Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cameron-Duke follow-up

Here are a few pictures from the past weekend:

Doesn't my nephew look like a future point guard?

K-ville is getting ready for Duke-Carolina

I couldn't believe it was already spring in North Carolina and things were blooming. It definitely isn't the same in Minneapolis:

Out of the 3 titles Duke has won, 2 of them were in Minneapolis:

DeMarcus Nelson for three.

The nice retirees next to me took the picture near the end of the game. If you notice, no one has left the game despite the fact that it was a 30 point blowout.

Cameron ater the game

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Heaven is Cameron Indoor Stadium

Today was a beautiful February day in North Carolina. The sun was shinning and it was warm enough not to need a sweatshirt or jacket, but cold enough not to have to worry about sweating. The afternoon of game day started with me picking up some BBQ beef brisket, mac and cheese, and 1/2 gallon of sweet tea at Bullock's BBQ in Durham. With my stomach full of southern goodness it was time to head over to the Duck Shop to pick up some understated Duke gear. My sister might have laughed at me when I came out of the the store, but in my mind the Duke ripoff pants long sleeve blue shirt was well worth the $80.

Being that I might never see another Duke basketball game, I thought that I would have to do it right. I showed up two hours early and just walked around Cameron and Krzyzewskiville trying to soak it all in. For me it felt like a movie that should be set to a soundtrack of songs from the band Explosions in the Sky. It is rare for moments with such lofty expectations live up to them. Gameday at Duke exceeded every expectation.

Below is my best breakdown of Duke on gameday:

The Cameron Crazies:

There has been plenty of talk about the Cameron Crazies and the fans live up to the hype. They were there 2 hours before the game lined up outside the stadium waiting for entry. Once unleashed into the stadium the students ran inside to get the best seats to cheer both for Duke and against St. John's. The Crazies are both intimidating, insulting, and clever without crossing the line. For example when an small, somewhat lumpy looking (5ft 9in 155lb Sophomore Matt Duell) St. John's player was warming up the Crazies starting chanting "Umpa Lumpa" over and over. Now, I don't know if it is worst to be called an Umpa Lumpa or to be listed as a 5ft 9inch forward on I don't know of any 5'9" players that could be forwards in women's basketball.

Cameron Indoor Stadium

The stadium itself is remarkable in how small it is. Never in your life will you be around 9,314 people (Duke's capacity) and feel like it is a small gathering of friends. The new generic box arenas (think the Target Center or Dean Dome) that are so prevalent might hold more than twice the amount of people (capacity 20,500 and 21,750 respectively), but as the saying goes bigger isn't always better. In those arena's cases bigger most definitely is worse. Basketball isn't like football or baseball where big stadiums help convey a larger than life aspect to those sports. Basketball is for lack of a better word a more intimate sport and and is something that needs to be enjoyed up close. Thankfully Cameron Indoor Stadium forces one to be close to the action.

Another great thing about Cameron is that it doesn't force anything on you. There aren't any songs playing during the game or a jumbotron telling you when to cheer. Nobody is tossing t-shirts into the stands or trying to entertain you with some inane contest at every single moment during the game experience At Cameron the game is the experience. Cameron Indoor Stadium is the way people were meant to watch basketball and if there were more places like it then there would be more true basketball fans. I truly believe people would respond to passion, enthusiasm, tradition, and quality basketball viewed up close. Strip away the fat and just give us the red meat.

Maybe, I am just being unrealistic because for every winner there is a loser? For every Duke there is a New Jersey Institute of Technology (check out their record). For those teams maybe artificial measures need to be taken to try and entertain the crowd. Thankfully Duke doesn't have to worry any time soon about fielding a bad team.

The game

Duke beat St. John's 86-56. They were down 7-0 and tied for the first 10 minutes before turning on the afterburners and blowing out the young Red Storm team. They had balanced scoring and were playing with a definite edge after two straight loses. This is the type of game that hopefully will help right the ship and be the beginning of a winning streak.

The Upper Level Fans or what I like to call the Cameron Retirees

Not to be confused with the Cameron Crazies who are students, these fans are either long-time Duke fans, Duke fans with lots of money, or more likely both. The average age of these fans is roughly 65 and that is including the age of their grandchildren that they bring along to the games.

I was sitting three rows up in the Upper Level (which was an amazing seat) right across from the Duke bench and right behind the Crazies. Next to me was a retired Duke professor and his wife. She was one of the nicest ladies you could meet and with whom I had a friendly conversation. She informed me that her and husband had been sitting in those seats and going to Duke games since 1978. They go to men's and women's basketball games as well as football games. She lovingly referred to players by their first name ("DeMarcus is such a nice guy"), criticized the refs ("You see because Duke is good their are a lot of people who don't like them. That includes the refs") and spoke of the virtues of former Duke players ("Chris Duhon still comes back and runs a summer camp in Durham"). We shared stories and even a high five after a Greg Paulus three pointer. At the end of the game I shook hands with both of them and wished them and Duke luck.

In addition to these nice people I met the Cameron Retirees also include the Crazy Towel Guy and an approximately 90 year old man who brings a trumpet to play for the appreciate student section.

The Food

They serve Chick-Fil-A and Bullocks BBQ inside the stadium. It is a crime that a cardboard flavored Dome Dog at the Metrodome costs about the same as the best chicken sandwich in the southeastern United States.

The Females

Duke girls are underrated. While there weren't many knockouts, there were plenty of B pluses and A minuses. My brother-in-law disagrees, but what can you expect from a Carolina student? Of course none of the girls compare to OSU field hockey girls.


At my former job they taught me that if you don't recap it then it didn't happen. I think the above should be enough of a recap for now. There will more to come later as I look through (and post) the pictures, but for now I have written enough. Thank you to M and my family (even the Carolina section of my family) for providing a remarkable, memorable quarter century gift.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Going to Carolina

Yesterday, I went to see the Timberwolves-Spurs game (another heartbreaking loss for the Twolves) and was talking about it with my coworkers today at lunch. During this conversation the subject of former UNC and current Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Rashad McCants. I was making fun of both his ability, his "Rashad Revolution" fist pumping video graphic that comes on the Jumbotron every time McCants scores a basket, and the price one might pay for a signed Rashad McCants Black History poster. The consensus was A) McCants has accomplished more in the Nba than JJ Redick (which is unfortunately true), B) The Rashad Revolution video reminds me of a communist-era propaganda video and C) No one would pay more than $20 for that poster.

Anyway, the topic of me disliking past UNC players came up. I mentioned the McCants "can't wait till he gets out of jail" quote and Rasheed Wallace introducing the masses to the acronym CTC. My current boss started naming former UNC players (Brad Daugherty, JR Reid) and asking me to comment on what I disliked about them. I told him my reasons for disliking them and he finally acquiesced.

And then he brought up Tyler.

He said something to the affect of "well, you at least have to like Tyler Hansbrough." I replied that no, in fact I do not like Tyler Hansbrough and was thisclose to telling him my abridged version of the top 10 reasons why you should dislike Tyler Hansbrough. Then I realized that it is time to change. I am drinking the Obama kool-aid and it it is time for me to (if only briefly) make a change for the better. For that reason I am going to give up for Lent (replacing my previous sacrifice of fast food) talking poorly of Tyler Hansbrough. This will be my olive branch to the player of the year candidate from the University of North Carolina. Until Easter Sunday there will be no negative thoughts towards Psycho T and I will try to severely limit my negative thoughts on UNC.

This might be difficult especially considered that UNC at Duke and the ACC tournament will be going on during Lent, but I think it is necessary. The negative energy that has at times come out of this blog needs to stop. Duke has lost two straight to unranked teams and UNC has been doing better and better without Ty Lawson. Now Lawson is coming back and UNC looks poised to have the momentum heading into the ACC tournament. If they win that then it is all but guaranteed that they get the cushy Ralegih, Charlotte path to the Final Four, which means that they would only be two wins away from hanging up their 3rd banner during my lifetime. These 3 banners would be the same number as Duke has won during my lifetime. Also, they would put to rest the fact that Roy Williams can't win the big one (still there until he wins with his players). Finally, the national championship would make UNC fans canonize Tyler Hansbrough in a way that would make George Lynch and Sean May jealous.

I am channeling my inner Rick Pitino and stopping the negative thinking. Hopefully, by doing this I will increase the positive karma for Duke. As Stewart Mandel pointed out Duke has struggled at the end of the season in past past few years and this year looks to be no different. I guess all I am trying to say has already been said before by Rocky:

"I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change "

Tonight I leave to go to North Carolina and tomorrow I will be at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the Duke-St. John's game. I am as excited as Andy Dufresne driving his convertible down to Mexico. Stay tuned for posting on my thoughts of the greatest college basketball arena in the country.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Something is foul

In the wake of Duke's loss last night in which every starter fouled out lets revisit an age old passion of mine of questioning the refs.   You see Duke gets a lot of press about always getting all the calls, but in my mind they are the wrong team from North Carolina being singled out.  I know I am a Duke fan and I am biased against UNC, but while watching UNC games I find myself wondering if the referees are seeing the same game that I am seeing.   Every time Tyler Hansbrough trips over his feet it seems like UNC always gets the call.   This is obviously a subjective view, so I thought I would try and find some objective evidence for my theory that UNC gets all the calls.

Before the evidence let me make some key points:
  1. Just because one team shoots a ton more free throws than the other team doesn't mean it wasn't a correctly officiated game.  There are some teams that foul more often (think 1980s Detroit Pistons), which would obviously result in more free throws for the opponent.   Also, there are also some teams that rarely take the ball inside which is where more fouls occur.
  2. UNC rarely shoots three pointers (which a foul rarely occurs on) because they normally takes the ball inside with their post players.   That is one possible reason why UNC would be a team that shot a decent amount of free throws.
  3. Another reason that UNC shoots a lot of free throws is that they are a good (not great) team.   Being a good team they are usually are ahead at the end of the game, which can result in a team fouling on purpose at the end of the game in order to try and extend the game.
Now that those 3 clarifying points are out in the open one might expect North Carolina to have an advantage from the foul line.   Now what kind of advantage would a team expect from those points above?   That is hard (not impossible) to quantity, but I can imagine (ie guess) that it might result in an increase in free throws of upwards of 20-30%.  Now lets look at the statistics that I found:
  1. In 26 out of North Carolina's 28 games they have shot more free throws than their opponent.   Just in case you don't have a calculator handy that means that in 92% of their games they have an advantage at the foul line.   If you are curious the two games were the Maryland home loss and a victory at Rutgers.  
  2. UNC has played 5 really close games in the ACC that if you would have changed one possession UNC would have lost.   There were the two Clemson games that combined included 3 overtimes.   Also, there two 1 point victories on the road against Georgia Tech and Virginia.  The fifth and final one I am referring to is the 11 point overtime victory over Florida St.   If you look at the foul differences in those 5 games it goes something like this:  
  3. In UNC's two point OT victory over Clemson: 30-27 in favor of UNC
  4. In UNC's one point victory over Georgia Tech: 26-10 in favor of UNC
  5. In UNC's eleven point OT victory over Florida St: 33-15 in favor of UNC
  6. In UNC's ten point double OT victory over Clemson: 36-7 in favor of UNC
  7. In UNC's one point victory over Virginia: 12-11 in favor of UNC.
  8. In total for those five games UNC shot 137 free throws compared to their opponents only shooting 60.   
Now I wasn't a math major (even though stats is pretty close) in college, but I can calculate that means UNC has a better than two to one advantage at the foul line in their close ACC games.   If I had a unlimited amount of time I would report the foul difference in all the ACC games, all the non-conference games, and analyze game tape to produce a Youtube video. Unfortunately I have a job counting widgets that I actually really like and definitely want to keep. 

It is hard not to read the above stats and at least question the validity of some of UNC's victories and think that maybe UNC does get the majority of the calls.  It has gotten to the point that you might as well add an A to the acronym, so that UNC could stand for University of No Calls Against.  

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Usual

This past week I went to my favorite downtown Minneapolis quick service skyway food option (Zen Box) to have the Creamy Potato Croquette. I used to be able to eat this all the time because I used to work downtown. Now that I work out in the 'burbs I still make an effort to drive downtown at least once a month to get my fix. Anyway, when I was there the owner saw me, smiled and said "Hi, do you want the usual?" All my live I have wanted to go to a restaurant or bar and have someone ask me if I wanted the usual. Now I have finally been granted that wish and I can tell you that it is a sweet as it sounds.

Other quick points:
  • I didn't see the game, but how did UNC shoot 36 free throws to Clemson's 7 in this past Saturday's game in which UNC won in double OT. Michael Wilbon mentioned in PTI how bad the officiating was in that game and I will only have to take his word for it.
  • I'm only a week away from Cameron Indoor Stadium for a Duke home game.
  • If Kobe is out for the All-Star game his replacement should be Deron Williams.
  • How does Minnesota lose to Boston again? It was a great game, but it would be nice if the Timberwolves could win a few more times.
  • Here is a great article on sandwichs in America.
  • Going to Mystic Lake tonight to play a little blackjack. It almost feels like Christmas in Mississippi.
  • Big Love Season 2 wasn't as good as Season 1 in my opinion.
  • Stewart Mandel's book is worth a read if you are in intersted in college football.
  • Three people close to me (A Mom, a Brother-in-law, and a girlfriend have given me seperate copies of this Duke-Carolina book.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Duke vs. UNC

Congrats to my brother-in-law for getting a ticket and going to the game tonight at the Dean Dome.  For some reason (maybe the score 89-78) I think I would have had a better time in his seat.
  • Overall it was a sloppy game and not something I would want to watch on ESPN Classic.
  • As you are reading this Ty Hansbrough just fouled another Duke player thinking that the game wasn't over.
  • Good job by the refs for calling Psycho T whenever he traveled.  Most refs are afraid of calling a foul on Hansbrough at Carolina.
  • Why did I get flashbacks to the 2005 when Duke went up 8 with about 3 minutes?   I was glad that ESPN didn't show a shot of Marvin Williams.
  • However, I wasn't happy that ESPN didn't show any shots of ugly Carolina girls crying after the game.
  • Greg Paulus is such a frustrating player, but those 3 points shots were clutch.
  • Welcome to UNC-Duke Taylor King.  Hopefully, King will play more than 3 minutes and not airball one of his 3s in his next game against the Tar Heels.
  • Alex Van Pelt just said that Carolina has "obscene depth" expect at the point guard position.  I know that it is just slang, but I kind of like thinking of Carolina's team as being disgusting and repulsive.  
  • At one point in the 2nd half Duke was shooting the same percentage from 3 pointers as from the free throw line.  They ended up the game still shooting under 60% from the free throw line and over 40% from the 3pt line.   On some free throws I felt like they should just have stepped back.
  • UNC without Lawson isn't a top 10 ten team.  He makes Ellington, Green, and everyone else much better and without him you could see those players struggle.   The wrong player from UNC is being considered a National Player of the Year candidate. 
  • During the first half I wondered if Carolina knew that shots behind the line on the permitter were worth three points.  They guarded Duke as if Duke had a front line of Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand.
  • Great game Lance Thomas.   The block on Danny Green briefly reminded me of the Battier block on Joe Forte.
  • Has there been a better sports week than Giants over Patriots and Duke over UNC?
I will leave you with this picture (no caption needed) which is currently on the home page of