Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Day Late, Dollar Short

Now this is funny. I swear, I had every intention of talking about both the NC State and Virginia Tech games earlier today, but due to extenuating circumstances (extreme laziness), I didn't get around it until now. In fact, before this comment, I was thinking of starting off this post by saying something like, "This may only interest me, my buddy Andy and Annan Imus, but I'm going to write about it anyway ... " Well, here goes ...
God, I love this team. With so many new faces, you get the impression Roy Williams is doing a lot more coachin' em' up now than a year ago, and picking his spots when going bonkers after a particularly boneheaded play. Last season, it didn't take much to get Williams ranting and raving; now, as long as these guys are running around like maniacs -- despite bad passes and poor shots -- Williams has been pretty restrained in his outbursts. I'm guessing it's all part of the grand plan to get the players to understand what he wants them to do. So far so good.

Anyway, after reeling off 13 points in a row to end the game against NC State last Saturday in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels took their act on the road Tuesday night and squeaked out a 64-61 victory over Virginia Tech. The Tech game was pretty ugly. It more resembled a JV girls basketball game than an ACC matchup. Other than diehard fans and gambling addicts, I'm guessing it was pretty hard to watch all 40 minutes of this thing (which is why I watched it twice ... once live, and once on TiVo). UNC had 25 turnovers (seven courtesy of Quentin Thomas ... in nine minutes of action), and looked sloppy at times. Neither team scored more than 35 points in a half, and the Hokies offense looked more like And1's B team, then an actual college outfit that, you know, has practices and runs plays and stuff.

Despite all that, the Heels never lost their composure, which is pretty impressive when you remember that they start three freshman, and have another coming off the bench, and even more mind-boggling when you throw Byron Sanders, Wes Miller, and Quentin Thomas (and there was even a Mike Copeland sighting Tuesday!) into the mix. So even though the ACC schedule is just starting up, the good news is that the 2005-06 team is at least assured of finishing better than the 2001-02 team that sported an 8-20 record. Anyway, here are some random thoughts on the season to date:

... Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Dean Dome is a laboratory. It was here Tyler Hansbrough was created from the DNA of Joe Wolf, Pete Chilcutt, Eric Montross and Kris Lang. Without Hansbrough, UNC might be 2-10.

... Somebody needs to get Quentin Thomas back in said laboratory. I generally make it a point not to give college kids too hard of a time. For one, they're teenagers, just out of high school, and adjusting to a whole bunch of new stuff outside of basketball. Two, it's not their job. Sometimes we think it is, but they're *wink* student-athletes */wink* first.

(Well, except for J.J. Redick and Sheldon Williams. For these two, I'm implementing the "Duke Players Don't Count" rule. Plus, Redick's a redneck. And Sheldon Williams is what happens when Duke creates players in their own laboratories, but don't take the necessary precautions. Word on the street is that Williams was hastily put together to give the Blue Devils an immediate upgrade at the center position, even though he needed another 12 months to reach full maturity in the lab. As it stands, he's basically Frankenstein 2.0, but without the sense of humor (but with quite the 'stache)).

Anyway, I can't think of anything more frustrating than watching Thomas. You can pretty much predict any offensive series with Thomas bringing the ball up the court thusly:

Thomas crosses the time line and either (a) stumbles, (b) falls down completely, or (c) throws the ball to the other team while in the middle of (a) and/or (b).

And this applies for all situations. To Roy Williams' credit, he continues to trot Thomas out there every game. And he has to. There's no way Bobby Frasor can play 40 minutes every night from here on out. Quentin seems to play on fast forward, while everyone else is at normal speed; maybe the training staff should show him some relaxation techniques, or give him some downers 30 minutes before tip-off. Or at the very least, tell him to quit passing the ball to Byron Sanders when he's at the top of the key during fast breaks.

... Speaking of Sanders, is anybody else surprised at how well he's playing? He's no longer tenative around the basket, and he actually had a nice give-and-go ending in a dunk against NC State (which not only required him to make a nice catch in the lane, but in one motion, he also dunked it on some grimacing Wolfpack player).

... As much as I love the freshmen class, I think my new favorite player just might be Wes Miller. Is there anything funnier than watching a guy who might be 5'4" go out and drain threes from places on the court previously attempted by Rashad McCants and maybe Reggie Miller? And he's also a pretty good defensive player. We need to look into keeping the JMU-to-UNC pipeline going.

... Watching David Noel do old school windmill dunks is always fun -- especially against State -- but he may be the biggest surprise of the season so far. Going into the year, I really didn't know what to expect. I wouldn't have been half-surprised if he averaged 40 shots a game since he was literally the only dude left from last year's team that got to sniff the floor before Blue Team Time. But thanks to Frasor, Hansbrough, Ginyard, Green, and the contributions of Reyshawn, Wes and Byron, Noel hasn't had to take on all the responsibility I initially expected. And I think he's a lot better for it. The guy can shoot 3's. Which is news to me since I don't remember him being particularly efficient from behind the arc. He also turns the ball over less frequently, passes better, and generally makes better decisions than a year ago. All big pluses, especially given the circumstances. As big a role as the freshmen have played in UNC's early success, I think Noel's might be the biggest.

Good stuff.