Sunday, January 16, 2005

Basketball Juggernauts Implode
By Zach

So, nothing like early season hype. After roaring out to a 31-4 record, the Phoenix Suns have come crashing back to Earth, losing their third straight game, this time to the resurgant Washington Wizards, winners of seven straight. The Suns, played without point guard Steve Nash, committed 16 turnovers, only had 13 assists, and shot 42.6% from the field.

As hot as the Suns were to start the year, they were one of the shallowest teams in the league. Besides starters Nash, Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudemire, only backup guard Leandro Barbosa and forward Stephen Hunter play significant minutes. Barbosa is an athletic player, but is far from a finshised product, and Hunter is little more than an energy guy. The Suns rely on their starters to score virtually all of their points, and play their starters big minutes. And while all of the players except Nash are young, the NBA schedule is a grueling one. The Suns were going to struggle to deal with that at some point in the season anyhow, but with Nash out their utter lack of depth has been exposed. As good as they can look at times, they're an injury or foul trouble away from collapse in any given game. Depending on how long Nash is out, it might be possible for a Pacific division team like Sacramento to sneak back into the race a bit. Plus, look for the Spurs to make a move for the best overall record in the West. The Suns have been inconsistant on the road, getting blown out by 21 the last time the played in San Antonio. If the two teams meet in the playoffs, the Suns had better hope they get the home-court advantage.

In the college ranks, the highly anticipated matchup between #4 North Carolina and #3 Wake Forest turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, as the Deamon Deacons handled the Tar Heels with aplomb, handing them a 95-82 beating. The Tar Heels have long been considered one of the favorites to win the National Championship, due in part to their talented trio of juniors, guards Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton and center Sean May. And while all three players certainly have plenty of talent, their play has been maddeningly inconsistant ever since they entered the college ranks. The Tar Heels, like the Arizona Wildcats, are a team that recieves a tremendous amount of respect because of the talent and potential of their players. But Roy Williams, like Lute Olsen, seems to struggle to get those talented players to actually perform at the college level. The Wildcats were a huge disappointment nationally last year, bowing out in the first round of the NCAA. The Tarheels went a round further, but still saw their run end earlier than expected. A road loss to a very good Wake team isn't a killer, but it does show that the Tar Heels aren't exactly ready to take the next step.


Blogger Bryan Koch said...

North Carolina will inevitably falter until they learn to win on the road. Youth and inexperience were viable excuses last year, but these guys have a few years under their belts now.

There's only one place to which we should point if these road struggles continue, and its name is Roy.

12:23 PM  

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