Monday, January 18, 2010

Trouble in Carolina?!?! Tar Heels having a rough 2010.

If you have trouble deciding how to celebrate after a big win, here are some rules to live by. Storming the Court

Moving on....

There are very few seasons in recent Carolina history that anyone could describe as 'disappointing' Under Roy Williams' guidance this team has won 2 National Championships within the last 5 years. A pretty remarkable feat. It's this type of success that has made expectations through the roof for these 2009-2010 Tar Heels, and it now appears like they aren't ready to handle them. While they have taken care of much less talented teams they have fallen flat (to say the least) against the big time programs that they are use to competing (and usually beating) with. Experience is a huge advantage in college basketball so to really understand what happened to UNC this season you must realize what they lost from last year's team. The Heels lost 4 players (3 in the first round) to the 2009 NBA draft and question marks about who would step up this season were abound. That's a point guard (Ty Lawson, a junior), a shooting guard (Wayne Ellington, a junior), a small forward (Danny Green), and a dominant power forward (Tyler Hanbrough). There is not a team in the country that could with stand the loss of this type of talent and pick up where they left off. With that said, this is college basketball and players come and go all the time. Ole Roy didn't prepare well enough for these departures.

Green and Hansbrough had already exhausted their eligibility. Nothing Roy could do about that. In fact, he did a great job of bringing in several talented post options for Hansbrough's last season (2008 class) and for the first year post Psycho-T (2009 class). Both Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller were top tier post players in the class of 2008 while the same could be said for John Henson in the class of 2009. But, the name of the game in college basketball is guard play, and this is truly where Roy came up short in terms of preparing the program for the future, more specifically this season. I understand that Lawson and Ellington were only juniors after that National Title in 2009 but everyone knew they were going to leave early after seriously flirting with the decision to go Pro after the 2007-2008 season. I suspect Roy was aware of this as well as he brought in 4 star prospect Larry Drew II and lightly recruited 2 guard Justin Watts in the 2008 class. Both of these guys, esp. Drew II, could get spot minutes on a very talented 2007-2008 Tar Heel team and the be ready to play significant minutes the next season. The problem is that Drew II appears to be more the lowly rated 4 star guard that predicted and not the 29th best player in the country like predicted. This is not a slight on Larry but in all honesty, as a sophomore he is just not equipped to handle the difficult schedule that the Tar Heels face year in to year out. While his 1.98:1 assist to turnover ratio is not horrible he does not make enough plays to turn over the ball as much as he does. The turnover issue has really reared its ugly head during the big games for not only Drew, but the team as a whole.

As we further examine the backcourt issues we can also look to the lack of production from wing positions to see where Roy Williams' recruiting in preparation for this season has fallen short. Williams had 5 wings at his disposal (including Watts) to work this year. One is 6'5 senior Marcus Ginyard, a defensive stalwart on prior teams that is only eligible this season due to an injury from last season. He's a nice player but not someone you can go to for offensive production. Will Graves is the other upperclassmen wing on the roster. This 6'6 240lbs. bull of a guard/forward has nice touch from three point range but not enough ball handling ability to really create his own shots. This is evidenced by the fact that while he shoots 40% from beyond the arc he shoots only 39% within it. Graves is really the only guard that Williams can rely on for outside shooting and in big games he has come up short. In the 5 losses against major competition, Graves has shot 17-53 (32%) from the field. This is usually a recipe for disaster for a team's best perimeter player against big time programs, or really any d-1 program for that matter.

The underclassmen wings, lead by 2009 McDonalds All American Dexter Strickland, just aren't ready to take on the responsibility of primary scorer this season. Strickland, the best of the bunch is a combo guard known for his ability to create off the dribble. Dexter's done a great job in being a a spark but he's not a very effective perimeter shooter and has had his fair share of turnover problems as well. Frosh two guard Leslie McDonald, another highly rated guard has great size and a great outside shot but he has only recently started to get good minutes. The presumption here is that his defense was not up to par in the first part of the season. Hurting him even more is that although he's known as a shooter he's currently shooting 16% from the three point line. It is way too early to right either player off as both are very young and will be productive before their time at Carolina is finished but a program of Carolina's stature shouldn't be in a position where the two most talented wings on their roster are backup freshman guards. The thinking is that Roy didn't beef up this part of the roster in the recruiting classes after that monster class 2006 class (Lawson, Ellington, Wright, Thompson, Stevenson, Graves). Carolina can basically pick and choose which kids they want. At the school where the greatest two guard of all time got it started Roy should have no problem convincing big time two guards to sit on the bench a bit for a year before being major stars in years 2, 3, and 4.

Currently this Carolina team is built inside out and that strategy just doesn't work in college basketball. Guard play is important to not only score the ball but also just to limit turnovers. I have to think Roy is kicking himself for not bringing in a single player in the class of 2007, esp. at the guard spot. Sure, he might have had to encourage a few kids like Graves or Watts to move on but their guard situation would have been much better at this point. This Carolina team as it stands is ill equipped for this season due to UNC's recruiting mistakes. Fortunately for them Roy has already fixed this for the upcoming 2010-11 season as Roy brings in 3 guards that all rank within the top 20 players in the country, two of which are top 10 and both can shoot. In fact, one is's best player in the country, 6'8 Harrison Barnes from Ames, Iowa. Apparently the kid is Kobe like in terms of his work ethic but plays more like Paul Pierce. Look for yourself.

Harrison Barnes, #1 ranked high school player in the country....

ACC Ballers Dunk of the Week:

Georgia Tech junior Gani Lawal had a mean put back at Duke....

Friday, January 1, 2010

ACC Ballers: Top Front Courts in the ACC

While the ACC season is already underway we are still in the portion of the season where most teams are still playing out of conference opponents. Only a handful of ACC games have been played and what we have noticed is that the ACC has a very talented assortment of front court players In fact, if you have paid attention at all in these first few months of the college basketball season you would have noticed that the ACC is a (big) man's league this season. Several of the league's teams boast front line size that resemble what NBA teams throw out down low. This information, combined with the fact that the conference lost 5 point guards to first round of the 2009 NBA draft, suggests that more than perhaps any season in recent memory post play will be instrumental to determining the final standings of the 2009-2010 ACC Season. As a result, Why not rank the best front courts in the conference....

ACC Ballers Top Front Courts in the ACC:

(starters in bold)

1. North Carolina

The Tar Heels boast what many believe is the deepest front court in the country. Leading the way are 6'8 senior forward Deon Thompson and 6'10 sophomore Ed Davis. These two absolutely dominate the low post to the tune of 31 points, 17 boards, and 3 blocks a night. Davis is a legitimate top 10 pick in the 2010 NBA draft. He's second in the conference in both rebounding (9.8) and blocks (2.2) per game all while shooting a conference leading 64.7% from the field. Thompson started on that National Title team of last season. As if this were not enough Coach Williams also brings 7'0 sophomore center Tyler Zeller off of his bench. I'm not going out on a limb in saying that Tyler would start on at least nine other teams in the conference, and just about every other team in the country. An immensely talented performer Zeller was actually a starter for Carolina last season before a nasty fall left him with a broken hand. Zeller gives the Tar Heels ten points and four boards in just 16 minutes a night.

This is just a little bit of what Davis can do....

In most conferences, this would be enough to solidify the top spot amongst the front court rankings. Not in the ACC. Carolina has about 3 quality freshman post players as well in the 6'10 baby faced John Henson, 6'9 Travis Wear, and 6'9 David Wear. Henson is the cream of the freshman crop for ole Roy and I've heard from a reliable source that he's as high as #3 on at least one NBA team's draft board. Henson has guard handle with big time athleticism. He projects as an NBA three but needs a year or two of seasoning and some weight. At 6'10 he is only 195lbs. Travis and David Wear are two highly recruited post players that also have decent perimeter skills. These two are just winners and played at a high level for the famed Mater Dei High School out in California. Five of the six players discussed were former McDonald's All Americans and the depth/talent combination is why the home of the best front court in the Conference is in Chapel Hill.

check out this big time rejection by Henson

2. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets run with two probable first round draft picks in the 2010 NBA Draft in 6'9 junior forward Gani Lawal and 6'10 freshman forward Derrick Favors. Lawal leads the team in both scoring and rebounding at close to 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. Favors gives coach Paul Hewitt's squad 12.8 points and 8.8 boards per game. Derrick does all of this while swatting away an impressive 2.2 blocks each night. In addition to this impressive duo the Jackets bring in experienced and versatile senior forward Zachery Peacock off of their bench. Peacock gives them 9.5 ppg and almost 5 boards a game. All while shooting 44% on three point shots. This is great production from a 6'8 235lbs kid. His ability to defend three positions is also an advantage that most teams just don't have.

3. Duke

While the Blue Devils heavily lean on guards John Scheyer and Nolan Smith for much of their offense they rely on several front court players to do just about everything else, and one of em' scores quite a bit also. Forward Kyle Singler, definitely the most acclaimed of the lot plays the Shane Battier/Mike Dunleavy role for Duke in that he plays both inside and out. Singler puts about 16 points and 7 boards along with a steal a night. Along with Singler Coach K uses a bevy of big forward/center type players to close down the lane and grab rebounds. 6'10 sophomore Miles Plumlee,6'9 senior forward Lance Thomas and 7'1 260lbs senior Brian Zoubek give the Blue Devils about 20 points and 18 boards a night. You could look at these numbers and not be impressed but when you consider that Miles' younger bro and 2010 McDonalds and Jordan game All American Mason, a 6'11 freshman, is just now starting to round into form you're looking at a talented front court. Mason was actually projected to the be the starter down low due to his considerable athleticism before a pre-season injury sidelines him for several weeks.

take a look at Mason Plumlee mixtape to see what I'm talking about.

Not to add but on Duke is so loaded down low that they have a 2010 McDonald's All American in Ryan Kelly way down on their bench. He's a skinny 6'10 with a sweet shot and would play alot more than 11 minutes a night at most schools.

4. Florida State

Leonard Hamilton's squad is loaded down low this season as they bring back two very talented performers in 7 foot center Solomon Alibi and 6'9 combo forward Chris Singleton, both of whom happen to rank 1 and 2 respectively in points per game for the Seminoles. Alibi and his 12 points and 7 boards a night is impressive, esp. when you combine that with an ACC leading 2.9 blocks per game average. He is now starting to get considerable NBA interest and many would not be surprised if he declared himself eligible.

...take a look for yourself

The 6'9 Singleton is a 2009 McDonald's All American who's been consistently good for two seasons now. His 7 boards a night ties Alabi's mark for the team lead. The third member of this starting front court is senior Ryan Reid. Reid has had several big games thus far and was intstrumental in FSU's first road ACC win of the year against Georgia Tech (17 points, 5 rebounds) Off the bench Hamilton has two young high flyers in 6'10 Xavier Gibson and 6'7 Jordan DeMercy. Gibson, a sophomore has NBA potential and Demercy can just fly. This front court has NBA size and could easily rank higher in the next few months.

5. Wake Forest

Al-Farouq Aminu leads the way for Wake's front court as the big time sophomore combo forward averages 17 points, an ACC leading 11.5 rebounds, and a little over 1 block per game. Aminu is very versatile and along with Ishamael Smith keeps the Deacons in the game.

Senior centers 7 foot Chas McFarland and 6'11 David Weaver combine for 10 points, 11 boards, and 2 blocks a night. The two really close down the middle and their experience helps them to do just that. What keeps this group at five is the fact that Wake's two other highly touted sophomores,6'10 Tony Woods and 7'1 Ty Walker, really haven't come on. By the same token it's a good bit of the reason why the group made the list to begin with. Woods averages 3 points and 3 boards a night. On the other hand, Walker has barely played this season as he still needs to add weight to his very slight frame. While I expect Woods to come on a bit more this season Walker is still a year away.

ACC Ballers Duke of the Week:

Al Farouq Aminu with the big time dunk off the feed from Ish Smith. This was a huge play in the game as well.....