ACC PREDICTIONS PREDICTIONS PREDICTIONS!

VT blog Gobbler Country and Furrier4Heisman held a preseason conference poll among ACC bloggers and was kind enough to invite my opinion, despite my recent sporadic-ness-ness-ness. (I will save the explanation for another time, but for now I’ll say life got in the way.) Anyway, here were may predictions:

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State

2. NC State

3. Clemson

4. Wake Forest

5. Maryland

6. Boston College

Florida State has the talent, eventually they have to pull it together, right? State is a team on the rise despite the (temporary?) loss of Nate Irving. I sincerely hope he comes back to haunt running backs’ dreams again…just not our backs. Clemson is still talented, but we don’t know how consistent they are. Wake Forest will take a step back on defense, the key to their success the last three years. Boston College is squarely in rebuilding mode after all they’ve lost.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech

2. Georgia Tech

3. North Carolina

4. Miami

5. Virginia

6. Duke

Last year was the time to pounce on the Coastal Division and step up in Virginia Tech’s rebuilding year. That window is now closed, and now anyone who wants to win this division must go through the Hokies. Georgia Tech’s Success will depend on whether their triple option stand the test of a team getting a second look. I actually predicted that North Carolina can finish as well as 10-2, but they have to beat one or both of the Techs on the road in order to win the division; honestly, I don;t think this team is ready. Miami still needs to show consistency to be placed higher than fourth. Virginia lose too many important players from 2008 and Duke is, well, Duke.

Offensive Player of the Year: Darren Evans, Virginia Tech

Partly because he’s very good and partly to be contrarian. How Gobbler Country let me get away with calling him “Darrell Evans” in the email I sent him, I’ll never know.

Defensive Player of the Year: QUANTAVIUS THE MAGNIFICENT, UNC.

I have never been more confident of a prediction in my entire life. Ever.

Rookie of the Year: Josh Adams, UNC.

Not knowing much (read: anything about other rookies in the ACC, I decided to stick to what I know. Judging by the pairty in voting in this category, everyone else voted the same way. I think Jamal Womble will have a bigger impact, but I have a hunch Adams will have better stats.

Thanks again to Gobbler Country for holding this poll.

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Ginyard warming up vs. Evansville

I’m at the Evansville game right now. Marcus Ginyard is in game shoes and shorts (but not warmup jacket) shooting with the rest of the team. He came onto the court before anyone else, apparently to test how close to 100% he was. Whether or not he’s going to play is still uncertain, but I would not be the least bit surprised if he did.

Just thought y’all should know.

A Visual Representation of Me At the UNC-Virginia Tech Game

First two and a half quarters:

Pure jubilation. Sure, it was only a 14 point lead, but Greg Litlle had just run 50 yards for a touchdown to put us up 17-3. And honestly, where the hell was Virginia Tech’s offense gonna come from?

Final quarter and a half:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

You can use that picture to describe the Paulus interception to Macho Harris. Or the Greg Little fumble. Or the Yates injury. Or any of the frustrating penalties. That was pretty much everyone’s face in the stadium in the fourth quarter.

UNC vs. Louisville: Elite 8 Preview

 Tonight UNC faces Louisville in the East Regional Final (9:05 pm, CBS). Both of these teams like to run, so this game should be fun.

Louisville’s strengths: Louisville distributes the ball very well. Four players average double digit points, and eight average more than six points per game. UNC has depth, but Louisville is more than able to match it. In particular, Teraance Williams, a big yet speedy player, could be a  nightmare of a matchup against UNC’s defense. On defense, Louisville has been able to contain the best scorers of each they’ve faced in the tournament so far.

Louisville’s weaknesses: They’re the only team left in this tournament without a true point guard. Jerry Smith fits the height profile, but he’s kind of awkward at the point. If Ty Lawson can take advantage of this matchup, it could be a long day for the Cardinals. The guards are also susceptible to foul trouble.

What UNC needs to do to win the game: Like in the Washington State game, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green need to get incorporated into the offense early, and the Heels need to play solid defense and outrun their opponent. Unlike the Washington State game, Hansbrough cannot be outplayed by David Padgett for the first 25 minutes.

Prediction: UNC will almost surely get their first close game of the tournament. These obliterations, as much as we would like them, cannot be expected to continue. However, I expect the Heels to get a close win in this game.

Know Thy Enemy: Ar-Kansas is Better than Your-Kansas!

On Sunday the Tar Heels play their fist tough game of the tournament, a second round matchup against the talented Arkansas Razorbacks.

Keys to the Game:

Hog Wild Backcourt. Patrick Beverly, Gary Ervin, and Stefan Welsh combine for 27 points and 8 assists per game. Add Sonny Weems as a swingman (who lit up Indiana in the first round) and Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, and Quentin Thomas will have their hands full.

Battle of Awkward Whiteness. At least three players may be given the task of defending Tyler Hansbrough. One of those players is Stephen Hill, who may have the worst hair of this tournament.

stevenhills.jpg

How Arkansas’ frontcourt defends Hansbrough and Thompson could determine their fate.

Experience: Arkansas has six seniors on their roster. They will not be mentally fazed by the Tar Heels’ talent.

Biggest Weakness: Consistency. Many of their losses are puzzling: Providence, Appalachian State, South Carolina and Georgia, to name a few. The Razorbacks need consistency to keep up with UNC.

Enjoy the game. I’ll be live blogging this game, among others, at Storming the Floor.

UNC’s Blowout of The Mount Can be Summarized Thusly

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Surry Wood dunked in this game. That’s pretty much all you need to know about UNC’s 113-74 victory. After the destruction of Mount St. Mary’s, the Tar Heels will face the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday.
(Photo courtesy: Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina)

What The UNC Men’s Team Must Do to Win the 2008 NCAA Tournament

Merry Basketball Christmas to all this Good Friday. I would be in a much more celebratory mood today had Belmont performed the upset of upsets over Duke. Give credit to Gerald Henderson, he wouldn’t let the Blue Devils lose that game. But I digress.

Last year’s North Carolina team was a testament to the importance of experience. The Heels of 2006-2007 was perhaps the deepest, most talented squad ever to grace Chapel Hill with its presence. Just look at this lineup:

F-Tyler Hansbrough, Sophomore

F-Brandan Wright, Freshman

F-Deon Thompson, Freshman

F-Alex Stepheson, Freshman

F-Rayshawn Terry, Senior

G/F-Danny Green, Sophomore

G/F-Marcus Ginyard, Sophomore

G-Wayne Ellington, Freshman

G-Wes Miller, Senior

G-Ty Lawson, Freshman

G-Bobby Frasor, Sophomore

G-Quentin Thomas, Junior

And that’s just the regular rotation. Nobody played more than 30 minutes a game, everyone had fresh legs, and when their heads were in the game they could run just about any college team in America into the ground and out of the building. Every one of these twelve players would be either starters or important bench players at most other schools. In Chapel Hill, they were some kind of Baby Blue Voltron.

Alas, therein lay their weakness. Nine of the 12 players in the regular rotation were underclassmen, Q might as well have been an underclassmen, and only Miller and Terry had any kind of starting experience, and they were 5th and 8th options in our offense, respectively.  This inexperience led them to lose quite a few games they had no business losing, and they squandered a few close leads. The most glaring example was the Georgetown game, where they went the final seven or eight minutes without scoring a field goal. On defense, they allowed the Hoyas to shoot over 70% from the field in that same span. Georgetown went on to lose in overtime, and I may have overreacted a bit. I’m pretty sure I scared my non-fan neighbors by screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” to the television at the top of my lungs (I had made the mistake of leaving my windows open that day; it was 68 degrees, get off my case).

I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yes, this year’s tournament. So how do we avoid…that?

Win close games. This characteristic of a team tends to come with experience. Carolina is a much more experienced and focused team this year, if a bit more shorthanded. With graduation (Terry and Miller), NBA eligibility (Wright), injury (Frasor) and in lieu of incoming freshmen, our rotation is now 8-deep (with a bit of Will Graves and Mike Copeland peppered in). The backcourt is much more mature, and it shows. The close losses of last year have turned into close victories, as UNC’s players kept focus and clamped down on their opponent when they absolutely needed. Don’t expect a Georgetown-like late collapse this year. If anything, expect the implosion to happen early. Which reminds me…

Have your head in the game for all 40 minutes. If the Heels ever let a game mentally get away from them, it’s usually in the early going. Maryland jumped out to a double-digit first half lead, and the Heels never quite got into their rhythm, leading to their only loss of the season with Lawson in the lineup. Against Clemson (twice) and Georgia Tech the Heels let their opponents get ahead with poor execution before taking the game in the final seconds. And I don’t need to tell you what happened in Chestnut Hill. The Heels will keep it close no matter who they’re playing; if they stay focused for 40 minutes, they should be able to win all of their games.

Tyler Hansbrough must get to the line. That may sound like an easy concept, as he already holds the UNC and ACC career records for free throw attempts, and free throw shhoting usually accounts for about a third of his offense. Against Duke on March 8th, however, Duke managed to go the entire game wothout putting Hansbrough on the line once. You can bet that every prospective Carolina opponent will be poring over that game to try to reduce his trips to the stripes, and take 6-8 points out of UNC’s offensive production.

The perimeter shooting cannot go cold. In Carolina’s loss to Duke, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington were a combined 4-24 shooting, including 1-11 from three. In big games down the stretch, Roy needs to be able to count on them for about 20-25 points.

Point guard play. We’re still not 100% sure that Ty Lawson’s ankle is completely healed. Q has really stepped up for the Heels both in Lawson’s absence and coming off the bench when he came back. Q will need to continue that into the tournament.

Congratulations to the Tar Heels for their great season so far, and best of luck to them staring tonight against Mount St. Mary’s. Billy Packer following our every move aside, it’s going to be a fun ride.

(apologies for the layoff. Life got in the way during the ACC Tournament, but THM back just in time.)