Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Good Looking Atheletes Playing Ugly

Contrary to what I heard on sports-talk radio, last night's basketball games on ESPN and ESPN2 did NOT set college basketball back anywhere between 20-50 years.

It wasn't that the teams polluting my television screen didn't try, though. Wow, there was some UGLY major conference college basketball played last night. Thought the carnage, I did pick up on a trend: gifted athletes do not directly equate to gifted basketball players.

There was some evidence to support this in North Carolina's 64-61 win at Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels have a big man, Tyler Hansbrough, who has ridiculously well polished low-post skills for a freshman on both ends of the court. As a result, he totally outplayed his more experienced and more athletic counterpart, the Hokies' Coleman Collins.

Without any inside game working, Tech had to rely on their perimter game. That didn't work out very well since they made only 3-13 from three-point range and shot 40.7% for the game. This enabled Carolina to overcome 25 turnovers, including a mind-blowing seven by backup point guard Quentin Thomas in nine minutes--how does someone manage to do that?

The Tar Heels, along with their domiance inside, were skilled enough to force the tempo to a pace too fast for the Hokies to handle, especially with the short bench Coach Seth Greenberg has to work with.

The Carolina-Tech game was a virtual classic compared to the next game I watched, the Vanderbilt-Kentucky debacle won by Vandy 57-52. I don't want to spoil the moment for the Commodore fans who can celebrate a win at Lexington for the first time since 1974, but how can a team shoot 34% and win on the road? When their gracious host shoots 35% and only makes 5-20 beyond the arc.

Randolph Morris contributed in his much ballyhooed return, scoring 10 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in 28 minutes, but the Wildcats' problems run much deeper than he can fix. For reasons known only to him, Coach Tubby Smith has recruited a group of athletes that mostly can't shoot a lick. They play strong defense, but then again they'd better. Kentucky did score 80 points against West Virginia and 79 vs. North Carolina, but they appear to be regressing, scoring less than 60 in each of their last three games.

The SEC is not as strong as usual right now, with the noteable exception of Florida, so this season may not be a disaster for Kentucky. At this point, though, it's safe to assume it won't be very pretty either.

Tubby may want to look toward Raliegh and see what NC State Coach Herb Sendek has done with his team. Sendek, who was an assistant at Kentucky with Smith under Rick Pitino, has to fight Duke and North Carolina for recruits. He has not always succeeded in signing blue chip players, but most of his recruits have excellent basketball skills.

If you watch this season's Wolfpack, it will seem that they can all shoot, pass, and dribble. If you notice that, you're sure not to confuse them with the 2005-06 Kentucky Wildcats that struggle to do any of the above with consistency.

Why Tubby Smith, a great bench coach, has assembled a roster so lacking in basketball talent is beyond my comprehension, but he doesn't have to answer to me. That's just as well, he's got enough on his plate dealing with a lot of angry Wildcat fans.


At 2:19 PM, Blogger dolphinfan said...

If you really want to see some ugly basketball then watch my Oklahoma Sooners.


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