Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Welcome to Christmas Morning

I'm taking a sports writing class with Tim Crothers, a former Sports Illustrated writer who now freelances for ESPN and ACCSports (among others), and he dropped this analogy on Monday. For him, Duke-UNC at Cameron in the middle of the season is like Christmas morning. I'm pretty much on board with that, though I might flip it around. He's a Carolina grad, so there's a little less pressure when UNC is on the road, and for me things are a bit more serene when the teams are playing at Carolina. But the point stands: today is a celebration.

The Coaches' Poll finally pulled its head into the open air and ranked UNC (#21), while the AP has them at #20. Duke is #5 in both. Each team has one ACC loss, so this is a battle for tops in the conference. If the Heels win, they'll probably guarantee themselves a shot to win the ACC outright by beating Duke at home in March. If Duke wins, they'll probably guarantee themselves a tie for the regular season title. There's larger NCAA implications, too; if Duke wants a 1-seed, they need to win this game. The ceiling for Carolina is a 2-seed, but a loss tonight probably relegates them to 3, even if they end up winning the conference tourney.


And the question is, Moody Blues, what have you done to prepare?

I'll tell you what I've done. Yesterday, in a co-ed intramural game, I got tossed. Not only that, I got my entire team tossed.

Here was the situation: the refs were all Carolina fans. The players on the other side were all Carolina fans. My own teammates were Carolina fans. We were even AT Carolina. It was in a Carolina gym! I was in hostile territory, and I knew I'd have to represent my colors soon enough.

Sure, Shane, you say, risking your own life to question me, but isn't that always the situation when you play intramurals? You're a UNC student, and you've never had a technical before.

Yes, but it was never Duke-Carolina Eve before. I could feel the animosity. The other team had this guy, a big muscular fellow, who cleared out on his drives by sticking his elbow into the defender's chest. We complained about it for most of the first half, and I asked the ref to keep an eye out. But he gave me a strange look. It was almost as if he knew I was a Cameron Crazie. What he didn't know was worse; he was staring into the cold-blooded eyes of a Moody Blue.

One of the girls on our team got a T for complaining after she fouled him in the first half. The second half came, and I put a move on the guy, beat him to the rim, and got clobbered. No foul. The very next possession, he drove on me, stuck his chicken wing into the ole sternum, and missed a lay-up.

The whistle blew. Blocking foul on yours truly.

"How is that a foul on me?" I yelled. I added an expletive.

The ref, a Carolina fan, T'ed me up. I think I heard him whisper something about Duke under his breath, but I couldn't be sure.

"Good," I said. "Give me another."

He obliged.

"Excellent," I said, then added another expletive for good measure before jogging off the court. As you can see, I am extremely classy. It wasn't too upsetting to be out of the game, though. We were losing by 20 and in a pretty tough spot, and it didn't kill me to give everyone else more playing time.

Then the announcement came. Apparently if a team gets three technicals in a game, they forfeit. So with 18:30 left in the second half, the game came to a sudden end.


A little later, on the way home, I head-butted an old woman for wearing a powder blue parka.

For real, though, not my proudest moment on a basketball court. I never lost my cool, but I felt pretty bad about depriving everyone else of a full game. Still, I played my part. I caused some disruption in the halls of the enemy.

Now I want to know what you've done, Moody Blues. Tell me your real or fictitious accounts of sticking it to the Heels. Each story gets -2 on the Hot Potato, best story gets -5. It is on.

Speaking of the Hot Potato, behold:


You guessed it: today, you'll be picking Duke's margin of victory. If you're not scared of head-butts or online campaigns of terror, and you think Carolina will win, feel free to express Duke's margin of victory as a negative number. Everyone else, stay sensible and have your guesses in by game time.

Here are the current standings:

As you see, Jill snuck up on Carrie to wrench the lead from her grasp. It's a new day in Potato Land.

Okay, let's talk about the game. I'm a little scared. Just a little, mind you, but the feeling is there. When I stand up too fast, there's a light-headed feeling I associate with fear.

What scares me as a Duke fan:

1 - The Bigs. Carolina, we all have to admit, has the ingredients for beating Duke. KenPom has them 8th nationally in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions), and they're particularly excellent inside the arc. John "Jim" Henson has been known to block shots just by looking at the shooter, to the point that he's 10th in the country in block percentage. Zeller's not quite as long or athletic, but he plays consistent and smart. Together, it's likely that they'll take away Nolan's drive, at least to an extent. We saw it with Singleton and James when we played FSU; Nolan can get by anyone, but it's difficult for him to finish among athletic big men (especially when there's no place to dish off; the Plumlees aren't known for their finishing acumen).

On paper, it looks like the Plumlees are in trouble. Mason has played two strong games in a row, but he's still liable to make dumb plays with some frequency. I pointed out two of them on Monday- he goes for blocks on players who are already guarded, opening up the middle of the lane for simple put-backs on missed shots, and he's constantly trying to steal passes that are out of his reach, throwing himself out of position, which almost always results in easy dunks. If he pulls that crap tonight, we are going to get killed underneath. Like, really killed.

After Mason, the situation gets worse. I'm warning everybody now: be prepared to get really, really mad at Miles Plumlee tonight. He's our biggest weakness, and he will be exploited. Roy's too smart to pass up that opportunity, and the spotlight will shine bright on a guy who struggles to make open lay-ups. Defensively, we're in real trouble.

We need a strong effort from Mason, and a so-so effort from either Miles or Ryan Kelly. Zeller and Henson crash the boards like crazy, as do the guards. Carolina is 67th in offensive rebounding percentage, and 51st in preventing second chances on D. Duke, unfortunately, is pretty poor at keeping other teams off the offensive glass (125th). If we can't show any muscle underneath, it could be a very long night.

2 - Carolina's Shooters. About two weeks ago, three-point shooting was a glaring weakness for the Heels. In the past two games, they're 19-41. That's very, very good. I'm hoping this is just a temporary hot spell, and not a permanent lift resulting from Drew's departure and their freshmen finding the groove. At the very least, you'd expect them to have trouble shooting in Cameron tonight. If they come out hot...well, I don't even want to think about that.

3 - Kendall Marshall's Consistency. This is not your typical freshman point guard. He plays really, really efficient basketball, and he won't make many dumb mistakes. Not even in Cameron. He's preternaturally gifted at playing within himself; it never occurs to him to try too hard. His 2.62 assist-to-turnover ratio attests to that. Duke makes a killing from points off turnovers, but I don't think Marshall will be giving up anything easy tonight.

Okay, time to get positive...

What heartens me as a Duke fan:

1 - We've Got Singler and Smith. They won a national title. They've played under pressure for four years, and they don't scare. Both are capable of having off nights, but I just don't see it happening against Carolina. Not in Cameron, and not against their punk freshmen. They've got this. Enough said.

2 - Our Shooters. Carolina's one weakness on defense is defending the three. Don't get me wrong; it's not a glaring weakness. They're just not quite as good there as anywhere else. KenPom has them 96th in the country, which is their lowest defensive rating in any category except one (more on that later). We shoot well in Cameron, and as Saturday's 41-points-in-15-minutes clobbering of State showed, we're well capable of running a team out of the gym. If Curry and Dawkins can find their stroke early, a blow-out win isn't out of the question.

3 - Carolina's Lack of a Dynamic Penetrator - Marshall, for all his consistency, isn't quick or athletic. He can't drive. Harrison Barnes has a lot of skills, but beating his defender off the dribble isn't at the top of that list. All Reggie Bullock wants to do is spot up and shoot. Strickland's not the answer. And beyond that, nothing. Honestly, John Henson might be their best penetrator, and that doesn't bode well for Carolina. Duke's pressure defense should give the Carolina guards some trouble. They don't turn the ball over often, but they're not watertight either. Even if Marshall can take good care of the point, I expect the other guards to cough it up on occasion. And I'd love, love, love to see Thornton giving Marshall full court pressure tonight.

4 - The Heels Don't Steal - As hinted at above, this is their worst defensive category. They're 145th at forcing turnovers, and 219th at getting steals. Both are measured as percentages; in other words, what percent of the time do you get a turnover, and what percent do you get a steal? This is a direct result of #3- the fact that their guards aren't very quick. Duke probably won't get many offensive boards, but UNC isn't going to deprive us of shots very often, either. And who's going to guard Nolan? In my mind, that's a huge match-up issue for Carolina. Will it be Strickland? Will they put someone taller on him? I don't think there's an easy answer to that problem.


The last thing I'd add, at the risk of sounding like any number of sports writers who want to talk about anything but X's and O's, is KARMA. Harrison Barnes, who by most accounts is introspective and often in his own head, still has to answer for his egocentric declaration ceremony in Iowa. Reggie Bullock went on camera to say that Coach K looked like a rat, and then he said that nobody on Duke could guard him, singling out Dawkins, Kyrie, and Singler.

Karma is real, baby, and they've got some answering to do.

No more nonsense. I think it's going to be a good game, and I don't think we'll run them off the floor. But we've got the better squad, and we've got the Crazies and the Blues ready to bring hell at Cameron. 82-74, good guys. If you want to see me say the same thing on video (even the Carolina girl picked Duke!), you can check it out here.

Gang, this is the reckoning. Tonight the Heels go down. It's Christmas morning in Carolina, and they ain't gonna like what we got wrapped up in the Dirty D. Go to hell, Carolina, and up the Devils.



  1. He's preternaturally gifted at playing within himself

    I read this wrong at first. Thought you had been doing some really intense scouting to get that information.

    Also, Didn't UNC beat Duke in both the Bloody Handsbrough and Bloody Montross games?

    Duke by 7

  2. My cousin is a carolina fan and had been giving shit since unc won their last national championship, once duke won last year, i preceded to head butt him, then stomp on his conscienceless body, then i carried him up the stairs to his room and put him to sleep in a duke blanket. Fuck carolina fans. Go Duke.

    Duke by 7

  3. Duke by 5
    - the girlfriend

  4. I'm currently the only person wearing something pro-duke in a 10 mile radius. Duke by 12.


  5. Nasty, Marshall is a master at baiting opponents.

    Also, send me an e-mail when you get a chance, I have a stats question for you.

    As everyone sees, Duke by 8 for me.


  6. Keith, excellent work. Cousins are the worst. I like to imagine his horror when he came to and saw himself wrapped in the Duke blanket. Shaker, it sounds like you need to go on a headbutting rampage ASAP. Don't stop until you see your first Duke item of clothing.


  7. My conservatism in Hot Potato is telling me Duke by 0. But fuck that, I'll go with Duke by 32.

    jk, Duke by 14, final answer.


  8. Your technical foul in the IM game brought to mind the scene out of Bull Durham when Crash is trying to get tossed out of the game:
    "Call me a C---sucker!"
    "You're a C---sucker!"

  9. This was in my Wolfpack days. An old HS buddy then at UNC got me into Carmichael for a once in a decade 68-67 away win by State. The plan was for him to drive me back to Raleigh but he was so pissed he bolted after the game (I couldn't stop grinning - sue me). So there I am on campus in State gear, and it's getting ugly fast (people are hanging out of dorm balconies screaming at me - a lynching is brewing). A car pulls up and a girl says "get in." Same accent as the gal you interviewed with the other day, Shane. An amazing conversation takes place ("what kind of idiot comes onto our campus in State gear?" Answer: "A winner?"). We ended up dating the rest of that year. Moral of the story. I came, I saw, I won. I even took one of their women (ok, she saved my ass, and dumped me later, but you get the picture). Carolina's a love/hate relationship. Today it's about hate.

    Duke by 11.

    Nice on the double-T Shane, but you should have head-butted the asshole, and the ref.

  10. The deed is done. In other news, would anyone like to bail me out of jail so I don't miss this game?


  11. 12 point win for the Dukies...

    My preacher at my home church is a UNC fan. One Sunday before a Wed. Duke/UNC game, as I was leaving, I shook his hand and thanked him for an excellent sermon. He leaned over in my ear and said "Thank you, Devil Child. May God smile on the Tarheels Wednesday". I never told anyone what he said, and he doesn't remember telling me that either. My headbutt was so hard it gave him amnesia!


  12. Margin of victory: 8!


  13. Check out Roy's confusion over 666:

    It's gonna be a GREAT GAME!

    - Kristen

  14. great idea for the potato! I'll say 8, just to be different.
    Other big predictions: R Kelly will be a difference maker, I will eat nachos, there will be beer on my living room floor by 9:15.
    Dr. K

  15. Oh yes, sorry everyone, I didn't give proper credit: The Hot Potato margin was Dr. K's idea. He's a genius.


  16. I have this old high school buddy who played DI basketball at App. State and is an avid UNC fan. Knows everyone of importance there,etc. When we discuss, via emails, the Duke/Heels programs and progress, I am real nice to him. I talk up the UNC kids, games, etc. not believing any of it!! He doesn't know that of course. Well, he is expecting me to call him about tonight's game. He is really psyched and wants to get into it. I won't call him, but instead will make him call me and spend his money on the phone call!! When he does call, I will answer and hang up on him! Wasted dime, baby! Dukies by 14. Moody Blues Tom

  17. Duke by 12 yessir.

    Back in my younger dancing days I found myself in a club grooving to some sensational old school tunes. "Greased Lightning," came over the speakers and I dominated the dance floor like John Travolta. In the midst of my amazing moves I felt my fist connect with a solid object. Time slowed, I turned my head slowly to see what I had destroyed. A short girl stood to my side, her mouth agape and tears filling her eyes. I felt guilty for a moment, then I saw her Carolina shirt. I pounded my chest and said "Fucking right, Duke for life." She ran to the bathroom and I roared like a Tyrannosaurus.

    This story is 90% true, it's up to you to determine what is fictitious.

  18. Marc, great stuff. I believe that you punched a girl out on the dance floor...and that maybe she had a Carolina shirt.

  19. Duke by 11

    My mom's a Carolina grad, so today I emailed her Chancellor Thorpe's quote ("Our students are talking about the future and asking smart questions instead of wasting time sitting in a tent"). I then proceeded to guilt-trip my mom and make her feel bad that the leader of her alma-mater insulted me (a Duke tenter). MOM GUILT-TRIPS ftw

    Sidenote, does the chancellor not realize that we could be talking about the future and asking smart questions WHILE in the tent?!?

  20. I haven't made a Hot Potato pick all year, but if there was ever a time to start, it's today.

    Give me a -6

    ...that's right, I went negative.

    Do I really think we'll win? Not really, but I'm like Pete Rose...I only bet on my own team.


  21. No way Mr. Intrigue found himself in a club listening to Greased Lightning.

    Duke by 9.

    -Craig J.

  22. Jacob "The Destroyer"February 9, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    -3 for the blue devils.

  23. I hate making decisions like this, so I would like to say 0, but I know enough to know that's impossible. So, I will say... Duke by 2.

  24. I work in an elementary school and unfortunately headbutting is generally frowned upon. To unleash my Moody Blueness upon the young children wearing various Carolina paraphernalia (which really is borderline child abuse, but that's another story) I stealthily put "KICK ME" signs on their backs and watch, unaffected, as they get pummled by their developmentally blessed peers in the hallways.

    Duke by six. Go to hell Carolina.

    (in the interest of protecting my job, i am LeAving oUt my ReAl name and have encoded it in this message)

  25. Fantastic strategy, LeAving oUt my ReAl name!

    This will also work in a workplace environment where actual headbutting would be frowned upon and worse.

  26. I'm going with Duke by 18 because:
    (1) that would be AWESOME
    (2) my hot potato score is already a disaster
    (3) 50% chance H-Barnes skips the game so he can skype with agents about his draft prospects
    (4) Carolina can go to hell!

  27. Duke by 9.

    Cant wait.... can't wait....


  28. duke wins by 14 pts

    - Swetha

  29. Duke by the dreaded 17, thus breaking the "lead by 17 and then lose curse" which may or may not only exist in my mind.

    Senior year of high school: it was the day after Boozer went down with a broken foot in the loss to UMD and my UNC-loving "friend" leaned over to me during assembly and whispered 'it's all over for Duke'. I smiled a knowing smile and over the next couple of weeks we killed the Holes in the ACC championship game and then went on the national championship on the same day that I got my Duke acceptance letter. GO TO HELL CAROLINA, GO TO HELL and LET'S GO DUKE!!!!

  30. Duke by 7 (JHop = Jill).

    When I was a junior at Duke, I was given two tickets to the Duke-UNC football game in Chapel Hill. My friend and I got totally Cameron-Crazied out and pretty much wasted. We looked ridiculous and gleefully stumbled to the stadium. On the way, I decided it would be a good idea to talk smack to basically anyone I saw wearing baby blue. Which was, you know, everyone. I was pushed, given the finger, threatened with the police, and at one point, surrounded by a group of dumb sorority girls who were all yelling in unison. Short of headbutting anyone, I was in Moody Blue Mode to the max.

    Somehow we got there without being arrested or assaulted. Our seats, for whatever reason, were in the UNC student section. Which was an unmitigated disaster. Especially because Duke was miraculously kicking ass, giving us all the more reason to act like assholes. And we did. We were such assholes that we were moved by security from the student section to the parent section in the second quarter. We proceeded to get kicked out of the stadium entirely by the fourth. Then Duke won. It was pretty much the best day ever.

  31. My story is great. Jill's is better. Must be a Wilmington thing.

    "c'moannnn... Duke!"

  32. Full pimp-out coming tomorrow, but in the meantime you guys should all check out Jill's new blog, Chicks Dig the Fastball:

    It's good stuff, there's already a funny post on Duke-UNC.


  33. Duke by 6. Any closer and I will get the vapors.

  34. I think I already have the vapors, Jonny. Possibly hay fever and rickets too, I'm not sure. Definitely at least one fainting spell. But it's awesome. And terrible.


  35. Shane, I notice your score is suspiciously close to the Pomroy prediction...good source.

    I just can't go against my team: -1

    I guess the most I've done to 'stick it' to UNC (so far) is not sending them any donations despite a combined 13 years enrolled and 3 degrees for my wife and I...A sure winning entry.

  36. I love your blog name.


  37. Oh
    Seth Curry Saved Duke.
    I suppose now you'll tell us he was channeling his inner Moody Blue?
    Anyhow, I'm not exactly sure why, but thank you, Shane (and I am so looking forward to Dylan's Dad's thank you comment!!!!!)

  38. Can you use my prediction I sent to @dukeblueplanet for hot potato? I had 82-75, so 7 points. (USE IT!!)

  39. very informative and interesting blog.Thanks for sharing:-)