Kansas, Kansas, Kansas (Ugh!)

It had to be Kansas. Kansas. Kansas.

Roy Williams may be over the heartbreak and heartache his leaving Lawrence caused in 2003, but it’s just getting worse with me. The tweets, emails and blog posts are already out there, claiming that Bill Self has built a better program at KU than ol’ Roy has at UNC over the last 10 years.

Statistics don’t show that (they’re pretty damn even, in fact), but the fact that Tar Heels have now gone home at the hands of the Jayhawks in three of the last six NCAA Tournaments makes it seem that way to a lot of basketball fans.

Both programs have been great all the way back to the Phog Allen and Frank McGuire eras, each having blip periods that caused them to change coaches. But the last 10 years have been basically even-steven, certainly close enough to disavow any notion that one guy has out-coached the other.

Kansas and Self have won more games and have a better record (300-58 for 84%) than Carolina and Williams (282-79 for 78%), but that is largely due to several factors over that 10-year span.

One, Self took over a Kansas team that Williams left in sounder shape than the one Roy inherited from Matt Doherty. Two, the Tar Heels had one dreadful season in the last 10 years, the 20-17 debacle that followed losing four starters off the 2009 national champions. And, three, Carolina’s overall pipeline to the pros has been better than Self’s at Kansas, which ironically has made it worse for UNC.

Thirteen players have been drafted in the first round during the Williams era, 11 of them who left a total of 17 seasons on the Tar Heel table. Compare that to Kansas under Self, which has produced nine first-round picks,   one who left after one year, two who left after two and another two who left after three seasons. If you add Mario Chalmers, the MOP of the 20008 Final Four who was drafted in the second round, the Jayhawks have lost 10   seasons of eligibility in the last 10 years.

As for the NCAA Tournament, Self and Kansas have been there all 10 years but with less results than Carolina and Williams in nine trips. KU has one national championship (’08) and reached another Final Four (2012) and could still improve on those numbers this season. The Jayhawks have gone out in three regional finals, one Sweet Sixteen (and counting), one second round ouster and two embarrassing first-round upsets (Bucknell and Bradley in 2005 and ’06).

Carolina under Williams has those 2005 and ’09 NCAA titles, one other Final Four and three Elite Eight game goners. Sunday’s loss to KU was the third second-round ouster for UNC and Williams, who holds the record of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with at least one victory. Both Self and Williams have won three national Coach of the Year honors at their current schools.

Their conference records are pretty close, with Self winning a few more regular-season and tournament titles in the Big 12 than Williams in the ACC. But, over that 10 years, the ACC has been the better league top to bottom and won three national championships to KU’s one for the Big 12.

So don’t give me that hoo-ha that Kansas has a better program than Carolina. They are both great. What skews the pooch are those three losses to KU in the three NCAA match-ups, and each one has a story to itself.

At the 2008 Final Four at San Antonio, the Tar Heels were a slight favorite over Kansas after winning both the ACC regular season and tournament and losing only two games all season. But this was the first time Williams faced Kansas, the still-angry KU crowd and all the storylines took away from the game itself.

The Heels played horribly, fell behind by 40-12 in the first half and made a late push that fell short in the 84-68 crusher. Williams (wearing the infamous KU sticker) stayed to watch the Jayhawks win the national championship two nights later, only after Memphis did not foul Kansas with a three-point lead and Chalmers’ dramatic bomb sent the game into overtime.

When the 2012 NCAA brackets came out, Carolina was on another collision course with Kansas in the Midwest Regional, hoping to have John Henson back at full strength from the wrist he sprained in the ACC Tournament. Of course, it got worse after Kendall Marshall went down in the second-round win over Creighton. With back-up point guard Dexter Strickland already sidelined by a knee injury, the Tar Heels were left with freshman reserve Stilman White, who played admirably in the 13-point loss to the Jayhawks in St. Louis.

The committee did it again this season, when it was an even worse scenario for Carolina, which lost two sophomores, one junior and one senior from its 2012 starting lineup that when whole was the only serious threat to Kentucky’s national championship. And the suits sent the Tar Heels to Kansas City (which is like playing Carolina in Greensboro).

By then, UNC had made the NCAA Tournament only due to perhaps Williams’ best coaching job of his 25-year career. Reluctantly, in early February, he scrapped his two low-post offense for a small lineup of four guards and little presence in the paint. The Heels launched and made enough three-pointers to turn their season around and get another NCAA bid, but they went to the Dance living by the long bomb, which was enough to give Williams the hives.

And, yes, they died that way, shooting barely 30 percent for the game and giving in to Kansas’ best half of the tournament thus far. So Carolina under Williams is 0-3 against KU and Self. And, since they will never play in the regular season by mutual consent, it will stay that way until the next time they meet in the NCAA tournament.

With at least five guys 6-9 or bigger next season, Williams will go back to the way he likes to play and, sooner or later, he’ll see his old school again. The NCAA committee seems to like that kind of theater for TV.

Even though, as of this moment, we hate it.


All photography in Hoop It Up is provided by Todd Melet.


People From Kansas

This week, I expressed frustration about a current narrative going around town, one that poses the question, “Has Chapel Hill lost its mojo?”  I countered that the question shouldn’t be have we “lost our mojo,” but have we lost our “mojo ambassadors?” 
But it’s not fair for me to wonder where our ambassadors are, without putting my money where my mouth is.  So, here’s the beginning of an independent study in How To Becoming Ambassadors from the County of Orange, no political fundraising or foreign language study required. 
In discussing how we explore and show off how cool Chapel Hill is, I spoke with a couple of members of the Chapelboro crew about how we could talk about “what to do in Chapel Hill” with different groups.  Like “what to in Chapel Hill with your in-laws,” or “what to do in Chapel Hill with a precocious pre-teen.”  And the news director of a certain radio station offered, “you know, like what to do with people from Kansas.” 
Yes!  People from Kansas!  Turns out my dad is one of those people.  Born in Emporia and schooled in Topeka and Lawrence, my dad eventually found his way to the southern part of heaven.  (Former UNC provost Bernadette Gray-Little did the reverse of that journey.)
Although not a Jayhawker myself, this is my humble attempt to give a quick primer for those who have emigrated from the Sunflower State to the Old North State:

Description: https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/14129_10150147092345360_6117157_n.jpg
Photo credit: Phillip Brubaker

Arbor Day Every Day:  Every time my grandma Vesta (yes, her name really was Vesta) came to visit, she couldn’t stop talking about the TREES.  I was young and thought to myself “Geez, they’re just trees, Grandma.  What’s the big deal?”  But compared to Kansas’ geography, we really do have a lot of trees.  So, if you want to take in the shade of a tree, here are some great options:
                Carrboro: Tree City, USA, twenty-seven years running. 
Coker Arboretum: Arboretum literally means a “botanical garden devoted to trees.”  Don’t miss this on-campus gem. And if you’re getting hitched, it’s a great photo op.  
Davie Poplar: While you’re on campus, be sure to stop by this legend-laden tree

My friend Elena and I under the Davie Poplar

When I was a fourth grader at Carrboro Elementary, we were given an enrichment unit on ornithology, the study of birds.  Each of us had to do a special report on a bird, and I thought, Well, I’m going to do my report on the Jayhawk.  Well, I’m positive that even younger kids know that a Jayhawk is not a real bird, but if you’re interested in pursuing real live birds, Chapel Hill has a lot to offer. 
Chapel Hill Bird Club: I had no idea, but the only bird club in the Triangle meets at my church on the fourth Monday of the month. 
Mason Farm Biological Reserve: Read more about The Birds of Chapel Hill, or see them for yourself at a natural area accessible through the NC Botanical Gardens.
Wild Bird Center:  Maybe you’re not feeling as adventurous, and you just want the birds to come to you.  Get your backyard birdseed at one of Chapel Hill’s diverse and fun commercial centers.  
Even before one’s feet hit the red clay, most know the reputation North Carolina has for wood-smoked pork.  But for anyone hailing from Kansas City (Kansas OR Missouri), he or she skips the East vs. West debate and goes straight for Kansas City-style barbecue.   I’ll always say you’re better off just going to Allen & Son, but if you want to do it Kansas City style, here are your best bets. 
Cliff’s Meat Market and The Meat House: When I was little, I thought Cliff’s sign for “Rabbits Inside” meant he sold baby bunnies, and most folks expect to sit down for prime rib at The Meat House.  But these two local butchers are the best places to get your raw material. 
Southern Season: Though you just missed their Carolina Sauce Off, this world-renowned gourmet grocery still has everything you could possibly need to baste, marinate, coat, and accompany your meat.
UNC Press: This local publisher gave us the barbecue bible, and tipped me off (via Twitter) to the entity that can help Kansans find the barbecue they crave. 

My lunch at Allen & Son with Hanna Raskin

So welcome, ye people from Kansas, (or people from the Midwest, or from really anywhere) – we’re glad you’re here at The Edge of the Triangle.  Come stay a while. 

And for the rest of you?  Join me in becoming an ambassador.  Let’s show off our mojo.


Fantasy Football Scouting Update: 8 Players to Watch in Week 8

Well folks, we’re almost at the mid-point of the NFL Season and while each of us has experienced some amount of loss along the way, you can take comfort knowing that there is still plenty of time to catch up. Here are some players to keep an eye on if you are not doing so already – they just might help you bring home a “W” in coming weeks.

1. DeMarco Murray (Running Back, Dallas Cowboys)
If you haven’t heard his name by now, you’re playing the wrong game. Last week against the Rams, Murray set the Cowboys’ single-game rushing record, as well as the new rookie record for the NFL, with 253 rushing yards. As if this Fantasy story needed any sweetening, Murray gets to make his first NFL start against the team that allows the most Fantasy points to opposing Running Backs on average than any other team in the league, the Philidelphia Eagles. Even if Andy Reid does pack his usual “post-bye week punch,” it would be hard to imagine the Eagles 23rd-ranked rushing defense squashing the productivity displayed by Murray last week.

2. Demaryius Thomas (Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos)
I will keep this short, as there’s already too much talk about this 2-4 team. Last week Thomas had 3 receptions for 27 yards and a score, but more importantly he led the team with 10 targets. Imagine if Tebow manages to show up before the 2-minute warning.

3. Montario Hardesty (Running Back, Cleveland Browns)
I had concerns about Peyton Hillis’ production before this season began, considering his workload last year, and from the looks of it, so do the Browns. Hardesty carried the ball 33 times last week against the Seahawks for 95 yards and caught 2 for 27 yards. As Hillis creeps closer to IR, Hardesty will emerge as the featured back in Cleveland.

4. Jason Hill (Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars)
The Jaguars stunned everyone last week when signs of life appeared in their passing game and they upset the Ravens. One of the unknowns to emerge was Jason Hill who had 4 receptions for 62 yards and was targeted 8 times. The most targets seen by any other receiver on the team was 3, so Hill appears to be Blaine Gabbert’s favorite receiver. Mike Sims-Walker is back in the receiving core for the Jags, but he wasn’t dependable even with David Garrard; his biggest contribution will likely be diverting coverage from other eligible receivers.

5. Fred Davis (Tight End, Washington Redskins)
Last week against the Carolina Panthers, Davis had 6 receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown. Add to that the fact that he has been the Redskins’ most consistent player this season (which is still not saying much). The Redskins’ offense took a beating last week as both Tim Hightower and Chris Cooley have been placed on Injury Reserve for the season, plus Santana Moss is out with a broken hand for either 3 to 6 weeks or 5 to 7 weeks, depending on who you listen to (Moss or Shanahan).

6. Jackie Battle (Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs)
I know this violates the Fantasy Football Bible lesson from the Book of John about avoiding crowded backfields, but if Battle continues to produce, it will likely become less crowded in coming weeks. Battle carried the ball 16 times for 76 yards last week against Oakland, and before the bye, had a very impressive 119 yards on the ground plus 21 yards off 2 receptions versus Indy. The downside is that Le’Ron McClain is Kansas City’s touchdown vulture and Battle is splitting carries with both Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones.

7. Michael Jenkins (Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings)
This guy is not new to the game, but seems to have developed some chemistry with the rookie tossing the rock in Minnesota. Jenkins hooked up with Christian Ponder 3 times for 111 yards and a touchdown in Ponder’s first start against the Packers last week. Percy Harvin is definitely the #1 Receiver for the Vikings, but he is dealing with some rib issues that forced him to come out early last week and miss some practice this week, which bodes well for Jenkins.

8. Delone Carter (Running Back, Indianapolis Colts)
I am not usually high on any Colts Running Back mainly because Addai has become Clinton Portis-like with his injury status over the past few seasons, stealing starts from his backups, only to inevitably leave the game early due to a physical ailment. That being said, Carter looked good last week against the Saints with 89 yards and a score on 10 carries. With all of the other things going wrong with the Colts’ offense, you have to think that Carter will keep getting chances to make plays.

All of these players show some potential, but it is unlikely that they all will become Fantasy standouts. That’s why the title of the article is “8 Players to Watch,” not “to Add,” and when I say “watch,” I mean you should actually watch them play if at all possible. There are certain intangibles that you can pick up on by seeing these players and teams in motion that don’t appear in the stat books. Look for relationships between players, particularly Quarterbacks and their respective targeted Receivers, and pay special attention to emerging patterns in offenses run by a new Quarterback (rookie or otherwise).

Most teams are still trying to figure out how to utilize all of their offensive weapons through various schemes, but the teams with new offensive personnel are the most likely to make drastic changes as far as workload goes. These are the teams to keep a close eye on.

If you are conservative with your waiver wire advantages, you should be able to pick up a player once they have shown that they are worth the spot – not before, not after.

Finally, I would like to share a positive thought with all of you struggling Fanagers out there: no matter how bad it gets this week, it can’t be worse than the Redskins…or the Dolphins…or the Colts…or the Seahawks…or the Rams.