Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Things That Make You Go…

Drew
Hmmm…
1) The ACC is getting throttled in the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

2) North Carolina’s preseason ranking and freshmen Harrison Barnes being tabbed a pre-season All American were both clearly absurd.

The ACC is down 4-2 halfway through this year’s version of annual ACC beatdown. The ACC has won 10 of the past 11 Challenges, but the Big Ten can make it two straight having won in 2009. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise as early season results would suggest a down year for ACC basketball.

The perennial top conference currently only has one ranked team (albeit top-ranked Duke) and features three new coaches (Wake, BC and Clemson) and one second-year coach (Virginia). That said, two of those teams, Wake Forest and UVA, have accounted for the ACC’s two wins. The Challenge resumes tonight.

Then there’s item number 2…If you watched the rematch of the 2005 NCAA Division 1 Men’s National Championship game won by the University of North Carolina pitting the young 2010 Tar Heels against the #21 Fighting Illini of Illinois, we apologize and we hope you regain your vision and sanity sooner than later.

Not only was the game difficult to watch for UNC or ACC fans, it was further burdened by the non-stop blather of ESPN color analyst Jimmy Dykes. My God man, do you ever shut up?

Strickland
Some of what Dykes said was typical filler, some was appropriately analytical and some of it was full-blown Vitalesque hyperbole. How about his one? Coach K is a genius and a “great leader” because he is likely to win another National Championship with “four first round NBA draft choices” (according to Dykes). Never mind arguing the merits of whether or not the current Blue Devils have four first rounders, isn’t it safe to suggest that ANY coach should win the National Championship with four future first round picks (assuming they aren’t all freshmen at the same time).

(Note to Dykes, Duke’s rivals down in Chapel Hill won the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Championship in 2005 and 2009 with teams matching a similar description.)

That said, to Dykes credit, he did point out some salient facts. First off, Harrison Barnes selection as a pre-season All-American before he ever played a game was ridiculous. As Dykes pointed out, UNC’s starting backcourt is under performing – outscored 28 to 7 last night – and that is a big factor in Barnes’ early season woes.

No one is asking Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland to be Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton, but fewer turnovers, more scoring and some transition offense would improve the likelihood of the Tar Heels winning games while dramatically increasing Barnes’ productivity. The pre-season honor has proved nothing more than a burden for a very talented young player looking to find his place on a young and inexperienced team.

And that preseason top-ten ranking? As Seth and Amy used to say on SNL: Really?

Ol' Roy
Dykes pointed out accurately that such a ranking was completely unrealistic based on the facts. The Heels were an N.I.T. team last year. They lost a first round NBA draft pick in Ed Davis, a three-year starter and major contributor in Deon Thompson and the twin tower Wear twins to transfer. They replaced all of that with the heralded Barnes, and smart basketball people think that moves them from losing to Rhode Island to the top ten?

Why did the media and the coaches assume that UNC would improve so much by adding so little? While the young Heels half-court defense appears to be much improved, the primary staple of their offense – the transition game – is producing lots of turnovers and few points.  (The turnovers are fairly typical for the Heels' high octane approach, but the lack of points to balance them off is a big problem).  They will need to fix this if they hope for an invite back to the Big Dance.

Perhaps it’s a compliment to Ol ‘Roy and the power of the North Carolina basketball tradition combined with relentless fan and media focus on the importance of blue chip recruits? Who knows.

Finally, Dykes was absolutely correct about one other thing: It's early in a long season and things aren’t as bad, or as good, as they might look. We know this is true because it is, and because Dykes said it over and over (and over and over and over and over) again…

(Photos by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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