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.

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.

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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.) 

A Chance to Make Fun of Sidney Lowe’s Red Blazer From 100 Feet Above The Court

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There will be no live blog of today’s UNC-NC State game (noon, ESPN) on Tar Heel Mania. The reason? I will be at the Dean Dome. I managed to snag a ticket late this week, and upon reception of said ticket, this was my reaction:

I’ll give a full report of the live experience after the game.

UNC vs. UCSB Live Blog

Today the Tar Heels hope to rebound against UC-Santa Barbara after a somewhat disappointing performance against Nicholls State. Today’s game against the Gauchos won’t be any easier. UCSB is 10-1 this year including 3-1 on the road, with their biggest win over UNLV and their only loss at Stanford. Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green will be kept very busy today defending 6’6″ guard Alex Harris, who has averaged 23.4 points per game this season.

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1:07 pm: 2-0, UNC. Within 18 seconds, Marcus Ginyard gets an easy layup and UCSB turns the ball over. Turnovers, along with a lack of size, are likely to be the Gauchos’ biggest weakness.

1:08 pm: 4-0 UNC. Lawson gets the steal, and easily outruns everyone to the basket.

1:10 pm: UCSB is trying to drive inside, but UNC simply has too much size in the paint.

1:11 pm: 6-2, UNC. James Powell hits an outside shot to put the Gauchos on the board, but Deon Thompson responds immediately.

1:12 pm: 8-2 UNC. Ohhhhhhh! a steal in the open court by Hansbrough, and buries a 360-degree dunk. First TV timeout.

1:16 pm: 13-4, UNC. The Tar heels score four points within 5 seconds, the second basket off of a steal by Lawson. 10 of UNC’s 13 points are in transition.

1:17 pm: 13-6, UNC. Alex Harris finally gets on the board with a layup.

1:18 pm: 15-6, UNC. The Tar Heels are playing full court pressure on defense.

1;19 pm: 17-8, UNC. Every Gaucho on the court focused on Hansbrough, and Deon Thompson made them pay.

1:20 pm: at some point, Tyler has to learn to pass the ball back outside if he’s double or triple teamed.

1:27 pm: 21-14, UNC. The Gauchos hits two threes on two straight possessions.

1;28 pm: 27-14, UNC. UCSB has absolutely no answer for UNC’s speed. First, another easy steal and layup by Lawson, and then Hansbrough grabs the steal before dishing the assist to Danny Green.

1;33 pm: 29-19, UNC. Another three for UCSB brings them back within 10. Considering how well the heels have played, it’s surprising that this game is still close.

1;36 pm: 32-19, UNC. What a shot by Ellington, a mid-range jumper in traffic.

1;38 pm: 34-22, UNC. The good news: the heels defense is all over Alex Harris. The bad news: James Powell is getting open looks as a result.

1:40 pm: 36-26, UNC. An unbelievable shot by Powell, a reverse layup. Powell has 14 of the Gauchos’ 26 points.

1:42 pm: 42-26, UNC. The Heels are getting a significant amount of their points from the free throw line in the first half.

1:48 pm: 44-28, UNC. Marcus Ginyard is having a huge game today on both sides of the court. He has 9 points, and has mostly shut down Alex Harris.

1:50 pm: 52-30, UNC. Deon Thompson, Bobby Frasor, and Ty Lawson each score baskets in transition within a 30-45 second span near the end of tha half. This last run may very well have put this game out of reach before halftime.

1:52 pm: We’re at halftime, and the Tar Heels lead 52-32 after a playing a great first half in almost every way. I may not have seen Carolina run the transition game better this season that they have so far today.

2:07 pm: Top 25 Alert: #2 Memphis gets an impressive win over #4 Georgetown, 85-71.

2:09 pm: 57-32, UNC. Hansbrough hits a relatively easy shot to start the second half, and then Ellington gets three the hard way.

An interesting statistic: The Tar heels have accrued a 25 point lead without making a 3-point field goal.

2:11 pm: 61-32, UNC. Either UCSB has come out of the locker room flat-footed, or UNC is playing even faster in the second half than they did in the first half. Whichever is the case, it’s looking like a very long day for the Gauchos.

2:17 pm: 71-37, UNC. Nineteen points in under four and a half minutes. The Gauchos have absolutely no answer for the transition game. today.

2:23 pm: 71-45, UNC. Harris goes into double figures with two consecutive three pointers, but it seems too little, too late. Give the Gauchos credit; they haven’t thrown in the towel just yet.

2:25 pm: 76-45, UNC. Marcus Ginyard hits the inside shot and the foul. He misses the free throw, but Carolina gets the rebound, and Bobby Frasor hits UNC’s first three of the game. Carolina converts the rare five point play.

2;27 pm: 80-50, UNC. The smell of biscuits is palpable now.

2:32 pm: 83-50, UNC. Deon Thompson shooting free throws is painful to watch. Ty Lawson’s three point shooting is substantially less painful.

2:37 pm: 85-54, UNC. Deon Thompson is a good player…but there is no excuse for shooting 3-16 from the free throw line on the season. Ugh.

2:39 pm: 87-54, UNC. Tyler Hansbrough with another great shot inside. he now has 21.

2:42 pm: 93-56, UNC. Marcus Ginayrd hits Carolina’s last three baskets, and he now has a career high of 17 points.

2;44 pm: 95-63, UNC. Bring on the benchwarmers!

2:48 pm: 97-63, UNC. Qyooooooooooooooo!!! hits a layup.

2:50 pm: 98-65, UNC. WE-WANT BIS-CUITS! (clap-clap-clapclapclap)

2:52 pm: 101-70, UNC. BISCUITS!!! …Courtesy of Greg Little. Yes, that Greg Little.

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2:55 pm: The game is over, as The Tar Heels win, 105-70 in their best overall performance of the season.  

 

 

UNC vs. Penn Live Blog

This is obviously not the same Penn team who won the Ivy League for the last two years (most notably, without Matt Zoeller and Ibrahim Jaaber). However, the Palestra is one of the toughest places to play in college basketball, and it will be absolutely raucous tonight.

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7:05 pm: 4-4. Ty Lawson is back in the starting lineup today. He definitely seems to be playing at full speed.

7:08 pm: 6-4, UNC. Hansbrough hits two free throws to give UNC the lead, but Penn is playing some good defense right now. On the latest possession they trapped Lawson in a corner, and forced an offensive foul.

7:09 pm: 9-6, UNC. Penn is getting their baskets by forcing a fast pace. The problem for them is that it almost always results in a quick basket for the Tar Heels, whose strength is the transition game.

7:10 pm: 9-9. Bernardini has all 9 points for the Quakers, and he hits the first three-pointer of the game to tie.

7:12 pm: 13-9, UNC. Hansbrough fights for second and third chances at the basket, finally charging inside for an easy dunk to take the lead. Thompson follows with a basket off of a Penn turnover on the next possession.

7:15 pm: The Quakers’ turnover woes continues, as Qyooooooooo!!! gets the steal, draws a foul, and hits his free throws. 17-11, UNC.

7:16 pm: 21-13, UNC. The Tar Heels are scoring almost at will in transition, and they force Penn to take a timeout. Deon Thompson continues to impress in this 4 game road swing.

7:18 pm: 23-15, UNC. Hansbrough scores on the alley-oop. He has 11 points already in this game on 4-4 shooting.

7:19 pm: Ty Lawson is called for another offensive foul, and may have to hit the bench with foul trouble eight minutes into this game.

7:22 pm: Tar Heel fans travel well. Nearly half of the fans in the Palestra is wearing Carolina Blue.

7:23 pm: 25-19, UNC. Tyler scores again, but they’ve now committed their 5th turnover of the game. UNC’s mistakes are keeping the Quakers in the game, as Penn has been able to take advantage of those miscues.

7;25 pm: 27-22, UNC. Our guards are not defending a the perimeter well, and Penn has made them pay. A three-pointer brings the Quakers to within five.

7:28 pm: Heading into the TV timeout, neither team has been shooting the ball well in the last few minutes. Penn has done a good job defensively, keeping every scorer except Hansbrough and Danny Green at bay.

7:31 pm: 29-26, UNC. The Quakers are getting baskets inside way too easily right now.

After a foul on Ellington, I can audibly hear our leaders of tomorrow chant “Bull—-!” in the Penn student section.

7:33 pm: 34-26, UNC. You can see how much more efficiently the Heels’ transition game is run with Lawson on the court instead of Frasor at point.

7:34 pm: 36-28, UNC. Ellington finally gets on the board, fighting for a basket inside.

7:35 pm: 38-30, UNC. Carolina still hasn’t been sealing off the defensive paint very well.

7:36 pm: 40-30, UNC. Hansbrough collects UNC’s 11th offensive rebound, and hits a jumper to give the Heels their first double digit lead…

7:37 pm: 40-32, UNC. …which they quickly relinquish on the other side of the court.

7:41 pm: 48-34, UNC. The Quakers are paying dearly for allowing the Heels to play their transition game. A backcourt steal opens the flood gates, as Danny Green continues to have a good game off the bench.

7:45 pm: 48-37, UNC. Bernardini can;t be stopped; he’s 8-9 from the field in the first half.

7:46 pm: Hansbrough hits an inside shot to end the first half. UNC leads, 50-37 at halftime. The Tar Heels are definitely playing their transition game in this game, but some unwarranted mistakes, in particular a few spurts of lax defense, have helped to keep the quakers in it. If they can just clamp down on the inside, they should be able to hold a comfortable lead in the second half. Expect Penn to to eventually run out of gas, unless they can force a halfcourt game.

8:03 pm: 54-37, UNC. Penn simply does not have an answer for Tyler Hansbrough. But you probably knew that already.

8:04 pm: 57-41, UNC. Bernardini keeps blowing past Ginyard on these backdoor cuts. He need to play better in the perimeter if the Tar Heels want to reduce the Quakers’ 57% FG shooting from the first half.

8:07 pm: The Heels’ main saving gracs on defense has been turnovers. Lawson’s steal, the 11th for Carolina tonight, gives them a 20 point lead. 63-43, UNC.

8:08 pm: 65-43, UNC. If Penn gets blown out tonight, it will be in part because they have allowed the Heels to get a huge amount of offensive rebounds and second chances.

8:12 pm: 67-43, UNC. Marcus Ginyard is having a tough night. Even when he has a dunk in his sights, he missed completely. Fortunately for him, Hansbrough was there to clean up. Tyler has 22 points and 7 rebounds.

8:16 pm: 69-48, UNC. Tyler Bernardini hits a three. He now has 21 points for the Quakers.

8:19 pm: 73-48, UNC. Ellington is finally heating up, and the Heels now seem to have an insurmountable lead.

8:23 pm: 75-52, UNC. Qyoooooooooo with the assist.

8:25 pm: 77-53, UNC. No one should leave Tyler that open in transition. He will kill you every time.

8:29 pm: 79-55, UNC. Tyler Bernardini continues to score at will from everywhere on the court. I still don’t have an explanation as to why the UNC defense is letting him have such a huge night.

8:33 pm: 86-57, UNC. Believe it or not, tonight’s game marks the first time that Tyler Hansbrough has recorded three consecutive double-doubles in his UNC career. Particularly impressive is that all three have come on the road (@ Ohio State, Kentucky, and Penn).

8:40 pm: 91-58, UNC. Danny Green’s three pointer rattles in, as he has 19 for the game. UNC has shot 75% from the field in the second half.

8:40 pm: 93-58, UNC. Alex Stepheson gets his first basket of the game. Where has he been all night?

8:45 pm: 101-65, UNC. Qyoooooooooooooo!!! puts the Heels in triple digits.

8:47 pm: 104-65, UNC. Will Graves hits a three pointer, as this game is getting very ugly for Penn.

8:51 pm: 106-65, UNC. Mike Copeland gets an easy basket inside, as all of UNC’s reserves are on the court for the final two minutes.

8:54 pm: The game officially ends, as UNC wins, 106-71. Aside from not being able to stop Tyler Bernardini, the Tar heels played very good basketball, particularly early in the second half to put the game away. The Tar Heels won’t play again until after final exams here in Chapel Hill, when they play at Rutgers on December 16th. Carolina has made it through the difficult part of their non-conference schedule, and are unlikely to be tested again until their ACC opener against the Clemson Tigers on January 6th.