Yearly Archives: 2012

Tar Heel Basketball Preview: Gray Clouds over Carolina Blue Skies

I suppose that in a blog post like this, the lead is where I will write about how UNC is “young, but talented,” and how they could get it together to make a run in the NCAA tournament, how as one the premiere basketball programs in the country it will thus always be in the national title hunt. I could even mention that James Michael McAdoo is projected to be a top NBA Draft pick.

But I can’t. I just can’t. The truth is, I’m already in mourning for this year’s UNC squad’s national title hopes. I’ve been in mourning ever since Kendall and the Gang declared for the NBA Draft last year.[1]

Everyone in my family who has gone to UNC has seen the Tar Heels win a national championship in their tenure; the third degree burns that come from singing yourself while jumping over fires on Franklin Street are practically a rite of passage in my household. So the fact that the Tar Heels have virtually no shot at winning a title this year is disappointing, to put it mildly. Being ranked behind N.C. State (I mean, N.C. State) in early preseason polls just adds insult to injury.

Some hopelessly optimistic UNC fans are probably thinking that in this kind of year for college basketball, where the sport is so wide open, anybody can win it. But if I’m being brutally honest (which is difficult as a sports fan), there’s just not a lot to get excited about on this year’s UNC roster. At best, this is mostly a roster of “could-be” players. James Michael McAdoo could live up to his draft hype and be one of the best players in the country this year. Or he could be another Ed Davis/Marvin Williams type, who shows a ton of promise as a freshman that he never lives up to. Brice Johnson or Joel James could turn out to be the next out-of-nowhere freshman phenoms like Tyler Hansbrough, but realistically, probably won’t be. And Marcus Paige could be one of the top point guards in the country,[2] or he could struggle to master Roy William’s complex system as a freshman.

On top of all these issues, there’s a larger, unibrow shaped rain cloud hanging over the entire future of UNC basketball. As Chuck Klosterman so brilliantly pointed out last year, Kentucky’s national championship has changed college basketball, and not for the better. In the past, when UNC lost a ton of players to the NBA, it wasn’t a death sentence because there would always be some highly touted freshman ready to step in. Fans could comfort themselves in the shelter of a “rebuilding year,” where young stars-to-be work out the kinks in their games and blossom into players who will be the foundations of their teams for at least the next one or two seasons. But there are really aren’t rebuilding years in college basketball anymore, because men like John Calipari have realized you can skip the slow process of building and rebuilding, and just reload with one-and-done-NBA-stars-to-be every year. Before last year, those who didn’t like John Calipari’s recruiting methods (myself included) could comfort themselves by saying that one-and-done players don’t win championships, you still have to have three-and-four-year guys like Tyler Hansbrough or Kyle Singler to win it all.

However, if Calipari keeps winning championships, basketball programs like UNC could find themselves with a tough choice: start going after one-and-done players and abandon all pretense of “student-athletes”[3] but win championships, or stick with the three-and-four-year guys who will never be able to stand toe-to-toe with teams stacked with future NBA stars. The problem is, as much as I’d like to see my beloved Tar Heels win another title, I’d like it a lot less if it meant dropping the comforting illusion of college athletes remaining “student-athletes.”

All told, the future of UNC basketball is as bleak as I can remember it being since I started seriously following the sport. Oh well, at least the Bobcats will have another top draft pick to look forward to.


[1] As an aside, I always thought Kendall, at least should have stayed. He’s too slow on defense and can’t score enough to succeed in the NBA. Sadly, so far his playing time in Phoenix indicates his coaches might feel the same way.

[2] Of the three scenarios I mentioned, this is actually the one I’m most confident about.

[3] An admittedly flimsy concept in College Athletics

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The Walk-Ons: Mr. Jones and Me, UK-Duke Preview, Weekend Review

Matt Jones is driving through the Smoky Mountains en route to Duke-Kentucky, and he and Shane talk about the impending showdown, and everything that happened in the opening weekend. Lots of extra chatter about battleships, old people driving vans who kidnap young children, mail-order brides, other fun Russian stereotypes, and Matt’s phobia of using public bathrooms that MAY stem from a traumatic childhood incident he is currently repressing.

 

Got a great Psycho T story or a Bleacher Report quote or any other thoughts? E-mail us at WalkOnsPodcast@gmail.com

Or leave a voicemail at our Google Voice #, and you will almost surely get to be on the show: 818-Walk-On1 (that’s 818-925-5661)

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Walk-Ons: Our All-Americans, Opening Night Preview

College basketball is finally here, and in our last show before the opening night games tip off, we give our first and second team All-Americans, plus we count down ten of the weekend’s best games. It’s a loaded show, with insight from our crazy Pac-12 listener Spike (and his parrot), some more Tyler Hansbrough stories of dubious origin, and a few listener voicemails offering takes on everything from women’s basketball to the sound a cat makes when it’s crying. After arguing about Bill Self’s merit as a coach, we finish with a few twitter questions and vow to meet again next week.

 

Got a great Psycho T story or a Bleacher Report quote or any other thoughts? E-mail us at WalkOnsPodcast@gmail.com

Or leave a voicemail at our Google Voice #, and you will almost surely get to be on the show: 818-Walk-On1 (that’s 818-925-5661)

Be a pal and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Just click “view in iTunes” once you reach that link, and then ‘subscribe for free.’ Voila. If you’re feeling really generous, you could also rate the podcast and write a positive review.

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Walk-Ons: Election Day Spectacular – Freshmen, Coaches, Etc.

It’s an Election Day special here at the Walk-Ons, and this show is the Grover Cleveland of podcast episodes- so good you’ll want to listen to it on non-consecutive days. Today Ben looks at Coaches who, like Obama, were hired in 2008, and ask if their programs are better off now than four years ago. Shane shares his All-Freshman team (including an All-Hipster freshman team) with the dudes, who insult him. Then Matt and Shane argue for minutes about whether mutant all-underclassman teams will start dominating the game. Then, some great stories about Kris Lang and Tyler Hansbrough (from reader emails), and a few election predictions. Oh hey, is there a new feature? There is a new feature– Bleacher Report Quote of the Week. Plus, a MATT STAINBROOK update. Solid episode.

 

Got a great story or a Bleacher Report quote or whatever? E-mail us at WalkOnsPodcast@gmail.com

Or leave a voicemail at our Google Voice #, and you will almost surely get to be on the show: 818-Walk-On1 (that’s 818-925-5661)

Be a pal and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Just click “view in iTunes” once you reach that link, and then ‘subscribe for free.’ Voila. If you’re feeling really generous, you could also rate the podcast and write a positive review.

You can also access our podcast RSS feed.

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1,600 Miles Away

Born and raised in Colorado Springs, I am very familiar with transplants from other states.  We didn’t like them.  We were proud to be from Colorado and upset that anyone had the gall to think they could just move to Colorado.  There were bumper stickers proclaiming “Native” just so that everyone driving around you knew that this traffic issue wasn’t your fault; they closely resembled the “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For …” monstrosities (coming soon to devastated drivers/voters near you!)

I understand why I’ve been called a front-runner for the better part of 17 years.  Growing up 1600 miles away from Chapel Hill still causes people to question why I would be a Tar Heel fan, and how dare I cheer for basketball royalty so far away when the scrappy teams around me were playing in front of empty seats?!

Name the last time the University of Colorado had a captivating basketball team.  Or Colorado State University.  Or, how about my hometown squad, the Air Force Falcons. Answers: don’t know, don’t care, Jeff Bdzelik’s (!!!) squads.

The point being that there wasn’t much local basketball being played well or watched in droves.  If I wanted to watch good basketball, I gravitated towards the Saturday broadcasts on CBS and other nationally televised games, all culminating in what was becoming my favorite 3 weeks of my young life: March Madness.

I probably did start as a front runner.  All kids do.

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The Walk-Ons: Shabazz, Rick, and Halloween

The title says it all. Today, Matt, Ben, and Shane chat about Rick Pitino’s contract extension, Shabazz Muhammad’s lingering eligibility issues at UCLA. We also discuss the sexiest and ugliest basketball players of all time, Halloween costumes, whether it’s okay for journalists to troll entire fan bases, and the last 34 of CBS’ 68 things to watch for the upcoming season. We’re now just a week away from the big games.

E-mail us at WalkOnsPodcast@gmail.com

Or leave a voicemail at our Google Voice #: 818-Walk-On1 (that’s 818-925-5661)

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Loss and the Ethics of Rivalry, or, Putting a Postitive Spin On Being Told Repeatedly to Go to Hell

The most brutal thing I’ve ever heard anyone say to anyone else was said by a girl to a boy in my tenth grade math class. “I don’t even hate you,” she said back then, “because hatred is a kind of love. I’m indifferent about you.” I won’t dignify the question, of whether or not that boy was me, with a response.[1]

I’ve been proclaiming my status as a future Tar Heel Dead for about as long as I’ve been eating solid food. So I hate Duke, yes, but I realized startlingly how close that hatred was to love sometime in the third quarter of this past battle for the Victory Bell (note to the confused: sometimes Duke and UNC play each other in the sport with the eggish-shaped ball instead of the spherical one). I had always thought of Duke fans in the same way that I imagine Superman probably thinks about Bizarro: as warped reflections of my own strengths and weaknesses, whose values would probably align with my own if they’d only been born on the right planet. Our thoughts on Tyler Hansbrough or Coach K probably couldn’t be more different, for example, but at least we’d both place a basically equivalent value on college basketball. Case in point: I hate seeing Duke lose to teams who aren’t UNC. In a way it reflects poorly on the school I devote so much emotional bandwidth to[2], to see their biggest rival fail to defeat an outsider.

Which is why it was not that surprising to me when I realized that, in terms of narrative payoff and an understanding of athletic victory as a reward for one team’s expenditure of superior effort, Duke had to win. I did not want Duke to win, I merely realized that they should. It was nauseating.

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Sign up for my Humor Workshop – this Saturday!

What’s up guys and gals-

The good folks at the North Carolina Writer’s Network have mistaken me for a writer and invited me to teach a humor workshop at their fall conference. It’s happening THIS SATURDAY, from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm, at the Embassy Suites in Cary, NC. Check this link for details on registration, and please check out the NC Writers Network, a truly class outfit. Also see the details below.

Here’s the humor workshop description:

“Comedy is one of the most rewarding and inspiring forms of writing, but it’s also the most terrifying. An artist is never more exposed than when he or she tries to get laughs from a group of strangers, which is why most comedians are bosom buddies with fear and anxiety. Writing humor is a soul-wrenching challenge, but one that gets easier—and way more fun—with experience and confidence. In this workshop, Grantland’s Shane Ryan (That’s me! I’m writing this!) will help you find your inner reservoir of comedic genius and produce hilarious content. After a brief talk on how to approach comedy through the principles of agreement and positive risk-taking, and how to deal with the pitfalls, such as angry internet commenters trying to ruin your self-esteem, participants will have 20-30 minutes to fine-tune their own material. Examples of strong humor writing will be used to help us along, and we’ll spend the last 50 minutes talking about your work and laughing together. Afterward, you can ask me any question you want about comedy or my personal life or anyone else’s personal life—I’ll make up what I don’t already know. Participants are encouraged to bring a rough draft of a humor piece to work on during the writing portion, or at least a good idea, since it’s hard to be funny or even coherent in 20 minutes without a plan. Speaking of which, the end of this description garbled be a bit little may. See you there!”

The registration deal: Since this is a full-weekend conference, you can’t sign up for an individual course. What you can do is sign up for an entire weekend of awesome classes, panels, and networking opportunities, all of which can be seen at those links. It’s really an all-star cast, and well worth the price of admission ($400 for walk-in registration, which you can do on Friday).

So come by, say hello, and maybe we’ll all go watch college football after or something.

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When you gaze into the Plumlee the Plumlee also gazes into you

There are as many types of Duke fans as autumnal fall colors in the greater Burlington, North Carolina region—which is to say about 3-5. There is, “Holy crap everything is awful! I’m going to set myself aflame in my Duke Snapback!” guy; “Never speak ill of Coach K or I will slit your throat while you take out the recyclables” guy; there is a perennial favorite: guy who wants K fired after Duke looks sluggish against Clemson for 8 minutes in the first half; and guy who yells at Carolina fan not once but twice at Sidewalk Art Festival (that’s me).

And then there are the Duke fans who cringe (or barf Biscuitville) when the Plumlees get mentioned. For nobody embodies the high expectations each Duke season brings, with its tantalizing flashes of brilliance (usually in November) and ultimate letdown (you know, except for those 4 titles) than the brothers Miles, Mason and Marshall.

I’m not one of those fans. I still remember where I was when I heard that Miles had decided to come to Duke instead of Stanford; I hope Mason shatters the Serge Zwikker-esque career trajectory he’s been on with a dominating senior season; I’m irrationally freaked out that Marshall Plumlee already has a foot injury. I might even have looked at pictures of Miles Plumlee’s girlfriend on Facebook because I know the sister of a Facebook friend’s Facebook friend and only felt quasi-dirty about it. (It should also be noted that my wife refers to Miles Plumlee as “the hot Plumlee.”)

But I bring sobering news, based on studious research, about the eldest Plumlee, now a rookie on the Indiana Pacers. News that Duke fans need to digest, news we cannot ignore and pretend doesn’t exist.

Miles Plumlee, of Duke, has the worst college stats of any first round NBA pick…EVER, OF ALL-TIME since before James Naismith hung up the peach baskets EVER. Please gaze into the distance for a few minutes as you ponder that.

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The Walk-Ons: 34 Pressing College Hoops Questions

Today, the gang gets serious. After Matt talks about having a near-meltdown on the radio, accidentally revealing his age and his marital status in the process, and Shane shares a story of crossing a rec softball line that no man should ever cross, they tackle the first half of CBS’ “68 Things to Watch” article. This touches on usual topics like the ACC and Kentucky ball, but veers into the Big East, the A-10, the Pac-12 and elsewhere. Finally, the dudes are turning national! Also, Ben tells a triumphant story of Duke football. That’s not a typo.

E-mail us at WalkOnsPodcast@gmail.com

Or leave a voicemail at our Google Voice #: 818-Walk-On1 (that’s 818-925-5661)

Be a pal and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Just click “view in iTunes” once you reach that link, and then ‘subscribe for free.’ Voila. If you’re feeling really generous, you could also rate the podcast and write a positive review.

You can also access our podcast RSS feed.

If you need to download the file directly, this’ll do it. Enjoy!

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