Monthly Archives: March 2012

Silver Linings in a Downpour

It’s been what–three days?  Three hours?  Three weeks?  I can’t honestly say–the 2011-12 Duke season seems like a part of the distant past, even though those last two minutes versus Lehigh are still painfully vivid in my memory.

In a word, that game was brutal–it was the doomsday scenario that most Duke fans had thought about but never seriously entertained.  A dreadful performance for the ages that was both shocking and unsurprising.  A result that was both unfair to a team that had overachieved this year and one that was exactly what the squad deserved.

Now, writing on Monday afternoon, I’m still barely coherent–there’s so much to write about this game, but almost all of the clues had been there in our previous four games. Still, I have to swallow my anger and bitterness for a little bit, and try to make the case that this loss might be what Duke needs going forward.  Without further ado, here are the five best things about Duke’s loss against Lehigh:

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The Walk-Ons! Round 2 and 3 Wrap-Up

Today, Ben and I talk about the weekend in NCAA hoops- from Duke’s loss to Marshall’s injury to State’s win. We also touch base with our pals at Bleacher Report, get into some media gossip, and explore the classy world of Duke and UNC basketball twitter. I do three impressions in this episode, and Ben tells a truly awful story about a sports journalist, a ladle, and salad dressing.

Don’t forget that you can 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 and benevolent, you could also rate the podcast and write a positive review.

You can also access our podcast RSS feed.


Thanks as always for listening. Time stamps:

0:00 – Ben’s trip to Greensboro for the NCAA Tournament

2:00 – Behind the scenes with the Blue Devils

13:30 – Shane reads Bleacher Report – Will Austin Rivers come back next year?

20:00 – Watch the Wrist – Did Creighton cross the line? Because fans on Twitter sure did.

37:00 – Listener text messages (Next year’s Duke roster, Roy Williams blowing kisses at Ben, strength of schedule and NC State’s first good win of the season, and what to do now that basketball season is over)

51:00 – Gossip from Greensboro

59:00 – Twitter Q&A (Inappropriate karaoke, Arcade Fire as a muse for a basketball article, Lehigh beat Duke t-shirts, poor attendance in Greensboro, nuclear fallout from a potential UNC/NC State matchup, anti-Kendall Marshall tweets)

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Bracing for a Tourney Loss

I’m not very proud of it, but I’ve already braced myself for a Duke tournament loss. Rather than looking at the bracket with an eye for Snow Whites or Cinderellas, I find myself frantically scanning the teams, paranoid at not knowing which will beat Duke. This is the first year since the season that shall not be mentioned that I don’t have Duke winning in at least one bracket. Even in 2008, I had Duke taking the title, though we limped into March as a particularly weak 2 seed. (Sound familiar?) I’m tired of having my heart torn from my chest Temple of Doom style, so this year, I’ve decided to try an experiment and embrace any inklings of pessimism by evaluating Duke’s potential opponents by round and determining how acceptable a loss at that point would be. Won’t you join me?

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Special Walk-Ons Bracket Breakdown Podcast!

Ben & Shane break down the brackets, and throw in some Bleacher Report and listener texts for fun.

Don’t forget that you can 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 and benevolent, you could also rate the podcast and write a positive review.

You can also access our podcast RSS feed.

Enjoy the games!

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The Last Wallflower

Note: In mid-January, I went to Ann Arbor, MI and Evanston, IL to report a story about Northwestern’s push to make its first NCAA tournament. This is the story. It’s feature-length, so maybe it’s best digested section by section. Thanks very much for reading.

The Last Wallflower

In front of an anxious bench, Northwestern’s Bill Carmody crossed his arms and watched his team fall behind. It was happening again. The Wildcats were at home, in Evanston, playing the no. 6 Michigan State Spartans on the second Saturday in January. Down the line, the great Tom Izzo raged and shouted, willing his team to break down Northwestern’s 1-3-1 zone. The Spartans were undefeated in four Big Ten games, while Northwestern was just 1-3. Carmody looked at his assistants, found no answers in their blank expressions, and wrapped his arms tighter. Hunched in his black suit coat, he looked like he might collapse into himself.

There’s a thought that hasn’t left Carmody’s mind for a decade, ever since he accepted the head coaching position at Northwestern. Of the 74 basketball programs in the six major conferences of Division 1, 73 have made the NCAA tournament. Northwestern is the 74th.

This past Sunday, after failing to advance in the Big Ten tournament, the Wildcats gathered at Welsh-Ryan Arena to watch the selection show in a hospitality suite called the “N Closet.” None were really surprised when their name wasn’t called. Despite competing well with the best in the conference from game to game, poor play at critical moments had doomed them again.

The ‘why’ of the problem- the explanation behind the tantalizing flirtations with the NCAA tournament that inevitably fall short- can be seen in microcosm during two games in mid-January. The team’s amazing potential and its agonizing inability to capitalize were perfectly on display against Michigan and Michigan State, and the results linger as artifacts of Northwestern’s latest failure. After a 10-1 start, with quality wins over LSU, Tulsa, and Seton Hall, the Wildcats had lost four of five games, along with every bit of positive momentum. The pessimism surrounding the program had begun to rise again.

As the season hit a critical point, Carmody was faced with the unenviable task of righting the ship against the Spartans.

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The Walk-Ons! NCAA preview episode

In this episode, Shane & Ben discuss behind-the-scenes drama from the ACC Tournament, man-crushes on Austin Rivers, the NCAA tournament field, and every thing else you can possibly think of. Time stamps below.

Don’t forget that you can 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 and benevolent, you could also rate the podcast and write a positive review.

You can also access our podcast RSS feed.

0:00 – Florida State’s Championship

2:15 – North Carolina’s NCAA bracket

4:30 – Shane’s road trip to the ACC Tournament: Favorite players, UNC locker fight, who’s fun to hang out with on press row, and self-invitations to media parties

14:45 – More of Shane’s trip: Do the players care about the ACC Tournament, how Miami took the loss, and the dumbest press conference question of the weekend

21:00 – Twitter Q&A, Part I … referee conspiracies, Lunardi doing Gottfried a solid, the dominant mascot theory, and disappearing Andre Dawkins

34:40 – Selection Sunday, the “First Four”, and mid-major match-ups

43:00 – Must watch NCAA players and teams in the 1st round, Michael Snaer love, and Harrison Barnes disappointment

55:40 – Bleacher Report trolling: “Four Reasons Why Duke Will Fail Miserably in the NCAA Tournament”

1:02:00 – Twitter Q&A, Part II

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Selfish Young Americans, Episode 4

Jim and I are back, and we’re talking ’bout the Chuck Norris Bridge in Eastern Europe, the hazards of oral sex, America’s fight record since WW2, and so much more.

SYA will have its own home shortly, but for now it lives on Tobacco Road Blues. For those unfamiliar, this is the comedy podcast done by myself and my pal SlimJim, where we talk about news and life and the world of selfish young Americans.

You can subscribe to the podcast here.

Here is our RSS feed. I have no idea what that does, but people seem to love it.

If you like it, tell a friend or write a review on iTunes or send me $400. Enjoy!

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Searching for Andre Dawkins


The man took a long drag from his cigarette and exhaled.  It would be another long night of questions from the man-in-charge.  This late in the season, though, he was used to it.

“What’s the status?”

“Nothing new, sir.  We thought going to Atlanta would bring us closer to finding him, but our intel must have been wrong.”

The man tapped his cigarette twice before bringing it to his lips.  He paused for a second.

“Something might show up tomorrow.  But I think our best hope will be Charlotte in a week or so.”

The man-in-charge sneered.

“Dammit, James.  You’ve been saying that for weeks.”

“I know, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”

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Comparing Duke and UNC’s resume

Even this biased Duke fan knows that UNC has a better team, and therefore I won’t waste your time with the argument about which team is better. However, I will waste your time trying to make the point that as of this moment Duke has a better resume than UNC and is more deserving of a #1 seed. Why? They have beaten better teams. The good news with Duke/UNC is that it is pretty easy to compare their schedules. In the interest of comparing the two teams I am going to cross off similar games. If they both played at Maryland and won then neither team can claim that win as an advantage over the other team. By deleting the similar games my goal was to show you the games that differentiate Duke and UNC this year.

First let’s go over the games that I deleted because they were either exactly the same or similiar enough. Here were the two ground rules that you can feel free to disagree with – 1) Margin of victory did not matter. A loss is a loss regardless of if it is by 1 point or 33 points. 2) Sub-200 wins were deleted.

Exact games: Duke/UNC both beat..

  • Michigan State on a neutral court.
  • Each other on the road.
  • Virginia at home
  • NC State at home
  • Maryland at home and on the road
  • Virginia Tech on the road
  • Wake Forest on the road. Continue reading
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UNC Undercover or The Greatest Fan Experience Ever

As Duke fans will remember from three weeks ago, the joy of winning a rivalry game is much sweeter when the game is away. On top of the extra satisfaction of overcoming the opponent’s home court advantage, the best part about rivalry road wins are getting to see the priceless expressions of disbelief and disgust on the faces of your enemies. Few fans will ever know what that experience feels like in person, but for one group of UNC students, the dream came true in March 2006. It was, in my estimation, the greatest possible fan experience ever achieved: an unexpected victory on Duke’s senior night, surrounded by 9000 miserable and embarrassed fans.

At that point in the season, Duke had only been ranked only #1 or #2, losing just two games at Georgetown and Florida State. It was almost a storybook season that featured Shelden Williams recording Duke’s first triple double, a much-hyped five man freshmen class, Sean Dockery’s 40-foot buzzer beater against Virginia Tech, and classic lights out 40 point performances from JJ Redick against Texas and Virginia. A month earlier, Duke had beaten UNC at the Smith Center behind 35 points from Redick and a sweet reverse alley-oop from Dockery to McRoberts. On top of all that, it was senior night for fan favorites Dockery and Lee Melchionni (who kissed center-court during introductions), and Duke’s leading career rebounder and mayonnaise sandwich eater (Williams and Redick).

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