Sounds Like Someone is a Little Bitter

Let me introduce you to Joe Rexrode. Mr. Rexrode is a beat writer in East Lansing, MI who had someone at Yahoo Sports afford him the gift of writing a special article about Saturday night’s 2nd Round East Regional game between UNC and Michigan State. What an absolute shame he wasted it with such an asinine article. Here are some of the “highlights”

But it’s going to take more than the raw horsepower of the Tar Heels’ lineup. It’s going to take some intangibles – attention to detail, attention to opponent, toughness – that aren’t as apparent with this young team as are its physical gifts.

Things that apply more to a team like, oh, let’s see here … Georgetown, for example. In a quirk of the “pod” system, the East Regional’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds both played here this weekend, giving everyone in Lawrence Joel Coliseum a peek at what could be a splendid regional final.

Both teams advanced Saturday. The No. 2-seed Hoyas went forward with a gutsy 62-55 comeback over No. 7-seed Boston College. The top-seeded Tar Heels rallied for an 81-67 win over ninth-seeded Michigan State that was closer than the score indicated and brought up some familiar questions. Namely, can North Carolina defend well enough to get out of East Rutherford and to Atlanta?

What the heck? First of all Georgetown is a good team though it should be noted that UNC had a much easier time with BC a week ago than the Hoyas did last night. Secondly, what exactly did UNC do or not do last night which makes you think they cannot play defense? Michigan State shot 37% from the floor and for all of the love being poured out on Drew Neitzel, he was 9 for 27 from the floor which is a horrid shooting percentage. UNC also out rebounded the Spartans 37-27 and 13-11 on the offensive boards.

You can say UNC won it all two years ago playing much the same way and that it is depth and size and multiple offensive weapons that win this time of year. And you wouldn’t be wrong.

But Michigan State made an impression even in a losing effort. This is probably Tom Izzo’s least-talented group in the past 10 years, yet he got them into the tournament, past Marquette and into the Tar Heels’ heads for a good portion of Saturday night.

“I thought anybody that was a Spartan tonight should have been proud of their effort, and I don’t say that very often,” Izzo said.

Do we really need to spend the time to discuss the almost innumerable times in the past three decades of seeded play that a high seed has been taken to the brink by a lower seed and still managed to win the national title? UNC has had close shaves and far tougher games than this one in their history prior to going to the Final Four. And excuse me, but I am calling out Rexrode right here for not only dropping a backhanded insult in UNC’s direction but doing so at the expense of his hometown team who he basically implied as not a very good team that barely made it into the NCAA Tournament.

The Spartans led with 6:54 left, but the Heels finished on a 23-8 burst to run away. The Spartans, particularly shooting guard Drew Neitzel (26 points), were beat. Talent, not necessarily toughness, prevailed. Depending on who you ask.

“We are as happy as we can possibly be, we showed a tremendous amount of toughness tonight,” Roy Williams said.

“I think we’re a tough team,” UNC’s Wes Miller said. “People have been questioning that all year, but the guys in our locker room know we’re tough. Maybe we haven’t shown it all year, but we are now.”

This would have been the teams’ third meeting in three tournaments, including UNC’s 87-71 win in the 2005 Final Four, but for the fact that both got stuck in George Mason’s pod a year ago. MSU brings back everyone from this team, along with three highly-ranked, much-needed perimeter recruits, making it very possible the Tar Heels and Spartans will meet much later in this event in 2008.

Williams’ group might be defending a national title by then. But for that to happen, they’ll need to shed their air that suggests, “All we have to do is show up, avoid tripping on each other and we’ll be fine.”

It didn’t cost them a win over the offensively limited Spartans. But it won’t get them past Texas or USC or Georgetown.

I am not sure if Rexrode was actually watching the game but during that 23-8 run a senior name Reyshawn Terry scored 12 of those points. It is interesting to note that Terry had played a horrible 33 minutes of basketball up to that point owed in part to the fact he had been sick with flu symptoms and a migraine headache all day. So before you go around questioning the toughness of a team, maybe you should consider all the circumstances. Tyler Hansbrough is the very definition of toughness and he scored 33 points because Brandan Wright was in foul trouble and largely ineffective. Tywon Lawson had as big a game as a freshman point guard could have. And let’s not even get started with the defensive effort Wes Miller and Marcus Ginyard put in trying to slow down Neitzel.

I would also point out that some beat writer from Michigan should do a little research before he makes a statement so stupid I feel less intelligent having read it.  That statement is the assertion UNC walks around with some sort of expectation that they can win the title by just showing up. Coming from someone who has watched and wrote about this team all season let me just say we are way past this team having that attitude. And rest assured it will not show up in the coming games.

A lot of eyebrows were raised Friday when UNC freshman point guard Ty Lawson was asked about his primary defender in this game, MSU’s Travis Walton, who was a Big Ten all-defensive honoree this season.

“I really haven’t watched him too much. I haven’t watched too many games,” Lawson said. “People say he is a good defender and gets a lot of steals but I haven’t seen him play too much so I wouldn’t know.”

Meanwhile, Walton had studied so much tape of Lawson by then, he knew Lawson sweats more profusely in his left armpit than his right.

Well apparently not since Lawson lit Walton up for 20 points and eight assists.

Asked basic questions about MSU’s strengths and weaknesses, here’s how senior Reyshawn Terry and sophomore Tyler Hansbrough responded.

Terry: “I really haven’t seen a lot of them, but all around I think their defense is pretty aggressive.”

Hansbrough: “I’m sure we’ll get into that tonight.”

Hey, some coaches don’t want to overload their teams with information in these short-prep situations. But a mention of the opponent’s name might have been nice, one day before tipoff.

A little more attention from these tremendously gifted players might have prevented MSU guard Drew Neitzel from getting more wide-open shots than he saw in all of February in the Big Ten. He was 9-of-27 from the field. Maybe three of those were contested. Had Neitzel shot the way he did in a lot of games this season, he would have dropped 40 and the Spartans might have dropped the Tar Heels.

I really should start recording games so I can go back and certify someone else is insane. I am pretty sure there are more than three which were contested. However I think most coaches will tell you that you will not contest every shot and I am pretty sure there were a few cases where Neitzel got an open look off an offensive rebound when the defense was out of position. Rexrode also fails to mention four turnovers Neitzel committed and the fact he lit up Ohio State for 24 and 29 points in their two meetings this season which tells me the kid is just a prolific scorer. And while I have OSU on the table, how come no one is writing articles telling us how the Buckeyes are short on what it takes to win the title? It seems to be they were far less impressive in almost losing to Xavier in OT than UNC was in handling the Spartans.

And a little more toughness would serve North Carolina well in future rounds. Hansbrough has it, now that his dalliance with mask-related timidity is over. He shed the mask and burned the Spartans for 33 points. Lawson is “a tough little nut,” Williams said, who bulled his way to 20 points against the Spartans. With UNC clinging to a five-point lead in the final two minutes, Terry showed some mental fortitude with a pair of jumpers.

But these guys won’t have home crowds and overmatched opponents available in East Rutherford, N.J.

“As a coach you’d love to have a team that is diving on the floor, pulling nails out of the floor, slobbering and spitting and taking charges 40 minutes a game,” Williams acknowledged.

Georgetown does that stuff. It would be nice to see North Carolina do it more. Roy Williams has himself a talent mine, and that would be a terrible thing to waste.

First of all let’s get a definition of toughness on the table and in my view it is handling a pesky team who is pushing you to the brink and you are able to push back on your way to a win. That is what UNC did last night and the “home crowds” had not a darn thing to do with that. Secondly, I also think space on Yahoo Sports is a terrible thing to waste for tripe like this.

And yes, Joe Rexrode just made the list.

Hat tip to reader, Dr. Suess

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15 Responses to Sounds Like Someone is a Little Bitter

  1. Dr. Seuss says:

    THF,

    Thanks for putting that up where everyone could see it. I brought my comments over from the other post:

    I realize that I am preaching to the choir here, but Roy likes to spend the large majority of time working on developing the things that his team does best and lets our opponents worry about what they are going to do. Perhaps if Michigan St. had spent more time working on their skills instead of worrying about what the Heels were going to do, they might have had better luck; then again, probably not. Roy’s ’spend your time improving on what you do best and let your opponent try and stop you’ coaching strategy seems to be working pretty well. One thing the Heels seem to do really well is beat Michigan State every single time we meet up in the NCAA Tournament. But I guess Joe Rexrode knows much more about how to prepare the Heels for a game than Roy does.

    I even wandering if he even watched the game last night after making comments such as this:

    A little more attention from these tremendously gifted players might have prevented MSU guard Drew Neitzel from getting more wide-open shots than he saw in all of February in the Big Ten. He was 9-of-27 from the field. Maybe three of those were contested. Had Neitzel shot the way he did in a lot of games this season, he would have dropped 40 and the Spartans might have dropped the Tar Heels.

    WIDE OPEN SHOTS!!! You’ve gotta be freakin’ kiddin’ me!

    That may have actually been worse than this statement:

    “And a little more toughness would serve North Carolina well in future rounds”

    This guy has to be either a complete jackass, a crack head, or both. Every article I have read about the game from legitimate sportswriters have all made reference to how well the Heels demonstrated their “toughness” last night.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/ncaatourney07/columns/story?id=2802987&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab2pos1

    Perhaps I am being a little over zealous about this guy, but I don’t think I have ever encountered a published article with such an utterly inaccurate assessment of a team’s performance. He might as well be a weatherman.
    It’s one thing to dislike a team or be upset over a loss, but this guy is borderline delusional!

    You said it 52BigGameJames… sour grapes.

  2. Dr. Seuss says:

    THF said “…he makes a statement so stupid I feel less intelligent having read it…”

    ROFLMAO! Hahahahahahaha!

  3. Dr. Seuss says:

    In describing the article as ‘special’ Yahoo! must be using the word in similar fashion as it is used in describing the “Special Olympics.” With that in mind, I must say that none of the down syndrome kids I’ve met are as mentally challenged as Joe Rexrode. Glad to hear he is now on your list THF. What a jackass!

  4. Triadboy says:

    I’m pretty sure this guy was upset the second the seedings came out and he learned MSU was in the same bracket as UNC. He probably started writing the article then.

  5. williamodouglas says:

    The committee seems to love pitting UNC against teams from Michigan, but I am not sure why. We have surely played more games against Michigan and MSU in the last 25 years than against anyone else in the NCAA tournament. We played Michigan three years in a row in the late 1980’s and then in the title game (obviously not the committee’s doing) and we have be set to play Michigan State in the Final 16 the last two years, after beating them in the Final 8 and Final 4 previously.

    This guy is probably frustrated about losing to UNC, so cut him a little slack, as we have ended their season 3 times in the last 8 years. I would be pissed too.

  6. Triadboy says:

    I agree his small slack should be cut – but how does his biased game assessment wind up as the ‘view of the game’ in a national news service?

  7. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I would cut him all the slack in the world and ignore him had this been in the East Lansing Gazette but when it hits a national website it becomes fair game and requires a rebuttal.

  8. williamodouglas says:

    This thread has moved, but obviously as I put previously, this guy has no grasp of defensive efficiency.

    Since I missed the first ten minutes of the game thanks to Viacom, I can’t comment on all of our defense on Neitzel, but they sure had him smothered during the last eight minutes.

  9. williamodouglas says:

    Your other point about OSU is a good one. When Illinois made the great comeback to beat Arizona in 2005 the media decided that this meant that they were destined to win it all. What it actually was indicative of was some weakness. Great teams rarely fall behind by double-digits in the second half. While coming back shows fortitude, it can’t change the reality of the poor performance.

  10. Wayne says:

    Dr. Seuss — “He might as well have been a weatherman.” Great line!

    Watching the game, I would see Lawson on Neitzle, Ginyard on Neitzle, Miller on Neitzle and working hard. It appeared to me Neitzle got a couple of uncontested shots, but not many and on one three Neitzle threw up from 35 feet as the shot clock expired, it looked like three Heels were on him. But, hey, I’m not a sports writer from East Lansing, just a Tar Heel fan and alum who happened to be lucky enough to be watching the games in LJVM Coliseum. And, oh, it sure did Michigan State a lot of good to know so much about Lawson’s armpit. That didn’t keep him from playing a GREAT game.

  11. Josh Bowling says:

    I agree with you THF. When an article shows up in any media, it is up to us that read to become its “checks and balances”. Just because someone is a journalist, writer, broadcaster, etc, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are correct about their reported observations, they just have the print to say it. It is then that those statements become challenged by its viewers. I could report these same things with my own spin. What we have to do is make our best case with logic, consistency, facts, etc; and rely on that to be convincing to our viewers.

    Thanks

  12. williamodouglas says:

    I know and I agree. You should have seen me emailing K’s quote about Jim Larranaga to all the ACC journalists, but Yahoo Sports? It is barely above those AOL blogs that keep turning up when I search Google News. This guy probably gets paid in confederate script and was pissed when he found out that that isn’t worth any more than his opinions.

  13. Russell says:

    The Big Ten is to Basketball as masturbation is to copulation. O. State will demonstrate next. Move on.

  14. Dr. Seuss says:

    williamodouglas Says:

    “This guy probably gets paid in confederate script and was pissed when he found out that that isn’t worth any more than his opinions.”

    roflmfao! Hahahahahahaha!

  15. williamodouglas says:

    Thanks, Seuss. I have enjoyed many of your posts, as well.

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