Wednesday, February 11, 2009

UNC-Duke Q&A with beat writers

ACC beat writers Ken Tysiac and Robbi Pickeral answer questions submitted by readers about tonight's North Carolina vs. Duke basketball game (9 p.m., WBTV Channel 3):

Q: Is it true that if Carolina wins at Duke Wednesday night, the university will rename Cameron indoor ' Hansbrough Indoor Stadium"? It only makes sense in light of Tyler Hansbrough's success in Durham.

KT: Yes, it's true. And they’ll also change the name of the floor from “Coach K Court” to “Danny Green Court” in honor of Hansbrough's fellow senior.

RP: Yes, don't forget Danny Green. If UNC wins tonight, he and Hansbrough will be the only Tar Heels to win four straight games at Cameron in the Mike Krzyzewski era.

Q: Do you think the players buy into the hype of the rivalry as much as the fans do? Or is it truly "just another game" on their schedule like they seem to say in all of their interviews?

KT: The players buy into the hype. They desperately want to win this game. The difference is, they're friends afterward. They've known each other, in some cases (Ellington and Henderson) all their lives. The players don't hate one another the way the fans do.

RP: I'm not sure I've ever heard any of these guys say "it's just another game" in reference to this one. They hear it all season from friends, family, fans — and they want the bragging rights in the rivalry.

Q: It seems like there is always some defining moment for every Carolina v. Duke game (Hansbrough’s broken nose, Green's dunk over Paulus, Montross’s bloody head, 8 points in 17 seconds, etc.). Care to venture a guess as to what might make tonight's game stand out in fans’ minds?

KT: I don’t think this one is going to be close. I think the Tar Heels are going to blow out Duke, but I do think there will be a signature moment, and it will be of the controversial nature. I'm thinking something along the lines of the confrontation between Ben McCauley and Michael Copeland when North Carolina played at N.C. State.

RP: I've got to disagree with Ken on this one: one way or another, it will be close. This time, it might be Ty Lawson's turn for a defining moment; his ankle injury limited him in this rivalry series last season, and he'll want to make a difference — and a few highlights — this year.

Q: What do you think the matchups will be on both sides of the ball? Will Hansbrough cover Singler? Who will guard Lawson for Duke?

KT: I think Paulus guards Lawson because he's not the most dangerous guard on the floor right now for North Carolina. Mike Krzyzewski is a firm believer in taking away the 3-point shot with perimeter pressure, and that means putting Scheyer – the better defender – on Ellington.

Hansbrough moves his feet better on defense than Deon Thompson does, so I’m presuming Hansbrough will guard Singler.

RP: As of Tuesday, UNC coach Roy Williams said he didn't know whether Hansbrough or Deon Thompson would cover Singler. But Williams said it would be a difficult match-up, "because if you guard him with size, he takes them outside. If you go small against him, he takes them inside. He can shoot over smaller guys, and he can dribble past bigger guys. He is really one of the few legitimate threats to score from anywhere. He can score on the block, he can score from mid-range [and] he can score from the 3-point line."

As for Lawson ... Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday that he plans to start Greg Paulus at point guard. Krzyzewski has been impressed by Paulus' leadership, but whether he and Nolan Smith can keep up with Lawson, much less slow him, will be key to the outcome.

Q: Who is more likely to end up as an assistant coach with their school in the next 5 years? Bobby Frasor or Greg Paulus?

KT: Frasor has too good a sense of humor to be a coach. I’ll go with Paulus.

RP: Frasor will coach somewhere, but probably closer to his hometown of Chicago. I'll go with Paulus.

Q: Behind the scenes, is there still bad blood (no pun intended) between Henderson and Hansbrough?

KT: I don’t think they're the best of friends. I do think Hansbrough has forgiven Henderson as much as it's possible to forgive somebody who broke your nose with a really reckless act.

I think about it this way. A guy ran into my car a couple months ago, causing $1,000 in damage. It was an accident, but he clearly wasn't paying attention the way he should have been. I was irritated at the time, but I realized that people make mistakes. Still, I won't be inviting the guy over for dinner.

RP: They'll never be best buds; Hansbrough strikes me as a forgive-but-never-forget kind of guy. But they've played pick-up ball since the incident.

Q: What is the biggest factor that will go towards determining who wins that no one is talking about?

KT: For some reason Danny Green usually flies under the radar for North Carolina. He gets a lot of steals, blocks shots and scores from the perimeter. And he had a huge game at Cameron last year.

Q: Cameron Crazies: Creative geniuses or obnoxious geeks?

KT: Just a bunch of kids having fun.

RP: A little of both, depending on the game. The guy who dressed as Sean May and had a hamburger dangling from a fishing line a few years back is still one of my favorites. And you've got to give kudos to the guy willing to wear the Speedo.

Q: Will Roy press full court or just stay in a half court set?

KT: He might press full court a little bit, but not much. I'd expect the usual man-to-man with a sprinkling of "scrambling" traps thrown in at certain times from North Carolina.

The big question is whether the Tar Heels will switch on ball screens to prevent Duke's shooters from getting open looks from 3-point range. Roy prefers to have his players fight through screens, but switching them against Duke last year in Cameron probably helped the Heels wins.

RP: He'll likely mix it up, as usual.

Q: Does Paulus starting cause any matchup issues?

KT: His matchup issue for Duke is that he is not a strong defender, and that leave the Blue Devils with a difficult choice of whether to have him guard Ty Lawson or Wayne Ellington, who both are playing well right now.

From North Carolina's standpoint, Paulus can cause problems if he's hot from 3-point range. He won the game in Chapel Hill last season for Duke by hitting six 3-pointers in eight attempts.

RP: Have you seen Ty Lawson play lately? The question isn't just whether Paulus can slow Lawson, but how long he can keep up with him at all. It will be interesting to see how quickly Nolan Smith — who teamed with Lawson in prep school — enters the game to defend him.

Q: Any chance Carolina will play a match up zone a la Temple to try and minimize the 3-point threat?

KT: I doubt it. Roy likes to pressure the ball, and he especially will want to get pressure on Paulus. The matchup zone is not a good way to do that, and I doubt you'll see North Carolina go away from its usual principles much in this game. Except, perhaps for switching screens.

Q: We all know how much K loves the man-to-man D, but what are the chances he incorporates a little zone tonight? Lawson and Hansbrough present huge matchup problems and are virtually unguardable.... so doesn't it make sense to pack it in and try to stop Ellington/Green from outside?

KT: I'd be surprised if Duke didn't use some of the 1-3-1 zone trap that we saw for one possession at Georgia Tech and a few more possessions against Miami. The Blue Devils will probably trap softly, concentrating on preventing penetration by Lawson and crowding Hansbrough. The danger with that strategy is that Green and Ellington are shooting 3-pointers pretty well right now, and Cameron is a shooters' gym.

Q: Who do you think will be a better pro — kyle or tyler?? my own opinion is that kyle will be a starter for his team and hansbrough will be a bench warmer and not play all that much for most of his career.

KT: I think both players will have long NBA careers but won't be anywhere near all-star material. Their careers will be similar.

You could say Singler is more promising because he has better perimeter skills, but I don't see it that way. Singler doesn't have the physical power that Hansbrough has, and power is an asset in the NBA.

RP: Singler's versatility gives him an edge in the NBA, but don't underestimate Hansbrough. He's expanded his jump shot over the last couple of years, and NBA GMs are going to love his work ethic — meaning he's likely going to have a long career. One of the questions, though, is what position he will play. But he may surprise some people.

Q: How is this not the best rivalry in all of sports? both of these teams are ALWAYS at the top of their game unlike sooo many other teams in "great" rivalries pro or college. when was the last time UNC or Duke had two bad seasons in a row? it has been a looong time. you know what I thinkg but what do you think?

KT: A lot of people would agree with you.

I think if you're talking what's the best rivalry in the here and now, it's Red Sox-Yankees. If you're talking which rivalry has sustained intensity over a longer period, UNC-Duke is the best.

RP: Who said it wasn't the best rivalry?

Q: Carolina and dook both looked very sub-par in their last games. Were they both looking ahead to tonight's game or are both teams suspect? Also, who do you think has the best defense between the two?

KT: I don't think looking ahead had anything to do with it. Duke is legitimately struggling with its confidence. North Carolina may not have been super-motivated to play Virginia, but it's not because the Heels are looking ahead.

Even Roy Williams said yesterday that Duke is the ACC's best defensive team, and he wasn't just tossing empty platitudes. North Carolina still is faltering at times defensively, particularly a week ago against Maryland.

Q: We know that the Tar Heels are going to lose Bobby Frasor, Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green and probably Ty Lawson. The Heels also lose 4 other seniors. Given those losses and losses from dooks graduates; who is going to have the upper hand for the next few years?

KT: I think you've still got to look at North Carolina as the favorite because of the power the Heels will have in the post. With Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and John Henson scheduled to be on the roster next season, Duke still will have difficulty defending the Heels.

Bottom line, as I wrote in today's story, the Blue Devils need to improve their recruiting if they're going to catch back up in this rivalry.


Anonymous said...

Hansbrough and Green would not be the first to win 4 straight at Cameron. Buzz Peterson was the first.