2011-2012 College Basketball Preview Series – Duke Blue Devils

(EJSIC is previewing several college basketball teams.  Check out Michael Street’s Memphis preview here.)

One of the most fascinating teams in college basketball to watch this season will be the Duke Blue Devils.  Replacing four year stars Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, as well as one-third-and-done Kyrie Irving would seem a nearly overwhelming challenge for many coaches.  However, when you’re an all-time great coach, like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, it’s hard to get rattled.

Last season’s results:
32-5
ACC Runner-Up
ACC Tournament Champion
Lost 93-77 to Arizona in Sweet 16

Key departures:
Kyle Singler  (34.8 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Nolan Smith (34.0 mpg, 20.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.2TO, 35% 3PT)
Kyrie Irving (27.5 mpg, 11 gps, 17.5 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.5 TO, 47% 3PT)

59% of scoring, 39% of rebounding, 63% of assists

Key returnees:
Mason Plumlee (25.6 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg)
Seth Curry (25.0 ppg, 9.0 ppg, 2 apg, .9TO)
Ryan Kelly (20.1 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

Notable non-conference matchups:
Michigan State (likely to be the game in which Mike Krzyzewski breaks Bob Knight’s all-time wins record)
at Ohio State (a true road game!)
Maui Invitational (possible matchups with Memphis and Kansas or UCLA)

Before we go much further, I should mention that as a lifelong Tar Heel fan, a hint of subtle bias may occasionally creep into this analysis.  But I’ll try to keep my personal feelings out of this entry as much as possible.  I’ll let you watch Duke play, and you can form your own opinions about the way Coach K and his staff approach the game. Continue reading

College Football Expansion Hoopla V2.0

Will the USC Song Girls cheer for the Trojans or the Longhorns in the 2012 Pac-10 Championship Game?

This topic has consumed about 70% of my sports related attention this month and Expansion Hoopla V1.0 got a lot of hits, so let’s do it again…

A lot has changed in a week (actually not really; the only thing that has changed is my mind).  This super-long post lacks pictures or graphics and is broken down into several text-heavy sections.  If you just want to bitch about the conference or the Pod I put your school in, scroll to the bottom and comment.  If you are a conference expansion junkie like me, sit back and enjoy my rambling inferences and analysis.

The first part of this post explains what I have inferred based on recent comments from relevant conference commissioners, university Presidents, AD’s, and insiders.

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-Maryland and North Carolina have likely both told the Big Ten to pound sand.  They like the ACC for now.

-Texas probably isn’t going to the Big Ten either.  They are more interested in merging the cream of the crop from the Big Twelve with the Pac-10, possibly as a simple six team addition to form the Pac-16 and possibly as a “Western Alliance” with a looser conference connection and as many as 24 schools.

-Nebraska and Missouri are dying to be invited to the Big Ten.  Even Tom Osbourne issued a statement saying as much.  Both schools’ Presidents are already on record as being very interested.

-Oklahoma and Oklahoma State want an SEC invite.  They might get invited to the Pac-16 with Texas or they might not.  They prefer the certainty and immediate prestige the SEC brings.

-Kansas is on the fence between the Big Ten and the Texas led Pac-16.  Either way, they’ll probably be in a better position than they are now.  There is a slim chance that they could end up homeless if the Big Ten invites Missouri and Nebraska and the Pac-10 and Texas don’t invite them to be one of the five teams to join the Pac-16.

-Utah is probably going to the Pac-10 / Pac-12 / Pac-16  regardless of what else happens.

-Boise State to the MWC is a done deal.  Makes sense for all parties and the MWC will need someone to replace Utah if they leave for the Pac-10 or BYU if they leave for the Western Alliance.  Expect this announcement in June.

-Rutgers to the Big Ten is a done deal.  Paul Taglibue’s disparaging comments about the potential Long Island television audience for a Rutgers-Minnesota game reek of bitterness.  If this announcement is made in June then Rutgers will be able to play Big Ten football in 2012.

-Pittsburgh, Syracuse,  and Connecticut would all love a Big Ten invite.  Each has serious drawbacks, but each brings added East Coast viewers.  Pitt’s drawback is that is brings the fewest viewers since Penn State already owns the Pennsylvania market.  Syracuse’s problem is that they are a medium sized private school that doesn’t do much research and has a horrible football stadium.  Connecticut is not a member of the AAU and Continue reading

Recent Sports Developments from a Curmudgeon’s Point of View

Al puts on her curmudgeon's cap for this round of commentary

For those of us who love college football and basketball above all other sports, this is a tough time of year. Yes, the NBA playoffs are on but since they go from now until Wimbledon starts (or it so it seems), I can’t get excited about them yet. I’ll be more interested in them around Memorial Day. And, yes, baseball season has started, but I’m a Braves fan who has been denied round-the-clock Braves coverage since I moved away from Atlanta, so I’m not seeing a lot of their games. I do know about that Colorado no-hitter against the Braves (unfortunately), but that’s about it and it’s enough to make me flashback to being a Braves fan in the 1970s.

I don’t know why, but I seem to be suffering from the post-CBB doldrums more than usual. Maybe it’s because, for me, a season in which UNC sucked and Duke won the National Championship is best spent in denial. So, in my mind, there hasn’t been any college basketball since April 2009. However, thanks to a significant other’s love of SportsCenter in both Spanish and English and the continuous ESPN broadcasts at my gym, I’ve been forced to take notice of some recent developments. And that has prompted me to share my curmudgeonly views on them.

68-team NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament expansion

Whew, we really dodged a bullet on that one? Right? Um, wrong. If I had the power to give awards, the NCAA would get one for “Sneakiest Way to Handle Tournament Expansion.” This was brilliant from a spin and public opinion perspective. Have a couple of NCAA officials and former officials hint that “expansion is possible” and let ESPN and other sports outlets run with a 96-team tournament scenario, getting college basketball fans all riled up and arguing the pros and cons. Then, after letting us rant and wail for awhile, they say, “We’re only adding three more games.” This completely deflated most complainers while fans like me were relieved and happy that we don’t have to worry about a bracket with 96 teams–yet. Continue reading

College Football Conference Expansion Hoopla

In December, the Big Ten conference (the bestest and richest athletic conference in the galaxy) announced that it is studying the idea of expanding.  The Big Ten did not announce whether it is thinking about expanding by one team (preferably Notre Dame) or whether it might pull a Big East or a WAC and create a superconference of up to 16 schools.  This stuff fascinates me, and I have been reading expansion plans from bloggers and columnists all over the internets for the past four months.  The following are two proposals with a sliver of realism that I would really enjoy:

Scenario A

-Notre Dame stupidly turns down the Big Ten yet again.

-Big Ten grabs Texas.

-Big Twelve starts to panic, as Texas is responsible for 40% of the already crappy TV contract.

-Colorado bolts for the Pac-10, which also takes Utah from the Mountain West.

-Big Twelve counters by poaching TCU and BYU from Mountain West.

-Mountain West is now on its heels, having lost its top three programs.

-WAC steps in and invites New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego State.

-They accept and the Mountain West folds, leaving Wyoming, Colorado State, and Air Force homeless.

-The Big East is now the only major conference without 12 teams, and the new WAC is looking stronger.  Notre Dame is also feeling the heat.

-Big East pressures Notre Dame into joining for football and invites Memphis, Central Florida, and Temple for football and basketball.

-CUSA is now two teams short, so it steals Louisiana Tech from the WAC and Middle Tennessee State from the Sun Belt.

-The WAC picks up Wyoming to get back to 12 teams and the Sun Belt Continue reading

A Revolution in College Athletics

The current set-up in college sports that you and I grew up with is soon to be a thing of the past. We will look back upon them with fond memories and a little drool on our chins, saying, “Back in my day…” College athletics are set to undergo a radical transformation.

It will begin with the two biggest sports: football and basketball. For much of the now departed college basketball season, rumor swirled of the NCAA’s impending opt-out. In other words, they can void the current contract with CBS and put the men’s tournament on the open market for the highest bidder. But with the new TV deal will likely come an expansion of the tournament from its current 65 team format to a 96 one, eliminating the National Invitational Tournament in the process.
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The big money in college athletics is on the gridiron. The basketball change may leave some ripples across the land, but a major shake-up in football will affect all other collegiate sports. The rumor mill began last year when the Big Ten, the NCAA’s richest conference, publicly stated its desire to add at least one new member. In doing so, the Big Ten would have twelve members and would be able to play that all important conference championship game.

However, the Big Ten may be looking to add more than one team. Tony Barnhart, aka Mr. College Football, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in a recent blog post, “The Big Ten is looking at three plans: Stand pat with 11 teams, add one team (hopefully Notre Dame) or make a blockbuster move and go to 16.”

It seems unlikely at this point that the Big Ten would not expand. They’ve announced intentions to do so which would lead us all to believe they will follow through with those plans. Adding one team would give them the minimum number to have the coveted championship game. And every one loves to say Notre Dame is the obvious choice because they are. But the Irish have been reluctant to join in the past. This is what leads many, including me, to believe that a “superconference” is in the making.

A superconference of 16 teams forces Notre Dame to join. Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick even admitted so at a press conference for the Big East basketball tournament (of which Notre Dame is a member): “The college landscape is as unstable as I’ve seen it… You could each invent a scenario that would force our hand.” He went on to say that Notre Dame would like to maintain its football independence.

But the question is, can they? With the possible realignment of 16 teams in the Big Ten, Notre Dame would have to join out of necessity. For one, adding five teams most likely means at least one and probably more Big East teams would be absorbed. Frank the Tank, a blogger who writes about Chicago and University of Illinois sports as well as other topics, states that “Syracuse and Rutgers (along with the Irish) are virtual locks” for a 16 team Big Ten. Both universities bring the New York City market with them which is one market the Big Ten has yet to fully penetrate (especially with the Big Ten Network television channel).

And if the Big East is torn apart (again), that leaves the question of automatic bids to the NCAA tourney and a BCS bid in football. Notre Dame is basically given a BCS bid without conference affiliation as long as they finish in the top 12 of the standings. But it could still force their hand in other sports. And we cannot discount the possibility of a change in the BCS format if the rest of college athletics transforms. I do not specifically mean a playoff, but it is logical to think that a seismic shift in conferences could result in changes to the current format.

Frank the Tank goes on to look at possible Big Ten candidates sans the three locks mentioned earlier. One such scenario involves bringing in Maryland and Boston College to “capture the entire Northeast, while, at least on paper, adding New York, Boston, and Washington markets.” Another possibility is to get Nebraska and Kansas from the Big XII which adds a basketball and a football power for balance as well as adding new markets. Finally, Frank writes Texas and Texas A&M could come together as a political package (one couldn’t go without the other).
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While I am not willing to discuss every possibility, it seems logical one of these three moves is going to happen. But whatever the Big Ten does, it will force the other conferences to react. The SEC stands next to the Big Ten in terms of economic superiority. Do they expand as well? If the Big XII, ACC, or Big East is ransacked, what becomes of those conferences and their automatic bids? Does the Pac 10 answer?

It is clear that a revolution in college athletics is in the immediate future, possibly as early as the 2012 football season if the decisions are made soon. At this point, the Big Ten holds the key to everything. They could add only one team and the landscape would probably remain similar to how it is. Or they could make a tidal wave and transform college athletics to something we’ve never seen before. Eventually, the superconferences will come to fruition, so why not start now?

Analysis of RPI Fluctuation Between Conferences

Disclaimer: This article is going to mention elementary mathematics and will in no way be about tits.

It's time to dance.

So, in this 3 part analysis of the RPI between January 12th and March 8th (the start of conference play and the end of the regular season), I’ve so far pointed out that 60% of teams only move 25 places, either up or down, during conference play. Conversely, 40% of teams move more than 25 places up or down.

But what happens to teams generally in a conference? If you play in a really powerful conference, would you expect RPIs to generally improve as every team is playing a difficult strength of schedule? Or would you expect a conference with a lot of top tier teams to beat the other teams, sending their RPIs spiraling downward, while not being able to move much higher? I decided to look at the big 6 – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, SEC, and Pac10 – along with the A-10, who is probably as strong or stronger than some of those conferences this year. For the most part, I’ll look at the RPIs averaged per team to standardize across conferences. In other situations, I might analyze percentage of teams, again, to standardize across conferences with variable numbers of teams.

Continue reading

The Five Stages of the UNC Fan Experience: 2009-2010 Edition

Stage 1: Excitement

The best thing about being a UNC fan in October of 2009 had to be the expectations, or lack thereof. For the first time in three years we weren’t going to be considered epic failures if we didn’t railroad every team on our schedule. With the 2009 National Championship team we had to listen to the haters’ pour insults down upon us from all directions after beating teams like Valparaiso by a mere 18 points. Even when we did win the National Championship (a game I attended), I didn’t really feel much in the way of excitement. I just felt an overwhelming sense of relief. We weren’t going to become the laughing stock of the NCAA.

Going into this season was entirely different. We had tons of inexperience. We had veteran role players who were going to have to step up and lead this team. Who knew what to expect out of this group?  Of course the media didn’t hesitate to label us a final four contender. I can’t speak for all the fans, but I simply ignored these benign expectations. I was excited. I was excited to see young players developing again. I was excited to see our veterans become real leaders. I was excited to see our coaching staff step up to new challenges. Nobody knew what to expect. So let’s just play some ball.

Stage 2: Understanding

Stage 2 set in just after the 68-66 loss* to Kentucky. The loss came shortly after the Syracuse massacre. I understood where this team was coming from. We had some good players who were going to contribute, but we were going to have to endure some massive runs from our opponents for a while. But, over time our players would learn how to shorten the runs thrown at us. We weren’t going to be a top 10 team this year, but we certainly deserved to be in the top 25. By the end of the year we could be fighting our way through the tournament again. I understood that we were going to have a few “what the hell” moments, but ultimately, we were going to continue to enjoy the success of our program under Roy Williams.

Stage 3: Not Understanding

The beginning of this stage had a very definitive moment. It started with a pass from Donovan Monroe to Jeremy Simmons on an inbounds play in overtime versus College of Charleston. There was two minutes left on the clock when Deon Thompson decided to double team the scrub freshman Willis Hall on the perimeter rather than follow his man (Simmons) under the basket. The play resulted in an easy layup and put the Cougars up by four. It was inexplicable. How could our senior leader make such a stupid mistake? The whole team looked as though they had just given up. Nobody was playing with the kind of heart I was used to seeing from UNC players at this point in the season.

Things just snowballed from there. They should have sown pockets onto our shorts. Everybody, including our coaches, adopted a ho-hum attitude about the season. “We just need to work harder” seemed to be the common theme. I kept waiting for the bleeding to stop, but it never did. Some people thought the win against North Carolina State was an indication that we were turning things around. Well, and I mean this with absolutely the most disrespect possible, N.C. State is terrible. Nobody should be losing to us by more than ten points this year, twice. I can’t really fathom how a team can be that much worse than we are currently. Somehow they have managed to reach a new, wholly undiscovered, level of sucking.

Stage 4: Meltdown

This was really a private stage for me. I tried to separate myself from those that I cared about out of fear that I may inflict physical or emotional damage upon them. It all started during the UVA loss at the Smith Center when Will Graves was given the responsibility of guarding Sylven Landesberg. Just writing that last sentence was difficult. I am using a bold font right now as an indication of how hard I am pressing down on the keys. Will Graves couldn’t guard a gay octogenarian playing in their socks. Who in their right mind thought he could guard one of the ACC’s most prolific scorers? I am telling you, I lost it. I started swearing at everything. “F@#K YOU, COUCH.”

Now, I know that I am not a coach. I don’t know as much about basketball as the UNC coaching staff (or any other coaching staff for that matter), but somebody must have been slipping them stupid pills this season. Every decision seemed to be exponentially worse then the preceding decision. John Henson gets put out on the perimeter. Marcus Ginyard’s punishment for playing like a freshman in high school is more playing time. Leslie McDonald’s reward for being the only guard to limit himself to one turnover in ACC play is less playing time.

I could go on like this for pages, but I won’t. It’s too damned embarrassing. Too many things contributed to the meltdown. However, there is one thing that trumps all others, free throws. I could literally sit in a gym for 48 straight hours, with no food, water or sleep, shooting free throws continuously, and never shoot up an air ball. Whenever one of our players steps up to the free throw line, I can’t help but think about Chris Farley tearing apart that dinner roll in Tommy Boy. We are a complete disaster…..strike that, catastrophe.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Believe it or not, I am at peace with our suckage. I have managed to find a strange comedic value to the whole season. I have joked with friends about how God is punishing us for Roy’s decision to throw a Presbyterian fan out of a game. It makes some sense. Did we get too smug? Is there some validity to the “holier than though” sentiment that gets thrown at us on a near daily basis? Maybe God is putting us in our place. How else do you explain the injuries, the depth at which Roy’s foot is positioned in his mouth, the free throw air balls, etc? The only thing that seems to have carried over from last year is the womanly play of Deon Thompson. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it may be the thing I miss the most from this season. I get a good laugh every time he gets rejected by somebody half his size. I catch myself having a hearty chuckle every time he shoots a fade away shot from 18 feet.

The season is figuratively over and I am still a fan. I am still going to support the team in the future. This is a comforting feeling. It reaffirms what I learned after the 2001-2002 season. I am not a fair-weather fan. I can handle us sucking. I like knowing that. I have accepted that this season did not go well, and I’m okay. Just don’t let it happen again next year, God.

Duke Sucks!

The most interesting race in the ACC

The Atlantic Coast Conference, a juggernaut in college basketball, is having a down season by its own standards. But don’t give up on them yet. The Tar Heels may be free-falling and the Blue Devils pulling away a little more after each game, but an intriguing competition remains.

Like most seasons, it involves the Heels and the Devils. However, this race is all about the coaches: Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Roy Williams of North Carolina. Both coaches are vying for the coveted “ACC Douche of the Year” award.

Coach K has long been considered such, but he actually finds himself trailing this season. He was getting shutout, actually, until this past week, but we’ll get to that a little later.

Roy Williams
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The good ole boy who says “daggumit” when he spills his Coca-Cola on his baby blue vest has lost a little luster on his image this season with two douche moments. The first occurred during the non-conference season when Roy had an opposing fan thrown out of the Dean Dome.

That opposing fan happened to root for the powerhouse Presbyterian College Blue Hose and said fan hollered during one of Carolina’s players free throw attempt. Roy had him escorted away. The incident caused some ripples in the blogosphere, but the real douche move occurred recently when Williams compared his team’s struggles to the Haiti earthquake. A public backlash ensued and he later apologized.

Roy Williams – 2

Mike Krzyzewski
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The coach of the Duke Blue Devils who enjoys gardening and employing a soft-spoken voice during television interviews has long been hated by the rival Heels and college basketball fans nationwide. But as I stated earlier, he was on the verge of being blow out in this race if it hadn’t of been for a game this week in Miami.

In the second half, Duke guard Jon Scheyer was at the free throw line when Coach K heard an unusual sound in the stands. It turns out it was a conch shell being blown by a student. Krzyzewski had the Miami staff remove the noise maker (I’d like to point out that Miami University is now up for the biggest pussy award for not protecting their home court) and the game resumed after a slight delay.

Mike Krzyzewski – 1

Now the ACC has something to really promote in the last two weeks of conference play plus the tournament. Duke and UNC already hate each other so their respective fans should jump on this immediately. Good luck to both coaches and may the biggest douche win.