It Must Be Some Sort of Halloween Joke, I’m Sure

Since it’s a bye week in football, I must, at least temporarily, draw my attention to basketball season. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there isn’t a single person in this universe who isn’t favoring the Tar Heels to to win it all.

The Heels, admittely, have been bitten by the injury bug in the past calenar year. Bobby Frasor, Ty Lawson, Danny Green, and Marcus Ginyard have all had injuries that has either kept them out or will keep them out of games. But since it’s Halloween, everyone needs something that will scare the crap out of them.

You’ll never guess who has shin splints. Go ahead, guess. I’ll wait here.

Have you figured it out?

Bingo.

Granted, it’s just shin splints, and he’ll have more than enough time to be back and 100% for the crux of the season. Still, on this day of spookiness I have been adequately…spookified.

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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.

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.) 

An (Ir)rational Assessment of That UNC-Duke Loss

Perhaps I can be rational about the result of this game at some point. But not yet.

First things first, let’s get this out of the way: Quentin Thomas did not lose this game. It may have been a completely different offense without Lawson on the floor, there were several stretches in which he struggled. However, there were many other points of failure points in that game, any of which could have won the game had they been corrected.

For example: Wayne Ellington and Danny Green combined to shoot 2 for 153. The statisticians began to feel sorry for them and stopped tracking their misses, only writing down “2-24”. True story. Below, a visual representation of Wayne and Danny’s shooting nights, respectively.

 

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It was expected that without Lawson on the floor, Carolina could not play their transition game. When forced into a halfcourt team against a halfcourt press, running effective screens becomes crucial. I did not see the Heels run effective screens against Duke, which I think led to a lot of turnovers and low-percentage shots.

Deon Thompson played like a beast for the first five minutes of the game. Then he seemed to become unfocused and devolved into the human fouling machine, fouling out after just 18 minutes. For lack of a better expression, he was the black Shavlik Randolph.

Duke is very effective in playing with the human psyche. When you see a Duke player driving he lane. a defender’s first instinct is always to help out. This plays right into their game, as this leaves plenty of Blue Devils open for threes. Coach K has been using this strategy for years, yet few teams are ever disciplined enough to override their instincts and and defend the perimeter no matter what happens inside. Carolina was no exception on Wednesday night. Credit is due to Duke for running a system so well, but Carolina needs to get better on defense.

This bears repeating: when Marcus Ginyard and Quentin Thomas account for 1/3rd of your offense, you’re in trouble.

There is absolutely no need to panic about the result of this game. Remember this: Duke played perhaps their best game all year, and Carolina obviously played a bad game, severely shorthanded at basketball most crucial position…and yet it was a two possession game after 39 minutes and 5 seconds. I don’t know what that says about Duke, but it shows that, with Lawson in the lineup, this team is still a national championship contender. Unless, of course, we lose to Clemson on Sunday. I would hate for this to be the team that ended the streak.

And finally: I don’t care what you think, this is funny.

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“Ultimate Duke House” Under Construction

It appears Duke basketball will finally be rewarded for their success with a house that they can call their own.

It was revealed this week by coach Mike Krzyzewski and President Richard Broadhead that upperclassmen from the Duke University basketball team will now live in an off-campus house to increase camaraderie and security for the players, secluded from on-campus fans. Already dubbed “the Ultimate Duke House” by students, the house (pictured below) will have five bedrooms, where seniors will have individual bedrooms and any extra juniors will share rooms. Walk-on upperclassmen will sleep on the couch. The house is expected to be complete by the fall semester.

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Here’s what some in the world of college basketball, mostly current and former Duke players, had to say about the Duke House…

Mike Krzyzewski: “This is a milestone for our program. Finally, a place where I can visit, hang out informally with my players, invite recruits, have Wojo over and I don’t have to worry about the wife spy–um, I think I’ve said too much.”

Johnny Dawkins: “The inspiration for this house was the pink locker rooms at the University of Iowa. There’s some Hayden Fry reverse psychology s— goin’ on up in here.”

Gerald Henderson: You see that? You see that s—? That’s why I committed to Duke.

Josh McRoberts: You see that? You see that s—? That’s why I declared for the NBA.

Kyle Singler: Must…feast…on…blood…and…flesh…of…the…living…

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Dick Vitale: (genitalia explodes from sheer joy)

Jon Scheyer: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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Christian Laettner: “Ya wanna battle, bitch? You little street news reporter? Let’s battle, ‘cuz I battle any sex or any race, you beating me is like Billy Crystal playing Scarface! I can’t see it, I’m blind to the eyes, I came up in your face OOPS POW SURPRISE! OHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

Cherokee Parks: “Is that all you got, fool? It is so ON. gimme the mic! Church. Tabernacle. Titty one, titty two. Prophet Eli. My mental gymnastics will flip you, like an Aunt Jemima flapjack. Now how ’bout that?”

Prince: (playing basketball) “Good. (swish) In your face, Christian Laettner.” (drives lane uncontested, dunks) “Game…blouses.”

Greg Paulus: (falls down, reporter is charged with an offensive foul)

J.J. Redick:

Wojo: This is architectural masterpiece! ARE YOU LISTENING?!?! QUIT CRYING AND LISTEN TO ME! (slaps the floor) ASIDE FROM ME, THIS IS THE GREATEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN IN THE HISTORY OF THIS PROGRAM. EVER.

McRoberts: (sobs uncontrollably in towel)

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Sidney Lowe: Not bad, but it could use a little shag carpeting. And chrome window frames. And females. Lots and lots of females.

Scheyer: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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Roy Williams: “Wow…I didn’t think that a basketball team could feel so…pretty…hahahahahah…. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (breathes deeply) HAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh God! Make it sta-ha-hop! HAHAhahahahah haa….ha…..haaaaa. I’m very happy for Duke and their upperclassmen. They deserve this wonderfuhlahahahah HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHH!

“Ummmmm…you’ve got this off the record, right? No? Crap.”

Tyler Hansbrough: Mi mimimi mi mimimimiMI…mimimi.

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UNC 84, FSU 73 (OT): The Game in Pictures and Monosyllabic Exclamations

 WARNING: Includes at least one expletive. All pictures from AP/Phil Coale and IC/Jim Hawkins.

ACT I: Lawson Injures Ankle

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Act II: Quentin Thomas Steps Up

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QYOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Act III:UNC Squanders 8 Point Lead With 2 Minutes Left; No Discernible Adjustments Made

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WWWWWHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTT?!?!?

ACT IV: Ryan Reid Hits Game Tying Shot

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FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!

ACT V: Hansbrough Takes over in Overtime

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YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

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.