Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wood on Fire - White Boy can SHOOT - Racism in Basketball Fandom

NC State freshman Scott Wood was on fire last night, and NC State rode it, and great free throw shooting to a big upset at #25 FSU last night.

Wood hit 7 3's and played an all-around great game. Much maligned Julius Mays hit a great string from the line to seal the victory, and Wolfpack Nation is happy.

State fans have been expecting this from Wood, but his early season shooting woes worried everyone, including his coach. But good shooters always come out of slumps.

I'm very excited about Wood and the future. But I also can't seem to shake the memory of Migjen Bakali. If my memory serves me correctly, I remember sitting in Reynolds watcing Bakali as a freshman light up Duke with 7 3's. He never quite lived up to what we expected after that.

All season I had been wondering how a white boy from Indiana ends up playing at NC State for a black coach. I now know that it was because he's from the same high school Julius Mays came from. But the bigger question is why was I wondering that at all? I think, because I'm a racist. I was going to say a reverse racist, but really a racist is a racist.

What do I mean by reverse racist? Since the days of Phil Ford, I've found myself pretty much assuming a black player was going to be better than a white one. I remember my shock sitting in Charmichael Auditorium the first time I saw Jeff Lebo. All the hype I had heard about him before he arrived in Chapel Hill had me assuming he had to be black. Despite freaks of nature like Wes Welker and Bobby Hurley, I always assume the black kid is going to be faster than the white one. Like Herb Sendek, I would have assumed there is no way Jeff Blake is going to be better than Cliff Crawford.

I know I'm not alone in seeing color as a fan of college basketball. Some Duke fans like Duke a little more because they are so white. I wouldn't even remember the name of 80's Clemson player Murray Jarman, were it not for the fact that as a white boy, he could really, really jump.

I'm not sure what it says about me, or US, but I couldn't help be struck by how much we notice these things. Good or bad, wrong or right, I couldn't help but at least notice last night when NC State had 3 white guys on the court at the same time. Should I feel bad that in 2010 I still make note of it? Am I a bit happier because the kid hitting 7 3-pointers is white? Do I give myself a pass because my favorite player is Puerto Rican, or my teams coach is black? Beats me.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The future looks bright...The Present Sucks

Hubert Davis just said "Don't overlook NC State".

I think he's right, State will beat some people this year. They should. There are some bright spots. Unfortunately all of the sentences talking about positives about NC State are two-parters. They all state a positive despite a negative.

Even though he isn't quite tall enough to play center in the ACC, Tracy Smith has some amazing moves around the basket.

While not as tall or as strong as Kyle Singler, Scott wood can really shoot the ball.

What Javier Gonzalez lacks in raw talent, he makes up for in effort and a never back down attitude.

This is what this year is going to be like. This team is a painful joy to watch. When on, they can flat out shoot the 3. But no lead is ever safe, because they can't shoot free throws. Their perimeter defense can be very Duke-like at times, but can just as quickly be exposed by a well run scheme.

Sidney Lowe I believe is a master at identifying a weakness and designing some pretty complex and involved plays to get exactly the shot he wants. When it works, it is a thing of beauty. But the team may not be disciplined or talented enough to pull it off most of the time.

I'm about 90% convinced at this point that NC State is going the right direction and within a year or two we will once again regularly be making the tournament. But man is it going to be an up-and-down journey until then.

One other thing of note I came across recently that gives Pack fans something to hang their pride on. In the 2009 Academic Progress Rate put out by the NCAA, the NC State basketball team scored 995 out of possible 1000.

This reporting system is designed to grade teams on academic performance, and punish those (by taking away scholarships) who aren't making the grade. NC State ranks #1 in the ACC. (For those of you in CH and Durham who may not be real quick at drawing conclusions, this means they ranked above UNC and Duke).

Congratulations to coach Lowe and the team on this accomplishment.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Upsets, Miracles, Curses

What a crazy couple of days. Bobby Cremmins gets an upset over UNC. Even Heel fans have to have a little appreciation for that one. If I were Cremmins, I'd retire today!

The NC State/Florida game still has me dazed. My brain still hasn't completely processed what I saw. To quickly summarize for those who were too distracted by the Panthers 3rd straight win:

Most people thought NC State didn't have the talent to stay with Florida. Florida isn't great, but they've got some talent. The Pack hung with them the entire game, I'd say probably even lead more than not. Trailing by 2 near the end, as we've seen so many times, Javier comes up with a huge play to tie the game, and we go into overtime.

Javier hits a 3, and State looks like they have the game won, up 6 in overtime. FL hits a 3, State starts misisng free throws. Lowe pulls a card from the Valvano deck and starts fouling to not give up a 3. They hit theirs, we miss ours.

Now here is where even the casual fan starts to think maybe NC State is cursed. This curse idea is common to all bottom dwellers, but anytime there is losing and guilt, the word curse is going to come up. Guilt? Oh yes, there is a lot of guilt in wolfpack nation. We feel a little guilt for all the luck we used up winning in '83. We feel guilt over the fact all standards were thrown out the door during the mid-to-late 80's. We feel guilt over firing Valvano. We feel guilt that V died, most of us assuming the firing somehow caused it. We feel guilt that we didn't appreciate Herb and ran him off. Guilty Losers soon conjur up curses.

How else do you explain it? With 3 seconds to go, down 2, Florida tries to miss a free throw. The kid tries to throw it off the back of the rim. Only, it goes in. Now, state up 2 with 2 seconds to go, we miss the free throw. That isn't so bad. I actually said moments before, "you are almost better off missing this one".

Obviously not. You could offer Chandler Parsons a million dollars and give him 20 tries, and he couldn't hit that 75 foot shot again.

How do you explain something like that? It has to be a curse ;)