ACC Big Men Have Bright Futures: Will Their Teams Follow?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 22nd, 2014

It is often bandied about that guards win games (along with defense) because they have the ball in their hands most often and thus affect the action more than other positions. While this is certainly a valid viewpoint, interior post players can often mean the difference between a championship team or a bubble team. The popular mindset is that big men take longer to develop in the college ranks because of the learning curve required to manage their combination of power, size and dexterity. Most post players come to the Division I ranks with a limited post game but raw with athleticism and length, prized characteristics that NBA GMs in every professional franchise covet.

Kennedy Meeks is a handful in the paint (USA TODAY Sports)

Kennedy Meeks is a handful in the paint (USA TODAY Sports)

The ACC this season is rich in young frontcourt talent that is likely to stay for more than a year in the collegiate ranks. North Carolina is a great example of the conference’s youthful exuberance in the post, sporting a terrific breadth of versatility in that regard. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson are the tip of the iceberg, both terrific rebounders with vastly different approaches.  At 290 pounds, Meeks is a strong and sturdy freshman who isn’t a terrific leaper but uses his body and angles to score and rebound the offensive glass very well. He also possesses one of the nation’s best outlet passes, a perfect conduit for guards Nate Britt and Marcus Paige to start Roy Williams’ break. Johnson, on the other hand, is a long beanpole of a forward who has had a breakout sophomore year for the Tar Heels, ranking fourth in ACC field goal percentage at 54.5%. UNC’s frontcourt depth doesn’t completely end there, though, as the Heels also have 6’10”, 280-pound sophommore Joel James, who is a load in the paint but hasn’t found consistent playing time this season. Freshman Isaiah Hicks too has a bright future ahead of him at UNC; the McDonald’s All-American recorded seven blocks and pulled down an insane 30 rebounds in his state’s high school championship game last year. But the ACC’s young frontcourt brigade of talent doesn’t end in Chapel Hill.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Renewing The Rivalry: Previewing Duke vs. North Carolina

Posted by Brad Jenkins & Lathan Wells on February 12th, 2014

After the first week and a half of ACC conference play, Duke and North Carolina were struggling with a combined 1-5 record and fans had to wonder if the ACC’s two flagship programs were headed for disaster. Just four weeks later, these are two of the hottest teams around. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels are a combined 13-2 over that stretch, with the only losses for Duke at Syracuse and at UNC at Virginia. Of course that means that we could be in for another Duke vs. North Carolina classic in Chapel Hill tonight (9:00 PM ET – ESPN). In many ways this game should resemble most of their contests – intense, fast-paced, with several swings of momentum. Also as usual, it looks like it will be a match-up of Duke’s quickness and three-point marksmanship versus North Carolina’s size and inside power. Duke will look to extend an odd trend where the Blue Devils have won the last seven times the team’s first meeting of the year is at the Smith Center, and the road team has won 11 of the last 20 regular season meetings.

Roy Williams and Coach K bring contrasting squads together tonight in renewing their rivalry (credit: gettysports)

Roy Williams and Coach K bring contrasting squads together tonight in renewing their rivalry (credit: gettysports)

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key questions for tonight’s game, as RTC’s Brad Jenkins and Lathan Wells go back and forth on what each team needs to do to win.

Brad Jenkins: Given North Carolina’s lack of perimeter depth and the fact that Duke is second in the country in three point shooting (42.0%), featuring six different players who have made at least 20 threes this season, how can the Tar Heels keep the Blue Devils from shooting them right out of their own gym tonight?

Lathan Wells: North Carolina’s perimeter defense has been impressive in conference play, and it really starts with J.P. Tokoto and Marcus Paige.  Tokoto often draws the team’s best or most versatile perimeter threat, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him shadowing Rodney Hood in this contest. Paige will be tasked with guarding whoever is at the point, presumably Quinn Cook. The Tar Heels have done a good job of rotating to and closing out on shooters, but foul trouble would doom their ability to combat the multitude of outside options Duke will run at them. The backcourt starters will have to play a lot of minutes to keep Duke’s long-range attempts heavily contested. While North Carolina is trying to figure out how to stymie Duke’s perimeter game, how are the Blue Devils going to slow down a reinvigorated James Michael McAdoo?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Kennedy Meeks Needs the Majority Of Minutes for UNC Down Low

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 31st, 2014

Even with all the uncertainty swirling around the North Carolina roster through the first half of the season, the consensus among most was that interior depth would not be a problem. And sure enough, Williams has shown that he will play his surplus of big bodies in nearly every game. Each Tar Heel post player has a unique skill set that lends itself to different moments and match-ups, but the center position has been an area that UNC has not been able to count on for consistent production. Recent ACC wins against Boston College, Clemson and Georgia Tech have indicated, perhaps, that this may be a concern of the past.

More minutes has meant more production from Kennedy Meeks and North Carolina. (USA TODAY Sports)

More minutes has meant more production from Kennedy Meeks and North Carolina. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

One reason for the up-and-down production over the course of the year can be tied to the fact that the individual manning the post at the opening tip-off has not gotten starter’s minutes. Sophomore Joel James started the first 10 games of the year before getting injured versus Texas, and he’s started two games since, averaging just shy of 11 minutes per game. James started all three games against Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, and yet played fewer minutes than Kennedy Meeks versus the Cardinals (11 minutes to 24) and Spartans (16 to 18), and fewer than both Brice Johnson and Meeks in the victory over Kentucky (13 minutes compared to Johnson’s 24 and Meeks’ 19). Surely Williams saw something in James to name him the starter for those contests, but if he was going to play so sparingly, why not let someone else man the post to get in an early rhythm?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Brice Johnson Not Making the Most of His Starting Role

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 28th, 2013

Last week’s big news with respect to North Carolina was the announcement that the school would not seek reinstatement for P.J. Hairston this year. Perhaps flying under the radar in terms of other personnel news was that starting center Joel James would be out for 10 to 14 days after an MCL sprain suffered against Texas. This opened the door for Brice Johnson, who was named the interim starter, to firmly grab hold of the center position. His results in the two games since James’ injury show why head coach Roy Williams has been hesitant to give the sophomore heavy minutes, and also why this team may miss an overlooked member of the starting lineup in James.

Brice Johnson has provided the highlights, but... (credit: collegebasketball.ap.org)

Brice Johnson’ has provided some highlights, but is squandering his chance at grabbing the starting center spot (credit: AP)

Johnson’s first audition in the starting role came against Davidson last Saturday, a game in which the Tar Heels struggled mightily before Marcus Paige rescued them in overtime. Johnson’s stat line was brutal, with only two points on 1-of-3 shooting, a pair of turnovers and an eventual disqualification due to fouls. This Davidson team was scrappy and shot extremely well from outside, but the Wildcats also utilized a shocking ability to get into the paint and either score or dish with little regard for UNC’s big men.

That trend continued on Friday night, when the Tar Heels were outscored in the paint by a Northern Kentucky team whose tallest player is 6’6”. A performance like that boils down to effort and proper defensive positioning, and this is an area with which Johnson continues to struggle. A lean player already, he enjoys most of his success on the defensive end with blocks coming from the weak side. When players actively back him into the basket, he struggles with reaching and committing fouls. While he was able to go 4-of-8 from the field, he was 0-of-2 in the second half and only grabbed four rebounds in 20 minutes of action. James and Kennedy Meeks surely would have contributed better rebounding tallies in similar stints on the floor (in fact, Meeks registered six boards against NKU in only 13 minutes on the floor).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on November 4th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: I’m no expert, but it certainly sounds like Jamie Dixon spends some time on KenPom.com. That may also explain his ability to crack the offensive efficiency code. The one constant among Dixon’s teams at Pittsburgh the last 10 seasons is that of good offensive rebounding. The Panthers always crash the glass hard, which makes up for less-than-stellar three-point shooting and an occasionally porous defense. Interestingly, Dixon’s teams have generally scored over 70 points per game. Three of the last four haven’t, but there are plenty of examples of high scoring Panther teams in the last decade of basketball.
  2. The State: Clemson isn’t an easy job to begin with — just ask Rick Barnes — and ACC expansion didn’t make it any easier. Clemson has a storied football program, and basketball has always taken a backseat to the gridiron. Luckily for Brad Brownell, the Clemson athletic department appears to be moving forward with its plans to renovate Littlejohn Coliseum. Unfortunately, that infrastructure commitment doesn’t add experience or talent to his young roster. Brownell is a very good Xs-and-Os coach, and I think he’s gotten the most out of his teams during his tenure, but if he doesn’t start attracting more talent, his seat on a renovated sideline bench will start getting warm.
  3. Washington Post: I’m betting James Johnson knows Brownell’s pain. Thanks to a late personnel decision by the Virginia Tech athletic department, Johnson started well behind his ACC coaching brethren. Johnson lifts weights, runs and plays (concussion-inducing) games of racquetball to keep himself focused. Virginia Tech is going to be bad again this season, and to make matters worse, Johnson will have to watch budding star and former commitment Montrezl Harrell at Louisville and former player Dorian Finney-Smith at Florida. When all is said and done, both of those guys will play in the NCAA Tournament while Virginia Tech and Johnson will not. But rebuilding takes time.
  4. Fox Sports: North Carolina’s NCAA issues forced the Tar Heels to play some bizarre lineups in its exhibition against UNC-Pembroke last week. However, my guess is that Roy Williams isn’t too upset, as it’s still very clear that he’s trying to figure out who to put at the five spot. With frosh Kennedy Meeks joining sophomores Joel James and Brice Johnson, it’s not a matter of a lack of height or manpower. Those three all have a long way to go. They aren’t the polished Sean Mays, Tyler Hansbroughs or even Tyler Zellers of old North Carolina teams. Williams needs at least one of the group to step up to avoid having to play “small ball” again this season with James Michael McAdoo playing away from his natural position.
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Here is one player per team who probably isn’t a household name but hold’s the key to his team’s success. The two I’ll plug the hardest here are Devon Bookert – the sophomore point guard from Florida State — and Mike Tobey – Virginia’s skilled sophomore big man. Bookert had a sneaky good freshman campaign last year that got lost in his team’s mediocre finish and Michael Snaer’s heroics. Tobey also flew under the radar thanks to Akil Mitchell’s breakout season and Joe Harris transforming into one of the best players in the league. Here’s the difference: Bookert gives Florida State the chance to be OK; Tobey gives the Cavaliers the chance to be great.
Share this story

ACC M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 30th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Miami Herald: The first line of this Miami preview says it all: “UM is the only Atlantic Coast Conference team with no returning starters.” It’s going to be a rough year in Coral Gables if you compare the team to last season. But there are some intriguing players on this team. Notably Manu Lecomte and Tonye Jekiri. Lecomte is a talented freshman point guard, who played for several Belgian national teams. Jekiri is a little more raw, as he just picked up basketball at a later age, but his physical tools make him an exciting post prospect.
  2. ESPN: Joel James switched to wear number 42 this season. That’s right, the same 42 that Sean May, Jerry Stackhouse, and Brad Daugherty wore at North Carolina before him. That’s quite the trio to live up to (side note: May is one of the most consistently underrated college players because of his lack of NBA success, but he was ludicrously dominant for the 2005 postseason)–especially for someone who didn’t produce much last year. But James seems eager for the challenge, and the buzz out of Chapel Hill this offseason certainly points to a much improved year for him.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: When you think Virginia, you probably don’t think NBA. Nothing about the Cavalier program (its history, its current style, etc.) immediately makes you think of the NBA Draft. But Tony Bennett has a deceptively talented team that could see as many as four or five players getting their names called. A lot has to go right, but certainly Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will play professionally somewhere should they choose to do so. Mike Tobey is still a bit of an unknown, but the NBA has proven time and time again that being seven feet tall goes a long way (just ask Kwame Brown). And that’s not to mention Justin Anderson, whose athletic defense may pave the way to the bright lights.
  4. AP (via Washington Post): This year is Mark Turgeon‘s chance to prove he’s the man for the job at Maryland (I think he is). He got two rebuilding seasons at Maryland, as Gary Williams didn’t leave much in the cupboard. But now he has a deep roster of guys he recruited. No one expects the Terrapins to contend for the national championship this year, but Turgeon needs to make the NCAA Tournament. That shouldn’t be a problem if a point guard can limit the team’s turnovers.
  5. Georgia Tech: Brian Gregory had a press conference yesterday where he talked some about transitioning from high school to college. It’s easy for people to forget just how different the college game is from the high school game (or the difference between the NBA and college). Players have to adjust on the court and academically to a totally new environment. Most of Gregory’s interview is pretty run of the mill, but it’s cool to get a little chalk talk about areas that freshmen often are lacking coming from high school.
Share this story

ACC M5: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 25th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Clemson Athletic Department: Big news last week out of Clemson, as the Board of Trustees approved a rebuild of Littlejohn Coliseum. If you haven’t been to Littlejohn, it’s quite an experience. Very few arenas in the ACC get as loud (Cameron Indoor, maybe) as Littlejohn when it’s packed with Tiger fans. For the 2015-16 season, Clemson will play off campus while the stadium is getting rebuilt. Clemson wants “the most-connected on-campus facility in the nation” for basketball operations. Here’s to hoping they keep the awesome acoustics. More on this as the additional details are released.
  2. Charlotte Observer: ACC historian Barry Jacobs takes a look at the now tired “conference image” comparisons that have dominated discussion of Big East teams joining the ACC this year. Jacobs hits the nail on the head when he says that the leagues were judged based on postseason play, where North Carolina and Duke contrasted with the physical Pittsburgh and Louisville. And for a while, I think there was a different style of officiating. However, the tough physical game has now spread into the ACC with its new coaches (while one of its least physical teams — Boston College – hails from the Big East). The fact is, coaching style rather than conference affiliation dictates physicality.
  3. Hampton Roads Daily Press: The NCAA released its graduation rates for the last six years, and the results were mostly very strong and especially good for the ACC. Looking at all sports, the ACC had six of the top 10 schools nationally (though five schools tied for 10th). That’s incredible. The worst ACC rates for basketball were Georgia Tech (40%), Syracuse (45%), and Pittsburgh (54%).
  4. USA Today: Eric Prisbell confirmed what many had suspected and hoped about Duke‘s team this year: The Blue Devils are going to play fast. “100 miles per hour for 40 minutes,” according to senior point guard Tyler Thornton, while Rodney Hood noted that, “We are trying to be one of the fastest teams in the country.” With Duke’s athletes this season, that team could be very close to unguardable with the new emphasis on preventing defensive hand-checks and forearm shivers.
  5. WRAL: North Carolina players are looking for Joel James to be a breakout star this season. He only started playing organized basketball during his sophomore year of high school, so it’s no wonder that he struggled with fundamentals and the pace of the game last season. But if his veteran teammates are to be believed, he’s going to play a much more important role this year. That would be huge news for North Carolina, as James has the potential to be a beast down low eventually. James’ development also explains Roy Williams claims that the Tar Heels won’t be playing small ball this year even if they do play two point guards.

EXTRA: Next month Dean Smith will be among those awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It goes without saying that that’s a huge honor.

Share this story

ACC M5: 10.17.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on October 17th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: This article isn’t new, but it’s relevant with Midnight Madnesses kicking off the college basketball season in earnest this week. Donna Ditota took the time to compile the start dates, Midnight Madness dates and exhibition games for all 15 ACC schools. This year eight teams will be participating in the late night festivities (including Pittsburgh, which has a “Morning Madness”). Notably, ESPNU will cover Duke and Syracuse specifically (along with seven other schools) this Friday night.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Duke dominated the media’s preseason ACC poll, receiving 50 of 54 first place votes. This is a bit surprising, as Duke has a significantly more challenging conference schedule than Syracuse – another top-10 team. Roy Williams reminded everyone of the absurdity of the preseason rankings: “‘I can only guarantee one thing,’ Roy says, holding up [the] preseason media ballot. ‘That crap ain’t happening.'”
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Dan Collins writes longingly for the days when the best players stayed in school longer. Up until 1990 the only ACC player of the year to depart for the NBA was Michael Jordan (who left as a junior). That’s an unreal statistic in today’s age, where so few elite players even make it to their junior season. But Collins ignores the incentives that players now have to go pro, as NBA salaries boomed in the 1990s. The average player salary was $330,000 in 1984-85, Jordan’s first year in the league. Now it’s $5,200,000. Even after inflation, that’s a huge difference.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Mark Turgeon thinks that his team might be able to use its imminent departure from the ACC as motivation for a great season. I think this sentiment is a little trumped up. Maryland‘s upcoming journey to the Big Ten almost certainly played a role in the Terrapins avoiding Duke or North Carolina at home this season. That said, I’m not sure players will feel the same fire that the fans do. Now does that mean I think Maryland will sit back and take a beating in their last match-up with Duke? Definitely not.
  5. State of the U: Jerry Steinberg is a little generous with his rankings, but does a good job assessing the big men around the ACC. I think the two most interesting teams to watch in the post will be Florida State with its army of seven-footers, and North Carolina. I want to go on record that Boris Bojanovsky will become a very good offensive player by the end of his career. Maybe not this year, but he has a lot of upside for Leonard Hamilton. The Tar Heels have a ton of talent down low, but everyone seemed at least a year away last season. Between James Michael McAdoo, Joel James, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, Roy Williams has plenty of frontcourt talent at his disposal.
Share this story

ACC M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on December 13th, 2012

morning5_ACC

  1. Tomahawk Nation: Michael Rogner kills this article on Florida State’s Okaro White. He delves into the advanced stats (namely true shooting percentage) and draws his conclusions based on watching the games. This is the way all stats should be used. Regardless, White is one of Florida State’s best scorers; he just needs to shoot more. Right now, he’s shooting nearly 50% from three over the last year, he’s effective on the block, and he’s great in the high post. He absolutely needs to take charge of this offense. Assuming his efficiency scales up well, White may be the key to the most efficient offense Leonard Hamilton has had in Tallahassee (an honor currently held by the 2006-07 team starring Al Thornton and Toney Douglas). Read this.
  2. Tar Heel Blog: North Carolina has started three players at the five this season. None average 20 minutes a game, but freshmen Brice Johnson and Joel James seem to so far be getting the edge over Desmond Hubert. Johnson is an offensive star, but his slight frame could be a fatal flaw come conference play. James has the body of an elite five, but he has a lot of work to become more than a rebounder and physical presence. Long story short, look for Hubert’s minutes to continue their downward trajectory and for Johnson and James to keep sharing most available minutes for Roy Williams’ squad.
  3. Baltimore Sun: In the news surprising no one category, I present this article: “Maryland sharing the ball better this season.” Seriously though, the Terrapins are averaging eight more assists a game this year, taking them from the worst team in the ACC to one of the best teams in the country in terms of distributing the basketball. The obvious differences between this year and last year are the loss of Terrell Stoglin (a literal black hole) and the improvement of Alex Len. Add a healthy Pe’Shon Howard and new freshman Seth Allen… and there’s your improvement.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: Virginia looks good. They’re surprisingly strong on offense and the freshmen have adapted to Tony Bennett’s defensive schemes well. Unfortunately, Jontel Evans re-injured his foot in the game against Tennessee last Wednesday. Unlike last year when the Cavaliers lost two players in December to transfer, Bennett should have a deeper roster when Evans returns for conference play. Evans’ injury may be a blessing in disguise, as the team has had to learn to score without its point guard on the floor.
  5. SBNation: Jabari Parker, the consensus second-best player in the class of 2013, will announce his college decision next Thursday. According to recruitniks and his dad, Duke and Michigan State remain the clear frontrunners. Parker is a 6’8″ and athletic scoring machine. If he does choose Duke, the Blue Devils may be the team to beat next season. Tentatively, they’d start Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood, Parker and Marshall Plumlee with Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson coming off the bench. That’s a really long, athletic team with four great scoring options.
Share this story

Who’s Got Next? Top Centers to ACC, Isaac Hamilton Picks UTEP, Syracuse Adds Tyler Roberson…

Posted by CLykins on November 20th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, 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 dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking 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: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Kennedy Meeks Chooses UNC Over Georgetown

Two schools consistently stood out above the rest for West Charlotte High (North Carolina) center Kennedy Meeks. Appropriately, both schools have had a long and successful history in landing and producing top big men. With his recruitment winding down, Georgetown and North Carolina were in a neck-and-neck battle that left most national recruiting pundits undecided. On Friday, Meeks made it official as he will remain in his home state and play for the Tar Heels and head coach Roy Williams.

Charlotte native Kennedy Meeks picked UNC over Georgetown

“I talk to Roy Williams almost every other day. He understands the recruiting process and gives me good advice about college and about being a great player,” Meeks said of his decision. “Coach Williams said he liked my tenacity, my desire to play the game, my rebounding and outless passing.” Ranked as the No. 20 overall prospect and No. 2 center in the class of 2013, the 6’9″, 275-lb. big man is expected to contribute right away during his freshman season. Due to his size, Meeks is a true center that impacts the game significantly down low. With an extremely wide frame, he has a soft touch around the rim and is able to rebound at an extremely high rate by carving out space. One of his better traits is his passing. Whether it’s his superior outlet passing skills or if it’s out of the low-post, he exhibits excellent vision for a big man. There is no question regarding his talent and skill, but his conditioning has been a constant issue in the past. With North Carolina’s up-tempo style of play, it is extremely necessary for him to arrive at Chapel Hill in the best playing shape of his young life. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: #11 UNC 95, Mississippi State 49

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Some quick thoughts from today’s Maui Invitational quarterfinal game between UNC and Mississippi State…

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The UNC Guards Are Big, Deep and Talented. This is a completely different type of North Carolina team from the last couple of seasons, and frankly, given a Roy Williams’ system that looks to get into transition at every available opportunity, it may work a little better. With all the size along the Tar Heel front line last year, it sometimes felt like the Heels got bogged down in the half court, but this year’s group doesn’t seem to have that same problem. At least not today, when a Mississippi State defense gave them every opening they wanted — to the tune of 15 threes (the fourth most in school history) and 21 assists — Roy Williams found a reason to be upset with his defense in the postgame (UNC held MSU to 27% shooting), but the fortunes of his team are going to ride on PJ Hairston, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock, and Dexter Strickland (combined for 65 points today).
  2. Carolina’s Young Size is Raw But Promising. It won’t show up on the stat sheet as very impressive, but the trio of Joel James, Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert and JP Tokoto is a collection of raw talent whose size, springiness and hustle are going to win Carolina some games this season. The seven-foot James is somewhat reminiscent of a young Brendan Haywood, while the beauty of the others is that they aren’t expected to score in favor of hustling and protecting the rim. Williams’ teams are at their best with featured guard and wing play, so this team’s interior corps, already seeming to already understand its role in the scheme, will serve the Heels well going into the heart of the season.
  3. Mississippi State Has a Long Way to Get Back to Respectability. Rick Ray seemed rather disappointed after this game, and why wouldn’t he be? The realization that his team is roughly 40 to 50 points worse than a top 10 opponent is humbling to say the least. His group of inexperienced players were clearly shaken by the match-up at the opening tip, finding themselves down 9-0, 29-6, and 40-15 at various parts of the first half. They were never able to figure out how to find a good shot in the UNC defensive creases, and turnovers (21) were a major problem. The one bright spot was the hustle and play of Gavin Ware off the bench — he contributed eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks against a much bigger front line.

Star of the Game. PJ Hairston, North Carolina. Hairston had the shot of the game (not the week, thanks to Rotnei Clarke) when his 60-footer at the buzzer of the first half found net. But his all-around game set the pace for the Tar Heels with 18 points (on 7-11 shooting), four rebounds, and three blocks this afternoon.

Quotable. We asked Roy Williams what he thought about Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and this was his response:

  • “Stunned, shocked… Didn’t see it coming… Strange what’s going on with college athletics… Hate to see them go, but if they don’t want to be there… [hand motion waving goodbye].”

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

North Carolina Still Figuring Out Its Center Position Before Heading West…

Posted by KCarpenter on November 11th, 2012

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC correspondent and ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after the UNC-Florida Atlantic game in Chapel Hill on Sunday.

North Carolina looks deep. In its 80-56 victory Sunday afternoon over the Florida Atlantic Owls, UNC showcased a scary depth and commitment to defense. Nine players played double-digit minutes, Florida Atlantic shot only 27.9% from the field, and the bench shined in what was an almost perfectly balanced effort by the starters and reserves. The bench contributed 39 out of 80 of North Carolina’s total points, with particularly good scoring games by Joel James, who scored 11 points, and Brice Johnson, who racked up 12 points in 12 minutes.

Joel James Appears to be the Strongest Candidate For UNC’s Center Position (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

This of course brings up the still unanswered question of who will be the long term starter at the center position. Desmond Hubert started the first half of this game, but once again James earned the second half start. In 14 minutes of action, Hubert contributed zero points, three rebounds, two blocks, and two turnovers. Compared to the double-figure scoring efforts by James and Johnson (as well as eight rebounds for James and four for Johnson), it would be very strange if Hubert continued to start. James actually played more minutes than Hubert in this effort, and Johnson’s soft touch around the basket looks very impressive. With Roy Williams‘ stated trepidation about the defensive implications of playing Johnson and John Michael McAdoo at the same time, James seems like he may be North Carolina’s newest starter before too long.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story