Morning Five: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2012

  1. After getting passed over by some other coaches they were pursuing Illinois introduced John Groce as their head coach yesterday. Groce, who compiled a record of 85-56 in four season at Ohio, led his team to the Sweet Sixteen this year. While he may not be the marquee name that some Illinois fans hoped for he does have some credentials that should make them more comfortable. In addition to having knocked off three power conference teams in his two tournaments (Georgetown, Michigan, and South Florida; ok, South Florida is a stretch), Groce also worked under Thad Matta (someone he will see a lot in his new job) at Butler and Xavier. So at least Groce should not be intimidated by the coaches on the opposing sideline.
  2. Illinois fans were probably concerned that losing Bruce Weber would affect their recruiting, but Jabari Parker, the school’s biggest target, says he is still interested in Illinois. The more interesting thing to us is how his high school coach is inserting himself into the picture. Although he appears to be a successful coach in his own right doing this at the same time you have the #1 recruit in the country will raise some eyebrows particularly with some of the unique package deals we have seen in the past few years.
  3. Yesterday, Danny Manning was announced as the the next head coach at Tulsa although the press conference will not be held until next week for reasons that we will get into. As we mentioned yesterday, this seems like it has the potential to be an excellent hire particularly with Manning’s reputation in that part of the country and the years he has spent as an assistant at the dominant program in the area. Of course, that’s the long-term effect. The near-term effect might not be so good. As you may remember, Manning’s current team, Kansas, is sort of occupied this weekend. With Manning (an assistant coach) and Barry Hinson (director of basketball operations) taking new jobs as head coaches in the past few days, you would think that they might be a little distracted from the task at hand. Bill Self says that should not be an issue, but if the Jayhawks come out flat there may be rumblings in Lawrence.
  4. Yesterday was an interesting day in Chapel Hill as Kendall Marshall won the Cousy Award as the top point guard in the nation. Oh, and there was that little thing about three players–Marshall, John Henson, and Harrison Barnes–declaring for the NBA Draft. As we mentioned yesterday, this group will have an interesting legacy. As individuals they could all be spectacular at times, but didn’t seem to put it together at key moments although Marshall cannot be faulted for his scaphoid fracture. All three are first round picks and potentially lottery picks (Marshall is the only one we question out of the three) so nobody will fault them for leaving early, but North Carolina fans could be in for some growing pains next season while the new group gets settled in.
  5. It is pretty rare for a high level school official to get into a controversy on Twitter, but Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis managed to do so when he sent a response on Twitter to Trey Burke. The Michigan freshman, who is considering putting his name in the NBA Draft, made a comment about all the people trying to give him advice on his life so Hollis responded by telling him to follow his heart and mind and seek out people that he trusts rather than having others come to him, which is sort of amusing because Hollis was coming to him with that advice. Anyways, it created a mini-controversy about questions of attempted recruitment, which was quickly refuted. Hopefully Hollis learned his lesson and also will learn to lenient to athletes for minor transgressions, which could come up as he is the chairman of the NCAA Division I Amateurism Cabinet and will join the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee later this year.
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Carolina Trio of Underclassmen Going Pro — UNC Looks Forward

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2012

It’s been assumed for a while now, but the news became official Thursday afternoon. North Carolina’s trio of star underclassmen — John Henson, Harrison Barnes, and Kendall Marshall — will enter this year’s NBA Draft. The press release on the UNC website does not mention any of the group ‘testing the waters’ with a possibility of return, but the quotes therein are highly suggestive that we will not see any of them back in a Tar Heel uniform again.

This Trio of UNC Stars Will Move On to the NBA

Barnes has been considered a high lottery pick since high school, and despite a sophomore season where he failed to meet expectations as a preseason All-America candidate, his stock as a smooth-shooting wing has not appeared to drop much, if at all (DraftExpress has him at #7 overall; at #5). Henson’s junior season may have helped him a little, as he cut down on his turnovers and showed an improved offensive game while remaining a defensive and rebounding force inside the paint (#16/#8). Marshall is perhaps the player with the most to gain by entering the draft this summer — his outputs improved from his freshman to sophomore year, but he should probably strike while the iron is hot while scouts are enamored with his superb passing and floor leadership abilities (and before they pick apart his offensive game too much) (#13/#14). All three should safely be mid- to high-first round selections in June.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 27th, 2012

  1. ESPN: Despite almost everyone saying Tony Parker will not go to Duke, the Blue Devils seem to always be on his list. This is a pretty interesting article on Parker and his family going through the pros and cons of some of the schools he’s still considering. Parker’s biggest knock on Duke seems to be a concern about developing bigs. While I see the recent evidence, I think it’s also worth pointing out the successful Duke big men (cut directly out of Parker’s mold) like Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer and Shelden Williams. I definitely see where his unease is coming from though.
  2. ACC Sports Journal: This is good stuff from Barry Jacobs on players leaving early for the NBA Draft. Austin Rivers is hiring an agent, but the choices of some other talented underclassmen have yet to come to light. It’s become a fact of life — top talent rarely stays four years (Tyler Zeller is the exception). We’ll definitely have some more draft coverage as players declare.
  3. SBNation: This is a solid article on North Carolina’s disappointing finish with a closer look at Harrison Barnes. It’s still impossible for me to tell about Barnes’ pro prospects: He’s looked great in flashes (he hit four of his five field goals against Kansas in a two-minute stretch), but he disappeared in the second half. His numbers look the same as last year, but his 40-point outbursts and clutch moments are missing.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: JT Thompson is transferring from Virginia Tech. After two straight season-ending knee injuries, he’ll leave the Hokies with a degree “and a lifetime of friends.” Thompson is transferring to be closer to his young daughter in order to become a full-time parent. The move shouldn’t kill the Virginia Tech frontcourt, as it still returns Cadarian Raines, Dorian Finney-Smith and CJ Barksdale in addition to bringing in a couple of freshmen.
  5. Testudo Times: With Terrell Stoglin coming back to College Park, it’s time to look at his season and prognosis. It’s clear Stoglin and Mark Turgeon have to work out their differences; it’s also clear that unless a lot changes over the summer (really I think it would be his senior season before he’d be able to run it effectively, but I’d like to see him get some time at the one). The good news for Maryland fans is Stoglin wants to improve his draft stock, and that should be mostly in line with Turgeon’s vision.
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On Defending the Indefensible: The Curious Case of Harrison Barnes and the Hype Machine

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2012

Now that Harrison Barnes‘ sophomore season has ended and the inevitable backlash against the young man for his 20-61 (32.8%) shooting performance in the NCAA Tournament has commenced, it’s time to take a step back to determine what we can learn from the endless hype and hyperbole surrounding a player who has suffered an enormous amount of pressure since the moment when he Skyped Roy Williams from his Ames High School gym to commit to North Carolina.

Harrison Barnes: Victim of Hype?

Barnes was projected as an AP preseason first team All-American before he’d even played a game of college basketball, and after a strong close to a somewhat enigmatic freshman season that earned him an honorable mention nod, he was placed on the AP preseason first team again this year. With today’s announcement of the 15 players selected as 2012 AP All-Americans and his name again nowhere on the list, we have to wonder how so many people continue to get it so wrong with this kid? It’s one thing to drop from the preseason first team to honorable mention once, but twice in consecutive years? Either he’s got a Pixar-like public relations department on retainer, or he’s simply not as good right now as everyone seemed to think.

Consider this argument made by’s Gary Parrish back on Halloween, as two (of 65) AP voters had the temerity to leave Barnes off of their preseason ballots:

Vote for an All-American team, you had to do two things:

  1. Put Jared Sullinger on it.
  2. Put Harrison Barnes on it, too.

After that, do whatever you like. […] Anything within those guidelines is reasonable. But omitting Sullinger or Barnes is indefensible. […] Barnes only received 63 of a possible 65 votes, which means two people who supposedly cover college basketball for a living didn’t vote for the most talented player on the nation’s most talented team […] there’s no intelligent way to defend not including him on an All-American ballot.

Was Parrish’s stance a reasonable position at the time? Maybe; maybe not. In the last decade, only three other players were consensus AP All-Americans in the preseason: Jason Williams (2001-02), Tyler Hansbrough (2008-09), and Jared Sullinger (2011-12). In all three cases, the player was returning from a First Team All-America season which had resulted in individual national honors (Williams and Hansbrough had won at least one NPOY award, while Sullinger was the national FrOY). Maybe the two AP voters in question saw something that the rest of us missed after last season; or maybe they simply weren’t comfortable putting someone on the team whom they felt hadn’t yet shown he could consistently bring it.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Elite Eight Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 25th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor – South Regional Final (at Atlanta, GA) – 2:20 PM ET on CBS

Despite there being four double digit seeds advancing to the third round, two of the teams many predicted to reach the South Region Final will meet on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome: Kentucky and Baylor. Kentucky has been nothing short of impressive and, at times, downright jaw dropping to watch; their speed, athleticism, length, and sheer ability cannot be matched—or can it? The Baylor Bears will look to pull off the upset and ruin millions of brackets across the nation in the process. After watching both teams compete on Friday evening, Kentucky demonstrated why they are the top team in the land, but it would be foolish for one to believe that they are invincible and Baylor doesn’t have the horses to knock off the Wildcats. The individual matchup that seemingly everyone is focusing on is in the frontcourt between Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III; both move like an athletic two guard, but have the imposing presence of a seven footer with an endless wingspan. But, let’s not forget about Terrence Jones and Quincy Acy, both dominant players in their own right. As we have seen throughout the tournament, especially lately, officiating crews seem to have quick whistles. Against Indiana, Davis picked up two quick fouls and sat for the remainder of the first half; it was an obvious, yet brilliant move by Tom Crean to get Davis on the bench. Expect Scott Drew to employ a similar tactic; he would be foolish not to dump the ball inside on Baylor’s early possessions in an effort to get Davis and Jones to the bench. When you have forwards running like guards, and guards running like track stars, expect this game to be played at a frantic pace. As has been the case throughout the year, when a rebound is corralled by either Kentucky or Baylor, there are instantaneously four players filling the lanes down the floor, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to move from one basket to the other. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are two of the best in the game in pushing the ball in transition. While the offensive proficiency of both teams will, no doubt, be the focal point of the game, the team that strings together a series of critical defensive stops will ultimately be the team that wins. Kentucky’s three point defense has been exceptional all season—a good thing since Baylor is a strong outside shooting team—while their interior defense is the best in college basketball bar none. The Bears will give Kentucky a run for their money, but the Cats and Calipari prevail in the end and march on to New Orleans.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 73, #13 Ohio 68 (OT)

Posted by dnspewak on March 23rd, 2012

Three Takeaways.

  1. Ohio Ran Out of Gas: Whether Ohio physically felt fatigued in the extra period hardly matters. What matters is Ohio missed all six field goal attempts in overtime, suddenly looking lost after shredding North Carolina’s defense throughout the second half. Reggie Bullock set the tone by draining a three on the first possession of overtime, then UNC sealed the game at the free throw line after clamping down defensively. D.J. Cooper‘s woes continued in overtime, as he missed two threes and threw the ball away with 32 seconds remaining. The star point guard finished 3-20 from the field, though he did dish out six assists.
  2. Reggie Bullock and Tyler Zeller Carried The Heels: Harrison Barnes found his stroke in overtime and made a critical three-pointer to tie the game in the second half, but he disappeared for much of the game in a 3-16 shooting effort. Luckily, Bullock emerged to hit two late threes to give the Heels the lead, and Zeller played like a madman for 45 minutes. Ohio had no answer for his size and tenacity — he fought, fought and fought some more for 23 rebounds and 20 points. He may not have made a defining, highlight-reel shot in a critical moment, but his presence changed the game for UNC.
  3. A Valiant Defense Effort: After shooting 23% in the first half, it seemed unbelievable the Bobcats trailed by just seven points. They hung around because North Carolina committed 13 turnovers in the first half, but once the shots began to fall for Ohio, the game tilted in coach John Groce‘s favor. Walter Offutt made five three-pointers after halftime and even added an and-1 to take the lead late in the second half. The Bobcats took their energy from the defensive end and translated it to the offensive end, as it harassed a Kendall Marshall-less UNC team for every single second of both halves and overtime. They weren’t kidding about this defense — it ranked fourth nationally in turnovers forced entering the game, and Ohio turned UNC over a total of 23 times.

Star of the Game. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. An easy choice here. Zeller’s double-double was a man’s man’s double-double, as he bullied the small Bobcats frontline possession after possession. He scored eight points in the first five minutes of the game and threw down a few dunks with authority to signal his presence right out of the gate. Zeller hardly says much on the court, and his expression never changes. But in the end, his physicality in the post wore down Ohio.

Quotable. “They just stepped up and made some plays. And we didn’t.” — D.J. Cooper, Ohio.

What’s Next. North Carolina survives to face either Kansas (for a Roy Williams special) or North Carolina State on Sunday, either game a sure-fire maelstrom of emotion and rivalry.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 23rd, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

  • Kansas star forward Thomas Robinson’s personal tragedies have been well-documented. The junior, who just turned 21 last week, is the key player for the Jayhawks as they look to move into the Elite Eight.
  • Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor has faced a lot of adversity in basketball and in life. The guard from New Jersey has developed into a leader for Bill Self’s squad and he will look to lead the Jayhawks into an Elite Eight on Friday night.
  • Going into this season, there were many differing opinions regarding NC State forward CJ Leslie. Leslie has developed into a key player and a team leader for the overachieving Wolfpack that have already pulled two upsets in the NCAA Tournament.
  • When NC State athletic director Kay Yow named Mark Gottfried head coach last April, many people were surprised by the decision. As it turns out, Yow had the right idea, as Gottfried has led the Wolfpack through some hard times this season and into the Sweet Sixteen.
  • North Carolina star forward Harrison Barnes has a history as a saxophone player. Putting the music aside, the Tar Heels’ leading scorer is a key component to the team moving on in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Ohio head coach John Groce has seen his name tied to the openings at Nebraska and Illinois, but the Bobcats’ head coach will not say if he has any interest until his team’s run in the NCAA Tournament has concluded.

West Region

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ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting North Carolina vs. Ohio

Posted by KCarpenter on March 23rd, 2012

Before Kendall Marshall‘s injury, this was a very tough match-up for the Bobcats. With Marshall’s injury, it’s still a tough match-up. There are several things going against Ohio in this match-up, but the toughest to overcome is simply size. Reggie Keely is a big body at 6’8″ and 263 pounds, but the rest of the line-up is shorter and lighter. Against the NBA-caliber size of North Carolina, this will be a problem, particularly for a team that struggles with defensive rebounding as it is. Worse, against the foul-drawing bigs of North Carolina, Ohio may quickly find itself in foul trouble. Ohio is easily the most foul-happy team left in the tournament, and Keely fouls 5.1 times per forty minutes and the rest of the front line posts similar marks. If Ohio can’t hold the interior against North Carolina, there is little to stop Tyler Zeller for going off for the game of his life.

Marshall May Not Play, But How Will Ohio Deal With UNC's Big Men?

Still, despite this distinct mismatch, Ohio comes into this game with a set of skills that could make life miserable for the Tar Heels. As a team, the Bobcats force turnovers on over a quarter of all possessions, and over the season have turned over offenses at the second best rate in the entire country. North Carolina, despite its fast pace, was one of the better ball-control teams in the country this year, and a lot of that credit goes to the masterful generalship of Marshall. Without the team’s 35 MPG point guard (or his back up), the Tar Heel’s of a distinct lack of battle-tested and sure-handed ball-handlers. Stilman White, Justin Watts, and (I suspect) Harrison Barnes are all but certain to endure hellacious ball-pressure as Ohio tries to leverage North Carolina’s inexperienced ball-handler into frequent turnovers and easy fast-break points. The success of both teams likely hinges on the ability of North Carolina to successfully break pressure, play out of traps, and otherwise initiate the Tar Heel offense before the ball hawks of Ohio make the big play.

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Ohio University Fighting the Cinderella Label

Posted by dnspewak on March 23rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC Correspondent covering the Midwest Regional in St. Louis this weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

They hail from a league nestled in America’s heartland, playing in relative anonymity in the Mid-American Conference. Each winter, they travel through Ypsilanti, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo and a host of other industrialized college towns with funky names, occasionally appearing on ESPNU or regional television. They toil in obscurity behind one of the largest and most powerful state universities in the United States, keeping to themselves in a town called Athens situated about 157 miles away from Cincinnati and 217 miles from Cleveland.

The point guard grew up in Chicago but had no offers from the Big Ten out of high school. The team’s vocal leader and second-leading scorer used to average five minutes a game at Ohio State. The two leading rebounders stand tall at an undersized 6’8”, each averaging just 5.0 boards per game. The head coach is a young, refreshing sparkplug with a load of energy, but his shaved head and small stature seem to fit the mold of an athletic trainer– not the leader of a team in the Sweet Sixteen.

D.J. Cooper Is Getting the Last Laugh in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

At first glance, nothing about the Ohio Bobcats suggests they should have any shot against top-seeded North Carolina Friday evening, even if standout point guard Kendall Marshall’s wrist injury leaves him unavailable to play. UNC center Tyler Zeller, a former McDonald’s All-American from a well-known basketball family in Indiana, paid polite compliments to the 13th-seeded Bobcats on Thursday afternoon. But even he admitted they are vulnerable in the frontcourt, claiming his team “can attack them a little bit down low and try to play to our strengths.” So it’s settled: as long as the bigger, badder Tar Heels show up to play, they’ll have no trouble dispatching a little Cinderella that finished third in the MAC East Division.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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