There's been a fair amount of talk over the last couple of days about the increased roughness of play n the ACC and college basketball in general, most of it spinning off of this N&O article. I think Ken Tysiac basically gets it right in the article with this simple fact:
Some coaches say more contact is inevitable in college basketball because the players are larger and the court has remained the same size.
Duke started this season with six players listed at 225 pounds or more. Ten years ago, the 1999-2000 Duke roster listed two players at more than 215 pounds.
So the play's gotten rougher, and will continue that way until fouls are called. Which will generate more complaints from crowds, as long as you're calling them against the home team. It's worth noting that UNC is one of the softer playing teams in college basketball this season, both by observation, and statistically – the Heels are second only to Mississippi State in opponents' free throws attempted vs. field goals attempted. Carolina just doesn't foul.
Which brings up this little tidbit. After last night's Duke-Wake game, Duke Basketball Report has a simpler explanation for the rough style of play. Chas McFarland:
There's a reason why anger follows wherever McFarland goes: he generates it. ESPN highlighted the flagrant hit by Gonzaga's forward Elias Harris, but didn't show the things McFarland did to provoke it. Last year, TV showed the Clemson students pummel him when he went into the stands. It seemed outrageous, but as is so often the case with McFarland, things don't happen in a vacuum.
Between Duke and Wake, we expect a tough, hard-fought game. We don't expect to see the sort of junk McFarland pulls. Consider: as a big inside player, how often have you seen Brian Zoubek get seriously irritated by an opponent? Tyler Hansbrough? Deon Thompson? Dexter Strickland? Gani Lawal? Solomon Alabi?
You can keep asking and the answer comes to one: McFarland. Someone needs to deal with him before a game gets completely out of hand.
I don't remember much of McFarland's play last year, but it was effective enough to get him 20 points and 9 rebounds. He finished the game with four fouls. He doesn't lead his team in fouls called per time played, falling behind two other big men on the Demon Deacons.
Is conference play getting to rough, and is McFarland a prime example of it, or is this a case of Duke fans hating the player in front of them? I haven't seen enough to have an opinion one way or the other, but it's something to look for on Wednesday.