Cleaning up

I made two blog posts as pages, so I am combining them into one post and cleaning up the blog:

Battle of Tate Street:

While these two schools do not technically share a border, both UNCG and Greensboro College share space on Tate St.  They are separated by mere feet, so yesterday’s game at the Coliseum was essentially a home game for both teams.  It was an 11:30am start and kids from Guildford County were in attendance as part of the GCS Education Fair.

I was late to the game and walked in with the Spartans down 22-9, but UNCG turned on the turbo and ended the half tied at 41.  This was a close game, UNCG never led by more than 7, the Pride led by 15 at one point, and they were tied 9 times.  The stats for both teams show why it was such a close game:  Free Throw shooting was excellent on both sides- Greensboro College an impressive 92% (12-13) and UNCG 86.4%.  This is how free throws should look at all games.

Beyond that, the field goal percentage for each team was 44% for Greensboro College and 45% for the Spartans.  The Pride connected on 50% from beyond the arc and UNCG made 30% of theirs.

I would be remiss not to mention the TWO fouls on three point shooters committed by the Spartans.  One connected for a total of 4 points for the Pride on a single play and one missed with their shooter making all three free throws.  Fouling a three point shooter is the worst play in the book and we did it twice.

What I think helped put UNCG up was help off the bench.  UNCG got 21 bench points highlighted by Jordy Kuiper and Diante Baldwin.  This was Baldwin’s first game of the season, as he has been dealing with an knee injury, and it is delightful to have a true point guard on the court!

NC State vs Wofford:

There is a particular shade of dark blue that I hate.

Kentucky beat UNC this weekend.  It was awful and there’s not much more to be said there.

I was much more stunned by the 55-54 upset of NC State by the Wofford Terriers last night.  The Terriers made their late basket and State’s got waved off leaving Wofford up by one.

I’m not sure why I’m surprised.  Wofford was last season’s SoCon Champion (UNCG’s conference) and they “returned nearly its entire team from last year’s Southern Conference tournament champions, and is the preseason favorite to win the league again.”  Parity is coming to men’s basketball (women’s is a whole other conversation- but “way to go” to South Carolina for being #1 over traditional powerhouses UConn, Tenn, and Stanford this week).  Even though the ACC has lost to SoCon before (Va Tech, Georgia Tech come to mind- and we are not talking about when some of those teams were in the SoCon), it is still surprising, but it shouldn’t be.  A team like Wofford, with a recent conference championship, returning much of it’s experience and leadership should be a force to be reckoned with.  The schools that tend to attract the one and dones (ESPN top10s, height that other conferences can’t recruit, and the NBA’s own rule about being a year out of high school are all details we can discuss) can have flashes of greatness, but schools that build solid teams with leadership and experience- and we can look at mid-major conferences here like VCU’s Shaka Smart- step up to those larger courts and televised games with knowledge and support, from their coaches and each other, to win close games like this one.

Tomorrow UNCG faces UNC at the Greensboro coliseum, their own home court.  Will UNC be looking for a recovery win?  Will UNCG capitalize on their recent winning ways? Either way, I’ve got GREAT seats!

Bracket Broken?

Is your bracket broken yet?  I’m sure that it is…this has been a day of upsets.  It has also been a day of OT play.  Last year there was only one game that went into overtime.  This year there has already been four.  This is what we live for.  This is March Madness!

The North Dakota State Bison beat Oklahoma in overtime.  Looking at stats, the Bison did not match up well with the Sooners, but their defense held them in check, making jump shots harder to make.  The surprise star of the night was first year player, Carlin Dupree.  He did not play in regulation, but got put into the game in OT because of a reach-in foul by Taylor Braun.  After less than a minute on the floor, Dupree was calmly sinking foul shots like a pro (they win and loose games, people) leading NDSU to the win.

NC State blew a 16 point lead to loose in OT to St. Louis.  A win seem assured for the Pack with five minutes left in regulation, but St. Louis (what they heck is their mascot, anyway) steadily, play-by-play, tied the game and took the game into overtime.  During the regular season, St. Louis was 2-0 in OT and State split their OT 1-1.  Derrick did assure me that State was not going to loose this game by text as they set up for the extra minutes, but alas poor foul shooting was the undoing of this game.  TJ Warren, ACC player of the year, alone was around 30% from the line and the Pack overall left 17 points on the floor (20-37).  Missing foul shots makes your season much shorter.  Coach G should rest assured, the pack is young and he has TJ Warren and 4 freshmen in rotation.  They will do nothing but get better.

For the first time since 2009, Ohio State is going home after one tournament game.  PJ had them in the Final Four on his bracket, but the Dayton Flyers had other ideas.  With the OSU senior, Aaron Craft, missing his last second shot the 11 seed won the game by one point.  Throughout the year, the Buckeyes had played with strokes of brilliance, but tonight they did not play to any potential.  The game was not a disaster, but Ohio State could have played every part of this game better.

Texas held off Arizona State with a last minute buzzer beater to win.  I had ASU beating Texas, so while this is not an upset I was a little surprised that the Longhorns pulled this one off.  After a missed three pointer center Cameron Ridley scooped up the offensive rebound for a quick put-back.  The officials had to review the play.  He got it off before the buzzer, so the Longhorns survive to play another round.

I could not watch the Louisville- Manhattan match up.  The game started with the commentators recounting fact that Manhattan head coach, Steve Masiello, has ball boyed for, played for, and coach with Rick Pitino.  Manhattan runs the same style as Louisville and Masiello’s coaching style is most similar to anyone else in Pitino’s coaching tree. (It was fun that reporters heard him calling out Louisville’s plays during the game)  Pitino is on record saying he cared less about the #4 seed (one I think he deserved) than that the NCAA made him coach against is protege.  That sounds like whining at its finest.  You should coach against those in your coaching tree.  It is something to be proud of not something to whine about.  Louisville won the game, but just barely.  It took 8 straight points by Luke Hancock to lift the Cards to a 71-64 win.  Last year’s champs weather this game, but I’m not going to loose any sleep when St. Louis sends them home in the next round.

In a night of upsets and close calls, perhaps the most surprising (except to my Mom who had Harvard winning on her bracket) was Harvard’s win over the #5 Bearcats.  Last year, Harvard was a surprise winner, but this year they shouldn’t have been.  Harvard has steadily been recruiting well and playing basketball at a higher caliber.  Even Pres. Obama picked this upset, though he does not have the Crimson beating the Spartans in the next round.  For tonight, the Ivy League champs have their upset and go into the next game with experience and momentum on their side.  (Though, I do agree with the president and have MSU winning it all- they are looking health and playing at the level the need to be playing right now).

As foul shots can make or break a win (I’m looking at you NC State), I have to mention Michigan State’s Adreine Payne.  He went 17-0 from the free throw line tonight in the Spartan’s win over the Delaware Blue Hens.  Payne was on fire in all aspects of his game tonight (though his conditioning could be a bit better), but going 100% from the line is impressive.  That is how you win games during the Big Dance.  Harvard can’t match them for size and I think they have the best chance for playing through their region and winning the whole thing (beating Arizona).

Ohhh, it’s March Madness….my favorite time of the year!

Battle of the Bobblehead

BattleoftheBobbleheadDerrick, PJ, and I have been watching UNCG basketball together for a few years now.  UNCG used to play dirt cheap in Fleming Gym, but since they moved to the Big Barn (the Greensboro Coliseum  for those that don’t know my G-pa) we have been buying season tickets.  This year as part of the package we got a Wes Miller Bobblehead. We only got one because we by the three tickets together and it took FOREVER to arrive because of Superstorm Sandy.  Three people, one bobblehead- you can see how this is a problem.  Derrick is a State Fan and it has been nearly 6 years (Feb 2007) since the Pack bested the Heels, so a plan was born…

Every time UNC and NCSU meet up #WesMillerBobblehead is on the line.  If NCSU wins, he goes home with Derrick.  If UNC wins, he comes to the Colonna house.  This is valid for conference games as well as any post season play.

We met tonight at our favorite wings spot to watch the game.  State has had a good year, but I was confident Wes would come home with me.  At the tipoff, the Pack were in attack mode.  They grabbed the lead and would not let it go!  They led by as much as 28.  I’m a looong time Tarheel, so I know how Carolina likes to dawdle around in the first half and the turn on the rockets in the second.  I don’t always like to watch that kind of ball, but I am used to it. This was not the smoothest game to watch for either side with plenty of loose balls and lack of hustle on the defensive ends.  One surprising fact, I almost didn’t believe my own eyes, is that Roy Williams took all FIVE of his time outs.  He usually forfeits one in the first and ends the game with four in his pocket (the final seconds of last year’s home game against Duke would have been a great place to use one), but I digress….

UNC pulled up close at 5 (85-80) in the last few minutes of the game, but was unable to overcome the first half deficit to win this game.  Overall, the stats for UNC and NCSU were not horrible.  FG shooting was UNC 46.5% and NCSU 49%.  NCSU led in the 3 53% to 36%.  And I do not have much to say about Free Throws.  UNC shot 90% and the Pack 87%.  Both teams missed shots and in a game that pulled so close in the end either team would have liked those extra points (UNC to catch up and NCSU to pad their lead), but these are the numbers that ALL teams, at the collegiate level, should put out at the line.  For UNC, PJ Hairston had 19 points and for Tarheels were in double figures.  For NCSU, Brown, Howell, and Leslie all had double doubles.

This is the first time since 2002 that State has beat both Dook and Carolina.  These boys worked hard, but Wes is coming back to my house on Feb. 23!


NCSU is a Giant Killer Today!

As a Tarheel fan, sometimes it is hard to know what is better- a UNC win or a dook loss, but when they happen on the same day all has to be right in the world!  Today, I think,  the dook loss is the bigger story. I had a conference presentation in Chapel Hill today and was listening to the tail end of the game and the excellent post game reflection on NCSU radio.  I know my grin stretched from ear to ear as I listened to the recap of this loss.

NCSU started the season at #6, but now are at a more comfortable and realistic #20.  What will they be next week?  PJ says #18, but I am going to say #15.  Going into this game, they had to have a lot on their minds.  The Pack is predicated to take the ACC title.  This prediction has not occurred  for them since 1976.  Dook is a big obstacle in their way to that title (Maryland is too, but let’s focus on today).  Dook also showed up at PNC arena 15-0.  Everyone’s first loss has to come at some point, but the momentum of being 15-0 works in their favor.  The Devils were also missing Ryan Kelly (boo-hoo).  State was ready to go.  The Pack took some time to warm up, but those players were attempting to set that court on fire.

The stat that caught my attention was that State was 20 for 23 from the free throw line- 87%.  That is a great FT showing.  They won this game 84-76, but so many times good games like this one are lost by sloppy days at the charity line.  I am glad that State had their free throws in order, it makes the rest of the game so much fun to watch.

The man of the hour has to be Richard Howell.  He always plays with intensity, as shown my the amount of sweat filtered by his beard, but he found another level today.  He definitely took it to 11!  His double double was highlighted by the 14 rebounds in the second half.  He was a beast going for that ball and did not let anyone else get in his way.  In the post game interview Coach Gottfried said he was playing a grown man’s game.  He is not a flashy player, but wants to duke it out (ha ha pun intended) under the basket, playing low and hard.  Another commentator called him the kind of junkyard dog any title contender needs.  He plays with a style that would be recognized in college basketball of the past as well as any neighborhood court where the only reward is trash talking to your friends. Most importantly, it’s the grind it out style that I like to watch and talk about!

Calvin Leslie (Coach does not call him CJ) led the Pack with 25 points and 6 rebounds. Brown contributed 12 points and got all 13 of NCSU assists.  The two first year players assigned to Curry, Purvis and Warren, made it hard for the Devil’s #1 shooter to completely dominate today.  Those players pushed Curry hard and made him take his share of off balance twos.

There was a technical foul when Wood and Thornton exchanged words after a play, but it seemed to be a spark that the Pack needed to up their intensity, so Coach can’t be too mad about that!  What I am mad about is Bruce Pearl’s post game comment that this was not an upset.  What does that even mean?  He tried to say that State was a good enough team to beat the Devils, so we should not be too surprised, but Mr. Pearl I do disagree.  First, a #20 just beat a #1…that is an upset.  Second, Duke just lost…we should all be rejoicing. Third, with the history of NCSU play (read the Sidney years) and the rebuilding they have done in the past two years…this is an upset.  Fourth, this was an unbeaten team…this is an upset.  Fifth, they just knocked down the national #1…this is an upset.  I think the best response to this was Rodney Purvis on twitter,!!! “@statefansnation: Bruce Pearl: “This is not an upset, gentlemen”.  Come one Bruce you can commentate better than that, and those that were at the desk with you- shame on you for not holding his feet to the fire.  This team worked hard for this win.

Of course, UNC was on the court in Tallahassee today.  They got a much needed win against the ACC defending champs FSU 77-72.  PJ Hairston had a career high 23 points with McAdoo contributing 14 points and 8 rebounds.  Bullock also had 8 rebounds to go with his 12 points.  The Heels were an ok 11-16 (68%) from the FT line, but that is a place for UNC improvement   They need all the help they can get and a little more time in free throw practice is never wasted time.  This win helped keep the Heels from the second ever 0-3 ACC start in school history (it happened in 1996-97) and kept FSU from getting its first ever 3-0 start in ACC conference play.

The feel good story of the game, however, is Jackson Simmons.  He celebrated is 20th birthday (remember fans these are young adults playing this game) with a career high eight points and four rebounds.  He had a solid 15 minutes of play on the court.  He did score, but he also set good screens, delivered good passes, and executed solid defense.  What else can a kid from Webster, NC ask for?

UNCG visits PNC

To celebrate NYE, PJ, Derrick, and I took a trip to Raleigh to watch the Spartans play the Wolfpack. Derrick was conflicted, as a UNCG graduate student he felt the need to wear an NCSU shirt, but he did not go all out red! He also confused the man that sat beside hime by cheering for both teams.

The Spartans faced #23 NCSU without leading scorer Trevis Simpson, who is listed as injured. Without Simpson, Armstrong got his first start of the season. I’m not sure if the Pack knew that Armstrong’s hustle and drive for the ball belies his stature. He will out hustle anyone for the basketball!

The first half of the game was fast and furious, with lead changes that surprised the Wolfpack (or at least the fans that were sitting around us. The same confused fan that sat beside Derrick also had good things to say about UNC’s first half play in the concessions line.) The Spartans were playing hard and with Simpson on the bench, Wes was able to mix up the players on the court in new and unusual ways. Jordan Potts got plenty of time on the court as did Kayel Locke. This showed as UNCG had 32 points off the bench to NCSU’s 19. The hustle and team play shown by the Spartans in the first half was great. There was a behind the back pass by Van Dussen to McNeil that had all the UNCG fans in the house on their feet.

The Pack pulled away in the second half and used their size advantage to push UNCG into playing the game at their speed. UNCG never gave up with Kayel Lock scoring 21 points and Kelvin McNeil contributing his career third double double. The glaring stats for this game were UNCG’s 11.8% from three point range and only connecting with 61.5% of their free throws. NCSU made 44.4% of their threes and 77.3% of the free throws. While those numbers are less than stellar, they do not convey the hustle and drive I saw on the court tonight. UNCG lost by 21, but the Spartans were playing harder than that. The more experience this team gets playing ACC teams, the better they are going to be.

Of course, Wood and Leslie were strong forces on the court tonight, but the NCSU player I like to watch is is Howell. Is big and imposing and that beard is fantastic! Kayel Locke was matched up with Howell for most of the game and defended him head on. Locke also made some great over Howell’s head shots, so that match-up was fun on both sides of the court. Generally, the basketball in NC is in a GOOD place.

A Saturday full of basketball

Today has been a lazy, post Christmas day.  PJ and I took down the trees and have generally been super slothy.  We slept in and have spent all afternoon and evening napping and watching basketball.  What a life!

I am currently flipping between the Butler/Vandy game (I’m pretty sure that the Bulldogs have this one in the bag) and the battle of the Huskies.  UConn just defeated Washington 61-53.  Today has been an all around good day for Coach Ollie.  He just inked a 5 year extension to his initial 7 month head coach contract.  Not bad!

At Stanford, the #2 UConn women handed #1 Stanford a painful loss.  I watched #3 Baylor spank Tennessee the other day.  I was sure that the Lady Bears were the best women playing the game, but watching UConn I can’t be so sure.  The state of women’s ball is HEALTHY!

The ACC was busy at home on Tobacco Road today. As we were taking down the tree, there was a moment of hope that Santa Clara would knock dook down a notch, but damn Plumlee, Kelley, and Curry. They are all hard to watch.  NC State had a strong showing against Western Michigan.  I am excited to see this team live on Monday versus UNCG.  They are playing better and better with the leadership of the likes of Leslie and Wood.

At the Dean Dome, UNC hosted the UNLV Running Rebels.  Last year when they met, in Las Vegas, #1 UNC lost.  While many in the light blue uniforms did not play in that game last November, this was a revenge game.  UNC really needed this win.  They scored first and held the upper hand for most of the game.  McAdoo was really quiet in the first half.  That was ok because we got to see the work of some of UNC’s first year players.  I am so excited for the potential and flashes of brilliance that I see in JP Tokoto, Brice Johnson, and Joel James.  Particularly the team work of Johnson and James is fun to watch and will be a powerhouse in the next few years!  This was all without the play of Reggie Bullock, who did not dress out due to a mild concussion.

Today was PJ Hairston’s first career start and he stepped up to the leadership role that entails with a solid 15 points. Dexter Strickland added 16 points.  The Tarheels were able to capitalize off of turnovers and kept UNLV first year player Anthony Bennett, the NCAA leading freshman scorer, to only 15 points.  Bennett did manage a double double with 13 rebounds.  McAdoo woke up in the second half and was only one rebound short of his own double double.  Watching this game, it seemed  (maybe for the first time in a while) that the Heels were having fun.  That is the point of basketball- after all-  Well having fun and beating Duke- is the point of basketball.  I think this win is a strong one and a win the Heels need to build on as conference play is about to start.