ARE YOU READY ? FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL IS BACK

 

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FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL – 2016 WEEK 1

#4NEW BERN at HILLSIDE7PM ESPNNEWBERN

#8AYDENGRIFTON at WEST CRAVEN7PMESPNGREENVILLE

#7 WASHINGTON at #1HAVELOCK730PM

#3 DH CONLEY at SE RALEIGH7PM

SOUTH CENTRAL at #10 GREENE CENTRAL

#9 JACKSONVILLE at SW ONSLOW7PM

MORE NOTABLE WEEK ONE MATCHUPS
FARMVILLE CENTRAL at KINSTON

RIVERSIDE at  JONES SR

CROATAN at PAMLICO

NORTH LENOIR at EASTERN WAYNE

JAMES KEENAN at SOUTHERN WAYNE

CB AYCOCK at ROSEWOOD          

WEST CARTERET at NORTHSIDE

WHITE OAK at ASHLEY       

SWANSBORO at LEJUENE

EAST DUPLIN at RICHLANDS

#2 JH ROSE & NORTH PITT (BYE WEEK)

THE 252 ESPN RADIO FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL POLL (PRESEASON 8-15-16)
RANK        TEAM                                 WINS/LOSS (CONF )              POINTS 1STPLACEVOTES
#1 – HAVELOCK RAMS                          0 – 0                                     68               (6)
#2 – JH ROSE RAMPANTS                     0 – 0                                     60
#3 – DH CONLEY VIKINGS                    0 – 0                                     59                (1)
#4 – NEW BERN BEARS                         0 – 0                                     48
#5 – WEST CRAVEN EAGLES                 0 – 0                                     45
#6 – KINSTON VIKINGS                         0 – 0                                     34
#7 – WASHINGTON PAM PACK           0 – 0                                      28
#8 – AYDEN-GRIFTON CHARGERS       0 – 0                                     16
#9 – JACKSONVILLE CARDINALS          0 – 0                                     12
#10 – GREENE CENTRAL RAMS            0 – 0                                      6

FNF IMPACT PLAYERS
QB – HOLTON AHLERS DHConley/JR 6’4” 234LBS highly recruited qb looks to continue
his rise . After an 11-3 season in 2015, Ahlers has even bigger goals this fall.
“We’re focused on winning a state championship — that’s the main goal,” he said. “We have to continue to work hard, stay humble and play every game like it’s our last.” -scout.com

RB- TONY SHARPE Havelock/SR 5’8” 190LBS heading into his senior season and looking to rebound from injury plagued junior season , still rushed for over 1400 yards 24 TDS ( had 2,290 yards & 38 TDS as a sophomore )

RB – DONTAVIES “E.J.” HARRIS JHRose/SR 5’10” 184LBS rushed for 1.939 yards 25tds in 2015 ( averaged over 130 yds per game before Charlotte Catholic limited him to 57 in the 4A State Championship last year

RB- DONALD HOWARD New Bern/SR 5’11” 230LBS playing his third year of varsity – rushed for 681 yards last season , sharing the workload with now graduated Rayshi Boldes . Averaged 6.1 yards per carry and 6 rushing Tds ( 52 yard TD run vs CBAycock was the longest running play of the season for the Bears )

QB – RYAN GOODWIN JHRose/SR 5’11” 180LBS Ryan Goodwin entered the starting lineup in his team’s third game due to injury, then promptly threw for 3,358 yards (60.2 completion percentage) and 45 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions

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A Lighter Shade of Blue – Daniel Bayer

Duke vs. UNC Observations – Daniel Bayer 252 ESPN Radio

*Please note that this article is clearly biased and slanted, since it is written from the perspective of a UNC fan.

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•It was Senior Night for Marshall Plumlee on Saturday, and it was probably the last home game for Brandon Ingram too (it might even be the last time the Crazies see Grayson Allen trip an opponent).
•Luke Kennard is going to be really good whenever he is a Junior or Senior.
•What has happened to Marcus Paige’s 3-point shooting? UNC is the team to beat in the NCAA Tournament if Marcus can get his 3-point stroke back.
•Was there really a flopper on the Duke team this year? There was only one flop in the whole game on Saturday.
•What is up with those Duke managers sprinting across the court at the end of Duke games? Where are they going and why are they in such a hurry?
•The Zeller family was more successful in college than the Plumlee family, and it would be a fun 3-on-3 game to watch.
•Kennedy Meeks really stepped up in this game (12 points and 14 rebounds) and answered the critics who called for his benching (I was one of them).

MEEKSvsDuke2016 photo courtesy of Bleacher Report
•Did Derrick Thornton play in this game?
•Theo Pinson didn’t really light up the box score (6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists); however, he was a solid contributor (clutch free throws, defense, hustle, and tip-ins) and one of the reasons the Heels won. Even though he is sometimes a liability on offense, the Heels are a better team the more he plays in games.
•Brandon Ingram could not get into any sort of rhythm on Saturday, due to his foul trouble.
•Duke gets all of the calls example of the night…Justin Jackson’s nose gets called for a foul, due to hitting Ingram’s elbow.
•Grayson Allen hits the floor after such little contact more than any player in basketball (other than Lebron James in the NBA playoffs).
•This game had a very similar feel to the one played earlier in Chapel Hill, where the Heels were clearly the better team but allowed Duke to hang around until the end. However, credit to the Heels for gutting this one out and hitting some clutch free throws at the end in a tough road environment.
•UNC is now 5-0 whenever Tyler Hansbrough shows up at Cameron.
•When you beat Duke and are ACC Champions…

via GIPHY

Daniel Bayer appears Tuesdays 4-6pm on The Drive on 252 ESPN Radio

A Day in the Life of a Hoops Fanatic – Daniel Bayer

Saturday Hoops Extravaganza – Daniel Bayer 252 ESPN Radio

While most people’s attention in North Carolina remains focused on the Carolina Panthers (and rightfully so), mine is on the college basketball season. If you are a fan of college basketball, this past Saturday was super and scintillating (thanks Dickie V). There was a full slate of ACC games, a bunch of green room guys, and an over-hyped SEC/Big 12 Challenge (did we really need a bunch of games to figure out that the Big 12 is better than the SEC?).

Here are some of my thoughts, ramblings, and observations from this past Saturday’s games:

•If I was still in college, I would have certainly made a drinking game out of the number of times that the phrase “Green Room Guy” was used on Saturday, and I would have been passed out before the UNC game started at 4:00.
•Funny timing that the UNC students wore recycled green t-shirts on Saturday, a day after Roy Williams went off on ESPN and their “Green Room Guy” promos.
•Why is Boston College in the ACC? What have they added to the conference (in any sport) since joining?
•Clemson’s loss to FSU was a bad one because they had one of the easier schedules in the second half of the ACC schedule, and they might have had a chance at the ACC regular season championship.
•It is extremely difficult to win on the road in college basketball, it seems especially so this season.
•I still can’t grasp that Texas A&M is in the SEC. It took me a whole half, in their game vs. Iowa State, to realize that they were playing in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
•Why can’t they make the SEC/Big 12 Challenge happen in football? I think that would be worth watching, more so than in basketball.
•NC State fans, just in case you were wondering what Karl Hess was up to these days, he officiated the Florida and West Virginia game (only 48 fouls were called in that game).
•Rick Pitino, Don Johnson from Miami Vice called and he wanted his suit back.
•Wake’s gift to UVA last week might have been what gets the Cavs back on track in trying to repeat as ACC regular season champion.
•The Houston and ECU game was a fun one to watch. ECU has been playing pretty well the last few games.
•Speaking of Houston, I didn’t realize that Kelvin Sampson was still coaching.
•The TCU basketball court (or frog skin) was really messing with my eyes. It felt like I was watching a black and white movie, except for the purple of TCU and the orange of Tennessee being the only colors shown.
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•After watching the LSU and Oklahoma game, not only are the Sooners the best team in the country, but Hield has certainly taken firm control of the National Player of the Year Award.

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•Ben Simmons is definitely worthy of the number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft; however, how do you only take 7 shots in your team’s biggest game of the year (he didn’t score a single point in the last ten minutes of the game)?
•The balance in the ACC scheduling this year stinks. Why are there teams playing 2 games in 3 days, and then other teams having to wait 7 days before playing again? I wish the teams would go back to playing once during the week and once during the weekend (Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim have complained about this recently).
•Great win for NC State on Saturday. I predicted that the Wolfpack would have gone 1-1 this past week, but I never would have thought the win would have come against Miami.
•The Kansas and Kentucky game lived up to the hype, even though this is not the typical Kentucky team we have seen the last few years. Good thing for the rest of the country that Kansas does not play at Allen Fieldhouse in the NCAA tournament.
•Greg Popovich has the best in-game interviews, since he makes no bones about how much he hates them. I would hate to be the one conducting the interview though.
•ABC, do we really need the 3-point line to light up whenever a player shoots a 3? I feel this is a huge waste of technology, like the NHL glow puck.
•Let’s end with this, the only highlight from the Davidson and VCU game…
http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/02/bro-caught-on-live-tv-trying-to-take-the-perfect-selfie

AND THIS IS WHY…. I LOVE BILL WALTON !!!!

Just an MLB Star …Living in Van – Nick Bequette

MEET DANIEL NORRIS – Nick Bequette  252 ESPN Radio

It has been a busy MLB offseason with Heyward joining his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals rival, Chicago Cubs, as well as Johnny Cueto heading to the Giants, who are on pace to win the World Series this year. I say that because of there boom or bust seasons, every other year winning the World Series or not making the playoffs the next year. With all the moves around the MLB, including controversy amongst discussion of the Designated hitter possibly joining the National league, and a saga of gambling issues from Yu Darvish’s brother (Yu Darvish has been cleared from allegations of helping his brother), there has been a diamond in the rough, quieter offseason. Ironically this player’s desire to stay off the grid every offseason, is exactly why he’s making headlines. Blue Jays prospect, Daniel Norris, who pitched in the big leagues parts of last season, is living in a van down by the River every offseason…

The notoriously funny Chris Farley SNL (Saturday Night Live) skit has come to life. Okay, he isn’t necessary always living by a River in particularly, but he travels in a 1978 Volkswagen camper and lives off the land in various location across the United States, from beaches, woods, you name it. This is because to Daniel Norris, assimilating to society doesn’t fit where he wants to head in life.
When Norris was young, he grew up under beliefs that began 80 years ago from his grandfather who ran an independently owned bike shop. His family loved nature, living off the land provided and not taking anymore than they needed. He was a three sport athlete that was constantly outdoors, doing anything he could outside, from riding bikes to hiking trips. There family message? Simple. Live Simply. Play outdoors. Love the Earth. Something that everyone can take a lesson from in a world where we are constantly taking things for granted.

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His van’s name? “Shaggy,” from the iconic cartoon “Scooby Doo,” and some mornings, Shaggy doesn’t always start. His typically van set up is outside of a Walmart in the Florida suburbs. Locals near the Walmart have mistakened him for a homeless man, even offering to give him money. Little do they know this man is a 92 mph throwing left hander that was drafted out of high school in 2011, with a 2 million dollar signing bonus. Yet, to Norris, he feels this money can only interfere with his lifestyle. His financial advisor only puts spurts of money in his account a month. 800 dollars, the equivalent to minimum wage with standard working hours. Waking up in the morning, cracking eggs that he has to smell to clarify if they are good or not, is the way Daniel Norris wants to live.

Personally I think Norris is doing the right thing, and has great values as a man, always thinking economically, being extremely self aware of the environment and embracing how he lives. Whether you see him as the man that lives down by the river, or the man who is slowly enforcing his way into the Blue Jays starting rotation, one thing is for certain, he embraces himself as an individual. An individual mentality on the mound, (and this is coming from a former pitcher) is an extremely useful mentality to implement into your game because you don’t rely as much on your defense. Just yourself. So, maybe there is a method to “madness” of Daniel Norris’s unconventional offseason.

Where would Wolfpack Basketball Be ? If Only – Daniel Bayer

The Season that Could Have Been for NC State Basketball – Daniel Bayer/252 ESPN Radio

Things were looking up for NC State basketball. The team had just came off of a successful run in the NCAA Tournament, with beating the number one seed in their region (VIllanova) and making it to the Sweet 16, the team had signed Mark Gottfried to a contract extension through 2020, and Dennis Smith Jr. (top PG in 2016 recruiting class) had recently signed and enrolled in the school early. However, the outlook for the 2015-2016 season and the feel good vibes for NC State would quickly change with the 17-point opening night loss to William and Mary at HOME.

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In what has been a pretty disappointing season up to this point (and one that will probably end in the team not making the tournament for the first time under Coach Gottfried), let’s take a look at what could have been for this year’s NC State team.

Even before the opening night loss, the decision of Trevor Lacey to forego his Senior year and enter the NBA Draft would be the first domino to fall. What was worse for State fans is that Trevor was not even drafted (although for him it was a smart decision because of his age) and is currently playing over in Italy averaging 13.4 points a game.

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Another domino to fall before the season, yet one that was barely talked about, was the transfer of Kyle Washington (to Cincinnati). Though he started only 17 games last year (averaging 6 points and 4 rebounds a game), Washington figured to play a more prominent role in this year’s team before his unexpected transfer. He certainly would have provided more depth and scoring for a team this is depleted in the front court. These two sudden and unexpected departures left huge voids in the roster, which are not easily filled so late in the recruiting season and with transfers having to sit out a year before being able to play. It is not like the NBA where you can just go and either make a trade or pluck someone from free agency to fill holes in your roster. Coach Gottfried was left to scramble, and was lucky that Freshman Maverick Rowan was able to reclassify and enroll at NC State early or they would be on the same level as Boston College (yes, they have similar records in the ACC, but NC State is a lot better than the Eagles).

Transfers are nothing new, or at this point should not be surprising for NC State under Coach Gottfried. Kyle Washington was the 4th big name to transfer since Gottfried’s arrival. Tyler Harris, who would not have been on this year’s NC State team, transferred to Providence and is now a Graduate Student at Auburn averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds a game. Tyler Lewis (transferred to Butler and is averaging 7 points and 4 assists a game) and Rodney Purvis (transferred to UCONN and is averaging 13 points a game) would have been Seniors on this year’s team and probably would have really changed what this team currently looks like. On the other hand, NC State and Coach Gottfried have certainly benefited from transfers into their program: Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner, Terry Henderson, and next year they will be getting UNCC transfer Torin Dorn (C-USA Freshman of the Year who scored 12 points a game for the Niners).

Finally, it also hurts to lose your starting shooting guard 7 minutes into the season. Losing Terry Henderson and his 11 points a game (while at West Virginia), has essentially crippled this team. Henderson was expected to come in and replace the scoring and 3 point shooting that was lost from the previous year’s team, due to the departures of Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner. This has left NC State having to rely too heavily on Cat Barber to do all the scoring, and leaves the team without a true outside 3-point threat. There is still no timetable for the return of Terry Henderson to the line-up; however, by the time (or if) he returns, it will probably be too late.

NC State had hoped to build upon the success from the 2014-2015 season, but if you think of all the changes and the losses that this team has had to endure not just this year but in years past, it is not hard to see why this team is sitting towards the bottom of the ACC; however, it is hard not to think what could’ve been for this year’s NC State team.

Mar 18, 2014; Dayton, OH, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward T.J. Warren (24) drives the ball past Xavier Musketeers forward Justin Martin (20) in the first half of a college basketball game during the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at UD Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 18, 2014; Dayton, OH, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward T.J. Warren (24) drives the ball past Xavier Musketeers forward Justin Martin (20) in the first half of a college basketball game during the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at UD Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

*Note to Reader: Yes, I know that TJ Warren would have been a Senior this year; however, I purposely left TJ Warren out of this column because there is no way a player with his talent would have played into his Senior year.

Catch Daniel Bayer EVERY Tuesday on “The Drive” 4-6pm on the 252 ESPN Radio Network

DH in the NL ? More Cons than Pros – Nick Bequette

Is the DH headed to the National League?
Nick Bequette – 252 ESPN Radio

A lot has been said over the years, whether or not the DH (designated hitter) should be implemented in both the National and American League. As of right now players like David Ortiz and Albert Pujols, aging power hitters, hold far more value in the American League as opposed to the National League. Players like Ortiz and Pujols replace the pitcher from the batting order, giving the lineup more power or just an overall better bat. (Now this can be for any position, but the Pitcher is DH for 99% of the time in MLB)

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photo courtesy of mlb.com

Now… me personally? I don’t care for the DH because it takes a lot of situational play out of baseball. The double switch, and matching up pitchers for situations aren’t as prevalent with a DH in your lineup. I like seeing double switches, and substitutions in the game because it implements a huge element of strategy. Do you bring in the pinch hitter for the starting pitcher, or do we leave the starter in and hope he can bunt the runner over and gives us one more good inning? That type of situation will never be seen if the DH gets voted to both leagues.

What’s the appeal?

The player union would most likely condone a DH in the National League because it would add another big name hitter in the roster to bargain. Also, the DH is used at every level of baseball besides the 15 teams in the National League. Ultimately more teams would vote for the DH rule then those voting against it. Teams don’t want to get in an unfamiliar territory when playing interleague match ups during the regular season, and especially the World Series. To vote for a DH amongst all clubs puts every team on an even playing field. Also it could leave a team in a situation that cost them the World Series. A National League team doesn’t want to sign a big name DH that will only play in a handful of games, so they are left to use situational players or their fourth outfielder.

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photo courtesy of The Chicago Tribune

What’s the verdict?
With the MLB playing an interleague game everyday this season, the issue is at a peak in discussion. I believe we will see this rule instilled in baseball, where both leagues have a DH in the next 5 years, if not the 2017 season. With this being said, it makes me sad that pinch-hitting for the pitcher and subbing in situational pitching matchups will be outsourced from the game as it evolves. I personally hope that since no one would vote to get rid of the DH, hope that the rule stays the same, so I can watch Mike Matheny and Joe Madden play chess amongst matchups. This is extremely hopeful thinking. As a fan of the Cardinals and the National League, I hope that coaches can stay true to the pitcher remaining in the lineup, so we can see a game of chess be played amongst managers more often. But to all other purest like myself, I am sad to inform you that the pitcher remaining in the lineup will most likely be a thing of the past in the near future. ☹

A New Year for Tar Heel Hoops – Daniel Bayer

New Year’s Resolutions for UNC Basketball – Daniel Bayer 252 ESPN Radio

I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. Why should I plan to start something new or make a drastic change in my life when I know that I am going to just end up not doing it a month from now? I certainly respect those people who can stick to their resolutions, but I just can’t ever do it. If someone asks me if I have any resolutions for the new year I always tell them the same thing, “I plan to only drink craft beers, none from the big beer companies (Bud, Miller, Coors).” I have been able to keep this resolution for the last few years, and yes, I am a beer snob. I do hope to read more, eat healthier, and be more active this year.

In an effort to add to the countless other New Year’s Resolution articles that have been written this week, I have offered up some resolutions for the UNC Basketball team as they begin the ACC season:

•Play better defensively. I know that this has been written by numerous other writers, but it cannot be said enough that defense (and Kansas) are the only things standing in the way of UNC and another National Championship. This team needs to defend better against the 3 (way too many open looks because of the guards not being able to stop dribble penetration) and learn how to defend the pick and roll. Here is a great article on this very issue: http://keepingitheel.com/2015/12/14/unc-basketball-full-breakdown-of-uncs-pick-and-roll-defense/

MEEKS  photocourtesy of al.com

•Get Kennedy Meeks healthy. I am fully supportive of the team not rushing Kennedy back, especially with how well that Isaiah Hicks and Brice Johnson have played in his absence, but he adds much needed post depth and makes the team a championship contender with his size on the inside.

•Make sure Brice Johnson keeps eating his Wheaties (Note: as I write this, Brice has 39 points and 23 rebounds vs. FSU). Speaking of Brice, he really has been a lot more consistent, and at times dominant, this year. Since Kennedy Meeks has been out with his knee injury, Brice has averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds (9 double-doubles on the season), while shooting over 60 percent from the field (shooting 81% from the free-throw line).

•Find another year of eligibility for Marcus Paige. I know that this is not possible, but one can dream. It is so much fun to watch this guy play and he is such a great ambassador for the university, he will certainly be missed in many ways next year.

•Wear the black uniforms a few more times this season. Not only did UNC play well in these uniforms, but they looked good while doing it.

•Have Sean May talk to Joel James before every game. Here is what I am talking about: http://www.scout.com/college/north-carolina/story/1629042-sean-may-talk-fuels-james. While you are at it Sean, can you lend Joel James your hands for a few games?

•Play better on the road (Note: as I write this, UNC put up 106 points at FSU). UNC’s only two losses of the season came in their only true road games. So, as the ACC conference season gets started, UNC will need to play better on the road (especially against inferior opponents). They have a tough game in the Carrier Dome on Saturday vs. Syracuse, especially with it being the first game back for Jim Boeheim.

•Find a job for Rasheed Wallace with the team. One of my favorite UNC players of all time. I would love to see Sheed on the sideline with the Tar Heels yelling “Ball don’t lie” after opposing teams missed free-throws. I mention this because recently he was sitting court-side at one of the games and was heard calling out screens and giving advice to the UNC players.

•Play for a full 40 minutes and close out games when they have the lead. This was a major goal for the team going in to the season. In their two losses vs. N. Iowa and Texas earlier in the season, the Heels had leads in the 2nd half in both of these games and could not close them out. The team is shooting free throws better this year, which was a major achilles heal the last few years, but they need to learn to put teams away when they have the lead. This team has so much depth and talent, if they play well for a full 40 minutes and not decide to just flip on the switch whenever they get in trouble, this team will be very hard to beat come March.

•Beat Duke.

Observations from the ACC Championship – Daniel Bayer

I was thinking of writing a column on ACC officiating and the officials’ blunder from this past weekend, but it has seemingly been talked about ad nauseam and no one wants to hear a guy from Carolina whining about officiating anyways. So, what I have decided to do is basically share some notes, thoughts, and possibly some rants from this past weekend’s ACC Championship in what I like to call…

“The Weekly Mumble”

•I have been blessed to have been a part of many unique sporting experiences in my short life: I had the job of playing the music/sound effects at Durham Bulls games (Funny story, there was a player who was going through a big hitting slump, so I randomly played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for his walk-up music and he got a hit. So, I kept playing the song and he kept getting hits, but I got the dreaded phone call from the dugout telling me to stop playing the song because it was not funny anymore. I did my best to help him, but needless to say, that player never got called up to the majors), Dean Smith watched a basketball game that I happened to be coaching, and I was a Charlotte Hornets ball boy in middle and high school (there are so many cool stories from that experience that it is worth its own column). This past weekend was another one of those unique experiences in my life. I was given the opportunity to cover the ACC Championship in Charlotte for 252 ESPN Radio, and it is something that I will never forget. I covered/watched the game from the press box, went on the field after the game, and interviewed some players (actually, I just stuck my phone out while they talked or answered other reporters’ questions).

•I was so pumped about having a Press Pass that I was walking around Panthers Stadium like Wayne and Garth…

via GIPHY

http://giphy.com/gifs/fail-fun-entertainment-hKYigb3Djp8pa

•It took me a little while before I took the diehard sports fan hat off (not a literal hat because my mom always taught me never to wear a hat indoors) and realized that I was there to do a job (and it is really hard to even call it a job whenever you are having so much fun doing it). I sat in the North Carolina section of the Press Box, so it was really neat getting to sit near some of my favorite writers and radio personalities. I even got to stare at the back of Adam Gold’s head most of the night. A special thanks to Jordan Honeycutt, journalist from the New Bern Sun Journal, for showing me around and helping me with the team/player interviews after the game.

•I met a guy that has a radio show on ESPN Upstate who was a dead ringer for the comedian, Ron White. Too bad we didn’t have tater salad for dinner or that would have been a funny coincidence.

•Speaking of dinner, the Carolina Panthers staff or whoever was in charge of dinner, put out an awesome spread of friend chicken, mac and cheese, and barbecue (Lexington style, which is my favorite).

•I think I hurt my neck from moving it back and forth between watching the game on the field and the games on the bank of TVs behind press row. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the amazing Steph Curry and how he seemed to effortlessly put up 44 points on the Raptors (I had this game circled as the one that the Warriors were finally going to lose…wrong again). He is just so fun to watch, and I am a big fan of his.

•It is amazing to me that after every big play or when there is a break in the action, everyone is either checking their Twitter feed or sending out a tweet. I just don’t get this Twitter thing (said in my old man voice).

•At the time of this writing, I am still waiting for the ACC’s apology for the mistake on the “offsides kick”.

•It is kind of surreal watching a sporting event from the press box. No one is allowed to cheer whenever a big play occurs or when a team scores a touchdown, but also you really can’t even hear the fans in the stadium cheering/screaming. It could have been deafening after all of those Clemson touchdowns, but I have no idea because it just sounded like a muffled roar. I am not going to complain because with all of those Clemson fans there, they certainly had a lot of touchdowns to celebrate and I bet it was loud.

•Please tell me someone on TV pointed out that the reason there were 85% Clemson fans in the stadium was because they had a 2-3 week head start to buy up all of the tickets.

•I wonder if Clemson fans need to take that extra pause at the end of their fight song, “Tiger Rag”, in order to really think hard about how to spell Clemson. Low blow…I know.

•Everyone knows what it is like to watch a youth sporting event where there is that one kid who is just so much faster, stronger, and just plain better than the other kids. Yea, Deshaun Watson is that kid and he made UNC’s defense look extremely slow. I was amazed at how fast he was and how he just effortlessly glided around the field. He certainly put on a show and dominated that game with over 400 yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns. I am happy to see that he was a finalist for the Heisman and I really hope he wins it.

•Was anyone brave enough to ask for ham and pineapple on their pizza at the party thrown by Dabo Swinney?

•I kept waiting for Clemson to just pull away and blow out UNC, as I made a note of this after a couple of the Clemson touchdowns in the 2nd half. However, the coaching staff and players for UNC deserve a ton of credit for continuing to fight and keep that game close, even with a chance to possibly recover an onside kick and score a touchdown to tie the game up. “Grit” was the theme for this team throughout the year, and they showed a lot of it in the championship game.

•A lot of credit should go to Clemson’s front 7 on defense for Marquise’s early struggles. They were getting a lot of pressure on Marquise, which seemed to really rattle him at the start of the game. He made a lot of errant throws, but that was due to the quickness of the pass rush that was getting to him. Plus, every time he looked to scramble, the defense used their speed to close any of those running lanes and keep him from getting to the open field in the secondary (where he has had a lot of success this year).

•I hate it for Marquise because he has heard all year about his 3 turnover game in his previous trip to Charlotte, but that turnover in the first drive of the second half was a killer. Especially, since Clemson followed it up by marching right down the field and scoring a touchdown on a 96 yard drive.

•Mitch Trubisky is going to be a very good starting quarterback for UNC next year.

•The length of the game was 3 hours and 42 minutes, and it felt every bit of that, if not longer; however, I should not complain because I am sure it felt a lot longer than that sitting in the 30 degree weather. The length of the timeouts for commercials and the time it takes for instant replay reviews is way too long (again, in my old man voice).

•Great job by Bubba Cunningham and UNC for showing their commitment to Larry Fedora and the football program. With a new 7-year contract for Fedora and a new 25 million dollar indoor practice facility, the administration is committed to making sure football is successful at UNC.

•It may have been a bit of a sloppy game, with neither team playing its best; however, there were exciting plays, star players, an exciting (yet controversial) finish, and both teams showed the national audience why the ACC is not just a basketball conference.

Catch DANIEL BAYER every TUESDAY on THE DRIVE on the 252 ESPN Radio Network !

The Case of Kobe vs The Haters – Sean Finnerty

        Kobe Bryant has been a polarizing figure, to say the least, over the length of his illustrious career. He has almost as many haters as he does adoring fans who worship the very ground he stands on (I am a card carrying member of the Kobe fan club by the way). In all honesty, the aforementioned haters make some fair points when they criticize the Black Mamba. The many criticisms range from taking too many shots, being a difficult teammate, copying Michael Jordan, to driving away Shaq and ruining what should have been the most dominant duo in NBA history.

While, yes, some of those are fair criticisms (I’ll get to the bogus one in a bit), Kobe has done plenty to earn the love and respect of basketball fans everywhere. First and foremost Kobe is a winner, evidenced by the five championship rings in his possession. He is also one of the best scorers to ever play the game. He just always found a way to put the ball in the bucket, be it launching a three with a hand in his face, slashing to the rim and dunking on some poor fool, or that patented turn around fade away jumper. With his arsenal of offensive moves Kobe put on maybe the most impressive scoring performance in NBA history, when he dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors (which also happened to occur on my birthday). I can hear you now yelling at your computer screen while reading this saying, “how can scoring 81 points be more impressive than Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points?” My reasoning is that I’m more impressed with a guard scoring with midrange jumpers and contested threes than a seven footer dominating the paint, but that’s just my humble opinion. That reasoning also ties in to another aspect that draws people to watch Kobe; he is just so darn entertaining to watch. The degree of difficulty of his shots is astounding. The majority of the shots he takes are actually bad shots, in that they usually taken with a hand in his face and he is turning while shooting, fading away, or a combination of the two. But he is Kobe after all and makes those shots (or made those shots, I should say, because at his current age he doesn’t hit those with anywhere near the same regularity). So you’re left sitting there in amazement, thinking how on Earth did he make that shot?
Earlier, I alluded to a bogus criticism of Kobe, and of course I’m referring to the fact that people like to bash Kobe for copying Jordan. First off, it’s called inspiration. Kobe grew up watching basketball and at the time, Jordan was the best player on the planet. So, of course Kobe was inspired and influenced by MJ. It’s sort of similar to how MJ has said he was influenced by Dr. J. That’s how sports and life in general works; someone who is very successful in a given field, be it basketball, music, acting, or even politics influences and inspires younger people to be achieve greatness as well. Just as Kobe was influenced by MJ, the current young stars of the NBA were influenced by growing up watching Kobe.

There is another bogus criticism that kind of piggy backs off of him copying MJ, which is that Kobe is not as good as MJ, as if not being as good as the greatest of all time is some sort of failure. Yes, I can admit Kobe didn’t quite reach the heights of MJ but no one else did either. Many were dubbed “The Next Jordan” (such as Harold Miner, Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse, Penny Hardaway, and Vince Carter) but Kobe is the only one to get close. He did so by creating highlight reels, putting up gaudy statistics, and of course, most importantly, winning championships.
Love him or hate him, the NBA was better off with him in it. It is sad to see an all-time great retire and no longer grace us with his talents; but it is also sweet to see him receive the respect and adulation he so thoroughly deserves.

Catch SEAN FINNERTY on THE DRIVE every Monday, Wednesday & Thursday on 252 ESPN Radio

The Re-aWAKEning of the Demon Deacons – Daniel Bayer

Daniel Bayer , 252 ESPN Radio

It’s early in the season (the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is just getting underway); however, I like what I have seen at the start of the season from Wake Forest. So much so, that I think this may be the start of the re-aWAKEning (cheesy, I know) of Wake Forest basketball. Since the departure of Dino Gaudio, Wake Forest has not sniffed the NCAA Tournament, has had a record of 51-76 record under Jeff Bzdelik, and has fallen off the national radar, while the other big 3 area schools (UNC, Duke, and NC State) have won ACC and NCAA Championships.

We are entering year two of the Danny Manning era, and coming off a year with a 13-19 record, yes, there is really no where to go but up with this team.
Manning was a good hire for Wake, and has already shown promise both on the court and on the recruiting trail (I hate that he missed out on getting Harry Giles, as this certainly would have helped speed up Wake’s reemergence as a contender). Coaches may not be able to teach height, but I have a feeling that Manning will be able to coach and develop players with height (there are four players on the team that are listed 6’10’’ and taller).

CLICK PLAY BELOW TO LISTEN TO DANIEL BAYER & MARK PANICHELLI TALK WAKE FOREST BASKETBALL as well as PREVIEW MARYLAND vs UNC &  the BIG 10-ACC CHALLENGE

Now, I am not ready to go on record and say that this team is going to be cutting down the nets in April (they have not made the NCAA tournament since 2010) or that they will be contending for the ACC Championship, but I do think that this team is going to finish better than 11th in the league, as they did last year. Even as the college basketball game is trending (similar to the NBA) towards a guard-oriented league, Wake Forest’s height is going to cause problems for teams this year.

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While many of you were going back for second helpings of turkey and mashed potatoes, Wake Forest was taking home 3rd place at the Maui Invitational. This is certainly one of the more elite early-season tournaments and my personal favorite tournament, so for Wake Forest to come out of Hawaii with two upset wins against UCLA and Indiana, it should help give them confidence as they get ready for the ACC season.

Early on Wake Forest has been led by Devin Thomas and Konstantinos Mitoglou. Thomas is going to be counted on throughout the year for his rebounding and inside scoring, and if he can improve his free-throw shooting, he will be one of the elite big men in the ACC. Mitoglou presents a defensive challenge for opposing teams with the ability to hit shots from 3-point range, which stretches the opposing team’s defense and allows for Thomas to operate on the inside. Even though you never want your leading scorer to be out for an extended period of time, the injury to Codi Miller-McIntytre has given both Mitchell Wilbekin and Bryant Crawford valuable early season on-the-job experience. This will only help in their confidence as the season progresses. Crawford, one of the top recruited point guards out of high school, has been the second leading scorer early on in the season. Now that forward Cornelius Hudson (a Sophomore who averaged 7 points a game last year) has been reinstated, it will help with creating a deeper bench, which was an issue for the Deacons in the first few games of the season.

In my opinion, once their leading scorer and Senior point guard returns from his injury, this Wake Forest team will be one that gets the Screamin’ Demons rocking in Joel Coliseum and will have their rivals up the road nervous that this team is no longer just an easy notch in the win column.

CATCH DANIEL BAYER EVERY TUESDAY ON THE DRIVE ON THE 252 ESPN RADIO NETWORK