Our condolences are going out to former North Carolina Tar Heel and 2009 NCAA Tournament MOP Wayne Ellington on the death of his father Sunday night. Details are still shaky at this point but we keep Wayne in our thoughts as he takes an indefinite leave of absence from the Los Angeles Lakers.
“My family and I are devastated by the news of my father’s murder on Sunday night in Philadelphia,” said Ellington. “We appreciate everyone’s support and ask that you respect the privacy of our family during this very difficult time.”
Charles Barkley recently said onInside the NBA that he wouldn’t eat until the lowly Los Angeles Lakers won a game. Well, the Lakers and former North Carolina Tar Heels Ed Davis and Wayne Ellington (combined 19 points) finally notched the first W on the season over the Charlotte Hornets (still feels good typing that) and Easy Ed took to Twitter to say something to the Round Mound of Rebound.
Sam: Time to recount an interesting, if uneventful, season in Carolina hoops. The theme of this year, for me anyway, was “meeting expectations.” The Heels seemingly did that time and time again. They never really performed below what we were expecting from them at the beginning of the year, but they also never really outperformed our expectations to pull off some resume wins. If this season were made into a movie, it would be a really boring ass movie.
Benn: Would it? Sure, now that we’re stepping back and looking at it the season didn’t quite have the highs and lows of past years, but think about it as it progressed.
We went into the year with high expectations and a lofty preseason ranking. Got exposed by a Butler team in Maui causing early season trepidation. Regained confidence in the nonconference before being blown out by a Texas team without its best player, starting the NIT train. The Heels built up some trust going into the ACC docket with a solid win vs. a UNLV team we expected would finish the season better, then immediately found themselves in an 0-2 conference hole with losses to teams who proved to be viable competitors, but at the time we didn’t realize it.
This is where Carolina fans became delusional in one of two ways. It was either the Tar Heels were not even going to make the CBI because Ol’ Roy had lost it and UNC couldn’t get the talent it was once used to, or North Carolina was going to begin in improbable run to a NCAA championship because we all remember the last time UNC was 0-2 in ACC play they won it all in 2009.
Roy and the Tar Heels would level off at this point (although you can make the argument they never peaked or dipped at all through the year) meaning you were stuck in one of your two ridiculous opinions for a couple weeks. That is until that fateful night in Cameron Indoor when small ball became a thing. Yes, Duke won, but P.J. Hairston was now starting! And Roy did something different! Now ushered in the weeks of undeserved arrogance. We all felt great and the new-look Heels seemed unstoppable — until the second Duke game.
At that point I would agree that most Carolina fans finally decided that the season was mediocre by UNC standards and that it wasn’t all that bad but it definitely could have been better. But think of all the lows and highs we did feel, as false as they ultimately were. You say this would be a boring ass movie, I say it would be one of those shallow thrillers that get re-run on TNT for eternity. You’ll always turn it on but you don’t mind walking away.
Sam: You’re right. In the moment, the season was a volatile stock market of ups and downs. After some tough losses, notably Texas, everyone was selling on UNC. UNLV happened and everyone wanted in on the action. Twice they even pulled the roller coaster act on us in the span of one game, the first Duke game and the Kansas game. In fact, those two games could almost serve as microcosms of the whole season. Unlocked potential and amazing ability paired to give us hope for something we didn’t think was possible, but ultimately the Heels fell a bit short of greatness.
Those up-and-down emotions all related to the game results, but while we’re in reflective mode, I’d also like to comment on the likeability of this team. Despite some frustrating play, I really enjoyed watching them. We were able to watch Marcus Paige get incrementally better every game. We saw P.J. go from a bench player who couldn’t hit the broad side of barn as a freshman to a dominant force and leading scorer. We saw glimpses of the future in Brice Johnson’s touch around the basket.
I have to feel a little bad for James Michael McAdoo, who was expected to be “the guy” this year. We found out that he wasn’t quite ready to be the focal point, but as P.J. emerged, even JMM improved in finding a better role and becoming much more efficient. Instead of those 9 for 21 nights, he was converting more like 7 of 10 by the end.
Benn: Funny how media and press (I’ll include us in this generalization) put these unreal expectations on a player like JMM in the preseason based off a couple games where he could play with no abandon on a stacked team and then get disappointed and feel sympathetic toward him when he doesn’t produce. We of course realized this around early in the season but by then it was too late. Luckily it seems like it hasn’t affected him much.
But I kind of wish it had.
This is a likable team, I agree with you there. But it’s likable because some of these youngin’s have been showing actual emotion on the court. Save #JMMFace it was a rare occasion when JMM looked like more than a lamb. That’s why P.J. is so fun to watch. He’s got that Rashad McCants factor about him. Marcus is vocal as well. That was my only gripe with Reggie. He’d get into the action, throw some hand signs up, but was pretty reserved. I’m still going to miss Reggie, but reservations were similar to what kept me from becoming more enamored with Harrison Barnes. The lack of emoting doesn’t mean they don’t care or aren’t passionate, but it takes more convincing at times.
Sam: Since the departure of Tyler Hansbrough, we’ve definitely seen a lack of emotion on the court for the Heels. I’m not quite sure how to feel about it. In the case of Hansbrough, who was the de facto leader of the team for several years, it was a great asset in how he could inspire his teammates. When Barnes was in Chapel Hill, a definite void existed when the arguably best player was more reserved. Plenty of articles were written about the very topic of “Who will emerge as a leader” for that 2012 team. Luckily for that them, Kendall Marshall’s adept facilitating ability covered up for a lack of leadership. It didn’t matter if someone was playing with emotion or not because he was going to get them the ball in the right spot.
This year, the catalyst was, without question, P.J. When he came off the bench early in the year, he provided an instant spark. Then after the much-ballyhooed move into the starting lineup he emerged as UNC’s best offensive threat. It’s exciting that he’s coming back next year. It could be a special season for him.
If Vegas took wagers on such a thing, I’d bet that P.J. will be the leader of next year’s team, regardless of whether the Heels snag Andrew Wiggins, who would likely be the best all-around player. Knowing that we have a leader already in the clubhouse is a nice feeling. We haven’t had that since the days of Psycho T. In 2010 it was supposed to be who? Marcus Ginyard? In 2011 the general consensus might have been freshman Harrison Barnes, junior Tyler Zeller or, gasp, junior Larry Drew? In both 2012 and 2013 the very question of who the leader would be was a hot topic for comment sections and bloggers alike. I want to get out in front and declare that this year, finally, we have one, and it’s P.J. Hairston.
Benn: Log that under things I would not have said in 2012. I like how that should set up the rest of the team as well.
We already mentioned that taking some of that leadership role off Marcus Paige was a good thing this year, and having P.J. still around to handle the heavy lifting scoring wise in the backcourt means Marcus can focus on facilitating for others and letting the game come to him. There’s going to be a glut of PG talent the next couple years with sophomore Marcus, frosh Nate Britt, possible 3x Mr. Basketball for the state of Florida Joel Berry in the 2014 class and the possible return of Stilman White in 2014 with three years of eligibility left, not to mention Luke Davis still chilling on the sideline. What happens this year between Britt and Marcus will be interesting. It’s crazy that I feel so confident with ball handlers even after losing the nation’s leading assist:TO guy (yeah, Dexter Strickland finished tops in the country in that category).
The 2 is PJ and Leslie McDonald. We know what PJ can do and will be leaning hard on him. Leslie was good for a couple double-digit outings last season, and we’ll need him to do that again as a spark off the bench. I mean, I guess these guys are both the “2,” right? Who’s the 3 left on the team now with Reggie gone? J.P. Tokoto seems to be the only “fit” at the role unless Roy moves PJ to the “3.” But then who does that leave as the starting 2?
I’m not ruling JP’s development out as a player yet but I’m also not comfortable handing the starting role over to him either. You could maybe argue that what Jackson Simmons did last year at times could get him into the token 3 spot as the hustle defender Roy likes to start. This is where we could do a whole schtick about how Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is the perfect fit for this UNC team for this exact reason. We’ll save that for later but seriously, everything on this team is built for an athletic wing who can score. You have an inside presence and solid backcourt. A player with a high skill set could do serious work/damage here, that player just doesn’t seem to be on the roster right now. We don’t fault Reggie for leaving, but man he could have had fun in 2013-2014.
Down in the front court the Heels are all the sudden stacked again, at least on the number of bodies, not that we’re complaining. JMM is back, so is Desmond Hubert, Joel James, Brice Johnson and Simmons. Add two McDonald’s All-Americans to that with Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy “Sean May 2.0” Meeks, who are both expected to contribute immediately, and that’s a lot of big frames. Hicks could be the answer at the 3 with his Brandan Wright/John Henson/Brice Johnson frame but if scouting reports are to be believed he needs to improve his jump shot first, although his defense is apparently already there. I’d expect a possible JMM/Meeks starting line-up which sounds just wonderful right now. Who knows who elevates himself in practice though to get that 5 spot opposite McMug.
All I know is bench squad is going to be deep this year. #BENCHSQUAD
But seriously, who’s the fifth starter after a presumed Paige/Hairston/McAdoo/Meeks line-up? Or am I just off the mark here?
Sam: Well, ideally it’s Wiggins, but he’s the longshot, so let’s work with what we know. Given Roy’s (sometimes frustrating) loyalty to upperclassmen, I think P.J. moves to the three, and Leslie McDonald starts at the two. Leslie’s game is kind of one-dimensional, but as a spot-up shooter he’s pretty good. He even had some great defensive spurts at times last year.
And say P.J. does play small forward, do we really think he would play like a small forward? P.J. was third in made 3-pointers in the ACC last year PLAYING POWER FORWARD. Dude will get his shots.
I think you’re on to something saying Meeks will get the nod. All the scouting reports say he’s a traditional back-to-the-basket center, and we know Roy loves him some traditional back-to-the-basket centers. But I’m going to throw another hat in the ring – Joel James. James is something of a project, but really, he’s one “go-to” move away from being a nice player. He’s really athletic for his size, which is considerable, and if he were a threat on offense it would open up things wonderfully for the Heels. Plus, all that stuff about Roy loving his veterans.
Given that Desmond Hubert got every chance he could have hoped for to earn a starting spot last year, I think he’s missed his opportunity and Roy will be looking for something new. My final starters go like this: 1) Paige 2) McDonald 3) Hairston 4) McMug 5) James.
First guy off the bench? Brice Johnson.
Benn: I could see Leslie getting the start, as well as Joel. At this point it is totally plausible. Brice coming off the bench with his Antawn Jamison-like quick shot would be the offensive spark that Leslie used to occupy and provides a quick sub for Joel in that scenario. It also keeps the freshman trio of Meeks, Hicks and Britt together as a second unit. For them to be practicing together as a squad and coming off the bench together could be huge for chemistry and would limit the fall-off production-wise from first to second team.
As for Desmond, I think he’s just destined to be Byron Saunders 2.0. He’s a talented big body that works hard in practice – which is obviously great for players like Meeks and James – and gets between 0-6 minutes a game as a purely defensive stopper. Of course, Byron has a ring to show for it. One can dream…
My biggest hope is that this team figures itself out earlier than 2012-2013. The constant shuffling was nerve-wracking and at times entertaining, but it did make me pine for those seasons where Roy just essentially plugged and played with the same starters and subs.
Is it too early to be talking about preseason predictions?
I’m a bit worried about those completely unnecessary preseason polls that come out the day after the NCAA Final. I will say though that this year’s preseason spots are more earned than last. ESPN’s Jason King has UNC at 11, Dickie V at 10, SI’s Luke Winn has the Heels at 9 in his power rankings and Seth Davis said they were 15 (pre McAdoo draft decision). Because you hate going into the season with too high of expectations I personally like Davis’ spot, close to where they were heading into 2012-2013 but with games to back it up.
I will say, however, that I EXPECT them to make it out of the first weekend of the 2014 tournament whereas this year I was on record saying I would have been ecstatic had they made it.
Sam: That would mean winning only one more tourney game than this season, so I think reaching the Sweet 16 is definitely a reasonable expectation. With potential big jumps coming from Paige and Hairston, and a more natural role for McAdoo, I think we can think even bigger — like Elite Eight?
To make the Elite Eight, the Heels would likely have to beat a No. 1 or No. 2 seed (or actually be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed themselves). Given that scenario, I’m not ready to declare Elite Eight yet, but depending on how the sophomores progress — namely Paige, James and Johnson — we could get our hopes up this November.
7:46 a.m. – Resist the Tart-tation. We have breakfast plans.
8:05 a.m. – Depart D.C.
9:05 a.m. – Stop for breakfast at Chick fil A in Stafford, Va. Bojangles and Chick Fil A give us the most fast-food nostalgia of going to school in the south. Cook Out is another one, but it was breakfast.
12:45 p.m. – Park illegally in a lot off Skipper Bowles Drive and make our way to the Basketball Museum, where we saw this parked outside.
12:55 p.m. – Take a gander at the staggering list of recruits that are scheduled to visit the museum today (sorry the pic is sideways.) Seriously, if you don’t recognize the names, google these guys.
1:10 p.m. – Realize that Hubert Davis and C.B. McGrath are showing a recruit around the museum and get really excited. It’s Rashad Vaughn with them.
1:12 p.m. – Fail to ask for a picture with Davis because I’m too nervous. I know he won’t mind, he’s taken a few pics with some other people, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m kind of a pansy in this regard.
1:14 p.m. – UNC has always had style
1:30 p.m. – Leave basketball museum and kick myself for not taking a picture with Hubert.
1:45 p.m. – Arrive at Milltown and meet up with my parents for beers and the PRIME RIB SANDWICH. You guys, this is the best. thing. on. the. menu. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
4:30 p.m. – Leave Milltown and head to He’s Not Here for blue cups. Before arriving, I was worried I’d stick out as the old guy. But there were kids playing cornhole outside. Like 5-year-old kids. Their parents were inside. Now I feel young again! Also, it’s hard to see in this pic, but the blue cups are actually Carolina blue now instead of that weird in-between color they used to be. Crazy!
7:40 p.m. – Quick bite at I Love NY Pizza. With this stop, we’re fully in the college-kid zone now. Milltown didn’t quite have the same crowd as we’re seeing at He’s Not and NY. This stop is also to soak up some of the rowdiness that is creeping into our systems.
7:50 p.m. – Stop by Walgreens to get some 5-hour Energy. I’m too old for this shit.
7:50 p.m. – Also grab a small 8-oz. or so bottle of wine at Walgreens for covert sipping on the walk to the Dean Dome. I’m NOT too old!
8:30ish p.m. – Arrive at Smith Center ready for action. This is the height of excitement for the weekend.
8:45 p.m. – LINEUPSSSSSSSSSSS ANNOUNCEDDDDDDDDDD
9:15 p.m. – WHAT IS HAPPENING!? No pictures of this.
11:00 p.m. – Begin walking back to Franklin St. “I can never go to another Duke game EVER!!” *sniffles* (I’m 0-3 for my career)
11:30ish p.m. – Arrive at Carolina Coffee Shop. Proceed to order LITs and beers.
2:10 a.m. – Leave Coffee Shop. Need noms. Make way over to [B]ski’s.
2:30ish a.m. – See a drunken argument between a UNC and Duke girl end with Duke girl getting slapped. P.J. Hairston, Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock make an appearance. Again, too embarrassed to try and take a pic.
It’s that time again. Not only is the ACC Tournament upon us but it’s also that time where we roll out another themed edition of our very own ACC Power Rankings.
This time we chose something near and dear to our hearts. An import that trickled down from our northern neighbor and found a place in our pantheon of great television. Even more exciting than the seven seasons of TV this product gave us, it also threw in several movies to the universe it created and another film is on the way.
If you don’t already know this classic series, it’s Trailer Park Boys. Chronicling the lives of three felonious buds-Julian, Ricky and Bubbles-TPB delves deeper into the underbelly of circumstances that lead to the “fucked” lives all the residents of Sunnyvale live. There are few franchises outside of The Wire that have more story lines and characters you’ll care about — or more cursing.
1. Miami – Cyrus
Always in trouble with the law. Cyrus takes over the trailer park when they boys aren’t around, much like Miami capitalized on a down ACC to become king of the conference.
2. Duke – Mr. Jim Lahey
Drunk bastard. You sometimes want to sympathize with Lahey (Duke) but never can because he does too much shifty stuff. Like the Trailer Park Boys (Julian, Ricky and Bubbles) finally reach a sort of ceasefire with Lahey, the rest of Tobacco Road (UNC, State and Wake) has learned to deal with Duke. It doesn’t mean they don’t hate the fucker; they just have to live with him.
3. UNC – Julian
Leader, general good guy, always looking in the right direction even when his “teammates” are getting him into trouble. He’s trusted to keep others in line and loves them despite their flaws — be it YOLO jumpshots or the ability to always find a way to get arrested. Much like UNC, he never admits mistakes.
4. Virginia – Randy
Another smart school like Duke/Lahey. Randy packs cheeseburgers in his gut just as well as UVA runs the pack-line defense. He sometimes asserts himself, but then undoubtedly falls back to Earth. Virginia can sometimes pull out the big win, but also lost to half the CAA this year.
5. NC State – Ricky
Bumbling sidekick of Julian. Can be counted on for a laugh (NC State sheeeet). Never can get his act together but always seems to get people to think that he does. Ricky’s on-and-off again girlfriend Lucy is always ready to give him another chance while the ACC media picked State to win the league this year. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.
6. Florida State – J-Roc
This year were really trying to be something that they’re not. Not fooling anyone but we let them go with it. “You know what I’m sayin’?”
7. Maryland – Cory & Trevor
Cory and Trevor have to be lumped together because they are effectively one person. They want to run with the big dogs (Julian and Ricky), but constantly get left hanging. They finally flee the park in the last season because they think they can do better elsewhere (B1G, anyone?) by not being around Julian and Ricky, but not before Ricky hits them up for smokes one last time (ACC exit fee).
8. Boston College – Ray
Ray fakes his disability and BC seems to think its hard to recruit in the Boston metropolitan area. We know that ain’t right. Ray is always talking about the “way of the road,” and Donahue runs a “good program,” with that Ivy League pedigree and all. Oh yeah, Ray pisses in jugs.
9. Georgia Tech – Conky
Conky is a dummy. Georgia Tech is as well, but somehow they keep terrifying the shit out of UNC (Julian.)
10. Wake Forest – Bubbles
True friend of Julian and Ricky (Tobacco Road) until he finds himself caught up in their schemin’. While he seems to have his head on his shoulders, he’s proven to be inept even though he’s trying hard. Sound familiar, Deacons? Both Wake and Bubbles have catchphrases (Bzdelik’d and “deee-cent” respectively) and would probably rather be playing with model trains, or kitties.
11. Clemson – Sam
The “goddamn caveman.” No one in the park likes Sam, and he’ll never win the election for trailer park supervisor. Similarly, no one likes Clemson, and they’ll never win (in Chapel Hill).
12. Virginia Tech – Bottle Kids
So atrocious you just run and hide and hope you don’t get hit by Erik Green’s jumper.
Do you like beer? I do. Do you like talking about Tar Heel basketball? Me, too! Let’s do both of these things in Chapel Hill today! Your humble Rafters editor here is making a #RaftersRoadTrip down I-95 to take in the wondrous scenery and do some good ol’ fashioned Duke bashing. Perhaps you listened to our latest podcast and want to state your defense for Woodford Reserve Bourbon? Although I feel Bulleit is a superior drinker, don’t worry, bro (or bro-ette), I won’t judge you. Let’s meet up anyway!
A rough schedule, sketched out by my traveling companion, RBIII (@rbarry1), is in place, but we’re not married to to it. And since the Franklin Street businesses of our undergrad heyday seem to be dropping like flies, we’re not even sure if our favorite haunts still exist. So show us some new ones if you dare!
The point of this story is, IF YOU WANT TO MEET AN INTERNET T-LIST CELEBRITY, tweet @TheRafters today. Maybe even hashtag it #RaftersRoadtrip – that’ll score you extra points – and let’s talk Carolina hoops, enjoy each other’s company, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll help the Heels pull out a win.