, and UNC takes the lead back.

10:43 pm: First official timeout of the second half. If UNC wins, Pringle gets the game ball. Her defense has been vital to our staying in the game.

10:46 pm: 31-27, UNC. A great pass by Larkins, and Latta hits another three. The Heels have scored the last 10 points.

10:47 pm: 33-27, UNC. Another empty trip for Tennessee, and another basket for the Tar Heels, this time by Little. The lead is now six.

10:48 pm: 33-29, UNC. What a play by McCants to get the block and keep the ball in bounds! And Shannon Bobbitt feels…rejected!!! Words can hardly describe that insane play.

10:51 pm: 38-29, UNC. YYYYEEEEEAAAHHHH!!! More great defense by the Tar Heels, McCants in particular, leads to two straight easy baskets in transition, and UNC is blowing the doors open on this game, forcing Pat Summitt to take a timeout.

Da-da-da-DAAAA-da! U! da-da-da-da-da-da-DAAAA-da! N! da-da-da-da-da-da-DAAAA-da! C! da-da-da-da-da-da U-N-C!!! GO HEELS GO!!! da-da-da-da-da-da-da-Da! WHOOOOOO!!!!

10:53 pm: 38-31, UNC, 11:34 left. Official timeout. UNC is in control of the game right now, but they’re not out of the woods yet.

10:57 pm: 41-31, UNC. Miller’s three gets the lucky bounce, and UNC has the first double digit lead of the game. Meanwhile, Tennessee has only 9 points in as many minutes.

10:59 pm: 43-32, UNC. McCants has played absolutely lights out in this game. Which is strange, because I think she’s been dogging it for most of the season, not giving her full effort. But Rashanda has absolutely played the game of her life tonight.

11:00 pm: 43-34, UNC. The big blemish for us right now: fouls. Little has four, and Pringle and Latta each have three.

11:01 pm: 46-36, UNC. That’s what you want out of Latta! The drive, the basket, and the foul! WHOOOOOO!!!

11:02 pm: 48-36, UNC. Larkins drives inside against Anosike, and she gets the layup easily.

11:03 pm: 48-40, UNC. 7:13 left. UNC commits two straight turnovers, which lead to two straight baskets by the Vols. I hope the Heels don’t get sloppy with the ball and let their lead get away late.

11:07 pm: UNC commits another turnover, this time a shot clock violation. They can’t afford to come up empty on possessions late.

11:09 pm: I think we’ve lost the momentum we had earlier, as this game has returned to its previous sloppiness. If UNC doesn’t do something, this game could end the same way the men’s game ended against Georgetown.

Pringle picks up her fourth foul. I think God is punishing me for my hubris from about 20 minutes ago.

11:12 pm: 48-42, UNC. Camille Little fouls out on an offensive foul. I’m sorry but that call was bull. Spencer’s feet were moving. With five minutes to go, UNC is losing focus, and this game is feeling eerily like the men’s game against Georgetown.

11:14 pm: 4:35 left. Pringle fouls out as well. with time running out, it will be up to Jessica Breland to play alongside Larkins in the paint from now on.

11:16 pm: 48-46, UNC. Tennessee has scored the last 10 points. UNC hasn’t scored since Larkins hit the layup with 8 minutes left.

Final official timeout.

11:20 pm: 50-46, UNC. 3:43 left. Latta hits two free throws to extend the lead to 4.

11:22 pm: 50-48, UNC, 3:09 left. UNC is forced to take two straight timeouts. We now have only one left. This is not good. We are not executing well at all.

11:24 pm: McCants is hurt after missing a jumpshot. I know that Pringle and Little have fouled out, but we still need to drive inside.

11:26 pm: 50-50, 2:00 left. Anosike scores with a putback of her own miss. Anosike steals the ball on the next possession and Breland is forced to foul.

11:27 pm: 51-50, Tenn, 1:44 left. We still haven’t hit a field goal since the 8:00 mark. Anosikie hits one of two free throws to take the lead.

11:31 pm: 53-50, Tenn, :31 left. The Tar Heels look completely out of gas right now, but it’s hard to win when you commit 29 turnovers.

11:33 pm: 54-50, Tenn, :24.2 left. Latta’s three pointer hits the back iron, and Hornbuckle gets the rebound.

11:37 pm: The game ends, as Tennessee wins, 56-50. The Lady Vols outscore the Heels 20-2 to end the game, as UNC runs completely out of gas. This game ends freakishly the same way as the UNC-Georgetown game. The Tar Heels make a run to put themselves in control of the game midway through the second half. With seven and a half minutes left, the Tar Heels have the game in hand. But in the end, UNC looks completely out of sync, and the opponent gets a second wind out of their #55 center (in this case, Nicky Anosike). The Vols play great defense down the stretch, make all of their free throws, and UNC completely runs out of gas. It’s a shame to see the careers of Ivory Latta and Camille Little end this way; they’re two of the best players ever to don Carolina blue. Latoya Pringle played absolutely shutdown defense, and Rashanda McCants had the game of her life. But UNC was too sloppy the whole game, and they couldn’t buy shot late because, just like the men, they deviated from their inside game. The season was successful as a whole, and UNC gave a great effort even as the game was lipping away. But it is truly sad to see Ivory Latta, the best player in UNC Women’s basketball history, end her career short of a title.

I’ll be live blogging the National Championships on Monday and Tuesday on Digital Headbutt. I am definitely rooting for Rutgers, but I’m torn on the men’s matchup. Do I choose dignity and root for the Gators, or do I choose infamy, watch Ohio State win, and lose in my bracket challenge to a penny? I can;t believe I’m actually thinking about this one.l

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