A Carolina Victory

February 11, 2008

Sunday night was something special. 

For the first 35+ minutes, it was something special for our IPTAY friends in Orange.  But sudenly that something special turned something sour in a matter of minutes.

Danny Green 3. Turnover. Missed free throw.  Danny Green “why are you shooting a 3…NICE SHOT”.  Turnover. Psycho T.  This was the recipe for the turnaround.

How many of us thought it could happen?  Be honest.

Certainly we’ve seen it all before.  FSU in 1993.  The Duke game in 2005. 

But we’re far more likely to remember the defeats than the losses.  In our minds it’s Harold “the Show” Arceneaux.  Or Miles Simon.  Carolina Killers.

But think how it must feel for them.  Those who don’t understand what it’s like to wear the blue, and know that you’re never out of it. 

Sunday night was something special.  It proved that when battered and bruised, there is still some magic in the argyle. 

There’s the unmistakable aura that emanates from the rafters.  And legends making their mark.  Legends on the court.  And a legend on the bench.

There’s Tyler being Tyler.  There’s ol’ Roy pleading for “just one stop”.  There’s a senior named Q whose huge heart prevails.

And there’s The Streak.  53-0.  Somehow, someway, there’s still The Streak.

Sunday night was truly something special.


Greg Oden: World’s Friendliest 7 Foot 19/45 year old

September 28, 2007

I’ll be honest, I was hot and cold on Greg Oden last year. Oden came in with LeBron-esque hype, and when his injured wrist threw another variable into the equation, I didn’t know what to think. Was he the greatest center prospect of the last 50 years. Or was he simply an overblown caricature who had been puffed up by our media-saturated/shoe-contract/superlative culture. Or, most importantly, was he 45 years old.

Oden sold me in the national championship game. On the biggest stage, against a better team, Oden was a man among boys. He showcased all of his potential talents, making me excited to watch what’s next.

Unfortunately, what’s next ended up being microfracture surgery. A gloomy fate for sure.

Yet after watching the video below, I can undoubtedly say that I’m a bigger Oden fan than ever before. The guy seems genuine (his biggest worry before the knee injury was “my tonsils”) and unaffected by the fame and fortune he’s already racked up.

Microfracture surgery is no walk in the park, and it’s not clear how it will affect Oden’s long term career. But one thing’s certain – we can all feel good about rooting for a healthy return.

Link to Video


UNC-Penn Random Musings

January 4, 2007

With yet another easy non-conference victory for the Heels, I think it’s safe to say that everyone – players, coaches, fans, media – is ready for some better competition.  ACC play should do the trick, even if the league as a whole is not as strong as it has been in past years (I really think this is true – maybe more to come on this in later weeks).

Some random musings from last night’s game:

Great to have Bobby and QT back.  I was shocked to see Frasor in the game, as the pregame reports all had him slated as OUT.  Bobby looked as if he hasn’t skipped a beat – he’s really been shooting well this year.  We may need some big outside shooting in the late February, early March time frame.

Quentin looked comfortable and quick – but doesn’t he always against the Penns of the world.  I really love Q’s character, and hope that he can find a niche on this team.  Maybe it’s just 3-5 minutes of passing and defense.  Maybe it’s the behind-the-scenes stuff in practice.  Whatever it is, I think QT can get it done.

Invisible last night: Ginyard and Green – but with the depth of this team, it’s easy to be invisible on a given night.

Ellington approached serious “I think it’s going in every time he shoots” status when he started off 4-5 from 3.  Too bad he cooled off in the 2nd half – I think he makes 6 3’s in an ACC game this year.

Wes can’t buy a big shooting night.  I think he’d pay big bucks for one.

Line of the Night: Alex Stepheson: 9 Min, 3-4 FG, 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 blocks.

Even better Line: Dewey Burke: 2 min, 2-2 FG, 6 points.  And Biscuits for everyone!

What was up with Len Elmore being completely mesmerized by the Carolina diving on the floor in warm-ups thing.  The team’s been doing it for 3 years now, before every game.  I’ve been to games that Len’s been broadcasting and seen them dive before the game.  Yet, Elmore thought he should use that as his talking point for the whole game and then the production guys thought it’d be an even better idea to show the footage from pre-game every time.  We get the point – Roy likes guys to dive on the floor for loose balls.  Thanks for the tip.

Only thing shown more than the pre-game dive footage: John Edwards.

Big props to Copeland.  Loved the hustle and grit from Cope and the Blue team.

Best word to describe this year’s team: explosive.

Bring on the ACC!


“Going Home” to the Dean Dome

December 29, 2006

I went to the UNC-Rutgers game last night with two of my great friends and former roommates from college.  It was awesome to be with Rob and Daniel, and for one night, it felt like we had never left.

We took the same back road shortcuts in to avoid the inevitable Dean Dome traffic.  We snuck around the same parking attendants and found a great spot in Married Student Housing.  As we walked up the stairs of Kenan-Flagler,
we swapped the same old stories and memories, ones that have been repeated hundreds of times but never seem to get old.  While waiting to meet some friends, there were more “where is he now” moments and a general feeling that was never stated
but always understood: we had gone to the greatest University on the face of the planet, and it felt good to be back.

Inside the Dome, it felt good to watch a game with them again.  The first half was filled with some absolutely horrendous bricks from Rutgers and good, but not great play from the Heels.  But in between air balls and alley oops, there were enough inside jokes
and laughs from the past to make it a highly enjoyable experience.  It didn’t matter that we’re spread all around the country now and that “the roommates” don’t get together as frequently as we’d all like to.  We’ve so much history together that by simply sitting in
Dean’s Dome we were able to go home again.  It’s like we had never left.

And then it hit me – it wasn’t just the conversation that was familiar.  With every passing game, this year’s team reminds me more and more of 2004-2005.

I’m hardly the first to draw comparisons between the two – how can you not with such incredible talent filling both teams.  But while it’s easy to think of how Ty is like Ray or whether Tyler could match up with May, the most telling thing for me is that this year’s team is starting to bear the mark of a Roy Williams team, just like the NCAA Champs did in 2005.

What’s remarkable is that it’s happened so quickly.  Think back to the Gonzaga game – is there any doubt that the present day Heels would knock the socks off the team that lost in NYC?  In the last few games, there has been a visible commitment to competing at the highest level on the defensive end.  Rutgers was called for numerous 5 second violations and even failed once to bring the ball past halfcourt in the allotted 10 seconds.  Even when UNC gets beat on dribble penetration, you can see a fire and desire to improve.  The team seems to be soaking in every bit of whatever it is that Coach Williams is teaching in practice, and then applying it to the court against the opposition.

It’s important to remember that for all the inherent gifts and athletic abilities of the 2004-2005 team, they were nothing if not mercurial.  Before they were cutting down the nets in St. Louis, they were the 2003-2004 Heels, a team that seemingly never bought in to Roy’s style and played without the discipline necessary to achieve greatness. It took close to a year for a team filled with the future 1st Round picks, but once they bought in, it was special.

That’s why it felt so good to see the progress that the current squad has made in such short time.  Maybe it’s because the majority of the team is so young.  Maybe it’s because they’re all Roy’s recruits.  Regardless, there’s no doubt that the team is buying in, and with Coach Williams at the helm, that means greatness is right around the corner.

It’s certainly dangerous to put too much stock into early season wins, and there will undoubtedly be some bumps along the road.  But this team is finding its identity, and for every Tar Heel fan out there, that’s an exciting thing.

We have, after all, seen it before.


UNC-FAU: Dean Dome Demolition

December 20, 2006

Poor Rex Walters.

Rex isn’t used to this. Not after a stellar college career that included Big-8 Championships, a Final Four, and individual accolades. Not after being a 1st round NBA Draft pick and completing a nine-year professional career.

Rex Walters is a competitor. So much so that Roy Williams categorized Walters as one of the 3 fiercest competitors he’s ever coached, along with two of the Carolina family’s favorite sons – Michael Jordan and Raymond Felton.

And so it had to feel so strangely uncomfortable Walters to be sharing a sideline with Williams and losing by 47 points.

At halftime.

Yet that was the reality for rookie head coach Rex Walters and his Florida Atlantic Owls. They came to the Dean E. Smith center on December 19, 2006 and ran into an aggressive and well-oiled Tar Heel machine. The Tar Heels were running on all cylinders last night, showing every bit of the fine tuning that no doubt has taken place during the recently completed exam period.

The result was an absolutely comprehensive victory for Carolina that showed, at least for one night, just how great this Tar Heel team may end up being.

The game was over almost before it started. Carolina stretched a 4-3 lead with a 30-2 run, and eventually led at halftime by a Smith Center record 47 points. During the first half demolition, every Tar Heel strength was shown off in almost hyperbolic fashion. Hansbrough seemed stronger, Wright longer, and Lawson faster than ever before. Carolina scored seemingly at will, using an impressive array of layups, dunks, and wide open jump shots.

But perhaps the most encouraging characteristic of the first stanza was UNC’s stifling defense. For a team with such immense physical talents, Carolina has struggled mightily at times in stopping the opposition. Yet in the first half against the Owls, Carolina played the kind of in-your-face D that could make even ol’ Roy smile.

The Heels forced 15 turnovers and held FAU to 24% shooting from the field in the first half, and along the way showcased the ability to tip, deflect, or at least obstruct almost every pass that Rex Walter’s team attempted to make. As a result, Florida Atlantic began to throw the ball all over the court and the Carolina unearthed a valuable secret: playing good defense can be pretty fun – especially when it leads to high-flying dunks and fast break points.

Alas, there was nothing that Coach Walters could do to stop the bleeding. He did the right things, calling timeouts and trying to teach his team in spite of the scoreboard. To his credit, Walters didn’t stomp and scream or show a hint of disappointment – he’s been taught far better than that.

On a night when his team was completely outclassed, Rex Walters showed that he’s not just a fierce competitor or proven winner. He’s also a man who’s learned to see the big picture and understands how to accept defeat with dignity and class.

And that, more than a 50 point win, will surely make Coach Williams very proud.


The Softer Side of Hansbrough

December 18, 2006

The win against UNC-Asheville was a yawner.  Surely it was good for the Heels to get out and play someone in different colored jerseys, after a boatload of practices in a row.  In what is likely to become a hallmark of this year’s Christmas season, Carolina rolled easily.

Game reports and opinions can be found here:

Tarheelblue.com

News and Observer 

Tar Heel Fan
An interesting look at Carolina’s favorite big man is found in the St. Louis Dispatch.

We know him as Psycho T.  The commander of the paint.  Pusher of SUVs.  Owner of the weight room.

And lover of pedicures?

Seriously.  Behind his mask of stocism so often displayed on the court, it seems that Tyler is more refined than many ever would have imagined.

Go behind the mask and see the real Tyler.

Yet even if “The Bluff” is essential to who Hansbrough is, even if he has brought it to Chapel Hill in the form of a current youtube.com curiosity called “Texas ping-pong” and by speaking of it frequently and fondly, Hansbrough’s world is changing around him.

Perhaps after this season, it will morph even more radically if he takes advantage of his surging NBA stock to become a multimillionaire.

Then again …

“Sometimes we talk about where we’re going to live next year,” teammate and roommate Bobby Frasor said. “I hope he keeps talking like that.”

From St. Louis Dispatch


Allen Iverson: Enigma of Enigmas

December 15, 2006

I’ve thought more about Allen Iverson this week than in the last five years combined.

A.I. wants out of Philly, and I have to say, I can’t blame him. Iverson is stuck in a hopeless situation in the City of Brotherly Love. And the worst part – he hasn’t ever gotten his fair share of praise for the way that he’s given everything for the past 10 years to the city and franchise.

Allen Iverson is everything I’m not. He wears tattoos. I wear golf shirts. A.I. made rap records. I write blog entries. He cusses, snears, and can be downright nasty. I look ridiculous trying to look tough. Iverson was blessed with every athletic gift possible, yet hates to practice. My genes didn’t offer such a perfect storm, and all I got to do was practice.

People love to hate on Iverson. They say he’s a cancer, a locker room nightmare who is selfish beyond belief. To most folks, Iverson is everything that’s wrong with today’s hip-hop, one-on-one, standing and watch NBA. They’ll point to his trade demand as just another example of greed from someone who’s had it all.

But there are others who have seen the other Iverson. I won’t even attempt to explain the enigmatic nature of one of our generation’s most compelling athletes – that’s been done here.

What I will say is this: Allen Iverson has made more money than I’ll ever see by playing the game he loves. And that’s the thing – I truly believe that he loves the game. That’s why he’s willing to go out and give his all, play hurt, put his body at risk, do everything humanly possible to win. In Philly, his best is no longer good enough. So he wants out, and who can blame him?
Allen Iverson wants one last chance to savor the sweet taste of victory. Wherever he ends up, there will be some magic left. And undoubtedly, A.I. will leave nothing in the tank while trying to reach his championshipo goal.

Complicated? Yes. But maybe we should all hope to be so complicated.


My two favorite Iverson clips.