What North Carolina Needs to Do to Beat Providence

Posted by Chris Kehoe on March 19th, 2014

North Carolina has its hands full tonight with its first round match-up against #11 Providence. The Friars are red-hot at the moment, coming off a Big East Tournament title that included an upset win over Creighton. Head coach Ed Cooley placed a premium on winning the title in Madison Square Garden because the Friars hadn’t won it since 1994 and only once in the past 34 years. Providence may have lucked out in avoiding top seed Villanova after the Wildcats were upset by Seton Hall at the buzzer, but they still managed to get past the Bluejays and college basketball’s likely NPOY. The Friars’ best player, senior guard Bryce Cotton, was a unanimous first team all-Big East selection and he is a handful for any defense. A capable scorer who has increased his distribution skills this year, Cotton is much like North Carolina’s Marcus Paige in that they are both rail-thin, ball-dominating guards that are relied upon heavily from the perimeter. Their battle at that position will be one of the key match-ups in this game, and if Paige can play Cotton even or better, the Tar Heels will be well positioned to advance.

Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton (Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

The competitor in Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton ( Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

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Rushed Reactions: #23 North Carolina 79, Maryland 68

Posted by IRenko on March 6th, 2013


I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between North Carolina and Maryland. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  • One Team is Dancing, and the Other Is (Probably) Not — This was UNC’s sixth straight win and clinched a share of third place in the ACC. The Tar Heels’ recent run, which includes victories over Virginia and NC State, has solidified their hold on an at-large bid. A win over Duke on Saturday would leave no doubt, but even a loss followed by another in the first round of the ACC Tournament should not jeopardize their at-large hopes. Maryland, on the other hand, is headed in the opposite direction. The Terps badly needed this win after recent losses at Boston College and Georgia Tech. Without it, they’ll probably need to beat Virginia on Saturday and make a deep run in the ACC Tournament to have a shot.
  • McAdoo  vs. Len Disappoints — The marquee match-up coming into the game was the battle between big men James Michael McAdoo and Alex Len, but it proved to be a disappointment. Len excited the crowd with some putbacks, but both players looked tentative and ineffective trying to create offense. McAdoo finished with 10 points and two rebounds. Len added just eight points. To some extent, the letdown was a microcosm for their seasons. Both players entered the year with high expectations — perhaps unfairly high — that they haven’t quite matched. McAdoo was in early National Player of the Year conversations, but has drifted well out of the NPOY race as well as NBA Draft lottery projections. Len remains a projected lottery pick, but he has struggled down the stretch, scoring in single digits in seven of last 11 games (after scoring in double digits in 15 of his first 18 games). I don’t pretend to be a draft expert, but one has to wonder if we may see both of these guys back in college uniforms come November.
P.J. Hairston's Aggressiveness and Physicality Helped he Tarheels to the Win in a Hostile Environment (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

P.J. Hairston’s Aggressiveness and Physicality Helped he Tarheels to the Win in a Hostile Environment (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

  • Maryland’s Shooting Woes Continue — UNC offered a great chance for Maryland to break out of its outside shooting slump, as the Tar Heels’ defense is vulnerable to the three-point shot. And, sure enough, the Terps had plenty of good looks, particularly off post kickouts and ball reversals. But they couldn’t capitalize, shooting an ugly 3-of-23 from behind the arc. They are now shooting 17.9 percent from three over their last three games and 27.3 percent over their past six. The Terps tried to compensate for their woeful shooting against UNC by pounding the offensive glass and attacking the paint. They were effective, outscoring the Heels in the paint, 38-16, and on second-chance points, 20-11. But they still lost the game by 11 points, thanks to their disastrous night from outside.

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Upset Special: The Aftermath of North Carolina’s Loss

Posted by mpatton on November 27th, 2011

North Carolina‘s loss Saturday exposed several flaws in the team and in people’s perception of the team. When Ken Pomeroy ranked the Tar Heels fourth in the country, many national analysts scoffed. But don’t forget: the Tar Heels were not dominant last year. They got beat handily by a Duke team (without Kyrie Irving) in the ACC Tournament Finals after squeaking by Miami by two points and Clemson in overtime. Yes, they added PJ Hairston and James Michael McAdoo. But the unsinkable aura many gave this team coming into the season was a little overboard.

It is also important to look at the game and the details surrounding it to understand the loss. First and foremost, UNLV was a little underrated even though the Rebels were getting votes in the AP and Coaches’ polls before knocking off North Carolina. Second, the game was at a “neutral” site: yes, it wasn’t at the Thomas & Mack Center, but most of the crowd wore scarlet (I’d estimate the crowd was around 65-70% for UNLV). Third, the game comes right before North Carolina’s two toughest non-conference games of the season against Wisconsin and at Kentucky. That’s not to say Roy Williams or his team consciously overlooked UNLV, but the game happened in a “tournament” (less than 24 hours after their game with South Carolina) and right before they face two very good opponents.

Where Was Tyler Zeller Against UNLV?

Before looking at what went wrong in the game, it is important to look at what North Carolina did well. Most notably, PJ Hairston played incredibly. In only 13 minutes Hairston scored a team-high (tied with Harrison Barnes) 15 points on six shots. He has had a very productive season so far and has really excelled in his role off the bench. People asked going into this season who the knockdown shooter would be for North Carolina, and Hairston has answered the call although I think he is a year away from being a true go-to guy like Wayne Ellington. In a similar vein Reggie Bullock was terrific, going 4-5 from the field despite a couple of turnovers. He also played great defense for stretches. If Williams can get this much productivity out of these two, he will have to think about starting one of them over Dexter Strickland at some point. It should also be mentioned that the Tar Heels went on a run in the first half with Kendall Marshall on the bench. Marshall played well on the offensive end, especially in the first half when he knocked down a big three to put North Carolina up five.

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Checking In On.. The ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2011

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer for RTC.


Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Coach K Gets 903: Mike Krzyzewski made basketball history by passing his mentor Bob Knight on the all-time wins list. The record is a testament to Krzyzewski’s consistent excellence over the last three decades. It was an incredible accomplishment and dictated the better part of a week’s coverage.
  • Eligibility and Injuries Plague ACC: The ACC has five players out with eligibility issues, seven are out with significant injuries, and one is out after violating team rules. Alex Len (Maryland) may have his eligibility after he sits out ten games (he’ll be back in late December), but DeQuan Jones (Miami) is out indefinitely because of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into allegations of the Nevin Shapiro scandal; Shane Larkin (Miami) is awaiting word on his eligibility after transferring from DePaul; Thomas de Thaey (NC State) is waiting for his amateur status to be reviewed; and Ian Miller (Florida State) will miss at least first semester due to eligibility issues. On the injury front, JT Thompson and Marquis Rankin (Virginia Tech) are out for the season while Pe’Shon Howard (Maryland), Antwan Space (Florida State), Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson (Miami), and Leslie McDonald (North Carolina) are out indefinitely with various injuries. Wake Forest’s Ty Walker is suspended for violating the team’s honor code but is expected back against Seton Hall. Yikes.
  • Virginia Hype Came Too Soon?: Kellen Carpenter hit the nail on the head in his preview of the Cavaliers. He pointed out lack of offensive balance and inability to make twos as the two biggest questions facing Tony Bennett’s squad. The team has had success from inside the arc in its wins, bu looking at the boxscore from their loss to TCU reveals the Cavaliers shot less than 40% on two-point attempts. Mike Scott was still solid, but the rest of the team struggled a lot. The other problem is Virginia’s crawling tempo makes it very difficult to come back from deficits.
  • Mark Gottfied Can Recruit (and possibly coach, too): Mark Gottfried came into Raleigh with high expectations from the Wolfpack fanbase. So far, he has lived up to all of them. Gottfried has a top-five recruiting class sealed up thanks to signing TJ Warren, Rodney Purvis, and Tyler Lewis in the early period; he has another potential star possibly joining the ranks in Amile Jefferson. He also managed to get NC State its best non-conference win in quite a while with a huge comeback against Texas. One of the biggest problems with last year’s team was it could not come from behind. I generally chalked it up to effort or general pessimism that comes with frequent losses. Gottfried seems to have turned things around at least a little. Read the rest of this entry »
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Will UNC Wear Down? Roy Williams Sticks to His A-Team So Far…

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2011

It’s no secret that Roy Williams likes to use large rotations. Most of last year he rotated full lineups with frequency, and it wasn’t new to last year. If you look at his national championship teams from 2004-05 and 2008-09, only one player averaged thirty minutes a game for each team (Raymond Felton and Wayne Ellington). Ty Lawson’s toe injury probably kept him from being another player at around 30 minutes a game. Last year Williams expanded his rotation from eight players to nine (I’m only counting Larry Drew II and Justin Watts as one player), with only Harrison Barnes averaging 30 minutes a game.

Roy Williams is Relying on his Starters more this Season

But in the game against UNC Asheville Sunday, every Tar Heel starter logged at least 30 minutes. In that game, James McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston all played close to ten minutes, but in two games Williams hasn’t been nearly as open with his rotations as in years past. Whether Williams’ change in strategy was due to a pesky UNCA team that just wouldn’t go away, or wanting to test his starters’ conditioning with the quick turnaround from the Carrier Classic (where the North Carolina starters all also played 30 minutes), is unknown. But especially for a game against a low major team, North Carolina’s reliance on its starters is interesting thus far.

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Set Your TiVo: 11.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 11th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We had a few games earlier in the week to whet our appetite but the main course of college basketball is served tonight. One hundred thirty-one games tip off this evening in what is really the true opening night of the season. Of course, the night is highlighted by the Carrier Classic in San Diego. Let’s get to it.

#1 North Carolina vs. Michigan State (at San Diego, CA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Izzo and Williams Are All Smiles Heading Into the Inaugural Carrier Classic

  • The preseason #1 Tar Heels feature arguably the best front court in the nation with Tyler Zeller, John Henson and freshman James McAdoo. The length of the UNC front line, especially Henson, will make it incredibly difficult for Michigan State to score the basketball in the paint but the Tar Heels should also use their height as an advantage offensively. Michigan State will likely try to make this a half court game in order to limit Carolina’s transition attack. North Carolina did not shoot the ball particularly well last season so maximizing their chances inside could be advantageous if the Spartans successfully turn this into a slower-paced contest. Everyone knows Roy Williams likes to run (we’ll certainly see that) but UNC has the potential to thrive in the half court game with a good floor general in Kendall Marshall and an uber-talented front line that can score, rebound and block shots. They’re a tough matchup for anyone but especially a Michigan State team with an inexperienced and thin big man rotation.
  • For Tom Izzo and Michigan State, Draymond Green may have to do it all. He’s a stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire but we expect Green to have a difficult time getting in the paint against the tall and patient Carolina defense. Green was only a 42.6% shooter from the floor last season, down significantly from his freshman and sophomore campaigns in East Lansing. As a senior, Green has to be the coach on the floor while simultaneously taking control of the game in order for State to have a chance. Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood bolsters Izzo’s back court and he’ll have to be counted on right away to provide a spark from three-point land. Michigan State is not going to beat North Carolina inside or in transition so you have to figure it’ll be up to Green, Wood and Keith Appling to knock down shots from long range.
  • The other aspect to this game, obviously, is the USS Carl Vinson itself. Neither team was a good jump shooting unit last year so the depth perception and sightlines of this unique venue could play a huge role. Even the elements, such as the slightest gust of wind, could be enough to alter a shot. North Carolina will run and look for easy baskets behind Marshall’s exquisite court vision and playmaking ability, a transition attack that may be fueled by Michigan State turnovers. The Spartans turned the ball over at an alarming rate last season, especially in the early months. If that continues, they don’t have a chance tonight. So many things have to go right for Michigan State to pull the upset but there are a lot of intangibles in play from the venue to the weather to the pressure of playing in such a setting and more. North Carolina should win, but regardless, this looks like a terrific way to open up the season.

Belmont @ #6 Duke – 9:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

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ACC Morning Five: 11.11.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 11th, 2011

ACC Basketball is upon us! The conference kicks off basketball with a bang tonight. Only two of the games are televised; luckily, they’re two excellent games. North Carolina is taking to the high seas to play Michigan State in the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic at 7:00 PM EST on ESPN. Meanwhile on ESPNU, Duke welcomes the talented Belmont Bruins to the unfriendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium in what many are (and should) be predicting as a potential upset at 9:00 PM EST. But on to the links!

  1. Columbia Daily Tribune: Former Miami coach Frank Haith‘s new job didn’t get started off as planned. In addition to cries of dismay from fans at the hire (and apparently the Columbia Daily Tribune, which offers this description of Haith’s departure from Miami: “A guy facing an NCAA Tournament-or-unemployment season at the basketball backwater of Miami was suddenly in charge of a senior-laden team built to contend for a Big 12 title”, Haith brought baggage after the Miami scandal hit like a ton of bricks over the summer. However, his luck since coming to Missouri hasn’t been the best either: Mike Anderson left him no recruits for this season; he lost an incoming transfer and had another player leave; and he lost one of the team’s most pivotal players in Laurence Bowers to injury. Ouch.
  2. Boston Herald: Steve Donahue is very, very patient. It’s hard to tell from reading this article whether Donahue is patient or just resigned. While it’s true you want to ground yourself in reality, it won’t help you recruit: “He’s conceded that he won’t win recruiting wars with ACC powers Duke and North Carolina for blue chip prospects.” The fact is, a good recruiter absolutely can win those battles (see: Sean Miller at Arizona or even Mark Gottfried at NC State in recent weeks). Boston College has something to offer high-level recruits that Duke and North Carolina do not always have available, though: playing time. The article also makes a great point that Donahue has a history of starting slow, as his teams faced losing seasons in his first six years at Cornell.
  3. Burlington Times-News: With the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the ACC won’t just see its overall basketball talent increase, but it will also have to change scheduling dramatically. Currently teams play 16 games, four of which include home-and-homes against rivals (i.e., Duke plays North Carolina and Maryland twice every year) and three other rotating home-and-home series. But the addition of two more teams will mandate the conference move to at least an 18-game conference season (basically, the same parameters would exist with two more one-time opponents factored in). Nothing is as satisfactory as a round-robin schedule where everyone gets two shots against everyone else, but conference expansion has made that impossible.
  4. Richmond Times-Dispatch: The writers over at the Richmond Times-Dispatch put together five trivia questions about the ACC. One very interesting fact I found was that Florida State has never won an ACC title (with the Seminoles’ last basketball title of any kind coming in 1978 in the Metro Conference). Although I’m going to disagree with number four: James McAdoo is not this year’s Harrison Barnes. Partially because Barnes came into last season so hyped (but mostly because guys like Barnes and Jared Sullinger returned for another year of college), the media hasn’t crowned any freshmen as the next big thing this year. If there’s an apt comparison for McAdoo, it’s Marvin Williams (the most gifted member of the Tar Heels’ 2005 National Championship team, who also came off the bench).
  5. Asheville Citizen Times: Looking for a pie-in-the-sky local preview of the UNC-Asheville vs. North Carolina game coming up this Sunday? Then the Asheville Citizen Times is your paper! The piece actually points out a couple of interesting tidbits: (1) the last time Roy Williams generously christened a non-BCS arena, the Tar Heels lost to College of Charleston in 2009 (the year after the National Championship); and (2) the Tar Heels won’t arrive in Asheville until 5:00AM Saturday morning before the Sunday game because of a cross-country flight back from tonight’s Carrier Classic. UNC Asheville is the favorite to repeat in the Big South and to receive a 16-seed for the Big Dance.

EXTRA: Former Duke basketball player Reggie Love will leave the White House by the end of the year. Love is currently working on an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at Penn and cited focusing on education as the reason for his departure. In addition to missing a very valuable teammate for pick-up hoops games, President Obama will also miss Love for his cultural influence: “The president also credited Love for expanding his musical repertoire, introducing him to artists like Nas and Lil Wayne.”

Image of the Day:

The Aircraft Carrier Setting for Tonight's Game between Michigan State and North Carolina Looks Epic

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20 Questions: Is This Roy Williams’ Best North Carolina Team Yet?

Posted by KCarpenter on November 8th, 2011

Kellen Carpenter is an ACC microsite staffer and an RTC columnist.  

Question: Is This Roy Williams’ Best North Carolina Team Yet?

North Carolina enters the season as the near-unanimous choice for the best team in the country. They are the clear Vegas favorite to win the national championship. This team has the potential to be very, very good, and the raw talent assembled in Chapel Hill is impressive.  Let’s take a quick inventory: The team is led by Harrison Barnes, a first team All-America caliber player, and perhaps the most skilled Tar Heel of the Roy Williams era. He’s surrounded by three other All-America (though probably not first team) level players in steady seven-footer Tyler Zeller, pass-first floor general Kendall Marshall, and the lanky defensive terror that is John Henson. The fifth starter is the speedy and defensive minded Dexter Strickland, who some claim is one of the top one hundred players in America. Coming off the bench are three five-star recruits: Reggie Bullock, a big guard with a sweet-shooting stroke who missed most of last year with an injury, and two freshmen. James McAdoo is more Ed Davis than Marvin Williams, but regardless, he seems locked into the role of the big NBA prospect coming off the bench. P.J. Hairston is, like Bullock, a big guard with a penchant for draining threes.

It's All Smiles at Carolina This Season

That’s a pretty good team, and we aren’t even counting two skilled, big freshmen forwards in Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons, the senior Swiss Army knife that is Justin Watts, freshman back-up point guard Stilman White, the injured Leslie McDonald, who was last year’s best three-point shooter, and the relentless majesty of Blue Steel, the motley crew of walk-ons. While these players are pretty good, for now let’s just focus on the top eight guys in the rotation since more than likely they will be playing most of the minutes.  Let’s take a step back and look at these eight players.

This 2011-12 squad likely has more All-Americans and NBA draft picks than either of the 2005 or 2009 championship UNC teams. This was the main evidence that Gary Parrish used to suggest that this team will be Williams’ best North Carolina team. It’s an interesting point, mainly because it speaks to the pure potential of this group. There are a lot of guys on this team who have the potential to be truly great. I use the word “potential” here deliberately, though. Outside of Tyler Zeller, the only time this team has really proven its mettle was for the last half of last season. Extrapolating the team’s performance based on its relatively small sample size is risky, and perhaps overly optimistic. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s go with it.

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ACC Preseason All-Conference Teams

Posted by mpatton on November 8th, 2011

Now that our individual team previews are done, it’s time to look at individual players. With only five all-ACC selections from last season returning there are plenty of open spots to fill, so here are our Preseason all-ACC Teams for the 2011-12 season.

2011-12 Preseason All-ACC Teams

Looking at our projections, North Carolina, Miami and Duke lead the way with eight, six and five selections, respectively. No surprise with Harrison Barnes checking in as the consensus ACC Player of the Year, or Austin Rivers as the ACC Rookie of the Year (though Kellen wants to keep an eye on Maryland’s Nick Faust for the ROY award).

My personal honorable mentions are Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, Maryland’s Sean Mosley and NC State’s Richard Howell. I’m especially surprised Mosley didn’t show up on any of the teams, but his middling campaign last season probably did him in. Green appears to be in the right place to take over for departing Hokies Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, but he’s got a ways to go based on the Virginia Tech games I went to last season. Finally, Howell had a sneaky good season last year for the Wolfpack and could be a great frontcourt presence alongside CJ Leslie.

My biggest reach was putting Terrell Stoglin on the first team. He was a decent player last year (who averaged over 20 points per game pro-rated at 40 minutes), but he’ll really need to make some waves if he wants to crack the first team this season. Malcolm Grant and Kendall Marshall are the safer choices for that final guard spot. My reasoning is that Marshall will be hidden statistically behind Zeller and Barnes. In general, Roy Williams point guards are under-appreciated because they don’t put up sick numbers, but with Marshall the case is a little different. He’s a very polished player, but I see him as the perfect complimentary player. North Carolina wouldn’t be nearly as good as a team without him, but by himself he’s not spectacular. Thus, I voted him onto the second team in favor of Maryland’s ascendent sophomore.

On the second team Kellen and I differed on power forwards: he chose Mason Plumlee; I chose Travis McKie. Again for me the key was relative importance. Mason Plumlee may be more talented than McKie, but I’ll be shocked if he’s as important for Duke as McKie is for Wake Forest (and really I’m not sold that McKie isn’t more talented). Duke’s bigs are certainly going to be critical this year, but I think the mere fact that there are three of them (Mason, Miles and Ryan Kelly) will dilute each one’s share of the limelight. I did include Miles on my third team because reports from Durham laud him as Duke’s backbone.

However, both of our teams (mine especially) did a lot of projecting for this season. The only locks feel like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott (and it’s conceivable Zeller falls to the second team depending on his role). Player and coach turnover left the ACC relatively unknown this season, but Friday players start earning their spots.

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ACC Team Previews: North Carolina

Posted by KCarpenter on November 4th, 2011

North Carolina fans are developing a severe case of whiplash. In 2009, the Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson squad led the team to a dominant and resounding NCAA championship. The next year, Roy Williams had arguably his worst year ever as a coach as the Tar Heels missed the NCAA Tournament entirely. Last year, a late-surging UNC team came within spitting distance of the Final Four, losing to the ever-young and ever-loaded Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight.

This year? North Carolina is again the overwhelming favorite to win it all.  Let me put that on a timeline. A year ago, a despondent UNC fan base was praying for a great start to the new season to wipe away the memories of a catastrophically disappointing season. This year, Chapel Hill is bubbling over with excitement. People are throwing all kinds of superlatives around when they talk about this team. We can talk about whether those superlatives are earned or not some other time, but let’s make one thing abundantly clear: UNC is a championship caliber team.

Harrison Barnes Leads A Loaded North Carolina Team

The only losses from last year’s Elite Eight crew are graduate school transfer Justin Knox, who served as a solid if not spectacular backup for the starting frontcourt.  The loss of Leslie McDonald to an ACL tear during the summer, however, is slightly more troubling. Though still a backup, McDonald made the second most threes on the team and was the Heels’ most reliable threat from behind the arc. If he comes back at all this season, which seems unlikely considering the severity of the injury, it would apparently be near the start of the ACC Tournament. So for the regular season, I think it’s safe to say that McDonald won’t be playing.  Larry Drew, II, of course, left the team mid-season after he lost the starting point guard job. It’s hard to call this a loss, however, since Drew’s departure seemed to catalyze a middling North Carolina team and transform it into the tough and capable offensive team that played deep into March. It’s a textbook case of addition by subtraction.

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