When a team is scheduled 25-30 games, expect a few losses. Halfway through the season, every major Division I Basketball team has at least two losses. Local teams from Chapel Hill and Durham wearing blue took losses tonight. The difference in team colors seems to parallel the difference in the way each team played. While a more mature team wearing light blue got blown out again after playing their best game of the year, the freshman laden team wearing dark blue lost by one point in overtime. Here goes that thing again about a coach “shouldn’t have to coach effort.” But a coach and team have to have a competent game plan, and a competent backup plan. If a coach isn’t going to coach effort on the court, he needs to put the right combination of players on the court that will get each other moving. Captains, maybe? Draw your own conclusions. The box score will show a loss for both teams, but it’s how a team loses that matters.
Let the records show: North Carolina brought noting on Saturday! Hubert Davis said or implied truthfully that his team had no fire, no grit, no pride, and little fight. I appreciate that UNC has a team of nice, respectable young men, but most nice guys that I know will find a way to stop anyone that gets in the way of their success. Saturday’s performance was one of the most embarrassing combinations of coaching and player response that I have ever witnessed. It’s basketball! The best teams at every level are expected to lose some games every year, but not with the heartless effort that the mighty Tar Heels brought to the court in Las Vegas. This is the evidence that is on the table. The time when captains gather the team to focus attention on detail passed again. It is hard to see who has the toughness, drive, and willingness to bring this team together to have a season that doesn’t include more blowout losses and lackadaisical performances. Who will lead during games? I firmly believe coaches have to do their best work in practice, but Davis has to do more work during the game. Autopilot for this team means going along with a beat down instead of focusing attention on the details of the game. Players have to guide each other on the court. Rebounding, boxing out, fighting through screens, just simply hustling! Will it be Brady Manek? He has the grit and brings it every game. Leaky Black? He does his job on the court every game! Dawson Garcia? So much potential but does not show toughness. One of the named captains: Caleb Love, RJ Davis, or Amando Bacot? We’re waiting!
There has been lots of conversation about who should have been hired to follow Roy William at UNC. Here is a look at the current records of some known to have interviewed or to still be on the wish list of some fans and national writers:
Max Scherzer is about to get over $43 million to pitch for the Mets next year. Lincoln Riley just left almost $8 million on the table in Oklahoma for what has been rumored to be more than $10 million at USC, and Howard University’s entire men’s basketball team signed a NIL agreement with “We Got Junk” movers! Who says, “It’s about the game!” and the student experience? It’s definitely about the money! But before anyone could blow up the internet with rumors of Riley leaving Oklahoma because of diva fans, or his not wanting to face questions about why Spencer Rattler did not get more opportunities after Caleb Love became average, or if he found out about Oklahoma’s move to the SEC at the same time that we did; we learned that Brian Kelly was leaving Notre Dame for LSU! Give USC and LSU credit for dominating the headlines, but Notre Dame wins the introduction game as Marcus Freeman is announced to his team! So, what schools made the best moves for their football programs, and what are the best jobs still available:
A few weeks back I wrote: “Coaches have to be careful not to create a “shiny new objects” reputation. Fans don’t understand that, but players do… Players should also be confident that, after dedicating themselves to a program and having success; they are not going to be passed over for the next highly ranked player for making a mistake. That would just confirm our fascination with shiny new objects.” Inserting Schools or Athletic Directors for Coaches, and Coaches for Players, then change a few thoughts around, and you might get a picture that details something close to the annual hiring and firing of college football coaches. Football coach Lincoln Riley leaving the University of Oklahoma for the University of Southern California may be the most surprising coaching change in recent years. We may never know the real reason Riley decided to leave the comforts of Oklahoma for the bright lights of Southern California, but let’s have some fun speculating:
1 – He got tired of Bob Stoops snooping around.
2 – Finding out about Oklahoma’s move to the SEC when we did hurt so bad.
3 – Entitled fans with signs demanding who to play at quarterback was irritating.
4 – Not pulling Caleb Williams, when he became average, for Spencer Rattler was a mistake that he didn’t want to answer to.
5 – He thought Oklahoma Crimson and USC Cardinal was the same color.
Whether they were acting in ignorance, or openly displaying arrogance, I was hoping that my prediction of how Duke would respond to two players being arrested on DWI-related charges would be different. Instead, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Athletic Director Nina E. King, and University President Vincent E. Price missed an opportunity. In allowing freshman Paolo Banchero to start and play just a few days after being arrested on serious charges, Krzyzewski, King, and Price failed to set a better example for other schools. I agree that Banchero’s charges are different from those being faced by Krzyzewski’s grandson, Michael Savarino, but this was simply a bad decision. To play Banchero, then speak of “a violation of our standards…” does not measure up. Krzyzewski has to know this, and reporters at the postgame press conference, and the media in general, should not have let him off so easily; but this was predictable. Not just the Duke’s response, but the media’s coverage as well. So, forgive me for not displaying a higher standard of texting, but the message below should be clear. Just follow the bubbles.
It has to be illegal to kill the number of crows that Matt Rhule, David Tepper, and the Carolina Panthers had to eat when finally giving in to bringing quarterback Cam Newton back. The Panthers are bad, as in B-A-D; not bad as in GOOD! In the words of Dennis Green: “They are who we thought they were!” After passing on Newton to sign Teddy Bridgewater, then passing on Bridgewater to put Sam Darnold in charge of their offense, the Panthers are again looking to Newton because Darnold’s “ghosts were seeing ghosts.” – (Joe Mazur, ABC11 WTVD.) Now, we get another chance to see if Cam can still be Superman with the Carolina Panthers’ average protection and offensive play-calling that we’ve seen so far.
Whether Hubert Davis’ decision to move Leaky Black and Brady Manek to the starting line up with Armando Bacot, RJ Davis, and Caleb Love was just for one game, or what we should expect this season, it worked! Black’s presence gave the defense the cohesion, and court awareness that was missing from the line up that started the exhibition game against Elizabeth City State University. Meanwhile, Manek was confident and productive on offense, played competent defense, and was steady throughout.
Every win rates an A, but I have to rate team performance in game 1 against Loyola University-Maryland a B. Think defensive breakdowns in the second half, missed rebounding assignments, and brief periods of back-to-back turnovers. All areas that can be fixed before the next game. Individual ratings:
Manek – (A) – Steady and confident!
Bacot – (B) – Good start. Have to recognize how game is being called, and avoid foul trouble as season progresses.
Black – (B) – Energy! Valuable contribution without needing to be a scorer. The value of his presence on the court may not show in his individual stats, but it will help improve overall team play.
Love – (B) – Better showing all around. Enough said!
Davis – (C plus) – Good game. Just good.
Kerwin Walton – (B) – Strong offensive performance off the bench. Have to be more aware of screens.
Dawson Garcia – (B) – Liked his offense. How much will defense improve?
Justin McKoy – (C plus) – Active. Better court awareness. When will the minutes come?
Anthony Harris – (C) – Need to find a way for him to contribute.
Like preseason polls, preseason games and lineups give quite different looks from what we expect to see as the season progresses. So goes preseason game evaluations. After a coaching change, multiple transfers in and out, and freshman additions; new lineups and adjustments to style of play were expected. Hubert Davis’ starting lineup in the Smith Center exhibition game against Elizabeth City State University included Armando Bacot, Dawson Garcia, RJ Davis, Caleb Love, and Kerwin Walton; with Brady Manek, Justin McKoy, Leaky Black, then Anthony Harris leading off the bench. D’Marco Dunn and Dontrez Styles filled in for a few minutes before Davis cleared the bench with less than one minute remaining. First reactions and ratings:
Team as a whole showed flashes of improvement. Defense seemed a little uneven. Seem to be stuck between deciding between getting out to run and waiting to set up in the half-court. Team exhibition performance: B minus.
Bacot – (A) – Looks like he’s already told the dealership which car to order.
Walton – (D) – Did not look good. Offense was off. Did not see defensive improvement.
Love – (C minus) – Hasn’t shown anything different yet. Turnovers when primary ball handler is a concern.
Davis – (B minus) – Early play as primary ball handler was promising.
Garcia – (B) – Good start offensively. Need to be more aware on defense.
Manek – (A) – Better than expected. Has a good motor on both ends of the court.
McKoy – (D) – Appeared to be lost on offense and defense.
Black – (B) – Good energy off the bench. Defense was steady. Great outlet passes and push up the court after rebounds. Had sneaky good all-around game though he only took one shot. Best multi-position player.
Harris – (C) – Gets in motion quickly. A little out of control. Looks confident.
Styles and Dunn – To be determined. Unfair to rate with such limited playtime.