One month till graduation

This blog post is a little different from the recent ones I’ve been doing. It does have to do with where we are going, and by we I’m really talking about college seniors. I know I’m not the only one getting ready to graduate, not the only one with a lot of uncertainty in my life, but regardless it’s easy to feel that way.

I mean after all, the rest of my birthdays seem meaningless at this point, just like everyone told me they would after you turn 21. Growing up is scary.

I think this time in our lives demands a lot of soul searching, even more so than leaving home after high school did. There’s a lot of pressure to be successful, especially after graduating from prestigious universities. Nobody wants to have to rely on their parents at this point in their lives. I think all of those things make this time in our lives particularly challenging.

One day I’m confident I’ll look back on this stressful stage and laugh, but understand that this period was one of the most defining periods of my lifetime. Luckily, there are tons of other people out there feeling the same thing, outside of the lucky, extremely qualified ones who already have job offers or have accepted a job.

At the end of the day, I really think the most important thing, aside from applying for jobs, is to enjoy the rest of the time we have left in school.

It’s hard to believe that I really only have one month of college left. Leaving UNC won’t be easy, but not everything in life comes easy. Here’s to hoping for stability in our lives again, sooner rather than later.

And if you need any inspiration here you go.

Bring the ACC tournament back to Greensboro

I’m sitting here watching the Miami/Syracuse game currently taking place at the Barclays Center on ESPN and the first thing that came to my mind is, where is the Syracuse crowd? Isn’t this the whole reason the tournament was moved to Brooklyn?

Granted, the crowd is starting to fill in, but that’s mainly because Duke is about to play.

I get the reasoning behind it and I don’t have a problem with the tournament moving around every once in a while. Attendance for the 2016 tournament in Washington was down almost 16k from attendance for the 2015 tournament in Greensboro. Greensboro actually holds more people than the Verizon Center in Washington, but the fact that the tournament regularly sells out in Greensboro tells you all you need to know about college basketball in the triangle.

The tournament won’t be back in Greensboro until 2020, that of course is reliant on HB2 being repealed. Regardless, it shouldn’t leave for 5 years. Greensboro is the center of ACC basketball. You can add teams from the west coast and I’d still consider Greensboro the center.

To me, it’s all about tradition, it’s all about tobacco road, and the original ACC teams. After 2020, I hope we bring the ACC tournament back to Greensboro for good.

 

The NCAA and conflicts of interest

Not too many people are familiar with how the NCAA infractions committee works or who it is made up of, but recently I’ve tried my best to keep up with it considering UNC is currently under investigation by the NCAA.

I’ll start things off by saying first and foremost, I am convinced the NCAA is corrupt. I think college sports would be better off if they were governed by conferences regardless of the corrupt nature of the NCAA.

Recently, the NCAA sent UNC a third Notice Of Allegations (NOA). This one was amended and added charges back in that were in the first NOA. This is where things get interesting because the committee of infractions (COI) encouraged the NCAA enforcement staff to submit a new NOA even though there was no “new” evidence supporting the reversal back to the original allegations.

That leads to a bigger issue, and my biggest issue with the NCAA and particularly the COI at this moment. The COI is chaired by Greg Sankey, who is also the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). How is this fair? Particularly in the case of the NCAA and Ole Miss. Why is the commissioner of the SEC allowed to preside over infraction hearings and such against one of his member schools?

Whether or not one wants to admit it, there is an implicit bias for Sankey, there has to be. He is going to be partial to the conference that pays his salary and the conference that provides personal successes to him.

I suggest the NCAA, while it should be dissolved, at least attempt to promote impartialness, which it is obviously failing to do by putting institution members and conference commissioners on its committee of infractions.

There should be an independent investigative unit, one without members of institutions within the NCAA. Until this happens, there is no way to believe or prove the punishments and the findings to be fair or impartial.

How much weight do records hold in “rivalries”?

If I told you Team A had won 27 of the last 30 games against Team B, would you consider that a rivalry? How about if I told you at one point, Team C won 19 games in a row on Team D’s home court, would you consider that a rivalry?

In those two scenarios, Team A is UNC, Team B is NCSU, Team C is Kansas and Team D is Kansas State. These are all what I think many would call, geographic rivalries. But I can think of a thousand reasons why geography shouldn’t be the only dictator of rivalries.

I understand that notion that some rivalries are natural. UNC-duke, easily the best rivalry in college basketball, is a great example of that. But there are some legendary performances and games that have occurred in that series, and recently there hasn’t been a stretch nearly as one sided as the stretch UNC is on against NC State.

There is a reason that the best rivalries in sports are generally ultra competitive. You don’t go into those games and think that there is no way one team or the other team can or cannot win. In the games they’ve played, UNC leads duke 134-108. In games against NCSU, UNC leads 153-77. In games against Wake Forest, UNC leads 158-66.

If we are looking at the two relative to each other, the only factor State has over Wake Forest may be the fact that they are a state institution along with UNC.

Those are the three factors that should be taken into account regarding rivalries. I think the order should go: Geographic, type of institution, record, in that order.

I think sometimes journalists and journalistic institutions are too quick to push rivalries, like when ESPN pushed the the Syracuse/Duke game as a rivalry just because one game ended on an insane buzzer beater. It’s all about the ratings, but watch a real rivalry, watch the fans interact, that’s how you know the difference between a “rivalry” for ratings and a true blue blooded rivalry.

Sports dictating our moods

It’s been a rough weekend for UNC fans but we sure have been blessed with some amazing weather and it’s made me think about how much I let sports dictate how I feel, especially recently.

2016 was easily one of the worst sports years for North Carolina sports. EVER.

Between the loss in the national championship game that I really want to forget, the loss in the super bowl by the Panthers and the Hornets coming painstakingly close to finally winning a playoff series, it was a rough year. The Men’s and Women’s lacrosse championships were pretty sweet though.

The point is, we as a society, or at least most people I know, are so enthralled in sports that a loss can seem like the worst thing in the world. Sports transcend almost everything in life, it’s almost poetic. I don’t mind the lows and the highs that sports bring to me but on days like today, where it is absolutely beautiful outside, it makes me think about how there are so many things in life that make losses and wins seem so small in the grand scheme of things.

That’s particularly important this weekend and over the past year. Every loss, no matter how much it hurts, can be countered by enjoying the outdoors with friends or doing something else you love doing. And this is coming from someone who is obsessed with sports and UNC basketball.

It’s just something that I’ve been thinking about recently and it’s almost an epiphany that I’ve been having recently. So just keep in mind after losses in crucial games, that every thing is going to be alright.

Plus March Madness is only a month away. Bold prediction, we will be cutting the nets down in Phoenix at the end of the year anyways. This is the year for celebration. 2017 is going to be a good sports year.

 

The Greatest Rivalry in Sports

It’s my senior year andthe last first UNC/duke game of my college days is tomorrow. So I thought it’d be cool to reflect on the greatest rivalry in sports and how the experience has defined my life in college.

ESPN showed a stat the other day that the last 90 or so times we’ve played against that school 8 miles down the road we’ve both scored the same amount of total points. That just goes to show you how good the rivalry is. On top of that, the two schools have combined for 5 national championships over the span of my 21 years in this world, not many rivalries see that much success in such a short period of time.

Growing up, I experienced Raymond Felton failing to get a shot up in the last 15 seconds of the game, Tyler Hansbrough taking a shot from Gerald Henderson, and perhaps my favorite, the Marvin Williams and-1 to complete one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the rivalry (outside of 8 points in 17 seconds).

I’ve experienced heartbreak plenty of times (the austin rivers shot). I’ve seen Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green win 4 in a row at Cameron Indoor (that graduating class without a doubt had the best experience against duke).

But the good memories stick the most. Rushing Franklin Street after winning in Cameron Indoor last year. Watching duke lose in the first round to Lehigh and to Mercer in the first round. That’s what, in my opinion, dictates the rivalry. Neither team ever wants to see the other team succeed. I remember praying for Gordon Hayward’s half court shot to go in in the 2010 National Championship game and I can only imagine how duke fans felt at the end of last season.

This rivalry feels different as a student. The hatred for duke is far greater when you are a student and the games mean far more. As I take these final months with me as a UNC undergrad, the two duke games and the ensuing March Madness I have left will hopefully be some of the greatest memories of my life.

Here’s to seeing a UNC victory tomorrow night and as always GO TO HELL duke!!

The future of ESPN

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of changes regarding ESPN and its programming. There’s been a lot of commercials about their new 6 o’clock show particularly. This show is set to feature Michael Smith and Jemele Hill as the lead analysts for the 6 o’clock sports center. Their emergence and the commercial that is promoting this show notes that the show will focus on not only sports, but also music and other pop culture areas. This made me wonder how much longer ESPN will be able to last.

We already know that ESPN had a rough 2016. In the month of October, the station lost over 600,000 subscribers. It’s pretty apparent that their sports-only programming isn’t something that is going to be successful forever. They seem to be moving away from this platform because they sense this to be the case.

In the day and age of social media and apps, it has become increasingly easier to watch highlights when and where you want to watch them. Thus making Sportscenter less and less popular and resulting in the need to dominate it with personalities who people want to watch.

This, coupled with the downward spiral in NFL viewership, which hurts ESPN’s baby, Monday Night Football, has brought in to doubt what was once one of the highest grossing stations. No one thought it was possible to have a 24 hour sports channel before ESPN. I believe that this still may be an issue and it’s becoming a bigger issue as social media and streaming services become more and more prevalent.

I’m not sure that ESPN will survive throughout my lifetime, but it seems apparent that there needs to be something else done, something that revolutionizes the channel and the 24 hour sports cycle. I don’t necessarily have an answer to that, but I do believe they may have found a niche by taking on pop culture in their 6 pm sports hour too. I love what they’ve done with Scott Van Pelt and the SVP Sportscenter at night.

It’ll be interesting to see how Michael Smith and Jemele Hill work out on SC at 6 but they have been fairly successful in their other program. Follow the ratings of their show closely because it will likely dictate the future of ESPN as we know it.

 

Media coverage of the Super Bowl

I’m a big fan of Cam Newton and I think he is a great example to look at when discussing coverage of large scale sporting events. Last year, after the Panthers lost the SB to the Broncos, Newton was subject to a lot of scrutiny being the QB and all. Cam has been called names all of his life, he’s been scrutinized for stealing things while at Florida and this and that. But perhaps the biggest scrutiny he received after the SB loss was his press conference after the game.

Just to set things straight, I was not necessarily a fan of Cam’s press conference and I’m not a fan of going all Marshawn Lynch and not talking to the media (crazy how public he’s been since he retired after never saying a word to the media but that’s another topic). However, I think the media needs a better understanding of what it’s like to be at peak competitiveness and to lose and immediately have to talk to the press. Especially when in a room with other players (of the winning team) at that, who are also talking to the press.

I understand the large scale of the SB and the amount of media stations and newspapers covering the event, but there has to be a better way. Instead of putting players into this big conference room or ball room of sorts, can you not just put them in separate facilities or separate rooms? And better yet, can you give the losers more than say an hour to process the loss?

I believe that the insistence to immediately get reactions from players and coaches is definitely a result of social media and the following the SB and the teams have on social media. I’m not going to lie. After games, I sit on twitter and crave immediate feedback from the coaches and players because I know they all have differing perspectives on the game and different ways of assessing situations.

This might seem kind of surprising coming from a Journalism major, but at the end of the day I think it’s more important to get a reaction that’s not as in the moment. All we got out of Cam Newton’s press conference is that the Panthers played badly and that he thinks they will be back in the future. Now that’s not to say other players don’t offer something substantial but generally when you interview the losers you are going to get a lot of negativity in the moment and when interviewing the winners you are going to get someone caught in the moment of celebrating. While that may please readers to a degree it could also cause the journalist to misrepresent someone or misrepresent the situation.

The audience, in some cases, struggles with context of situations and things said. This is why Cam Newton was blasted for his press conference after SB 50. Not saying that he didn’t deserve some criticism because it could’ve been handled better, but I think it’s important to put yourself in his shoes. He just lost the biggest game he’s ever played in and being interviewed about it the same night of the loss.

Maybe instead of conducting long interviews the night of the SB, the press could conduct short, 5 minute interviews, where the newspapers can get some quotes for their online stories and tv outlets can get a few minutes of video. Then the next day, expand with larger, longer press conferences thus allowing the news media to expand more on the situation and the game and have substantial information to report, not just player reaction to a loss or win.

There isn’t an easy fix for this and some will say that the players just need to man up and deal with it. But for a start, can we please not put the winning and losing teams in the same room for postgame interviews? That would probably solve more than one problem.

 

Total QBR and ESPN’s insistence to use a stat that is completely misleading

With the Super Bowl quickly approaching, so does the NFL MVP decision. Recently I’ve watched my fair share of ESPN and a stat that continuously comes up is total QBR (total quarterback rating). Here’s ESPN’s explanation of this stat.

In this blog post, I’m going to discuss two huge problems I have with this stat. One is an institutional problem. The other is the misleading nature of the stat, regardless of how ESPN tries to justify the stat in their explanation.

Let’s start off with this amazing game by Charlie Batch that at one point was at the top of the list of the greatest QBR games ever played.

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You’ll also notice that this performance has since been removed from the list of greatest games, even though he ACTUALLY got a 99.9 QBR. Obviously it was removed because this was not a good look for the stat that ESPN developed.

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Let’s take a look at some of the other games on this list. For instance Colin Kaepernick’s performance in San Francisco’s 42-10 win over Jacksonville on 10/27/13.

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Yes, this game ended with Kaepernick having a QBR of 99.8. Compared to the “best QBR game” of 2016-17 by Jimmy Garoppolo. Do you really consider Kaepernick’s game to have been better than Garoppolo’s? (On top of that, neither one of these games were really THAT great.)

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There are plenty of more examples of QBR being a misleading statistic, but my real problem with this statistic is that it is a stat created by ESPN and really only used by ESPN. AND man do they use it A LOT. It is thrown over every single broadcast and graphic that ESPN uses and it appears a lot on ESPN Stats & Info’s twitter account.

The problem with an institution like ESPN creating a stat and using it so widely isn’t helped by ESPN’s lack of clarity and what seems to be like a lot of subjectivity into the process of finding one’s QBR. Luckily, many other outlets try to stay away from QBR. I mean after all, last year’s MVP DIDN’T EVEN FINISH IN THE TOP 10 OF QBR.

I understand the notion that there has to be a better way to rate quarterbacks than by just looking at their stat line. But ESPN seems to be just fine pimping triple-double stat lines with double digit turnovers in basketball. My point is that the consistency just isn’t there. While QBR may be relevant, there are too many games where the stat just flat out doesn’t make any sense.

My thoughts are a little disjointed here but I really do think Cam Newton’s MVP performance last year provides the perfect argument against QBR. And it seems obvious that nobody took QBR into account last year whenever awarding Cam Newton the MVP award. This USA Today article sums it up best. Cam Newton, statistically, had one of the greatest seasons a QB has ever had last year yet he wasn’t even in the top 10 of QBR!!!!

ESPN uses every chance it gets to justify QBR and to explain it, but they’ve also done some questionable ethical things regarding games that are actually given a 99.9 QBR just to make the stat look better.

All in all, QBR can be a reasonable stat and it can be a stat that is applicable at certain points. But it is not the END ALL STAT OF ALL TIME regarding QB’s like ESPN makes it out to be. Personally, I prefer to look at turnover rates, passing yards per game, and TD-INT ratio. All three of those are more important than QBR. Don’t be fooled.

Here’s to hoping another MVP will be decided without taking QBR as a stat that is the absolute stat of an MVP.

(Credit to ESPN for the boxscores)

Vince Carter, the ageless wonder. And why Carmelo Anthony should take notes.

Happy 40th birthday Vince Carter! Yes that’s right, VC is 40 years old and still more athletic than 99% of the people who will read this post (including myself). At 40 years young, the ageless wonder is currently the oldest player in the NBA. What’s even more impressive is that he’s currently playing 24 minutes per game for a playoff bound team in the Western Conference.

Perhaps the most important reason to the longevity of Carter’s career has been his willingness to accept different roles throughout his NBA career. This is Carter’s 19th season in the NBA. Carter played almost exclusively as a starter in his first 14 years, averaging double digits in every single season. The next two seasons, Carter played exclusively off the bench, as he has every season since 2012-13, but still maintained double digit PPG numbers. Below are Carter’s career statistics (via basketball-reference).

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Unfortunately, it seems that there are very few “superstars” willing to emerge as role players towards the end of their careers. This is why you don’t see many players playing till the age of 40 and being as successful as Vince Carter has been. For current superstars like Lebron James and Melo (if you really want to consider him a superstar), the end of their prime’s are quickly approaching and their games are going to have to dramatically change if they want to continue to be successful like Vince Carter.

For this blog post, I’m going to specifically focus on Melo, as he has been a topic of a lot of trade talk recently.

First and foremost, if Melo wants to ring chase, he should ring chase, but he can’t ring chase without waiving his no-trade clause, and it’s becoming extremely obvious that he’s not going to be able to win in New York.

One of Melo’s biggest issues is what seems to be his reluctance to play defense. This has always been a knock on Melo and as his career continues to progress, it will continue to be an area of high scrutiny.

If we look at some advanced defensive statistics, you can see that Melo’s defensive win shares (an estimate on the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense) are currently worse than that of 40-year-old Vince Carter. (To add some context, Lebron’s DWS are currently 1.9.)

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Another defensive statistic we can look at is the opponent’s offensive rating (an estimate of points scored per 100 possessions) when Carmelo is on the court versus when he is off the court this season.

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What this chart shows, is that the Knicks’ opponents are almost 7 points better per 100 offensive possessions with Melo on the court than they are with Melo off the court.

Compared to Vince Carter’s… where the Grizzlies’ opponents are actually .5 points worse offensively with Vince Carter on the court.

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While it is important to keep in mind that Melo does average about 10 more minutes per game than Vince Carter, all these stats are relevant to the future of Carmelo. It’s impossible to be a good role player if you cannot play defense especially as Carmelo’s offensive stats start to dwindle as he ages. While Vince Carter’s defensive statistics are impressive, if you are a fan of Carmelo or Phil Jackson, the President of the Knicks, you cannot be happy with these statistics. It’s not like Carmelo is expected to be a great defender, but being 7 points worse defensively with Carmelo on the court won’t cut it, especially when the Knicks are only 5.3 points better offensively with Carmelo on the court. With a player that plays as large of a role in the Knicks system as Carmelo, to be a successful team the Knicks offensive rating with Carmelo on the court vs. off the court has to be better than their defense rating.

A good role player, must understand his role and Vince Carter is the quintessential role player. Carmelo should take notes. Otherwise he’s a few years away from falling into the oblivion as a controversial scorer without a ring.

(All screenshots and statistics credited to basketball-reference, which by the way holds a large stake in the future of statistics. Their advanced statistics and breakdowns are great.)