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Monday, June 2, 2008

Unsubstantiated Speculation: NBA Draft Links June 2

Nothing about the NBA Draft makes any sense. GMs intentionally lie about who they want to confuse the rest of the league, agents pull players out of workouts to manipulate their value and the Milwaukee Bucks continue to pretend they are trying to win. Mock drafts are always way off, the rumored trades never go down and the ones that do are always out of left field. There is no rhyme. There is no reason. And that is exactly why it is so great. Sports fans love to speculate, and the NBA Draft is 90 percent speculatastic. So in an exercise of almost certain futility, I bring you Unsubstantiated Speculation, a column containing all the relevant, completely false draft news links from around the Intertubes. Look for this once or twice a week leading up to the draft. Believe nothing.

And if you are a blog that covers the draft and feel you deserve to be on the Links, click the e-mail link on the right sidebar.

Even with the Finals starting (as you might have heard, there are quite a few storylines with the match-up this year), there has been tons of draft links lately. Let's sift!

(I'm holding to my promise to myself of not getting into the OJ Mayo thing. All I will say is there some weird, completely nonsensical double-standard going on here where Beasley is somehow seen as equally or more of a character risk than OJ, whose bad character is overrated in its own right. I hate the media sometimes, hopefully GMs can see through the fog... riigggghhhht.)

Orlando Pre-Draft Camp
- I really can't say this enough, but DraftExpress has really pulled out all the stops this year. They have their usual scouting reports and interviews but this year have added video, player blogs, extensive team need evaluations and even ventured deep into the underground of the Interwebs with podcasts. On the down side, they are making this column mildly irrelevant. Rush the Court has also done a very nice job, albeit without the access.

- This draft notes column by Chad Ford was interesting for a couple reasons. One, Seattle is fending off rumors they will take Jerryd Bayless No. 4 and Phoenix is doing the same about Brandon Rush at No. 15 (which I had merely minutes after the draft order was set... toot toot). But the main reason this was interesting was to hear that Lester Hudson played his ass off in Orlando and could be rising up draft boards. I always liked Hudson because he can get to the rim and is a decent shooter. Kind of like a lower middle class man's Rodney Stuckey. One thing that concerns me: Here is Ford's recap of day 2 of the camp. Notice the common connection between all the players featured as "standouts:" Gary Forbes, Wayne Ellington, Malik Hairston, Josh Duncan. All of them are between positions for the NBA. I'd like to think that's a product of the small-ball trends in the NBA but it's probably more of a product of playing against a bunch of other mediocre, second-round tweeners.

- This might be your best Orlando recap, from one Chad Ford, Draftmaster. Some speculative tidbits: Chad Ford is getting sucked into the Anthony Randolph workout wonder thing, WHO CAN HE GUARD IN THE NBA, CHAD?; Michael Beasley made lots of threes, but may have picked his nose and ate it, devastating his stock; Russell Westbrook apparently looked good and yet for some reason Ford still thinks everyone wants him to be a point guard; Kevin Love might really be picked No. 3; Darrell Arthur looked great, which is no surprise, Memphis really should consider him at No. 5 (like I said); Joe Alexander is apparently LeBron James or something; Davon Jefferson, who I, like an idiot, said could be a lottery pick if he gets his shit together. Well, he didn't, and apparently got fat and stuff. Ford thinks he might be undrafted. Let me know when you are going to go on a donut binge Davon, before I say you are lottery material. Thanks.

- If you want to know everyone that played in Orlando and what it means for them and their respective college teams, Andy Katz obliges. And within this notes column by Katz, my suspicions that Kevin Love would be flying up draft boards due to a lack of girth was correct. And sadly for George Hill, Pride of Ooey Pooey, the dream is over. And finally, this feature by Katz on Jeremy Pargo was great. It's interesting that his brother Jannero, who was less talented than Jeremy coming out of college but is one of the better reserves in the NBA, has advised his brother to consider going back to school (he will oblige if he isn't a first-rounder apparently). I still think Pargo has a decent career.

- Apparently former Iowa State guard Mike Taylor played really well and could be the first D-League player to get drafted. Taylor instead of Rod Benson?! Boom tho?

- Posts like this from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution's Sekou Smith on new Hawks GM Rick Sund are proof that Atlanta should always have a first-round pick so this man has something to cover come draft time. He is a boss.

- Good mini-feature from Michael Lewis (go Blue Hens?) on Keith Brumbaugh, even though it doesn't explain his amazing, troubled story to those who don't know it. This helps, however. I still think he must be better than Ndubi Ebi. Speaking of washed up former HS stars (sorry Keith), whatever happened to Lenny Cooke? Seriously, that's a legitimate question. I would like to know.

Michael Beasley is an enigma
- Actually, no he's not. But everyone in the media sure likes to write like he is. There is this, which contains a quote from Beasley that I was thrilled about.
"I just turned 19 years old in January," Beasley said. "How mature do you want me to be? I’m still a kid. I’m not 20 yet. I’m not legal. I can vote, but that’s about it. On the basketball side of things, I’m 30 years old. Off the court, I don’t know how old y’all want me to be. Do you want me to act 25? 30? 40?. I’m 19. I’m a kid. I’m going to live my life. I’m going to mess up. I don’t know as much as you do or him. I’m learning day by day. I hear a lot about character issues. But I’ve yet to hear what those character issues are. Until I hear somebody tell me, I don’t feel the need to change."

I still fail to see what he has done that is so horribly wrong. He went to many high schools and some coaches piggybacked his ability to better themselves. This happens to every single big-time basketball recruit. How is a teenager who knows he will be in the NBA in the near future supposed to just ignore all these people with power showing him how to get there? And how is Rose any different? Ugh. Hopefully the media treats him as the quirky, outspoken Gilbert Arenas-type rather than the Josh Howard-type who gets blasted whenever he's honest about something. He's probably somewhere in between (in both personality and ability). Oh and any Beasley item on the Internet must link to this article in the WashPost, as required by federal Intertubes laws.

- TrueHoop, which is also very outstanding, approached this fairly. Thank you Mr. Abbott.

- Linked in the TrueHoop item, this piece, which in true NBA Draft form, makes insane speculation that Beasley "is not Pat Riley's type of player." (the same guy writes the same thing in another piece here). Suddenly nothing can be written about this man without the words, "immature," "playful," "candid" and the like being bandied around. I think Chad Ford started all this. Seriously people, let's come up with something new....

- ... Not quite, but getting warmer...

- ... OK, this will have to do.

Things of Different Persuasion
- I was none too pleased to see Donte Greene hire an agent. The only logical explanation for this was that he got one of the 16 "physical only" invites to Orlando, which means he thinks he's like, a top 16 player. This is bad news for my Orange and could be worse news for Donte Greene. NBA GMs love tall shooters but the guy didn't show an ability to do much else in college. And I loved Donte Greene. But who can he guard? Who can he beat off the dribble? Who can he box out? Perhaps the more important question is: Who can he fool into taking him in the top 15?

- Every year Andy Katz is good for a few of those, "How is this college coach handling his players testing the draft waters?" features. This one is on Richard Hendrix and Ronald Steele at Alabama. (I wouldn't be losing sleep Coach Gottfried, Steele is already coming back.)

- I really love the Ball Don't Lie blog over at Yahoo!, even if they are a bit light on draft stuff. The incomparable Kelly Dwyer does well with this rant on mock drafts. Couldn't have put it better myself. (This may prompt another mock draft before draft day where I oblige Mr. Dwyer with his dream mock draft. Or something.)

- Gary Parrish, a true college basketball Internet writer, continues to churn out columns in this offseason. This one is a nice look at how batshit insane some North Carolina fans are. Oh and leave it up to Parrish to actually look at the Mayo thing will a tinge of rationality.

- Fran Frischilla speaks, a New York Post writer listens.

- Lang Whitaker over at Slam Online with an entertaining second-person perspective thingy on being John Paxson (not a working screenplay by Charlie Kauffman). I'm not so sure about the Doug Collins hiring but I still think it's better than Avery Johnson. He's just as likely to want Rose as Avery, but at least he won't try to turn him into Anthony Carter.

- Looks like Jamont Gordon is leaning toward staying in the draft, which I pleased about. He should be a late first-rounder as an impact reserve for a playoff contender.

- Way to strike when the iron is hot, Mike DeCourcy. Will your next column be about how great it is that the draft is two rounds now?

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Release From Hibernation: NBA Draft Early Entrants Part 2

Continuing the slow return of content on this here blog, some more fun NBA Draft stuff coming your way today. Last week I looked at the guys who declared early for the draft and hired an agent. Today we will look at some folks that are “testing the waters,” as the kids say. Now, there are a million of these folks, so some might get left out and many of these looks will be brief.

Before we get into each player, a disclaimer: With the new rule that NBA teams pay for expenses for a player’s individual workout, there should be some obvious decisions to be made. First, NO ONE should finish college without declaring for the draft. I might be missing something here, but if there is no money to lose, then there is absolutely nothing to lose by declaring and not hiring an agent. The school year is over by draft time, most college coaches are gonna want you in the weight room or on the track in the morning around this time of year, all the chicks are off campus, you get exposure, a chance to play directly in front of NBA execs and you get an idea of where you might fall in the Draft. Plus, if you play decent enough you could get more scouts at your games if you go back to college.

Guys like George Hill at IUPUI, Courtney Pigram at East Tennessee State and Walter Sharpe at UAB are a few players who have realized this. Maybe they have a career game in a pre-draft camp, maybe they fit a specific team’s need, maybe some scout’s latte is spiked with angel dust and he hallucinates that you scored 55 points, grabbed 22 rebounds and swallowed a unicorn whole. WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN TYLER?

So yeah, keep that in mind as we look at some of these folks.

Darrell Arthur- This is an interesting case because he’s probably already a lottery pick, and yet there is still work to be done. Signs of a mid-range jumper emerged late in the season, which is exactly what scouts were worried about, so the only thing left is probably some strength and overall polish. I think Arthur is a stud, quite frankly and I’m not sure how much better he can get next year at Kansas. He’s very quick and very fast for a power forward and has all the tools to be a go-to scorer once some post moves emerge. Sacramento and New Jersey should fight to the death for this man.

Mario Chalmers- Everyone in the NBA should want Chalmers as their back-up point. He’s probably not going to go as high as he wants, but he has no reason to go back.

Donte Greene- As a Syracuse fan, I obviously want him to come back. The Orange would be filthy next year if he did. And with a final month of the season that basically saw him shoot 25-footers from 30 minutes a game, you wouldn't think he'd be a lottery pick, which is probably what he wants. But the problem is, for me at least, that Greene is a 6-10 athlete with unlimited range and probably one of the top five offensive players in the draft if he stays in. He needs a lot of work, specifically on defense and rebounding, to play either forward spot in the pros, but I fear he's going to hear what he wants once GMs see him in workouts. (sigh).

Chase Budinger- It’s quite possible that Chase has peaked at the ripe old age of 20. The talent is there but if he goes back is he suddenly going to become a good defender or someone that actually cares about basketball 100 percent of the time? No, especially not on a team with a weird coaching situation and yet another incoming guard to steal shots and the spotlight. Budinger isn’t a lottery pick this year, but I don’t think he is next year either. He’s probably a 20-24 guy that will go higher because he’ll be a workout wonder. So I guess he should stay in.

Joe Alexander- I’m not sure what Alexander’s role is in the NBA. It appears his best quality is his scoring and he’s not going to be a go-to scorer in the NBA because there won’t be the mismatches he so frequently saw in college. So why do you draft him? Unless he improves his range out to the NBA three line, you don’t. He’s not an NBA starter right now and should probably go back to school, but I could still justify a playoff team taking him around No. 20 as a potential rotation guy. He and Budinger will have many workouts together, which will most certainly be followed by a friendly milkshake at the diner and some Scrabble.

JJ Hickson- Get the hell out of there JJ, while you still can. I was surprised he didn’t hire an agent right away. I’m assuming due to the atrociousness of the Wolf Pack last year, not enough NBA scouts know about him yet, which is why he might be skeptical of his position. But once he starts working out, he will rise on the draft boards. He needs to work on conditioning and his defense, but the potential to be a great scorer in the NBA is there. He’s a 15-20 guy right now and would be interesting on Philly or Washington.

Ryan Anderson- He’s like Alexander, except taller and better in my opinion. Most people don’t have this opinion. Chad Ford thinks he’s a bubble first-rounder and NBADraft.net doesn’t even think he’ll stay in the Draft, while Alexander is in most top 20s. Anderson is a guy that needs the right fit, an up tempo team with multiple forward options and a good point guard. Some people will say he’s a “tweener” but I don’t there really are tweener forwards anymore. He’s a small-ball power forward and with basically every team in the NBA making frequent use of a small line-up, Anderson could be a legit 15-point scorer pretty soon on a team that likes the pick and pop or has a go-to post scorer that attracts double teams. Teams in the 17-24 range that make sense are Toronto, Cleveland, Denver and (obviously) Utah.

Russell Westbrook- You’re gone Russ. Seriously don’t go back there; we need you in the NBA. I would take Westbrook over every guard in the Draft besides Rose and Mayo. He’s got perfect size, quickness and explosiveness for a combo guard in a league that has seen combo guards thrive under the new rules. He is already a great defender and if he can develop any type of consistent jumper, he will be an assassin. Some will say he needs to be more of a point guard but that would take away a lot of his value because he wouldn’t be going to the basket as much. I hate comparing players but he reminds me very much of Monta Ellis, who will be a top 25 NBA player soon. When all is said and done I expect Westbrook to be a Top 7 guy and end up as possibly one of the top three from this class looking back. So yeah, he should stay in the draft.

Jamont Gordon- Consider me a staunch Jamont Gordon supporter. The big point guard fits much better in the NBA than college because teams can't pack it in on you if you're not a great shooter, which Gordon is not, and guards can actually utilize a post game, which Gordon possesses. He’s going to have to cover shooting guards in the NBA though and is useless as a spot-up shooter off kick-outs, but I don’t see how a guy with his size, ball-handling and strength can’t be a major asset in the NBA. In terms of draft position, which you know, affects his well-being, he should go back, but for me, he is a perfect early-second round steal.

DeAndre Jordan- No one player’s value will be more disputed by me than Jordan. Obviously based on athleticism and size, he is a perfect NBA center. People will see Andrew Bynum and flip out and want to take him Top 10, which will keep him in the draft. But seriously, the guy was terrible last year. He couldn’t stay on the court, took bad shots and nearly all of his success was due to just being bigger and more athletic than everyone. In the right, patient organization he could be great but, man, how can you take someone this unproven in the age-minimum era? Either way, Dick Vitale’s head will explode over Jordan’s draft slot.

Antonio Anderson- Antonio knows exactly what I was talking about in the intro.

Robert Dozier- In cahoots with Antonio Anderson.

Marreese Speights- He could go back to Florida and be a Top 10 guy in 2009, but right now, he’s still pretty freaking good. He’s already got the prototypical NBA power forward body and will be able to hold his own athletically. Speights won’t be a post scorer in the League for another few years though, so whichever team between 12 and 17 takes him will need a viable starting option already.

AJ Abrams- He doesn’t really have any chance of making the first round unless teams are just foaming at the mouth to give a guaranteed contract to a guy whose ceiling is “Eddie House.” Come back and learn to play some point AJ, then we can talk.

Wayne Ellington- I can’t decide if Ellington is a sucky prospect or if he’s just equivalent to Rashad McCants (sadly, not this Rashad McCants). He’s a first-round bubble guy because he pales in comparison to guys like Brandon Rush and Chris Douglas-Roberts. His problem is he doesn’t do one thing exceptionally well and he is undersized. Again, returning to school isn’t going to help his stock that much, but it will be a weaker draft class next year and UNC would probably win the title. Oh, and something like this will still be in the realm of possibility for his life.

Danny Green- He’s actually a better pro prospect than his teammate Ellington because he has better size, long arms and more athleticism. Green sacrificed his numbers because he fit that sixth man role on UNC so well and I think he could eventually fill that role in the NBA. Plus there is the potential for him to be a defensive stopper on an opponent’s best wing player. For some reason I still feel like him, Ellington and Lawson already know they are going back and are just testing the waters in case some team makes a crazy promise. With Isiah Thomas and Billy Knight not in this draft, they shouldn’t hold their breath.

Ty Lawson- Unfortunately the lasting image of Lawson was him clearly not at full strength. He is really fast and a good playmaker, but there were some serious flaws evident this year. He can’t shoot, he has no mid-range game and he seemed to play smaller this year than his freshman year, if that makes any sense. He’s not an NBA starter, plain and simple. That being said, he is probably a late first-rounder, so that might be enough. I’d stay in school, try to get that swag back, win a title, ride some Psycho T coattail and be a Top 5 point in 2009’s class.

Alonzo Gee- Maybe next year.

Lee Cummard- Google search nightmare.

Kosta Koufos- I went all crazy over Koufos in the beginning of the year, as did many NBA scouts I’m sure. Then he basically hit the wall and realized they don’t take kindly to his kind in the college ranks. I still don’t see how a 7-1 power forward who can shoot and handle the ball will fail in the NBA, but I’m not sure he’s a lottery pick right now. Although once NBA scouts see a 7-1 kid nail threes over chairs in workouts, who knows. If he stays another year, he’s probably a lock for the Top 10.

Bill Walker- He can go back to KSU and be “the guy” for a year, which would make him a possible lottery pick in 2009 unless he is murdered by Frank Martin, Crazy Person. It’s impossible to know how the Beasley Effect changed his game. It could have either made him look much better because of the lack of attention or make him look much worse because touches were limited and he had to force everything just to get his numbers. I’d take him in the 20 to 25 range if I was a playoff team that could take a gamble. Oh, and this doesn't fly in the NBA.

Richard Hendrix- Reminds me of the Cedric Simmons, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone type as a guy who will be drafted too high by a team loaded with guards just because he is best big man available by default. In that case, he should stay! The NBA: Where multi-million dollar contracts given out by default Happens.

Lester Hudson- I love Lester and would love to waste a second-round pick on him.

Shawn James- Coming to a Turkish League near you.

Josh Carter- He’ll be back, although he probably won’t be happy about it, as the best player on a dismal-looking Aggie team next year. He can shoot and uh… shoot.

DeMarre Carroll- No idea.

Leo Lyons- Whatever you say, Leo.

Jerel McNeal- He is the type of guy that will always be undervalued because of his limitations (ball-handling, shooting) despite the potential to be a great role player in the NBA as a lock-down, Bruce Bowen-type defender. There’s no real reason for him to not come back for another year of college, but I’d put him on my NBA bench today.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute- Should probably go back to school but in doing so, would immediately risk breaking every bone in his body.

Jeremy Pargo- Prototypical undersized scoring guard. That used to mean you go undrafted, but in today’s NBA, you’re a valuable bench player. He’s actually very much like his brother Jannero, who is great for the Hornets, except stronger with a bit less range. He’s not going to gain anything from another year of college except maybe some more TV games, but he’s probably a 30-40 range guy that sneaks on a roster.

Trent Plaisted- Chad Ford says he could be a mid-to-late first rounder, which is insane. He’s got good post moves but is way too mechanical to be a consistent scorer and won’t be able to guard 80 percent of the 4s and 5s in the NBA. Some terrible franchise that is mesmerized by 7-footers (uh oh, Memphis has the Lakers pick) will take him if he stays.

Josh Shipp- Probably should have done this after last season. Might want to stay in the draft to avoid the embarrassment of losing his starting job with the Bruins next year.

Ronald Steele- Obviously he needs to go back but if I’m Steele (and particularly Steele’s knee), I am scared shitless of Alabama right now. I just hope people don’t forget how incredibly sick he was as a freshman.

Robert Vaden- Under-sized shooting guards who can only shoot make for great tenth and eleventh guys on NBA rosters. Live the dream Robert.

Last time I gave my 2008 lottery picks in no particular order, this time I am giving the guys on this list that would be lotto picks, barring a disaster, next year if they were to go back. And then also the guys who have already announced they are going back to school who will be lotto picks in 2009. And yes, this is pointless.

Darrell Arthur
Russell Westrbrook
Kosta Koufos
Ryan Anderson
DeAndre Jordan
JJ Hickson
Blake Griffin (going back)
Austin Daye (going back)
Hasheem Thabeet (going back)
Tyler Hansbrough (going back)
Patrick Patterson (going back)

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Hooray For Links! NCAA Tournament Edition

I was never a big proponent of doing link dumps and the like on this site because, well, it didn't really make sense to me. Why would I simply reproduce things that are already out there? But as I did my own scouring of the Intertubes for college hoops content, I realized there was just too much quality (and, at times, utterly awful) stuff out there to simply leave untapped. So I give you Hooray For Links! which should appear at completely random intervals. Because without links, it's not really a blog, it's just a place to put thoughts I might not want to forget.

I haven't written all that much about the Tournament, except for some wildly outstanding previews; I prefer to just kinda enjoy it as a spectator and avoid consuming the enormous mass of regurgitated storylines and feature ideas. This year's March Madness has been tremendous, something I was worried about after the mediocrity that highlighted the regular season and the general lack of interesting match-ups. I thought this year would be an event that would bore for the first two rounds and then really shine in the regionals, after all the craptastic teams were eliminated. Well the second part of that has came true -- these games this weekend should be awesome -- without the boring part. So here are some links, many of which are preview items as the content produced about the actual Tournament is pretty boring.

Them links be after the jump.

- Given their first meeting and its outcome, watching the diverging paths of North Carolina and Duke in the NCAAs was fascinating. The Heels have been utterly dominant. Duke was awful, would've been the victim of the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history if not for Gerald Henderson playing like a man, were destroyed in the second half against West Virginia and are home now. I'd like to think this moment, and this moment alone, was the turning point for both teams. Revel in its beauty.

- This CBS Sportsline column about Tyler Hansbrough from Mike Freeman was pretty bold, pretty controversial (read the comments) and difficult to argue with. I'm not going to go to deep into it; he basically feels there is a double standard perpetuated by the media regarding highly visible white players in college hoops. The giveaway line is : "America loves a tough, white guy." He is right in that regard but doesn't quite make a full argument or offer a lot to support the hypothesis. Freeman is a fellow University of Delaware alum so in interest of full disclosure, I'm probably an apologist for a fellow Blue Hen. But it's an interesting read.

- Dan Steinberg at the fabulous (heterosexually fabulous, that is) DC Sports Bog with a great first-hand account of storming the floor following American's Patriot League Championship (which seems like it happened year ago).

- Everyone was all fussy about the Selection Committee matching up mid-major with each other, including me, and no one has been better at chronicling the view from the little guys than ESPN.com contributor and Mid-Majority editor Kyle Whelliston, Lord of the Mid-Majors. After the field was announced he penned this great column on the traveshammockery that is Selection Sunday. In light of the runs made by mid-majors like Western Kentucky and Davidson, which has hopefully validated the many cries of foul directed toward the Committee for seemingly wanting the BCS schools to conduct their business without losing face, Whelliston has renamed his site The WKU-Majority. Rather than link all of Whelliston's great posts from the weekend -- it would require many hyperlinks and possible carpel tunnel -- just go to his site and read it all. After a year where the big boys reigned, the mid-majors are back and have found a place at the top. George Mason was no fluke, watch out world.

- Basketball Prospectus, in its first year on the job, offered this season's best tournament preview. And to follow it up, they have been outstanding in their tourney coverage. So go there, read it, love it, live a better life.

- For someone with the rare and unfortunate combination of being a basketball addict and former English major in college, this piece on how Ernest Hemingway would analyze some of the top NCAA contenders was absolutely fantastic.

- I enjoyed this column from Andy Katz on Kevin Love and OJ Mayo, even if it was approximately the 8 millionth of its kind and basically jinxed the hell out of USC. Hopefully we can put all those preconceived notions about the two and the completely false "antithesis" they represent.

- Alright so one more Kyle Whelliston item to pass along. Last one, I swear, but the guy is doing great work over there. With my brackets in complete shambles, as I predicted, I enjoyed this column asking readers to not fill out a bracket this year. I wish I could do this. Unfortunately my body and mind will not allow me to abstain from Bracketering; I must have a chemical imbalance. But with my picks basically ruined, I have enjoyed this year's tournament even without having any real live reason to root for a specific. I've become a liberated fan, something that the boys at FreeDarko talk a lot about; I am simply an enjoyer of good basketball. And this makes very much sense. The reason I love the NCAA Tournament is not because I love winning office pools, it's because I love basketball. A lot. So, as Whelliston argues, by filling out a bracket you are simply celebrating prognostication, right and wrongness. Not basketball, which is what this thing is all about. Just because there is no prospect of winning money off of them, doesn't mean you can't like a team or have interest in a game.

- There certainly are some curious trends the Selection Committee seems to be perpetuating, and Gary Parrish is there to point them out and call out the Committee. For someone who is unusually Freshman-centric, I also enjoyed this column he wrote on young bucks and their big tourney roles.

- This is why I enjoy Bill Raftery.

- This was in Sports Illustrated's March Madness preview issue, a great look from Grant Wahl at how size dictates tournament success, especially in regards to this year's field, which contains a lot of small-ball teams, which follows the trend recently seen in the NBA. Looking at the teams left, many of the remaining top seeds at least has respectable post players, but squads like Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia and Memphis will be operating without a great deal of size. Should be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out (especially with Texas vs. Stanford; the best Sweet 16 match-up this year).

- Further proof that no matter how much Bill Simmons knows about the NBA (which is a whole lot), he should not write about college basketball.

- No No. 1 seed was really even tested in the first round this year, but there is really nothing better than when one gets scared. Here is a run-down of the closest calls in history.

- The world will never be the same. There is no God.

- Very good piece analyzing CBS' first weekend coverage of the NCAAs (even if it praises Seth Davis for non-comedic excellence). I thought it was pretty good coverage as well, except that Gus Johnson had all blowouts and Tim Brando was nearly comatose during that insane Friday in Tampa. Given all the tooting being done for Davis taking Davidson, I would like to point out that I said Belmont would give Duke all they could handle in the first round. I may be near last place in all my pools, but I will hold onto this for years.

- And here, an example of why local nightly news will not bring upon the end of civilization, contrary to popular belief:

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The SSS NCAA Tournament Preview For Non-Psychics: East Region

Waxing poetic about how lovely the NCAA Tournament is seems a bit irrelevant at this point. Certainly "One Shining Moment" will provide a sort of grab-bag of sappiness at the end of the whole thing that will you make you go, "Man, I love March Madness," sigh while looking longingly into the middle distance and then go watch The Hills or something. Now is not the time for such nonsense. March Madness is great! Work sucks! Gus Johnson is so exciting! There, that's done with. What we all want right now is objective, cold-hearted analysis on which teams will prevail and how to win your office pools. I wholeheartedly hope you find something like that. Instead I offer my own brand of regional previews, based solely around enjoying the tournament as much as possible. I'd say "Enjoy" but that goes without saying this time of year.

Your East region. The West will come tomorrow. Midwest Wednesday and the South either Thursday morning or Wednesday night.

1st Round Games
1) North Carolina vs. 16) TBA: The Heels have never beaten TBA, so surely they are irked with the committee's decision to match up the overall No. 1 with a team its never beaten. Sons a bitches, those committee members are.

8) Indiana vs. 9) Arkansas: Some folks are perplexed by Indiana's low seeding but those people must not know some inside information about the Hoosiers: They suck. Yes I know; Eric Gordon, DJ White, those jazzy warm-up pants. It's Indiana! They are totally awesome! No, I'm sorry, they are not totally awesome. The Hoosiers best in-conference road win was at Ohio State. They lost to Minnesota and Penn State in the past week. And they broke all sorts of rules to achieve those stratospheric levels. Not to mention they have no point guard and refuse to play any sort of defense. Those looking for the Steve Fisher/Dan Dakich parallels may be better off referencing Fisher's golden days at San Diego State.

5) Notre Dame vs. 12) George Mason: Clueless, white businessmen everywhere -- you know, the guys who claim to really love March Madness but basically just repeat what they heard on Around the Horn when gathered at the water cooler; the guys who, if they win the pool will credit some kind of divine knowledge most certainly learned from Digger Phelps but when they lose joke around about it like they have the worst luck in the world ("I can never win these things, my wife beat me again!"); you know, the guys you want to kill -- will be determined to not let George Mason sneak up on them again this year. Even if it means picking against those crew-cut WASPy fellows that the Irish trot out there (keep in mind none of these idiots know nearly enough about basketball to have heard about McAlarney's reefer violation). I actually think Mason can win this one but for reasons (good at slowing down faster opponents, physical interior defense), different than Forbes Applewhite, CPA (they made the Final Four that year! what a Cinderella!).

4) Washington State vs. 13) Winthrop: Call the Eagles "The George Mason For Slightly Less Clueless White Businessmen." Those idiots will pick them based on past upsets and the general obscurity with which Wazzou plays. Unfortunately for Ted Stevens, VP of Sales, New England Patriots fan, "the Cougars" are more than just what he boasts his wife to be during their triannual sexual relations (Valentine's Day, Anniversary, and the greatest holiday of all, When She Gets Too Drunk at the Company Banquet). They are a really good basketball team that plays some really good defense and won't even be a touch bothered by Winthrop's vaunted ball pressure. They don't score well enough to beat a team like Notre Dame or North Carolina, but can certainly beat Winthrop, and Mason if they pull the upset, at their own game.

6) Oklahoma vs. 11) St. Joe's: This wins the award for Most Interesting Game to Real Hoops Fans That No One Else Will Give A Shit About. Both teams have underrated frontlines and watching Pat Calathes and Ahmad Nivins try to run around and stop Blake Griffin will be enjoyable, if not masochistic. I actually think they can do it though. Besides Griffin, the Sooners just cannot score the ball and the Hawks have stepped up their defense lately. This could be an 8-9 game if both teams seeds were more accurately.

3) Louisville vs. 14) Boise State: My love for the ball-hawking, lane-penetrating Cardinals is well-chronicled around these parts and if they make a deep run my unhealthy crush would certainly be vindicated. They face a pretty dangerous Boise State that can really shoot the ball but is rather uninterested in defense. If they can speed up the Cardinals and get into a shooting contest, well, they will still probably lose. But man do I love it when teams run up and down the court! (Seriously though, with this draw Louisville better make the damn Sweet 16 without breaking a sweat.)

7) Butler vs. 10) South Alabama: The Bulldogs got absolutely hosed and I have no idea why. They probably aren't the No. 4 seed all the crazies are clamoring for, but they certainly are a No. 5 or 6 and they certainly shouldn't have to play a road game in the first round against USA (the school, not the country; AJ Graves vs. Kobe Bryant would be an interesting match-up though). Despite the pounding they took, this is still a wildly interesting game. Butler plays slower than Kige Ramsey while the Jags play a bit faster and spread the floor some. Both teams have two of the better backcourts in mid-major basketball. Butler really can beat Tennessee in the second round but it'll be tough to even get there.

2) Tennessee vs. 15) American: This is just some cruel shit from the Selection Committee. I wrote this in the Selection Show Gamelog (Not About A Game), but I really don't see American being able to finish this game. Not that they aren't a good team, but the Eagles are 320th in the nation in pace of play. The Vols are 19th. The Vols have a bunch of crazy athletic people that jump over human beings for fun. American has this guy. And this guy. And this guy. I'm being dead serious when I say I am worried for the physical well-being of this team.

To Watch For
Game You Should Really Want Gus Johnson Announcing- Oklahoma vs. St. Joe's. Should be close, Gus should love Blake Griffin, struggle to pronounce Calathes.

Game You Should NOT Want Jim Nantz Announcing- Notre Dame vs. George Mason. First, the pun count will be off the charts with Mason ("Is Cinderella Ready For Another Night Out?" something awful along those lines). Second, when he sees Notre Dame and its fans he will go right into Augusta National mode (with Tory Jackson playing the part of Tiger Woods /ducks).

Thing That Will Get Stuck In Billy Packer's Craw- Surely, he'll be pissed about the whole Butler situation and will have a few fun words for Indiana and the Kelvin Sampson mess but something tells me he'll have some backhandedly racist comments about Tyler Smith's tear drop tattoos that CBS will sweep nicely under the rug. Also, there's no way he stays non-biased if he does that Notre Dame-George Mason game.

Most Ironic Commercial- John Mellencamp's soulcrushingly ubiquitous This Is Our Country commercial should fit oh-so swimmingly with the Tennessee game as a Jewish guy coaches a predominantly black team in a town best known for erroneously sending Martin Luther King Jr. to jail. This, indeed, is our country.

Talking Points That Will Make Your Brain Want To Die- David Padgett is a "point center." Luke Harangody looks like a football player. These things are unavoidable, completely irrelevant.

Second Round Match-Up That Would Give CBS Execs Creamed Jeans- UNC v. Indiana. DJ White vs. Tyler Hansbrough. Basketball mecca vs. basketball mecca. Traditionally proud program vs. recently shamed program. Hillbillies vs. Rednecks.

Second Round Match-Up That Would Give Hoops Fans Creamed Jeans, CBS Execs Flaccidity- Notre Dame vs. Washington State. Freewheeling three-point hoisting vs. plodding deliberation masked as efficiency. Derrick Low's Hawaiian weed stash v. Kyle McAlarney's self control.

Best NBA Prospect- Blake Griffin should stay another year, then become a Top 5 pick. Not entirely sold on Eric Gordon on the next level yet.

Best Luxembourg First Division Prospect- Arkansas Center Steven Hill will take Diekrich by storm next year.

Most Likely Teabagging Scenario- The Smith Named Tyler all over one those poor, unsuspecting future diplomats of American.

Unexpectedly Hot Cheerleaders- Arkansas. Gotta think there are some really pretty, excruciatingly dumb girls in that group.

Oh, And The Winner Of The Damn Thing- Louisville-Tennessee and UNC-Notre Dame in two epic regional semifinals with the Cardinals and Heels advancing. Louisville advances to the Final Four when Wayne Ellington has an atrocious shooting night.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rashad McCants Web Site Makes Duke Fans Wonder What Could Have Been

Rashad McCants is in the NBA now but since most of the population probably wasn't aware of that, I figured I should post this anyway; playing for a National Champion UNC team probably earns you far more notoriety than playing semi-regularly for the Timberwolves and being the pastry chef for your former fellow bench-dweller's competitive dunking endeavors. But a great way to increase that profile is to have a spiffy, rather insane Web site. J.E. Skeets covered this very well at the excellent Ball Don't Lie, Yahoo's NBA blog, and excerpted some highlights:
McCants on his tattoos: "There is nothing like a fresh tattoo. The look of it. The feel of it. Knowing that it hurt so bad, and you wanted to quit. Just like life. When all goes bad, you just wanna quit. But the moment you decide it's not so bad, that if you just take the pain everything will be fine, is the moment you realize life isn't so bad."

McCants on his YBG clothing line: "YBG is my self expression to show my struggle from where I come from to where I am now! Young black and gifted is what I am through my own eyes. Just remember the motto: Swagger is everything!!!!"

McCants on comparing himself to reading The Bible: "Once you open it up and start to read it, you find out things that you've never really seen or heard before. And I think that really describes me."
Skeets has a good eye for mindnumbingly inane athlete self-aggrandizement but I think he is missing out on the real issue. The merciless torture Cameron Crazies could unfurl upon McCants had this Web site been formed during his Tar Heel days. Given all the jeering Redick got for writing poetry, don't you think the Dukies would have a little something prepared in response to one of Rashad's latest (of five overall) poems, Hustle and Cream? An excerpt:
"Gloomy days stormy nights kids watch videos instead of riding bikes.
No flying kites chilling on windy Wednesday, we need us a black men's day,
but us Negros been blind, fuck xray, the only real celebration is your death day.
Women are trapped because that dude didn't really seem gay,
friends fooled because friends said they would never stray.
didn't sense the hate but friends really been fake.
Jail time got brothers really changing faith. Thought friends had they back like bathing ape."
I always liked McCants in college and didn't think he was a thug or selfish or cocky as many of his detractors did, but just a guy who wasn't going to be who everyone else (read: white people) wanted him to be. And within the lines of, uh, Hustle and Cream, you can see a young, confused man at odds with the world around him... And also one that believes the meaning of his existence is comparably enlightening to the Bible.

Duke fans want those three years of their lives back.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

So Wait, Why Can't Tyler Hansbrough Be A Lottery Pick?

I have the NBA League Pass. This might come as a shock to some people, seeing as how college basketball fans are supposed to despise the evil, emotionless, robot-ball of the NBA. What with all that talent and, you know, ability to make shots. Cheerleaders, stoned students and white guys. Now that is basketball. But I'm not going to digress on whether college is, in fact, a better basketball product as nearly every casual basketball fan and diehard college fan purports it to be. That is perhaps another column for another day.

No, the reason I bring up the League Pass is that I watch a lot of basketball (if you are looking to stay up until 1:30 every night before work -- and alcohol/a woman is not an option that particular evening -- the League Pass is a great alternative to accomplishing this goal) and I watch a lot of different players. Therefore, I have gained a knowledge that I am quite proud of and one that is very rare, likely because it is completely useless. I am familiar with every player that steps onto the floor of an NBA game. I have seen them all play before, I know their games, I know their roles on their given team and, most importantly, I know just how ridiculous it is for them to be in the NBA. There are some truly awful, truly lucky and truly inexplicable players seeing major minutes in the NBA. Chicago and New Orleans are on right now actually and Ryan Bowen, Rasual Butler, Aaron Gray, Hilton Armstrong and Jannero Pargo have all had an impact on this game one way or another (four of those five players are on New Orleans; if Byron Scott isn't Coach of the Year, Ralph Nader needs to get involved). And this is happening everywhere.

So, why in the name of Mark Blount can't Tyler Hansbrough make it in the NBA? Everyone even remotely involved in evaluating/analyzing college basketball absolutely loves Hansbrough and yet not one of those people give him any chance to be more than a fringe pro. He is a "great, college player" or "shows grit and determination" or "is relentless around the basket;" but at the same time he manages to be "undersized," "unathletic" and, worst of all, "a four-year player." He is listed as the No. 29 pick in the 2009 Draft (behind guys like Curtis Jerrels and Joe Alexander) on NBADraft.net and, more reasonably, No. 19 in this year's draft on Draft Express (behind DeVon Hardin). Now, I'm not going to suggest Tyler Hansbrough, as a result of his dominance of the college ranks, should be the No. 1 pick or something. But I do think he will be a very valuable NBA player.

And that depends on how you define success I suppose. I linked to this last week, but there was a nice piece on FreeDarko about how NBA GMs have been suckered into an era where they expect their draft picks to be franchise saviors -- rather than (gasp) effective contributors -- because they now get a chance to see the untapped talent of former high school-to-pro dudes at a college level. Conversely, those that show limitations to their talent at that level are penalized like they haven't been before (how else does Brandan Wright go ahead of Joakim Noah last year?). And this is what has happened to Tyler Hansbrough. He is a really fucking good player. He averages 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds less than Michael Beasley and shoots roughly the same percentages all against similar, but probably better competition. On the other hand, he doesn't hit threes, blocks way less shots and is over three years older than Beasley. Me being a rational person, looking at only those facts, I would say Beasley is a much better prospect than Hansbrough. And that is true. But the question is how much? No matter what your limitations, putting up those numbers for a top team in a top conference with opposing defenses doing everything to stop you, is fairly impressive. And yet those numbers, except when considering the POY race, have somehow been rendered irrelevant. If you just look at the players and listen to the pundits, the difference is obvious, right? (Note: Wrong).

Well, since no one else wants to say it, here's what Tyler Hansbrough does well that will translate to the NBA. He has incredible touch around the basket. He somehow manages to get the weirdest shots from the weirdest angles to go in, and frequently does so while being fouled. The utter ugliness in aesthetic that these shots often display, is probably the reason people scoff at his game. He doesn't make it look very easy and for some reason we equate making the game look natural with having natural talent. For some, like Beasley and Durant, this is absolutely true, but it's certainly not the rule (JR Smith has a smoothness that makes the game look easy and he can barely read). Hansbrough is also outstanding with his body positioning. Kevin Love, another guy whose NBA stock is being persecuted, is also outstanding at this. When you are undersized, you have to compensate by being able to position your body at the right angles and seal off defenders in the post (just ask Charles Barkley). This is why Hansbrough gets rebounds, gets to the line like he does and manages to get shots off against bigger and more athletic opponents. This is something few NBA players can perform at Hansbrough's level because it's not something you have to teach athletic players as they grow up. But in the NBA, everyone is athletic, so positioning and footwork ends up being an important differentiator from defenders.

This season he has also shown a bit of a face-up game and a mid-range jumper. Now he hasn't done it at a level that will turn him into some unstoppable force, but it does dispel the myth that he has "peaked" in development. He is adding facets to a game that was already good enough to dominate on the college level and has shown signs of turning the J he's shown this year into a consistent 16-foot jumper in the League (the 16-foot jumper is the NBA big man's free meal ticket to offensive longevity, just ask Marcus Camby, Mark Blount, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Kurt Thomas and Udonis Haslem... do not ask Ben Wallace).

OK, you say, "But he's still a barely 6-8 power forward, which position in the NBA can he guard?" If you haven't seen the NBA lately, there are tons of 6-8 players that are frequently slotted as a power forward. There are very few teams that play the majority of their games with a classic PG, 6-5 SG, 6-8 SF, 6-10 PF and 7-0 C anymore. I watched Cleveland play Atlanta the other day and LeBron James and Marvin Williams were the tallest players on the court down the stretch in the fourth. This league wants guys to get up and down the court, be able to run an effective screen and roll or screen and pop, and do the little things that help the stars stay stars. That sounds like a fine roll for Psycho T. He has great conditioning, is pretty fast end-to-end, should be able to set good screens, can knock down open, mid-range jumpers and rebounds like Satan is telling him to do so. By doing those things alone, coupled with his touch in the paint, toughness and basketball IQ, he will be a great secondary NBA player. And not some bench guy to steal minutes. He can be a starter on a contending NBA team. I mean, Fabricio Oberto is, Erick Dampier is, Joel Przybilla is, Kendrick Perkins is, Rasual Butler is. And while those guys aren't great players, I'd still rather use a late lottery pick on them than I would a guy with "untapped talent." Because there's no guarantee that guy is ever to going to tap himself (that didn't come out right, but you get the point).

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Live Gamelog: Duke at UNC

Alright here we go. Everyone knows how much fun this little shindig is going to be, although judging by the ESPN promos and the idiot announcers from the Syracuse-UConn game, I'm supposed to be more excited about Dickie V than, you know, two of the top three teams in the country playing each other.

Ty Lawson is going to dress but probably won't play apparently. Greg Paulus is only wearing one ankle brace instead of the usual four.

If you want some sort of analysis previewing this game, check out this or this.

1st Half
20:00- Extremely close and disgusting shot of some foreign students saying "rivalry" in different languages to start the game. Unfortunately this game is NOT on ESPN Deportes. By the way, there are some serious flaws with Hi-Definition television... and Mike Patrick's head is one of them.

Dick says he never dreamed he would back in the broadcast booth. Neither did we Dick, neither did we.

Oh, wait we have to talk about the game? Darn, might as well chuck some starting lineups in there, then. I wanted to hear more about the cysts in a 68-year-old man's throat. Can they put some physician photos in the corner?

19:47- Greg "Pimp G" Paulus drains a three right off the bat. I'm telling you, he's the Eli Manning of college hoops.


18:25- 8-5 UNC. Big old giant block by Henderson. Dirtness. But Hansbrough gets a put back. Patrick is going to be using "Psyco T" A LOT tonight folks. He's trying to appeal to the young, hip crowd. Might want to drop the phrase "holy cow" from the vocabulary first there buddy.

14:54- 12-10 UNC at first TV timeout. Really entertaining thus far. Psycho T has looked pretty great... and pretty crazy. Besides the crazy person eyes, he seriously looks like he just has no control of his emotions. Almost like he's terrified of himself. Next to "weaknesses" on his NBA Draft profile, it should say, "undersized for the pros, limited range, afraid of the demons within, foul shooting." But seriously he's showing a face-up game tonight and there's gonna be tons of scouts watching so good for him.

13:17- 16-13 UNC. Some fella named Graves is in for UNC. I mean, is the Lawson injury really that debilitating? Graves?

12:39- 18-13 UNC. Graves!

12:27- 18-13 UNC. Paulus burrows his way to a cheap foul, is assassinated. And then Quentin Thomas pulls a Paulus Circa 2007 (a stupid turnover). Heels fans ready their post-game excuses.

11:33- 18-18. Scheyer, who was monstrous in the Duke-UNC game I gamelogged (or "glogged") last season, drains a three. After that game, I predicted a career plagued by a creative plethora of taunts regarding his sexuality and family members put in erotic positions, but he seems to have gotten off easy. Probably not punchable enough.

Stacey Dales, who just got out of an audition for Melrose Place, shows some "Wanted" poster for Gerald Henderson that those crafty UNC fans made. It says "Wanted" and shows his face. Best and the brightest down there at Chapel Hill.

9:43- 27-20 Duke. Patrick inexplicably brings up Zoubek's injury in regards to the current 15-5 rebounding margin in favor of the Heels. Scheyer saves us all by interrupting him with a three. Then a charge on UNC, then a three by Pimp G. Then a bucket by Thomas. Then ANOTHER three by Singler.

Dickie V: "Gotta love making the threes." Never lost a step Dick.

9:00- 27-20 Duke. Another awful turnover by Q. Might have to suck it up there Ty. Where's Wes Miller when you need him?... Oh, apparently writing books. Hmm.

8:20- 27-22 Duke. Vitale: "So great to be back. I don't wanna get too emotional here." Yes Dick, thanks for keeping your emotions in check. Very professional. Now what were you shouting about dipsy doos and dunkeroos?

6:34- 31-23 Duke. Oh boy. Another really bad turnover by Thomas leads to an easy lay-up. They then show a montage of his mistakes. I always liked Quentin Thomas, but this is brutal.

5:53- 31-24 Duke. Some thrilling discourse on how hard it is to say "rivalry" and "rural." Speaking of slow... UNC looks much more sluggish than Duke right now and Ty Lawson probably wouldn't be helping all that much. Singler burns Hansbrough, who then turns over the inbounds. 35-26 Duke.

4:00- 39-29 Duke. A series of incredibly lame jokes by Vitale, one relating to lasagna, another relating to his poor SAT scores. No comment, just wanted to chronicle the type of shit us viewers have to deal with. Kinda like a time capsule of inanity.

3:40- 42-31 Duke. Heels go zone despite seven threes already by Duke. And what to do the Devils do? Knock down a three, courtesy of Pimp G.

3:00- 42-31 Duke. Dickie V may have just referred to Stacey Dales as "Cindy." Not sure.

2:06- 42-33 Duke. Vitale talking to Hubert Davis: "I wonder who Hubert is rooting for? Is he gonna be objective tonight (baby)?" Pot. Kettle. Black.

1:08- 42-35 Duke. Vitale talks about another charity thing he's doing and I feel like an ass.

Half- 42-39 Duke. HUGE 8-0 run by UNC to cut the lead to three by half on a nice pass from Thomas (thank God) to Hansbrough. Much like the first meeting last year, UNC plays pretty bad and is right in the game. Duke's hit eight threes, the Heels have gotten nothing in transition and have turned it over twice as much as Duke and yet they are down three. The game is as we have expected to a degree: Duke wins by spreading the court and taking advantage of quickness, UNC dominates the glass and Hansbrough is unguardable (18 points; and Thompson has nine too). Duke can't shoot like this the whole game.

As for Vitale, he seems a bit rusty tonight. I mean, not once have I wanted to pour this piping hot queso in my ears. He's probably on orders from either his doctor or Perverted Justice to keep the Diaper Dandy exultations to a minimum, though. I actually think I hate Mike Patrick more at this point. He is just clueless and can't even sniff a relevant point about actual basketball. And I am absolutely positive that he smells weird.

2nd Half
19:00- 42-41 Duke. Dirty cross by Quentin Thomas for a lay-up. Good for him. Not to be outdone, Paulus drains another three, his fourth of the game. Eli. Manning. Of Football. Then a Thompson bucket +1, a Nelson three (Duke has 10) and another filthy crossover by Thomas for a bucket. There's always the And 1 Tour, Q. Great action right now.

17:35- 51-46 Duke. Pimp G drains ANOTHER three. Hide your daughters men of Chapel Hill. He's seeing triple tonight, if you know what I mean.

16:42- 51-49 Duke. First Diaper Dandy reference. Chris Hanson is a few minutes away already.

15:08- 57-51 Duke. Patrick on Roy Williams' vertigo: "It's easy to lose your balance with that."
/stunned silence

13:50- 58-51 Duke. Taylor King comes in, clangs a three, gets it back and airballs a three. A nation rejoices.

12:30- 58-51 Duke. The EXACT same collision in the paint on each end, UNC called for a charge first; Vitale: "I could've made that call with my eyes closed." Duke then called for a charge; Vitale: "That was absolutely not a charge."

9:28- 62-57 Duke. Vitale: "OHH, North Carolina-Duke. CALL YOUR FRIENDS UP, CALL YOUR FRIENDS UP. IT'S SPECIAL BABY." That's what I was waiting for. The thing where he's too old to yell and form complete sentences at the same time.

Me: Hey man.
Friend: Yo what's up?
Me: Uhh... it's special baby.
Friend: I always thought you were gay.

7:08- 68-62 Duke. TV timeout. Honestly, despite all the idiocy from the announcers, this has been an incredible game. Obviously not what it could've been had Lawson played but pretty damn entertaining nonetheless. There have been so many incredible plays of individual talent (did you see that pass by Quentin Thomas and then the block by Lance Thomas?). Gonna take a break from the ripping on Vitale/Patrick (maybe) to enjoy the basketball for a little while.

5:33- 74-65 Duke. Greg Paulus, who shall now forever be known as Pimp G, buries another three. I fully expect him to wear a silk suit and a fedora to the press conference after the game and answer reporters' questions by quoting Public Enemy or something.

1:26- 82-73 Duke. Alright I'm back. You can't really blame him because he's won them a couple games this year, but Wayne Ellington shot the Heels out of this one. Duke CANNOT stop Hansbrough and yet Ellington wasted possessions trying to get his stroke back.

0:54- 83-78 Duke. Wild exchange. Q. Thomas, who is having an outstanding second half that has probably saved his life, finds Hansbrough like a non-idiot, Hansbrough misses. Paulus grabs the loose ball in the corner, throws a pass that hits the net of UNC's basket, Ellington grabs it and kicks it out to Green for a three. Normal shit doesn't happen in this rivalry.

0:23- 88-78 Duke. Heels throw away the inbounds. Ballgame.
89-78 Duke.
Really entertaining game. These teams are about even if UNC has Lawson, with a slight edge to Duke probably. This game basically came down to the Heels not being quick enough to guard Duke's spread, drive and kick offense, Duke hitting an absurd amount of threes and Ellington/Green, who usually combine for 28 per game, only getting 11 total. Keep in mind, these two teams are playing for that East regional No. 1 seed (that Vitale wouldn't shut up about) which never leaves North Carolina before the Final Four. But due to the suckiness of the ACC, it's basically a three-game series (this one, @Duke, ACC final) for that spot. So don't get your panties in a bunch Duke fans.

And as for the extra-curriculars, like I've said before, Duke is not very hateable this year. And while Vitale was annoying, it was mild and it was certainly an added element to have him back. Oh and Mike Patrick is a freaking idiot. But we knew that.

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The Post Where I Talk About Duke and UNC

Note: Tune in tomorrow for a fancy gamelog of tonight's game, replete with Dick Vitale jokes. I did one last year, too. It's a tradition just like this game!

I had originally planned some giant opus on the Duke-UNC rivalry, posturing on its cultural significance, the place within the cosmos of all its participants and, inevitably, some bit on how obnoxious Dick Vitale is. But as much as I enjoy the medium of a "blog" and its glorious place in this crazy sports world, us folk certainly do have a tendency to write -- many, many times over -- what could be best summed up far more succinctly and by perfectly capable beings much closer to the topic at hand. It's great for everyone to have a voice, but sometimes we need to make sure the voices of the masses don't drown out the voice that deserves most to be heard.

And when it comes to Duke-UNC, I don't think I could ever provide a more, compelling, insightful, earnest and downright moving portrayal than Will Blythe's book To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever, a book that seems to be mentioned a lot around this time of year, but given the appalling amount of ignorant, filled-with-hate-just-because hoops fans out there, probably hasn't been read by nearly enough people. It is my favorite sports book I have read to date (and he wrote a great piece on the game last year for Deadspin). Blythe, the former literary editor at Esquire, is a native North Carolinian, Chapel Hill grad and raging Heel fan. His book is not filled with ranting diatribes about AmEx commercials or the Crazies or Christian Laettner -- those are in still in there though, just not prominent -- instead opting to examine the true rivalry, the one that only those very close to either program can understand and the one completely obscured to 95 percent of hoops fans who choose to take a side in Duke-UNC.

It's not a matter of competition, it's a matter of culture. Duke, a small, private school filled predominantly with wealthy, out-of-state students is the antithesis of North Carolina. Duke is an infestation to a state that most North Carolinians have a very intimate relationship with, far more intimate than the transient New Yorkers or New Jersey-ites that end up at Duke have with their home state. North Carolina, and the university bearing its name -- a big, public university made up of many in-state students -- has a completely different culture than Duke. It is based heavily in Christian values; humility, family, hard work... and basketball. So when North Carolinians see this team of elite Northerners (and regardless of the players' actual backgrounds, they see the team as merely an athletic representation of the student body and the school's foundation) trying to best them at the one thing they hold dearest, and do it in a way (flopping, cursing, taunting) to which they simply cannot relate, well that's more than just wanting to win a basketball game. That's war.

And the best part about the book is the way this rivalry pertains to many other aspects of the author's life. When he moves to New York for career success and a fast-paced lifestyle, he feels as though he's betrayed his family and his state. He feels like a Dukie. And when his father becomes ill and he needs to move home, it takes that rivalry -- his love for the Heels ( symbolic of his roots, his family) and his hatred for Duke (symbolic of his Northern betrayal and his self-sufficient attitude) -- to allow him to truly appreciate the people he loves, the state he loves and the team he loves.

Now, THAT is a reason to care about this game. And, tonight, while most of us will scream at the TV, complaining about Duke's preferential calls, Greg Paulus' flopping, Taylor King's obnoxiousness or Coach K's complaints -- and bloggers and national media will write about all that tomorrow as well -- we will all, as a nation of hoops fans, think we really hate Duke. But the truth is, in the state of North Carolina -- where this rivalry actually matters -- the only voice they hear is the one coming from the other cushion on the couch.

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