We are mere hours from tipping off the 2014 ACC basketball season in Winston-Salem, and of course the ACC honchos decided to start Wake off with their dear friends from Chapel Hill. In honor of the occasion, BSD took the time to chat with the estimable Brian Barbour from Tar Heel Blog. You can follow those guys here, if you’re into that sort of thing. Special thanks to Brian for taking the time to deal with us lesser beings.
BSD: Brian, thanks for taking the time to chat with Blogger So Dear as we get set to tip off the 2014 ACC basketball season on (gulp) prime time television. I was kind of hoping that the Deacs would put on a better show up at Xavier this past weekend, but road games.
Let's get right to it: North Carolina has been sort of an enigma thus far on the young season. It seems like if there was ever a case study for playing up (or down) to one's competition, the Tar Heels would be Exhibit A. It's a maddening scenario for ABCers, really. They can't even rejoice and gloat about the missteps against Belmont and UAB, since the Heels play lights out when the stage gets bigger.
How do you explain this Jekyll-and-Hyde performance from the boys in blue?
Barbour: I wish there was a concrete answer as to why UNC is so up and down but there really isn't. I am tempted to make up one like they play poorly when the vending machines in the Dean Dome run out of Skittles so it's all a sugar crash or something.
As for real reasons, plenty of theories. One the offense doesn't have enough consistent scoring or rebounding. Part of that is the free throw shooting which is bad and can be REALLY bad at times. Another part is the cold, hard truth that simply having big men doesn't necessarily mean said big men do all the big men things they are supposed to to. In this case the rebounding and rim protection should be better but it's not.
Effort and intensity are being cited as culprits for the lack of rebounding. P.J. Hairston driving rental cars around in the offseason is to be blamed for the lack of consistent scoring. Marcus Paige has been carrying most of the perimeter scoring load. Leslie McDonald's return helps in this respect. However James Michael McAdoo still has issues finishing at the rim and hitting free throws, Brice Johnson can score but has issues on the defensive end as does Kennedy Meeks but Meeks is still not conditioned or developed to be a consistent threat.
Oh and teams seem to be able to drive to the basket at will. Even those pesky mid-majors with their bands of Hobbits.
So yeah, that Skittles theory sounds a lot simpler or blaming the coach is always fun. Speaking of blaming the coach, have Wake Forest fans reached a point where wins are good, losses are better because it puts you one step closer to Jeff Bzdelik being fired?
BSD: See, here's the thing: even most of the FireBz crowd won't even stoop that far. At the end of the day, they want to see them win, and especially want to see them kick Carolina's ass. That's just how it goes. Only the most jaded of the jaded will bemoan Wake victories. While there's not much Bz can do to win over the naysayers, people are pining for wins. Period.
Even if this Wake team wins 25 games and a berth in a Regional Final, people are going to say it was because of the players and Randolph Childress' work with the guards. But, at the end of the day people are ready to root for a Demon Deacon team that really isn't half bad. How good they can be is yet to be seen. I could be wrong.
What I'm dreading about Sunday is watching two horrifically bad free throw-shooting teams compete during prime time. We might not get out of there until 1am. What do you suggest both teams do in that department? Because what they're currently doing isn't working.
Barbour: Is Dawn Bunting available? She used to do some voodoo to help UNC football..oh wait.
James Michael McAdoo got five straight questions on his free throw shooting. It veered off to the point he was getting questions about the technical aspects at which point he almost pulled an Allen Iverson and basically said, "I'm not getting into it, it's free throws." Roy Williams said they work on it as a normal part of practice and they keep records of the shooting. Williams also said the free throw shooting in practice is 70% or better across the board. Yet in games it doesn't bear out that way.
As this point I think UNC has settled into a low to mid-60% free throw shooting team. The most important thing they can do is not have those REALLY bad games. Missing 23 or 26 free throws just cannot happen. The problem is UNC has a really high free throw rate. McAdoo is one of the best in the country in getting to the line but the shooting at the line is simply awful at times which is usually a bad combination.
I noticed that both UNC and Wake are pretty decent on the defensive end. Couple that with the free throw struggle does this shape up to be a classic Sunday night #goacc game?
BSD: I think there’s very little question of it being a classic #goacc opener in Winston-Salem. The rosters and stats say that Carolina should win in a rout, the arena will be more than half-filled with giddy Carolina fans (Walmart and non-Walmart variety), and Wake Forest is worse than UNC at the line. Obviously, that means that Wake will win a close one by shooting 92 percent from the stripe.
Prediction: Wake 69-67. What say you?
Barbour: Wake 65 UNC 59. Of course, the three times I thought UNC would lose they won, but that was against ranked teams.