A Battle of Blue Bloods: Previewing North Carolina vs. Kentucky

Posted by David Changas & Lathan Wells on December 13th, 2014

Two college basketball titans renew their rivalry in Lexington Saturday when North Carolina visits Kentucky. RTC’s Lathan Wells and David Changas offer their analysis of the match-up, and give their takes on what it will take for each team to prevail.

David Changas: North Carolina has been particularly ineffective in keeping its opponents off the offensive glass – the Tar Heels currently allow their opponents to grab more than a third of their misses – and Kentucky leads the nation in offensive rebounding (46.1%).  How can North Carolina combat the Wildcats’ prowess on the offensive boards?

Kennedy Meeks will have to be almost perfect for the Tar Heels to have a chance (kentuckysportsradio.com)

Kennedy Meeks will have to be almost perfect for the Tar Heels to have a chance (draftexpress.com)

Lathan Wells: Honestly, I think this an effort issue. The Tar Heels, like the Wildcats, have plenty of size in the post. The two teams who made them look porous on the defensive boards were Butler and Iowa, both of which are much smaller than the Tar Heels, but which played much more aggressively. Brice Johnson has to stay out of the foul trouble that has plagued him recently, because Kennedy Meeks is undersized at the center spot. As you noted, the Wildcats’ offensive rebounding numbers are astonishing. But part of that has to do with the fact that they are only an average shooting team (currently 81st in the country in field goal percentage). If the Tar Heels are better on the glass than in those losses to Butler and Iowa, who has to step up their shooting to make sure the Wildcats’ shots count?

DC:  There is no question that this has to be an area of serious concern for John Calipari. The Wildcats are shooting 27% from three-point range, and last year’s NCAA Tournament hero, Aaron Harrison, is a dreadful 10-for-44 beyond the arc. Of course, Kentucky’s size and incredible ability to attack the offensive glass has covered up this weakness. While the obvious answer to your question is better production from Harrison, having Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, both of whom missed the Columbia game Wednesday, should help, as the two freshmen have been the Wildcats’ best shooters from beyond the arc. Like Kentucky, North Carolina has struggled from deep, and is shooting just 28% from three-point range. Kentucky is nearly impossible to score against on the interior, too.  How can the Tar Heels score enough points to compete in Lexington, much less win the game?

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ACC Stock Watch – Week One

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 21st, 2014

Each week here at the microsite we’ll take a look at which ACC teams and players are trending up, down, or remaining flat. It’s still very early in the season, but there are some trends to be gleaned from the first week of opening games. Let’s take a look below:

Trending Up

  • Duke. Despite all of the preseason hype placed on Duke’s freshmen (Jahlil Okafor in particular) and speculative questions about overall team chemistry, the Blue Devils have looked the part of a title contender thus far. Their blowouts over Presbyterian and Fairfield may not have convinced anyone, but their wire-to-wire victory over Michigan State showed that Duke is already in top form.
  • Miami. The Hurricanes’ early returns on their big-name transfers have been outstanding. Sheldon McClellan (from Texas) is putting up 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game through two contests, and former Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez is not only averaging a team-high 18.3 points per contest, but he also hit the game-winning three over rival Florida that ended the Gators’ 33-game home winning streak. Pretty solid start for Jim Larranaga’s newcomers.
Angel Rodriguez has brought pleasant early returns for Miami (USA Today Sports)

Angel Rodriguez has produced pleasant early returns for Miami (USA Today Sports)

  • Virginia Tech. Why are the Hokies trending up when they only have wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Liberty? Well, go back in time one year ago and Virginia Tech had just lost its season opener to South Carolina Upstate. At a minimum, Buzz Williams has his team beating the teams it should beat, something last year’s group couldn’t boast. Freshman Justin Bibbs’ solid start to the season has been a pleasant surprise as well.

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North Carolina Shows Off Its Depth on Opening Weekend

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 17th, 2014

After having to answer questions all preseason dealing with the school’s “paper class” scandal, there’s little doubt that North Carolina’s players and coaches were even more excited than usual to tip off the 2014-15 season over the weekend. The program needs something positive to rally around, and with two games now under the team’s belt, there’s something to be excited about. On Friday night at the Smith Center, North Carolina defeated North Carolina Central by a score of 76-60, in a game that Roy Williams described as “not the prettiest in the world.” Things came much easier for the Tar Heels in Sunday afternoon’s 103-59 beatdown of Robert Morris. It should be noted that each of North Carolina’s first two opponents were not the traditional cupcakes that some may believe — in fact, both schools won their respective conference regular season championships last season.

Kennedy Meeks (left) and Brice Johnson (#11) give North Carolina a Powerful Inside Game. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Kennedy Meeks (with ball) and Brice Johnson (#11) give North Carolina a Powerful Inside Game. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

So let’s look at some of the takeaways from the Tar Heel’s first two games.

  • North Carolina has a dynamic duo in the post. In the opener, Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson were solid (combining for 22 points and 17 rebounds), but they were dominant against Robert Morris, combining for 44/20. We had heard reports in the preseason that each player had undergone a physical transformation, and we can confirm that the change in both is striking. The sophomore Meeks has lost approximately 50 pounds and is now listed at a solid 270, while the junior Johnson has done the opposite, gaining about 20 pounds to get to his current listed weight of 228. The result is that Meeks is able to run up and down the court much easier and is more explosive around the basket, and undoubtedly will be able to log heavier minutes. Johnson, on the other hand, will no longer be so easily knocked off-balance on the blocks, capable of holding his position defensively without having to foul.

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Who’s Got Next? Theo Pinson Ends HS Career on a High Note

Posted by Sean Moran on February 24th, 2014

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/whosgotnext.jpg

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Theo Pinson is Ready For Chapel Hill

Some players make the McDonald’s All-American game based on their summer AAU play. Other players, like four-star (and soon to be five-star) Theo Pinson earn their invitation through fabulous senior seasons. Pinson, a 6’6” small forward headed to North Carolina next year, is currently ranked No. 10 in the country by ESPN. His high ranking is largely due to an extremely impressive senior year at Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC), a school which just won its second straight state championship over their weekend.

Over the summer, Pinson led his CP3 All-Stars team to the championship game of the famed Nike Peach Jam. Despite the loss, Pinson was solid in averaging 15.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game over the course of the event. With his slashing and athletic style of play, Pinson lived at the free throw line at times, with games where he went 16-of-18 and 17-of-18 from the line. The one weakness in Pinson’s game has been his outside shooting. Known for his “chicken-wing” form, Pinson shot a chilly 31 percent from behind the arc. Knowing his faults allowed him to focus on improving his outside shot with high school coach and former Maryland player, Keith Gatlin, who talked with InsideCarolina about his star. “I think now his shooting is his most underrated skill,” Gatlin said. “He’s been knocking them down while playing heavy minutes. He’s doing it all right now… he’s getting to the cup, finishing and making his free throws. You can’t really play him one way. A lot of teams say ‘let’s make him shoot.’ You can’t do that with him. “

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College Basketball by the Tweets: A B1G/ACC Tie, UNC Plays Jekyll and Hyde…

Posted by David Harten on December 5th, 2013

bythetweets

So can anyone figure North Carolina out? Seriously, that’s a question. In the past four games, the Tar Heels have done what can only be deciphered as playing up (or down) to their competition, losing to Belmont at home before beating defending national champion Louisville, then losing to UAB before taking down the No. 1 team in the nation, Michigan State, on Wednesday night. So please, someone explain what makes this team act the way it acts. The Tar Heels’ tussle with the Spartans highlighted the two-day Big Ten/ACC Challenge, with the two conferences tying at 6-6 for the second consecutive year. When it was all over, the national focus was less on the tie and more on the fact that the Tar Heels have two wins over top five teams and two losses to unranked bubble teams.

Speaking of disappointing Michigan State performances, does anyone remember that Garrick Sherman spent the beginning of his career with the Spartans? Well, he’s at Notre Dame now, which everyone probably knows after the five-overtime thriller against Louisville last year, of which he didn’t play a minute of until the first overtime and still finished with 17 points. He’s proven a capable scorer as a fifth-year senior, putting up an event-high 29 points in a 98-93 Irish loss at Iowa. Read the rest of this entry »

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North Carolina’s Collapse Against Belmont Exposes Lineup Problems

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 18th, 2013

Brad Jenkins is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday afternoon’s North Carolina vs. Belmont game from Chapel Hill. 

Normally when a small school like Belmont wins a road game against a traditional power like North Carolina, it is deemed a major upset. But the Bruins’ 83-80 victory in Chapel Hill Sunday afternoon did not look like a big surprise. This statement has more to do with North Carolina’s team right now than it does with Belmont. After a lackluster win over a lightly-regarded Holy Cross on Friday night, RTC ACC microsite columnist Lathan Wells pointed out that North Carolina was suffering from an offensive identity crisis. As of Sunday, the Tar Heels are still looking for answers.

Roy Williams is Searching for Answers

Roy Williams is Searching for Answers in Chapel Hill

The story of the first half was certainly the pathetic 9-of-28 free throw performance by North Carolina, leaving the Heels behind by seven points at the half. They were better from the charity stripe in the second half but still finished a dismal 22-of-48 for the game. For a team with only one perimeter shooting threat in Marcus Paige, attacking the basket aggressively against the smaller Bruins would appear to be a sound strategy. The problem was that the two guys repeatedly getting fouled are both bad free throw shooters. J.P. Tokoto and James Michael McAdoo were a combined 15-of-35 from the free throw line on Sunday, but that’s not a total shock given their history: McAdoo shot 58% last year and Tokoto managed to make only 38.5% of his free throws. So maybe that strategy isn’t so great after all. The only real effective thing North Carolina did on the offensive end was hit the glass. The Heels collected 21 of their misses out of a possible 43, for a phenomenal offensive rebound rate approaching 50 percent.

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ACC Team Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 7th, 2013

Fans of the storied North Carolina Tar Heels basketball program always anxiously await the arrival of the coming season. This year, however, after a string of off-the-court incidents, fans and the team itself probably have more reason to cheer the first minute of game action than in recent seasons. Guard P.J. Hairston’s legal woes stemming from an infamous traffic stop in Durham and speeding tickets thereafter, coupled with wing guard Leslie McDonald’s strange licensed mouthpiece storyline and forward J.P. Tokoto’s unauthorized summer league participation, left UNC fans reading about their beloved college basketball season all summer and into the fall for all the wrong reasons. Luckily, the season is right around the corner, and not a moment too soon.

North Carolina Preview 2013

Last year’s Tar Heels found themselves in a position head coach Roy Williams rarely finds himself having to acclimate to: an unsettling lineup situation. The team played uneven basketball over the first half of the year, struggling most glaringly with ineffective post play. James Michael McAdoo had returned for a sophomore season hoping to become a star and catapult into the NBA Draft’s upper tier; instead, massive expectations and having to guide a young group of frontcourt players overwhelmed him and left him playing out of position. The team’s switch to a four-guard lineup in February helped accentuate the strength of the team on the perimeter, and helped spark the Heels to wins in their final six ACC games and a run to the championship game of the ACC Tournament. But upon entering the NCAA Tournament, the team ran into a team with too much size in Kansas in the second round and realized their small lineup’s limitations in defeat.

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Who’s Got Next? Top Uncommitted Prospects To Commit Soon…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 18th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

From an important commitment Monday to an important commitment today, we’re bringing you everything you’ve missed in the past week in the world of recruiting including new developments in a top ten prospect’s recruitment, the meteoric rise of a somewhat unknown recruit, more rankings being released, a challenge issued to two powerhouse programs on Tobacco Road, and how an ACC program’s recruiting class is falling apart.

What We Learned

Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) might stay in Wichita.

Wichita State Has a Realistic Shot at Perry Ellis. Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) has long had the same list of six schools (Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Wichita State) that’s he interested in, but lately, it seems as though there has been some movement as to who his favorite is. The latest shift involves Wichita State after they hired assistant coach Dana Ford, who has a longstanding relationship with the Ellis family. Ford has watched Ellis play since his first middle school game and even worked out with Ellis several years ago when Ford was a Shocker intern. The WSU coaching staff also met with Ellis and his family last Wednesday and emphasized how much they wanted to keep Perry in Wichita (Ellis attends Wichita Heights HS). Some other news involving Ellis includes the fact that Minnesota is now starting to recruit him and head coach Tubby Smith called him on the phone recently. A source very close to the situation also says that they suspect Kansas and Kentucky are two of the front-runners in Ellis’ recruitment.

Mitch McGary is Becoming a Top 2012 Talent. This time of year last year you probably didn’t know who class of 2012 power forward Mitch McGary was; well now he is one of the best players in his class. McGary has become significantly better in all parts of his game over the past 12 months and is a force to reckon with both inside and out. He is a tough, strong, big man to handle in the paint and has the ability to step out and score on the perimeter. However, the biggest reason he has received much more attention lately is because of his incessant motor and the fact that he has gotten his grades in order. Now that schools don’t have to worry about whether he will qualify or not, programs such as Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are in near-constant contact with him. He says that his recruitment is wide open and that he will likely wait until late in the process to make his decision. He also says location isn’t a factor in his choice. As of January, before top programs began taking notice of McGary, he had visited Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Marquette.

Maryland’s Recruiting Class is Falling Apart. Many people wondered what would happen to Maryland’s recruiting class when the Terps found their new coach and whether their commitments would stay with Maryland or seek releases from their letters of intent; well now we know. The Terrapins have lost every recruit in its Class of 2011 after the university granted shooting guard Nick Faust (#38), point guard Sterling Gibbs and power forward Martin Breunig releases from their signed letters of intent. To make matters even worse, just days after his release was granted, Gibbs committed to the Texas Longhorns (read more about this in the “What You Missed” section below). However the Terps still have a shot at Faust, who is now the second highest rated uncommitted prospect and still likes Maryland (Check out the “What They’re Saying” section below to find out why), and Breunig, who visited Washington Monday night. Keep in mind Faust and Gibbs are good friends so Gibbs’ commitment to Texas might push Faust away from College Park. This coaching change is also affecting Maryland’s 2012 class since small forward Justin Anderson (#45) said Sunday in a text that he isn’t sure whether he will open his recruitment back up. On the brighter side of things for Terps fans, head coach Mark Turgeon picked up Class of 2012 shooting guard Seth Allen who is a prolific scorer and can get the ball in the basket from anywhere on the court.

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