North Carolina Off and Running Out of the Gate

Posted by Matt Auerbach on November 14th, 2018

Two weeks ago, when asked to submit my preseason national rankings, I knew the decision to place North Carolina as my top-rated squad would draw some raised eyebrows. Three games into the season, however, I have seen nothing from the Tar Heels (maybe something from Duke) that has given me reason for pause — in fact, their performance in this small sample size has been even better than anticipated. For the first time in more than three decades, North Carolina opened its season with two true road games, a challenge rarely taken by the sport’s elite (Duke, for example, won’t play its first road game until January 8!). And while not tested by the strongest of competition, Elon and Wofford, which beat Roy Williams‘ team at the Dean Dome a year ago, provided difficult road environments that helped prepare the Tar Heels for what will be a conference schedule littered with those affairs.

North Carolina Has Been Quietly Humming Along Through Three Games (USA Today Images)

After rolling Stanford at home on Monday night for the third victory of the season, North Carolina now ranks third in the KenPom ratings, a product of strong performances on both ends of the floor (currently ranking fifth in both offensive and defensive efficiency). Rarely does Williams fret over his offense, but he must be reveling in the elite defensive potential that this year’s team has already shown. Freshmen Nassir Little and Leaky Black are the type of long, athletic and versatile wings whose sole purpose seems to be to disrupt the flow of opposing offenses. Little, for all of his natural ability, also appears to check all of the intangible boxes to boot — toughness, strength, desire. Those areas have not always been North Carolina’s calling cards, but this year’s squad has shown a willingness to be first to the floor and it seems to play harder than its opponents.

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Several ACC Takeaways From Opening Night

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 7th, 2018

Opening night of the 2018-19 season was a total success for the ACC as league members swept their nine opponents last evening by convincing double-figure margins. Here are some takeaways from the three most prominent contests played by conference squads Tuesday night.

DUKE’S NEWCOMERS EXCEEDED THE HYPE

Zion Williamson and his fellow freshmen lived up to their immense hype in Duke’s big win over Kentucky. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It doesn’t sound possible after all the preseason buzz surrounding the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, but Duke‘s rookies were even better than advertised in a 118-84 thrashing of top-five Kentucky. This game represented a mismatch in talent from the outset, as Duke’s celebrated trio of RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish combined to finish with 83 points on 56.6 percent shooting. Barrett and Williamson, in particular, were amazing in transition, but they also scored much more easily in the half-court against a bevy of long and athletic Wildcats. At least for one glorious night in early November, Mike Krzyzewski’s squad had all of the answers to its preseason questions surrounding outside shooting (12-26 3FG), defense (Kentucky lingered around 1.0 PPP most of the game) and depth (eight Blue Devils saw double-figure minutes). After years of struggling to find a true point guard to orchestrate the offense, Duke looks like it has a diamond in Tre Jones, who finished with seven assists and zero turnovers. Even junior Jack White came off the bench to play 30 solid minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing a game-high 11 boards. Yes, it’s only one game — but if the Blue Devils can stay healthy, their potential is downright scary.

FLORIDA STATE’S DEFENSE IS LEGIT

Duke wasn’t the only ACC team to dominate a highly regarded team from the SEC last night, as Florida State used a strong second half start to pummel Florida, 81-60. Leonard Hamilton‘s team utilized old school defense to fuel its NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight last March, and it was more of the same against the Gators in holding their rival to a frigid 37.0 percent from the field and forcing 16 miscues. The Seminoles weren’t bad on the other end of the floor (1.12 PPP), either, especially considering they are currently without leading scorer Phil Cofer (broken foot). Florida State converted a robust 11-of-23 from three-point land, with PJ Savoy leading the way in nailing 5-of-7 from deep. Normally, Hamilton’s teams usually take some time to gel, but it looks like Florida State is already set to roll this year. If this is the ACC’s seventh best team (per the ACC Media preseason poll), then the league is in outstanding shape relative to the rest of college basketball.

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ACC Burning Questions, Part 5: Duke, North Carolina & Virginia

Posted by Mick McDonald on November 2nd, 2018

To wrap up our ACC team previews, Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) brings us home by reviewing league favorites Duke, North Carolina and Virginia.

Duke Burning Question: How will Duke’s talented freshmen gel on the court?

The Duke Freshmen Are Ready to Roll (USA Today Images)

Duke has the most talented roster in the country, but as we know, talent alone doesn’t always mean championships. After losing almost his entire roster from last year’s Elite Eight squad, Mike Krzyzewski reloaded with four of the very best prospects in the country. The question is how those pieces will fit together. While Zion Williamson (who is basically a cross between Justin Bieber and LeBron James on YouTube) is the Blue Devils’ biggest star, R.J. Barrett is the best player on the team. He dominated for Team Canada in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup last year and is likely be the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The smooth lefty likes to have the ball in his hands, so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with expected starting point guard Tre Jones.

Will fellow freshman Cam Reddish accept not being the lead banana on a team with plentiful options? Will anyone outside of sophomore Alex O’Connell (48.9% 3FG) make any three-pointers? Will juniors Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier be able to stay out of Krzyzewski’s doghouse to support the talented freshmen? Whether you believe that Duke will figure it all out and win the national title or if you have concerns about egos overtaking the team en route to an early exit in March, Duke is without question the most fascinating team in college basketball this season.

North Carolina Burning Question: What lineup does Roy Williams want to use?

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Morning Five: 08.03.16 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 3rd, 2016

morning5

  1. Yesterday, North Carolina released the latest statement in its seemingly never-ending battle with the NCAA regarding allegations of academic fraud at the university. At this point, the school has basically admitted that there was academic fraud committed although they are still fighting the charges of failure to monitor, but now they are challenging the NCAA’s authority to punish it for academic fraud saying it should be done at the discretion of the school’s accrediting agency and not the NCAA. As much as we have criticized North Carolina for the massive academic fraud at the school, we have to agree with them (and we have pointed out as much in previous posts in this space–much like we had an issue with the NCAA doling out a punishment to Penn State for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky case). We will have to see how the NCAA responds to UNC’s statement, but as we have been saying for a while with this case: we don’t see it ending any time soon and based on how the NCAA has treated UNC compared to other schools who self-imposed it seems like UNC may have chosen the right course of action.
  2. One of the biggest criticisms of UNC’s decision to fight the NCAA on this has been the shadow it cast on them in recruiting circles with Brandon Ingram even saying that the threat of NCAA sanctions was a big reason he did not go to UNC. That cloud makes Coby White‘s commitment to play at UNC even more significant. The commitment of White, a top-5 point guard in the class of 2018, gives the Tar Heels three top-30 recruits in the class of 2018. While it is still very early in the recruiting cycle for a class that is two full academic years away from matriculating to college, it is a great start for the Tar Heels.
  3. Meanwhile, at Missouri, which can probably be best described as a dumpster fire of an athletic department, the NCAA added a year of probation to Missouri’s self-imposed punishment (full statement here) after finding that the school had provided players and their families with $11,402 in impermissible benefits between 2011 and 2014. While most of the violations occurred while Frank Haith was there some also occurred under Kim Anderson, but the NCAA decided that neither coach was responsible for the lapses at their program. For his part, Haith (or more specifically his lawyer) issued a statement (included in this article) essentially reminding everybody that Haith was not found to be responsible for any violations and that the school/institution was solely responsible for the failures while he was leading the program. We wonder if Haith’s lawyer charged him the full rate for his services or if he gave Haith a discount since it could have been able to recycle seems like he has been getting a lot of use of out of these types of letters for Haith he could have just reused the letter for Haith’s role in the scandal at Miami just a few years earlier.
  4. The strange saga of Nick Marshall at Memphis appears to have come to an end. The 6’11” sophomore forward left the program under circumstances that can best be described as unusual (according to Gary Parrish he reportedly left under false pretenses in this series of tweets: 1, 2, 3, and 4). Marshall, who averaged 3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per game last season, but was expected to play a much bigger role this season, has committed to play at Motlow State Community College. If Marshall can get his act together, he has the talent to play at the high-major level again as he was a borderline top-50 recruit coming out of high school.
  5. In one of the more interesting moves we have seen, Brenda Tracy, who says she was raped in 1998 by four men including two Oregon State football players, and her son are putting forth a petition to the NCAA asking them to ban sexually violent athletes. The actual petition, written by her son, does not specify exactly what qualifies someone as a “violent athlete”. As much as we would like to see more strict penalties for people who commit crimes (especially sexual assault and other violent crimes) it seems like the NCAA would run into a a long line of lawsuits if it tried to enforce a strict ban on individuals especially if the legal system had deemed that person to be fit to not be incarcerated.
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