Tommy: Time to Focus

My hope for the latest classic in The Rivalry is that the game itself will not be overshadowed by some four minutes of action in the game's decisive second half. Those four minutes are being nabbed The Incident. I prefer call it The Big Disappointment

As anyone who has graced a basketball court on any level knows, when competition is fierce, tempers flare. Players bang one another, players curse one another. It happens and no matter what rules are put in place, it will continue to happen. How any player in the Atlantic Coast Conference remains calm in the face of the taunting and the beatings allowed on the court speaks volumes about the kids that suit up.

Stepping above the players, it is the coaches that must be the standard of behavior these days, especially on the college level. Sunday, that standard took a hit. To see two coaches from two of the top programs in the history of the sport go toe-to-toe, hurling expletives back and forth was straight bush league and disappointing. Sure it was a tense situation, sure only those involved know exactly what was said and sure things happen in the heat of passion. Regardless, the sport, the teams and the fans should expect and demand more from those in the position of ‘coach.'

Unfortunately, the situation didn't end there as Duke reserve Andre Buckner took it upon himself to push Matt Doherty with two hands to the chest. When any player physically assaults any coach, the point of no return has been reached. Say Buckner was ‘defending his coach' or whatever justification you want to give, laying hands on a coach is way over the line and should be punished accordingly. The fact that Duke University will not take any action of its own against Buckner says a lot about that program. Throw in the ACC's petty "reprimands" of all parties involved and the league has clearly perfected "lip service" when it comes to sportsmanship.

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After watching Georgia Tech's Chris Bosh from press row in the Jackets loss in the Smith Center on March 1st, I was convinced he was the easy choice as the ACC's Freshman of the Year. Watching Bosh on television, it is easy to see the big man's ability on the court. Seeing him from courtside brought to mind my opportunity to watch Tim Duncan from the same perspective in the 1996 and 1997 ACC Tournaments. It's hard to see just how good Duncan was and is from the couch in front of your favorite television. Bosh's game falls into a similar vein as Duncan's. Until you see Bosh up close, how he impacts the game, regardless of the final score, is simply amazing. And, he's only a freshman. Unfortunately for Tech fans, the NBA loves the rookie just as I do and unless he reverses a trend of late, the first round money may be too hard to pass up.

But when speaking of the ACC's Rookie award, a funny thing happened last Sunday in the Smith Center. The images of Chris Bosh holding the trophy faded as quickly as a bloodied Raymond Felton stuck a fork in the Duke Blue Devils upon his return to action following the latest Dahntay Jones ‘inadvertent' flailing. Felton's performance over the last half of the season speaks for itself and standing alone, is sufficient to warrant his selection as the league's top rookie. When you add in the expectations he faced and the sheer magnitude of his duties as a point guard on a major college basketball team, the ROY selection should be unanimous for the Latta Legend.

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Along with Felton's heroic performance, the win over Duke highlighted a couple positives in a season filled with more potholes than Raleigh's Capital Boulevard after one of this winter's ice storms. One, a healthy Rashad McCants playing at his accustomed level is virtually unstoppable. Too big for most guards, strong enough to handle bigger defenders, McCants is the ultimate mismatch poster child.

Two, this batch of Carolina players is as tight knit a bunch that has worn the Carolina Blue jerseys in quite a while. And considering the mood around the program of late, that says a lot.

Unless you are one of the few that totally avoid Internet message boards, sports talk radio, and even the local newspapers, you've heard the ‘rumors and innuendo' that have enveloped Carolina Basketball of late. Quite frankly, things have gotten ridiculous and it is hard to imagine.

From the beginning, my position on all of that has been either you believe it or you don't. Some believe everything they read and hear, some don't believe a word unless they see it for themselves. Either approach has its flaws. Each side has its reasons for feeling the way it does. To whatever group you belong, I think the mutual interest of everyone that considers themselves a "Carolina Fan" is to see the light blue ship righted, the right captain in place (whoever that may be) and see the focus returned to those individuals bigger than anyone in or around the program – the players.


Have a comment? Email Tommy at carolina93@nc.rr.com.


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