Tar Heel Fan

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mike Krzyzewski: Professional Spinster

Following Mike Krzyzewski's apparent refusal to actually address the referee issue on ESPN Sunday night the N&O sent J.P. Giglio over to Durham to question Coach K on it. In what barely qualifies as an interview(he only asked him four questions) Giglio asks Krzyzewski if (1) a coach can influence a game by talking to the referees and (2) if coaches "work the referees" Giglio also brings up the fact that Krzyzewski is a complete hyporcrite for making accusations against Dean Smith on the same issue 20 years ago then engaging in the very same behavior he once decried. The answers Krzyzewski gave were laughable. In response to the first question on influencing referees he claims it is not possible though hedges somewhat that a referee might listen to a coach on an issue(paritcularly if that coach is using the F-word repeatedly in his ear). His second response was had even greater comedic value when he demurred the use of the term "working the refs" and then claims that coaches do not "work" the refs but rather talk with them as a means of getting certain explanations on a call. Poppycock! Then explain to me why all of your responses to referee explanations involve screaming and profanity. Please explain why, if it is true that a referee cannot be worked, you waste the time and breath to verbally abuse them when a call does not go your way. This is ludicrous. Of course coaches work the refes, Krzyzewski does it, Roy does it, all coaches do it. Dean Smith used to do some weird dance on the sideline protesting calls. It borders on stupidity to say otherwise in an on the record interview. Krzyzewski gives that answer like we all listen to ACC games on the radio and no one attends them in person. What Krzyzewski should have said was: "Yes, we do criticize calls we do not like and there are times we get pretty heated about it. If in that course I say things which might be seen as abusive then I apologize. People need to understand that we have players on the floor giving 110% and it is our job to advocate for them when we think a referee makes a bad call." In fact even if he had skipped the apology part it would have 100 times more credible than the answer he gave. The sad thing about the N&O, in this case, is they failed to even address this aspect of the issue when they devoted two stories to it last week. However, since the ESPN interviewer had the guts to go after Krzyzewski they had to come back around to it. I do not believe any conspiracy is in place but I do believe Krzyzewski commits ritual verbal abuse of referees. There is no way to know what effect that has on any given referee or game. Referees are humans and as much as Krzyzewski wants to pretend that them being "professionals" turns them into totally objective robots incapable of bias or emotion, the reality of what we see says otherwise. It also should be noted that Krzyzewski's behavior is no different than many other coaches out there. The unfortunate thing about his answers to these questions is they were intellectually dishonest and an insult to the intelligence of fans everywhere who all know better.

Monday, February 27, 2006

So What Was Vince Young's Major?

A bruhaha has been ignited over at the NFL Draft combine... STOP POST Now honestly, is there any event in all of sports except maybe the Winter Olympics that receives as much hype and as much "expert" analysis at the NFL Draft. Here we are at the end of February getting all worked up over something that is two months away. Yes, the players are all working out and we are getting some indications about what teams might do. That being said, we also have people like Mel Kiper, Jr who devote serious time to figuring out who is going to get drafted where. I am beginning to think that the CIA and FBI spend less time analyzing Al Qaeda transmissions than people at ESPN spend trying to figure out which 22 year old, criminal justice degree recipient from Whatever State is going as the 24th pick of the fifth round only to have the guy blow out his knee in Week 2. How can anyone think of anything else but college basketball at this time of year. Priorities people! Uh-hum, now on with the topic at hand. RESUME POST Much is being made over the missreported score for Texas QB Vince Young on the evaluation test the NFL uses to determine whether potential player is a blinking idiot or just the regular kind. It was first reported that Young scored a 6 on the 50 question Wonderlic test. The score was later corrected as being a 16. Let me see if I can parse this. 1. Assuming they scored this test as 1 point per question, 16 is not a whole lot better than 6. The way this unfolded people were screaming about Young only getting six right but then it turned out to be 16 and everyone is OK. 16 out of 50! Now I took a sample of this test at ESPN.com and it does require some thinking and analytical skills. I missed a couple of math questions because I was too lazy to see the calculation through and made a ballpark guess. That being said, if you made good enough on the SAT to meet NCAA requirement I would think you could handle this test. In fact, a player like Young who needs to be able to memorize a bunch of plays and formations as well as read them from the line should score better than 16. 2. The most notable quote on the issue came from Tennessee Titans' coach Jeff Fisher who said, "The Wonderlic is just a red flag, before the draft, everybody will sit down with Vince and find out if he can process information. The test has been the standard for decades, but it's only one part of the evaluation process. It's just a first step. There'll be a lot of other tests he'll undergo." If he can process information?!?! Well I would hope he would be able to process information. Unless I missed something, I think Young is able to dress and feed himself. If I did not know better I would think that Fisher was implying that Young was not only an idiot but had the IQ of a toaster! Of course the MSNBC article I read also reported Michael Vick's score was 20. If that was meant to be a source of encouragement on the insignifgance of the test score, let just say it failed in its intent. 3. (Warning: Graitutious Mack Brown abuse by a bitter UNC fan ahead) What does this ultimately say about Mack Brown's coaching and his offensive game plan? I think it says there was not much more than, "OK Vince, snap the ball, step back, look for an open receiver, if there isn't one then run because you are the fastest guy on the field" If you saw the Rose Bowl, you probably would agree that there was not any point to calling a play per se because half of them ended with Young eluding defenders with his pure physical speed and agility to move the football. I am beginning to think that the Texas offensive playbook consisted of a total of 25 plays and half of them were probably special teams related. In all seriousness, tests like this one probably indicate very little, just as the NFL people are saying. Of course if it is such a miniscule part of the process why bother with it in the first place? I think the reason for its existence is so teams can know exactly what kind of intelligence level a player possesses not so much for on the field purposes, but rather for off the field issues. I think a more appopriate test should include questions like: 1. If you develop a poor relationship with team ownership, your coach and/or a teammate the best course of action is to: A. Work with all parties involved to resolve the situation for the benefit of the team B. Publicly ostricize those individuals in the media C. Reduce your level of effort and then blame you teammates for the performance of the team as a whole D. None of the above. 2. If you sign a four year contract you are bound to the terms of the contact unless: A. The contract expires at the end of its term B. Your agent convinces you that you were underpaid and you should hold out for more money C. Your career is cut short by an injury D. Both A and C E. None of the above 3. It is permissable to hit your wife/girlfriend? True or False. 4. Which of the following drugs are NOT on the NFL banned substance list? A. Marijuana B. Anabolic steroids C. Tylenol D. All of the above E. None of the above 5. If your contract is expiring at the end of the season you should: A. Hold out for a contract extension at the beginning of training camp B. Negotiate a new contract during the season in private while continuing to give a full effort C. Throw your teammates under the bus in an effort to improve your position D. Both A and C E. None of the above Maybe it is just me, but the answers to these questions should tell teams a lot more about a player than whether they can calculate the unit price of PVC pipe per foot.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Heels Beat Maryland

In a game indicative of how well things are going for UNC and how bad it is at Maryland, North Carolina whipped the Terps 81-57 in Chapel Hill. The win along with Florida State's anemic loss at Virginia Tech ensure the Heels could slip no lower than fourth if they should lose their final two games. Any hopes Maryland had of going to the NCAA Tournament are history though they do have a good recruiting class on the way. UNC also officially moved into second place today a half game ahead of NC State. A win over Virginia on Wednesday night would ensure at least the #3 seed in the ACC Tournament and moved them out of Duke's bracket. The middle of the ACC pack is the most interesting puzzle right now with three schools at 7-7 and no one seemingly interested in making the Big Dance. As mentioned above, Florida State went to Blacksburg and lost, they face Duke at home, Miami on the road. I see the Seminoles dropping to 7-9. Virginia went to Clemson on Saturday and were pretty much blown right back out of the building, they travel to UNC on Wednesday and are home to Maryland to finish the season. Cavs should finish at 8-8. Miami, who broke a four game losing streak against VT last Wednesday has the best chance to get to 9-7 by winning at Maryland and beating FSU at home. Miami and UVa both would need to make it all the way to Saturday to get anywhere close to an NCAA berth however. Florida State at 7-9 would be NIT bound. As it stands now Duke, UNC, BC, and NC State are NCAA locks. A fifth bid is looking very suspect at this point. Here is how I think the ACC will finish up next Sunday. The tiebreakers have already been applied and NCAA locks in bold. #1-Duke 16-0, 29-1 #2-Boston College 11-5, 24-6 #3-North Carolina 11-5, 20-7 #4-NC State 11-5, 22-7 #5-Miami 9-7, 17-12 #6-Virginia 8-8, 15-12 #7-Florida State 7-9, 17-10 #8-Clemson 7-9, 18-11 #9-Maryland 6-10, 16-13 #10-Virginia Tech 4-12, 14-15 #11-Georgia Tech 4-12, 11-16 #12-Wake Forest 2-14, 14-16 Also, two years ago Georgia Tech was playing for a national title and one year ago knocked UNC out of the ACC semifinals prior to the Tar Heel title run, now they appear to be heading to an 11-16 record. Wake Forest was the pre-season #1 last year, they will hit rock bottom with a likely 14-16 mark.

The Winter Olympics Are Over

I watched some of the closing ceremonies and besides seeing Ricky Martin dancing and singing with scantly dressed women we were also treated to this: That's right. A band of fat clowns who played that classic international hit "Y.M.C.A." I now consider myself officially freaked out. And now that the Winter Olympics are over it is once again permissible to no longer give a flip about the following: Speed skating, ski jumping, the luge, the skeleton, the bobsled, cross country skiing, ice dancing, snowboard cross, snowboarding, curling and...well...most every event we saw over the last 17 days. Maybe in 2010 a U.S. figure skater will be dating some sort of goon.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

It's All in the Execution

Unless you are NC State and Boston College. Boston College gave a big boost to North Carolina today by knocking off NC State 74-72 in double overtime at the RBC Center in Raleigh. The most intriguing aspect of the game is that it seemed like neither team wanted to win it or was able to execute their offense in clutch situations. NC State had the ball with the game tied and 15 seconds left in regulation. They came out of a timeout and waited 10 seconds before starting any kind of offense towards the basket. They failed to score. Both sessions of overtime saw both teams run the offense in this manner. It should be noted that both teams were playing excellent defense which contributed somewhat to the ineptitude of the respective offenses. However, when it came down to the clutch possessions NC State seemed very lost in executing the necessary plays to win the game. BC did not really win the game as much as NC State lost it. The implication of the loss favors the Tar Heels. Both NC State and BC have five losses, the Tar Heels have only four. Here is the likely scenario as I see it: North Carolina: Should win at home against Maryland(Sunday) and Virginia(3/1) and will probably lose at Duke(3/4) putting them at 11-5 in the conference. NC State: Should win at Wake Forest(3/4) and finish 11-5 in the conference. Boston College: Plays at home against Wake Forest(2/28) and Virginia Tech(3/4) and they should sweep both those games to finish at 11-5. So with UNC, NCSU, and BC in a three way tie for second a tiebreaker would be used to decide seeding. My understanding of the tiebreaker procedure is that in the event of three way tie the winning percentage in the matchups between the tied teams is used. In this case BC and UNC are both 2-1 within this group and NC State is 1-3. To break the tie between BC and UNC the head to head result is used in which BC beat UNC in their only meeting. Therefore BC will be the #2 seed, UNC #3, and NC State #4. This is all theoretical based on the results of six games that have yet to be played. I will revisit the issue following the UNC-Virginia game later this week.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Hidden Message at AOL Sports?

Now, it is obvious based on the blog title that I am a Tar Heel fan. I also think Tyler Hansbrough is a great player. That being said, I also think Hansbrough is a little goofy looking at times. Well, the folks over at AOL Sports seem to think Hansbrough is possibly autistic. I have posted the screen shot for an article they have up here. It tells the story of a high functioning autistic student who is the team manager for his school basketball team. On senior night they allowed him to play and he dropped 20 points, including six three pointers. It is a great story, but click on the screen shot below and take a look at the photo and link embedded with the text of the article which has the headline: Autistic Team Manager Makes Hoop Dream Come True. Yes, embedded in a story about an autistic high school student who has a big scoring night is a picture of Tyler Hansbrough. What is worse, this particular picture catches an interesting expression on Hansbrough's face which might lead someone to believe the Tyler is also autistic. Author's Note: I am in no way disparaging autism or autistic persons with this post but merely pointing out a case where the media has made a poor photograph choice to go with a certain story. It also should be noted that, as far as we know, Tyler Hansbrough is not autistic though I am sure there are some State and Duke fans who would say otherwise.

Judging ESPN

Many people around my age have grown up watching sports through the ESPN prism. The so-called "ESPN era" of sports encompasses a huge chunk of my life and ESPN has been a pioneer in shifting the way sports are reported. Sports used to 5-7 minutes at the end of a local broadcast, but over the past 20+ years it has become 1-2 hours of SportsCenter every night. ESPN has also revolutionized how games are shown and ESPN.com is arguably the foremost sports news website in the world. However, as ESPN has evolved and altered the sports journalism landscape, they have also stretched out their reach from simply broadcasting games and highlights to full blown talk shows, movies, and reality television. Considering the phenomenal changes that have occurred at ESPN, is it possible they have endangered their journalistic integrity and tainted the clear window through which they show the world of sports? If you watch ESPN and ESPN2 you can see there are some a few different aspects the network broadcasts. There is the news division which includes SportCenter and the investigative show Outside the Lines. ESPN has the game broadcasts for the NBA, NFL, WNBA, and NCAA sports which included several hours of analysis shows such as pre-game and post-game offerings. EOE or ESPN Original Entertainment produces movies and reality TV like "Dream Job" The final area ESPN works in is the talk show arena with daily shows like "Quite Frankly" and "P.T.I." Taking all of these together you have a massive conglomerate of progamming which, in my opinion, creates a conflict of interest. If ESPN's parent company Disney pays the NBA to broadcasts games, then they are looking for a ratings return which results in a revenue return for the corportation. That being considered, how are we sure the news side of ESPN will be totally objective in its presentation of NBA news? During the 2004-2005 NBA season, the infamous "Brawl in Detroit" occurred. The short story was that Indiana and Detroit players began fighting on the court and it spilled into the stands when Indiana's Ron Artest went 10 rows up to attack a fan who had thrown something at him. The NBA acted forcefully and responsibly with the punishements it handed down. ESPN's presentation of the matter was far from that. Based on numerous episodes of SportsCenter I watched, the brawl consumed huge chunks of airtime during each broadcast for days following the event. Was this a newsworthy event? Sure, and it deserved intense converage which ESPN took well beyond reason by showing the brawl over and over and over. Then came the startling revelation from ESPN during one broadcast: Following the suspensions ESPN said, on air, that they had sent footage they had over to the NBA in an effort to exonerate one of the Pacer players because they allege the footage showed him to be merely a peacemaker and not an instigator. While some may laud this move as being the same as a person providing evidence to a judge in an effort to prove someone's innocence, I was frankly appalled. ESPN/Disney has a defined contract with the NBA to broadcast games and devote X number of hours of coverage of the sport. For ESPN to interject itself into a internal disciplinary action by the commissioner of the NBA smacks of conflict of interest. It is one thing if NBA had asked for the tapes and they obliged or even if ESPN felt duty bound to offer the tapes to the NBA as evidence to exonerate a player, they should have done so and said nothing about it. For ESPN to announce to the world that they are attempting to persuade the NBA to lower a player's punishment illustrates how easily the line between objective journalism and NBA's broadcast partner with a financial stake in the matter can be skewed. Another example of such an overlap was the almost constant coverage of Tennessee women's coach Pat Summit's winning her 880th career game which put her ahead of the NCAA men's all time leader former UNC coach Dean Smith. The coverage of the record was almost suffocating especially considered the false assumption they were operating. It was ESPN's implication that winning 879 games in women's college basketball was in some way the same as winning 879 games on the men's side. Let it be said that I am not a sexist since I would be willing to refer to Smith as the all time men's leader as long as the same gender label was applied to Summit. The error on ESPN's part is that it was like comparing apples and oranges. There is far more parity on the men's side, more competition in recruiting, and the odds are that on the men's side a team will face another team with a legitmate shot at beating them more often than a women's team will. Of course none of this was important for ESPN who billed Summit as the all time leader in wins in NCAA history. What was ESPN's angle? They are sole broadcaster of the NCAA Women's Tournament. ESPN will make every effort to build up the women's game since it their greater priority is not presenting an objective story but building ratings for the parent company and if billing Summit's pursuit garners more viewers then of course they are all for it. The other problem with ESPN is the development of on air personas such as Stephen A. Smith, Chris Berman, and Dick Vitale. While there are others, these three illuminate a particular problem which is on air personas must inevitabley develop a style or schitck. In the case of Smith, his deal is to be highly opinionated and kind of "straight talker" ignoring unwritten taboos on what one can say about something. Smith made a career during NBA coverage for calling a spade and spade which resulted in popularity and surprise! his own TV show. Not that there is anything wrong with that per se, but Smith has reached a point where staying true to the schitck is often times more important than journalistic integrity. The same is true of Chris Berman, who devleoped a variety of cute things to say during the highlights which earned him a following. If you watch Chris Berman now he has become a sad caricture of himself as he expends a great deal of energy maintaining his persona to the point it is old and tedious. Dick Vitale has also entered this arena where his persona dictates his game analysis more so than the facts at hand. This is the only explanation I have for a man who failed miserably as a college and pro coach, yet everything he utters is regarded as gospel truth. The sad truth about Dick Vitale is people do not watch him for any analysis he provides they watch him because he yells catch phrases and sounds really exciting. The other problem with Vitale is his need to inject highly opinionated and completely biased comments into a game. During the Duke-Georgia Tech game on Feb. 22, Vitale suggested that Indiana should re-hire Bobby Knight and bring in Steve Alford as an assistant. The idea was for Knight to break Dean Smith's all time win record(which is a contradiction because according to ESPN, Pat Summit is the all time winningest coach and she is still coaching) and then step aside for Alford who should receive a seven year contract. Since when do basketball analysts lobby schools on how they should fill their coaching positions? And any reference on ESPN about Bobby Knight is automatically suspect since they also broadcast a reality show called "Knight School" about 16 students at Texas Tech fighting to fill one walk-on position. If Knight pulls another nutty, can we really expect a honest assessment from ESPN on his behavior considering they are also pulling ratings of his show? The bottom line is that ESPN has moved into the realm of pure entertainment. While ESPN does engage in a fair amount of reporting which is objective and feature stories that are on the whole very good, there is also a good deal of entertainment value built into the way games are broadcast and the kind of analysis you get from the experts. Of course this does not make them wholly different from any other network that broadcasts games, but in the case of ESPN I think there is a huge conflict of interest when parent corporations are seeking ratings and revenue on a network that is also responsible for presenting sports news on a regular basis. A day's worth of ESPN broadcasting is fraught with an indistinguishable meshing of objective news/game broadcasts with the need to raise the entertainment value of both. This leaves the viewer with the job of picking through all of the fluff at times to decide what is real, what is true, and what is intended to fill the coffers at Disney. Maybe the true service ESPN offers is forcing viewers to think more about what they see rather than accepting it on face value. Creating entertaining rules the day at ESPN and as a viewer one must be ready to discard tons of sizzle in order to get to that little bit of steak.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why I Like Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods opened up play in the Match Play Championships with a record 9&8 win over Stephen Ames. Now, if you are unfamiliar with how match play is scored, two golfers play 18 holes. Each hole can be won with the lowest score or if they end up with the same score it is "halved" If Woods birdies and Ames has a par, Woods wins the hole. Whoever wins the most holes wins the match and if a player is leading by a deficit greater than the number of holes left to play the match ends. This was the case yesterday between Woods and Ames. Woods won the match 9&8 which means he won nine holes and the match ended with eight holes left which is also the fastest a match can be won mathematically speaking. The real story to the match was what Ames said about Tiger beforehand. Ames was asked about his chances of beating the world's #1 golfer. His (stupid)response was: "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball." Ames was alluding to Woods last tournament, The Nissan Open, where he sprayed the ball all over the course. Woods has a tendancy to miss a lot of fairways at times and it can only be assumed that Ames was banking on a wild day from Tiger to keep him in the match. Obviously the last thing you want to do when going head to head with Tiger Woods is say something that will tick him off. In the press conference Woods was asked about the comment by Ames and if he had any reaction. Woods response? "Nine and eight"

Isiah Thomas is Insane

I am beginning to wonder if Isiah Thomas is doing an NBA version of the movie "Brewster's Millions" In "Brewster's Millions" Richard Pryor played a minor league pitcher who inherited $30 million. The catch was he had 30 days to spend the money and have nothing to show for. He also had to do so without telling anyone what he was doing. If he succeeded he would then inherit $300 million. Yesterday Thomas traded two also-rans to Orlando for Steve Francis who had a huge salary and the kind of attitude that defines pro basketball players: arrogant. He is now teamed with Stephon Marbury who has the same affliction. I must confess I do not understand everything about how NBA teams work, how trades are made, or even the salary structure. That being said, even I know that every move Isiah Thomas has made with New York has been horrible. It is honestly like he making a concious effort to run the Knicks into the ground and when that is done someone is going to step up and give him $300 million. I also get the feel sometimes that Thomas is like an ordinary person who is playing a video game he makes trades for players just for the fun of it because in a video game it does not matter because you can jack up all the settings on your players to make them immensely better than the computer's team. ESPN.com asks the question: How does bringing Francis to NYC fit into Isiah Thomas' master plan? I think a better question to ask is: Does Isiah Thomas have a master plan?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The ACC Coach of the Year Debate

As the end of the regular season approaches the debate over who will receive what accolades from the media. In the ACC the dominance of Duke's J.J. Redick and UNC freshman Tyler Hansbrough have essentially silenced any debate on Player and Freshman of the Year. Coach of the Year is a different story. The debate has settled, more or less, on three coaches. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina's Roy Williams, and Virginia's Dave Leitao. Leitao is getting his due credit for pulling Virginia from their predicted 12th place finish to the middle of the ACC pack. Much like Virginia Tech's Seth Greenburg last season who exceeded expectations, Leitao has taken what the media though would happen and turned it around into a 7-6 conference mark thus far with a real chance to get to 8-8 or even 9-7. Roy Williams won a national title last season and proceeded to lose his seven top players to graduation and the NBA draft. No one, including perhaps Williams himself, would have thought that two walk on seniors, a little used junior, and a bunch of freshman would go be at 18-6 and 9-4 in the ACC at this point in the season. UNC was picked sixth, presently they are tied in the loss column for second with NC State whom they swept. It seems as though Mike Krzyzewski is always considered for this award which is not entirely out of bounds because Duke is always near the top of the league. The chief argument in favor of Krzyzewski for Coach of the Year is if Duke goes 16-0. The logic is that if a team can run the table their coach must be the best coach that year. While I think what Leitao has done at Virginia is incredible, I am not sure you simply reward him just because the media did not expect UVa to beat anyone. Obviously Pete Gillen was a horrible coach and Leitao has been able to harnass the talent which was there last season to create a winner in Charlottesville. Is this COY material? Somewhat, but not to the threshold the award was intended. Duke's perfection seems to be an awfully thin standard to use to give someone COY. In considering Krzyzewski there are two key issues: The first is the fact that Duke almost lost to Va Tech to being the conference season. Why does almost losing matter? Because it required a 40 foot buzzer beater from Sean Dockery against the 10th placed team in the league to avoid a huge upset. It is not as though Krzyzewski's genius won the game, quite frankly they got lucky. Also, it is not as though Krzyzewski had to rebuild his team either. He had J.J. Redick, the reigning Player of he Year and Shelden Williams. Both were preseason All Americans and both were expected to be the best players in the ACC at their respective positions. It tends to contradict what everyone says about Redick and Williams to assume that Krzyzewski needed to perform a miracle coaching job to get to 16-0 in the ACC. Yes, Duke does have a young point guard and a freshman at forward, but with Williams and Redick, it is difficult to assume that this was some kind of extraordinary coaching job. Also, there is a historical element to this. During the course of ACC history a team has gone undefeated 3 times: UNC twice in 1984 and 1987 and Duke once in 1999. Only in 1999 was the coach of the undefeated team named COY and that year it was well deserved because Duke ran through the conference without so much as a close game. Dean Smith, while winner of the award on other occasions was never awarded for going undefeated in the ACC. The case for Roy Williams is simple and it is not based on an expected finish but rather on rebuilding a program which had lost everything. David Noel averaged 3.9 points a game in 2004-2005. Junior forward Reyshawn Terry rarely saw the floor, Quintein Thomas was suspect at point guard, and the rest of the roster was made up of unproven and inexperienced freshman. He has managed to get huge numbers from Tyler Hansbrough, senior leadership from David Noel, fairly consistent performances from Reyshawn Terry. He has leaned heavily on a walk on guard name Wes Miller and freshman Bobby Frasor is not a true point guard nor do either one of them have the speed to keep pace with a lot of other guards in the ACC. UNC is 18-6 despite multiple 20+ turnover games and if there is one defining moment that attests to Williams prowess it was the moment in the Duke game with UNC trailing by 17 in which he pulled the starters in favor of his second string. The subs reeled off a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 11. Williams was seen on the bench working his starters over for their lack of effort and when they returned they rallied to take a five point lead on Duke. UNC went on to lose the game but a gutsy call like that is indicative of the stellar job Williams has done pulling a bunch of unknown components together and put on their way to 20 wins. No disrespect to Dave Leitao and Mike Krzyzewski who are successful coaches, but Roy Williams is the ACC Coach of the Year. He took a team in tatters and made them a serious contender.

ACC Wrap Up

Duke found out tonight what happens if J.J. Redick has a bad night. Fortunately for them they were playing Georgia Tech and they won 73-66. If Redick lays an egg like that in the Sweet Sixteen against someone who can actually hold it together for 40 minutes, Duke will be taking the quick flight back to RDU. UNC thrashes NC State, 95-71 in what many thought would be a closer game. UNC took control with a little under 5 minutes to go in the first half. NC State made a couple of second half runs to get down to as low as 9 points but David Noel hit big shot after big shot to seal the deal. NC State has to face BC on Saturday in an effort to stay in second place even if it is a tie. Miami took care of Va Tech, 70-59 to get to 7-7 and based on Maryland's current level of play the Hurricanes could get to 9-7 by knocking off the Terps and then beating Florida State at home. Wake Forest got their second conference win by beating Clemson in OT, 74-68. Of course the game had absolutely no meaning. Florida State took care of business on their home floor beating Maryland 71-60. The Seminoles got out fast and Maryland was never really in the game. FSU moves to 7-6 in the league with a trip to Va Tech before their titantic battle with Duke in Tallahassee. My record for the evening: 4-1. I know, I should have never doubted by beloved Heels. Updated Standings 1. Duke 14-0, 26-1 2. NC State 10-4, 21-6 3. UNC 9-4, 18-6 4. Boston College 8-5, 21-6 5. Florida State 7-6, 17-7(wins tiebreaker with UVa) 6. Virginia 7-6, 14-10 7. Miami 7-7, 15-12 8. Maryland 6-7, 16-10 9. Clemson 4-9, 15-11 10. Va Tech 3-10, 13-13 11. Ga Tech 3-11, 10-15 12. Wake Forest 2-11, 14-13

UNC vs NC State: Live Blog

Welcome to the RBC Center for a key ACC battle between North Carolina and NC State. 9:04 PM Tim Brant and Billy Packer with the call. Tip off! 9:05 PM Quick pass inside for NC State, foul on David Noel. Illian Estimov is in uniform. NC State up 2-0 9:07 PM First lead for UNC on a Noel jumper, 4-2. 9:08 PM Double team on Tyler Hansbrough's first touch might be an indication on how State plans to cover him early. Three from Wes Miller gives UNC a 7-6 lead. 9:11 PM Reyshawn Terry drives and dunks over Andrew Brackman, no call from the official. UNC up 10-8. Cam Betterman misses a dunk and is fouled. 1st TV timeout. Both teams seem in sync early and running very deliberate offenses. Only one touch for Hansbrough on the post so far. 9:14 PM Illian Estimov is in the game. It will be insteresting to see how well he plays with the injured ankle. 10-10 tie. 9:15 PM Hansbrough fouled and the basket. Free throw is good, UNC up three. 9:17 PM A lot of back and forth without any scoring. A couple of long threes missed by NC State including a wide open look for Bethel. Dry spell for both teams--scratch that 3 point basket from Betterman ties the game at 13. 9:19 PM Terry makes 1 of 2 free throws, UNC leads 14-13. Full court pressure from UNC opens up the lane for a Atsur layup, NC State leads 15-14. 9:20 PM A lot of missed perimeter shots for UNC with Hansbrough out of the game. Three from NC State to open the lead to four. 9:22 PM Marcus Ginyard for three to cut the lead to one at 18-17. 2nd TV timeout. Both teams look cautious. NC State is doing a great job of denying entry passes to the post. Hansbrough has not had many touches. NC State is getting some good looks from the perimeter and has had some success penetrating to the lane. 9:25 PM UNC retakes the lead on a Noel jumper at 19-18. Atsur hits a leaning three with the shot clock winding down, Pack up 21-19. 9:26 PM Hansbrough ties the game for sixth time at 21. 9:27 PM NC State commits its 7th team foul and puts UNC in the bonus. Noel hits 1 of 2, Hansbrough rebounds, pass to Noel for three. Good! UNC up 25-21. 9:28 PM Steal by Hansbrough, pass down to a wide open Noel for the slam! UNC opens its biggest lead at 27-21. 3rd TV timeout. 9:31 PM Solid defensive effort from both teams so far. UNC was giving up more cuts to the basket but seem to be more wary of those now. Key stat so far: UNC has 7 offensive rebounds for 6 second chance points. 9:33 PM Shocker: UNC commits its 1st turnover at the 7 minute mark. Bethel for three...in and out. Pass into Hansbrough, fouled and the basket! Free throw missed, NC State loses it out of bounds. 10-0 UNC run for a 29-21 advantage. 9:35 PM Brackman hits a three. UNC 29 NCSU 24. 9:37 PM Good interior pass to Cedric Simmons puts NC State within two. Another offensive rebound for UNC, Noel lays it in for a 31-26 lead. NC State is now in the bonus. Brackman misses front end of the 1 and 1. 9:38 PM Noel hits another jumper for 15 first half points. UNC leads 33-26. 9:39 PM Another three from Brackman pulls the Pack within four at 33-29. Wes Miller for three...good! UNC back up by seven. 9:40 PM Drive and layup for Terry, UNC moves the lead out to nine. Missed three for State, rebound UNC. Noel for three....YES! UNC opens up a 12 point lead! Timeout NC State. UNC 41 NCSU 29 9:42 PM The final TV timeout of the half. I guess it is necessary to have five straight minutes of commercials. I love the Alltel video phone commercial where the guys get the ball blocked in his face. Classic physical comedy. 9:44 PM Noel is having a monster game so far. 18 points and his 8th rebound off another free throw miss. Terry with another jumper, UNC now up by 14! 9:45 PM UNC goes to zone and Atsur makes them pay with a three. Terry for three...YES! UNC 46 NC State 32. 9:46 PM NC State moves the ball through the UNC zone for an easy basket. Timeout UNC, Roy Williams probably wants to set the play and change the defense. 9:47 PM Three missed shots and three offensive rebounds for UNC. Jump ball, arrow to UNC. 9:48 PM Three seconds and UNC inbounding the ball. Danny Green from 25 feet at the buzzer is off the rim to the right and we are at halftime with UNC leading NC State, 46-34. HALFTIME ANALYSIS David Noel and Reyshawn Terry have 18 and 12 points respectively. UNC has out rebounded NCSU 18-9 in the first half. Hansbrough has 7 points. Three point shooting has been even with both teams hitting six apiece. NC State is not known for a high octane offense so three point shooting is going to be key for them to get back in it. Another problem for NC State is I cannot imagine that Hansbrough will continue to be as quiet as he has been. However, I do not think that David Noel will be able to keep up his pace. There were games this season where UNC turned the ball over 25 times and still won. In the first half alone: 2 turnovers. NC State has 4 turnovers seeming to indicate that either the defensive pressure is not that great from either side or both teams are doing a great job of taking care of the ball. In UNC's case this particular issue was a major problem. During the past three games their turnovers have been down siginificantly and that can only translate into better play. 10:05 PM 2nd half is underway, NC State has the ball trailing by 12. Brackman rebounds a Atsur miss to cut the lead to 10. 10:06 PM Noel picks up where he left off and extends the lead back to 12. UNC 48 NCSU 36. 10:07 PM Two quick fouls on UNC including the third foul on Terry. Simmons backs Hansbrough in and scores. Fouls is on Noel which is his third. Foul trouble could play a role for UNC. Missed free throw from Simmons, rebound UNC. Referees seem to be calling lots of quick fouls as opposed to the first half. Side Note: This raises an issue which I haveheard before which is different officiating from one half to the next. There were 16 fouls in the first half. Through 2 minutes they have called four fouls. 10:09 PM A Noel tip in and goal tending on NC State extends the UNC lead to 52-38. Another foul called, the second on Byron Sanders. We are not even to the first TV timeout and the referees have called 4 fouls on UNC and 2 fouls on NC State. In my opinion that seems to be a drastic change from the first half where the seemed to let them play a little more. 10:11 PM Dunk from Hansbrough puts UNC up by 14. NC State with a put back to cut it back to 12 Hansbrough with a layup and the foul. 1st TV timeout of the 2nd half, UNC 56 NCSU 42 with Hansbrough going to the line. 10:14 PM While we wait, I think the foul calling is much tighter now than it was in the first half. Foul trouble for UNC could turn this game significantly in State's favor. Hansbrough hits the free throw for a 15 point UNC lead. 10:15 PM Stupid fact of the game: Herb Sendek is 2-2 when playing on his birthday which is today. Atsur cuts the lead to 13, UNC turns it over but NC State cannot convert. Bethel leaves the game and appears to really be struggling. Simmons picks up his third foul eveing the foul trouble out a bit. 10:17 PM Wes Miller for three....good! UNC up 60-44 Gavin Grant his a runner to cut the lead back to 14. 10:18 PM Crowd is booing a no call on contact between Miller and Grant as Grant stepped out of bounds with the ball. Best picture of the night: A aged Tom Burleson pointing his finger at the referees and yelling. Chris Corchiani and David Thompson are also at the game. A pair of NC State free throws brings the lead down to 12, crowd is getting into. UNC miss. Cedric Simmons is fouled whiling hiting a jumper over Sanders. Simmons on the line to cut the lead down to 9 and he does. Gut check time for UNC. 10:21 PM David Noel for three...BIG SHOT! The leads is back to 12 and the crowd is quieter now. Simmons fouls Hansbrough and that is his fourth foul with 12:26 left in the game. 1 for 2 for Hansbrough. UNC 64 NCSU 51. 10:23 PM Drive and layup by Atsur, he is the only State player doing anything tonight. 10:24 PM UNC is getting every offensive rebound. Miller passes to Hansbrough for a dunk and a 66-53 lead. Bethel gets the layup on the give and go. Basket is good and he is fouled. 2nd TV Timeout. NC State reeled off seven straight to cut the lead to nine but Noel answered with a three and the Hansbrough dunk on the last play effectively quieted the crowd which was getting back into the game. Key Stat: UNC is outrebounding NCSU 28-16. 10:28 PM Free throw for Bethel cuts the lead back to 10. Turnover UNC, NC State with a chance to close it to eight but lsoes the ball to Noel. 10:29 PM Roy Williams is resting key players for the stretch run. Ginyard with the runner puts UNC back up by 12. Ginyard goes coast to coast following an Atsur miss. UNC leads 70-56. 10:30 PM Miss by Noel and a sprinting Green tips the ball in to extend the UNC lead to 72-56. Herb Sendek wants a timeout to see if he can find a way to keep from having a losing record on his birthday. 10:33 PM Simmons returns with 8:40 to go and four fouls. Another State miss, Noel rebound, Ginyard dunk on the other end. UNC 74 NC State 56 3rd TV Timeout. I think UNC domination of NC State if shocking. State has struck me as a better team than what they are showing tonight. Of course this is also the same team that laid a huge egg against Seton Hall at home so maybe it is not that surprising. At this point in the game NC State looks defeated. UNC has answered their runs and now extended the lead to 18 with under eight minutes to go. This is not an impossible deficit but it would take some hot shooting from State and ice cold offense from UNC. 10:37 PM Atsur on the line, hits to free throws to cut the lead to 16. Nice block from Simmons, UNC ball out of bounds. Hansbrough pass to Terry, UNC leads 76-58. 10:38 PM Brackman dunk cuts the lead back to 16. Packer is regaling us with how the 1979 State team rallied from 21 down at half to take the lead against UNC only to lose. Another basket for Terry, UNC up 18. Another miss for NC State, Wes Miller for three...YES! UNC now up by 21. Timeout NC State. 10:39 PM Wolfpack Nation has officially gone out to lunch. Packer tries to give Hansbrough his fourth foul, it is actually his third. Simmons hits two free throws to cut the lead to 19. 10:42 PM Approaching 5 minutes to go, UNC is content to run the clock down. Pass down to Hansbrough for a layup, UNC 83 NCSU 62 Simmons layup cuts the lead back to 19. 10:43 PM Terry hits a runner off the State turnover extending the lead back to 21. I think it is safe to say that UNC is well on its way to its 18th win of the season. A pair of Pack free throws cuts the lead to 19. 10:45 PM Green drives to the basket for a 87-66 UNC lead. 4th TV timeout. 10:46 PM Florida State is cleaning Maryland's clock right now leading 55-38. 10:48 PM One free throw for Bethel. UNC shooting 55% from the floor. Brant and Packer debate the ACC Coach of the Year between Roy and K. I think that even if Duke goes 16-0 they only did that because Sean Dockery tossed in a 40 foot shot at the buzzer to bear Va Tech. Two free throws from Green makes the UNC lead 89-67. 10:50 PM Basket by State puts the lead back to 20. Frasor air balls a three and hears it from the crowd. Perhaps the crowd should take a look at the scoreboard. The crowd continues the airball chant even though they are getting throttled by the Heels. 10:52 PM A minute and half to go and the RBC is now emptying out. Wes Miller three extends the lead to 23. 10:53 PM Atsur hits a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 21. 10:55 Scrub time for UNC. Will Robinson scores perhaps for the first time in his college career. A free throw by someone I have never seen before. Oh his name is Dewey Burke. The final horn sounds and UNC in a surprising win blows NC State out of the RBC Center by a score of 95-71. David Noel caught a lot of flak for calling out the NC State fans but then he walked onto State's home floor and drops 25 points and pulls down 10 rebounds. Wrap Up Analysis This was a big win for UNC. It showed that they were capable of going into a extremely hostile environment and thrash a higher ranked opponent. UNC won the game on two fronts: The first is the rebounding edge which was huge and the offensive rebounds were incredible. UNC also seems to have figured out how to take care of the basketball. I thought NC State did a good job of defending UNC early on but the turnover total seems to indicate that they simply did not put enough pressure on the Heels. UNC is now 9-4 in the ACC with two home games before their showdown with Duke. If their level of play continues they should handled UVa and Maryland. Duke has by no means been invincible at home as Va Tech and Florida State have proven. However, playing Duke on senior day is not a great situation. If UNC plays as well has they have been then they should at least finish 11-5 and after losing seven top scorers is incredible. As for Wolfpack Nation, this must be tatmount to torture. All signs seemed to indicate that NC State had the superior squad this year and that this season would constitute a turning point for the Pack closing the gap between them and the 15-501 schools. NC State is now 0-3 against Duke and UNC this season. And not only was this simply a loss, UNC dominated the Pack on their home floor as though it was 1993 all over again. Pack fans should take heart though, a ACC Tournament rematch could be in the offing and at that point all bets are off. Of course I also thought NC State would win tonight.

Duke Holds Off Ga Tech

With 5:22 to go in the game Duke is protecting a scant two point lead at Georgia Tech. J.J. Redick has been awful. Redick present has 14 points on 4-20 shooting. Georgia Tech has had leads of eleven and six in the second half only to give up runs of 11-0 and 14-0. Update Looking bleak for GT with 3 minutes to go and trailing 65-58. This is clearly the one that got away for the Yellow Jackets failing to take advantage of a horrible shooting performance from J.J. Redick. Update #2 Duke is now up by ten with a little over a minute to go. Duke appears to be cruising towards 14-0. Update #3 Duke holds on 73-66. Big win for Duke considering how badly Redick played but got a monster game from Shelden Williams.

ACC Basketball Roundup

UNC-NC State Part II, Redick Chases Hemric, Maryland, Florida State, Miami All Looking for Life After the ACC Tournament North Carolina at NC State, RBC Center, Raleigh, NC, 9:00 PM As though a rivalry game is not already highly charged, Boston College's loss to Virginia last night added a new dimension to this matchup. UNC is now in sole possession of third place in the conference and a win tonight would move them into a tie for second in the loss column with NC State which they would win by virtue of having swept the season series. UNC would then need to beat Virginia and Maryland at home and find a way to beat Duke in Durham to secure the second seed in the ACC Tournament. If BC were to beat NC State on Saturday and UNC were to lose at Duke after beating UVa and MD, then it would create a three way tie for second and based on the tiebreaking procedure BC would received the #2 seed, UNC #3, and NC State #4. Of course this scenario is fragile and could derail at any point. Needless to say the team that wins tonight would be in a great position. Other keys to the game include the health of Illian Estimov, NC State's senrior forward who sat out the Va Tech game Saturday with a sprained ankle. Another significant factor is the Tyler Hansbrough-Cedric Simmons matchup. Simmons played with foul trouble in the earlier meeting in Chapel Hill which UNC won 82-69. Hansbrough had a monster game against Ga Tech last week scoring 40 points, containing him is important but not debilitating even if he goes off for another big game. The X factor is the guard play on both sides. UNC is enjoying much improved guard play and seems to be taking better care of the basketball as a opposed to most of their games earlier this season. How well the UNC guards and small forward Reyshawn Terry shoot from the perimeter in support of Hansbrough. NC State guards would do well to force UNC guards into turning the ball over and limiting their ability to get the ball inside thus forcing permiters shots which UNC is woefully inconsistent at hitting. Besides the rivalry aspect, UNC senior forward David Noel is on record in the news with comments on the nature of the NC State crowd and their tendency to be mean spirited. This is a needless distraction but seems to be overblown by the media who need something more to talk about than the actual matchup. NC State is due for a win in the series, the Estimov injury is question mark, and UNC is playing well. The January meeting was close until NC State stop scoring for the last three minutes. My bet is they actually finish the game this time. As much as I will hate it, UNC is due a loss at this point, lest we forget that they are still a work in progress. Prediction: NC State 74 UNC 69 Duke at Georgia Tech, Alexander Memorial Colisieum, Atlanta, GA, 7:00 PM Duke has returned to #1 in both polls. Not much here except J.J. Redick's pursuit of Dickie Hemric as the all time leading scorer in ACC history. I expect Duke to come out and pretty much handle the Yellow Jackets from the beginning. Redick needs 30 and despite is faux modesty in the post game interview Sunday, I think he will nail 30 and take the top spot. Prediction: Duke 87 Georgia Tech 69 Maryland at Florida State, Tucker Center, Tallahassee, FL, 9:00 PM For all the talk of a "must win" game in Raleigh tonight, this one between the two 6-6 schools in the middle of the standings actually qualifies as such. Both Florida State and Maryland are in desperate need of wins to position themselves for a NCAA berth. And if anything last night's win by Virginia to move the Cavs to 7-6 with two wins over ranked opponents puts even greater pressure on these two schools. Absent a big quality win over the next two weeks I honestly think one of these teams needs to go 9-7 to make the Big Dance. Maryland has more credibility and has been ranked at points during the season. They have a win over BC but also lost to Clemson and Temple. If Maryland can get to 7-6 they face road games at UNC and UVa with a home game against Miami in between. There is a strong possibility they can pull of 2 of those 3 and get to 9-7 assuming they win tonight, though heading to UVa at 8-7 and UVa being 7-8 could provide us with a winner goes dancing game. Florida State is a little like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect. They almost beat UNC in Tallahassee and for all intents and purposes got ripped off in Durham by suspect officiating. A loss tonight will pretty much do them in unless they can reel of two road wins against Miami(who they lost at home to 84-78) and Virginia Tech which is a tough place to play. The big "if" for FSU is the coming home game against Duke which will no doubt be a highly charged rematch of the earlier slug fest at Cameron. If FSU wins tonight, and steals one from Duke, that kind of quality win might push them in even at 8-8, though if they beat Duke, I would expect them to then beat VT and get to 9-7 and the NCAA's. The key for Maryland is good guard play and ball handling. FSU is a physical squad and with a good inside presence. Maryland needs to get out of the gate or they might find themselves in a hole from which they cannot escape. Prediction: FSU 79 Maryland 76 Virginia Tech at Miami, BankUnited Center, Miami, FL, 7:00 PM No offense to fans of either school, but the greatest fault I have with the new ACC is that you get more games which we really could care less about. Well, maybe I am being too harsh on Miami. The Hurricanes are actually in the best position of any of the aforementioned teams to get to 9-7. Of course if they did it would wreck FSU and Maryland's hopes but with their guard play they could get to 9-7. I expect they will have little trouble tonight with the Hokies especially if Diaz, Hite, and Harris are hitting their shots. A win tonight for the Canes will set up a potential(assuming Maryland wins) battle to see which team can get to 8 wins and some standard of credibility with the NCAA Selection Committee. Prediction: Miami 88 Va Tech 65 Clemson at Wake Forest, Lawrence Joel Colesieum, Winston-Salem, NC, 7:00 PM Cellar Dweller Game. Wake Forest is trying to avoid going 1-15 in the new ACC. Rumor has it that the players at Wake have pretty much shut it down because Skip Prosser may be ready to go home to coach Cinncinati. Clemson plays well at times and but Wake played fairly well against UNC on Sunday in a loss and will probably muster the effort to pick up a win here. Predicition: Wake Forest 81 Clemson 68 Current Standings 1. Duke 13-0 2. NC State 10-3 3. UNC 8-4 4. BC 8-5 5. UVa 7-6 6. Maryland 6-6 Florida State 6-6 8. Miami 6-7 9. Clemson 4-8 10. Va Tech 3-9 11. Ga Tech 3-10 12. Wake Forest 1-11 Standings Based on Predictions 1. Duke 14-0 2. NC State 11-3 3. BC 8-5(by virtue of tiebreaker) 4. UNC 8-5 5. FSU 7-6(by virtue of tiebreaker) 6. Virginia 7-6 7. Miami 7-7 8. Maryland 6-7 9. Clemson 4-9 10. Va Tech 4-10 11. Ga Tech 3-11 12. Wake Forest 2-11

It is Called Cheating

NASCAR completed its smackdown on Jimmie Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus on Monday fining him $25,000 and ordering him to stay home for the next three races. Knaus was asked to leave Daytona last week when NASCAR discovered some illegal modifications to Johnson's car. It was not the first time Knaus has been caught for cheating. Knaus, in an interview broadcast last night on ESPN seems unrepentant. When asked if what he had done was cheating, Knaus deflected the question and asserted that they were pushing the edges of the guidelines and they were no different than anyone else. Of course he also played the "NASCAR is picking on us because we are so good" card indicating that if they were 25th every week such modifications would have been ignored. Well of course they would not be as hard on someone who finished 25th. If you are cheating and still finish 25th, then what more can NASCAR do to you other than suspend your crew chief. Of course that team should also be penalized on an equal basis as well as a team which finished 1st. Maybe Knaus needs to realize that NASCAR is hard on his team because he is a repeat cheater and let's not mince words or couch terms here, this is cheating. NASCAR has rules and guidelines like any other sport. If you break said rules then it is illegal and you have assumed an advantage that no one else has. One key difference between NASCAR and other sports is the importance of the cars being totally equal. By definition all players in other sports are not equal and subsequently in NASCAR all drivers are not equal. However, by definition the cars in NASCAR are supposed to be equal. This is why NASCAR makes adjustments to the different makes of cars mid-season to ensure no one has an unfair advantage. If a crew chief breaks the rules and gives the driver an extra fuel cell(which Knaus did at Las Vegas last season) or alters the windshield to created better aerodynamics it is cheating. Of course I believe that NASCAR contributes to the cheating culture in the way they administer punishments. Knaus asserted that everyone else is doing the same thing by pushing the line on what is legal and NASCAR is ultimately to blame for creating that environment. The penalties for infractions such as the ones Knaus has committed are simply not a deterrent. Take the NBA for example. Last season when Indiana's Ron Artest went into the stands and engaged in a fight with a fan, the NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended him for 68 games. Now is there any doubt you will not see a repeat of that incident* again in the NBA? Major League Baseball banned Pete Rose for life for betting on baseball because it threatened the integrity of the game. How many incidents of players betting on baseball have you heard of in the last 17 years? If NASCAR believes in the integrity of its sports and truly desires put an end to this constant undermining of the rules then they would do things like take way the points from the driver or go as far as to disqualify the car from the race altogether. How much cheating would go on if the owner and sponsor starting losing money because the car was in the garage instead of on the track? How willing would driver be to go along with this stuff if they dropped out of The Chase for the Nextel Cup because their crew chief made some modification? Money and winning talk and if you start messing with those two components, I am sure you would see behavior in the garage change for the better. For whatever reason NASCAR is afraid to come down in a manner which will give these crew chiefs pause when they begin circumventing the rules. That being said, someone needs to clue Chad Knaus in on something very important: He is a cheater, he did something illegal, and he should be thankful David Stern is not the commissioner of NASCAR. *Editors Note: Earlier this season the New York Knicks' Antonio Davis entered the stands when he thought someone was harassing his wife. As it turns out his wife was doing more of the harassing that the fan. Of course Davis was unaware of this and was suspended 5 games by Stern for entering the stand. This obviously is a different kind of incident than the one we saw last season in Detroit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Duke/Referee controversy

Today's Raleigh News and Observer used a fairly inordinate amount of ink on the recent controversy of Duke receiving the benefit of the doubt when it comes to foul calls in ACC contests. Of course the news article and Caulton Tudor column did exactly what one would expect and exonerate Duke from any wrongdoing in this controversy. Now, I tend to agree with that basic assertion for reasons I will enumerate later on, but the question is whether or not the N&O acted as a Duke apologist by devoting so much space to the issue? I think they did a little but since this was a newsworthy issue it was a story that needed to be written. Here is my breakdown on what the article and Tudor had to say. The Article Summary The basic premise of the article is that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski coaches his teams to be aware of the foul situation. The strategy, as articulated by the N&O, is that Duke players put themselves in position to get fouls by driving to the basket. The article also quotes Duke center Shelden Williams on the issue of how better players tend to be in a position to score thus inviting fouls from failed defenders. The article also says that Krzyzewski implore his players to avoid fouls especially when it may mean putting a team in the bonus. Also addressed in the piece is the theory that ACC officials are in the tank for Duke. It cites the Boston College games where Duke shot 37 free throws to the Eagles' 13. The Florida State game is mentioned which included a wrongly called technical foul on FSU's Alexander Johnson. Miami coach Frank Haith is also quoted following Duke's 92-71 drubbing of the Hurricanes in Durham Sunday night as pointing out some questionable calls from the officials. Krzyzewski is quoted as questioning the veracity of any claim that the referees are showing favoritism and head of ACC officials John Clougherty is quoted as saying successful teams often endured this kind of accusation citing that for many years North Carolina was accused of receiving such calls. Other notables quoted in the article are FSU assistant coach Stan Jones, former Duke player and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, and CBS/Raycom color man Billy Packer. The Column Caulton Tudor also takes up the (Duke?)cause in offering his opinion that talent and good play often translates into more fouls an opponent and more free throws. He points out two valid ideas on why successful teams get more free throws. The first is that better offensive players are more difficult to defend and most fouls are often a result of attempting to stop a basket from occurring such as is the case when a defender gets beaten. The second circumstance is that teams which are winning are often fouled more at the end of games as a team is trying to catch up. For example, in the aforementioned BC-Duke game, 14 of Dukes free throws came from BC fouling to catch up. Tudor then goes off an a strange path in discussing the winning percentages of UNC, Duke, NC State, Maryland, and Clemson over the course of ACC history and the number of NBA each team has produced. He fails to offer any connection to these stats and the foul issue unless he is implying that these teams have had talented players and that somehow equates to getting more free throws. Tudor also relies heavily on statistics which show free throws attempted and fouls committed by the ACC champion and their opponents as evidence that great teams simply get more fouls committed against them because of their talent. Analysis This is a complex issue fueled very much by team allegiances and the inevitable "Anyone But..." feeling that pervades every team but the one on top(see NASCAR and MLB for more examples of this). While I refused to go as far as the accuse the N&O of being Duke apologists, I do think the article is teetering on a fence between objective news and a supporting treatise for Duke basketball. I agree with Krzyzewski in respect to the idea that there is no conspiracy. Common sense should tell us that this is a virtual impossibility. In order to believe in a conspiracy one must believe that (1) All ACC referees have received instructions to treat Duke favorably and (2) All ACC referees march in lock step on this order and (3) Someone higher up in the ACC or NCAA has given such an order. I just do not believe that any of these are possible. I also agree that both talented players, great offenses, and end of game situations tend to create more fouls on defenders. It stands to reason that a team that wins 14 conference games will be fouled more at the end of close games they were winning than a team with only 4 wins. Also, if the defenders are slow or fail to properly defend then they are more likely to commit fouls. Couple that with the fact that losing teams also tend to have players which a lower basketball IQ i.e. they commit bonehead plays and fouls more often than winning teams do, then it is plausible that you will see more fouls on the opponents. That being said my fault with the article is that it fails to address the accusation that Krzyzewski bullies the officials. Now, I stand by the assertion that the referees are not pro-Duke. However, I would be a fool if I did not believe that Krzyzewski's badgering of the referees in what has been described as profanity laced tirades did not have an impact on the referees who are human beings. It also should be noted that the way Krzyzewski addresses the referees during the game is the alleged cause of the Duke favoritism, not so much an orchestrated plan by the ACC or NCAA. Does his referee abuse have a profound effect on how games get called? I think it is possible to a small degree but we also have no way of knowing. At any rate it would have been nice if the N&O, had raised the contention in the interest of full disclosure. I also think that the viewpoints gathered for the article were needlessly skewed in favor of Duke. Jay Bilas, who is a ESPN journalist, is also a Duke alum and excuse me if I happen to think there is no way he would say anything negative about Duke. They also quoted Billy Packer, who I do not have a high regard for nor do I believe has much more than six ounces of journalistic integrity in his whole body. I suppose that FSU coach Stan Jones was meant to be the alternative point of view, but it came off as a "Hey look, even FSU coaches do not believe there is a Duke conspiracy" kind of quote. I found the quotes from John Clougherty legitimate, but I take issue with the notion that UNC had tons of benefits from foul calls. I never thought that was the case during the past 25 years of my watching UNC play but I also cannot recall every game and every instance. Speaking of full disclosure I will say, up front, I think Caulton Tudor is a horrible columnist. I rarely find anything he writes to be worthwhile in the least. Now on with the post. I am really not sure what Tudor's point was other than saying talented players will automatically result in more fouls on your opponent. I do not necessarily disagree with that assertion but is also seems too simplistic. Tudor relies very heavily on a bevy of 20 year statistics in this area which I think is suspect logic. Statistics can tell you many things but what they cannot tell you is (1) What fouls were not called that should have been called which benefited the winning team and (2) How many fouls were called against an opponent at a key point of a game which gave the winning team the boost they needed to win. The source of the Duke-referee gripe lies on two recent situations of similar ilk. The former came when a BC player was mugged by Shelden Williams at the end of the Duke-BC game earlier this season and the referees called nothing. The latter occurred when FSU's Johnson received a technical foul, which was his fifth foul, for doing exactly nothing to Shelden Williams. I also think Tudor's column is a bevy of contradictions by asserting that the stats show some advantage for champion team and then pointing out that last season's regular season champ, UNC, was fourth in free throws. Then Tudor goes on this very strange trip to the history books by recounting the various winning percentages and NBA products of ACC schools as though that in itself has some profound bearing on this topic. While Tudor's basic assertion on talent and better offense are correct, he banks too much on stats which I think tend to be meaningless. Comparing what Georgia Tech did in 1985 with no three point line, a 45 second shot clock, and 3/4 year college players with what happens today with a 35 second shot clock, a three point line, and players who tend to be much less experienced due to the NBA draft is intellectually dishonest. The shorter shot clock and three point line have fundamentally changed defenses and offenses. My overall opinion is that Duke enjoys some edge in foul calls based partially on talent and winning, partially on having good defenders who play good defense without fouling. I do think there is some contribution to the way Krzyzewski works the referees in a game, though it is impossible to define what benefit there is to that. Perhaps the benefits of foul calls just comes from being successful and if all these other teams want to get those calls should quit complaining, recruit some decent players, and start winning some games. After all, any one turnover committed during the course of the game is likely enough to cancel out any bad call from the referee.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006