Recap: Crazie-Talk at the 2011 Jordan Brand Classic

Crazie-Talk was in Charlotte for the 10th anniversary of the JBC. (Photo Crazie-Talk)

Crazie-Talk spent the day down in Charlotte today for the Jordan Brand Classic. This was the 10th edition of the big-time high school basketball all-star game, and we were lucky enough to grab a few press passes. After driving down from Durham through some rain, hail, and a couple of tornadoes (not even kidding), we ended up at the beautiful Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. None of us had ever been to the arena, which is just a little over two years old, but we found it to be an absolutely stunning facility. It’s definitely a great place to watch an up-and-coming team like the Bobcats, who are headed by an up-and-coming star in Gerald Henderson. Speaking of G, how happy do you think he is now that Larry Brown’s gone, and now that he’s not hiding down at the end of the bench anymore?

Anyways, back to the events of the day. We showed up a little bit after the start of the JBC International Game, where we saw Duke target Andrew Wiggins tear up the competition. He’s in the high school class of 2014, so we’ll probably be hearing much more from this Canadian baller as the years go on. Wiggins is an athletic SF/PF combo with tremendous upside and is going to make some college team a lot better in the near future. Let’s hope it ends up being Duke.

Next up was the Jordan Brand Regional Game, featuring some of North Carolina’s best home-grown talent. Top NC players such as Deuce Bello, Marquis Rankin, Bernard Sullivan, and Dezmine Wells took the court, as well as Duke’s own Marshall Plumlee. Also featured was Jackson Simmons, UNC’s prized recruit and pretty much the most glorious walk-on ever. Joseph Uchebo, who recently decommitted from NC State (can’t blame him…no more Kool-Aid man) had a game high twenty-one rebounds. Back to Marshall Plumlee, MP3 didn’t have a great game compared to other times that we’ve seen him, but since this was an all-star game (a glorified dunk contest, at that), we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Wait…if this was a glorified dunk contest, then shouldn’t MP3 have won? Hmm…

…Right. Anyways, at 8PM the main event tipped off. You all know by now the big names that played in the game. Anthony Davis, Tony Wroten, James McAdoo, and Rakeem Christmas all had big showings, and McAdoo/Davis ended up winning the MVP awards. Austin Rivers and Mike “Silent G” Gbinije took the floor repping Duke. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of Austin’s better outings, and he ended up finishing with 16 points on 4-15 shooting from the field. Austin’s offensive game is extremely versatile, and he incorporates a variety of outside shots and moves off the dribble into his repertoire. But, we could also already see where he might have some issues next year at Duke. Yes, yes, we realize that this was an all-star game, and the actual gameplay shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and all that. But, even based on the other games we’ve watched him play in, we can see that he has the ability to shoot a team into, or conversely out of, a game. It’s a scary proposition for a Duke team next year in which Rivers will be asked to provide a significant portion of our offensive firepower. But don’t get us wrong, though. When he’s on, he’s on, and sometimes just can’t seem to miss from anywhere on the court. That just wasn’t the case tonight.  Austin Rivers’ offensive prowess will certainly contribute to making next year…interesting. Here are some postgame comments from Austin:

Another Duke commit, Michael Gbinije, also took the floor in tonight’s all-star game. Gbinije, despite being one of the top players in his class, was ineligible for the McDonalds All-American game because of the fact that he’s a 5th year high school senior. You’ve gotta admit though, Mike Gbinije’s been flying a little bit under the radar as of late. Some people that we’ve talked to tend to forget about Mike G, who is the 4th member of Duke’s outstanding recruiting class for next year. We all know about Austin Rivers, the top recruit in the country, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers,  yada yada yada. We know about Quinn Cook, in large part because of his very close relationship with @Ndotsmitty, his god-brother. We know about Marshall Plumlee because, of course, he’s the third in a line of high-jumping, power-dunking, shot-blocking, and sometimes dumb-fouling brothers from Indiana.

We know Duke’s other 3 recruits pretty well. So then, who is Mike Gbinije? This is Mike G:

Gbinije had an efficient outing and showed some flashes of brilliance. He is a versatile player, a good shooter with range beyond the arc, not bad off the dribble, and an above average athlete. A good comparison here might be to a young Gerald Henderson, minus G’s extraterrestrial leaping ability. Still, Gbinije wasn’t afraid to sky on some questionable oops sent his way from the East team PGs. However, we believe that Gbinije is a better shooter than Hendo was coming out of high school, and he stands at around 6’7-6’8 compared to Henderson’s 6’5.  Gbinije is in the process of refining his game and has the physical assets  to become the next in a long, long line of successful Duke wings. He finished with a respectable 10 points coming from a three, an and-one drive to the bucket, and a few mid range jumpers. Nothing eye-popping, but an all-around solid performance. Next to national prep superstars such as Anthony Davis and their gynormous unibrows, it’s understandable how Gbinije could be overshadowed. But remember, as a man named Dwayne Carter once famously said: “Real Gs move in silence like lasagna.”

He was, of course, referring to the one and only, Michael “Silent G” Gbinije.

That’ll do it for this recap from the 2011 Jordan Brand Classic. Crazie-Talk will keep you updated on Duke basketball happenings throughout the offseason! Peace.

Crazie-Talk on the Duke Chronicle Sports Blog

Hey folks,

I had the chance to speak with Andy Moore, editor of the Duke Chronicle Sports section, about the genesis of our website, the @NotCoachK Twitter account, and next year’s Duke team.

Check out the recorded podcast of the interview on the Chronicle sports blog, The Blue Zone.

Thanks again to Andy and everyone at the Chronicle for the chance to interview.

After listening to WHOLE PODCAST (you better) come back here and check out Duke Dunks 10-11, an enjoyable compilation from DukeBluePlanet.

Experts: The Transformation of Final Four Stadiums

By Aaron Gordon of 15min2exit.com

The Final Four has always struck me as an odd event. It is the only time where a sport completely transforms its game day environment for its biggest event. College basketball is largely played in intimate and intense environments in front it’s most passionate fans. But, when it comes time for the Final Four, the game moves to a football stadium and the size of the crowd is quadrupled.

The view from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the home of the Indianapolis Colts and the 2010 Final Four. (Property of Crazie-Talk)

As far as I’m concerned, there are two considerations in the transformation of the Final Four from a basketball arena to a football stadium: the quality of the stadium, and the location of the court. We can see two distinct stages in the NCAA’s quest to make the Final Four a premier event in American sports.

The first stage was the move from basketball arenas to larger stadiums. This move began in 1997 with the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. By my estimation, the NCAA didn’t really understand what type of venues needed to be used. They experimented with all types of larger venues: decent stadiums (RCA Dome in 1997 and 2000, Alamodome in 1998 and 2004, Georgia Dome in 2002, and Super Dome in 2003), less than decent stadiums (Edward Jones Dome in 2005) and atrocities (Tropicana Field in 1999 and the Metrodome in 2001). This stage of experimentation was highlighted by the Tropicana Field Final Four of 1999. Tropicana Field was one of the worst stadiums in baseball the day it opened, and has only cemented its status thereafter. How it was awarded the Final Four is beyond me. (Ed. note: Maybe that’s why Duke lost to UConn in 1999…aha!)

At some point, likely soon after the Tropicana Field fiasco, the NCAA decided to start awarding Final Fours to actually good stadiums. The decent stadiums held their ground through the mid 2000’s (RCA Dome, Georgia Dome and Alamodome in 2006-2008), and then Ford Field was given the event in 2009. This was a groundbreaking year for the Final Four for two reasons. First, a premier facility was given the event (it was the first stadium in the large venue era of the Final Four that was state-of-the-art). Second, and more importantly, this was the first year the court was placed in the middle of the arena

Prior to Ford Field, the court had been placed towards one endzone, and only half of the large venue was open to seating. Of course, this still offered twice the capacity of a basketball arena. The Georgia Dome and Alamodome saw attendances of 51,458 and 43,257 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The next year, when Ford Field placed the court on the 50 yard line, the attendance increased to 72,922 because they opened the entire stadium to fans.

One might think this worked out much worse for all 73,000 in attendance, but this was not the case.Under the previous endzone format, fans sitting in the temporary seats had the experience of watchingthe back of the person’s head in front of them. By putting the court in the center, more of the seatingaround the court could be specifically designed for the basketball game, and the pitch of the seats couldbe altered.

This 50 yard line format has been used in every subsequent Final Four, including this year’s in Reliant Stadium. The transformation is complete for the NCAA. They have successfully brought the biggest event they have in front of as many people as possible. There’s just one problem: everything that makes basketball great is nullified when placed on the 50 yard line of a football stadium. The Crazies should know this best. Cameron Indoor is a tiny, tiny venue by today’s standards, and yet it is often lauded as one of the best venues in college sports. This is no coincidence. Basketball is a game designed for anintimate environment. The extreme athleticism of the players is best appreciated when fans are actually close enough to marvel at them. The further away you are, the slower they look and the less impressive it all seems.

 

Courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com

The friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Friendly to Duke, that is. (Photo courtesy of BluePlanetShots.com)

Likewise, Cameron Indoor is one of the best venues because every single fan is into the game, screaming like asylum patients and shaking like them, too. 8,000 fans in a tiny gym are exponentially more intimidating and chill-inducing than 70,000 screaming fans in a football stadium. It is depersonalizing and estranged. You’re spectators, not participants.

Of course, that is even assuming all 70,000 attendees are screaming fans, which of course they are not. A majority of the fans at the Final Four these days are indifferent. They are exactly who the NCAA is marketing to now: casual spectators coming to an event, not passionate fans who would attend regardless of the cost.

But, as Cormac McCarthy wrote in No Country For Old Men, this is the dismal tide. The NCAA wants basketball in on the riches the Super Bowl or the BCS Championship offers, and they see the nature of the game as irrelevant in their quest for further prosperity. You know, because the NCAA doesn’t make enough money already. And it’s not just money from the extra seats; they can charge more for advertising since more eyes will see it, and they can ask more for TV deals.

I suppose this is just the state of modern sports. Personally, I think it affects college basketball the most, since it is the sport most ill-suited for profit-seeking maximization. It is best enjoyed on a small, intimate scale. It has the smallest playing surface, the densest concentration of athletes, and the most subtle movements have the biggest impact. It is a beautiful game to watch, but not from 500 feet away.

Aaron Gordon, a senior at the University of Maryland, is the founder of 15min2exit.com, a blog about the stadium experience for fans of all sports. Check the site out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks to Aaron for this excellent article in the wake of this year’s Final Four. And for being the most balanced University of Maryland basketball fan of all time.

If you like this kind of material, check Crazie-Talk frequently. There are so many talented college basketball writers (many that follow our Twitter) and we’re excited to start publishing a greater variety of articles. If you have a story idea, pitch it to us: crazietalk@gmail.com. Thanks!

Five Questions on Duke vs. UNC

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s finally that time of the year again.  After a Super Bowl weekend full of national anthem gaffes, provocative Groupon commercials, and a whole lot of Greg Jennings puttin’ the team on his back, we can finally focus on what really matters in the world of sports (at least to us). It’s finally time for us to shift our focus back to the hardwood as we approach what arguably is the greatest rivalry in sports: Duke versus UNC.   In anticipation of tonight’s matchup, Crazie-Talk compiled our own “Top 5” questions surrounding the game:

Mason Plumlee, showing off his post game against the Wolfpack (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

1)   Will the real Mason Plumlee please stand up?

One of the keys to a Duke victory is how well Mason Plumlee plays on both sides of the ball.  In Duke’s two losses thus far, the Sophomore Forward has combined for a measly 5 points, coming off of only one made field goal.  The volatile play, coupled with his 38% free-throw rate, remain key challenges that Duke must overcome if they expect to make a deep run in the tournament.  I expect Mason to have a solid shooting performance on Wednesday, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more of those baby hooks he pulled against NC State.  But if he doesn’t show improvement in his shooting by mid-March, expect the “Hack-a-Plumlee”  to become a defensive staple among opposing teams.

2)   Can Duke hit free throws?

Though problems at the line primarily involve Duke’s big men, this year’s squad has uncharacteristically underperformed from the charity stripe.   Duke shot 53% from the line while missing 15 free throws in their last game against NC State, a stark contrast from the usually reliable teams of the past.  While the team successfully masked its free-throw deficiency against State, don’t expect for that trend to continue as conference play begins to heat up.  One can simply rewind back to the Derrick Rose-led 2007-2008 Memphis Tigers (or any Clemson team of the last 10 years) to see a prime example of how a talented squad can cripple under lackluster free-throw ability.

After weeks of tenting, K-Ville residents are finally ready for the biggest game of the year (photo courtesy of DukeBlue Planet.com)

3)   Will the three ball drop?

I know, I know—this entire article seems to revolve around shooting.  But on a team without the senior leadership of Zoubek and LT, it’s time to accept the fact that this squad will ultimately rely on its perimeter play.  It’s no secret that this team, similar to previous Blue Devil squads, relies heavily on the 3-point shot.  A good shooting night can lead to a blowout, but a poor performance can plague an entire team into defeat (see: St John’s game).  If Duke wants to beat a talented Carolina team tonight, they’ll need to find a balance in their offense if the 3’s don’t start falling.

4)   Does UNC’s return to the Coaches Top 25 mean anything?

It seems that John Henson and Co. took the “making other peoples’ lives relevant” concept to a whole new level.  As UNC re-enters the top 25,  The Tar Heels coincidentally have finally made themselves relevant again.  Sarcasm aside, this team has improved tremendously from the beginning of the season. Carolina has won three straight ACC games by 20+ points, the first time that has happened since the 05-06 season.  The recent success, which occurred in the midst of Larry Drew II’s sudden departure (validating the concept of ‘addition by subtraction’), hinges on the strong play of Henson, Barnes, and Drew’s replacement, Kendall Marshall.  They are coming into the tonight’s rivalry game with a lot of momentum, so expect a strong performance from UNC.

Larry Drew II, and his turnovers, will be sorely missed on Wednesday (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

5)   Who wins the game?

Had I written this post at the beginning of the year, I would’ve easily given the nod to Duke in this matchup.  The Blue Devils simply had more experience, offensive firepower, and coaching than their counterparts at Chapel Hill.  However, after the world’s most famous toe—no, not you Mrs. Rex Ryan—took away the nation’s most dynamic point guard, the two teams should enter tonight’s game on much more equal footing.  I expect for this game to be much closer than most may predict—a Duke victory with a margin of around 3-5 points.  At the very least, UNC will play much better than they did in last year’s epic fail (see video below).  Watch for the Cameron Crazies, as usual, to push the Blue Devils past the Tar Heels in a very physical matchup between the two rivals.

Prediction: Duke wins 73-70

BONUS QUESTION:

What will Rashad Mccants’s father post on Facebook after the game?

Crazie-Talk on ESPN2 SportsNation at 4 pm Today!

HUGE NEWS, Crazie-Talk readers!

In what may be our ‘big bump,’ Crazie-Talk will be featured on the popular show SportsNation today on ESPN2 at 4 PM. Every day the show highlights one sports website that they like, and today that site is us!

Check out the show at 4pm on ESPN2 to see Crazie-Talk go global. I really hope we don’t draw the ire of Colin Cowherd, or god forbid, Skip Bayless make a guest appearance!

Thanks to all of our readers for making Crazie-Talk such a great experience for us to produce. We reached 100,000 total visits this morning – which is mind-blowing, seeing as the five of us started this site just under seven months ago. We appreciate all of your comments and feedback and hope you keep coming back!