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Archive for December, 2009

The answer, of course, depends on your expectations.  If you expect the team to waltz right into the Final Four, well then yes, you should be very worried.  If you are willing to sit back and watch a young team grow, then you should enjoy this basketball season.

This team has an immense amount of talent.  Their challenge is that much of it is very young.  A lot was expected of Ed Davis coming into this season.  With his name being thrown around for the NBA draft and the loss of much of last year’s Championship team he was expected to assert himself as “the man.”  While he has some nice stats, 14.7 ppg and 9.9 rpg, he has not shown the level of aggression that will take his game to the next level.  A large part of that may be because he is still just a sophomore, or maybe that’s not his personality.  Through the course of this season we should find the answer. 

The long term answer at point guard appears to be Dexter Strickland.  He has the speed and drive similar to Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton.  However, he is just a freshman.  He has experienced, and will continue to suffer through, stretches of turnovers where he appears to be throwing the ball all over the place.  But to reach the potential that will elevate the team, he needs to work through those growing pains and the only way to do it is with playing time.

Living in the Triangle it is always interesting to hear the local fans on sports radio and see their posts on local articles.  I think that most Carolina fans expect to win the championship every year.  This is not one of those teams.  To achieve the best results, Carolina needs to get consistent play from the seniors, Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard, and increasingly improved play from the key, high potential youngsters, Davis, Strickland, Zeller, Henson and the Wear brothers.  As those players move closer to their ceiling, and if they can get Davis to stay another year, next year’s team will have a real shot at a Final Four with the addition of Harrison Barnes.

But, don’t skip ahead too far…this team should be really fun to watch as they mature during this season.  So if you are a Tar Heels fan, sit back and enjoy it, for what it is.

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In it’s simplest form the game of football is about outscoring your opponent. One level below that, at least on a macro level, is the battle for yardage – gaining more and giving less. However, while looking at the team yardage per game statistics this morning a few things caught my eye.

AFC Combined Rankings

  1. New England 7 pts (1 o, 6 d)
  2. Pittsburgh 9 pts (4 o, 5 d)
  3. Baltimore 9 pts (6 o, 3 d)
  4. Houston 10 pts (3 o, 7 d)
  5. Indianapolis 11 pts (2 o, 9 d)
  6. Denver 12 pts (10 o, 2 d)
  7. N.Y. Jets 13 pts (12 o, 1 d)
  8. San Diego 13 pts (5 o, 8 d)
  9. Cincinnati 15 pts (11 o, 4 d)
  10.   Miami 19 pts (9 o, 10 d)
  11.   Jacksonville 19 pts (10 o, 9 d)
  12.   Tennessee 20 pts (7 o, 13 d)
  13.   Buffalo 26 pts (14 o, 12 d)
  14.   Kansas City 28 (13 o, 15 d)
  15.   Oakland 30 (16 o, 14 d)
  16.   Cleveland 31 (15 0, 16 d)

In the AFC it is hard to believe that Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Houston have not gotten more W’s while each having solid offenses and defenses, at least by the numbers.  Also surprising to me is that San Diego does not rank better. Easy to say they are the “hottest” team in the NFL even though Indy is undefeated. Yet, they are square in the middle in eighth. Not surprising is the huge gap between the bottom four teams and the top 12.

NFC Combined Rankings

  1. Green Bay 5 pts (4 o, 1 d)
  2. N.Y. Giants 5 pts (3 o, 2 d)
  3. Minnesota 8 pts (5 o, 3 d)
  4. Dallas 9 pts (2 o, 7 d)
  5. New Orleans 11 pts (1 o, 10 d)
  6. Philadelphia 11 pts (6 o, 5 d)
  7. Washington 15 pts (11 o, 4 d)
  8. Carolina 15 pts (9 o, 6 d)
  9. Arizona 18 pts (7 o, 11 d)
  10.   Chicago 20 pts (12 o, 8 d)
  11.   Seattle 22 pts (10 o, 12 d)
  12.   Atlanta 22 pts (8 o, 14 d)
  13.   San Francisco 24 pts (15 o, 9 d)
  14.   Tampa Bay 29 pts (16 o, 13 d)
  15.   St. Louis 29 pts (14 o, 15 d)
  16.   Detroit 29 pts (13 o, 16 d)

Shocking how far ahead Green Bay and the Giants are by the statistics but neither will win their division. It certainly surprises me to see Washington at seventh. Also, it is clear that the NFC does not have the number of quality teams that the AFC has…this disparity would be more obvious if the teams were ranked within the entire league as opposed to just by conference.

Of course there are additional factors that play into the statistics (one huge game, one awful game, playing from behind a lot, frequently playing while ahead, etc…) so take this for what it’s worth. I’d expect most of those bumps to be smoothed out over 14 games. But to me it is always fun to have a few more ways to compare the teams and to explore something that I expected to directly correlate to a team’s record only to find out that it really doesn’t.

What do you think? Is there anything that jumps out at you?

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ESPN’s Big East Blogger Brian Bennett says Rutgers would waste no time accepting the invitation to join the Big Ten.  So when they leave what should the Big East do?

While they certainly don’t want to fade into football obscurity, I believe they would be much better served by turning this into an opportunity to further solidify the league as the best basketball conference in the country.  They could do this with one invite that will also open the league to a new pipeline of athletes from a city that has a lot of them – Memphis. 

While Memphis is not the slam dunk it would be if Calipari was still there, based on the reputation Josh Pastner has earned as a tireless worker and excellent recruiter I believe the program will still be quite successful.  And they will certainly fit in nicely with the other 15 teams playing hoops in the Big East.

The Tigers’ success in football has certainly not reached that of their basketball program.  But to survive, the Big East is going to have to realize that they have to build on their strength, basketball, and just try to hold on to their representation in the BCS in football.  Diluting their basketball product to only maintain their current football standing will only leave the league more susceptible to poaching when the inevitable “massive” expansion occurs.  Their only hope to hold on to their legacy members when that expansion occurs is to build the best basketball conference they can.

Having said all that…of course the first call would have to be placed to Notre Dame to see if they have any interest in becoming a full member.  I can’t imagine they would.

As for the “massive” expansion – I’ll tackle that in a future post.

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Last week the Big Ten announced that they are exploring the possibility of expansion…again. Much of the initial thought centered around Notre Dame as the key, and possibly only, target. However, there was also speculation that a few Big East schools should be considered, along with Missouri and Nebraska from the Big 12. And some even project a three team expansion.

Later in the week Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick emphatically denied that Notre Dame would consider joining the Big Ten.

So where does that leave us? First of all it is hard to believe that any study would recommend not expanding. So I think we have to assume that the Big Ten will expand. David Jones of the The Patriot-News makes an excellent case for Rutgers here, while also explaining why the other candidates don’t work. I agree with his logic. So what would the loss of Rutgers mean for the Big East? I’ll tackle that question in my next entry.

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