Whats Trending: Tom Izzo Dancing, Baylor Getting Baptized, Marcus Paige, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 28th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Tom Izzo… Pony… Ride It

So Tom Izzo apparently appears in a new Werner Ladders TV commercial. That’s clever and funny and all, but SB Nation‘s Brian Floyd already made the remix for us because that is how he rolls… just laying beats over video and hitting the “UPLOAD TO YOUTUBE” button.

Yes, that would be the renowned R&B hit “Pony” by Ginuwine.

Baylor Bears Get Baptized

No for real. This is not a euphemism for getting shown up on defense while your opponent throws one down in your face. A handful of Baylor Bears were actually baptized last week. Isaiah Austin captured it all.

Scottie Wilbekin Celebrates Like A Soccer Player

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Challenging the Narrative: Marcus Paige Has “Unpredictable” North Carolina Rolling

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 28th, 2014

College basketball media coverage is predictable. Early in the season, teams become associated with certain narratives. As teams evolve over the course of the season, the narratives may seem less and less apt, but we do our best to hang on to them as long as possible. Some teams don’t change enough to warrant a reconsideration of the way they’re written and talked about. Others change so much, and so quickly, that by February we can’t possibly attempt to re-apply the labels we slapped on them in November and December. Let’s run through some examples.

Since falling to 1-4 in the ACC, North Carolina has rolled off 10 straight wins (Getty Images).

Since falling to 1-4 in the ACC, North Carolina has rolled off 10 straight wins. (Getty Images)

  • Iowa: “KenPom likes ‘em, but they can’t win the close games.”
  • Michigan State: ‘Boy, if this team ever gets healthy, it’s winning it all. Mark it down.”
  • Kentucky: “So much talent, but not enough leadership.”
  • Louisville: “Pitino’s guys can really play, but without Chane Behanan, that frontcourt is going to be an issue come March.”
  • And, my personal favorite, North Carolina: “I have no idea what to expect from this team on a nightly basis.”

The origin of the unpredictability the Heels have become known for this season is easy to pinpoint. Over its first nine games of the season, Carolina beat then-No. 1 Michigan State, then-No. 11 Kentucky, and then-No. 3 Louisville. It also lost at home to Belmont (ranked #73 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings at the time) and on the road against UAB (#66). This mix of great wins and baffling losses didn’t sit well with us narrative architects. How does one go about describing a team that’s so unpredictable? It was maddening. That’s how Carolina earned its reputation as the most unpredictable team in the country. Trust Carolina at your own peril, was the thought. The only thing we thought we knew about the Heels was how much we didn’t know. Which is to say, a lot.

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 85, N.C. State 84 (OT)

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 27th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State's T.J. Warren. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Outdueled N.C. State’s T.J. Warren.
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  1. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and N.C. State’s T.J. Warren put on a show for the ages. The two stars seemingly traded baskets for the entire second half and overtime of this one. After being held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half, Paige exploded for 31 more after the break, the last two coming on a game-winning driving layup with less than a second to go. Warren was equally unstoppable, finishing with a game-high 36 points that included two free throws that tied the game and forced the extra session with two seconds left in regulation. To put these performances in perspective, the previous scoring high in an ACC game this year was the 34 put up by Warren in a home game with Wake Forest, so this one game now has the top two individual scoring totals of the season. Paige was red-hot from the perimeter, hitting 7-of-10 from three after halftime. Most of the bombs seemed to come just when North Carolina looked to be in trouble, with perhaps the biggest coming in overtime to cut a six-point Wolfpack lead in half with 2:40 to go. The Tar Heels tried multiple defenders and three different zone defenses to corral Warren down the stretch, but nothing seemed to slow down the ACC’s leading scorer as he scored 19 of N.C. State’s last 27 points in the final nine minutes of action.
  2. N.C. State Looks Headed To The NIT. The Wolfpack lost another chance to get an eye-popping win much like they did at Syracuse 15 days earlier. Not only do they lack a marquee win, but N.C. State is now winless in eight games against the RPI top 50. Even if the Wolfpack wins out to go 10-8 in the ACC regular season, their best win will have been over Pittsburgh, which is currently #45 in the RPI. With that resume it would likely take at least a run to the ACC Tournament finals for N.C. State to get any consideration from the NCAA Selection Committee. But considering the Wolfpack’s modest preseason expectations, even an NIT bid would be a positive thing for such a young team. Read the rest of this entry »
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Who’s Got Next? Theo Pinson Ends HS Career on a High Note

Posted by Sean Moran on February 24th, 2014

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

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

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Theo Pinson is Ready For Chapel Hill

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

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

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 74, Duke 66

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 21st, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina Had A Huge Edge in  Free Throws, Making 13-of-17 In the Second Half.

North Carolina Had A Huge Edge in Free Throws, Making 13-of-17 In the Second Half. (Brad Jenkins/RTC)

  1. North Carolina proves that the Heels can (still) compete with any team. It now seems like a distant memory, but back in November and December, North Carolina was maddeningly inconsistent, beating each of the top three teams in the preseason AP poll but also dropping games to UAB and Belmont. The Tar Heels are no longer losing to the average teams, but they still are rising to the challenge when facing the nation’s best. That was the case again on Thursday night, as the Tar Heels thoroughly outplayed #5 Duke in the second half, rallying from behind to notch the big home win. Not only did North Carolina win its eighth consecutive game, but they once again showed impressive mental toughness in coming from behind for the second time in three days. This is beginning to look like a team that could make a nice run in March. Read the rest of this entry »
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North Carolina Streaking With Six Wins in a Row

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 16th, 2014

North Carolina continued its climb up the ACC standings, bursting into fourth place with a 75-71 win over Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige led the way as the Tar Heels held a lead for the entire second half and withstood a furious Panthers’ rally in the closing minutes. For North Carolina, which started ACC play with three straight losses, this wasn’t just its sixth consecutive victory, but it’s probably the best win of the Heels’ recent streak. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, continues to tumble in the opposite direction, losing four of their last six games after starting conference play 6-1.

North Carolina's Marcus Paige Was On Fire - Making 5 Threes Versus Pittsburgh. (Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige Was On Fire, Making 5 Threes Versus Pittsburgh.
(Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

Pittsburgh got off to a good start in the first half, leading 18-11 after nine minutes of play. The Tar Heels began to chip away at the lead, finally catching and passing the Panthers late to take a 35-31 lead into the locker room. North Carolina didn’t shoot well in the first stanza (40.6%) but the Heels collected nine offensive rebounds and attacked the basket well enough to put Pittsburgh in foul trouble. In fact, three Pittsburgh starters including star Lamar Patterson, played fewer than 10 first half minutes due to early foul difficulties, and Jamie Dixon was forced as a result to switch to zone defense for long stretches. North Carolina’s underrated defense forced 10 first half turnovers and held Pittsburgh to only 0.89 points per possession.

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ACC M5: 02.13.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 13th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. CBS Sports and ESPN: A couple of interesting tidbits from after Syracuse‘s miracle win last night at Pittsburgh. First, according to the Panther players after the game, they forced the Orange to take the shot they wanted. And truthfully, if you go back a couple possessions, I’m pretty sure they were fine with CJ Fair’s long three and step-back 15-footer too. Even more impressive is Tyler Ennis‘ resume in the last five minutes of one-possession games and overtime: he’s 8-of-9 from the field, 14-of-14 from the free throw line, with six assists and no turnovers. Ennis lives for the moment. It’s amazing (and lucky). But the best make their own luck, and it’s starting to look like Ennis is one of the best.
  2. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Here’s where I’m going to jump on the Internet bandwagon. Jamie Dixon shouldn’t have used his last timeout — the one he called after making a free throw to go up one with 4.4 seconds left. The one that let Syracuse set up a final play. Unless a Pittsburgh player was woefully out of position or Syracuse happened to be in the perfect formation to get an easy shot, I would have kept that timeout. But when it comes down to it, Pittsburgh played well enough to win and just caught a bad break. Unfortunately, that bad break probably puts the Panthers in the bubble conversation (although with its record, I think the Panthers are a shoo-in barring an epic collapse).
  3. AP (via Winston-Salem Journal): Wake Forest athletic director and chairman of the Selection Committee Ron Wellman (hey, at least he doesn’t have to worry about a conflict of interest anytime soon) announced some changes in how the NCAA seeds its teams that will matter for bracketologists. The two big ones are allowing rematches earlier in the tournament and having “more latitude in assigning teams to sites closer to their homes.” The second point runs counter to Wellman’s goal of honoring seed lines. If you honor the seeds and locations, you’re going to end up with ones in home regions for eights, which is beyond stupid.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: Duke vs. North Carolina was postponed last night, but that doesn’t mean we won’t talk about both teams. Here’s a good look at Marcus Paige from Bret Strelow. Paige, a little like Ennis, doesn’t have gobs of natural athleticism, but they both seem to make the game slow down. That’s essentially where the similarities end, though — Ennis is a distributor who morphs into an unstoppable machine in the final five minutes, while Paige is the first offensive option all game long.
  5. Washington Post: Terrific short (18 minutes) documentary on the dying Maryland-Duke rivalry, focusing on the back-to-back national championships in 2001 and 2002. The Duke title year (2001) was when the rivalry came into its own with four (yes, four) absolutely tremendous, unforgettable games. I’ve mostly come to accept the Terrapins leaving for the Big Ten at this point, but work like this definitely makes me think twice. For a good stretch in the 2000s, the Maryland-Duke games were on an unparalleled level. There’s still a level of vitriol that runs between the schools that made for unbelievable atmospheres.
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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?

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With the Game on the Line, Which ACC Players Get the Call?

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on February 1st, 2014

The ACC is chock full of great athletes and even greater coaches. In such a highly competitive environment, there is bound to be a plethora of close finishes. Even the elite coaches can’t physically will their teams to victory, but instead have to rely upon the players who have ice in their veins. Some coaches prefer a heady point guard who can wind the clock down, penetrate into the paint at the right moment, and then fire off a pinpoint pass to a shooter on the wing for the win. Other coaches prefer a more traditional route of isolation basketball, putting the ball in the hands of the best player, someone who can rise up over the defense or break down his defender one-on-one.

Michael Snaer breaks the heart of many Duke fans in CIS

Michael Snaer breaks the hearts of many Duke fans in CIS

The list of memorable ACC finishes could fill an entire book, provoking court rushes and jubilant celebrations for one team and a traumatic letdowns for another. The most recent that comes to mind from Tobacco Road was Duke’s Austin Rivers buzzer-beater in Chapel Hill two years ago. That same season, and only a month prior to Rivers’ game winner, Duke was shocked at home by Michael Snaer‘s three at the horn to snap a 45-game Duke home winning streak. Flash forward to the present and both Snaer and Rivers are long gone from their respective campuses as new faces and even a few teams litter the ACC landscape. With that in mind, who are the players that ACC coaches most want with the ball in their hands and the game on the line this season? Here are 10 players who have their coaches’ trust in those game-ending situations. 

  • Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: The freshman point guard from Canada has won Jim Boeheim as well as his teammates’ confidence and has solidified himself as the go-to presence for this year’s undefeated Syracuse team. Look no further than Ennis’ play in the final minutes of Syracuse’s home win over old rival Pittsburgh, as the Orange eked out a victory late, largely thanks to Ennis.

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The Streak Continues: An Energized North Carolina Dismantles Clemson

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 2014

North Carolina played its best game in weeks on Sunday night in handily beating Clemson, 80-61. The final margin of victory was quite deceptive, though, as the Tar Heels led by more than 25 points for most of the second half. This means, of course, that Clemson is still winless all-time in Chapel Hill, dropping to 0-57 after the latest loss, but the story from the game centered around a revitalized unit that showed some hustle and fight for the first time in a long while. North Carolina dominated the shooting at both ends, hitting 55.4 percent of its field goals, while holding Clemson below 30 percent for most of the contest. But even more importantly, the Tar Heels played with an intensity that’s been missing, frequently diving for loose balls and making hustle plays throughout the game.

An Intense James Michael McAdoo Leads North Carolina to Dominant Win. (THE HERALD-SUN, BERNARD THOMAS — AP Photo)

An Intense James Michael McAdoo Leads North Carolina to Dominant Win.
(THE HERALD-SUN, BERNARD THOMAS — AP Photo)

The Tigers started out cold and turned downright frigid quickly thereafter. Clemson only hit six of its first 20 shots and found itself down by eight with 6:27 left in the first half, but the Tigers then proceeded to miss 14 consecutive field goals over the next 13:21 of play. During that stretch, North Carolina outscored Clemson 30-7 and the outcome was already decided. In the postgame press conferences, both coaches singled out the play of Tar Heels’ forward, James Michael McAdoo, and rightfully so. McAdoo was in attack mode throughout the contest and finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. While many have considered the junior a disappointment this season, he has been playing at a higher level for the past month. After 12 games, McAdoo was averaging 12.8 points per game and shooting a chilly 41.4 percent from the field. However, in his last eight outings, he has averaged a highly-efficient 15.9 points per game while converting an outstanding 59.1 percent of his field goals. For Clemson, K.J. McDaniels played well with 13 points and nine rebounds but got little support from the rest of his team. Here are some key takeaways for each team after Sunday night’s game.

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Is This Roy Williams’ Worst North Carolina Team?

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 22nd, 2014

When North Carolina was trekking through an up-and-down non-conference season, all of the talk surrounding the Tar Heels was about their inconsistency. Great wins followed by head-scratching losses meant that pundits and fans alike spent their time trying to diagnose the Tar Heels — attempting to figure out which team identity would become the prevailing one. Now, after a 1-4 start in ACC play, talk of inconsistency is a thing of the past. Wins over Michigan State, Louisville, and Kentucky are long forgotten now that UNC has fallen to Wake Forest and Miami in winnable games, was soundly defeated by Syracuse in its first match-up with the new conference member, and was then thrashed by Virginia on Monday night. A solitary win over an uninspiring Boston College team may have allowed temporary relief, but with Carolina now sporting an 11-7 overall record and looking like an unreliable but average team, the question should be raised: Is this the worst team of the Roy Williams era in Chapel Hill?

Roy Williams Frustrated

A frustrating year may lead some to wonder if this is Roy Williams’ least impressive Carolina squad to date. (USA TODAY Sports)

When considering the squads Williams has governed at Carolina (and to his credit, Williams has an aggregate record at the school that speaks for itself), most will point to the 2009-10 season as his worst year at the helm. The Tar Heels failed to make the NCAA Tournament that year, stumbling to an overall 20-17 record (5-11 ACC). That team was crippled by the graduations of three-time All-American Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green and the early entries of Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson. While this year’s team lost only Reggie Bullock to the NBA Draft, the ultimate decision to not seek reinstatement for PJ Hairston left the current version of the Tar Heels without two extremely important cogs in their offensive machine. They weren’t the defending national champions by any stretch, but prior to the season they appeared to be a team at least capable of making things interesting in postseason play. Those personnel losses weren’t as substantial, but they have proven very significant in the roster and rotation upheaval they caused Williams’ team.

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Duke and North Carolina Making Adjustments After Slow ACC Starts

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 19th, 2014

After the second weekend of conference play, the ACC’s historically best two programs were in trouble. North Carolina was all alone at the bottom of the standings with an 0-3 record, and Duke wasn’t in much better shape at 1-2. Since then, both schools’ Hall of Fame coaches have made some changes to try and turn things around. At least for one week, each coach has managed to stop the bleeding. Duke has now won two straight games — over Virginia (69-65) and N.C. State (95-60) — since Mike Krzyzewski made some lineup and style changes; and North Carolina got its first ACC win Saturday over Boston College (82-71) in the Tar Heels’ only game of the week, featuring a starting lineup change from Roy Williams. Below we will look at the problems that each team was confronting, what the coaches did to address those issues, and consider the results and future expectations as a result.

Duke

Problems. The Blue Devils’ defense simply has not been good enough, ranking outside of Ken Pomeroy’s top 100 in adjusted efficiency for much of the season. Opponents were scoring easily in the paint — perhaps not surprising with Duke’s lack of interior size. But even worse was Duke’s inability to counter that deficiency with good perimeter pressure, and the lack of player communication and teamwork in defensive help situations. Offensively, the Blue Devils were not playing well as a unit, often falling into the habit of one-on-one play with little ball movement.

Coach K is Playing More People to Keep Young Duke Team Fresh.(Photo:cbssports.com)

Coach K is Playing More People to Keep Young Duke Team Fresh.(Photo:cbssports.com)

Adjustments. Krzyzewski and his staff decided to not only make a change in the starting lineup — inserting freshman Matt Jones – but they adjusted the entire rotation. As the TV commentators noted in each game, it was as if Duke was making hockey-style line changes in the first half. Both games followed the same pattern. About three minutes after the tip, five new Blue Devils checked in. A few minutes later, all the starters returned. Soon after that, it was another complete change. At that point in each contest — roughly 10-12 minutes in — all 11 scholarship players had logged at least three minutes of action. While the five-at-a-time substituting did not continue into the second half, Krzyzewski kept using his bench, with no player seeing more than 30 minutes in either contest. There was also a subtle stylistic change on each end of the court. The Blue Devils extended their defense further out than they had been, and they played more of a motion offense instead of mostly using set plays.

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