Rushed Reactions: Pittsburgh 80, #15 North Carolina 75

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Marcus Paige has been a revelation this season. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige has been a revelation this season. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

  1. Pittsburgh finally got its big win. The Panthers were on the bubble coming into the ACC Tournament, but a dominant beatdown of Wake Forest and a convincing (albeit close) win against North Carolina puts the Panthers squarely where they should be talking about seeding rather than sweating on Selection Sunday. The Panthers are healthy and have two great players in Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. This team finally lived up to its computer profile. They pass the ball very well (when not being trapped in the backcourt, but more on that later), but most importantly, the way Pittsburgh plays there are no obvious weaknesses for opponents to exploit.
  2. North Carolina can’t keep starting slow. It’s a dangerous game to play. It’s even worse when you consider the Tar Heels appear to expect a perfect performance from Marcus Paige in the second half of every game. That said, give major credit to the Roy Williams for going to the press in the final quarter of the game. Pittsburgh really struggled with the pressure, and it got the North Carolina team (and crowd) back in the game. But there’s no reason this team should have stretches like the 3-of-19 start to open the contest. All that said, North Carolina almost pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks I’ve ever seen. They never quit, almost seeming to forget about the first three quarters of the game. That could pay dividends later.
  3. These are both good teams. Good enough to make a deep run in the Big Dance (or lose the first weekend). After the game, Paige was asked how they had lived up to his expectations.

    “The season is not over for us. It’s hard to say. There’s a lot that could happen in the next however many weeks that could change that answer. I think we have dreams and goals of making the deep Tournament run and I think we’re capable of doing that. A lot of it rests on that. We’re pleased with the way we’ve been able to fight back and win 12 games in a row and put ourselves in the good position. That’s not what our expectation was coming into the year. That’s what really made this month.”

    Couldn’t say it any better myself.

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Award Tour: Doug McDermott Wins National Player of the Year

Posted by Jameson Fleming (@JamesonFleming) on March 13th, 2014

AwardTour

Jameson Fleming is an RTC columnist who also works for CBSSports.com as the site’s social media editor. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesonFleming.

Picking a 10th player to fill out the National Player of the Year rankings was agonizingly hard. There were so many tremendous options like rankings stalwart Tyler Ennis, who finally fell out of the Top 10 thanks to his poor play during Syracuse’s struggles. Then there’s Bryce Cotton and T.J. Warren. Providence is closer to the NCAA Tournament than North Carolina State, but both stars have had incredible seasons. Cotton is averaging more than 40 MINUTES per game and is single-handedly willing the Friars to the Big Dance. Warren has been nothing short of spectacular for the Wolfpack. While he won ACC Player of the Year, on a national scale his team’s lack of success kept him out of these rankings. There’s also Marcus Smart, who turned in an impressive five-game stretch to put Oklahoma State back into the Tournament picture comfortably. His fellow Big 12 stud Melvin Ejim took home the league’s Player of the Year honors. Kyle Anderson has had a Shabazz Napier-like season for the Bruins, except he did it as a 6’9″ point guard.

Doug McDermott proved time and time again that he was the premier standout this season. (AP)

Doug McDermott proved time and time again that he was the premier standout this season. (AP)

Player of the Year

10. Marcus Paige – North Carolina. Last Week: Not Ranked
2013-14 stats: 17.1 PPG, 4.5 APG, 120.6 ORtg

After a long absence from the Top 10, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige finally returns thanks to dominant play in the ACC. Before losing to Duke in the regular season finale, UNC had won 12 consecutive games thanks to Paige’s leadership. During the last 13 outings, Paige has averaged 17.6 points per game. Even when he’s not scoring, the Tar Heels’ sophomore impacts the game as a passer, but also a defender. Against Notre Dame, Paige shut the door on an upset attempt by blocking a last-second layup at the end of regulation.

9. Andrew Wiggins – Kansas. Last Week: 8
2013-14 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 113.9 ORtg

All season long, fans have been waiting for Andrew Wiggins to explode and have a Kevin Durant-like game. The Kansas freshman finally delivered in a loss at West Virginia without Joel Embiid. Wiggins dropped an efficient 41 points to give scouts a signature performance and a chance to remember why he should be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. His shot chart from that game is a thing of beauty.

Shot chart via CBSSports.com

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ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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College Basketball by the Tweets: Tom Izzo, Marcus Paige, TV Ted and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on March 4th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Congratulations, everyone, we’ve made it to the month of March, which some people are unofficially just straight up calling “Izzo.”

I guess if you’ve reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 16 years, including six Final Four appearances as the head coach of one team, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

Marcus Paige

There’s perhaps no non-freshman player in the country who has improved as much as Marcus Paige since November. The slender point guard is the clear-cut leader of this year’s Tar Heels, and his play against Triangle rival NC State last week proved as much.

And then a few nights later, Paige sealed a victory for UNC on the defensive end.

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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

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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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