Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Holiday Gift: A Clarification


Patrick Kendall (rivalblues.com)

I want to go on record up front that the omission of Danny Green was the only error I intend to apologize for from last week’s blog. I’m a little surprised at myself that he was left out of the comparison so as a result I will amend my Forward analysis and call Green/Stephenson/Thompson a Push against Singler/McClure/Thomas (two names that weren’t mentioned either in the last blog.) As for Marcus Ginyard, he plays solid defense but offers very little in terms of offensive potency so he does not sway any argument except to strengthen my assessment that UNC has more depth in the front court. If you put him in as a guard he is outclassed by Duke’s players.

Also, I notice that only omissions from UNC’s side were pointed out which I take to mean that the Duke fans got the point of my analysis while Heel fans just felt the need to complain about the unfairness of the comparison to their team – the one currently ranked #1 in at least one poll and the one I picked to win the title in ’08. Boo hoo!

So, on to the clarification.

First of all, I’m VERY disappointed at the lack of comprehension by the Heel folk who took my blog as a head-to-head analysis of players and not positions. So, this time I’ll write slower.

Backcourt – Duke has better depth at each position. Starting talent at the Point Guard spot goes to UNC because Lawson is so dangerous but Nolan Smith is better than anybody that UNC can bring in for Lawson’s relief. At Shooting Guard I’ll call the starters a push assuming you compare Ellington vs. Nelson. They each have different strengths but at this point in the season Ellington is only shooting slightly higher from beyond the arc than Nelson and Nelson finishes better at the rim. Also, Taylor King and Jon Scheyer come in off the bench at this spot and Bobby Frasor is not either of them in terms of pure talent

Frontcourt – Carolina has better depth at these positions overall, but the starting forward talent is a push. Henderson vs Green is a push and Singler vs. whomever favors Duke because of his outside shooting. Ginyard, Stephenson are strong in relief here because of their defensive abilities but UNC has no backup whatsoever for Mansbrough. When he is out there is no advantage for UNC because all of Duke’s players (Zoubek withstanding) can score from long range. Also, keep in mind that Coach K can use Taylor King as a shooting forward because of his size.

Overall, I give Carolina the win here because of Mansbrough

So, it was pointed out to me that UNC has chemistry and Duke has talent, and that my blog may have been misnamed. In reviewing my facts I concur. Duke has MORE talent overall than Carolina and is playing BETTER overall basketball right now.

Say what you want about schedules and home games, Duke is beating the teams that they are playing. If you want to go and look at same opponent facts, then you only have Davidson – a team that gave UNC much more of a scare than it gave Duke. Duke led the whole game while UNC had to come back and steal the win. Good guards impact games more than good forwards in college. That’s a cold hard fact.

Even if you argue Greg Oden I’ll point to Kevin Durant. Oden played down low and only touched the ball when it came to him; Durant brought the ball up many times and could impact the game from more positions as a result. He was a guard in a forward’s body. Duke has couple of those players this year – not at the same caliber but in greater numbers.

I’ll stick with my final assessment – Duke wins the ACC; UNC wins the title.

Now, Heel fans – quit whining and enjoy the season.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Carolina has the Talent, but Duke has the Chemistry


Patrick Kendall (rivalblues.com)

I’m happy.

You want to know why?

Because this year the rivalry between these two great and historic programs can be assessed on more than the enmity that exists between the campus bodies. That was not the case last year where the Heels had a decided advantage at every position and also had more depth so they could finish as strong as they started.

However, with all that talent, UNC still had issues with chemistry. At points during the season (and especially against Georgetown) they really didn’t know who to turn to when the game counted (Roy Boy has to take a hit for this as well) and sometimes the lineups just didn’t gel.

This season Ty Lawson has settled down (not slowed down, just settled down) and that shouldn’t be a problem – provided he stays healthy. Make no mistake though, UNC is NOT the same team with Frasor or ‘Q’ running the show. They’re still good, but they aren’t SCARY good without Lawson.

That said, just like last year, I do believe that they have the right lineup to win it all in April but like last year, chemistry will make or break this team.

Duke on the other hand has no chemistry issues at this point whatsoever. They go ten deep and are an interchangeable unit that notices almost zero loss when substitutions are made. I can’t tell if this will be a good thing all year or not but if Coach K can continue to get these guys shots and pile up ‘W’s then good things will continue to happen.

The chemistry between this VERY young team is amazing. They lock down on defense like the best Duke teams (though they don’t always do it for forty minutes – yet) and are equipped with enough athletes and shooters to go for 100 every night.

Also, with ten players dressing and playing every night (so far) they’ve obviously addressed the depth issue (and then some) by putting together the deepest perimeter-capable team in the country – by far. No other program can boast SEVEN different players already hitting MULTIPLE three pointers especially this early in the season.

Best of all, this depth will ensure that Duke can also finish at the same pace that they start a game – and if you factor in that Duke is historically a second half team then you could argue that they are playing harder and faster at the end of games right now. Of course it’s a long season and they play a LOT of games at home – though the match up with Pitt next week at Pitt should be a great gauge for where this team really is early on.

Duke is looking so good right now that Bob the Terp at work has pledged his loyalty to the Blue Devils and jettisoned his misguided allegiance to the University of Garyland (I’m still suspicious – I think he has a fiendish plan to somehow “Tonya Harding” Coach K when Duke arrives in College Park. I’ll have security ratcheted up obviously).

So, what can we expect when the Devils meet the Heels this year? Best guess, at a minimum, we can expect more equality in terms of talent (though Mansbrough is having a great year and continues to dominate in the post – not sure what Duke can do about him -- whacking him across the nose last year just made him mad – that dude is scary!)

By position here’s how I see it:

Point Guard – UNC gets the edge in starting guard here but overall I like Duke because they have a more capable back up in Nolan Smith. He can score and defend better than Frasor or ‘Q’ so in a pinch, Paulus and Co. is my choice.

Small Forward – Push. Gerald Henderson is not the shooter that Wayne Ellington is but he is a better slasher/scorer. On a team with less scoring on the wing Henderson would easily match Ellington’s production. Long and short of it, you can’t go wrong with either.

Power Forward – Duke. Stephenson is a strong body and better post obstruction on defense but how can you not pick Kyle Singler as your choice here. He’s not a true power forward but at 6’8 he has the height and he plays hard all around the basket. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Mansbrough Lite. And he can score from anywhere.

Shooting guard – Duke has it all over UNC here because all of their players can hit from downtown. Jon Scheyer is a proven entity and DeMarcus Nelson is a linebacker in a basketball uniform who can force his way to the basket almost at will.

Center – Mansbrough – hands down. He is the X factor in this matchup. If he can get to the line 12 to 15 times and create foul problems for Zoubek and Co. then I see it being a tough night for Duke.

If Duke can dictate tempo and negate the half-court dominance of Mansbrough then I like Duke.

I’m taking the coward’s way out at the moment and calling for a split in the matchups – each team holds serve at home. I am however predicting that Duke wins the ACC regular season and tournament again.

They’ll also be a very tough out in the big tourney in March.

Both teams make it to the Elite Eight; Carolina advances to the Final Four and cuts down the nets giving Roy Boy his second title.