Posted on: November 23, 2009 9:19 pm

The Poll Attacks

I still have North Carolina ahead of Duke in the Top 25 (and one).

I'll explain why in the Poll Attacks .

AP poll: Do we suddenly believe Duke is better than North Carolina?

If so, I'm fine with it.

It's a reasonable opinion.

But most people didn't believe that in the preseason, and the majority of AP voters didn't believe it last week. Still, Duke jumped North Carolina in Monday's AP poll even though the only thing that happened between last week and this week is that North Carolina played Ohio State and Syracuse, i.e., two teams far superior to any team Duke has played. That's it. Thus, I kept UNC ahead of Duke in the Top 25 (and one) because I'm not going to vault the Blue Devils ahead of the Tar Heels -- who beat OSU but lost to Syracuse -- and rearrange the ACC's predicted order of finish simply because Duke's schedule didn't require it to play tough games before Thanksgiving.

Honestly, where would the Tar Heels be with Duke's schedule?

They'd be 4-0, right?

And where would Duke be with UNC's schedule?

Maybe 5-0. But probably 4-1. And perhaps as bad as 3-2.

Either way, if you had UNC ahead of Duke last week, and you moved Duke ahead of UNC this week despite agreeing with me that Duke would probably be no better than 4-1 against UNC's schedule, then your change atop the ACC is based on how the schedule makers at Duke and UNC did their jobs, and little more.

Again, if you think the Blue Devils are better than UNC, that's fine.

They might well be.

But if you only moved Duke ahead of UNC because Duke won last week and UNC lost last week, then your rankings have more to do with the schedules than the teams, and that's crazy.

Coaches poll: So what do you think California has to do to drop out of the rankings?

Losing a key player (Theo Robertson) to injury didn't do it.

Looking awful in two games in NYC didn't do it.

Being 2-2 with no good wins didn't do it.

So what will it take?

No question, Cal could end up being one of the best 25 teams in the country, at which point ranking the Bears 24th might make sense. But the coaches ranking them 24th now makes no sense unless what happens on the court doesn't actually matter. And it's not just that Cal lost; the nation's 24th-best team could reasonably lose to Syracuse and Ohio State. But Cal had no shot in either game, losing to the Orange by 22 points and falling behind by 24 points in the second half of an eventual loss to Ohio State. And though the absence of Robertson is a solid explanation, it's not like Robertson is back this week.

He's out indefinitely.

California should be, too.
Posted on: November 18, 2009 3:51 pm

Dear Gary (on why I predicted Barnes to UNC)

Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: On Friday you wrote that if Harrison Barnes chose UNC you would elaborate on your "reasons" why you changed your prediction to UNC at the last minute. I'm curious as to what these "reasons" were.

-- Luke

First. let me apologize for my empty promise, because I did write last Friday that -- against the advice of most recruiting experts -- I was picking Barnes to sign with North Carolina , and that if I was correct I'd share why I changed my mind from Duke. Naturally, I was correct. But I never shared why I changed my mind, and a bunch of you have asked me to do it, and, well, here you go.

I was at Kansas for "Late Night in the Phog."

So were Harrison Barnes and his mother and his sister.

I had the joy of spending about an hour with the family on that Saturday morning, right after Kansas finished practicing. Harrison wanted to get a workout in, so he worked out while I sat with his mother, Shirley Barnes, and we chatted for a good long while. The conversation reminded me why Harrison is such a well-adjusted young man, because his mother is simply tremendous. Smart, funny, engaging, informed. If every high-level recruit had a mother like Shirley Barnes, recruiting wouldn't be nearly the circus it has become.

Anyway, we talked.

And though I never asked her to share secrets (mostly because I knew she wouldn't), the one thing that stuck out from the totally casual conversation was how she seemed genuinely blown away by Roy Williams' decision to offer her son, wait on her son and promise not to recruit anybody else at his position, no matter what. As some of you may know, this is not how North Carolina normally operates, because it doesn't have to operate that way. UNC offers a kid, he accepts or the Tar Heels move on to the next best kid. They don't wait because they don't have to wait. Eventually, and usually sooner rather than later, an elite prospect accepts, and that's why North Carolina is North Carolina, the reigning national champions.

But for Harrison Barnes, Roy Williams was willing to wait.

This seemed to matter to Shirley Barnes.

And when I told her that Duke has taken a similar approach with certain prospects in recent years, Shirley reminded me that Duke was actively recruiting Roscoe Smith, i.e., another elite small forward from the Class of 2010. I just remember being struck by that comment, how she seemed impressed by UNC's decision to focus solely on her son while Duke recruited both her son and Smith. She brought it up, not me. And when I walked out of the gym I just felt, for the first time, that North Carolina was the team to beat for Barnes.
It's possible I read too much into those comments.

It's possible I read them perfectly.

Either way, that's why I thought what I thought.

And now, I think, we can all move on.
Posted on: November 13, 2009 3:10 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2009 3:11 pm

Dear Gary (on Harrison Barnes' decision)

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Gee what a shock. YOU picking against Duke . A true rarity.

-- Jeff

I didn't predict/guess that Harrison Barnes will announce for North Carolina because of anything that has to do with Duke. I have my reasons, and one of those reasons is because one of the coaches involved in the recruitment (not a UNC coach, by the way) told me he thinks it'll be the Tar Heels. I also have another reason, and I'll share that one with you later, if I'm correct.

In the meantime, here's a text I just got from a coach involved in the recruitment:

"I honestly have no idea."

Pretty suspenseful, huh?
Posted on: November 13, 2009 8:07 am
Edited on: November 13, 2009 8:09 am

Final prediction/guess: Barnes to UNC

Harrison Barnes will announce his college decision Friday at 4 p.m. ET.

At this moment, nobody seems to know where he's headed.

Officially, the nation's top recruit is considering Duke, Iowa State, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and UCLA, but most believe -- and I've forever reported -- the choice will be Duke or UNC. For the longest time, I've thought Barnes would pick Duke, team with Kyrie Irving and help Mike Krzyzewski get back to the Final Four. And he still might. But my final prediction is that Barnes will sign with North Carolina and become the next great Tar Heel.

To be clear, that's my prediction/guess, nothing more.

If I'm right, I'll explain why I switched to UNC later today.

If I'm wrong, we'll forget all about this and just remember that I predicted Duke a long time ago.

Either way, it's happening at 4 p.m. ET.

Far as recruiting announcements go, it doesn't get bigger.
Posted on: November 12, 2009 3:03 pm

Duke McDonald's All-American breaks wrist

Duke freshman Mason Plumlee fractured his left wrist Wednesday in practice and is out indefinitely.

"Mason took a hard fall in practice on Wednesday that resulted in the wrist injury," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "It was an unfortunate play but we are confident that he will make a full recovery. Mason is going to be a very good player for us and we look forward to him getting healthy and returning to the court."

Plumlee was a McDonald's All-American in high school.

He averaged 12.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in two exhibitions.

Duke opens the regular season Friday against UNC-Greensboro.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 12, 2009 8:51 am
Edited on: November 12, 2009 8:52 am

Kyrie Irving as Zac Efron

First things first: Kyrie Irving can't sing.

He's pretty awful, actually.

But it's still fun to see the Duke signee participating in a high school play -- a rendition of "High School Musical" -- and it's impossible to watch the clip courtesy of NJ.com (via Deadspin.com ) and not come away impressed. Too often, elite athletes think their too cool to get involved in anything that doesn't include dunking. But Irving willfully took himself out of his element and put himself on a stage with classmates, and for that he has my respect.

Anyway, click this link (and scroll down) to check it out.

(And cover your ears.)
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 12, 2009 8:45 am
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Posted on: November 9, 2009 5:17 pm

Because I know some of you gamble ...

Bodog.com likes Kansas and Kentucky just as much as I like Kansas and Kentucky .

I visited the gambling site not because I'm a gambler, but because I wanted see the championship odds for certain schools. What I found is that Kansas (4-to-1) is the favorite followed by Kentucky (5-to-1). North Carolina (15-to-2) is third. Then it's Duke (10-to-1), Michigan State (12-to-1), Louisville (12-to-1), Texas (12-to-1), and Villanova (12-to-1).

Click this link (and scroll down) to check it out.
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