Finally, Some Answers

Well… I think I got my answer to my last question. If we are down by one with ten seconds left, Reggie Bullock is coming off three screens to get a look!

It’s great to see that Coach Williams and the staff have weathered the slow start and gotten the heels on track even with a few rocky patches against Maryland. Though Maryland won’t be our toughest opponent in the ACC, it was a great stepping stone to the next challenge. With NC State and Duke looming on the horizon, we still have our work cut out for us, but we are coming together and playing well as a team.

In my first article I mentioned that Bullock was one of the guys helping lead this team in the right direction. In the second article I gave a lot of praise to PJ Hairston… Though we have been improving, it’s still unclear who will individually deliver EVERY game. The good thing here is that someone has stepped up against FSU and Maryland. Many people are giving Bullock the majority of the credit for our last “W,” when in reality, it was quite the team effort. In the first half we were moving the ball like a cohesive team, and as a direct result we got good looks at the basket. One stat that doesn’t show up the box score is “good shots.” In the first half we took several good shots (at times, the second half was a different story). My friends always give me grief when I say in disgust “COME ON, THAT IS A TERRIBLE SHOT.” (Of course when watching a game in a crowd those shots always seem to go in…).

With a young team full of incredible talent it can be hard to help them understand what Coach Williams considers a “good shot.” When these guys were in high school, every shot they took was a good shot because they were almost always the best player on their respective teams. Now that they have played a few games in the ACC, they quickly realize that the competition (and their teammates) is as tall, fast, athletic and talented as they are. As a result, a contested three with 27 seconds on the shot clock isn’t the shot you want a guard taking at this level. When a big man gets doubled teamed in the post, he probably shouldn’t force up a shot. If you’re double teamed, someone’s open. It’s your job to find them. When a team is willing to make the extra pass and get a better look at the basket, it’s no surprise that more shots will fall!

(For reference, a “bad shot” could be as simple as: Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland are both open at the top of the key for three. If Dexter has the ball and takes the shot, it would be a bad shot. Not because he can’t make a three, but because Reggie is a better shooter and will make the shot more often)

Some of the younger guys on this team are still flying under the radar, along with Dexter Strickland and James Michael McAdoo. In my eyes, these two guys along with our slew of freshman still have a lot of potential to help lead/drive this team to bigger and better things. I’m happy that the boys have some confidence in themselves, now we have to buckle down and continue to build on our recent success.

 

image by Todd Melet

http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/a-players-perspective/finally-some-answers/

'We're Getting On The Same Page!'

I was so impressed and inspired by the first half of our game against Maryland. It showed what kind of a team we can be. We finally got Reggie and James Michael on the same page. Imagine what we can do if P.J. and Marcus get on that same page, all at the same time.

In the second half you have to give Maryland most of the credit; they’re an ACC team and capable, they just beat N.C. State. The way we took them out of their offense in the first half and the number of balls we deflected shows what we can do on defense.

If we keep improving we have a chance. There is no dominant team in the country, like last year with Kentucky. We’re going have to keep riding who’s hot in that game. It was Reggie vs. Maryland, at Florida State it was PJ, the next game it might be James Michael. But if we keep improving, I think our potential is off the charts.

You know I watch the point guards very closely, and I really like Marcus (Paige). He’s getting the job done with young players around him. And I’ll say it till the cows come home, he’s a good shooter. I’ve seen him at practice and I watched him before the season. He can shoot.

Six assists and no turnovers against Maryland, that’s pretty good. The players they have around them have a lot to do with the point guard’s success.

I hope we can handle Georgia Tech, and then comes State Saturday in Raleigh. That’s gonna be a toughie, but Carolina teams have done well over the years when nobody said we had a chance.

I remember my freshman year, we HAD State with David (Thompson) and Tommy (Burleson) and Monte (Towe) late in the game in Reynolds Coliseum before it slipped away. Then we finally beat them at Carmichael and again in the ACC Tournament.

And our team that year wasn’t a whole lot different from this one. I was a freshman, Walter (Davis) and Johnny Kue(ster) and T. LaGarde were all sophomores. We even had a guy named Mickey Bell who came off the bench to give us a lift like Jackson Simmons has done.

We DID have Mitch Kupchak, who was a junior and becoming one of the best big men in the country. But Mitch struggled as a freshman and sophomore. If we had legitimate juniors and seniors like it used to be, a kid could afford to come along more slowly . . . but now they have to play earlier in their careers.

We have pretty good big people – young, but they have size and length and are being taught well. Remember, we went to the Final Four in 1977 with three freshmen rotating at center – Rich Yonaker, Jeff Wolff and Steve Krafcisin.

So if the other four guys around them do what they’re supposed to do, you can get it done with young people inside.

Phil Ford was a three-time All-American at UNC, 1978 ACC Player of the Year and went on to be the NBA Rookie of the Year and an NBA all-star.
 

image by Todd Melet

http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/ford-corners/were-getting-on-the-same-page/

Confessions of a UNC Student

I have a confession to make.

I wasn’t standing in the risers for the most recent basketball game against Maryland

Shocking, I know. Because I recently started doing statistical work for the JV basketball team, I have been unable to stand in line outside the Dean Dome for hours prior to games in order to secure a spot in the front of the student section. The JV statistical crew is basically the underground foundation of the totem pole in terms of the basketball hierarchy at UNC, but fortunately, the program is still kind enough to provide me with tickets behind the scorer’s table.

Cheering outside the student section for the past couple of games has provided me with a number of new experiences and allows me to share what I feel is a unique perspective on the entire Dean Dome crowd, including the student section. With the big win over Maryland this Saturday, it seemed pertinent and reasonable to examine the Smith Center through the lens of that game, which I will do below.

The atmosphere at tip-off was, save contests against Duke, the loudest I have ever heard the Dean Dome. Reggie Bullock’s torrid start got everyone fired up immediately. The diehards and the students, knowing this game was a must-win to stay competitive in the ACC and to build on the great victory against Florida State, quickly recognized the significance of the early lead. At first, the loudness of the arena was focused in the defensive half (which features the risers), as a few enterprising individuals with white boards and dry-erase markers at the front of the crowd were coordinating students. Eventually, their energy spread throughout the building and infected even casual fans. For the first time since moving out of the student section, I didn’t have to worry about blocking anyone’s view when I stood up to cheer because everyone behind me was standing, too.

ESPN identified the most important aspects in creating a home-court advantage in college basketball in a recent article, with the biggest factor being the proximity of student seating to the court. The signs, chants, and overall volume of fans play a big role in intimidating an opponent, and it is generally understood that students are more apt to get loud and create a daunting atmosphere. UNC has traditionally struggled with what former Florida State guard Sam Cassell called “a wine and cheese crowd,” as the wealthy alumni that can afford the seats near the court do not usually cheer very loudly. It was truly a different story on Saturday, as many of the alumni that typically remain seated and casually watch the game imbibed some of the intensity of the students and contributed to the raucous environment. The “Taaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrr…Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllllllllls” chants were louder; the distracting noises on defense were more persistent; celebrations after big buckets were more emphatic.

Can the fans really have an impact on the game, though? It sure seemed that way. Roy’s boys were the most aggressive I’ve seen this year on the defensive end, attacking Maryland with physical play that forced fifteen turnovers in the first half, including five straight at the outset of the game. Perhaps the Heels have finally figured out how to play defense, or maybe the main rotation players were worried that the hustle of Jackson Simmons was going to cut into their playing time if they didn’t pick things up. Personally, I’d like to think that the fans inspired everyone to work a little bit harder. Whatever the motivation, Carolina was doing all the little things they hadn’t in the losses they suffered earlier this year: Boxing out to prevent second chance opportunities, sprinting back on defense to limit easy transition baskets, pressuring ballhandlers to force turnovers, closing out on three-point shooters. Even if it didn’t necessarily help UNC, the volume in the building certainly hurt the Terrapins. From my vantage point near the Maryland bench, I could see Mark Turgeon struggling to communicate with his players; at one point, he and all of his assistants were shouting at Alex Len to attack the hoop, but Len, all the way on the other end of the floor, couldn’t hear and settled for a jumper. The poor communication definitely played a role in the Tar Heels’ hot start and ultimately could have been the difference in the game. The importance of the fans in the way the game played out should not be underestimated.

For as good as the Heels played in the first half, they were equally mediocre in the second, scoring just twenty points after the intermission. The fan intensity died down to some degree, understandable with the seemingly insurmountable lead that UNC had built prior to the break, but not ideal. Carolina did enough to win a key conference game at home, though, which is the important thing given the struggles and growing pains this team has faced early in the season. What happens during the rest of the year will depend on whether the Tar Heels play up to their potential as they did in the first half against Maryland, or if they revert back to the underachieving squad that showed up after halftime. The fans inside the Dean Dome will likely follow suit.

 

You can follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewdarvin

(image by Todd Melet)

http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/view-from-the-risers/confessions-of-a-unc-student/

Bye Bye, Big 10 Terps

Amidst the chaos that has become college athletics, Carolina defeated Maryland Saturday in truly a tale of two halves. The Tar Heels played perhaps their best 20 minutes of basketball to begin the game and ended with perhaps their worst.

Depending on when they officially bolt for the Big 10 and the 2014 basketball schedule, this could well have been the Terrapins’ last trip to the Dean Smith Center as a member of the ACC. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, a Kansas protégé of both Larry Brown and Roy Williams, took what he considered to be one of the best jobs in the country two years ago. When the Terps, along with Rutgers, join the Big 10, who knows what kind of a job it will be.

For sure, trips to Columbus, Ann Arbor and Iowa City will never match those January games in a warm climate on Tobacco Road. And the load of talent in the Metro Washington-Baltimore area will surely have second thoughts about playing in an unfamiliar conference as opposed to the rivalries they’ve been watching all their lives.

But it’s all about money these days, and Maryland’s athletic department had to stave off bankruptcy by dropping seven varsity sports before opting out for the Big 10, which has guaranteed the university at least $20 million more per year than the ACC in television revenues beginning in 2017. The Terps promptly reinstated four of those sports.

So when the near-capacity crowd at the Smith Center began cheering “ACC! ACC!” at the end of Carolina’s 62-52 victory, it was clear that Maryland is a lame duck. And Turgeon’s Terps were pretty lame in the first half, committing 15 turnovers that the Tar Heels converted into 14 points while Reggie Bullock was single-handedly outscoring them.

Bullock came out firing, hitting two “3s” and a regular field goal before Maryland could even hold onto the ball long enough to attempt a shot. Bullock had UNC’s first four field goals as his 21 points in the first half were more than Maryland’s team total (42-20) and had the fans amped for a blowout and perhaps a chance to get out into the spring weather a little early.

The Tar Heels also duplicated the aggressive defense they played three weeks before against UNLV, stealing the ball from the shell-shocked Terps nine times. Maryland made nine field goals, went 0-7 from the arc and, frankly, was lucky to be down just 22 at the half. The crowd got further aroused by an appearance from the 2012 UNC football team, which is calling itself the ACC Coastal Division champions after finishing in a three-way tie with Miami and Georgia Tech.

Having already printed up t-shirts boasting as much, it seemed a little defiant since NCAA sanctions kept the gridders out of the post-season. But there is so much unrest and speculation about the future of the ACC these days, reminding UNC that it wasn’t eligible to win anything last season seems like a waste of time and energy. Will there even be an ACC title to compete for in the next few years? If not, maybe Maryland made the right decision to get out while the getting was good. Aside from the money, the Terps can resume their once-heated football rivalry with Penn State, which has won 35 of the 37 games they used to play. Ouch.

The second half was a reversal of fortunes as Carolina made just one more three (from Bullock, his only points of the period) and missed 26 of its 34 shots. Maryland kept clawing around and turned it over only six times, allowing the Terps to make a moderate late run. In fact, if P.J. Hairston had not rebounded James Michael McAdoo’s missed free throw and fired it out to Marcus Paige for his sixth assist to JMM underneath, Maryland might have really made it interesting.

The Tar Heels are improving individually but as a team still look pretty lost on offense. When Bullock is getting his college high (24) and McAdoo is recording a double-double (19 and 11), they can be “pretty doggone good,” as Roy Williams said afterward, choosing to focus on the first half and not the second. But when the shots stop falling and the offense bogs down, the 35-second clock is their enemy and the lane starts to look like the subway at rush hour.

Freshman J.P. Tokoto hit his only shot and was the lone Tar Heel to make more than he missed. They continued their dogged defense, especially against Ukrainian seven-footer Alex Len, who was held to 10 points and five rebounds. The pivot committee of Desmond Hubert, Joel James and Brice Johnson managed to contain Len, who will be playing in the NBA some day.

The pro draft could bypass Carolina completely, which only bodes well for those regulars returning, those substitutes improving and those recruits coming. The Tar Heels are scrapping for their lives as they try to make scoring easier than hitting from outside. As the hot-cold Bullock proved, it’s still a game where the sum must be better than the parts.

Image by Todd Melet

http://chapelboro.com/hoop-it-up/ford-corners/bye-bye-big-10-terps/

A New Blue Dawn

Senior Day against Maryland was a pretty typical game for the 2012 Tar Heels. The Terrapins, perhaps motivated by the decision to leave the ACC in favor of the Big Ten, served as a mediocre but spirited opponent. Carolina fans had obvious reasons to be frustrated, as the Tar Heels repeatedly allowed big plays on the defensive side of the ball. The special teams performed particularly poorly, fumbling a kickoff return just before halftime to allow Maryland to take a 28-21 lead, and then gave up a touchdown on the kickoff to start the second half because they only had ten men on the field. The Tar Heels fought back in gritty fashion, though, with Bryn Renner throwing for two big touchdowns in the second half, leading to a 45-38 win. Overall, the defense was pretty bad (excepting one big interception on Maryland’s first drive), the offense was pretty good, Gio Bernard was brilliant (27 carries for 163 yards and a touchdown), there were some troubling mental mistakes…but the Tar Heels managed to emerge victorious. Sounds pretty familiar.

The inconsistency of the Tar Heels in any given game modeled their season as a whole. There were some clear highs this year: Gio Bernard’s late punt return touchdown to beat NC State for the first time in six tries, setting the record for points scored in a single game by a UNC squad in the 66-0 win over Idaho, four Tar Heels making 1st Team All-ACC (Bernard, Jonathan Cooper, Sylvester Williams, and Kevin Reddick), and winning the ACC’s Coastal Division on a tie-break over Miami (had either team actually been eligible to win anything). There were also some obvious lows: Losing to Duke for only the second time in 23 years, giving up a record 68 points at home against Georgia Tech on Homecoming, and getting blown out in the first half against Louisville come to mind most easily. It has been a season of unpredictability, to say the least, its meaning hard to define because of the postseason ban and the implementation of a totally new coaching scheme.
 

I’m really at a loss for words to describe how I feel about this team and this season. It happened. I was there, and I experienced the good, the bad, the ugly, all of it. Sure, we didn’t go to a bowl game or the conference title game. We didn’t go undefeated. But it was still special. Every season has its moments and memories that you will always carry with you, and this one was no different. Ultimately, I’m glad we’ve completely closed the door on the Butch Davis Era and can finally move forward as a team and university. There will be no bans, no asterisks, no drama as we look to next August. A new Blue Dawn, at last.

http://chapelboro.com/huddle-featured/a-new-blue-dawn/

Leave 'Em Laughing, Lewis

He shuffles down Franklin Street toward lunch with a friend, unnoticed by passers-by because he is not pontificating, gesticulating or shaking his head in the funny fashion that defines Lewis Black.

One of America’s best known stand-up comedians lives in Chapel Hill, but spends barely half the year here because of his live tour and accompanying media calls, hosting gigs, voice over work for animated film and his forthcoming cable TV show.

He is in town this weekend for the annual Carolina Comedy Festival, to which he donates his time and wisdom helping burgeoning UNC student comics launch careers that, hopefully, take off faster than Black’s.

His resume is long, but it really doesn’t get cooking until 2000, the year he was arrested for co-hosting a sort of pornographic bus tour in New York City on the same day President Clinton’s motorcade was taking a similar route.

Stints on the Daily Show and Comedy Central blasted Black’s career into true stardom when he was already past 50. The 1969 UNC graduate still looks younger than his 63 years. Obviously, he gets a kick out of making people laugh.

“I’m very busy and I love everything I do,” Black said, “but I wish it all happened when I had more energy.”

Anyone who has seen Black on stage, either in person or on an HBO special, will dispute that he lacks energy. His raving rants about the “absurdities of life” are brilliant, blue and far from boring. He makes fun of people and things, which are hilarious unless you are a completely humorless way-right winger.

Black is also a rabid Carolina fan and well-aware of the Tar Heels’ place in the Sweet Sixteen. But it would not have been that way if he wasn’t rejected by several Ivy League drama schools and then visited Chapel Hill because his girlfriend’s mother went here.

“One walk on campus and that was it,” said Black, a suburban Maryland native. “I went straight to the admissions office and asked what I had to do. I didn’t even know, or care, whether they had a drama department.”

He had friends at Duke and visited there quite often, and now like most Tar Heel fans he despises the Blue Devils basketball team. “The Duke-Lehigh game was like arriving at the gates of heaven,” he said. “I get as much pleasure from them losing as I do from Carolina winning.”

Black has written three books since 2005, all while nested away in his condo on Franklin Street. This is where he comes for refuge and to help teach kids a few things he learned the hard way. He started out as a playwright, had bit parts in movies and TV shows and finally found his niche standing on stage by himself seeing people bust a gut over his manic, machine-gun delivery.

He’s already played the Durham Performing Arts Center and is scheduled there again in mid-April. Meanwhile, whatever writing he’s here to do has been sidetracked by college basketball.

“I’ve watched more this year than ever,” said Black, relating that he caught the first Carolina-Duke game on satellite TV from his tour bus. He missed the second because he had a show that night in Sarasota, Florida.

Marquette is his second favorite team, stemming ironically from the Warriors’ 1977 win over Carolina in the NCAA Championship game and some fond memories of times spent in Milwaukee ever since. He said he knew the Tar Heels would lose that game when they went to Four Corners midway through the second half.

“Why do coaches do that? They still do it. Syracuse almost lost the other night because they started to hold the ball,” he said. “I don’t understand it, never will understand it. But I still watch as much as I can.”

And rants at the TV, for sure.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/leave-em-laughing-lewis/