It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 19th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED… Wisconsin senior Ryan Evans. One of the best things about conference tournament week is that you suddenly get a much larger dose of all the guys who you’ve seen for a just few highlights, or maybe a couple of prime time games. And while I was ready to stamp Wisconsin with the “lucky to make it to second weekend” label, I couldn’t help but find myself impressed with the Badgers’ discipline and the savvy, fundamentals-based game that Evans displayed during UW’s impressive run in Chicago. Plus, you can’t help but love the flat top.

Ryan Evans’ Team Impressed Over the Weekend

I LOVED… Jim Larranaga completing an incredible ACC turnaround. Winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles is a truly great accomplishment, and it seems like so often that we see teams have a great start to conference play and then flare out as we get into the tough March games that really make or break you. Though I still think the Hurricanes are vulnerable, with Shane Larkin leading the way, Miami is definitely capable of a big run, too.

I LOVED… Tournament Week. I’m embarrassed to guess how many hours I spent in front of the TV last week, but it was definitely justified. The Big Ten tourney alone was enough, but additional quality finals in the Big 12, ACC and Big East, among others, made this a vintage Couch Potato weekend.

I LOVED… how Greg Anthony has somehow gotten himself into every other college basketball TV commercial.

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The RTC Interview Series: One-on-One With Kenny Smith

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2012

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Last week we were lucky enough to spend 15 minutes with one-half of the Inside the NBA analyst crew on TNT, Charles Barkley. This week we are back with his compatriot on that show as well as during Turner Sports’ studio coverage of the NCAA Tournament, Kenny Smith. The Jet is promoting Coke Zero during March Madness with its Watch & Score Instant Win Game, where fans  pick a team to advance to the next round and a with a correct pick, a shot at winning a trip to the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta. 

Kenny Plays off Barkley on Inside the NBA on TNT

Rush the Court: Kenny, let’s jump right in to the biggest news coming out of the weekend, which is that the point guard at your alma mater, North Carolina, has a broken wrist and may or may not be able to play this coming weekend. Can you relate the situation facing Kendall Marshall and UNC right now to the situation you dealt with in your freshman season there when you broke your wrist?

Kenny Smith: Except for the timing of it, it’s pretty much exact. He broke his wrist. I broke my wrist. He has a pin in his wrist. I have a pin in my wrist. At the time, I was out three or four weeks and it was earlier in the season, but I had to wear a cast when I came back. Keep in mind, though, this is not an injury. This is not an injury like a sprained ankle. This is a break. It’s broken. He has a broken wrist. Guys can play through a sprained ankle or whatever else if it’s an injury, but this is a broken bone. What makes him a great player is his ability to distribute the basketball. His effectiveness is a little different than what I could do then, in terms of scoring and so forth, but I am not sure that he can get back on the court and play with a broken wrist.

RTC: He had surgery on Monday and nobody seems to be able to say whether he’ll be able to play or not at this point. My question is whether a guy who isn’t necessarily a great scorer needs to have full capacity of both hands in order to help his team out. Can he dribble or distribute the ball at all with a pin in his wrist five days after breaking it?

KS: The question isn’t whether he can do those things, the question is whether he can get on the court. Because if he can get on the court, he can manage it. But when you’re talking about a broken wrist and whether it will bend without terrible pain or even if you can move it at all, that’s the bigger issue. But if he can get on the court, he can manage it. The problem is that very few people in his position can get on the court that quickly.

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Morning Five: 02.01.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 1st, 2012

  1. Clemson‘s fading postseason dreams were dealt a setback yesterday when it suspended junior Milton Jennings indefinitely for academic reasons. Jennings, who averaged 8.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game, was having the best season of his college career and had several solid games recently including scoring 16 points against Duke and having a 9-point, 12-rebound performance at Boston College. This is the second time that Jennings has been suspended this season as he was also suspended earlier this season after yelling at Brad Brownell during the Diamond Head Classic. Clemson is expected to use several players to fill Jennings’ minutes, but should expect to see a significant drop-off in production.
  2. We thought we had heard the last of the Bernie Fine investigation for at least a few months, but now his primary accuser (Bobby Davis) claims that Laurie Fine, Bernie’s wife, and another coach’s wife discussed having had sex with multiple Syracuse players. Although we did not think that the situation could get any worse, the report that another coach’s wife was involved should only make the Syracuse athletic department feel even more uncomfortable. Initially they could bury this under the idea that it was a single dysfunctional family, but now that it extends beyond that it will only raise more questions as well as undoubtedly bringing up plenty of message board rumormongering about who the other coach’s wife was.
  3. To celebrate the 35th anniversary of its McDonald’s All-American Game, McDonald’s released its list of the 35 greatest McDonald’s All-American. The list is a veritable who’s who of American basketball royalty over the past 35 years. While all of the names on the list, which is based on “high school career and performance in the McDonald’s All American Games, success at the collegiate and professional level, and post-career accomplishments”, are recognizable a few made us do a double-take when we first saw them. Two that stood out the most were Clark Kellogg (more on him later in the day) and Kenny Smith both of whom have had exceptional broadcasting careers, but probably would be pretty far down the list of the greatest players of the past 35 years although they were solid players in their own right (Kellogg’s stats and Smith’s stats). As for the relative merits of each individual in high school, ESPNHS provides an interesting ranking of the 35 players based just on their high school accomplishments.
  4. While most people were celebrating the BrackBuster matchups, there was at least one individual who voiced his displeasure with the current system. In his weekly Bubble Watch column, Andy Glockner criticized the system for being a net loss for the mid-majors as the losing team was often hurt more than the winning team was helped. He does give them credit for nailing the two biggest matchups of this year’s Bracketbuster. As usual, we tend to agree with Andy (acutally he agrees with us most of the time) and we would like to see the focus more on helping mid-majors get into the NCAA Tournament rather than just trying to schedule ideal matchups for TV.
  5. Two of the top teams in the country may be without their big men for longer than expected. Michigan and Syracuse may end up missing Jon Horford and Fab Melo, respectively, for longer than initially anticipated. Horford has stated that he and the Wolverine coaching staff have began to think about the possibility of redshirting even if he was able to play later this season as they feel that time he would get to play would not be worth a season of eligibility. Meanwhile, the news is less clear in Syracuse where sources say that Melo could be out for “a while” as he gets his academic issues straightened out. While neither player would be classified as a star, both could be vitale pieces to their team’s postseason success.
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Who’s Got Next? Stokes Denied Appeal, Pronouncing Muhammad’s Name is an Issue…

Posted by Josh Paunil on November 23rd, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a 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. 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 who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Jarnell Stokes Still Ineligible For His Senior Season

Jarnell Stokes Is Ineligible For His Senior Basketball Season. (Wildcat Blue Nation)

Top-20 Recruit Left Searching For Other Options. The TSSAA Board of Control, the body of people responsible for deciding whether Class of 2012 power forward Jarnell Stokes can play basketball his senior season, announced Monday that they denied his appeal to the August ruling that said he cannot play in the 2011-12 season. Stokes was initially ruled ineligible by Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive director Bernard Childress after transferring from Central High School (TN) to Southwind High School (TN). Stokes has lived in the same address for the past nine years in the Southwind district but was able to attend Central on an academic exemption as a freshman. However, Stokes’ academic record over the last three years doesn’t meet any of the ten TSSAA guidelines that would have allowed him to transfer and become eligible at Southwind this season. Despite the setback, Stokes and his family still have several other options. One option, something that Stokes’ father says is a possibility, is that Stokes can graduate early and enroll in college in January (keep in mind though that he is still uncommitted). Another option he has is to return back to Central, but his father says that almost certainly won’t happen. Stokes is a good enough player though that, even if he doesn’t player basketball this year, the likes of Arkansas, Memphis and Kentucky will still recruit him and his recruitment should be unaffected.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior standout Ricardo Ledo on who Providence is going after: “We’re trying to get [Class of 2012 power forward] Chris Obekpa, we’re trying to get [Class of 2013 center] Nerlens Noel, we’re going hard at him. We’re trying to get [Class of 2012 small forward] JaKarr Sampson.”

Ricardo Ledo Says Providence Is Going After Chris Obekpa, Nerlens Noel And JaKarr Sampson.

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The Week That Was: NCAA Tournament Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

What We Learned

It's Foolish To Think That the Big East's 2011 Tournament Record Proves That It Wasn't the Best Conference All Season

  • The Big East is not overrated; it’s just not as good as it was made out to be. The conference sent an NCAA record 11 teams into the field of 68 and Vegas set the over/under of total wins for the conference at 15.5. This year’s March Madness was supposed to be the cherry on top of an historic season, but instead the tournament has been a complete and utter disaster. Only two teams from the Big East will be playing next weekend (Connecticut and Marquette), and the only reason there are two teams remaining is because each squad beat a conference foe to advance to the Sweet 16. But let’s not jump the gun and label the Big East as the most overrated conference in the nation. For one thing, assessing the merits of a conference over a single weekend slate of games is somewhat foolish. That’s a ridiculously small sample size, especially considering during the regular season the conference posted a 34-19 record against tournament teams, according to the New York TimesNate Silver, who’s been spot-on with his analysis this month. The Big East was justified in getting 11 teams in the field — after all, Marquette made the Sweet 16 — but it was just a good conference, not an especially great one. If anything, we’re guilty of overlooking the fact that most of the teams in the Big East lacked NBA talent on their rosters (a key ingredient to any successful Final Four run). When Kemba Walker is your conference’s top NBA prospect, you know you have a talent deficit.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XVI

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 21st, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse longs for a 16 to beat a 1, discusses how that Butler win can keep on winning, and says it’s time to holiday-ify the first two rounds.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith in the studio analyzing collegiate games. And frankly, anyone who doesn’t has no sense of humor. These guys have little idea what they’re doing, and the result is an endless string of off-the-cuff observations that contrast with the measured responses from the normal college basketball analysts. My favorite moments were as follows: 1) Barkley ripping the Big East a new one right in front of guest panelist Rick Pitino. The Louisville coach was absolutely simmering as Barkley explained how the conference “has no talent,” and Pitino proceeded to guarantee that Notre Dame would knock off Florida State. That obviously didn’t work out so well. Barkley also said that his first-round picks don’t count and blamed the Cardinals for his red-heavy bracket right in front of Pitino.  2) Kenny and Chuck dissecting a zone defense. Barkley summed up his point by saying something to the extent of this: “The zone is EASIEST defense in the world to play against. You just dribble through it.” Comedy gold, people. Embrace it.

 

And You Doubted This Man?

I LOVED…..finding out the answer to this question: How long can you keep your job by selling the fact that you recruited Blake Griffin? Answer: an even two years, as we found out with Jeff Capel this week. Some (including Griffin) say he got a raw deal. I don’t know, though – Griffin is the type of recruit you should be able to use to draw other guys in. Frank Martin had a similar situation with Michael Beasley at Kansas State, and he’s still got his Wildcats in the national picture.

I LOVED…..Brad Stevens doing it again. After last year’s Cinderella run, it would have been so easy to see the Bulldogs backslide with the loss of Gordon Hayward. This run to the Sweet Sixteen cements his squad as a consistent contender, and in my mind it makes recruiting that much easier. Now you can tell prospects, “Hey, not only did we make the final against Duke, but we came back and knocked off another No. 1 seed the next year.” I still think it’s hard to see Stevens not leaving in the near future, but it’s good for the college game if he stays and keeps Butler at this level.

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Past Imperfect: Major Losses, Mixed Results

Posted by JWeill on January 20th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape.  This week: How teams over college basketball history have dealt with seemingly devastating injuries to star players.  The answer? It depends …

When freshman Duke point guard Kyrie Irving came down awkwardly in a game against Butler with what was a then-seemingly innocuous injury to his toe, the entire landscape of this college hoops season was altered, perhaps irrevocably.  Up to that point, there was little disputing who was the 2010-11 college basketball favorite. Not only was Duke the defending NCAA champion, it also returned most of the firepower from that title-winning side as well as adding the nation’s top point guard prospect in New Jersey’s Irving, at a position that was previously the only real soft spot on the Blue Devils roster.  With Irving out indefinitely, gone was the swagger of invincibility Duke had in droves in the early weeks of the season. Gone, too, was the sheer talent and ability of Irving, who had earned his accolades and then some with his performance in the season’s first eight games. Irving had saved Duke with 31 points in a win over Michigan State at Cameron Indoor and had reached double figures in points in all of his few games as a collegian.  Of course, Purdue would have gladly taken even eight games from its star, Robbie Hummel. Already rehabbing a rebuilt knee from an injury last season, Hummel lasted all of a practice and a half before coming down in a heap after blowing out the same knee. A trendy preseason Final Four pick, Purdue was left without its senior leader and second-leading returning scorer before the season had really even begun.

Kyrie Irving's Loss May Not Kill Duke's Chances in March

It remains to be seen whether Duke will shake off the likely loss of Irving’s freshman season and make a run to a second straight title or whether Purdue can find among the guys remaining the makings of a Final Four contender. Both teams have talent on the roster, if not replacements exactly. Teams in the situation Duke and Purdue find themselves in have historically had mixed results recovering. For every championship-caliber team to overcome a major personnel loss to injury there is one for whom the absence of a star player was devastating to its long-term NCAA hopes.  Much of that, it turns out upon review, is related to the timing of the injury, as well as just how crucial a role the injured player played on his team. For some squads, losing a player at midseason turned out to be, while never preferred, preferable to losing him just before or during March. For others, losing an on-court presence isn’t as much an issue as losing the club’s emotional leader.

In February of 1997, Rick Pitino’s defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats were ranked fifth in the nation, riding the stellar play of dynamic scoring wings Ron Mercer and Derek Anderson to a 15-2 record heading into a seemingly innocuous game against an overmatched Auburn team at Rupp Arena. At the time, Mercer and Anderson were the most explosive 1-2 combination in America. Then, during the game, Anderson twisted his knee awkwardly on a break and tore his ACL, effectively ending his career as a Wildcat.  “It’s like it’s October 15 again as far as our offensive execution is concerned,” Pitino said a few weeks later.  But partly because of roster depth and partly because they had time to work around Anderson’s absence, the Wildcats regrouped and managed only three more losses the rest of the season, the final one coming in a classic overtime NCAA championship game vs. Arizona. Anderson returned for just one brief moment, sinking a pair of free throws in zero minutes played in a Final Four win over Minnesota. Kentucky fans still maintain that had Pitino played Anderson even a few minutes in the final, the Wildcats would have taken the title.

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Morning Five: 11.17.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 17th, 2010

  1. Wow.  We know of quite a few writers, bloggers, television personalities, gadflies and ne’er-do-wells who are hurting in a big way this morning.  After a 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon that once again did not fail to disappoint, the hangover is here.  We’re guessing that #cbb on Twitter won’t be this quiet again until sometime in May, as everyone around the country comes off their hoops-gasm and starts calculating the actuarial ratios of all-nighters to lost months of life.  Still, seeing all the different schools and fans and courts and cheerleaders and announcers and studio hosts and analysts around the country all day yesterday was pretty awesome, wouldn’t you agree?  As much as we’ve ripped apart the opening week’s haphazard trickle-out of games, this made-for-television event is brilliant and is quickly becoming one of the best regular season must-sees that the sport has to offer.  God help us all during the random future year when the 24HoH mimics a day of the NCAA Tournament and 75% of the games come down to the last possession — the WWL suits had better already have ESPN Legal working on its tort defenses.  Oh, and our guy John Stevens?  Over 11,000 words and untold hallucinations in 25+ hours of BGTDing, without a single drop of caffeine in his system (perhaps crystal meth, but certainly no coffee/soda).
  2. The biggest non-ESPN 24HoH news from the day came from Turner Sports, as the cable network announced that it will provide some of its wildly popular NBA on-air talent such as play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and the brash-but-hilarious Charles Barkley as part of its joint coverage of the NCAA Tournament with CBS.  The general consensus is that this is going to be a very good thing, and given that we are intimately familiar with the chemistry of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Barkley on Inside the NBA (the best sports show on television by far), we think that they’ll pull it off.  Our only reservation — and admittedly, it’s a small one — is that we’ve watched (and listened) in horror to Fox when NFL announcers with their play-on-Sunday focus call college football games during the BCS bowls and it’s obvious they don’t even know or understand the key rule differences between the two sports.  We found this experience exceptionally painful.  Since none of the Turner channels (TBS, TNT, TruTV) are covering college hoops during the regular season, we’re a little concerned that even knowledgeable folks such as those listed above might have trouble making the transition.
  3. And this article is why NBA fans are different in many ways from college basketball fans.  Mr. Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register: in our sport, it actually IS about the names on the front of the jerseys.  Carolina fans will go crazy for their team whether they have a future lottery pick like Harrison Barnes or a four-year guy like Tyler Hansbrough leading the way; Kentucky fans showed as much passion for one-year man John Wall in the blue and white as they did for Tayshaun Prince; Michigan State fans loved consistently-tough guy Charlie Bell as much or more than Zach Randolph.  Here’s our suggestion.  Get out of the suburban and basketball wasteland known as the OC and high-tail it to a Missouri or K-State game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.  While you’re in the Midwest, catch a game at Hinkle before heading over to Rupp for a Louisville or Florida game.  Detour down through Tobacco Road and venture into Cameron Indoor Stadium before your soul goes completely cold; then, since you’re on the east coast, head up to the Palestra for an epic Big Five battle.  Report back to us afterward if you gave a damn whether you actually knew the names of the players who you were watching — that is, assuming you actually enjoy the sport of basketball and not some bastardized version of star-watching.
  4. Gary Parrish takes a look at the oft-bizarre world of AP/Coaches poll ballots in his weekly column, The Poll Attacks.  Every time we read a column like this one, we thank our lucky stars that these flawed polls that reflect current perception are for entertainment purposes only.  Teams will get a chance to settle their real rankings on the court.  What some sportswriter in Eugene thinks about Villanova is about as important as what a Floridian believes concerning a local dogcatcher race in Wyoming — it’s irrelevant.  And we love it that way.
  5. Gregg Doyel examines the case of Enes Kanter and his eligibility through the prism of the NCAA rulebook and asks the question of when a pro is (or isn’t) a pro?  As he correctly points out, the NCAA has drawn a bright line with the apples/oranges comparison between sports, as in the cases of Josh Booty, Chris Weinke and current Clemson QB Kyle Parker, all of whom played professional baseball prior to becoming amateur NCAA football players.  But why have they drawn a distinction — what is the fundamental difference here?  It would be interesting to review the NCAA legislative history on this issue to see what the thinking was.
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Morning Five: 10.20.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on October 20th, 2010

  1. We’re still not over the Robbie Hummel/ACL news from this past Saturday morning, but in the wake of that awful (re-)injury, the gents over at Fanhouse have put together their Costliest Injuries Team — “costly” signifying the delta between what each injured player’s team became and what they would likely have achieved were it not for the injury. If a list of injuries can be called a good list, this one’s comprehensiveness qualifies it as such. The only addition we’d make (you knew we’d have to chime in with something, right?) would be Kenny Smith’s broken wrist from 1984 which sucked all the air out of North Carolina’s title hopes after they had breezed to a 17-0 start (and it’s Curtis Sumpter, not Chris). 
  2. Because as a college basketball fan you can never have enough Gary Parrish in your life, here’s his list of Preseason All-America teams along with a Player of the Year selection that should get the Franklin Street crowd even more hyped for this season.
  3. We were impressed by the frank honesty from the article FoxSports.com’s Jeff Goodman posted soon after the Hummel news broke. Obviously the injury changes that Boilermaker team, but is Purdue really “in shambles” as the title suggests? In addition to what can indeed be seen on stat sheets, we know Hummel would have brought so much value that has nothing to do with what’s found in the box scores. But Purdue has the other two of its top three scorers returning in E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson (the latter only 0.2 PPG behind Hummel from tying him as second scorer on the team last year), both of them second team All-Americans, according to Mr. Parrish above. They also have their best distributor (and best A/TO ratio by far) returning in Lewis Jackson (3.3 APG), a rising junior who’s only enhanced that skill over the summer. The loss of Hummel is terrible, but it’s not exactly a steaming pile of rubble they’re dealing with in West Lafayette.
  4. We love the confidence of Northern Iowa chief Ben Jacobson when asked about the 2010-11 edition of his Panthers in the wake of last season’s NCAA Tournament upset of Kansas and serious personnel losses due to graduation: “We’re going to be good.” UNI said goodbye to Jordan Eglseder, Sports Illustrated cover boy Ali Farokhmanesh, and Missouri Valley POY Adam Koch, but that hasn’t dashed hopes in Cedar Falls. The first order of business in following up last year’s success, according to senior point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe? “It’s just about forgetting about it…What we’ve done lately is practice three times and work on defense. We didn’t go in and watch the Kansas game.” Lead on, Kwadzo.
  5. ESPN’s Dave Telep (how’s that look, Dave?) probably hasn’t finished unpacking his boxes in them new digs at the worldwide leader, but here he notes how the ever-increasing value of surehandedness at the 1-spot in today’s game hasn’t been lost on West Virginia, who landed two point guard prospects earlier this week in Ryan Boatright and Jabarie Hinds, the latter hailing from current Mountaineer forward Kevin Jones’ old high school near The Bronx. Boatright is ranked as the 6th-best PG and 36th player overall in the class of 2011; Hinds is the ranked 22nd among PGs but both are listed as “four-star” recruits.
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NCAA Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2009

North Carolina (#1 seed, South, Greensboro pod)

vs. Radford (#16)
Mar. 19 @ 2:50pm

Vegas Line: UNC -26.5

unc-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Conference: ACC, at-large
Coach: Roy Williams (170-37 at UNC, 588-138 overall)
08-09 Record: 28-4 (13-3)
Last 12 Games: 10-2
Best Win: A good case can be made for the thirty-five point stomping of a future two-seed, when UNC topped Michigan State 98-63 back in November in the ACC-Big Ten challenge. Of course it doesn’t really have the emotional resonance of the two wins over Duke (101-87 and 79-71, respectively.)
Worst Loss: With only a few to choose from, I’d go with the loss to Boston College, 85-78, on January 4th.
Off. Efficiency Rating: 123.9 (#1 in the nation)
Def. Efficiency Rating: 90.8 (#20 in the nation)

Nuts ‘n Bolts

Star Player(s): Tyler Hansbrough (21.4 ppg, 8.2 rbg, former Player of the Year, multiple record holder), Ty Lawson (15.9 ppg, 6.5 apg, ACC Player of the Year).
Unsung Hero: Ed Davis (6.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) only gets 18.8 minutes a game, but has come on strong in recent weeks and is a solid third big man for when Hansbrough or Thompson needs a spell.
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Ty Lawson (23rd), Tyler Hansbrough (25th) , Danny Green (42nd), Wayne Ellington (unranked).
Key Injuries: Ty Lawson, injured toe (missed ACC tournament, should play in the NCAA’s) and Marcus Ginyard, left foot stress fracture (out for the season).
Depth: 27.3% (257th nationally); percentage of total minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: Penetrating guards that can also pull up the three, lapses on defense.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Ty Lawson is healthy and the team plays like the experienced and talent-laden squad they’ve been all season.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Lawson does not return, or rocks fall on the team bus and everybody dies.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2008, Final Four team
Streak: 6 years running
Best NCAA Finish: They’ve won it a couple of times; it made the local paper. (1957, 1982, 1993, and 2005)
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.34. On average, the Tar Heels win 0.34 more games per year than they would be expected to compared to the historical performances of other teams with a similar seed.

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: (1) UNC has never played a basketball game in Detroit. (2) No current UNC player is from Detroit, or the state of Michigan. (3) They have supplied the Pistons with a number of players, including Robert McAdoo, (1979-81), Pete Chilcutt (1993-94), Kenny Smith (1996-97), Eric Montross (1998-2001), Jerry Stackhouse (1998-2002), Hubert Davis (2002-03), and Rasheed Wallace, and coaches Larry Brown (2003-05), Phil Ford (2004-05), Dave Hanners (2003-05), and Pat Sullivan (2004-05). (4) All of these people know where the secret button is on the court of the Palace that releases the attack bears trained to devour your opponents, and have told that secret to the current UNC team. (5) Doug Moe was drafted by the Pistons in 1960, but chose instead to matriculate from Elon College. The next year he was drafted by the Chicago Packers and went instead into the ABA. (6) There is no six.
Distance to First Round Site:
55.6 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: UNC is the first state university, founded in 1793. And we don’t really care what Georgia has to say about it.
School Wishes It Could Forget: That among its notable alumni currently employed in broadcasting are Rick Dees and Stuart Scott. Yep, we brought you both “Disco Duck” and “Boo ya!” So yeah, that’s our bad.
Prediction: A Final Four appearance is pretty likely, provided everyone is healthy and they can maneuver a tough bracket. Beyond that, it’s a tough weekend; there are good four or five teams who could the Heels fits in Detroit. But what kind of biased blogger would I be if I didn’t pick Carolina to win it all?

Major RTC stories: UNC: #1 With a Bullet, UNC: Let’s Not Go Sucking Each Other’s [redacted] Just Yet, Tyler Hansbrough Out Indefinitely, Hansbrough – For Your Own Good, Play or Get Out, #1 UNC Already Dodging Bullets, UNC Picks Up Another Piece, RTC Live: Take II (Gameday: Miami @ UNC), ATB: Carolina Gets Teague-Bagged, ATB: #1 Goes Down as BC Flies Like an Eagle Over UNC, and Who’s Driving the Ford Now?.

Preview written by… T.H. of Carolina March

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UNC: Let’s Not Go Sucking Each Other’s [redacted] Just Yet

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2008

Yeah, like most everyone else, we’re equally in awe of what Carolina has been able to do thus far in the season.  We are on record saying that the Heels wouldn’t be able to get through a pretty tough first month of the season without taking an L due to the loss of Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Hansbrough to injuries, and we couldn’t have been more wrong.  The Heels have been nothing short of awesome through the first quarter of the regular season, beating eight opponents (two of which were in the preseason top 10) by an average of 30.4 points per game.

Their offensive and defensive stats are through the roof thus far.  They average nearly 100 pts per game (97.0), shooting 51% from the field and 41% from three.  They are #2 nationally in points per possession (1.207) and percentage of trips where they score at least a point (59.7%).   They share the ball amazingly well (#2 nationally in assists – 21.7) and have a preposterous nearly 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (1.87).  The Heels also rebound with the best of the country (#8 nationally) and play defense with abandon (holding opponents to 37.3% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers per game – 14th nationally).   Put simply, this team is playing GREAT basketball.

The Heels are Posterizing Everyone in Their Path

The Heels are Posterizing Everyone in Their Path

photo credit:  Jim Hawkins/AP

So the question is begged – why do we need to finish out the season if we know that Carolina is far-and-away the best team?  Well… because it’s still early.  December 5th is a light year away from April 6th in college basketball time, and  a lot can and will happen in the interim.  Other teams will improve, and UNC, while looking indomitable at this point, could eventually suffer from the fatigue of increasing pressure to win every game and/or simply a rough night in March.  That’s the beauty of our game.  Short of a major injury, we can rest assured that the Lakers and Celtics will more than likely be back in the NBA Finals due to the sport’s seven-game series playoff format.  But in a one-game situation in the NCAA Tournament, much like the World Cup and NFL Playoffs, an inspired underdog can accomplish the unthinkable and take down the seemingly unbeatable favorite (witness last year’s Super Bowl for just such a recent example).

For proof of this, let’s take a walk down memory lane for a brief history lesson.  Below are a handful of teams who, like this year’s Tarheels, were seemingly invincible for the entire season.  That is, until they ran into a plucky team who had enough heart and made just enough plays in the right moments to block the favorite’s manifest destiny.

  • 1984 UNC (28-3, 15-1 ACC) - We can start with a former version of the Heels.  Bob Knight’s Indiana team shot 65% from the field (69% in the second half) to take down Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins’ Heels in the second round of the NCAAs.  To this day, old-time Heels fans lament an injury to Kenny Smith’s wrist that limited his effectiveness in the postseason.  UNC had only a 1-pt loss at Arkansas and a 2-pt loss to Duke in the ACC Tourney prior to the NCAAs.  Of the 28 victories, only four were by single-digit margins.  This team was nasty.
  • 1985 Georgetown (35-3, 17-2 Big East) – We still can’t fathom how this absolute beast of a defending national champion with Patrick Ewing and Reggie Williams lost to Villanova in the greatest upset in NCAA Tournament history.  Still, they did, as Villanova hit a ridiculous 79% from the field against a defensive dynamo that regularly held teams well under 40%.
  • 1987 UNC (32-4, 16-1 ACC) - UNC, led by all-american Kenny Smith and super-frosh JR Reid, lost in the regional finals to Syracuse by 4 pts, in a game where Derrick Coleman and Rony Seikaly destroyed the Heels on the boards to eke out the victory.  Their only other losses were at UCLA (5 pts), at Notre Dame (2 pts) and in the finals of the ACC Tourney vs. NC State (1 pt).  While not as dominant as the 1984 version, this team was everyone’s choice to win the national title.
  • 1991 UNLV (34-1, 20-0 Big West) - The best team we’ve ever seen that didn’t win the national title.  Simply an astonishing combination of talent and experience on the cusp of the early-entry era.  Duke, who had lost by 30 in the NCAA Final to this same team one year prior, became Duke on this night – roaring back behind Mr. March, Christian Laettner, to win the game in the final minutes 79-77.  UNLV, who placed all five starters on the all-Big West team (four 1st teamers), had beaten its opponents by an average of 27.5 pts per game coming into the national semis, including a whipping of #2  Arkansas at the old Barnhill Arena by a score of 112-105 (the final was much closer than the game actually was).
  • 1997 Kansas (34-2, 18-1 Big 12) – We still contend that this was Roy Williams’ best team (even better than the 2005 UNC national champions).  A two-pt double-OT loss at Missouri was the only blemish on a near-perfect season until upstart and eventual national champion Arizona, led by Mike Bibby and Miles Simon, pulled off an 85-82 upset in the regional semifinals of the NCAAs.  Raef Lafrentz, Paul Pierce and Jacque Vaughn led a balanced attack that absolutely devastated most of its oppenents, many of whom were ranked (9-1).
  • 1999 Duke (37-2, 19-0 ACC) – With the possible exception of 2006 UConn (who we find overrated), this was the last college team that was absolutely loaded with A-grade NBA talent. The lineup featured two NPOYs (Elton Brand, Shane Battier) in addition to draftees Will Avery, Trajan Langdon and Chris Carrawell.   Future all-star Corey Maggette came off the bench.  Only four teams all season were able to stay within 10 pts of the Devils, who crushed teams by an average of 24.6 points per game.  Had this team won the title game against UConn, it would have been on the short list of greatest teams in the modern era.
  • 2002 Duke (31-4, 16-3 ACC) - This team didn’t have the outrageous statistical profile of its predecessor three years prior, but it was the defending national champs and boasted Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Boozer in a balanced attack that seemed destined for back-to-back titles.  That is, until this team’s only bugaboo, FT shooting (68.9%) popped up to bite them in the Sweet 16 against Indiana.  Two one-pt losses, a three-pt loss and a 14-pt loss to national champion Maryland were the only blemishes on this team’s resume.

So there you have it.  Our memories don’t go back further than the 80s, but we’re sure there are probably some other great historical examples of this phenomenon.  Leave them in the comments if you wish.  Of course, there are just as many (if not more) dominant teams that actually got it done and won the national title – which one will the 2008-09 Tarheels become?  To answer that question is why we will continue to watch.

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#1 UNC Already Dodging Bullets

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2008

If you want to get a Carolina fan really riled up, we mean realllllly excited, just mention how many titles your favorite team would have won had it not been for some injury to some key player along the way.  Every team has a story or two like that in their attic somewhere.  Well, for Carolina fans, their key injuries that have ‘cost’ them national championships have taken almost mythic proportions.  Just mention the words “Phil Ford” and “1977″ in the same sentence (referring to Ford’s injured elbow in the NCAA Tournament), or “Kenny Smith” and “1984″ in another (referring to Smith’s broken wrist suffered in January of that year), or even “Derrick Phelps” and “1994″ for good measure (referring to Phelps’ concussion in their NCAA loss against BC). 

UNC Fans Are Hoping This Doesn’t Last Too Long

Let’s hope that today’s news won’t be another chapter in those annals, as UNC released news that their Mr. Everything on Defense, senior guard/forward Marcus Ginyard, will miss as much as the next eight weeks after surgery for a stress fracture on his left foot.  From the UNC Athletics site:

Doctors inserted a screw in his fifth left metatarsal. The Alexandria, Va., native was Carolina’s defensive player of the year in each of the last two seasons, was a member of the all-tournament team at the 2008 ACC Championships and has started 55 of the 107 games he has appeared in as a Tar Heel. [...] Ginyard started all 39 games last year, averaging a career-best 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He made both the coaches’ and media ACC all-defensive teams and was UNC’s defensive player of the game 11 times, including the NCAA East Regional title-game win over Louisville. He scored in double figures in all three ACC Tournament victories.

In other words, not an insignificant piece of their overall puzzle.  The rangy 6’5 Ginyard can defend the 1-4 positions and played 70% of the available minutes last year (third behind Hansbrough and Ellington), using his length and quickness to harass opposing scorers all over the court. 

Should UNC fans be concerned that another Phil Ford or Kenny Smith situation is afoot?   Probably not to that level, but foot injuries do have a tendency to linger, seeing as how ankles like to twist and feet like to get mashed during the battles underneath.  We know UNC can score bunches of points, but their downfall last year was their relatively average defense (#90 in eFG% and #179 in TO%) - an inability to ensure stops when they absolutely needed them – and losing a defensive stalwart like a 100% Ginyard is cause for mild concern. 

The good news for Heel fans is that Ginyard should be healed completely by January according to doctors, but those fans smitten with the idea of an unbeaten regular season should dampen those hopes somewhat.  A November home game vs. Kentucky, a trip to Maui where Alabama, Notre Dame and/or Texas await, and a quasi-away game at Michigan St. in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will put the Heels to the test before ACC play begins, especially if their best defender is still on the bench.   

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