Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tar Heels, take a step back.

Since the union of the University of North Carolina and basketball, we UNC fans have been a fickle bunch. None of us were conscious during the early struggles of the Coach Smith regime. UNC students and fans wanted little to do with the short, large-nosed, young man who dared to think he could take over the program Frank McGuire built into a national power. They hung him in effigy...twice. They berated him in the student paper. No one outside of his close friends and the Athletic Director supported the no name from Emporia Kansas. Imagine where UNC would be had it listened to its fickle fans then.

During Coach Smith's 36 years of unmatched excellence, we as a fan base became "fat and happy" (to borrow one of Coach Williams' terms). ACC title after ACC title. Final Four after Final Four. National Titles. Collegiate and NBA superstars. Man, its good to be king, huh? Duke went back to back, but we answered and now they are struggling to even challenge Wake Forest. UNC is the dominant program in all of America.

Then came the summer of 1997. The end of an era. The saddest day in my entire life. On that day, Dean Smith stepped down and handed the reigns over to his longtime assistant and friend, Bill Gutheridge. Now, in interests of space, I will selectively skip the Gutheridge and Doherty eras as its impossible for UNC fans to agree on who's to blame. Regardless, the IBM of the college basketball world tumbled into mediocrity. The proudest and most arrogant fan base in the land was smacked with the ultimate insult: irrelevance.

Coach Williams' arrival changed all of that. He taught his first team how not to lose. In 2005, he tought UNC how to win. Oh, how quickly we arrogant Heels forget our lessons.

Was that 2005 team not comprised of the same characters who blew lead after lead in the '03-'04 season? Was that not the same team that squandered a 20+ point lead at halftime against FSU and ended up getting embarassed? The very same team who had its heart, will, and desire questioned game after game, week after week? The team loaded with talent, yet never quite doing what we expect?

Its amazing what a national title will do for our memories, isn't it? All people seem to remember is the great leader and game breaker Felton became, not the horrendous shooter and turnover machine he was the previous years. We remember how Sean May became an animal in '05, a double-double machine. We forgot all about the soft as Charmin May of '04. The do-all-the-small-things mentality of Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams is adored by Tar Heels the world over. They never seem to mention Jackie's terrible shooting, bad free throws and turnovers. Or Jawad's shying away from the hoop.

That 2003-04 team was comprised of mainly sophomores and juniors. Not just that, but they were learning a new system under a new coach. They might as well have all been freshmen. They were a young team who's bandwagon emptied as much as it was filled. They were a team that everyone became convinced would never allow the team concept to penetrate their talent and ego riddled minds.

What happend? Time. Practice. LEARNING.

Roy Williams took a group of kids that had never won anything of significance at the collegiate level and in 2 years turned them into national champions.

So, the next time UNC blows a lead they shouldn't, the next time Brandon bricks a free throw, the next time Lawson attempts a pass he shouldn't or the next time the Heels look lost during an end-game possession, remember one thing.

The 2003-04 Heels looked even worse. And how did they turn out?

All the talent in the world is great. I wouldn't trade UNC's future for anyone else's. It is common for young teams to be really, really good. They are, however, seldom great. We are being treated to a great season. And you know what the best part is?

Its only going to get better.

- "UNC" Charles

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Heels Can’t Find Their “Way”

Photo by ROBERT WILLETT - (Raleigh) News & Observer


Patrick Kendall

You have no idea how much that title hurts to write. The Tar Heels have no idea how difficult they made my Monday (what with Bob the Terp and all). Now, Virginia Tech and Maryland have both given losses to the two top ACC programs of the past twenty-five years and I’m left speechless at the fact.

Duke is easier to explain. They don’t have the talent. Carolina is harder to explain. They have the talent. They just don’t have the “Way.”

What is the Way, you ask?

Prepare yourselves for a journey to the Far East (of Basketball anyway) as we head to the streets of DC and NYC where the Way is sought, studied, and in some cases – attained. The Way is a mythical experience that provides guidance and calm to competitor warriors during pressure situations. Like “chi” (and the Force), the Way binds all things sports related; it surrounds athletes; it protects them. But in order to achieve Way, one must believe.

What the Heels have done instead of believing, is buying into their own hype. They believe that talent alone will be enough. They believe that by throwing bodies at the other team and trying to run them out of the gym, they will succeed. They believe that intensity is a switch that can be thrown any time, and that momentum (Uncle Mo in my house growing up) only matters when going downhill. The Heels can’t find their Way, and they will not win the Championship without it.

In 2005 Sean May was the Way. He became a force of nature on the floor; unstoppable, unyielding. Heels ’07 needs the same beacon to come to light now. Hansbrough could be the Way, but he still misses free throws at game’s end, or turns it over critically in situations that require doing the opposite. That is not the Way. Reyshawn Terry would like to be the Way because of his senior status, but he is a guy who unfortunately is only good enough to play for the Heels AFTER all the talent leaves the team.

Ty Lawson is learning his Way but he’s not ready. Freshmen rarely are. Carmelo Anthony and Pervis Ellison leap out at me as freshmen who were the Way but those guys are few and far between (17 years in fact). Brandon “I’m Still Learning How To” Wright is a little slight, a little young, and a lot deferential.

So, who can this young team turn to in its time of desperation and need?

I submit that Roy Williams must become the Way.

Think about it. In 1991, when Duke was again faced with that juggernaut of an opponent, UNLV, just one year after getting waxed in the most lopsided Championship game ever by this same exact team, Coach K had to become the Way in order for those guys to succeed. His certainty (not belief, for you must believe in the Way, but it must be done with certainty) in his players showed them the Way, and their belief brought them victory. It’s time for Roy “Where There’s a Williams, There’s a Way” Williams to follow that same path.

Now is the time for Roy Boy to pick up the torch of his forecoaches and pursue his destiny. It will not be an easy journey. His faith will be tested (by Maryland and another Williams no less!). His answers questioned. His leadership challenged.

But in the end, the journey will pay for itself because it will teach him the Way and in return he will show a young, talented group the same.

Then UNC can go out and rip Florida a new one in the Championship game and all will be balanced in the Universe.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It's Hard to Like and Dislike this Duke Team


What I like about this Duke team is the exact same thing I dislike about this Duke team: they are unpredictable. I can’t think of any other K-coached team that has gone through the (pardon the cliché) “ups and downs” this team has. They’re like a Maryland team – start off hot; fall apart; regroup; then wilt like daisies (can’t wait for that to happen – I’ll get to watch Bob the Terp’s heart literally explode from the experience). So when I chart the progress and decline of these Devils it’s difficult for me not to get excited. They play a smothering brand of defense (albeit not always for a full forty minutes) that of late has allowed them to build up leads then withstand furious rallies for the win.

But what is also apparent to me is that Duke IS getting better. Their offense is beginning to catch up to their defense. They CAN score 80 points if they have to, but the pace of their weave offense (for lack of a better word) sets them firmly in the high 60s and low 70s for a comfort level. They continue to be plagued by quick, slashing, scorers (Thornton and Singletary come to mind immediately, as does Dowdell from Tech) but they aren’t the only team in America that gets pasted by that kind of player. They still lack a firm “go to” guy at the end of the game, though McRoberts showed some good court sense to take the ball all the way down the court last night and score an uncontested layup. He took what the defense gave him and capitalized. Personally, I’d like to see more of that kind of play because he still, in my mind anyway, is a tremendous matchup problem.

Let me be honest for a minute: I don’t see Duke winning the ACC Tourney, nor do I see them making it to the Sweet Sixteen this year. But as I watch them, I see a true team concept playing out there. It reminds me of the mid-major programs that always sneak up on the power conferences come March. Of course, having DUKE across your jersey doesn’t allow you to sneak up on anybody, but they do play the kind of basketball that will give teams fits in March.

Historically, you prepare for Duke in two ways: 1) you must be ready to withstand Duke’s high powered offense and not wilt from the pace of it, and 2) your defense has to key on the offensive focal points with superior athleticism. Those aren’t the easiest things to do. It’s not like you can run out to Dick’s Sporting Goods and pick those things up off the end cap, so Duke has always had a statistical advantage over most teams they face.

That’s not the case for this team.

This team is only going to beat you if all seven players in the rotation show up and work together. They won’t beat you with talent, and it’s obvious they won’t beat you with fear. I haven’t even seen the same heart that Duke Teams are famous for, but that doesn’t matter. This is a dangerous team to play anytime and anywhere because you as the opposition don’t know who to focus on, and you have to stand up to the pressure of their half court defense, which still (for the most part) holds teams in the sixties and below.

Drawing up a game plan for this squad means you have to consider everyone – even down to Hocius Pocius (when he magically appears in the games anyway). Ignoring Paulus’s outside shot puts you at risk of him going for a surprising twenty; give Nelson the lane and his slashing game, and he’ll go for sixteen.

McRoberts is not the player I hoped he would be, but he IS one of the most versatile players in the country because of his ball handling and passing skills. And Scheyer would have to be considered on the short list of freshmen who have had an immediate impact on their respective teams, though he is not ready to beat you night in and night out (sorry for another cliché).

The point is… who do you trust on this team? Who do you fear? Who do you zone in on and who you concede shots to?

If I’m playing against Duke, I hate each and every one of those questions because this team is unpredictable.

And like I said earlier, that’s not always a bad thing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Chemistry For A Carolina Fan"

written by Hooper

"Chemistry For A Carolina Fan"

Did you see it? Did you see him? Jay Bilas said he's like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is "a mathematical limit on the accuracy with which it is possible to measure everything there is to know about a physical system." It basically says, that by the time you are able to predict where a particle is in an atom at a given moment, it is already gone (that's as far as the chemistry goes... I promise). I'm sure Heisenberg spent countless hours in a lab figuring this out, when all he had to do was watch Ty Lawson play basketball.

When I watched Ty Lawson on Youtube before the season started, I was ecstatic. I could not wait to see this kid in uniform. When he got on the floor in the beginning I saw flashes of Raymond Felton. But that's only what they were. Flashes. Some games he would completely disappear in games. Against Tenessee, he had me singing his praises to everybody I knew. Then against Kentucky, I wondered if he got more than 10 minutes.

After the Georgia Tech game, Roy Williams told Ty Lawson that he needs to use his uncanny ability to create for himself as much as he does for his teammates. It's been very noticeable that someone lit a spark under the McDonald's All-American. Since the remark, Lawson is averaging 14 points per game and about 6 assists per game. The thing that amazes me when I watch him is his sudden confidence to take big shots. His play has been phenomenal as of late (Duke and Arizona come to mind). Every time that Boston College made a run tonight, by the time they accounted for him on defense, he was reversing in mid-air finishing a beautiful layup. He only had 11 points, but I can remember just about every time he scored. Once, it was hitting a deep three with the shot clock about to expire. Second was after a nice take by Rice to cut the game to three or four. Lawson went coast to coast in (no lie) about 2 seconds. It got to the point where I was wondering why he didn't just fly down the court every time and score from 3 feet. And the third that comes to mind, were the two game clinching free throws he hit at the end of the game.

We know about Hansbrough. We know about Wright. We know Roy can coach. It seemed like, that with Bobby Frasor sitting with a nagging foot injury, the Heels really just needed someone to be a catalyst for their offense. I don't think there is a better suited point guard for this team than Ty. Bilas said he made Heisenberg proud, and he gets no argument from this Chemistry major. This kid is going to be a stud.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Surprising Parity in the ACC Keeps Duke and Carolina Off Balance


Patrick Kendall

The ACC currently has two teams ranked in the AP Top 25. North Carolina is one; Boston College is the other. In an effort to not beat a dead story too badly, Duke is an obvious absentee from this week's poll – the first time in over ten years that Coach K has not read about his team in that situation. And so, this by itself makes for a "BIG" story, but in my opinion the bigger story should be that the ACC currently has ONLY two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 yet experts are predicting that the conference will send the most teams to the NCAA Tournament this year. Depending on who you listen to, the ACC could send anywhere from seven to nine teams to the Big Dance this year. My gut tells me that nine is unrealistic, but eight is very likely.

Why, you ask?

Easy. At various points this year six ACC teams have found their way into (VA Tech is most likely to become the seventh this next week) the Top 25. BC, Clemson, Virginia, Maryland, and of course Duke have all enjoyed some time on the list, while UNC remains in the Top 5 (probably Top 10 after the their loss to VA Tech), which means, that seven of the arguably Top 25 teams (at various points) have been battling one another at least once, and sometimes twice, leaving scars in the form of losses that would seem to, on paper at least, indicate a danger of not making the Tournament.

I am going to submit my argument for the teams that I believe are a lock to make it in from the ACC as well as the "bubble" teams, then finally, the teams that could be surprise entries into the Tourney.


UNC – an obvious choice, although their sweep by VA Tech and the loss to NC State puts them out of consideration for a number 1 seed. Look for them at number 2.

BC – still sitting near the top of the conference, they are in good shape for a number 4 seed.

Virginia Tech – a sweep of UNC and the win over Duke, along with their position in the conference are good for a 3 or 4 seed. If Tech wins the ACC conference and regular season I see them at a 2, which would be incredible.

Virginia – if they can remain at the top with the other three then I see them as a solid 4 seed in the tourney as well.

Duke – wins over Gonzaga, Indiana, Georgetown and a sweep of BC ensure that Duke is in the tournament. They begin the second tier of teams to get in and could be anywhere from a 4 to a 6 seed depending on how they finish up in the conference and conference tournament.


Clemson – 17-0 to start the season, they have run into some ups and downs, but I believe if they win at least two more games in the conference it will be enough – 21 wins overall and 7 in a tough, deep conference will get them in at a 6 or 7 seed.

Maryland – they need a good run to finish up because of the hole they dug for themselves but I see them at a 6 to 8 seed, provided they get two more wins and one in the conference tourney.

Georgia Tech/Florida State – GA Tech is not the better team but they have one fewer loss at this point and if that holds they will get in. If Florida State leapfrogs them, pencil them in. Either of these teams, if they get in, will be an 8 or 9 seed.

So, there you have it. I don't see the ACC tying the Big East's record of nine teams (although it could be argued depending on how GA Tech and FLA State finish up in the standings) but in terms of talent from top to bottom, I think it is hard to argue that the ACC is the most deserving conference for consideration of the most teams. Of course, since I'm not on the committee (yet!) it's impossible to say that anything is certain.

Since this is a site dedicated to the rivalry between Duke and UNC I shall leave on this parting shot:

Duke is currently enjoying a one game win streak over a ranked opponent, while UNC is the throes of a one game losing streak to an unranked team.

The times, they are a' changin'.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bleeding from my heart, But my blood is still DUKE BLUE.

written by Trinity

I finally pulled myself to my computer.

I am down but not out. And same can be said for DUKE.

I have recvd prob. 10 emails from young DUKIES saying WHAT IF??? NIT???? ????????

I want to scream my head off. This is DUKE BASKETBALL. A program that is one of historys finest.

Can we not have one season where we are in a drought?

When do people realize that you do not lose a JJ & a Sheldon & then ask 2 sophomores to step up to the plate and defend DUKE BASKETBALL the way it has been defended the last 10 years. How unfair is that?

We lost some players to the NBA like Luol Deng who would be a senior right?

Just imagine?

I want to tell everyone that this is not a bad thing.

This is a freggin foundation that is being laid for what will be in the next few years, a National Champion caliber team.

This is one of the first DUKE squads to be faced with losses & lack of true leadership from the court.

Josh & Greg are awesome but they are sophomores and they think like sophomores. They should not be blamed for that.

There is no JJ or Sheldon to guide them, give them the support they need, they are like orphans in a way.

But instead of getting our support, some of the DUKE fans are being bigger asses than our cryolina counterparts.

Coach K is remarkable. Most college teams face these droughts (rough seasons) every 2 season or so due to losing kids to the NBA.

K doesnt lose kids to the NBA often. He does not heavily recruit kids who he feels are just a flash in the pan.

Clint (unc fan) always cries, "UNC prepares kids for their future careers so williams applauds them when they leave early".....ok-- so say i am a unc student & i want to be a lawyer...would any other UNC athletic coach ENCOURAGE me to leave early for my future career? HELL NO. SO why should a basketball coach be excused for "supporting" a players decesion to leave early for the NBA?

K did not want Luol to leave, would not have imagined him leaving. Had DENG not left, this would be a diff season.

He left & so we deserve this drought, its the first in 10 years.

K is not God. K is a man, just a coach. He is no miracle worker.

Steps have been underway to garner a stronger bench, recruit nationally ranked teams and season the players who are currently wearing DUKE on their chests. This is what coaches do.

These kids have not had a bad year. Most of our losses have been decided by less than 5 pts, only 2 were 10+ digit losses. WE BEAT FREGGIN GEORGETOWN who right now is kicking WVA's ass who just beat freggin UCLA on Saturday.

We beat Aif FOrce, we killed Gonzaga who slam dunked UNC. Hammered NC STATE who nationally embarrassed UNC.

Wheres' the love?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Times Have Gotten Hard for Duke

by Tasha

This year has not started off very well for me in the sports world. The Cowboys...two words: Tony Romo. I won't go any farther than that.

And now, Duke has officially dropped out of the Top 25 today after four-straight losses.

I'll be 100 percent honest in saying that I don't get excited watching this year's Duke team. Something about them is just...different (and no...it's not just because they're not winning). I knew it was going to be a transition from last year. What team wouldn't go through a transition after losing two incredible players, two incredible people, and an incredible inside-outside duo? If anyone had any doubts as to what J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams meant to Duke basketball, they shouldn't have any doubts about their importantance and contributions to the team now. On top of losing Redick and Williams, I think that this team really misses the leadership of players like Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni.

So I knew going into this season that we would be awfully young. Our "captains" on this team are even young. DeMarcus is a junior and Josh and Greg are only sophomores. Everyone else on the team has had no experience at the college level, much less at the DUKE level, until this year.

Even though I knew the transition would be difficult, I did not think it was going to include a four-game losing streak in which we gave away a win at home against UNC and were completely embarrassed by an unranked Maryland team. And to think: Our ACC record could possibly be even worse because let's face it...we got lucky in the Clemson game.

Josh, Greg, and DeMarcus have disappointed me this season. I was never expecting them to completely fill the shoes of J.J., Shelden, Lee, and Sean, but I at least thought that they'd make a better showing than what they have thus far. I just don't feel the passion from them. I could be wrong - I know that those boys love Duke and I know that they really give it their all, but I'm a stickler for looking at people's facial expressions and body language. From their expressions and the way they carry themselves on the court, on the bench, and following games, I just don't get a good feeling. They seem to have a blank, expressionless look on their faces...A LOT. That frustrates me.

The freshmen: Other than Scheyer, none of them have really stood out to me. Henderson, Zoubeck, and Thomas are all but invisible to me during the games. None of those guys have stepped it up for this team when it's been really needed.

Something about this team doesn't scream "Duke" to me. We as Duke fans have become awfully spoiled. I have not had the heartbreaks of the same magnitude that I have had with the Cowboys because Duke is pretty consistent with how they play and how they go about their business...simply put, they win, they typically win by a lot, and they win with a certain arrogance that only Duke fans can love. This year, Duke is not winning and I'm realizing just how fragile college basketball dominance really is. We haven't seen anything like this for more than ten years.

The game is crazy: Just think of the players that have left us: Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, William Avery, Luol Deng, Shaun Livingston... We could have had at least one more championship if any of those players had stayed with Duke longer. But even though many players have left prematurely or not come at all, Duke has still continued to have success. Someone has always stepped up...someone has always found a way to ignite the team...someone has always been "the guy" after the previous year's guy left us. But we don't have that with this team. No one has filled one-quarter of J.J.'s or Shelden's shoes and we're feeling the sting of that right now.

The one positive I can see in all of this is that we can finally unload all those bandwagon Dukies. I see another positive when I think of how the boys will grow from this season and hopefully come back even stronger next season. This season can be a learning experience from the top on down, from Coach K, to the players, to the assistant coaches, and to the fans. Winning, especially when it's done consistently and seems to come so easy to a team, can be taken for granted. I for one think that this season will be an eye-opener to many people.

I don't want this blog to come across as me thinking that our season is over, but we need to right the ship (borrowing that from Kristi ) right now. We have more road games left on the schedule compared to home games, and anyone that knows the ACC knows how big homecourt advantage is. This team isn't a national championship contender - I'll go ahead and say that right now. If we don't get back on the right track, I could see us losing early in the ACC Tourney, getting a mid-to-lower seed in the NCAAs, and losing in that tournament fairly early as well. That won't affect the love I have for Duke, but dang...how weird would that be?

So all in all, I want this team to make me feel like they're DUKE. And by saying that I want them to make me feel like they're Duke, I don't even necessarily mean by them winning because it's not all about wins, it's all about how a team conducts themselves through the good times and through the bad. I just want them to wear the uniform and to perform like all the other Duke teams have - show some intensity, show some passion, and most importantly, show some PRIDE.

Bring back the old Duke.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Night Duke Finally Broke My Heart


Patrick Kendall

Some of you may have pieced together a few things about me in our brief time together (sixteen blogs and growing. For instance, I am a longtime Duke fan. I watched from a hotel room in Long Beach as that great1986 team came up short against Louisville (it nearly killed me); I watched with horror as UNLV ran straight through Duke in the most embarrassing championship game I've ever seen in 1990 (almost destroyed my love for the entire sport); then I watched with a mixture of pain and anguish (and more pain) as Scotty Thurman staked me through the heart with his game winning 3 pointer in 1994 (was paralyzed by the memory of that shot until about 1997).

I have been with Duke as they have endured gut wrenching hardships; I have grown up with the players who came along in the 80s as if they were family. Christian Laetner and I are the same age. I played a pickup game with Grant Hill when he was a freshman in high school. When Phil Henderson dunked over Alonzo Mourning in the NCAA tourney in 1989 I felt such joy that it's hard to even write about it without crying a little bit over the beautiful memory.

I sat through the worst part of Coach K's entire career when he handed the reins over to that poor overmatched SOB – Pete (can't even say his last name it hurts me so bad). All of this I shouldered internally, pressing it downward into the dark corridors of my tortured soul because I knew that always, ALWAYS, something good was on the horizon. Well, all that changed for me today. Changed as a result of one game. One, singularly unimportant in the grand scheme of things game that may have finally taken my tortured soul and kicked it into that abyss of Carolina Blue – and away from my beloved Blue Devils -- forever. I just don't know if I'll ever recover.

You see…I hate Maryland. Hate the program in an irrational way that even an educated, supremely articulate guy like myself could never adequately describe. If the world was the prize and Martians were trying to destroy it and only Maryland stood in the way of our survival, I would take up arms with my Martian brothers and lead the charge against Maryland with the most blood-curdling battle cry ever uttered in the history of warfare. And then some. Ever since Gary Williams took over the program at Maryland I have felt an unease, like the feeling a sick antelope gets just before a lion comes down on him and devours him mercilessly and without warning.

No…it's worse than that. It's more like after the Tribulation has begun and one-quarter of the world's population is literally torn from this realm, and another quarter is lost to God's wrath as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride roughshod over the entire planet and the way is paved for the anti-Christ to come and take control of the Earth for 1000 years and it turns out that the anti-Christ is actually Gary Williams and the mark of the Beast is actually a turtle, A TURTLE, branded on the betrayers' foreheads. Now we're getting close to how I feel about them.

So to watch my beloved Blue Devils come to Comcast and play like elementary school kids and basically get blown right out of the gym in a span of about 10 minutes is more than I can bear. I mean it! My world is ruined. I can deal with a lot: I've been divorced and that woman was not very nice at the end, but I survived it. I shouldered the burden and kept moving on. But I don't know if I've got the strength to get through what I watched tonight.

I have never understood how Maryland could insinuate that it had a claim to calling a Duke/Maryland game a rivalry. Based on what? Based on who? They don't have the pedigree of a Duke or Carolina. They've always been a notch below the likes of Coach K and Deano and now Roy Boy. Who do they think they are? I do have to admit that one of my best nights of sleep ever came on the night Jason Williams brought Duke back from 10 with a minute to go to win the game and shut that thuggish, object throwing at players' moms Cole Field House crowd down into a catatonic state, all while Juan Dixon and Steve Blake looked on in amazed shock from the court. Ahh, I love that memory.

So how could Duke do this to me? How?

I'm sorry. I'm not coherent right now, but I can't justify the atrocious play that I watched from Duke as they dug themselves a 20 point deficit. I can't stand how Grievous Vasquez woofed again and again as he had his way with the entire Duke defense, a defense I just singled out Wednesday night for playing tremendously against UNC. Where the hell was the defense? 40 points in a half, against a second rate group of pretenders that bark a lot but bite very little – except for tonight. Of course. Naturally.

JP Strawberry (I refuse to call him by his correct name) thumped his chest, made faces and suddenly looked like a D1 basketball player again after basically wasting his scholarship by crawling up his own butt for the last month and our boys couldn't finish him off. Couldn't reduce him to the state that their play reduced me to. It's not fair! Fear the Turtle? Are you serious? That's is the worst slogan for the worst mascot in all of sports (except for maybe that sweater-wearing turkey down in Blacksburg) yet Duke played like scared little babies as Maryland swarmed around them and basically took the ball right from Duke's hand any time they wanted.

I can handle the fact that Duke is young. I can handle the fact that McRoberts is not the player that I expected him to be. I can even handle the fact that DeMarcus Nelson airballed a layup tonight. But when they go on the road to THE hostile environment outside of Chapel Hill and roll onto their backs like a pack of submissive dogs, well it's more than I can stand. Now, I love Duke Basketball. I look forward to it the same way I look forward to the arrival of an old and dear friend each and every fall for the last 25 years but tonight I saw something that reminded me of something I hadn't seen in nearly as long.

Twenty years ago my high school coach accused our team of playing with no brains and no heat. In fact, that's what he wrote on the game stats the next day: NO BRAINS; NO HEART. That was it for stats.

Duke's play reminded me of my old coach's game analysis: they played with absolutely no brains and no heart and in playing like that they broke my heart in the process.

Plus, I've got to go to work and deal with Bob the Terp. Damn you for that, Duke! Man, do I hate Mondays.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Duke/Carolina Breakdown (Mostly Duke)


Patrick Kendall

So, I gave myself a full day to recover from what I thought was a well-played basketball game (for the most part), but I would be remiss if I didn’t do two things: 1) praise the good play and 2) bash the bad stuff. So off we go.

Good Stuff – Stand out performances from both sides

Duke defense – against any other team in the country (in my humble opinion), Duke’s smothering defense would have resulted in a win going away. The only way to fight against that kind of problem is by throwing bodies at it, which Carolina has and did, in abundance. Doesn’t hurt that all those Carolina guys are pretty good ballplayers to boot.

Good job, Duke.

Greg Paulus – did a solid job for the most part keeping himself between Ty Lawson and the basket, while putting up some offensive numbers himself. Nice work.

Brandon “Gets It Done” Wright – man, are his arms long. I tried to throw a piece of paper into a trashcan next to the TV during the game and I’ll be damned if Wright didn’t block my shot…plus he was like Kevin McHale in the paint – unstoppable. Great game.

Roy Williams – his strategy was perfect. Keep the game close until Duke tires from continuous full court pressure. Add in the fatigue from Duke’s own defensive effort and it amounts to 35 minutes of great basketball – problem for Duke was the game lasted 40 minutes. Great coaching.

Gerald Henderson – some absolutely beautiful plays on both ends of the court – even his goaltending calls were sweet. I have a good feeling about this kid.

Jon Scheyer – brilliant game. Fatigue obviously got him so hopefully he’ll learn from this and borrow from J.J.’s workout regimen to ensure he has enough gas for a 50 minute game. Still, outstanding play from a freshman guard against one of the top five teams in the country.

Wes Miller – hard to see his stats on the sheet but he played hard-nosed defense when he was in there and really hurt Duke with his follow-up three and a couple free throws late in the game.

In the Middle Stuff – didn’t help but didn’t really hurt either

DeMarcus Nelson – can’t tell if he just isn’t the player he was in terms of explosiveness or not, but it looks to me that he doesn’t get to the rim with the ease that he did when he was healthy in the early part of last year. With the void left by Redick and Williams’ departures, I thought for sure he and McRoberts would be in a constant battle for those extra points available and I just don’t see it.

Reyshawn Terry – I can’t seem to get an interview out of my head where I heard him say that this was his last chance to show the NBA that he can play and so now when I watch him I wonder about his commitment to his team. For a senior he made some seriously boneheaded plays that could have hurt them if they didn’t have the kind of depth they do.

Bad Stuff – the kind of things that can kill a team

Tyler Hansbrough – what happened to this kid? Pre-season All-American, pre-season ACC Player of the Year? This is the third time this season that I’ve watched him disappear from the stat line. Tyler, Tyler, Tyler…you’ve got to do better than that if you guys have any hope against Ohio State or Florida.

Josh McRoberts – the charm of a point guard wrapped in a big man’s body has worn off for me. To me he looked a man without a country out there. Couldn’t make up his mind whether to post or face the basket. And then he bricks (badly bricks) critical free throws as Carolina is taking control AND his third and fourth fouls were just stupid on his part. His absence for extended periods cost Duke this game.

In the end, the proof was in the pudding though. I said it earlier and I’ll restate it here: this rivalry is in as good a shape as it’s ever been. I also predicted that each school would win on their enemies court (at least I think I predicted that – if not I’m predicting it now) so I’m sure that March 4th in Chapel Hill will be another monster.

Hopefully Scheyer and Co. are out running wind sprints to get in the kind of shape it’s going to take to play 40 hard minutes with Lawson and Co. Either way, I’ll be glued to my set again (same as I have been for the last 72 meetings between these programs).

My last advice is for both schools: be sure to remind Hansbrough and McRoberts that they are the BMOCs for their teams and suggest they show up next time. Imagine how good the game could with those two playing in it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

College Basketball Super Bowl Eve (Part 1)


Patrick Kendall

Losses over the same weekend haven’t diminished the excitement for Duke and Carolina fans…in fact, it heightens the tension for a few important reasons:

a. Duke doesn’t want to lose two in a row at home and three in a row overall.
b. Duke doesn’t want to fall to 5-5 in the conference after climbing back from an 0-2 start.
c. Carolina doesn’t want to lose two in a row.
d. A loss for Carolina puts them in jeopardy of losing a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

So there we have the incentive for tomorrow night’s slugfest. Let’s drill down to the five Key Points for each team I’ll start with UNC.

Key Points

1 UNC must be able to run the ball, get out into transition, and take advantage of their better depth and quickness in order to wear Duke down in the second half.
2 Hansbrough and Wright have to be effective down low.
3 Either Reyshawn Terry or Wayne Ellington has to be effective on the perimeter so that the middle opens up.
4 Ty Lawson has to be a factor offensively, including both scoring and assists while keeping turnovers to a minimum.
5 UNC can’t be out rebounded like they were in their ACC losses because it negates their ability to run.

For Duke it is even tougher because they don’t have some of the personnel luxuries that UNC enjoys.

1. Duke has to control the tempo. The score must be in the 60s, and Duke should really try to be on the high side of the score this time.
2. Paulus has to be able to control (somewhat anyway) Ty Lawson. Better to have him shoot from the perimeter than get to the rim.
3. Jon Scheyer needs to be effective from the three-point line, otherwise Duke is finished. No one else brings consistent long range shooting to the lineup.
4. DeMarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson must attack the rim and get out in transition in order to get easy points or get to the free throw line – then they have to convert those opportunities into points.
5. McRoberts has to insert himself into the offense from the outset and establish some consistent flow. He needs to score against UNC because he presents a unique match up problem that can be exploited.

If either team is able to achieve these respective Key Points, then they will be in a good position to come away with the win.

In terms of who needs the win more at this point I think it’s a push because there are ramifications for whoever loses. My first instinct is to say that Duke needs the win more at this point simply because they haven’t lost three in a row in seven years and they still have to face Maryland on Sunday. But then I look at Carolina’s side and a second loss in a row knocks them from even a tie for first place in the conference and begins to move them away from a number 1 seed in the Tournament so there is plenty of motivation for them as well

The plain facts are these: Duke and Carolina have played against one another since 1920. Recently, Duke has won 16 of the last 20 games in the series for the last 122 meetings at least one school has been ranked in the AP Top 20 or AP Top 25. Carolina beat them last season at Cameron on Senior Night and celebrated like it was a National Championship.

Both schools boast ridiculously impressive stats. They are two of the five best basketball programs in college history. The programs hate one another. The schools are entirely too close for anything other animosity and even the winner of these games gets state bragging rights for an entire year.

Forget the NBA and their slogan.


I love THIS game.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Carolina Rule


Patrick Kendall

First of all, I have to admit up front that I didn’t watch the entire game last night and here is why: blow outs are boring.

This, I believe, is the curse that will fall upon the ‘Heels as they continue to build momentum and dominate conference teams the way Twinkies dominate a fat man’s food obsession.

I mean, who cares about the second half of a blowout if it’s just more of the same from the first half, only the other team is more tired and beat down? And it’s not Carolina’s “fault” per se, but maybe they could toy with teams a little more, then run them out in the final 37 seconds. Then at least their could be some “pretend” tension.

My college roommate and I used to go the courts and find people who looked like decent players and challenge them. We would try to figure out their strengths, then dominate their weaknesses. Sometimes we would only shoot from the three point line; or we could only drive to our lefts (I promise we are both right-handed); or my roommate could only go in for a layup and score if he could dunk it (he was a pretty good jumper for a six foot white boy – I, on the other hand, jumped…lower).

The point is we played like arrogant jerks and it infuriated the other guys we played against but it DID make them play harder (not better, but harder). So, if Carolina adopted a little more of that kind of personality it might be more entertaining for fans and viewers in the latter parts of the game. Granted they will be hated and reviled for this kind of behavior but so what? They are the most talented team in the country (no apologies to Mr. Noway down in FLA), what do they care what people think of them?

The only cog in my design comes in the form of their coach, Mr. Roy Boy Williams. I suspect that he is some kind of “gentleman” of the sport, who doesn’t want to engage in this kind of behavior but I think he’s being short-sighted. This isn’t just about winning. It’s about putting out a product that people will enjoy.

You all remember “New” Coke, right? Well, this is the same principle (stay with me as I really sttrrreetttccchhh for this analogy…), but if Coke had continued to make a product that nobody cared about, wouldn’t the business world at large have considered that to be a “wrong” move? I think so. So why wouldn’t it hold true for Carolina Basketball? They are in the business of producing basketball for their fans and if the fans are bored with the product then Carolina Basketball should necessarily change it.

I should also point out that the fan I’m speaking about is the TV viewing fan at home and not the rabid UNC fans who frequent websites and boisterously reply to blogs and editorials. And my suggestion is simply made from the perspective of “entertainment.” No matter who you are, a rout is a bore. Advertisers hate them; commentators hate them; and the losing coach certainly hates them. It’s just a bad business all around. The only people who really like them are the scrubs on the winning team who finally get to show their faces during game time (for the scrubs on the losing team, it’s just embarrassing so it’s really bad for them as well).

So, I suggest that we petition the ACC to adopt a new “no routing” rule that plainly states a team must compete “less hard” when up by more than fifteen points so that the lead never builds over nineteen. The rule should also require the leading team to allow for a final frenetic “come back” to within one basket (a free throw, two-pointer, OR three-pointer) that creates a false sense of hope (ergo, increased tension and drama), before the winning team can reassert its dominance.

With respect to the dominant team of the moment (UNC) we could call the Carolina Rule (see how accommodating I am even as a Blue Heel? You won’t find that everywhere, believe you me).

In conclusion let me wrap this up by simply stating this is an attempt on my part to find new ways to market dominance and fight boredom at the same time. My belief is that rivalries are almost always more enjoyable when both teams are involved and my fear is that UNC is forgetting that. They seem content to decimate the opposition with little or no regard for the traditions and history of the rivalry.

Fact is, they’re being selfish and I don’t think we should have to stand for it. They need to be stopped and if the other teams in the conference aren’t able to do it, then they need to do it to themselves.

Carolina Rule rules!