Today’s Poorly Written Column Brought To You By The Rocky Mount Telegram[Comments Added]

Note from THF: I am going to do something I rarely do and back of something I wrote. I posted the piece after the jump taking a local columnist to task for writing what I considered a bad column. I do this from time to time but I usually do so with people who are being overtly critical of UNC without the basis of fact. In this case the author of the column was not being critical in a negative manner and I, for reasons probably having to do with being awakened four times during the night by THD #2 or the lack of fiber in my diet decided to rip the guy a new one. As two of my loyal commenters pointed out the column was not without merit and I came off as a tad defensive in my rebuttal. This is not what I am about and it plays into the meme held by ABCers than UNC fans are defensive and critical to anyone who does not wholly agree with them.  So for that let me apologize for failing to meet my usual standard of presenting intellectually honest and fact based criticism in exchange for taking shots at a guy who probably did not deserve it. To him I apologize and hope if he reads it, he will be understanding that I am not usually such a complete jerk. The post will remain per policy of letting it all hang out no matter the ugliness it pertains.

Honestly this is brutal stuff from H. Williams Kellenberger of the esteemed paper of record in Nash County.

He titles the article by asking the ominous and oft recycled question I think we heard 23 times in 2005:

The Tar Heels are playing like a champion, but can they finish?

Wayne Ellington’s 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining on Sunday proved something.

North Carolina is as good as a college basketball team any we are likely to see in this day of parity, where the average recruit has become more and more aware of the true meaning of playing time and the luxury that mid-major programs can afford him.

Let me translate that, basically he is saying with all the players going to mid-major schools because they would rather have playing time than fight for it on a top tier team means there is more parity in college basketball. What that has to do with UNC being one of the best team’s in the nation is anyone’s guess. I would dispute theory though. I think parity has been largely created in some part by the NBA defections which cause the top tier teams to play younger personnel whereas the mid-major schools benefit from four year products who develop and are also more experienced. See the 2006 George Mason team beating UNC as a prime example of this at work. I also think with ESPN and other networks giving mid-majors more exposure means the bright lights are no longer confined to places like Chapel Hill or Bloomington, IN. On top of that I simply believe the number of quality high school players exceeds the number of spots at top tier schools as well as the fact the high school rankings are not exact.

But if you prefer to simplify the matter and say it is about playing time, then more power to ya. Moving on….

The top-ranked Tar Heels had not been challenged since a season-opening test against Davidson, dispatching 13 straight opponents by an average margin of 25 points. That is, until Sunday.

Lies! As I pointed out prior to the Clemson game UNC’s strength of schedule was 32nd in the nation according to the RPI and that was fourth best in the AP Top 25. Before UNC won at Clemson they were 7-0 away from the Dean Dome and 6-0 versus the RPI 100. UNC played four true road games during the non-conference slate which included a road game at Ohio State, presently ranked at #15 in the latest RPI. UNC won that game playing without Ty Lawson and while shooting horribly from the field. In my mind they have been sufficiently challenged and on more than one occasion in the past two months.

Clemson, with one loss but ranked 19th because, well, Clemson is Clemson and North Carolina is North Carolina, dominated the first 35 minutes of the game and never wilted.

I would not say Clemson dominated though I would agree they hung very tough and could have easily won the game if they had played smarter and hit some free throws.

Looked at as one game, there is no real cause for concern for coach Roy Williams. Forward Alex Stepheson was still in Los Angeles dealing with a family illness and point guard Quentin Thomas only played eight minutes because of a sprained ankle. Neither are starters but they play important roles for a group that, during the past two seasons, has become accustomed to playing with the promise of a deep bench behind them.

Last season, we saw a group of obviously-talented freshmen that seemed to live by a simple motto – we play, we win. And, for the most part, they were correct. It took a feisty Georgetown team, easily the third-best team in the country in March of 2007, to knock out the Tar Heels.

Quentin Thomas only played eight minutes because he was a turnover machine not because of the ankle. Stepheson, on the other hand, could have been the X factor in breaking the Clemson interior defense. As for last season I seem to recall that only three of the freshman saw big minutes: Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Brandan Wright. The rest of the rotation included four sophomores, one junior and two seniors to go along with two more freshman in Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson. Calling them a “group of obviously-talented freshmen” is more than a bit misleading. And as much as I give credit to Georgetown for executing on offense in that game, UNC shot themselves in the foot more than Georgetown took the game from them.

The loss of Brandan Wright, a player who always seemed a little too preoccupied with his role, to the NBA has played a large role in how the sophomores have matured as a group. Call it addition by subtraction of a 7-footer.

If anyone can tell me how Wright “seemed a little too preoccupied with his role” last season please feel free to drop it in the comments section below. I have no idea what is referring to there. And the jury is still out on the loss of Wright. I think Thompson and Stepheson will play well enough along with Danny Green’s upgraded offensive prowess to offset the loss of Wright however we are not at a point where Wright’s departure can be written off as not an issue.

Over the course of the nonconference portion of the schedule, the Tar Heels consistently responded in a way that has to be impressive.

They did not wilt during a six-game road trip, as long as Wright’s wingspan by college basketball standards.

After a rough 10-point win over Nicholls State, and the public criticism from Williams that came with it, North Carolina dispatched its next four foes – all possible NCAA Tournament teams – with staggering ease.

I would also like to issue a Contradiction Alert for the remainder of this article. The author made the point that UNC had not been challenged yet now is telling us UNC went on the road for six games and endured a rough 10 point win versus Nicholls State. And I am not sure which of the four games after Nicholls he was watching but I recall the Valpo and Kent State games being a little nip and tuck into the second half before UNC asserted it’s will. “Staggering ease” is not the best choice of words to describe how UNC handled some of those games, in my opinion.

Still, the Tar Heels are not a perfect team. The loss of Bobby Frasor (torn ACL) means either Ty Lawson will need to play 35-38 minutes a game, or Thomas will have to be counted on in a way in which he has consistently proved incapable.

I can pretty well assure you that Lawson will not be playing that many minutes, at least not until we get into March. I think Thomas can be effective against the right opponents. There are teams that are more likely to trouble him like Clemson and Duke whereas against NCSU or Georgia Tech he might have fewer problems with turnovers. Saying Lawson will play almost the whole game also discounts Ginyard running the point some which will happen because that is how Roy rolls.

There is work to be done on the act of defending the perimeter and somehow someway, Williams must find a way to stop opponents from mugging Tyler Hansbrough.

Sweet Moses. What the heck is “the act of defending the perimeter.” I did not know it was an “act.”

Believe it or not I actually think there is little wrong with the perimeter defense per se. I think the issue is stopping dribble penetration which collapses the defense and creates open jumpers on the perimeter. And Roy’s greatest concern is guarding the basketball. If UNC does a poor job defending the ball it usually leads to penetration, etc, etc, etc.

The end of that sentence made me laugh because I am not quite sure what the author expects Roy to do, run out on the court and stop other players from fouling Hansbrough?

Still, North Carolina is one of two teams that, at this point of the season, look capable of winning the NCAA Championship (Kansas is the other). All the elements are there.

There is usually a point in a column where you can tell when the author lacks the requisite knowledge to be articulating any points on the subject matter at hand. This piece has had several points but none more embarrassing than omitting Memphis from the list of teams that “look capable of winning the NCAA Championship.” Memphis is probably the team I worry about the most and rightfully so since they have all the parts along with experienced players who went to the Elite Eight last season before losing. They also have a PG capable of matching Lawson which is a huge deal if UNC meets Memphis in San Antonio.

That was never so clear then at the end of Sunday night, when Ellington had the confidence to take, and make, the game-winning shot.

The things that were clear to me at that moment were(in no particular order)

  • Wayne Ellington is capable of taking a game over and for all intents and purposes buried the Georgetown game by burying that jumper
  • UNC can win a game without Hansbrough having an effective effort offensively.
  • Bobby Frasor needs to be more careful when standing up.
  • Cliff Hammonds needs a defensive primer from his coaches.
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10 Responses to Today’s Poorly Written Column Brought To You By The Rocky Mount Telegram[Comments Added]

  1. william says:

    I think that you could be overly defensive here. Notice he says that they have not been challenged. He does not say that they haven’t played any good teams. Except possibly for BYU, the Heels weren’t in danger of losing any of these games. The Nicholls State thing is a little tiresome. Does anyone think that we couldn’t have won that game by 20 had we cared? Nicholls made the game seem closer than it really was.
    With respect to Memphis, I am not sure how good they are. Memphis beat Arizona and Georgetown at home and barely beat a mediocre USC Trojan team on a neutral court. That doesn’t exactly make them worldbeaters. Georgetown has been unimpressive and usually opens a little slow, I think. How much will Memphis improve playing SMU and East Carolina every week?

    Honestly, given the way we played Sunday, I am not sure of our prospects. I doubt we will lose more than 5 games, but we just do not play big this year. We had terrible problems with Georgetown’s height last year and we now are even smaller. On the other hand, our free throw shooting is fantastic and we have better options for taking the three, it appears with Ellington coming on.

    Last year’s team was the most talented team I think I have ever seen in college basketball, period. Now, we have lost arguably two of our best defensive and offensive players in Reyshawn and Brandan. Pomeroy had us 4th in the nation in defense last year. So far this year we are in the 30’s.

    On offense, I see a lot of sloppiness out there that we just shouldn’t see. Regardless of Q’s issues, he should have had more help bringing the ball up the court. Carolina had a chance to go up by 8 if I recall correctly and instead we turned the ball over three times.

    Clemson decided that they were not going to let Hansbrough beat them and for some reason we kept trying to pass it in to him, throwing it away a few times.

    On the other hand, we did win, unlike games at State and with Tech last year. Last year’s team seemed to either win ridiculously easily or lose; there is something to be said for being able to win ugly. I got the feeling that last year if Carolina got its nose a little bloodied, we sort of lost heart. This year’s guys seem to relish adversity a bit more. If Deon can begin to give us 10 points and five boards, then we will probably have a much better chance. Otherwise, we are going to have to depend more on 3-pointers.

  2. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I have seen enough of Memphis to think they are in the mix if Kansas and UNC are in the mix.

    There was a lot of danger in the OSU game. We trailed at halftime and they close it down late before we finished them off. We shot horribly but played good defense playing on the road against a team that is a top 20 RPI team at present who only has losses to ranked teams. I consider that being challenged because the game was played without Lawson. I consider the Valpo and Kent State game challenges part of the way as well.

    For some reason with all the weaknesses I am taking a wait and see approach hoping that it will all coalesce at the right time.

  3. Howard says:

    I don’t have any ‘proof,’ but I did feel Wright wasn’t quite into the games as much as he could have been, or should have been. Perhaps ‘preoccupied’ is a good word. It did seem his role wasn’t well defined, either by Williams or by Wright himself. If he had stuck around, he could have perfected his ‘role’ and ‘concept’ as a basketball player. As it is, he moved on, in my view, mainly in terms of his potential, not actuality. I haven’t followed him in the pros, but I feel he’ll take some time to stop being ‘preoccupied.’
    And I have to agree with William. Your comments do seem a bit defensive. Not sure what ticked you off, but something sure did.
    I was quite disappointed that you resorted at one point to an ad hominem attack – “There is usually a point in a column where you can tell when the author lacks the requisite knowledge to be articulating any points on the subject matter at hand. This piece has had several points …” Normally, you stick to the information and facts, not the writer. Regardless of what “requisite knowledge” this writer has or doesn’t have, he makes points that should be the basis of argument, not his person.
    But you know that. What did this guy do to you?
    Anyway, an interesting entry.

  4. william says:

    I know it is easy to forget that Lawson missed the BYU and OSU games. Wake will be trying to say that they are better than we are because they beat BYU more easily or something.

    Looking at Wednesday night, Deon was 3-14 from the floor, after playing fairly well against Clemson. Another thing about the Clemson game is that they match up especially well with us, almost to the point of being a mirror image, except for free throws. In most of the stats categories, Clemson and UNC are closely grouped. I think that there are often certain teams that are just difficult based on style. Remember Villanova a couple of years back?

    So how does the Clemson comeback compare to this:

  5. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Here is the thing. One of the ways I look at blogging in general is as an accountability for the mainstream media. If I had a mission statement part of it would probably say something about taking bad journalism and columns to task when found in the mainstream media. I thought it was a bad column and in fact the first version that posted and I quickly decided to change included references to some of the bad sentence construction found in this piece. I pulled back because I know I put some poorly written stuff out there sometimes.

    And come to think of it, I was probably over the top. I usually reserve this kind of fisking for columnists who out and out attack UNC or criticize without any basis of fact. He was not nearly as bad as others who go after UNC and in fact probably did not set out to be negative towards UNC as he was simply asking a question about how viable UNC is as a national title contender.

    So if anyone was offended or put off I apologize.

  6. william says:

    It takes a real man to re-consider his words. I don’t think anyone was offended. This is by far the most interesting Tar heel blog that I have seen and one reason is that you make it interesting to post and encourage responses. Some of the others make you register and are sort of plodding. The more one writes, obviously, at times you might re-consider your words. I know I do.

  7. Tar Heel Fan says:

    The problem was that I was not wholly in love with it when I wrote it, almost did not hit the publish button but did. Like I said I cannot tell you when the last time I backed off something was, possibly never unless I missed something factual and because of that it fractured my original argument.

  8. william says:

    I write some pretty tough stuff about politics sometimes and I look back and think, well maybe that was over the top, but it is a fine line between being boring and just repeating what the mainstream media says, and trying to be Menckenesque….

    One political professor emailed me and said that I had mis-characterized his work and I might have except he expected me to read all of his scholarly work and not base the entry on the op-ed he had just written. So then he attacked me on his blog and then sent me an email asking for a response three months later. I guess he thought that I was a reader of his blog.

    Anyway, one should never get too offended in a non-face-to-face, non-oral medium. That’s why people add those smiley faces when context is not clear.

  9. Wadsworth says:

    I think this post has been evaluated and handled in a forthright and appropriate manner. I applaud your candid assumption of error.

    Now, please move on to other topics like the need to move Graves to the point to back up Ty.

  10. Carolina Mike says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Wadsworth-for example, whats up with Deon Thompson?
    I know he’s a kid but it seems to me that ,some of the time, he is just going through the motions…and I am sure that this is not the case. He just does not seem to have any ‘fire in his belly’. If he got a little mean, if he could become ‘Psyco-D’ I think our troubles would be over. Yes, I said OUR troubles. Fan is short for fanatic so I consider myself a part of this Carolina experience. (:)

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