November 17, 2002

Will The North Carolina Mens B-Ball Team Get Better?: UNC kicks off their season Monday night when Penn State comes to town for a first round game in the preseason NIT. Matt Doherty has his hands full after a tough off season, there were rumors of layers leaving, and there was Dean Smith's revelation that he wanted Rick Majerous to replace him when he retired. BTW Matt did a fine job recruiting, and they're still UNC. The preseason NIT looks like it's going to be fun, so let the predictions fly, who do you think is winning this thing?

posted by jbou to basketball at 08:36 PM - 9 comments

Carolina won't win the ACC, but I think they will finish third behind Duke and Maryland. NC State might sneak by for third, but Carolina will be in the NCAA's and will make it to (and I am going out on a limb here) the Sweet Sixteen.

posted by jasonbondshow at 09:50 PM on November 17

FWIW, there weren't rumors of players leaving; Brian Morrison, Adam Boone, and Neal Fingleton all left in the past year. Two other players publicly admitted talking about leaving. They will be better than they were last year; their achilles heel was incredibly poor point guard play and by all accounts Ray Felton is the real deal. Certainly, it would be hard for them to be worse than last year, especially in a suddenly much younger and less deep ACC. Personally, I'd guess that they be right around .500 this year. It's heavily dependent on their freshmen- if they are 100% as good as advertised, they'll approach 20 wins and challenge for an NCAA bid. But if they aren't 100%, or if May or Felton get hurt, they are in deep trouble. If they fail to make the NIT, I think Doherty is in very serious trouble, job-wise.
By the way, the best comment I've heard about Carolina this year is the suggestion along the lines that 'I expect the hammer to drop. On Doherty's thumb.'
As for the NIT... it's really hard to pick anyone except Kansas to win it, since they have to be the leading candidate to be-favored-to-win-it-all-then-choke-in-march (a role filled ably by my Blue Devils last year :/ If I had to pick a dark horse, I'd probably go with Florida.
On preview, jasonbondshow, to be polite, you're on crack :) Even if you're right, if UNC makes the sweet 16, it'll be because Ray Felton really is the Second Coming. And he won't stick around if that's the case. UNC might be better off just making the NIT this year, and convincing Ray to stay another year or two while the guys around him mature.

posted by tieguy at 10:15 PM on November 17

Oh, and, FWIW, I pretty passionately hate Carolina but I'll be damned if I'm missing tonight's game. The season is here, and I'm very, very excited about it. Re-read 'A March to Madness' this weekend, just to get ready. If you consider yourself a college basketball fan, you really ought to read it at some point. And if you're an ACC fan, and you haven't read it, let me know where you live, so I can come and take away your ACC Fan Club membership card. :)

posted by tieguy at 07:54 AM on November 18

I have a hard time believing that they will win more than 6 games in the ACC this year, watered down or not. If they do finish at .500 this year or better, they should consider it a sucess and put to rest all the rumors/facts that Dohery is on the chopping block. Give the man's recruits time to make the team go. 12 wins this year.

posted by corpse at 08:15 AM on November 18

corpse: what I wrote elsewhere about UNC's record: So will they be .500 this year? I think that's the magic number- if they aren't in the NIT, Doh is out.
My guess [nearly totally speculative, not having seen them or most of their opponents play]:
They start 3-1, beating PSU, Columbia/Rutgers, and ODU, before falling to their first opponent in the NIT. They lose the next two (illinois and Kentucky) to fall to 3-3. They beat Vermont, so 4-3.
Remaining out of conference games: Iona- W [possible surprise L here for them.] SJU- L [they've lost some big people, though] Miami- L [they return most of their players, but...] Davidson- W UConn- L NC A&T- W
So, out of conference they're around 7-6. I think at best they finish with an OOC record of 9-4, taking the SJU and Miami games. In conference... they'll be lucky to be 6-10- they should beat Clemson twice, split with FSU, and they'll probably steal three wins from the rest of the conference, given the utter inexperience at Maryland and Duke and inexperience and injury problems at State and Virginia. That puts them.. well, right in the range of .500 overall. Not so good. That said, they've scheduled enough gimmes (and UConn, SJU, and Miami may be down enough) that .500 is definitely not unreachable.

A couple other (very ACC-centric) links, in case people care: Lenox Rawlings on the ACC in general. Lenox is a very solid writer; it's almost a shame he's not better known outside of ACC country.
A story about the suspension of two UNC players for tonight's game. This was so criminally stupid on the NCAA's part that I nearly posted it as a front-page link.
Finally, a piece about Ray Felton, who, by all accounts, is the Real Deal. Unfortunately (both for UNC and for the ACC), his father basically says he's gone whenever he's a high pick- which could be after this year.

posted by tieguy at 09:34 AM on November 18

Didn't they lose an exhibition again this year, to the Nike Elite team? I can't find a link anywhere. That doesn't bode well for them. They lost to EA Sports last year in an exhibition.

posted by corpse at 09:48 AM on November 18

They lost to Team Nike 76-72 but with two of their better players (Jackie Manuel and Rashad McCants) out with minor injuries. I think we'll know a lot more after tonight, to be honest- some people whose basketball judgement I respect a lot have seen them in person and think they're very talented. I personally think Doherty just isn't a good coach- the collapse down the stretch his first year was of epic proportions, and the internal dissension on last year's team was pretty horrid too. That bodes poorly for this year- for a freshman-dominated team to be successful, it has to have a strong and skillful coach, and I'm not sure Doherty is either.

posted by tieguy at 10:00 AM on November 18

I am not on crack! I am just sick with the damn flu! And maybe too much optimism! And I am taking Imodium AD for a gastritis attack! Yuck! I do think that they will get into the NCAA's, but will probably not make it past the second round unless the bracket matchups are favorable. They could finish as high as third, but my guess would be fifth, behind Duke, Maryland, NC State, and Wake Forest.

posted by jasonbondshow at 07:30 PM on November 18

State without Emtimov isn't nearly as scary as they looked pre-season. And I have to admit- UNC looks pretty good tonight. We'll see how they play against better teams, but... PSU is the kind of very bad team that often played UNC very tough last year, so it has to be heartening to see them play this way. I'm suddenly much less certain about my 'crack' statement than I was this morning. I still think NIT is a more reasonable expectation, but... we'll see, I guess. That's why they play them :)

posted by tieguy at 08:13 PM on November 18

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