Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Here We Go Again.....

Butch Davis has just completed his third season as coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.

That can only mean one thing....

It's time for the third edition of the "Will Butch Leave??" rumor mill.

This time, it's the "Golden Nugget" of college football, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Chicago Tribune listed Davis as a potential candidate to replace Charlie Weis in South Bend. Davis has a track record as a national level recruiter and a builder of national championship caliber teams, dating back to his days at Miami. At UNC, he hasn't been amazing, but he has made consistent progress in building the program.

The Tribune listed four "favorites" for the job: Davis (who was listed 4th), Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, TCU's Gary Patterson, and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly.

Stoops is believed to have an offer from Notre Dame, but has said he has no interest in leaving OU. Patterson is expected to sign a long-term extension to stay at TCU. That would leave Davis and Kelly, if the Tribune's list is accurate.

Of those two, Kelly is the "hot name", while Davis is the established name. Notre Dame took a chance on a "hot name" last time when they hired Weis, so they may decide to go after a more established, veteran coach this time.

Or, it could just be another money-grab by Butch's agent. With Davis, you never really know.

Bobby Bowden "Retires"

Long-time Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden will coach the team in their bowl game (as yet undetermined), and will then hand the reigns over to Jimbo Fisher.

A lackluster 6-6 season hastened Bowden's departure. It was widely believed that he would be the coach in 2010 before Fisher's takeover. Fisher was "coach in waiting", and was due a multi-million dollar payment if he wasn't head coach in 2011.

The FSU administration decided to get on with the rebuilding process, rather than let the legendary Bowden get one more shot at resurrecting the program he built from scratch. Evidently, they don't believe in karma.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

ACC (Triangle) Basketball Preview

It's November, which means that it's time for local college basketball teams to begin their seasons. Here in the Triangle, that means that UNC, Duke and NC State fans are all ready for the switch to roundball, since Triangle football hasn't exactly been spectacular this season.

Here's a quick preview of each local ACC team.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels are the defending National Champions. This team, however, is markedly different than the team that cut down the nets last April.

Off to the NBA are Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green (Bobby Frasor is overseas). On the Heels' roster are freshmen John Henson, Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland, Travis Wear, and his twin David Wear.

UNC will have depth in the frontcourt that is unmatched. The Wears, along with returnees Ed Davis, Deon Thompson and Tyler Zeller will provide Roy Williams with size that is rare in college basketball.

The questions about UNC will all be in the backcourt. Will a reliable 3 point threat emerge? Will Larry Drew II be able to run the team? If he can't, can one of the freshmen guards step in? Will Marcus Ginyard stay healthy to lead this team?

The answers to these questions will determine whether UNC is "just" an ACC contender or if they will earn another trip to the Final Four.


The Blue Devils are an interesting team. They are ranked very high in all the preseason polls, and everyone seems to think they are going to be a great team. Here at The Long and Short of Sports, we're not so sure.

Gerald Henderson left early for the NBA, and Elliot Williams transferred to Memphis. Since Williams was expected to step into Henderson's spot, his departure leaves a gaping hole in Duke's roster. The new faces at Duke are Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins.

Dawkins took a summer school class to graduate early from high school so that he could join Duke this season. His development will determine whether Duke plays with 2 or 3 guards, barring injuries. The only guards on the team (other than walk-ons) are Dawkins, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer. That is a scary lack of depth.

In the frontcourt, Duke has depth, but unlike the rest of America (apparently), I'm not convinced of the quality of that depth. Kyle Singler is a great talent, but he will be forced to spend a lot of time at the 3 this season, which could curtail his effectiveness somewhat. He's a difficult matchup for most power forwards, but many small forwards will be quicker than Singler which should limit his ability to drive to the rim.

Young Plumlee and Kelly are freshmen, and it's rare for freshmen to make huge contributions to Coach K's team. The returning frontcourt players are Greg Zoubek, Lance Thomas, and Old Plumlee (Miles, I think). Thomas and Zoubek were not very impressive last season, and OP barely played. While they could all combine to make a great combination, I think it's a stretch to assume it will happen.

I don't believe Duke has the manpower to make a deep NCAA run. I think there is enough talent in Durham to keep the Devils near the top of the ACC, but ultimately I think they finish the regular season somewhere between 2 and 4 in the league. That's not bad for what will probably end up as a season that Duke fans see as "average".

North Carolina State

The Wolfpack is, to quote Forrest Gump, like a box of chocolates. You really don't know what you're going to get.

Three players who have been stalwarts of the program since Sidney Lowe arrived to coach have departed, and a handful of new faces are on campus. Gone are Ben McCauley, Courtney Fells, and Brandon Costner, along with Trevor Ferguson (transfer) and Simon Harris (graduation). In Raleigh are Deshawn Painter, Richard Howell, Scott Wood, Jordan Vandenburg and Josh Davis.

After three disappointing seasons, Coach Lowe finally seems to have a team with the athleticism he has desired since his arrival. The quicker pace that he has often talked about may finally become a reality this season, as the incoming frontcourt players all seem to be more adept at running the floor than their predecessors.

While no one will ever mistake the Wolfpack for a Paul Westhead-coached team, look for the Wolfpack to try to take advantage of transition opportunities more often.

The reliance on so many freshmen to play big roles means that the Wolfpack's season is likely to be a roller coaster of emotion. The team is likely to show flashes of brilliance this season, but ultimately struggle against more experienced teams who have been through the ringer of ACC pressure.

While the Wolfpack team probably shares the same goals as UNC and Duke, most fans have more tempered expectations. This season, expect the Wolfpack to finish between 5th and 9th in the ACC, and be an NCAA bubble team. That would represent a solid step forward for the program in Coach Lowe's 4th season at the helm, and set the stage for the future as the Pack welcomes a much-heralded recruiting class in '10.

Now, it's time to get things rolling. UNC has already dispatched two cupcakes. NC State opens November 12th against Georgia State, and Duke opens up the following day against UNC-Greensboro.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NC State 65, Murray State 7

In a very impressive bounce-back performance, NC State defeated the Murray State Racers on Saturday by a score of 65-7. The Wolfpack outgained the Racers 484-36.

Russell Wilson completed 15 of 21 attempts for 228 yards, while backup Mike Glennon completed 6 of 7 for 65 yards. Wilson also threw for 4 touchdowns.

The game was over almost as fast as it started, as two early Murray State turnovers were converted into touchdowns. After that, the rout was on.

The Racers, who scored 66 points in their opener, could never get their offense on track. Their only points came in the fourth quarter, on a drive that was aided by several Wolfpack penalties.

NC State played a very impressive game from start to finish, but in the end it's still a victory over an overmatched 1-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) opponent. This week, Gardner-Webb comes to Carter-Finley, in what should be another tuneup leading to a matchup with Pittsburgh, the preseason favorite to win the Big East.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

North Carolina 12, Connecticut 10

It would be tempting to characterize North Carolina's win over Connecticut on Saturday as "luck".

The Heels trailed for almost the entire game. Late in the fourth quarter the scored to tie the score at 10, then they won the game when Connecticut's Dan Ryan held Robert Quinn in the end zone, which is a safety.

Calling it luck, however, would be a mistake. Perhaps it was poetic justice.

On a day when UNC's offense could only muster 10 points, the defense was outstanding. UConn was held to only 196 yards of total offense (124 passing, 74 rushing). Since the defense kept the Heels in the game long enough for the offense to finally come through in the fourth quarter, it's only fitting that the defense was responsible for the winning points.

Unfortunately for the Heels, not everything that happened in the fourth quarter was positive. Tight end Zach Pianalto, who was expected to be one of quarterback TJ Yates' favorite targets this season, scored the game-tying touchdown but injured his foot after the score. He dislocated a bone in his foot, and it is currently unknown how much time he will miss. Pianalto was also injured last season on a play that resulted in a touchdown.

Next week, the Heels welcome the Pirates of East Carolina to Chapel Hill.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hypothetical Blowout?!?!

Well, NC State lost to South Carolina last Thursday. Since it's now Monday, that's not really news.

What is news, however, is that the game was actually much worse than 7-3. I spent the long holiday weekend convinced that there were several positives for NC State, despite the loss. Russell Wilson played well, special teams were pretty good (except for the blocked punt), and the defense played better than I thought they would...or so I thought.

I have since discovered that I was wrong about the defense.

First, Adam Gold of 850 the Buzz said that South Carolina should have scored more points.

I’m not sure who was luckier, South Carolina, considering just how many mistakes the Wolfpack made. Or, State, considering the Gamecocks left at least 13 points on the field in the 1st half!

Then, in today's News & Observer, NC State beat writer Ken Tysiac chimed in with his own take on a play:

But the Wolfpack also benefited from a questionable pass interference call on the offense that wiped out a South Carolina touchdown.

That "questionable" pass interference call that Tysiac references also would have accounted for 7 of Gold's 13 lost points. The only problem is that the call wasn't questionable. The Wolfpack's defensive back was in perfect position, and it is highly unlikely that the South Carolina receiver catches that ball if he doesn't push off first. To say that the call was questionable, or that the called-back touchdown represents "points left on the field" by SC, is to deny that the defender did a great job.

The other six "lost" points came on botched field goal attempts. One was a bad snap that the holder couldn't handle. The other was a missed chip shot from 27 yards. It's not unusual for these things to happen in openers, especially when the kicker is making his college football debut. If South Carolina had been playing some other team, the mistakes would likely have been attributed to the pressure applied by that teams kick-blocking unit.

I'd be willing to bet that both gentlemen would call me crazy if I suggested that if Toney Baker had just held on to the ball, NC State wins 3-0. The hypothesis that South Carolina should have scored more, and NCSU was lucky they didn't, is fine...but pointing out that the only SC scoring drive went only 14 yards is insane.

Good luck to the Gamecocks from here on out. It wasn't pretty, but you did enough to win. Hopefully, your defense is as good as your fans think, since NCSU's offense wasn't able to do much against it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

As you may already know, South Carolina TE Weslye Saunders announced earlier this week that he was going to talk with his coach, Steve Spurrier.

"I'm going to talk to Coach (Steve) Spurrier beforehand and see if he's OK if I get a 15-yard penalty," Saunders said. "Because I'm gonna do some sort of extra celebration if I get a touchdown on the Wolfpack."

In today's Charlotte Observer (via The State), there is another quote from good ol' Weslye:

“A lot of the Wolfpack fans hate my dad, so (there is) a little extra incentive to go out there and do well and show them up a little bit.”

In case you didn't know, Weslye's father is News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders. In today's article about the story, the elder Saunders says:

“I cringed, but I appreciated the quote. I wish someone else on the team had said it. But as a journalist, I appreciate it.”

There are several problems with this whole situation.

Mr. Saunders (the old one) is NOT a journalist. He's a columnist. If he was a journalist (someone whose work is based in fact, rather than fiction), NC State fans wouldn't "hate" him.

Mr. Saunders turned 4 or 5 State fans taunting Chris Paul over the death of his grandfather into an arena-wide chant that he used as the basis of a column ripping Wolfpack fans. He failed to mention the State fans who immediately got the taunting fans to be quiet.

He wrote a column chastising NC State's administration for failing to interview a minority candidate for their head basketball coaching vacancy. I'm only assuming that it was written before Sidney Lowe got the job.

I'm pretty sure he wrote a column stating that the tailgating restrictions put in place after the tragic shooting a few years ago weren't restrictive enough. That ignores the fact that no one involved in that incident was a student at NC State or had a ticket to the game.

Any ill feelings that NC State fans have for Mr. Saunders have been earned.

As for the younger Saunders, I don't really have a lot to say. Unlike his father, he doesn't get to hide behind a keyboard. Young Weslye has to play the game, and has a chance to back up his bravado. He is a very talented player, so he may do it. Or, an NCSU LB may make him eat those words.

The only real problem I have with anything that he said is that he attended high school in Durham, but claims Raleigh as his hometown. Maybe he should mix in a geography class at some point.

I just wouldn't recommend any special dances.