Tar Heel Bred Tar Heel Dead

Well that was easy. North Carolina are the 2012 NCAA champs. I’ll meet you up on Franklin Street in five minutes to burn a couch.
The Heels have been crowned in pretty much every preseason poll, column, tweet and article on college basketball released in the run-up the coming season. The team is an overwhelming favorite to run the table in the conference, destroy the tournament competition, cut down the nets in April, cure cancer and possibly land a man on Mars.
But let’s just take a step back for a second. Things may not be as easy as everyone seems to think.
And bear in mind, what I’m about to say, I say with love. I love the Heels, obviously. I produce this podcast. I still own a can of that terrible blue soda (was it secretly Windex?) released after the 1993 championship. My closet contains far more logoed sportswear than a grown man should own.
But I have a few doubts (that will surely be answered as soon as play gets underway for realz, but until then), let’s look at four of the worrying questions that have been keeping me up at night.
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With the season less than a week away, Andy and Reed go out on a limb and make some predictions in various categories, both important and completely unimportant. Who will be Carolina’s leading scorer? Leading rebounder? Who will have the best haircut? Also, Dook sucks because of their Nazi propaganda-ish offering “Worldwide.” Terrible. Just terrible.

Email us at thbthd@gmail.com

The folks over at Grantland have assembled their own first team All America, and in a bit of an upset, Kendall Marshall makes the cut while Harrison Barnes does not. (Barnes and Henson made the second team.)

Last year, Marshall single-handedly turned a team headed to an eight seed and a 9-7 ACC record into a title contender. He accomplished this by doing exactly what a college point guard should do — by hitting guys in their spots and getting them easy baskets. There are a lot of extremely talented college players who will suit up this year — Marshall doesn’t have the physical gifts that Perry Jones, Terrence Jones, or Jeremy Lamb possess. But he might be the smartest and most creative player on the best team in the country. And that, in my book, is enough to warrant a first-team All-America selection.

The article also assesses Marshall’s NBA draft prospects, pegging him as a late first rounder or early second rounder. “May have more to gain by orchestrating an NCAA championship than any player in college basketball. An unforgettable March could propel him into the lottery.”

Second time’s a charm?

October 31, 2011

Harrison Barnes has been voted to the AP’s pre-season All America team. Again. The sophomore was second only to Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger in votes. Barnes’ inclusion last year as a freshman drew a lot of criticism — especially after he got off to slow start — but I doubt anyone will question the pick this time.

That said, you could just as easily make the case that Tyler Zeller or, to a lesser extent, John Henson, should be included on that list with — or instead of — Barnes. Sure, Barnes is the marquee name and a huge talent, but as far as the player who is the runaway, most valuable to the team? That’s less clear. After the way P.J. Hairston shot in the exhibition game over the weekend, we’re ready to include him on the list too.

Another poll, another #1 ranking for the Heels. This time, the AP bestowed the honor, a week after the USA Today Coaches Poll did the same. (Incidentally, this honor moves UNC ahead of Duke in preseason AP #1 rankings and into a tie with UCLA, the all-time leader.)

Oddly, the second-ranked Kentucky Wildcats didn’t receive any first-place votes, while Ohio State (#3) and Connecticut (#4) did. This season is shaping up to be a really interesting one, with a bunch of very good teams in the top 10, but perhaps no dominant club.

 

Jeff Goodman over at CBS Sports had a chance to drop in on a recent Heels practice, and he had some interesting observations. Basically, it sounds like the possible weaknesses on this team that we all worry about are being addressed and improvement is showing. Here are the top 5 points.

  1. Kendall Marshall’s outside shot is improving. This is great news, and should help to keep defenses honest and open up the inside for Zeller.
  2. Henson is working mightily on his offensive game, though it remains a “work in progress.” Love to hear that. Roy Williams talked a lot at his press conference this week about Henson and his improving shot. The big man still isn’t cleared to start taking 15-footers, but who knows what could happen by the end of the season.
  3. Dexter Strickland looks more comfortable running the point. This is the best news ever and addresses what is probably the team’s biggest weakness: lack of depth at point guard. Frosh Stilman White is an unproven commodity and if Kendall Marshall were to ever — we won’t even say it.
  4. Reggie Bullock is probably ahead in the race for shooting guard minutes with P.J. Hairston. OK. Not unexpected.
  5. Strickland’s shot is more consistent since last year. We’ll believe this when we see it.

More Duke douchbaggery

October 20, 2011

As part of their recent trip to China and Dubai, the dookies discovered T-Pain and Auto-Tune. And created one of the most gawd-awful videos of all time. Is there something about playing on the Duke basketball team that completely removes all self-awareness from your body? Enjoy…

Late Night With Roy recap

October 19, 2011

We had a correspondent on the ground for last weekend’s festivities — almost as if we’re a legit news organization or something. Here’s a report and a few photos from David Drake.

Late Night was much better this year from a stage production stand point. The skits were all pre-produced videos (and in the vein of the much-loved ESPN Sports Center promos) and because of this, were better paced and frankly nicely audible (something they’d struggled with in the past due to Smith Center acoustics). During the dance numbers I noticed that MacAdoo can really move and look forward to more from him in the coming years. The crowd favorite sketch featured the starters and Jonas Sahratian, UNC’s strength coach.  Jonas was pushing the team hard in the weight room and they weren’t really responding. Frustrated, he stormed out and the camera followed him into the hall where they’d set up the full Carolina bench replete with 5 second-stringers.  Jonas walks down the line, taping each one on the shoulder, a la one of Roy’s famous “pull your starters” moves. The scrubs rush into the weight room and the starters sheepishly gather on the bench in the hall where Sahratian does his best “Angry Roy” impression. As it ended, the skit faded to a live shot of Roy who was wiping a tear away he was laughing so hard.

As far as basketball goes, while fun to watch, there weren’t many Earth-shattering dunks or crazy plays. With the teams divided evenly between starters and scrubs, it was just an evenly balanced game. At one point Marshall found himself under the basket with his back to the net and Henson defending him. They both got a smile on their face as they knew what was coming next. Marshall turned and threw up a shot and Henson sniped it out of the air to a teammate. Hopefully this won’t happen to Kendall in the regular season.

One thing I was struck by watching the new guys was that James MacAdoo is a big guy. He’s thick in a good way. Hopefully he’ll be able to bang around inside with the other big boys and make some opponents regret it. He had one or two miscues but looked good overall.

Oh, and I got a high five from Vince Carter. Does it get any better than that?

Or so says an article over on Grantland today. Writer Jay Kang argues that Roy Williams’ system is impossible to beat if it works well. And it working well depends first and foremost on the point guard. When you’ve got a Ray Felton or a Ty Lawson at the helm, good things happen. When you’ve got a Larry Drew…well, other stuff happens. The article calls Marshall one of the best points in the game and predicts he’ll eventually be a first-round pick in the NBA. And if he stays healthy, this team is gonna win it all this year.

I bring this up because the 2011-12 Tar Heels are built a whole lot like the past two championship teams. They have a point guard who can run Roy’s system (Marshall, Lawson, Felton). They have a sweet-shooting wing with a knack for knocking down big shots (Harrison Barnes, Ellington, McCants). They have a five-star freshman forward who can concentrate his effort on the defensive side of the floor (James McAdoo, Ed Davis, Marvin Williams). They have a low-post player who can take over games (Tyler Zeller, Hansbrough, May). They have an athletic two guard who can bear down on defense and help push the tempo (Jackie Manuel, Ginyard/Green, Dexter Strickland). And it’s probable that all these assets would fall apart without their point guard, and, in some way, that none of these players would be as shiny and draft-worthy if they had not played in a well-tuned Roy Williams system.

Those expectations just keep getting higher. The list for the 50 candidates on the Wooden Award watch list were revealed this week, and UNC placed four players. That’s almost 10% of the entire list.

Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall made the cut, while Dexter Strickland was the lone starter not to be honored.

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