Thrown Away to Worthy

Tar Heels. Panthers. Bobcats.





















  • August 29, 2014 12:41 pm

    UNC Football 2014 Preview

    I waited until the last minute to write this preview not because I am a procrastinator, but because I know you have no inclinations of doing any work on Friday afternoon before Labor Day. Now is an ideal time to read about football and Tar Heels football in particular. Just think. By the time you finish reading this, you will be 5 or so minutes closer to vacay!

    I can’t lie. I was surprised when the AP and Coaches Polls both tabbed the Heels as the No. 23 team in the country. Don’t get me wrong. It gives me an extra sense pride to see a number next to North Carolina in the fall as opposed to only March, but I don’t think it is necessarily warranted.

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    I’m guessing a lot of voters tabbed North Carolina in the top-25 because the team won six of its final seven games in 2013, including a dominant win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. There is no denying that was a solid accomplishment, especially after most left the team for naught following a 1-5 start. Despite some of his miscues, most notably his clock management against Miami, you must credit Larry Fedora and his staff for keeping the team focused and not giving up on the season.

    However, who did Carolina beat during that stretch? Boston College, NC State, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Old Dominion and then Cincinnati. You might be surprised to know that four of those six teams finished 2013 with winning records. Only State and Virginia failed to do so. In fact, those two went a combined 0-16 in ACC games. L! O! L! Still, this half of the schedule was definitely weaker than the first half when the Heels dropped games to the likes of South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami.

    Looking back on 2013, you cannot simply throw away the second half of the season, because it was vital for the momentum of the program. However, I do not believe wins over mediocre competition warrant a relatively high ranking the following season.

    On the flip side, maybe the voters see what Carolina has coming back. The Heels rank near the top of the ACC with 15 returning starters, including 8 of the teams top 11 tacklers. That is key as the defense struggled last year. Those defensive returners should only get better, but the most jarring statistic come on offense. Either freshmen or sophomores score 46 of the 55 touchdowns North Carolina scored last year. That bodes well for a team that averaged just a hair under 33 points per game.

    The key personnel-wise for the Heels is on each side of the trenches. The offensive line lost All-ACC caliber left tackle James Hurst and center Russell Bodine, who will start for the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday. Freshman John Ferranto and sophomore Lucas Crowley, who appeared in six games last year, will need to step up. The line came into their own late last season as demonstrated by the running game. Carolina averaged just 101 rushing yards in its first six games, but jumped to 183 per game in its final seven games. Hopefully the latter is the norm. The Heels have been spoiled with great offensive lines in recent years, so it will be interesting to see how the offense operates without sure-things up front.

    On defense, can the defensive line, particularly the interior, improve on a run defense that ranked last in the ACC last year, surrendering 182 yards per game. That must be sured up. The NCAA okaying Ethan Farmer’s eligibility should help, but there isn’t much depth at the interior positions thanks to a couple academic casualties in the offseason.

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    Overall, I can see arguments both justifying and questioning North Carolina’s preseason ranking. Personally, I think it’s a bit high. However, I’m also jaded when it comes to Carolina football because nothing ever seems to go as planned. Now that I’ve bored you with numbers and such, here are my game-by-game predictions for the Heels this season. Since my new job will preclude me from going to most of the games, be sure to throw a few back for me. I’ll continue the tradition of yelling at Tre Boston at Panthers games. I. CAN’T. WAIT. Beat Liberty!

    Aug 30: Liberty - WIN (1-0, 0-0)

    Even without four of the team’s top defensive backs due an incident that falls somewhere in between group hazing and nothing, Carolina should put up plenty of points in this one and comfortably win. If not. Well, Jesus Christ, Lord help us. See what I did there, Jerry Falwell Jr?

    Sept 6: San Diego St - WIN (2-0, 0-0)

    Two night games in a row in Kenan Stadium? Blasphemy! I don’t know much about SDSU, but I know that they could give the Heels a scare. The Aztecs went 3-1 in overtime games last season, so Carolina doesn’t want this one to be close. I might predict an upset if it was on the other coast, but I’ll go with the Heels.

    Sept 20: @ ECU - LOSS (2-1, 0-0)

    This is ECU’s best team in a long time and they’ve had some solid squads recently. I actually think they stand a good chance of winning whatever podunk conference they are in now. While Carolina would love to avenge the shellacking the Pirates put on the Heels in Kenan Stadium last year, it is going to be hard for Carolina’s young defense to stop the Shane Carden to Justin Hardy combination, especially in Greenville. Ugh.

    Sept 27: @ Clemson - LOSS (2-2, 0-1)

    If ever there was a year to get Clemson on the schedule, it would be the year after losing essentially their entire offense. Gone are Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and that tall receiver who dropped a bunch of passes but also made some crazy catches. However, the defense is stacked. Clemson was fourth in the nation in sack percentage last year, sacking the opposing quarterback on 9.1 percent of dropbacks. Vic Beasley is going to be a problem.

    Oct 4: Virginia Tech - WIN (3-2, 1-1)

    This and the Miami game are easily the hardest games to pick on an annual basis. The Hokies are starting a transfer from Texas Tech at quarterback and their defense should be solid as usual. Still, I think the Heels are just as, if not more, talented. I will give the advantage to the home team. This should be a great game.

    Oct 11: @ Notre Dame - LOSS (3-3, 1-1)

    I should be allowed to put an asterisk by this game, because my prediction could very well change if the Irish are still holding out five players due to an academic scandal that allegedly involves tutors writing papers for players and possibly doing even more for the players. Wink wink. I’ve never heard of such a thing involving a college football program! Oh the horror! Have they no morals or control in South Bend? Grab your pitchforks! In all seriousness, Notre Dame’s top receiver and several important defensive players are among the suspended. If they are still out come this game, then maybe Carolina can pull it off. We shall see.

    Oct 18: Georgia Tech - LOSS (3-4, 1-2)

    I loathe Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson. Maybe it’s because the Heels never beat the Yellow Jackets, but it’s my opinion that no self-respecting legitimate power five conference team should run the triple option offense. It’s garbage to watch and I won’t stand for it! Tech beats the Heels for the sixth straight time and 15th time in 17 years. Go away, Paul Johnson! Also, cue folks calling for Fedora’s job after this game.

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    Oct 25: @ Virginia - WIN (4-4, 2-2)

    Virginia confuses me. I thought they might have a breakout season last year and they did the opposite, proceeding to go 0-8 in ACC play. There is talent in Charlottesville, but Mike London can’t seem to mesh it together. Carolina has outscored the Cavaliers 81-23 in its past two visits to Charlottesville. That will continue.

    Nov 1: @ Miami - WIN (5-4, 3-2)

    This is my “upset” pick for the Heels this year even though I don’t think it’s that significant of one given the teams in the Coastal are relatively evenly matched. Still, I think Miami is going to have quarterback issues all season, and even though Duke Johnson might run for 200 yards in this game, I don’t see Miami scoring enough to keep up with the Heels. Also, Fedora needs to redeem himself after blowing the Miami game pretty much by himself last year.

    Nov 15: Pittsburgh - WIN (6-4, 4-2)

    Did you know Pittsburgh made a bowl game last year? Neither did I. What looked like a dangerous game on the schedule last year turned into a thrilling contest with Ryan Switzer returning two punts for scores to save Carolina from blowing a huge lead. Sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd is a stud, but who will throw him the ball now that ninth-year college veteran Tom Savage is gone? I think he played for like six different teams in college.

    Nov 20: @ Duke - WIN (7-4, 5-2)

    This is the key game of the season. Everybody knows Duke has beaten the Heels two straight seasons and you must credit David Cutcliffe for doing a magnificent job. However, at some point things must trend back towards the mean. Duke was outscored by its opponents last season yet still won 10 games. That doesn’t make sense. Throw in the loss of All-ACC linebacker Kelby Brown and tight end Braxton Deaver and I think it will be tough for Duke to repeat as Coastal champs. I still think they’re a bowl team, just not a 10-win team.

    Nov 29: NC State - WIN (8-4, 6-2)

    Happy Thanksgiving, Wolfpack. You lose. Six conference wins may very well be good enough to win the Coastal, earning the right to get crushed by Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Even if it doesn’t, I would consider this season a success. I believe the schedule is relatively tough and it would put the Heels in position to win nine games for the first time since the late 1990’s.

    Go Heels Go America

  • August 25, 2014 11:54 am

    Superman and the Sunday Scaries

    Hello friends. Long time no type, I know. I apologize for not being more active in the past month, but the combination of a new job in Charlotte with ESPNU / SEC Network as well as a dearth of actual relevant local sports happenings have led to a brief break in my posts. But don’t worry, I am back. Or maybe do worry, because the reason for my return is not just because it’s officially football season, but because Saturday night shook me up.

    In his three seasons in the NFL, Cam Newton has run the ball 364 times for 2,032 yards and 28 touchdowns. Over that time span, his 5.58 yards per carry is tops in the league. Cam’s 28 scores are tied for third in the NFL behind only Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson. Yes, Cam is one of the best running backs in the NFL in addition to being a Pro Bowl quarterback.

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    Even though the numbers suggest Cam performs double duty as a primary ball carrier and a quarterback, I was never overly worried about his health. Maybe it’s because he is not built like a Shady McCoy or Robert Griffin III. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Cam is larger than just about anybody on the defense trying to tackle him. However, no matter how big you are, the hits eventually take a toll or just one hit in the wrong spot can do damage. Just take a look at the numbers. Cam has been hit or sacked more than twice as much as any other quarterback since he entered the NFL. And these aren’t Pop Warner players trying to tackle Cam either. They are, by any metric, large angry men who want to hurt him.

    That’s why when the news broke on Sunday that Cam suffered a hairline fracture of a rib during Saturday’s preseason game against New England, I was taken aback. Sure, Cam has experienced bumps and bruises throughout his career and maybe this will fall in that category. His ankle surgery over the summer did not cause too much concern on my end because it’s football. Wear and tear happens and that’s partly what the offseason is for. To repair, rehab and heal.

    Panther’s fans have certainly taken Cam for granted. He has yet to miss a regular season or playoff start in his career. A perfect 49 / 49. That is remarkable when you think about the injuries other mobile quarterbacks such as RGII and Michael Vick have dealt with. It’s a testament to Newton’s durability and, as I mentioned earlier, God-given size. Nonetheless, I squirmed when I learned Cam’s availability for the season opener against Tampa Bay on September 7 is in question.

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    It’s not just because Cam is vital to any success an already anemic Panthers offense will have this season. It’s because for so long he has been Superman for the Panthers, both on the field and in the stands. Cam has certainly done his thing on the field, throwing for more yards than any quarterback in history over his first three seasons and accounting for a ridiculous 92 touchdowns. However, he is also the connection with the fans. Luke Kuechly might be the best player on the team and Thomas Davis is the heart of the team, but Cam Newton is the fan-favorite and it isn’t close. Fans come to the stadium to see Newton walk out of the tunnel with one finger held high amidst the smoke, make a few dazzling plays during the game, perform his Superman celebration and then make a child’s decade by giving them the ball after a Panthers touchdown. There has never been a player who plays with such a combination of skill, joy, confidence, endearment and, yes, swag to call Bank of American Stadium home. Simply put, Newton is the biggest deal to ever wear a Panthers uniform.

    That is why Sunday’s news was scary. Sure, the football implications are obvious. The Panthers are a good yet fragile team. The line between good and bad is razor thin in the NFL, but especially for a team like the Panthers that relies so heavily on one player on offense. However, the Panthers as an organization need Cam Newton. The fans need him. He is Superman. When he falls, he gets right back up with a smile on his face signaling first down. So when he is slow to get up, the citizens of the metropolis of Charlotte must hold their collective breath. Charlotte needs Superman.

    Go Heels Go America

  • August 8, 2014 9:12 am

    Podcast: 2014 ACC (Atlantic Comic Con) Preview

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    It took a mere 19 months, but Andrew and I are back with another podcast, albeit a hybrid episode. This week (or year), I take my talents to the fine website Raleigh & Company and join Andrew on his “Throwback Everyday” podcast. Podcasts for everyone!

    Since the ACC football season is right around the corner, I do all the heavy lifting and research-intensive work of merely guessing the order each team will finish in for both the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions. Meanwhile, Andrew acts like a 12-year old and compares each team to a show or film recently featured at Comic Con. What is Comic Con, you ask. This is Comic Con.

    I’ll also have you know that Andrew was not in his Batman pajamas when we recorded this episode.

    This is far and away our most entertaining podcast if I do say so myself. The bar wasn’t exactly set too high on that one, but please feel free to put in the headphones and take a listen as you act like you’re working on compliance modules. This is more important anyways. Plus you’ll find out where I pick UNC to finish. I will have a more detailed preview of their season up on TATW in the coming weeks.

    You can listen here

    Go Heels Go America!

  • July 25, 2014 11:32 am

    The Hornets Offseason Deserves Many Exclamation Points!!!!!!!!!!

    Last week I wrote about how the Lance Stephenson signing revealed the different partitions of the Hornets fan base, indicating that the team has every description of fan needed to become a legitimately discussed and cared about NBA franchise. In that piece I promised to discuss how Stephenson fits in with the team on the court. Not only am I here to do that, but you get a bonus for being a loyal reader. I am going to address the entire Hornets offseason as well! Best post this week or best post ever?

    When the Utah Jazz matched the max contract the Hornets offered Gordon Hayward, many thought the team was in for a rough offseason. After all, the shine from the NBA Draft quickly wore off when PJ Hairston stuck a high schooler square in the grill during a pickup game at a Durham YMCA. While the hefty $63 million max offer to Hayward raised eyebrows, missing out on him all together was a disappointment to many. Hayward would have fit in perfectly, but no point in discussing that now. Plus, allow me to let you in on a little secret. He probably wasn’t worth the price.

    The confusmay (my new word for confusion combined with dismay) was only heightened when word leaked that skilled power forward and elite Jesus doppelganger Josh McRoberts elected to sign with Miami instead of Charlotte. A Southern town without Jesus is simply unthinkable. Fire and brimstone were certainly headed Charlotte’s way.

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    Fortunately, pastor Rich Cho saved us. First, he signed Marvin Williams to a 2-year, $14 million deal. This seems steep for a role player, but he does everything as well, if not better, than McRoberts aside from passing the ball. He is a better shooter, rebounder and defender. Not to mention a great mentor for a fellow Tar Heel on the team. However, ball movement is key in Steve Clifford’s offense, which explains why the team wanted McRoberts back so badly. You simply can’t brush aside the loss of McRoberts. Still, Williams is a more than capable replacement who adds a bit of offense.

    While Williams was a solid if not spectacular addition, the team still needed more offense and the most obvious spot was the shooting guard and small forward positions. Hairston helps at shooting guard, but he is not ready to start in the NBA and is more a gunner suited for coming off the bench much like Gary Neal. For a couple of weeks, the name that was constantly brought up by fans was Lance Stephenson. He reportedly turned down a 5-year deal worth $8.8 million per year from Indiana and could be had for much cheaper than Hayward despite comparable skills on the court. Charlotte was seemingly not interested, as echoed by an oft-arrogant local beat writer who sarcastically quipped at the idea that the Hornets might sign Stephenson. This despite other reports that contradicted such a stance.

    Once the Houston Rockets refused to match the Dallas Mavericks offer to Chandler Parsons, the Hornets were suddenly able to bid against only the Pacers for Stephenson’s services. Dallas was reportedly ready to shell out an offer to Lance had Houston matched for Parsons. Thank you, Houston. We have no problem. Ugh, sorry about that joke.

    One trip to Las Vegas for the Hornets brass and boom. One beat reporter is back tracking, the Hornets sign Lance Stephenson and everybody is excited again after a questionable start to free agency. Now, how does Lance fit in with the Hornets on the court? I will ignore his issues off the court and during dead balls, because that is impossible to predict or analyze, but likely did play a role in him signing for just $9 million per year and giving the Hornets a team option for the third and final year of the deal. Instead, I’ll focus on the sport he is paid to play.

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    Quite simply, he’s as close to as perfect a fit basketball-wise as Charlotte could ask for, especially given the price. For nearly half the cost of Hayward, Charlotte gets a second ball handler to complement Kemba Walker, a guy who can get to the rim at will, a vicious defender and somebody who, as the whole country knows, is not afraid of the big shot and will never back down. #BornReady for a reason.

    For the first time possibly ever, Charlotte has two backcourt players who must be guarded closely. The obvious impact is this frees up Al Jefferson down low to do his thing. And that thing is about as good as it gets in the NBA. Additionally, the duo of Stephenson and MKG on the wings creates arguably the best pair of starting wing defenders in the NBA, assuming Andrew Wiggins will not be playing alongside LeBron James this fall. Clifford is likely salivating at the on-ball pressure and size he can attack opposing offenses with on the wings.

    Now, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Stephenson must be willing to keep the ball moving in Clifford’s offense. Like many a New Yorker, he is prone to hold the ball and attempt to take his man one-on-one. This can certainly be effective, but the offense runs through Jefferson first, second and third. Get him the ball. Additionally, his shooting is streaky if not consistent, but that kind of summarizes Stephenson as a whole. To become the star he wants to be in order to get paid in three years like he wants to be, Stephenson must become a more consistent player. He’s no longer a spark-plug off the bench. He’ll need to be a nightly contributor.

    I have not addressed the role of Vonleh yet. I am not sure how much playing time he will see this season. Williams and Cody Zeller are both ahead of him at the moment and while Vonleh has the superior skillset of the trio, he will take some time to grow into the NBA, much like Zeller did. However, he does add to a great bench, which leads me to what I am most excited about with this offseason. Depth.

    You could argue the Hornets are one of the deepest teams in the entire league. Add in the addition of sharpshooting backup point guard Brian Roberts and nearly every player on the roster is capable of playing an significant role on the team. That won’t happen of course, but take a look at the projected 2014-15 roster compared to last years squad, a playoff team that finished just a game out of the 5th seed, mind you.

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    While I greatly appreciate the contributions of the likes of CDR, Anthony Tolliver and Luke Ridnour. OK, maybe not Ridnour, but the point remains that the new pieces in place make this team much deeper and much more versatile offensively. Three-point shooting, a bugaboo for this franchise for many years was addressed with Williams, Roberts and Hairston. Additionally, Gerald Henderson, who could very well be traded, at the least provides a great bench player with loads of starting experience. The team essentially turned McRoberts, CDR, Ridnour, DJ White and Tolliver into Williams, Stephenson, Roberts, Hairston and Vonleh. Not bad, huh?

    Overall, the Hornets are a much improved squad, but so is much of the Eastern Conference. Still, it should be an exciting year for the team and especially the city of Charlotte. I cannot wait and I fully expect the Hornets to contend for a division title and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

    Born Ready!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Go Heels Go America

  • July 17, 2014 3:35 pm

    Stephenson Stirs the Hornets Stew

    Michael Jordan and Lance Stephenson are hanging out together in Las Vegas around 1 or 2 a.m. I could stop right now and this might be the most intriguing sports story of the summer based on assumptions about His Airness and Born Ready. However, the two were not throwing down at the craps table with half-naked chicks replenishing their glasses of Malbec or whatever the hell Lance Stephenson drinks. Instead, they are surrounding a table somewhere in private while negotiating contract terms.

    I picture it like a police interrogation. Law & Order, if you will, because that show is exactly how it goes down in the precincts and courtrooms. There is Lance sitting at the metal table looking straight ahead while his agent stands behind him resting his hand on Stephenson’s shoulder. On the other side of the table, Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho leans back in his chair with a wry smile after he slides a piece of paper over to Stephenson. You can see the orange embers of Jordan’s cigar floating in the dark behind Cho’s magnificently bald dome. Jordan doesn’t speak. His presence is always felt.

    "Walk away from this and there is no deal," Cho calmly says.

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    The tension builds as Lance and his agent realize the deal is for two fewer years and just $200,000 more per year than an offer to Stephenson from the Indiana Pacers. Will he walk away? The agent whispers in Lance’s ear. On one had, Lance wants to escape the shadow of Paul George and star on his own team, but on the other hand the Pacers are a legitimate NBA title contender. It’s decision time.

    "What the hell," Lance says. "Let’s do it. I got to hop a plane to the ESPY’s, anyways."

    And that is exactly how the Hornets landed their newest free agent acquisition, Lance Stephenson.

    I’m kidding of course, but it’s probably not far off. Reports said Cho and Jordan did not give the Pacers an opportunity to counter their offer, indicating it was a take-it or leave-it offer. Stephenson elected to go with Hornets, and a fan base which was beginning to experience a bit of a hangover from the name change and playoff appearance due to a lack of offseason moves and a rookie shooting guard with a penchant for questionable life decisions was suddenly rejuvenated.

    Yes, Hornets fans. I am going to address how Lance fits in with the Hornets next week, but for now I want to address the Hornets fans. They are a unique breed. Not a mutt, but far from a purebred. More a stew of fascinating eras of the NBA in Charlotte. There are the revisionist Hornets historians that choose to only remember the good times and the days when the Charlotte Coliseum was sold out nightly and the crowd as loud as any in all of sports, much less the NBA. To them, Lance is the Larry Johnson to go along with Kemba Walker as Muggsy Bogues and Al Jefferson as Alonzo Mourning. Everything is perfect in the mind of this ingredient in the Hornets fandom pot.

    You also have the apprehensive Hornets fan, still scarred from being spurned by the league when the original Hornets left in 2002 and wary of everything NBA. They remember the half-empty playoff games in the early 2000’s and George Shinn’s sexual assault case more than they do Glen Rice’s All-Star Game MVP performance or a young, athletic and springy Baron Davis. These fans view Stephenson with similar caution. On one hand he is a good, potentially great player but his antics and troubled off-the-court past could lead to similar public relations nightmares caused by the likes of Shinn and Derrick Coleman. On the flip side, who is to say Stephenson won’t leave or be traded after he grows his star in Charlotte, much like Mourning and the franchise itself?

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    Next, there is the beaten down yet creepily optimistic Bobcats fan. This is easily the toughest and meatiest portion of the mixture. They’ve been witness to the worst team in NBA history, one of the worst owners in professional sports history and some horrendous, and I mean really horrendous, uniforms. They saw a starting lineups that featured Byron Mullens, Dasagna Diop, Derrick Brown, Matt Carroll and a very fat Boris Diaw, and tried to justify them. That’s how optimistic they are.

    Through it all they maintained their faith like any good sports fan should, experienced the bottom and are on a ride to what they hope is somewhere near the top. I think that’s a Drake line. Nothing in sports beats going on a journey from worst to first alongside your favorite team. Nothing. And while the Hornets aren’t at the top and are unlikely to ever reach the top due to the NBA’s power structure, this feels similar to those fans. This is a finely aged ingredient that took a while to finally blossom. Stephenson to them is the piece that brings the team to another level. If Al Jefferson turned the ship around, Stephenson will speed it up. They have the upmost confidence that his antics will be embraced by Charlotte fans, much like those of Steve Smith, and that his play on the court will win out in the end.

    Finally there are the bandwagon fans. Full disclosure, I despise bandwagon fans, but when you’re a Bobcats / Hornets fan, you take whatever you can get. These are the spices and herbs that go in the blend. They make things more exciting. They viscously scour the Internet like pirates to attack those who speak ill of the Hornets name. They destroy mentions of beat writers and columnists on Twitter. Everybody hates them, except their own. They are a reprehensible alone, but necessary ingredient for the whole. To them, Lance Stephenson is pretty much the next Michael Jordan and if you question that, you’re just obviously just a hater.

    In the end who knows how this mixture will turn out. It could sour and blow up in everybody’s faces or it could marinate into a meal fit for, say, a Queen (City). Either way, it is exciting and the most important factor is that all of the ingredients are now in the pot. Every piece of the fandom puzzle is interested, involved and cares one way or the other. This was demonstrated by the reaction to the Lance Stephenson acquisition. When people care in all directions, the ingredients are all there. It’s now just a matter of how well the team can stir them together.

    I’m hungry.

    Go Heels Go America

  • June 30, 2014 9:07 pm

    North Carolina Should Be Wary Of Wounded NCAA

    Even though I do not want to, it is my civic duty as the blog-of-record for Tar Heel athletics to address the reopening of the NCAA investigation into academic fraud at UNC. Maybe it’s my civic duty or maybe it’s to move my now irrelevant previous post from the top of the page. Either way, here I am and here is UNC, staring down the barrel of the wounded animal that is the NCAA.

    Despite what the national media or uninformed pundits might say, it’s a safe assumption to say the NCAA is not back due to Rashad McCants. While his media parade certainly caught the eye of national journalists and neutral fans, and potentially put a bit of pressure on the NCAA to do something, he is not why the NCAA has taken up refuge at the Carolina Red Roof Inn once again.

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    The reason for the NCAA’s reemergence is most likely due to the sudden cooperation of former AFAM department chair Julius Nyang’oro and his assistant Debbie Crowder. They did not cooperate with NCAA officials the first go-around when investigating academic fraud as it related to athletes and AFAM courses. A few weeks ago, former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein said both Nyang’oro and Crowder are cooperating with his investigation of the matter, the third such investigation commissioned by the school and believed to be the most thorough.

    Naturally, the NCAA wants to hear what those two have to say, so why not listen to what they tell Wainstein, who today said he has shared his findings so far with the NCAA. So essentially it seems like the NCAA is piggybacking on Wainstein’s investigation, ironic considering it’s being funded by UNC.

    Few people know at this point what Nyang’oro or Crowder have said or are going to say, and those that do are surely not sharing that information anytime soon. That is really what this all comes down to. The question everybody wants an answer to is whether or not AFAM classes were created for athletes. Prior investigations said they were not and students from all walks of life took advantage of courses. Shocking, I know. College kids took easy classes. They probably smoked pot and drank underage too. What is this world coming to?

    Still, those findings were always a bit hollow without the testimony of Nyang’oro and Crowder. Nyang’oro faces a felony charge for his involvement in the administration of the AFAM classes in question and with recent rumors that the district attorney may drop the charges, his cooperation seems conveniently timed.

    In short, I believe the NCAA merely wants to hear what Nyang’oro and Crowder have to say to Wainstein and move from there. I have no inherent problem with this, as it is simply a matter of being thorough. Still, considering the failures and missteps of UNC’s leadership in managing this issue, it would be the ultimate dumb move if it is Wainstein’s report, which UNC commissioned, funded and continually cites, is the reason for the NCAA’s return and potentially new sanctions.

    It would be somewhat surprising if that happens, but the NCAA is wobbling in the crosshairs this summer thanks to poor publicity from the highly publicized Ed O’Bannon case among other issue, and wounded animals are usually the most aggressive and dangerous.

    Go Heels Go America!

  • June 26, 2014 3:23 pm

    Doug McDermott is Not Adam Morrison

    The NBA Draft is tonight and there is wide speculation that National Player of the Year and four-year Creighton star Doug McDermott will the be selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the ninth pick.

    The selection of a consensus All-American and 6-foot-8 deadeye shooter is typically met with optimism and hope. However, the response of many Hornets fans regarding McDermott potentially wearing the purple and teal (swoon) is tepid at best. Some bring up valid arguments about McDermott’s deficiencies on the basketball court as it relates to the NBA game. However, many are taking a lazy route and bringing up one name as a comparison: Adam Morrison.

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    You know Morrison, or Ammo as he was so lovingly called. The floppy headed scorer from Gonzaga set the college basketball world on fire as he battled J.J. Redick for player of the year honors in 2005-06. He was drafted by the Bobcats with the third pick of the 2006 NBA Draft. After a mixed rookie campaign in which he averaged 12 points per game on a putrid 37-percent shooting, Morrison tore his ACL and missed the entire 2007-08 season before being traded along with Shannon Brown to the Lakers for Vladimir Radmanović (you like that accent on the c, don’t you?) in his third season. Morrison was averaging just 4.5 points per game at the time of the trade. In short, big bust that Morrison. Big bust.

    Oh yeah. Morrison is white, 6-foot-8 and played at a mid-major in college. McDermott is white, 6-foot-8 and played at a mid-major as well. Clearly, McDermott is Morrison. They must be the exact same thing because they are white, tall and didn’t play on national television every other night in college. While McDermott could very well end up being a disappointment in the NBA, that comparison is lazy and foolish.

    I know it is hard for Hornets fans to ignore the scars caused by Morrison. The pick was a disaster and while it likely doesn’t give Michael Jordan night terrors, it should. Still, if you’re going to judge the potential selection of McDermott, do some from a basketball point of view, because that is what he will be doing. Playing basketball.

    Morrison was expected to be the go-to scorer for a young Bobcats franchise that featured Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor. With those pieces in place, Morrison sounded like a good fit to aid a severe lack of scoring punch. It didn’t happen. Morrison broke down physically and was unable to thrive under the pressure of carrying such a significant load.

    McDermott will not be faced with such a burden. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are the stars of the Hornets. McDermott will not be forced into a role he is not comfortable with as early as Morrison was. Throw in the veterans Charlotte is likely to bring in thanks to a ton of cap space and the pressure on McDermott lessens even more.

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    Additionally, McDermott and Morrison aren’t the same player on the court. While I have questions about his ability to maneuver down low in the NBA, McDermott scores in more ways than Morrison did, who largely relied on shooting, be it from distance or midrange. When it comes to shooting, Morrison made some pretty dramatic shots, but shot just 36.8-percent from deep in college. McDermott shot 45.8-percent and shot 49-percent in back-to-back seasons. Whoa. Not to mention, McBuckets is more inclined to grab a rebound or two or the 7.5 he averaged in college.

    Now don’t get me wrong, the Missouri Valley Conference is not the NBA. McDermott is not my preferred choice for Charlotte at No. 9. I’d rather the team go with Nick Stauskas or any of the consensus top-8 players that might fall to No. 9. I have little doubt that McDermott will be able to shoot and score in the NBA. What I do doubt in addition to his inside offense that I mentioned earlier is his ability to guard… well… anybody in the NBA. He for sure cannot stay in front of any starting three in the NBA. I’m not even talking LeBron James. I’m talking about the likes of Jeff Green and Chandler Parsons. Good players, but typical starting NBA small forwards. He will also likely struggle to guard scoring power forwards like Chris Bosh, Paul Millsap and Greg Monroe, who can either take him outside or body him up down low. If the NBA were full of a bunch of Reggie Evans’ then I’d take my chances with McDermott on defense. It’s just tough to see where he fits in defensively with the Hornets roster.

    In the end, the Hornets probably won’t draft McDermott, potentially rendering this post a huge waste of my time. But if I can convince just one lazy armchair analyst to take a look at actual basketball ability rather than simpleton observations about looks and schools, then it was worth it. I won’t jump off a building if McDermott is the Hornets pick. I won’t shoot off fireworks in celebration either. I surely won’t call him Adam Morrison.

    Go Heels Go America

  • June 25, 2014 2:29 pm

    Why Soccer For America?

    Soccer isn’t coming. It isn’t a movement preparing to sweep the country in a few weeks, months or years. No, soccer has arrived. It is here and it is big time.

    Want proof? Require evidence? Well, numbers never rarely lie and the television ratings indicated 24.7 million people in America watched Sunday’s match between Portugal and the United States. Comparatively, that was more than the average viewership of the most recent NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and World Series and barely below the 2014 BCS National Championship Game between Auburn and Florida State (25.57 million). That’s only the biggest game in America’s second most popular sport, college football. Yes, I’m a separating college football and the NFL in this case. The NFL is king, even though the Portugal - USA match did beat the average ratings of an NFL regular season game.

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    Now, lets not kid ourselves here. The World Cup provides the height of soccer popularity in the United States. The Women’s World Cup does as well. In fact, the second most watched soccer game in American history behind the game on Sunday was the 1999 Women’s World Cup final in Pasadena, Calif. between the United States and China. It will be interesting to see the ratings for the Women’s World Cup in Canada next summer, but back to the point.

    The World Cup is the top of the popularity mountain for soccer in America. It can’t get much higher, given there is no grander scale for international soccer. It also helps to field a competitive team with a flair for the dramatic, as the United States does.

    The difference between soccer now and in years past is the valley’s between the peaks of the World Cup are not as low. People are tuning into the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League even though there is no American-based team and very few American players involved. NBC Sports paid $250 million for the rights to broadcast Premier League games and that is sure to skyrocket when bids likely come in from ESPN and Fox Sports in a year or so.

    Not coincidentally, a recent survey indicated MLS is now tied with MLB as the favorite league of American teenagers, behind only the NFL and NBA. That is remarkable and certainly a daunting look into the future for baseball.

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    While all the stats, surveys and television deals tell a story of the rising tide of troughs in soccer popularity, what I am interested in is why this country has taken to the World Cup and this American team.

    I think there are numerous factors. Wanting to be part of something incredible on a global scale like the World Cup is important. Americans like to be the leaders, and if we’re not going to be the center of attention at the World Cup, we’re damn well going to act like we are. Also, there is national pride that comes into effect. Anytime you see somebody with an American jersey on, be it soccer, basketball, badminton, bowling or competitive eating, this country gets behind him or her. This just happens to be the most popular sport in the world so a lot of people get behind the athletes.

    A reason that goes unspoken and unnoticed is that this team and the World Cup in general offers America a chance to be the underdogs for once. Maybe it is my cocky American attitude, but we are leaders in a lot of categories. Badass-ness, hamburgers, fake tits and military budget just to name a few. Regardless of what GDP numbers or other economic indicators say, we are still the most powerful nation on this particular planet. Sorry, deal with it.

    One thing we aren’t the leader in? Soccer. Futbol. La joga bonita. The US Men’s National team in the early 1990’s was known as the “Underdogs” but that was before all the factors mentioned above took soccer to the heights in currently occupies. Also, those teams were underdogs but they were a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament type underdogs. The current team is more like an 8-seed. Still the underdog, but they have a chance to do some damage. An underdog worth America’s time, as shallow as that is to write.

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    Americans love frontrunners. Just ask fans of the 1990s Cowboys, 2000s Patriots and the Miami Heat. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be associated with a winner. It’s natural. However, nothing beats being along for the ride of a Cinderella story, from start to finish. Even the most ardent Heat fan would agree.

    For so long now, Americans have been the Heat. We / They (what do I say there?) have been the leaders and the favorite in everything the country does and if America isn’t the favorite, we like to think we are anyways. We can’t even fake our supremacy in the World Cup. We aren’t the favorites.

    For a country that was built by underdogs at the expense the preeminent power in the world in England, this team and soccer allows the nation to return to those roots. We want to eventually be the best. That’s the American attitude. However, based on the numbers, even if American soccer never reaches the pinnacle of the game, millions are still enjoying the journey.

    Go Heels Go America!

  • June 12, 2014 1:05 pm

    McCants Can Make A Difference, But Not Like This

    I went back and forth about addressing this whole Rashad McCants fiasco. For starters, I am pretty much numb when it comes to the academic scandal at North Carolina. Nothing really causes my ears to perk up anymore, not even McCants. On the other hand, the comments by McCants received more publicity than facts regarding the issues at UNC revealed by investigations by the NCAA, a former governor, a former federal prosecutor or whoever. That is likely due to the platform on which McCants presented his allegations, as well as that this involves the sacred cow of Tar Heel athletics, the basketball program.

    The latter is why I felt it necessary to share my thoughts on this whole situation. Tar Heel basketball is popular, not to mention that we are entering the sports desert that is the summer and I want to save my “Hornets draft preview” and “United States: World Cup Champions” posts for later on. Plus, this continues my now three-year streak of addressing some sort of North Carolina athletics misery during the summer.

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    In case you need a refresher, McCants said that he received A’s in AFAM classes that he did not attend, tutors wrote papers for him and Roy Williams knew about it all. Williams as well as pretty much every Tar Heel basketball player ever, including 16 of McCants teammates from the 2005 National Championship team, challenge or disagree with McCants’ allegations. McCants says he is doing this to protect the education of future college athletes. Others say he has an axe to grind. Around and around we go.

    I believe there is some truth to what both McCants and Williams said. To McCants comments, I believe he received grades that weren’t deserved. There is no denying that the AFAM department at North Carolina had its issues with shady classes. Students from all walks of campus-life partook in these courses. Athletes, frat stars, Morehead scholars, stoners, nerds, everybody. It’s a pretty simple formula to figure out. College students are attracted to easy courses like free beer (bad joke, sorry). Word gets out and they, along with their friends, hop on the bandwagon for an easy A.

    As far as Williams, I believe he knew that AFAM courses were easy and didn’t exactly match the academic rigor of chemistry, journalism or business courses. To me this is no different than Coach K’s understanding of the sociology major at Duke or Nick Saban recognizing that general studies is a major that allows his players to focus as much time on football as possible. However, I don’t believe Williams, or any of these coaches, know, or want to know, exactly how the classes operate. They just know the reputations of the courses.

    Be that good, bad or otherwise is up for debate. I’m of the opinion that players should be allowed to major in “football” or “basketball” considering that is the industry they hope to make a living in. What’s the difference between that and journalism majors, business majors or law students? That is neither here nor there, as is my speculation about who is telling the truth. As with most things, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

    To this point, I tend to be wary of McCants. It’s hard to ignore the reputation of McCants versus that of Williams. I don’t need to go into great detail other than to say there is a reason McCants flopped out of the NBA just one year after averaging 15 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. His quote from college comparing North Carolina to jail because of having to go to class and follow rules also doesn’t shed the best light on his current argument.

    Williams on the other hand, while stubborn, has never been mistaken as an immoral and win-at-all-costs kind of guy. He stays away from recruits with shady backgrounds and handlers for this very reason, much to the chagrin of many Tar Heel supporters.

    It’s clear that McCants is not completely in-tune with the issue as he questioned why the university has not responded to his allegations, given it is an academic accusation. He must have missed Chancellor Carol Folt’s statement this week as well as the numerous other investigations and changes made by the school over the past few years.

    Folt referenced the ongoing investigation by Kenneth Wainstein. The former federal prosecutor will issue his findings later this summer with a pledge from UNC to take heed to the conclusions and make changes in addition to those already implemented. As Brian Barbour of Tar Heel Blog says, “Until Rashad McCants Talks to Kenneth Wainstein This is a Sideshow.” When asked about Wainstein, McCants responded “who” and said he should talk to his teammates.

    If McCants really wants to make a difference, he needs to talk to Wainstein and lay out each of his accusations so there can be a better understanding of what went wrong and how to fix it. Cooperating with Wainstein would help McCants achieve his stated goal more than appearing on national television and answering softball questions with prompted responses in a protesting T-shirt. Until then, his comments are nothing but red meat for banner chasers and headline grabbers and not, as he says, for future generations.

  • June 4, 2014 9:55 pm

    My Annual LeBron James PSA

    It is quickly becoming a tradition for me to dedicate one post every year to LeBron James and the complicated manner in which he is viewed by the public, be it by diehard basketball fans or casual sports observers.

    Since I started this blog in July 2011 (holy hell!), LeBron James has won everything there is to win in basketball. Two MVPs, one Olympic gold medal and two, going on three, NBA titles and championship MVP awards. James has dominated his sport like nobody else on earth over that stretch and, not coincidentally, I have dominated the North Carolina Ives family bloggersphere during that span. At least I think my parents used to read it.

    Anyways, I feel it is my duty to inform my lovely readership and whoever lands here thanks to some nice search engine optimization tactics that it is OK to enjoy watching LeBron James play basketball.

    When he blows by a quick point guard at the top of the key and then finishes through the contact of a mammoth center, feel free to drop your jaw. No need to furiously demand a replay claiming he might have traveled. When James whips a one-handed no-look pass across the court to an astonishingly wide open Ray Allen, nod in approval. No need to refer back to that time he might have flopped last series in order to bring him down.

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    I’m not saying you need to drop your pants after every great play by James, but that’s at least better than sulking, complaining and bashing.

    I understand many of you simply aren’t fans of James. If you claim it’s because of the way he plays the game, that’s a lie, because James plays with the same passion, fire and childlike exuberance that he did in Cleveland when he was arguably the most beloved player in the game. He also plays the game the right way by passing to the open man and rarely forcing a bad shot, which is refreshing in the NBA.

    Folks don’t like James because of one of three things. First is if you’re from Cleveland and I can’t blame you there. Second is “The Decision” and third is because he is actually starting to accumulate titles and ascend the mythical list of all-time greats.

    No need to say much about “The Decision.” It was nearly five years ago, was a bad move on James’s part and he admits that. People need to move on and I think they have. They have found a new reason to dislike James.

    The perceived threat that James poses to the likes of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and, dare I say it, Michael Jordan on the made-up subjective list of great basketball players is what now irks people about James. They don’t want him to be the best, because “their guy” is the best. I’m as big of a Tar Heel supporter as they come, but I’m looking at you, North Carolina fans. It’s OK to like Jordan and LeBron. Nobody is forcing you to make a choice, so why not enjoy both?

    Notice I didn’t say cheer for both. You don’t have to hope for James to win. That is your right as a fan. However, it serves you no purpose to forcibly disdain every commercial, play or breath that involves LeBron James. Appreciate what we are watching.

    I’ll admit it. I loathed Michael Jordan when he played for the Chicago Bulls simply because he torched my beloved Charlotte Hornets seemingly every other week. (Ironic / fitting that he now owns the Charlotte Hornets) I regret my disdain for Jordan to this very day. Why? Because it blinded me from soaking in and enjoying what I was witness to. I was in the presence of somebody doing something better than anybody else on earth. That, whether it be sports, music, art or whatever, is something to behold and cherish.

    By no means am I asking you to cheer for James. It’s perfectly natural to pick sides in sports. In fact, if you don’t pick sides then you’re an unsullied or an incredibly loyal member of the sports media. Maybe both. What I do hope you do, starting with the NBA Finals tonight, is appreciate what you are watching. Not only James, but Tim Duncan, Dwayne Wade and Tony Parker as well. We want to watch the best in the world because we want to see greatness. You might as well enjoy it.

    In short, don’t be a hater. Spurs in 6.

    Go Heels Go America!