Tar Heel Bred Tar Heel Dead

With yesterday’s news that the ACC is going to expand again, this time adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse, you gotta wonder, how much can you change a particular thing before it stops being that thing? Is the ACC still the ACC…even when it bears little resemblance to the thing that we all know and love as the ACC? Not really.

This shuffling of teams among conferences, which is getting alarmingly frequent, is beginning to feel a lot like baseball. MLB fans have been complaining for years that the players switch teams so often it’s almost impossible to root for a club anymore, because that club has no identity. What are you rooting for? A uniform? A front office?

There can’t possibly be anyone out there who thinks this expansion is a good idea. At least no one who doesn’t work for the ACC. These are probably the same jackasses who thought expanding the NCAA tourney to 100+ teams was genius.

But from our viewpoint, here’s why this move stinks:

1. It’s impossible to escape the feeling that this move is about one thing and one thing only: money.

Even the official press release could only conjure some lukewarm platitude about this expansion finally uniting the teams in the south with Massachusetts. That’s the reason? Geography? Of course what they fail to point out that there is only a Massachusetts team in the conference as a result of the last ill-advised and nonsensical expansion. Whatever the reason for this move, be it about football revenue or something else, you know the only reason this is happening is not because it’s good for sports or for the ACC, but because it’s going to make someone richer.

2. More of something does not make it better.

How often do greedy companies make the same mistake? How often does Hollywood? You liked Jaws? Well, how about three more of them? You like Starbucks? Well, how about two on every corner? The ACC used to be nearly perfect. Each team would play every other team twice during the basketball season. Now officials use some complicated formula to determine who plays who, leading to some teams getting easier schedules than others. Scheduling is about to become even more chaotic.

3. It dilutes the rivalries.

When the teams played each twice during the season, it bred familiarity among the players and fans alike. You can throw that out the window. What happens now? Every team plays each other once, with even fewer teams playing each other twice?

We look forward to Duke-UNC. We look forward to Maryland-Duke. We look forward (sometimes) to UNC-NC State. Is there anyone out there who’s going to eagerly await the annual Wake Forest-Syracuse throwdown? Nope. Georgetown is Syracuse’s rival, not anyone in the ACC. Or Georgetown was its rival. Can you still be a rival when you don’t play? Who knows. The addition of these two teams is going to make the conference schedule a lot less special. Period. There are going to be a lot more shrug-worthy games per year between teams that have no history. NC State-Pitt anyone? You frothing at the mouth to mark that one on your calendar?

The rivalries that currently exist in the conference took years or decades to build. They grew out of repetition, with teams playing each other twice, year in and year out. Perhaps new rivalries could build, but how long will we have to wait for that? And will we want to?

On the plus side, it may not matter. Conference membership will probably change again in a few years. We can see the press release now: “The ACC is proud to welcome UCLA and Oregon as members, extending the reach of the Atlantic Coast all the way across the country.”

It doesn’t feel like a very good day to be an ACC basketball fan. If anyone can defend this decision, please let fly in the comments below.

Here’s a new mixtape showcasing Henson from the summer league. Yes, he blocks shots. Yes, he dunks the ball. But most surprising, he makes a couple jump shots, including a nice looking half hook. The best bit though is when he goes to shoot a free throw. The video shows him releasing it…but then cuts before we see what happens to the ball. Gotta appreciate that kind editing.


As we roll into February, the preseason rankings are beginning to trickle out, and the one from the Sporting News has Carolina at #1.

Those college coaches preaching the “defense-wins- championships” gospel can’t be all that pleased with Roy Williams. He has won twice with teams that were brilliant on offense and just good enough on defense. This year’s Tar Heel squad looks to be cut from that cloth. Point guard Kendall Marshall has not been an elite defender and can struggle to deny penetration, but what might separate these Heels from their predecessors is the shot-blocking presence of 6-10 power forward John Henson. And, oh my, are they going to score points.

Kentucky is #2 and Duke #5.

Being #1 is nice and all, but wouldn’t it be better to start out somewhere else in the top 10 and gradually work your way up to the top spot? Being #1 comes with so many crushing expectations, and those can sometimes take their toll on a young team. Will this group of Heels be able to handle the hype like seasoned vets, or will it prove too much?

Also, that “oh, my, are they going to score points” line seems a bit overly optimistic. Just a word of caution. Last season with the same starting five, we often scored in the 60s. Hell, we beat Boston College by putting up just 48 points. Granted, everyone on the team should be improved this year, but if you look at the starting 5, only Tyler  Zeller and Harrison Barnes would be considered scoring machines. John Henson is more of a defensive stopper, Kendall Marshall only shoots when he has to and Dexter Strickland doesn’t really shoot at all. These fabled hundreds of points per game may come from a healthy Reggie Bullock hitting from downtown and the impressive freshman, but then, they may not. With Leslie McDonald looking to be sidelined for almost the entire season with an ACL tear, the offensive prospects don’t exactly improve.

Thoughts? Will this team consistently score  in the 80s and 90s and become the unstoppable offensive machine worthy of a #1 ranking as the Sporting News says?

Today’s poll

August 31, 2011

If you keep up on Twitter with Butter, you know he’s obsessed with sneakers. And that’s putting it gently. Marshall is always talking his sneakers, what pair of kicks he’s currently wearing and what pair he’s planning to wear later in the week. He gets offended when someone else is wearing the same shoes, or worst of all, when he spots someone wearing Skechers Shape Ups. The horror. A couple weekends ago, he mentioned he was headed to a Raleigh shoe convention. Slam has a nice kicks-centric interview up with the guard.

SLAM: What are your five favorite pairs of kicks that you own?

KM: Definitely my royal Foamposite Ones, the ones I haven’t worn yet. My Jordan XIII Playoffs. Maybe my Wolf Grey Vs. I don’t know, it’s hard! God, asking difficult questions [laughs]! Umm, my [Nike Air] Griffey’s Freshwater/Black. These are another pair I’m scared to wear. My Jordan Retro VII Bordeaux’s, it’s like a black and grey.

SLAM: Thoughts on the new Jordan 8.0s?

KM: I’m kinda excited about the black ones of those. They have a black pair. I’m not really a fan of the second series—2.0s and stuff—‘cause I feel like they’re ruining the Retro pairs of Jordans, but I kinda like the 8.0s.

Didn’t understand of word of that.

It’s a special extra-length preseason episode. The 2011-2012 basketball schedule is out, and Andy and Reed run it down game by game, from the gimmes (Nicholls?), to the maybes (Texas) to the oh, $&*!%’s (Kentucky).

Also, Dook sucks this time because they are so very, very rich. Filthy, stinking, horrible rich. Email us at thbthd@gmail.com

The current Tar Heels hoops squad has no problem dominating their fellow students, but when it comes to pros, the story is a little different. Word from the annual Smith Center pick-up games pitting the current squad against former Heels (many of them now playing professionally overseas or in the NBA) is that the pros haven’t lost a step in their older age. In fact, the wily vets are handily dispatching the young bucks in the majority of the contests.

Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily.

Three times a week this summer, former North Carolina greats like Sean May, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams and Shammond Williams roughed up the current Tar Heels in spirited five-on-five pickup games at the Smith Center.

One of the few times the youngsters left with bragging rights was the day in late July that they won five of seven games. The pros endured some friendly trash talk before delivering a swift dose of humility, sweeping seven straight games the next day and then winning seven of eight the following evening.

“It keeps us humble,” sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall said. “If all we saw were the rankings that had us preseason No. 1, we might have slacked a little bit, but having the pros here keeps us working hard. When we have players like that beating up on us constantly, it makes us realize we do have things we have to get better at.”

New site design

August 26, 2011

Thanks to our friend Ken Lau, a talented NYC-based web designer and illustrator, for giving the site a little makeover. You can check out his work (or hire him for your project) here.

It appears that the team will be playing another one of its popular pick-up games on campus. If you’re in town, it’s your chance to see Harrison Barnes and co. up close and personal. Or if you’re one of the lucky few who steps on the court against them, a chance to have your ugly J thrown back in your grill by John Henson. Cherish it forever.
Here’s a taste of the last pick-up game earlier this week.

The ACC has just released schedules for the upcoming season, and at first glance, Carolina’s looks like a bruiser. We’ll record an episode of the podcast this weekend, breaking it down game by game, but until then, have a look for yourself.

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