Tag Archives: Kendall Marshall

What Could Have Been

It started in the summer with the news that Leslie MacDonald, a role player from last year and the Tar Heels’ best returning 3-point shooter, would miss the year with a torn ACL. We winced, but knew this was a glancing blow. The Heels were supposed to be a juggernaut, and juggernauts don’t flinch when someone cuts off a finger. We would be fine. Students lined up for (not)Late Night With Roy at 4pm. We eagerly read along as ESPN launched a blog just for UNC on its basketball homepage. We soaked up commentary. Optimism reigned supreme.

The season began with great fanfare, highlighted by UNC’s annual pasting of Michigan State in a new, fancy venue – this time, an aircraft carrier. Even when UNC lost to UNLV and then Kentucky, we knew March was when it really mattered. As ACC play rolled around we started to get a sense of the team: they were nice kids. Off the court they loved hanging out together, communicating on Twitter so we could all feel part of their goofy lifestyle. Henson was the class clown, Barnes the businessman, Watts the elder statesman, with Kendall Marshall at the center of it all. This was, after all, the team that played outdoor pick-up against us mere mortals (sometimes spotting teams 9 points in a game to 11). On the court, they occasionally coasted on talent against inferior opponents. They won, mostly, but sometimes seemed uninspired. The Heels went through a lengthy, multi-game shooting slump where they developed a gritty defensive identity. Things started coming together.

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A Different Feel

This one had a different feel.

By this one, of course, I mean the Comeback Run That Wasn’t: a five-minute stretch in the middle of the 2nd half where Duke went on a 16-7 run to cut the deficit to just 75-64. Cameron was loud, the spirit fingers that spawned unlimited memes rollicking (see picture), and Duke was hitting threes again.

But it felt different. This time, I never felt more than healthy nervousness. Even when Seth Curry drew a miraculous flopping foul on a 3-point shot (thank you for that little legacy, J.J. Reddick), even when Curry rose for a 3-pointer that would have cut the lead to single digits, blown the roof off of Cameron Hansbrough Indoor Stadium, I still barely twitched. Why?

A minute or two earlier, I had seen John Henson, resting on the bench, stand up and whip his towel to the ground. And yell. Unlike the bench against Duke the first time, where dispirited faces stared glumly at the scoreboard, the sideline was fired up. The message was clear: this was not happening again.

Understand, John Henson is not the fiery type. He’s the kind of player opponents hate because he’s obnoxiously friendly on the court. This is Henson’s M.O.: after dunking on someone (and he’s done that quite a bit this year), he’ll turn to his posterized opponent, smile, and say, “Did you see that? Wow! That was a crazy dunk!”*

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Does UNC lack a killer instinct?

I once had a forecasting class where the professor gave each one of us a bag of M&Ms. We were then supposed to count each color and report the results. Predictably some of the M&M bags had more blues, while others had more oranges. My bag in particular had one brown M&M, which was the lowest count of any color in any of the bags. The professor showed the results on a projector and asked the class to imagine each color to be a particular product and that each bag to be an individual store. She then asked what the results meant. Some people said that certain “stores” were better at selling certain “products.” My store in particular was said to be deficient in selling whatever product the brown M&M represented. There was a discussion among people in the class about reasons why certain stores had sold more of certain products. Maybe one store had better employees? Maybe one store sold more “oranges” because they were located in a college town like Syracuse?

At that time I had to raise my hand. I asked the professor if we should maybe consider that the results are random and that it would be a terrible idea to come up with a forecast based on these results. The sample size was way too small, and also we had the advantage of knowing that these results were completely random. For example I doubt that the 6th M&M bag opened in the next class would have a only one brown M&M. Generally speaking it was amazing to watch people try to assign reasons to what they knew were random events. Needless to say I didn’t understand the exercise and I don’t think I impressed my professor with my answer. I wasn’t trying to be a devil’s advocate or a jerk, but rather just start a discussion on the importance of luck in setting a forecast.

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Carolina vs. Michigan State: +/- and Defensive Charting

Before getting to the first +/- table of the season, some words of caution: single-game +/- figures are so “noisy” (i.e., influenced by randomness) that they’re rendered practically useless. Even with a complete season’s worth of data, the +/- metric (especially in this– its unadjusted– form) suffers from this noisiness. Still, when taken in conjunction with the defensive box score, traditional box score, and old-fashioned “eye test,” the single-game +/- can be a part of the total evaluation process. It also serves as a good summary of Roy Williams’s substitution patterns/rotation.

Some definitions:

Pts-Pts All.: the points scored and points allowed by the team during a given player’s minutes
Off Eff: the points scored per 100 possessions with a given player on the court
Def Eff: the points allowed per 100 possessions with a given player on the court
Net Eff: the scoring margin per 100 possessions with a given player on the court

+/- Stats vs. Michigan State

Player Minutes Pts-Pts All. Off Eff Def Eff Net Eff
Hairston 8.9 19-11 126.7 73.3 +53.3
McAdoo 16.3 36-27 124.1 87.1 +37.0
Marshall 32.8 57-41 101.8 73.2 +28.6
Zeller 30.9 52-39 100.0 76.5 +23.5
Strickland 33.7 55-41 94.8 73.9 +20.9
TEAM 40.0 67-55 97.1 79.7 +17.4
Henson 30.5 43-36 81.1 69.9 +11.2
Barnes 31.6 48-44 87.3 80.0 +7.3
Bullock 11.7 19-24 90.5 106.7 -16.2
Hubert/White 1.3 3-4 150.0 133.3 +16.7
Watts 1.1 0-4 0.0 266.7 -266.7
+/- by Backcourt
Combo Minutes Pts-Pts-All.
Marshall-Strickland 27.8 48-31
Marshall-Bullock 4.5 9-10
Strickland-Hairston 3.7 7-4
Strickland-Bullock 2.2 0-6
White-Hairston 1.3 3-4
Marshall-Hairston 0.5 0-0
+/- by Frontcourt
Henson-Zeller 22.6 31-24
McAdoo-Henson 7.8 12-12
McAdoo-Zeller 7.2 21-11
McAdoo-Hubert 1.3 3-4
Watts-Zeller 1.1 0-4
Most-used Line-ups
Marshall-Strickland-Barnes-Henson-Zeller 22.1 31-24
Strickland-Hairston-Bullock-McAdoo-Henson 3.7 7-4
Marshall-Strickland-Hairston-McAdoo-Zeller 3.0 9-3
Marshall-Strickland-Barnes-McAdoo-Zeller 2.4 8-4

When Bullock and Hairston were paired together on the wings, I called Hairston the 2 and Bullock the 3. Continue reading

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Duke Twitter Rankings: The Kendall Marshall Challenge

Today, in advance of Duke’s first games in China, I’m introducing a new feature. The premise is simple- I evaluate the twitter accounts of every Duke basketball player for the past week, list the highlights, and give them an entertainment score out of 10. Here’s the official logo:

The word I would use to describe my rating system is “holistic.” There are no formulas, no science, just the feeling I get in my gut. Here’s where it gets really tough: whoever wins the week with the highest score will have to face Kendall Marshall, who reliably has some of the strangest, funniest, and weirdest tweets of any athlete I’ve come across. If a Dukie can do the unthinkable and take him down, the Tobacco Road Twitter Belt will be theirs.

Now, in order from worst to first, here’s how the week played out in the twitter world of Duke basketball.

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The Photoshops

New readers –

This is launch week on Tobacco Road Blues, the new site dedicated to Duke and UNC sports. All week, we’re going to be running two of the ‘greatest hits’ from Seth Curry Saves Duke!, our previous blog, every day. The new content begins on Monday the 15th.

Today’s morning post is actually a compilation of all the “graphic illustrations” produced in the last year. I put that term in quotes because using it without them would probably insult anyone who did actual graphic illustrations. A great professor named Bart Wojdynski taught me how to use Adobe Illustrator at some point in February, probably thinking I would use the knowledge for something educational or morally uplifting. Didn’t happen. Everything that follows is crude, and the bias level is high in a way that will be less typical of TRB. Enjoy.



My first effort, the “Choose Your ACC Team” flowchart, done in early January

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