Saturday, April 25, 2009

Five big NFL draft boo-boos

Here's a list of NFL draft busts that should make every general manager nervous when the league's draft gets underway today:

1. QB RYAN LEAF: He was considered to be at least the equal of Peyton Manning when they entered the 1998 draft. Washington State's Leaf went to the Chargers with the second overall pick and immediately flamed out, throwing 33 interceptions and 13 touchdowns. Colts breathing sigh of relief ever since after taking Manning with the top pick.

2. QB HEATH SHULER: Had a great career at Tennessee, but was a flop with the Redskins after they took him with the third overall pick in 1994. An injured shoulder and rookie-season holdout didn't help him. He came back, though: He's now a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina's 11th district.

3. LB BRIAN BOSWORTH: “The Boz” entered the league in 1987 overhyped and overinflated (he had steroid issues at Oklahoma). Taken by Seattle in the first round of the supplemental draft out of Oklahoma, he's best remembered as a pro for being run over by Bo Jackson on Monday Night Football.

4. OT TONY MANDARICH: Taken No.2 overall by the Packers in 1989, he has since admitted that he, too, took steroids at Michigan State and in his early days in the NFL. Had an up-and-down (mostly down) career with Green Bay and Indianapolis.

5. QB TIM COUCH: Left school after his junior season at Kentucky and was taken No.1 overall in 1999 by Cleveland. That's as good as it got for Couch, who threw 64 touchdowns and had 67 interceptions for the Browns (he also fumbled 37 times).

-- David Scott

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

5 must-see NFL games this season

CHICAGO AT GREEN BAY, SEPT. 13: The Jay Cutler era begins for the Bears at Lambeau Field

NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS, SEPT. 20: Talk about hype. Dallas opens its new flashy stadium against the Giants on a Sunday night, prime-time game (Panthers will be there the next week).

CAROLINA AT ATLANTA, SEPT. 20: These were two of the league's surprise teams in 2008, making the NFC South one of the NFL's tougher divisions. They split – each team winning at home – last season in a rivalry that has definitely taken shape.

INDIANAPOLIS AT ARIZONA, SEPT. 27: Two future hall-of-fame QBs – Colts' Peyton Manning and Cardinals' Kurt Warner – face off.

PITTSBURGH AT BALTIMORE, NOV. 29: This ferocious rivalry went to new heights when the eventual Super Bowl-champ Steelers beat the Ravens in last season's AFC Championship game. This season they don't play until late November, then again four weeks later in Pittsburgh.

-- David Scott

Friday, April 3, 2009

Best-ever Tar Heels: SFs and post players

Is James Worthy, of Gastonia, the top post player in Tar Heels history?

With North Carolina in the Final Four again, we thought it would be a good time to list our choices for the Tar Heels’ top five players at small forward and post players: Point guards and shooting guards were in Thursday's O List.

Small Forwards

5. JERRY STACKHOUSE (1993-95): Unfair pressure from those who expected the Next Michael Jordan, but a spectacular player nonetheless. Stackhouse was a consensus all-American in 1995, specializing in magnificent dunks, and he also was a proficient three-point shooter.

4. AL WOOD (1977-81): One of the purest shooters to ever wear Carolina Blue, and remembered largely for scoring 39 on Virginia and Ralph Sampson in the 1981 Final Four semifinals. But Wood was smooth and consistent. Fifth on the school scoring list with 2,015 points.

3. LENNIE ROSENBLUTH (1953-57): Led the most magical Tar Heels’ season ever, when North Carolina went 32-0 and won the 1957 national championship. That season was the Year of Lennie. Rosenbluth, a prolific scorer and tenacious rebounder, was named NCAA National Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, ACC tournament MVP, and NCAA regional MVP.

2. LARRY MILLER (1965-69): Just 6-foot-4, Miller still managed to dominate at the college level. He was a tremendous banger inside and a driver who also had an on-target jumper from the wing or the corner. He led the Tar Heels to Dean Smith’s first two Final Fours. And he was twice named ACC Player of the Year, in 1967 and ’68. By the way, he scored an ABA-record 67 points in one game as a Carolina Cougar.

1. BILLY CUNNINGHAM (1962-65): The Kangaroo Kid – check this out – led the ACC in scoring in both 1964 and ’65, and averaged 24.8 points and 15.4 rebounds for his career. A great leaper, Cunningham is UNC’s all-time leading rebounder despite standing 6-foot-6, and the 1965 ACC Player of the Year was named one of the league’s 50 best players. Also starred for years in the NBA and ABA.

Post Players

5. ANTAWN JAMISON (1995-98): Led UNC to Final Fours in 1997 and ’98, and in the latter season he was the unanimous national player of the year. He also became the first UNC player in 22 seasons to average double figures in points (22.2) and rebounds (10.5). A quick leaper with a deft touch inside that carried over into the NBA.

4. SEAN MAY (2002-05): OK, so you’re not happy about his weight as a Charlotte Bobcat. We’re talking college here, where he got better and better (and in better shape) until he was Final Four MVP in UNC’s 2005 national title run. May was a combination of finesse and power inside, with some of the best hands ever given a big man.

3. SAM PERKINS (1980-84): North Carolina’s all-time leading rebounder (1,167) helped the program to three straight regular-season ACC titles. Perkins was so quick and smooth that his play seemed effortless, and he seemed to do everything well. Somewhat overshadowed by Michael Jordan and James Worthy, he was still a three-time first-team all-America.

2. JAMES WORTHY (1979-82): Gastonia’s own “Big Game James” was exactly that. Remember him at 6-foot-9, taking the ball right at Georgetown’s 7-foot Patrick Ewing in the 1982 national title game? Worthy and the Tar Heels won (he scored 28), and he was named national player of the year. He would become a member of both the top 50 ACC players and top 50 NBA players.

1. TYLER HANSBROUGH (2005-09): Relentless inside, always working, always hustling. Some folks get tired of hearing that, but it’s said so often because it’s true. The leading scorer in ACC history and a four-time consensus all-American. He returned for his senior year to put the last notch in his resume, a national title. Hansbrough might not have as good an NBA career as others on this list, but a more effective college player is hard to find. Stan Olson

Disagree with any of the choices? Remind us who we left out in the comments section below. No matter how much you beg, though, Pete Budko doesn’t make it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Best-ever Tar Heels: PGs and SGs

With North Carolina in the Final Four again, we thought it would be a good time to list our choices for the Tar Heels’ top five players at these positions: Point guards and shooting guards, which are below, and small forwards and post players, in Friday’s O List.

Point Guards

5. LARRY BROWN (1960-63): The current coach of the Charlotte Bobcats is better known for his long and here-there-and-everywhere career, but Brown had game. He was All-ACC in 1963, and would go on to win a gold medal with the 1964 Olympic team.

4. KENNY SMITH (1984-87): Lithe and lean, Smith led the Tar Heels to 14-0 ACC regular-season marks both as a freshman and a senior. A consensus All-American in 1987, he dropped a career-high 41 points on Clemson that year. Smith left North Carolina with then-school records of 768 career assists and 195 steals.

3. RAYMOND FELTON (2002-05): A blur of a point guard who brought Roy Williams’ feared transition game to peak efficiency, Felton guided the Tar Heels to the 2005 national crown. The only North Carolina player to finish his career with more than 1,000 points, 600 assists, 300 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 3-pointers.

2. TY LAWSON (2006-): If Lawson, the deserved ACC player of the year, can push the Tar Heels to the national championship, he can make a legitimate case for the No..1 spot on this list. The quickest player in school history; just try to slow him on the break.

1. PHIL FORD (1974-78): The master of Dean Smith’s Four Corners delay offense; you simply could not take the ball away from him as he dribbled away the clock to protect a lead. When he helped the Tar Heels upset David Thompson and N.C. State in the 1975 ACC tournament final as a freshman, it was just a taste of what was to come. In ’78, he would be the national player of the year.

Shooting Guards

5. DONALD WILLIAMS (1991-95): Suffice it to say that without his sweet jumper, the Tar Heels would not have won the 1993 national championship. He played the best basketball of his career at exactly the right time.

4. RASHAD McCANTS (2002-05): He was up and down as a player, but when he wanted to impress, he was almost unstoppable. He knocked in 221 3-pointers at North Carolina and was a key to its 2005 title run.

3. WALTER DAVIS (1973-77): Davis, from Charlotte and South Mecklenburg High, played more SF with the Tar Heels. He was called “Sweet D” for his smooth and sleek game. The master of the difficult mid-range jumper, he was also an excellent passer, decent rebounder and tough defender. And he made “The Shot,” that 30-footer that capped the Tar Heels’ incredible eight-points-in-17-seconds comeback against Duke in 1974.

2. CHARLIE SCOTT (1966-70): North Carolina’s first black varsity basketball player could score inside and out, and had the ability to carry a team. A quick example; in the 1969 ACC tournament final, he torched Duke for 40 points, 28 in the second half on 12-of-13 shooting as North Carolina wiped out overcame a nine-point halftime deficit.

1. MICHAEL JORDAN (1981-84): Do we really need to explain this? While the accepted wisdom is that Jordan really didn’t explode until he reached the pros, he was a two-time consensus all-American in Chapel Hill, and national player of the year in 1984. Then he went on to be the best basketball player of all time.

-- Stan Olson

Disagree with any of the choices? Remind us who we left in the comments section below. No matter how much you beg, though, Rich Yonakor doesn’t make it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Replacing a basketball coaching icon

Restoring - or at least maintaining - glory at some of college basketball's most successful programs isn't easy. After firing Billy Gillespie last week, Kentucky is reportedly hiring Memphis' John Calipari as its sixth coach since legendary Adolph Rupp retired in 1972. Here's how five programs have fared after their iconic coaches retired:

5. NORTH CAROLINA: Dean Smith coached the Tar Heels for 36 seasons, winning two NCAA championships and retiring as college basketball's all-time winningest coach (a record since broken) in 1997. North Carolina returned to the Final Four twice under coach Bill Guthridge, but then had two rough seasons (including 8-20 in 2002) with Matt Doherty in charge. Roy Williams has the program back at Smith-like levels.

4. UCLA: Coach John Wooden took the Bruins to 10 national championships before retiring in 1975. UCLA won another title in 1995 under Jim Harrick, but continued to churn through coaches for the next decade until Ben Howland arrived in 2003 as the Bruins' eighth coach since Wooden. Under Howland, UCLA went to the Final Four for three straight seasons (2006-08).

3. KENTUCKY: Whomever gets this job, it's going to be difficult to satisfy the Wildcats' often-irrational fan base. Rupp's teams won four NCAA championships, but Kentucky has also since won national titles under Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith. That still has never seemed to be good enough in Kentucky.

2. INDIANA: The Hoosiers were beginning to slip before Bob Knight left in 2000 after 29 seasons and three NCAA titles (failing to advance past the second round of the national tournament for six consecutive seasons). Although Knight's successor, Mike Davis, took Indiana to the 2002 national championship game, the program fell into disrepute under Kelvin Sampson. Indiana won just six games this season under Tom Crean, but has an excellent recruiting class coming in.

1. ST. JOHN'S: Under coach Lou Carnesecca, the Red Storm made the postseason 24 straight seasons, including the 1985 Final Four. Since Carnesecca retired in 1992, St. John's has slid into obscurity under five different coaches. The Red Storm finished 13th in the Big East this season.

-- David Scott