Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The rivalry extends to football... and so does the flopping

Well, I guess UNC and dook have a rivalry in football now, too.

For the first time since 2003, dook finally got a win against the Heels.  They played a more inspired game and definitely deserved to win.  Congrats to the dook players, coaches, and long-suffering fans.
Now that that's out of the way, let's focus on the story that's lingering after the game:

UNC's Shakeel Rashad has been suspended for one game by the ACC for this incident where he bumped dook's Conner Vernon while racing onto the field to get into position before the next play started.  Rashad says it was unintentional, so let's see if that claim makes sense.

Starting at the 0:44 mark of that clip, you can see Rashad running at a close angle to Vernon, but it doesn't appear he's at an angle to totally blindside Vernon, especially because Vernon is shifting to the left and slightly forward.  However, by the 0:46 mark, Vernon stops shifting and suddenly sets himself in position for the play while also stepping back with his plant foot.  The collision happens at the 0:47 mark as Rashad appears to trip on Vernon's plant foot and stumble forward into Vernon.  Even after losing his balance and bumping Vernon, it still doesn't look like much contact, particularly compared to the hits Vernon probably takes at full speed throughout the game.

So, why was Rashad suspended for such minor and seemingly unintentional contact?  It seems to me it was for two reasons:  1) Vernon flopped in a way that only dook basketball players could appreciate, and 2) dook's Coach Cutcliffe whined to the ACC office about the supposed "cheap shot."  Because the incident was so strange and because Vernon appeared to be in immense pain after the contact, the league office bought into the "cheap shot" theory.  That's a shame because by all indications, Rashad is a great kid who wouldn't dare cheap-shot another player.  But, the ACC didn't even asked him what happened on the play.

Lost in the story is the fact that Vernon only sat out one play, and he went on to have a fantastic rest of the game, showing no ill effects from the apparent "cheap shot" that had him writhing on the ground in supposed pain.

Also lost is the fact that there was a true cheap shot in this game, but it wasn't committed by a UNC player.  It was a cut block carried out by dook's Brian Moore on UNC's Tim Jackson two plays after the Rashad incident, coincidentally the next play after Conner Vernon came back into the game from dook's sideline.  As you can see, Moore is engaging Jackson around his shoulder pads well away from the play.  At the 0:08 mark, he suddenly disengages (as Jackson has his back turned to him) and then goes low and cuts Jackson as he starts to turn around.

Unlike Vernon, Jackson actually was injured on this play.  He'll be out at least 2-3 weeks due to this incident.  However, the ACC has yet to hand down any suspension for this, probably because UNC's Coach Fedora has taken the high road when speaking about the incident publicly instead of calling out Moore.

It's a shame that the squeaky wheel always gets the grease, but that's how it usually is with dook.  Isn't that right, Coach K?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lehigh says: "Us too!"

Well, I didn't see this one coming.

Our favorite team to hate became only the sixth #2 seed to lose to a #15 seed, falling to Lehigh tonight in Greensboro.  They didn't go down without a fight, and by "without a fight," I mean they pulled out every cheap tactic down the stretch to try to stay in the game.  Curry fell down on a three to draw a foul.  Rivers jumped into a defender on a three to draw a foul.  They did everything they could, but it still wasn't enough to beat the Mountain Hawks.  And, how sweet it is.

"LEHIGH" has suddenly become a battle cry for many ACC fans....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sweet, sweet redemption

Last night was the best sort of vindication for this year's Heels.  They outplayed dook in the first meeting, but because of some freak plays and bad calls, dook was able to pull out the victory in Chapel Hill.

A dook win last night would have given the Devils a sweep in a year when they were clearly the inferior team, and that could have been devastating to this UNC team.  Knowing the sort of advantage dook gets in Cameron - both from their fans and from the officiating - I was worried that even if they outplayed dook again, the Heels might still end up behind on the scoreboard.

Boy was I wrong.  The Heels came out as the aggressors, and they imposed their will on the dookies from the start.  You could tell from the beginning that this team meant business.  Meanwhile, dook continued with their approach of jacking up the first quick 3 they could, which turned out to be disastrous.

The game was all but over by halftime, when the Heels had built up a 24-point advantage.  I knew a dook run would come in the second half, and it did.  They actually had a few runs, and believe it or not they enjoyed the most success on the offensive end by going inside to the Plumlees.  I really don't think the Plumlees are as bad as they often seem to be, but they just don't get enough looks from their trigger-happy teammates.  If it weren't for the Plumlees last night, dook might have lost by 40.

That said, the Plumlees and the rest of their teammates had nothing on Zeller, Henson, Barnes, Bullock, and Marshall, who I thought were the five best players on the court last night.  Even McAdoo and Hairston had their moments, including a couple of thunderous follow-dunks.  It seems that every Tar Heel knew their role and executed it to perfection.  I just don't think this team was going to be beaten last night.

That said, the refs tried their hardest to keep dook in the game.  We saw the patented three-point flop from Curry during a crucial moment in the second half, and the replay showed that Harrison Barnes was only guilty of putting a hand up to give a token defensive effort.  If there was any contact at all on that play, it was with Curry's follow-through slightly brushing Barnes' hand.  Then again, Curry certainly wasn't reacting to that "contact" as he crumpled to floor like he'd been shot in the knee.  Of course, the officials fell for this ploy as they always do.

Austin Rivers was up to his usual antics.  Someone posted a sobering video compilation of Rivers' travels in the game, and it really hit home how blatantly he uses a stutter-step to freeze the defender before he drives to the basket.  Of course, the stutter-step (which is a travel by itself) is made even worse after adding in the 3-4 steps Rivers takes when catching the ball and squaring to the basket.  Also, Rivers was able to draw his usual number of foul calls by driving directly into a defender and flailing his arms like he'd been stripped of the ball.  This happened a couple of times where I watched the play over and over and couldn't tell what the defender had done wrong to constitute a foul.  It only got called that way because it looked like a foul, which is due to Rivers' acting.  As an aside, if Rivers doesn't go pro after this year, we'll be looking at these antics over and over again in the future, and Rivers will likely get lauded as a superstar by the media.  It will be sickening.

I could go on and on about the refereeing, but there's no need for that since the Heels took care of business.  They made it apparent that no amount of bad calls or flops or lucky shots were going to decide this game.  And, for that, I couldn't be prouder.

ACC regular season champs.  How sweet it is!

Friday, February 24, 2012

the three-point flop

In the days leading up to the next UNC-dook game, I'm going to focus on the different cheap tactics/antics that dook basketball employs to win games.  Today's lesson is on the three-point flop.

If you watched the dook-FSU game last night, you saw this in full force.  ESPN didn't do a great job of showing replays of these "fouls," but I do remember one in particular that occurred right in front of the dook bench.  That play consisted of the FSU player running at the dook player to get a hand up for the shot but stopping right in front of the dookie in question, who I believe was Andre Dawkins.  Dawkins did his usual flop and drew the foul call.

Plays like this are the reason a team that routinely shoots 25+ (and sometimes 30+) three-pointers a game still draws as many fouls as their opposition, if not more.  When officiated correctly, this offense should not be drawing the amount of fouls that it does.  Some have said that the three-point shot is a factor that helps bring about parity in college basketball, but there's a reason that the national champion each year is a team like North Carolina, Kansas, UConn, etc.  For the most part, mid-majors that shoot a lot of threes just can't sustain a high enough shooting percentage over six games to overcome the lack of fouls they draw inside.  When they get hot, they can upset any team, but when they go cold, there's often not much they can do to offset it.  This is also the case over a regular season for most mid-majors and teams that shoot a lot of threes.

Coach K has realized this and has somehow found a way to draw fouls that aren't there, and the three-point flop is one of his main tactics for that.  The genius of this ploy is that it punishes a defender for playing tight defense while rewarding the offensive player with the opportunity to gain three points, which is a huge reward.  Not only that, but the rest of the game the wing defender will become tentative about playing tight defense on the three-point shot.  So, dook wins again.

You can see how this really tips the scales of fairness in dook's favor.  At some point, this is going to have to become a point of emphasis in college basketball.  Until then, dook is going to continue to rack up extra points each game because of this ploy.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Some old history of the rivalry

 Here's some interesting history behind the rivalry that you won't hear about on ESPN anytime soon:
 

"Courage"

Really, Coach K?  Did you really write "courage" up on the chalkboard before the game to motivate your team, as Austin Rivers said you did to local media?

If so, let's look at the ways that dook demonstrated courage on Wednesday night:

  • dook shot 36 three-pointers, which was over 58% of their total shots.  They certainly exhibited a lot of "courage" by taking the laziest shot in basketball... again and again and again.
  • They flopped and flailed and acted their way to enough cheap fouls on UNC that they were in the double bonus almost exactly halfway through the second half.  Remember, this is a team that shot 36 three-pointers in the game.  Early in the second half, Austin Rivers got into a back and forth show with Harrison Barnes.  Yet, somehow, dook was in the double bonus halfway through the second half.  Where did all those fouls come from?  I'm sure it was "courage" that earned them all those calls.
  • Mason Plumlee apparently showed a lot of "courage" by shoving Tyler Zeller across the lane from behind on the key play where Zeller accidentally tipped in a dook basket.
The only true courage I saw all night was Austin Rivers' final shot.  He had guts to take that shot, and I commend him for it.  The rest of the game was just more of the same from our favorite floppers and "scrappers."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I hate dook!

Taking a night to "sleep on it" did not ease the frustration from yesterday.  I just can't stand dook's cheap brand of basketball, and I have to get that off my chest.

Why do I hate it?

They play lazy basketball.  Literally, their entire philosophy is to stand around the perimeter and chuck three-pointers all game.  That's it.  That's their brilliant game plan.  Their big men set screens and rebound their long misses and maybe get some garbage buckets here and there, but the wing players stand around and shoot jumpers all game.  Coach K has figured out that this works because even though they will miss a ton of threes, they'll make enough to stay in the game.  Also, they can just go over the back to get rebounds when they miss.

That leads me to my second point:  dook will push and shove and grab on defense and going after rebounds, and they know they won't get called for this.  They'll palm the ball (Rivers), travel (Curry), and push players in the back going for rebounds (Plumlees), set moving screens for their shooters (the entire team) and none of it will get called.  Usually, they just get called "gritty" and "scrappy" for being so physical.

Worst of all, dook utilizes all sorts of cheap tactics to draw foul calls from the refs.  Let's take a look at some of those:
  • I've mentioned the Rivers move where he dribbles the ball into a defender and then lurches back as if he's been bumped.  Somehow the refs call this every time, even though he's the one who caused the contact (if there even was any in the first place).  This isn't only an Austin Rivers move, but he does seem to be the main culprit this season.
  • Another cheap move in the three-point flop.  This has been showing up more and more across the college basketball landscape, but it's been perfected at dook (thanks to JJ Redick).  This move involves shooting a three and then falling backward like you've been shot when nobody touches you at all.  Or, if you're as skilled as JJ was about it, it involves shooting and then pulling the defender down on top of you to force the refs to make some kind of call. 
  • Then, of course, there's the good 'ol defensive flop.  I'm not talking about a play where the offensive player slams into the defender and the defender slides backward.  While frustrating, that happens everywhere in college basketball.  What I'm talking about is a play where there's hardly any contact and the defender starts falling backward before the contact happens.  (I'm looking at you, Greg Paulus and Kyle Singler.)  These are plays where a ref will normally just shake his head at the defender and/or let the play continue to embarrass him for trying to draw a cheap call.  For dook, however, these rules don't seem to apply.
The worst part of it all is that Coach K, being the "leader of men" that he is, continues to teach this type of behavior and rule-bending.  Not only that, but he works the refs the entire game to make sure his way of playing the game is enforced.  If the refs dare to make a call against his team, you'll see him berating them to plant a seed in their mind that they missed a call.  He knows he can't change that particular call, but he also knows he is more likely to get a future call in his favor because the refs don't want to hear any more of his whining.

Rewarding this type of behavior is like not punishing your child when he or she gets into trouble.  If that starts to happen enough, the child will no longer have any regard for rules or discipline.  In the same way, it's obvious at this point that dook basketball is playing by its own set of rules.

Bad night...

I'm not sure what to say here - that was the most stunning game I've seen in awhile.  UNC had it all but wrapped up with about 4 minutes to go in the game... and apparently they thought so too.  Kudos to the dookies for fighting until the end and getting the spoils of their effort.

The Heels shot themselves in the foot with lazy play in the final minutes - throwing passes away, not defending the three, missing free throws, and making dumb decisions on both ends of the floor.  They didn't play like a championship team down the stretch tonight.

All that said, the officiating kept dook in the game in the second half.  Again, I know it sounds like whining when someone blames the refs for a loss, and I certainly won't say they decided the game on their own.  The play on the court did much of that.  But, for some reason, the officials in this rivalry often seem to make it their mission to keep the games as close as possible.  It's almost as if they want to be a part of history, so they make calls to help the trailing team.  I'm not saying that this is some conspiracy - or that they do this intentionally - but I think they subconsciously want to be a "player" in a great UNC-dook game.

Many calls were legit, of course, but there was an alarming number of foul calls that weren't.  For example, Austin Rivers seems to have perfected the move where he dribbles the ball into a defender and then hesitates (with a grimace) to simulate the act of being fouled.  The refs seemed to fall for this every time he did it.  There was also a play where Rivers tripped without the ball, and then Reggie Bullock stood over him in a defensive stance - without touching him - and somehow got a foul called on him.  I'm not sure where the foul was exactly - apparently you aren't allowed to defend a player if he falls down.  It appeared as if the refs thought something looked wrong about Bullock defending a player lying on the ground, so they felt like a foul must have occurred.

Also, dook players continue to act like they've been shot when someone puts a hand in their face while shooting a three.  The refs gave them this call a few times as well.  Don't even get me started on over-the-back fouls and moving screens, which are a staple of dook's play.  There were plenty of those down the stretch as well.

I could go on forever, but the main reason I'm so irritated by the officiating is that it seemed like there was a stretch where the game was about to get out of dook's grasp, and the refs seemed to call a questionable foul on UNC every time dook was on offense.  Maybe a few of those were fouls, but not every one.  Then, on the other end of the floor, there were plays like Harrison Barnes getting tripped by a dook defender driving the lane, and the refs called a charge on Barnes.  He only charged because he was tripped and lost his footing!

Anyway, enough about the officiating.  I'm not happy about it, but it will obviously never change.  Even with all those bad calls, the Heels still should have won this game.   I know the players feel awful and just as sick as us fans do, so I won't berate them too much for the poor play at the end.  I'm just hoping they use this game as motivation to play hard 40(+) minutes a game from here on out.

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's DOOK week

Well, it's dook week, but so much has already happened this the ACC season.  UNC lost by 33 to FSU and lost Dexter Strickland for the season, and dook lost at home to both FSU and Miami.  Both teams are still finding themselves somewhat, but these are still two excellent teams in the grand scheme of things.

Let's look at a little pre-matchup position breakdown for both teams.  This won't be your typical player matchup comparison based on starting lineups, because dook in particular will rotate players at all sorts of positions.  This will be more of a comparison between the frontcourts and backcourts of each team.

I definitely think UNC has the advantage down low.  Zeller and Henson are better than the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly, so I give UNC the edge there.  I'm sure we'll see some matchups with both Plumlees against Zeller and Henson, and that's a lineup that favors UNC athletically but might favor dook physically.  The Plumlees will try to out-physical Zeller and Henson, so they need to be tough and play through contact.  Other lineups will have one Plumlee and Ryan Kelly at the 4, and that's dangerous for UNC because of Kelly's ability to shoot from the outside.  He'll undoubtedly try to float outside and shoot as many threes as he can, so it's imperative that UNC's defense is on the lookout for this and has someone in his face to contest his shots at all times.  However, Kelly should be a liability on defense no matter where he plays - either against Henson at the 4 or Barnes at the 3.  He can't keep up with either of those guys if they're on their game.

The backcourt might favor dook a little more, but it's hard to tell because so much relies on dook's shooting.  Rivers can score, but he doesn't worry me as long as UNC's defense doesn't collapse on him when he drives.  Dawkins and Curry do worry me - they will be the key to dook's offense.  If they're hitting from the outside, they can keep dook in this game.  If they're forced to shoot contested shots, they probably won't hit enough of them to decide the game.

Marshall and Bullock need to have great defensive games for UNC.  I trust that they'll do fine offensively, so I'm not worried there.

To my untrained eye, the matchups appear to favor UNC, but that's why they play the game.  If shots are falling for dook and not for UNC, then anything could happen....

Friday, January 13, 2012

dook basketball: What's to like?

So, I've had trouble getting into college basketball this year, but I decided to watch the dook-UVa game last night to see dook's offense versus a good defensive team. The Devils bricked plenty of shots in the first half, but, as expected, they eventually got enough shots to fall to hold on for a close win.  I knew a UVa win was a long shot because the Hoos just can't score enough to grab a lead and hold onto it in Cameron.  So, no real surprise there.

It occurred to me, though, as I watched dook brick three after three that this is their entire offense.  When the shots aren't falling, they have no fall-back plan.  The only plan is just to keep shooting in hopes that the shots will eventually go in.  Now, to Coach K's credit, he has been able to recruit a number of great shooters year after year to make this plan successful.

Still, this offense is almost unwatchable to me.  It's lazy basketball, and I'm pretty sure this is not what Dr. Naismith envisioned when he created the game.  It's even worse this year compared to others because of the cast of characters in Durham.  Let's take a look at them:

Austin "Ballhog" Rivers - He's a talented player, especially when driving to the basket, but the guy takes way too many shots from the outside (and in general).  His role should be to drive when he can and either: 1) shoot from 10 feet in, or 2) kick it out to a jump shooter.  His ability to drive is actually great in dook's offense as long as he learns to drive and kick like Nolan Smith and others before him.  Until he learns that, he's just killing their offense with bad shots.  Also, he travels and carries the ball just about every time he has it.

Seth Curry - I like Seth Curry, although I think he gets away with more than he should because he's a dookie.  Curry seems to carry the ball even more than Rivers, but obviously that's not going to get called.  He can definitely shoot, though.

Andre Dawkins - He can also shoot... most of the time.  The one thing you can be sure of with Dawkins is he will shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more - whether he's hitting or not.

"Fouls" Plumlee - He literally fouls the whole game.  He can get away with it at dook, though.  Anyway, like all dook big men before him, his job is to set moving screens, rebound, and foul.  So, I guess he does his job.

BrickMason Plumlee - Was he always this bad a free-throw shooter?  He fouls as much as his older brother, but he seems less coordinated, if that's somehow possible.

R. Kelly - He's actually their best big man, but it's probably because he thinks he's a wing player.  He can shoot, though, so he can create mismatches on the offensive end.  However, if there's ever a game when he's not hitting from the outside, he's basically useless.

They have other guys too, but I'm too bored with them to mention them.  Seriously, this must be the most boring dook team since Coach K's meltdown year.  They are getting by in most games because there just aren't any great teams in college basketball this year.  I just hope things get more interesting as we get into February and March.