Tuesday, February 07, 2006

McCray Mythbuster

Now that Maryland is in the midst of a three game losing streak every reporter out there is writing articles about how the team is losing because of his absence on both the defensive and offensive end. For the last time Chris McCray was a nice roll player, a solid and experienced third year starter who could help you win games. He was not an elite player, nor was he the kind of player that made a mediocre team into a good team. Consider that in ACC games McCray was shooting just 38% from the floor and averaging only 12.8 points per game. Does that sound like the kind of player who is going to lead you to the NCAAs? Probably not. With that level of play McCray would have been unlikely to have made any All-ACC selections since that would put him in 22nd place in scoring.

We can talk about intangibles all day and not be able to quantify any of them. I find that too often when people have to point to intangibles to buttress a player's credentials they are trying to make a mediocre or merely good player into something they are not. McCray played good defense and was an adequate ball handler and passer. I'm not sure how many points that translates into and I doubt anyone else knows either. I'm convinced that even if you gave McCray credit for such nebulous traits the gap between he and his replacement wouldn't be as significant as people are pretending. Keep in mind that with McCray Maryland was 0-2 against teams with 9-3 ACC record and 3-0 against teams with an 8-19 record. The only games they could win were at home against the worst teams in the league. This group hand not proved it was capable of beating a quality opponent with McCray.

What does make a difference is the fact that Mike Jones was coming off the bench and adding an extra 7 to 9 points per game as a sixth man (in the last four games as a starter Mike Jones is averaging 14.3 points per game). Sterling Ledbetter has been getting the extra minutes that Mike Jones would have gotten as a sixth man and even more lately as a starter. In the last four games he has scored a grand total of seven points and sunk two field goals. He is a virtual non-factor on offense. Parrish Brown isn't even getting any minutes as a fourth guard which tells you most of what you need to know about his play. It isn't so much that Maryland can't replace McCray's scoring it is that they have no player on the bench who has the offensive game to replace Jones' contributions. That amounts to about 7 points less per game which would devastate any team except a few elite and deep squads. Maryland is currently very thin at shooting guard and only Jones truly has the skill set for that position. It makes Maryland's margin for error very thin these days. They can't afford off games from Caner-Medley, Jones or the assorted frontcourt starters (whoever they are at this point).

The most overrated rivalry in sports

That's right, it is time for Duke vs. North Carolina game again. Dick Vitale will again crow that it's the best rivalry in all of sports, not just college basketball. No one will admit that this has been one of the worst "rivalries" for the last eight years. Even in the national title year UNC couldn't do better than a split against Duke, in a year when a terrible Maryland team managed a sweep. This rivalry is more about selling hats and t-shirts than about competitive and intense games. There are probably a dozen or more rivalries that are more intense and competitive in college ball that don't have the appeal to the average frontrunning fan that these programs do, but just because these teams are marquee programs doesn't make the games any good. For them to be "great" games I would think the Tarheels would have to win more than three out of the last 18 games. The rivalry with Connecticut and even Maryland has produced better games over the last 5 years for Duke than any games with UNC.


Scratch said...

If UNC could only manage a split with Duke on route to a national title, then doesn't that make the rivalry more competitive rather than less? While I agree that, for the most part, this series hasn't produced many memorable games of late (with the exception of last night's thriller), there's no doubt that players, coaches, and alumni on both sides believe there's more on the line when these two teams get together year-in and year-out than against any other opponent. And that's what makes a rivalry, not margin of victory.

Esquire said...

It is certainly a rivalry, I wouldn't dispute that. But even JJ Redick's comments to Andy Katz seem to imply that he feels that the Duke/UNC rivalry has lore but that the Duke/Maryland rivalry is more intense. How can it possibly be the "best rivalry in sports" as some at the Booya Network suggest? That is completely absurd.

The Redsoxs and Yankee rivalry didn't become relevant until Boston started winning. The Redsox and their fans always hated the Yankees but until they were competitive the rivalry wasn't something that other people cared about. There are many unique and very bitter rivalries in college basketball that ESPN doesn't care to hype because the ratings are not the same. Ask the people in Kentucky about Louisville and UK games.

Xavier vs Cincinnati
Wisconsin vs Marquette
Kansas vs Missouri
Temple vs St. Joes

That doesn't even begin to mention the hundreds of other little rivalries like Vermont and New Hampshire that mean just as much to the people involved as Duke means to North Carolina.