North Carolina Shows Off Its Depth on Opening Weekend

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 17th, 2014

After having to answer questions all preseason dealing with the school’s “paper class” scandal, there’s little doubt that North Carolina’s players and coaches were even more excited than usual to tip off the 2014-15 season over the weekend. The program needs something positive to rally around, and with two games now under the team’s belt, there’s something to be excited about. On Friday night at the Smith Center, North Carolina defeated North Carolina Central by a score of 76-60, in a game that Roy Williams described as “not the prettiest in the world.” Things came much easier for the Tar Heels in Sunday afternoon’s 103-59 beatdown of Robert Morris. It should be noted that each of North Carolina’s first two opponents were not the traditional cupcakes that some may believe — in fact, both schools won their respective conference regular season championships last season.

Kennedy Meeks (left) and Brice Johnson (#11) give North Carolina a Powerful Inside Game. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Kennedy Meeks (with ball) and Brice Johnson (#11) give North Carolina a Powerful Inside Game. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

So let’s look at some of the takeaways from the Tar Heel’s first two games.

  • North Carolina has a dynamic duo in the post. In the opener, Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson were solid (combining for 22 points and 17 rebounds), but they were dominant against Robert Morris, combining for 44/20. We had heard reports in the preseason that each player had undergone a physical transformation, and we can confirm that the change in both is striking. The sophomore Meeks has lost approximately 50 pounds and is now listed at a solid 270, while the junior Johnson has done the opposite, gaining about 20 pounds to get to his current listed weight of 228. The result is that Meeks is able to run up and down the court much easier and is more explosive around the basket, and undoubtedly will be able to log heavier minutes. Johnson, on the other hand, will no longer be so easily knocked off-balance on the blocks, capable of holding his position defensively without having to foul.

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ACC M5: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 14th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Louisville Courier-Journal: The top game of the weekend for entertainment value has to be tonight’s father-son coaching matchup between Rick Pitino and Richard Pitino as Louisville and Minnesota meet in the Armed Forces Classic at U.S. Air Base Borinquen, in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The two Pitinos have met before in 2012 when Richard was in his first year at Florida International, in a game arranged to help out the younger Pitino’s program with exposure and a nice paycheck. Obviously this is a somewhat different situation, with both schools in power leagues focusing on trips to the NCAA Tournament next March. Instead of money and exposure as the main motivators, this is a chance to honor the U.S. Armed Forces, share a little family time, and get an early look at how each squad stacks up against good competition. With all that in play, whichever Pitino wins may not feel too bad about beating the other.
  2. DailyProgress.com: Credit should be given to Tony Bennett as Virginia is the lone ACC school that will open its season on an opponent’s home court. The Cavaliers will make the one-hour trip up to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to play intrastate rival James Madison tonight. As this article points out, last year’s Virginia performance was the classic case of the sum being greater than the parts. Four of those parts will be missing tonight, counting graduated starters Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell along with suspended players London Perrantes and Evan Nolte. But as this game preview points out, the Dukes will also be without two suspended players because of an off-campus altercation with each other in October. One of those suspended was James Madison’s leading scorer from last year, so, even on the road, the Cavaliers may not face too tough of an opener after all.
  3. WRALSportsFan: After a second consecutive year of negative preseason issues surrounding his program, at least Roy Williams doesn’t have to face the same roster uncertainty that he had to deal with in 2013-14. It remains to be seen if the dark cloud of scandal will have a major effect on a North Carolina team that appears poised for a special 2014-15 campaign, but expect Williams to continue to field questions after tonight’s game against North Carolina Central that are unrelated to on-court performance. UNC’s opponent is coming off its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, so this may not be a total mismatch, but as NCCU coach LaVelle Moton indicated at a recent press conference, he is not sure how good team is with so many transfer players and preseason injuries. We will be on press row for opening night at the Smith Center, so follow us on Twitter (@rtcACC) for live updates during the game, and more importantly, for reports from Williams’ postgame press conference.
  4. Greensboro News & Record: Duke is the only ACC team that will play back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, as the Blue Devils host Presbyterian and then Fairfield as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer preliminary round. This article notes that freshman Tyus Jones looks to have already established himself as Duke’s starting point guard. The writer goes on to say Jones will be the first rookie starting as a Duke point guard since Austin Rivers began there in 2011-12, a common misconception. Rivers was never a point guard in his one year at Duke although he was often mentioned as one, perhaps in part because of his famous father, Doc Rivers, who was a longtime NBA point guard. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Duke’s team chemistry works in these first two tune-up games before heading to Indianapolis to face Michigan State on Tuesday night. We will be in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night to see how Duke’s veteran guards, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, adjust to coming off the bench, so follow us on Twitter (@rtcACC) for additional live in-game and postgame coverage.
  5. BostonUSA.com: On Sunday, Boston College will take on Massachusetts in the middle game of the second annual Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader in Boston’s TD Garden, home of the NBA’s Celtics. The Minutemen only return two starters from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, but they have three others who played at least 30 games in 2013-14, so there’s some decent experience available for Derek Kellogg. It will be the second game of the season for both teams, as Boston College opens with New Hampshire in Conte Forum tonight, while UMass hosts Siena. It will be interesting to see if new coach Jim Christian’s Eagles display improvement on the defensive end, an area where ex-coach Steve Donahue’s teams always struggled. Probably the best team at Sunday’s event will be Harvard, which plays Holy Cross in the last game of the day.
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Morning Five: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 2nd, 2012

  1. We don’t typically spend much time talking about exhibition games in this space, but it was somewhat coincidental that each of the nation’s top three teams were in action last night. Indiana, Louisville, and Kentucky each got some work in against Indiana Wesleyan, Pikeville, and Northwood, respectively, with an average margin of victory of 33.0 points between the three games. The top storylines from each game: #1 Indiana was sluggish at the start but oft-injured Maurice Creek returned with a vengeance (12 points in 15 minutes of action); #2 Louisville hung its 2012 Final Four banner and may have found some instant offense in the form of freshman Montrezl Harrell (19 points, 13 rebounds); #3 Kentucky probably isn’t as “awful” as its head coach lets on, as the Wildcats experimented with 12 different lineups including one with a monster frontcourt of Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Kyle Wiltjer. And, of course, as you’re reading this, we’re only one week and change from the first official games.
  2. The Pac-12 held its Media Day in San Francisco yesterday, and as always, the only important part of these events (excepting verbal spats between egomaniacal coaches, of course) is when the media releases its preseason predictions. This year’s race is basically a dead heat between Arizona and UCLA, with the Wildcats receiving one more overall vote than the Bruins and the Bruins receiving one more first-place vote than the Wildcats. Let’s hope so, because this league is at its best only when these two traditional powerhouses are perched atop the league. The Bay Areas schools — California and Stanford — came in third and fourth, while last year’s regular season champion, Washington, and Pac-12 Tournament champion, Colorado, rounded out the top six. We’d expect the league to bounce back with at least four NCAA Tournament invitations this season.
  3. Oklahoma State received some excellent news Wednesday in what has been an injury-addled preseason when the NCAA used common sense to rule that talented swingman JP Olukemi will receive a waiver this year to play the entire season for his team. The issue that Olukemi was inadvertently facing was that he had started his NCAA five-years-to-play-four eligibility clock when his prep school’s basketball team shut down in the middle of the year and he continued taking courses at a local community college afterward. Doing the math, Olukemi’s final semester of eligibility would have been this one — meaning that his collegiate career would have ended at the midseason point (December 31, to be precise). The NCAA takes a lot of heat for how it handles its high profile cases, but there are a number of these mid-level cases where the organization generally gets it right. Kudos to them for realizing that the spirit of the rule wasn’t violated here. Plus, Travis Ford really needs him.
  4. Since it’s Friday we’re going to end the week on a positive couple of notes. First, TSN‘s Ryan Fagan profiles the new and often misunderstood South Carolina head coach, Frank Martin. The piece discusses how everyone’s first impression of the coach derives from his fiery demeanor on the court — not to mention the trademarked glare — but once his new players and colleagues quickly realize that Martin is a go-hard perfectionist who demands their best but also has their back, they don’t walk, they run, into his camp. Martin is a very good coach but he’s not a miracle worker, and South Carolina’s goal this season should simply be to become competitive. This program has been in a seemingly endless down cycle since the Eddie Fogler era of the late 1990s, but there is enough fan support and talent base in the area to field a successful program there — it just takes the right kind of hard-headed man to do it. Perhaps someone like Frank Martin.
  5. Next, CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish writes about a 20-year old North Carolina Central freshman basketball player by the name of Rashawn King who had leukemia so off the charts that the first time he was tested the medical staff believed that their machines were broken. After endless tests and treatments eventually got his disease under control and into remission, he became involved in the Make-a-Wish Foundation where he initially asked for an opportunity to meet his hero, LeBron James. Something so self-oriented didn’t feel right to him, though, so he changed his wish to throw a lunch party for his over 2,000 friends and classmates at Raleigh’s Middle Creek HS who had painstakingly supported and encouraged him throughout his fight. Last Tuesday, the Foundation made sure that he got to meet LeBron anyway, arranging for his NCCU head coach to drive him to a Miami-Charlotte exhibition game where he met King James, Pat Riley, Coach K, and a number of other hoops honchos. It’s a great story all-around, and one that’ll bring a bit of a tear to your eye — we need more Rashawn Kings in college basketball and sports in general, that’s for sure.
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After the Buzzer: Blowout Wednesday in the CvC

Posted by zhayes9 on November 12th, 2009

atb

Three more Coaches vs. Cancer games tonight, and exactly zero of them were good games.  Here’s how bad it was.  The three favorites — UNC, Syracuse and California — were collectively favored by 80 points in Vegas, and all three easily covered the spread.  Still, that doesn’t mean that the games weren’t interesting.  RTC Live was at Cal for the second time in three nights, and we were rewarded with some of the excellent long-range shooting that the Bears have become noted for.  Let’s take a look at each game.

Rautins Gets His Revenge. Syracuse 100, Robert Morris 60. A sterling performance and total effort for the Orange tonight against a Colonials team that returned three starters from the NEC champions of a year ago. Andy Rautins, two nights after missing all six of his shot attempts and rolling his left ankle, drained seven treys on ten attempts against Robert Morris in the triple-digit Syracuse scoring output, just two three-balls shy of Gerry McNamara’s school record. Overall, Syracuse shot 13/26 from downtown after a 2/17 performance against Albany, including two from Mookie Jones, James Southerland and, most importantly, Wesley Johnson. Big man Arinze Onuaku had a field day in the paint against the outmanned Colonials (7-8 FG) and Rick Jackson (4-5 FG, 10 pts, 5 reb) continues to improve. As far as the ever-changing point guard competition, both Scoop Jardine (6 pts, 9 asst, 2 stl, 3 TO) and freshman Brandon Triche (4-5 FG, 4-4 FT, 12 pts, 7 asst, 1 TO) contributed stellar efforts. Coach Jim Boeheim even elected to play both points on the floor at the same time when Rautins took a breather, a trend you could very well see extend further into the season. Overall, Syracuse fans have to be pleased with impressive back-to-back efforts to begin the year after the stunning Le Moyne loss during the exhibition season. They’ll battle California in the semifinals of what should be a memorable 2K Sports Classic in NYC next weekend.

Heels Win a Glorified Scrimmage. North Carolina 89, NC Central 42. The only question unanswered during the waning minutes of NC Central’s death march into Chapel Hill Wednesday night was whether Carolina could cover their 45.5-point spread. Although the 18 turnovers (including four from starting PG Larry Drew II) against this competition is still eye-opening, the Heels pretty much put an exclamation point on this one. The highlights: Tyler Zeller (who looks like Roy Williams’ most complete player in the early going) went 6-6 from the floor and added five boards, freshman backup point guard Dexter Strickland drained three treys, while elder statesmen Marcus Ginyard (17 pts, 3 reb, 3 asst, 3 stl, 7-10 FG) and Deon Thompson (13 pts, 6 reb, 5-9 FG) both chipped in on the cakewalk. Carolina invites Valparaiso to the Dean Dome before battling Ohio State in the 2K Sports Classic semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

Cal Shakes off Detroit in Second Half. California 95, Detroit 61.  Cal’s big three of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson outscored Detroit by themselves (62 pts on 17-32 FG, 7-14 3FG and 21-22 FT), using a strong second-half surge to put away the pesky Titans from Detroit tonight.  It was clear after Monday night’s game that Randle was not pleased with his play, and tonight he started off quickly with 16 first half points to lead Cal until his teammates (most notably Christopher and Robertson) heated up.  Cal’s defensive energy was significantly better than Monday night, holding Detroit to 35.7% shooting for the game, although often the Titans forced up bad shots making it easy for the Bear defense.  And despite actually being smaller that the Titans inside the paint for much of the game, Cal dominated the boards (41-25).  Our observation is that Detroit had some talent on the floor, especially the raw but capable Eli Holman (the IU transfer who threw a potted plant at or near Tom Crean 2 years ago), but it’s clear that the players haven’t quite figured out how to play together yet.  As for Cal, it’ll be very interesting to see how they handle the trip to New York and the long Syracuse zone defense.  You’d initially think that a great three-point shooting team would have an advantage against a zone, but it’s doubtful the Bears have seen such an athletic zone before.

On Tap Thursday (all times ET). Two games tomorrow night — one is in the CvC and the other is something called the Glenn Wilkes Classic.

  • James Madison @ Ohio State (BTN) - 7pm.  This is worth watching just to see what Evan Turner can do again.
  • Georgia State @ NC State 7pm.  And the Sidney Lowe Watch begins.
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