ACC Preview: North Carolina’s Burning Question

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 10th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can North Carolina’s frontcourt live up to its potential?

North Carolina underwent a major roster re-shuffling last season due to the dismissal of P.J. Hairston and the late insertion of Leslie McDonald into the lineup. The team was all over the place in the season’s first half, notching impressive wins over highly-ranked teams while suffering several head-scratching losses to lesser opponents. The Tar Heels finally found their footing come conference play, however, and finished 24-10 overall (13-5 ACC) en route to the NCAA Tournament’s Third Round, where they lost to Iowa State. This year’s edition is projected as a better team, but the Tar Heels’ chances of making a deep run in March will directly tie to the success of its deep but sometimes inconsistent frontcourt.

Johnson will need to use his added bulk to help him bang with the bigs in the ACC this year (gettyimages)

Johnson will need to use his added bulk to help him bang with the bigs in the ACC this year (gettyimages)

Brice Johnson was a sort of super-sub for North Carolina last year, spelling enigmatic James Michael McAdoo at power forward and occasionally filling in at the center position. He averaged 10.3 points per game, largely on transition baskets and buckets around the rim. Johnson’s biggest weaknesses were his lack of bulk, causing him to struggle playing against bigger, stronger opponents, and his propensity for foul trouble. He has reportedly added about 20 pounds to his frame, so the Heels hope that his improved strength will allow him to handle the night-in, night-out pounding in the paint. If he can also become a more well-rounded defender by tempering the tendency to send every opponent’s shot into the fifth row, Johnson can better remain on the floor and become a very dependable contributor on both ends of the court.

Johnson’s running mate in the paint, Kennedy Meeks, was a polar opposite of Johnson. Meeks came into Chapel Hill as a freshman needing to lose weight, and he has done so to the tune of a whopping 50 pounds in the last year-plus. Meeks is not a prototypical center at 6’8″, but he has excellent offensive moves around the basket and understands his limitations in playing below the rim. He is also an exceptional passer, helping to ignite fast breaks and finding open men from the post. Like Johnson, Meeks needs to stay on the floor with McAdoo no longer in the mix, but if his conditioning has greatly improved that will prove much easier for the sophomore. Meeks and Johnson also showed great chemistry in executing the high-low game when they shared court time last year, which bodes very well for the team when they are operating together in the Tar Heels’ starting lineup.

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ACC M5: 11.10.14 Exhibition II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 10th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. North Carolina: North Carolina wrapped up its exhibition season with another rout, this time thrashing Belmont Abbey by a score of 112-34 on Friday night. Once again, it was freshman Justin Jackson who led the way, efficiently scoring 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. Even against Division II competition, Roy Williams has to be pleased with the pace at which the Tar Heels are scoring and how well they are sharing the ball. In their two exhibition games, the Heels have scored a total of 223 points and tallied 54 assists. Another encouraging sign is that North Carolina has made 73 percent (38-of-52) of its attempts from the stripe in its two preseason contests, after struggling mightily from the foul line last year (62.6%).
  2. Wake Forest: Wake Forest held its only preseason exhibition game in the Joel Coliseum on Friday night,  besting Young Harris by a 96-71 score. New head coach Danny Manning arrived in Winston-Salem with a reputation for developing big men while he was an assistant at Kansas, and he might already be illustrating that impact as junior center/power forward Devin Thomas went for 26 points and 12 boards on perfect 12-for-12 shooting. Two lingering concerns for the Deacs, though, were the 20 turnovers committed and the 25 fouls whistled on them.
  3. Duke: Duke won its second and final exhibition game over the defending NCAA Division II champs, Central Missouri, on Saturday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Mules actually took it to the Blue Devils early, grabbing a 13-7 lead before Duke answered with 17 consecutive points to methodically take control of the game. With their size and talent advantage, Duke racked up a huge edge in free throw attempts (+28), and while center Jahlil Okafor has received most of the preseason hype, fellow freshman Justise Winslow has been the team’s leading scorer in each preseason game.
  4. NC State: The Wolfpack played their lone exhibition game of the preseason as well on Saturday, beating Queens by a score of 78-47. NC State only led by two at the half but dominated afterwards, holding Queens to 24 percent shooting from the field in the second half. The Wolfpack also forced 30 turnovers in the game, and even though the competition wasn’t ACC-caliber, anything close to that mark in the regular season would be a pleasant surprise for a program not known for pressure defense. Two freshmen forwards, Caleb Martin and Abdul-Malik Abu, led the scoring column with 16 and 14 points, respectively, making their bids to replace some of the departed T.J. Warren’s offensive firepower.
  5. Clemson: It looks like more of the same for Clemson this year, and that means defense will once again be the Tigers’ calling card. Brad Brownell’s team harassed Anderson into a colder-than-ice 15.7 percent shooting night in a 62-36 victory Saturday in Littlejohn Coliseum. Unfortunately it might be more of the same for the Tigers’ offense as well. Clemson shot a dismal 31.7 percent from the field and only connected on 9-of-31 three-pointers. Let’s hope Clemson’s regular season games won’t all be as ugly as this one. Each team experienced horrendous scoring droughts, with Anderson in one stretch missing 19 straight shots and Clemson misfiring on its first 15 second half attempts. That couldn’t have been very easy on the eyes.
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Morning Five: 11.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. The 2004 USC football team might have some company soon after Dan Kane’s latest piece on the North Carolina academic scandal showed just how pervasive the academic fraud was on the 2005 North Carolina basketball team that won the national title. According to Kane, five members of that team–four of whom are labeled as “key players”–enrolled in 35 bogus classes with nine of them in the fall semester and 26 in the spring semester when they were on their way to winning the national title. The names of those five individuals have not been released, but we think it is safe to assume that Rashad McCants was one of them since he has come clean with his involvement in it. As for the other three “key players” they would have to include at least one other pretty big name as that UNC team only have seven players other than McCants even score 100 points the entire season. Regardless of which players were actually involved we cannot imagine the NCAA handling this any other way than to vacate that national title.
  2. Three teams–Virginia, Mississippi, and San Diego State–will be without significant pieces to start the season. At Virginia, junior forward Evan Nolte (2.8 points per game last season) and sophomore guard London Perrantes (5.5 points and team-leading 3.8 assists per game last season) were suspended for two preseason scrimmages and the team’s season-opener at James Madison for violation of team rules over the summer. At Mississippi, senior forward Aaron Jones (team leader with 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocker per game last season) was suspended for three games–an exhibition game and the first two regular season games–following a violation of team rules. The issue at San Diego State is not a suspension instead it is an injury as sophomore forward Matt Shrigley (5.2 points per game last season) will be out for a month after suffering a “small fracture” in his left elbow after being on the receiving end of a flagrant foul during an exhibition game.
  3. In this space we talk a lot about players getting suspended. What we don’t talk about very often is coaches having the sit out suspension. So that makes the decision by Kennesaw State to suspend Jimmy Lallathin for one game for a self-reported violation by the program interesting. What makes it even more interesting (or amusing depending on your point of view) is that Lallathin’s has not even coached a game as the official head coach yet. He did go 3-13 over the final two months of last season acting as an interim coach following the departure of Lewis Preston on January 3. And just to make the suspension a little more bizarre, the Kennesaw State administration decided to suspend Lallathin for the second game of the season–against California–so he will be available for their season-opener–against Syracuse.
  4. It always seems like the NCAA comes down to the wire with its decision regarding the eligibility of certain players. The case of Louisville freshman Shaqquan Aaron appears to be no different as he is still waiting to receive a response from the NCAA with the Cardinals opener coming up on Wednesday. Aaron, a top-30 recruit, reportedly submitted the final documents for the NCAA to review on Friday (truthfully, in most cases the timing of these decisions is probably more the fault of the player and his family than the NCAA) and is hopeful that he will get a (positive) response in time for Wednesday’s game against Minnesota. Even if he doesn’t start for the Cardinals, his presence should add some depth to the Cardinals in an area they need some more help.
  5. With all this talk of who won’t be available to start the season and who shouldn’t have been able to play nearly a decade ago, we do have one bit of positive news on Monday as BYU forward Kyle Collinsworth was cleared to play again after tearing his right ACL at the end of last season. Collinsworth, who averaged 14 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game last season while being named All-WCC, is a huge addition for the Cougars even if he is not back to full strength when the season starts. He probably won’t be enough to make the Cougars competitive with Gonzaga this season, but should make them a threat for second place in the conference and a possible NCAA Tournament bid.
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One on One: An ACC Preview With Bret Strelow

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the ACC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an ACC expert in Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow), the ACC basketball reporter for The Fayetteville Observer.

Rush the Court: Duke was an extremely talented unit last season, but it was ultimately done in by its defensive deficiencies in its stunning NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer. The Blue Devils once again have a talented roster and are widely projected to win the league. Will this season be any different than last when it comes to the defensive end of the floor?

Bret Strelow: It would be hard to get much worse. The Blue Devils ranked in the 100s in defensive efficiency, which is a far cry from what a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team usually is. With Jabari Parker, defense was not his calling card. Rodney Hood took on some tough assignments and struggled at times. The current thought around the Duke camp is that Jahlil Okafor at 6’11” and 270 pounds is a legitimate rim-protector. Duke can clean up some of its mistakes and pressure the ball a little bit more with Okafor back there. I think Duke should ultimately be a better defensive team, but we will see how much of a difference that will make.

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

RTC: Marcus Paige alone can probably keep North Carolina competitive in the ACC, but if the Tar Heels want to compete for the league crown, they are going to need a supporting cast to step forward. What Tar Heels can you see breaking out this season?

Strelow: It really might be a little bit of everybody. If Marcus Paige has to carry the load like he did for much of last season, North Carolina is probably not going to reach the goal that it has of contending for a Final Four and a national title. I think you can expect a little bit from everybody. Brice Johnson was extremely efficient last season in a secondary role behind James Michael McAdoo. If Johnson can stay out of foul trouble and guard well enough, I think his offense will be there. Kennedy Meeks has slimmed down. His offense has never been a problem. With Johnson and Meeks, you have two solid front line guys. When you look at the North Carolina freshmen class, Justin Jackson is a guy who has the uncanny ability to score. He has a way of scoring quickly and scoring in a way that does not require a lot of dribbles. I think he can really have a big year. He is probably more of an offensive threat than fellow freshmen Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II. I think outside shooting might still be an issue for North Carolina outside of Paige and if Jackson can hit a few. When you look at a guy like J.P. Tokoto, outside shooting is not his game. I think the Tar Heels have enough inside and with Jackson coming along, they are going to have enough to help Paige carry the load this season.

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Morning Five: 11.05.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 5th, 2014

morning5

  1. It was less than a five days ago that everything seemed calm at Indiana. Then early on Saturday morning, sophomore Devin Davis was run over by freshman Emmitt Holt, who was charged with driving under the influence. Davis, who was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and now appears to be on his way to recovering, was cited in the police report as being primarily responsible for the accident. Not much after news broke of Davis’ recovery, Tom Crean announced that sophomores Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson had been suspended for four games each in what has been reported as being the result of multiple failed drug tests. These incidents combined with a couple of earlier arrests for alcohol use led some individuals including former Hoosier guard and coach Dan Dakich to question Crean’s job security. We agree that Crean’s job shouldn’t be that secure after all these off-the-court issues, but doubt that this would be the primary reason for his dismissal as schools have shown on many occasions that they care more about the bottom line than the optics of their school.
  2. With yesterday being election day across the country, there were plenty of political pundits voicing their opinion to anybody who would listen (and many who wouldn’t). What we did not expect was for Mike Krzyzewski to voice an opinion–that President Obama was mismanaging the ISIS crisis–that would make national headlines. To be fair to Krzyzewski, the comments were made last month in front of an audience of military officers, defense contractors, and others in reference to the President’s pledge to not use ground troops in the fight. This is not the first time that Krzyzewski has been critical of President Obama as he has chided Obama for spending time on a NCAA Tournament bracket (that doesn’t pick Duke to win) instead of focusing on fixing the economy. While those comments were more in jest we would be interested to see the interaction Krzyzewski and Obama have if the Blue Devils win the NCAA title this year and are invited to the White House.
  3. It turns out that North Carolina might have more than just the NCAA to worry about in the wake of its recent academic scandal. While some UNC fans have been worried about the NCAA handing down its version of the death penalty, they (at least the ones who care about the institution more than just the sports programs) should probably care more about an upcoming review by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges. The group that does not deal specifically with sports had already issued a report about the academic scandal in 2012 suggesting that the school offer courses to make up for the fraudulent one many students took. Now with the findings of the Wainstein report public they are taking another look given the findings of the unprecedented scope. The sanctions can range from a warning (essentially a slap on the wrist) to removal of accreditation (a real death penalty that means a school can no longer receive accreditation). We are not sure how often the group has decided to remove accreditation, but it would typically lead to a school having to shut down. Now we doubt that the group would do something that would make such an institution as significant as UNC essentially die, but as the group noted the scope of the scandal is unprecedented.
  4. With the season about to get started we will start hearing more from people like Ken Pomeroy since they will have new data to analyze, On Monday, we mentioned how useless preseason polls were. It turns out that we were only partially right. Looking back at the AP preseason poll since 1990, Pomeroy found out that the order of teams ranked above 15 matters to a degree, but below that the order is essentially meaningless in terms of its predictive value. The analysis compares a team’s preseason ranking to its NCAA Tournament seed, which is probably more reflective of the quality of their season overall than just how far they advance in the NCAA Tournament. So while we still question the degree of interest in preseason polls it turns out that they do have some value.
  5. The hits just keep coming for Hawaii. Fortunately for the school’s athletic director and everybody associated with it they are still located in Hawaii. Less than a week after the school fired head coach Gib Arnold and assistant coach Brandyn Akana, star forward Isaac Fotu announced that he was leaving the school to play professionally after the school had ruled that he was ineligible to play pending the results of a NCAA investigation. Given how slowly the NCAA typically works on these matters we do not necessarily fault Fotu, a first team All-Big West player who averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, for leaving rather than wait for the NCAA to hand down its judgement and look forward to playing for an interim coach if he was even cleared to play. We are not privy to the details of what Fotu is being investigated for (reportedly impermissible benefits), but Fotu has stated that he has hired an attorney to clear his name, which at this point is somewhat inconsequential since he will be off somewhere getting paid to play basketball.
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UNC, Syracuse Investigations Cast Pall Over ACC and College Basketball

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 4th, 2014

It was omnipresent at the ACC’s Operation Basketball media day in Charlotte last week. It has dominated college hoops headlines on all the major sports networks. It was the foremost topic for Commissioner John Swofford to touch on during his “State of the Union” speech. The ongoing NCAA investigations of North Carolina and Syracuse — both focused largely on the basketball programs — has thrown a long and foreboding shadow over what should be a thrilling season of hoops in the ACC.

Roy Williams continues to show the strain of another rough off-season. (AP)

Roy Williams continues to show the strain of another rough offseason. (AP)

The now-widely dissected Wainstein report spelled out an unbelievable, almost surreal, number of academic issues in Chapel Hill that lasted over 18 years in duration. That spans the last several years of legendary coach Dean Smith’s tenure with the Tar Heels, caught all of the Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty eras, and finished as part of current coach Roy Williams‘ time with the program. While none of the current players appear to be affected by the allegations of paper classes and phantom professors at UNC, none can avoid the constant clamoring for answers on the topic from the media. Brice Johnson was the unfortunate soul who was forced to deal with a barrage of non-basketball questions last week in Charlotte, looking weary and uncomfortable in trying to defend practices that started before he was born and of which he had no influence. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: Halloween Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 31st, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. TheACC.com: The ACC media picked Duke as a fairly strong favorite to win the league this year, giving the Blue Devils 41 out of a possible 65 first place votes at ACC Operation Basketball on Wednesday (for a complete rundown of the day, don’t forget to check out Lathan Wells’ 15 takeaways post). North Carolina joins newcomer Louisville and defending champ Virginia in a tight cluster in the next three spots in the poll. Last year’s three Big East transfer teams occupy the next three positions, which confirms the general opinion that the old ACC needed an injection of quality teams to boost itself back into the nation’s elite. The preseason all-ACC team was led by North Carolina guard Marcus Paige, but an interesting repeat member of the preseason all-conference squad is Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, who missed the entire ACC season in 2013-14 due to his academic suspension.
  2. Kenpom: Speaking of rankings, Ken Pomeroy has posted his initial ratings for all 351 NCAA Division I teams, and he gives a summary explanation of how he develops his statistical model in his most recent blog entry. The legendary guru of advanced basketball statistics has six ACC squads among his top-23, including Duke at #1, which is a mild shock considering the relative talent and experience returning at Kentucky and Arizona. Somewhat surprisingly, the ACC is rated as the Pomeroy’s third-best conference, sitting behind the Big Ten and Big 12. Of course, as the season progresses, Pomeroy’s preseason ratings will weigh progressively less in his formulas, giving a more accurate picture of all the teams as they relate to each other.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: One thing that came out of ACC Operation Basketball that caught many by surprise was when Tony Bennett revealed that Virginia’s accomplished sophomore point guard London Perrantes has not practiced since a foot injury occurred on October 3. Although the Cavaliers have had their fair share of injuries over the last few years, last season’s run to the ACC regular season title was definitely aided by the fine health of the team. Virginia was able to develop a consistent rotation in which everyone knew and executed their respective roles, game after game, culminating with the Cavaliers grabbing their first ACC Tournament championship in almost 40 years. Certainly, January and conference play is pretty far off at this point, so Bennett hopes Perrantes is able to get healthy in time to make a similar run.
  4. Greensboro News-Record: In this interesting piece, Ed Hardin looks at the ACC’s newest member Louisville and compares Rick Pitino’s program to some of the great ACC teams of the past from a style standpoint. It is true that the Cardinals bring characteristics that remind long-time observers of some of the ACC’s best and most entertaining teams in its long and illustrious history. For instance, the multiple defenses that Pitino employs so effectively reminds us of how North Carolina’s Dean Smith befuddled opponents by using combinations of man-to-man and zone defenses, trapping on both. And even though Pitino is known as a visionary regarding the use of the three-point shot as a vital part of his offense, going back to leading an improbable Providence team to the 1987 Final Four, he knows the value of a legitimate inside game as well.
  5. Groupstate.com: It seems as if Clemson’s representatives in Charlotte were asked about departed player K.J. McDaniels more than they were questioned about this year’s squad. Possibly only ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren of N.C. State meant as much to his team last season as did McDaniels, now beginning his NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers. But while the Wolfpack will certainly miss Warren’s offense, what makes the loss of McDaniels so critical to Clemson is that he was its best player all over the court. It will obviously take a committee of several to replace everything he did, but the ACC media is skeptical of that notion, picking Clemson 11th this year after a sixth place finish in 2013-14.
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15 Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 29th, 2014

The ACC’s Operation Basketball on Wednesday experienced the prevailing theme of putting last season in the rearview mirror and starting anew. This included the teams with successful campaigns just as much as those who had disappointing ones. It was clear after speaking with and listening to players and coaches that everyone is eager to make the 2014-15 ACC a more powerful entity than its predecessor of a year ago. Here are some takes on each team, in no particular order, gleaned from the Westin in Charlotte.

Duke: Much of the discussion centered on the Blue Devils’ newcomers, especially Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. Both Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson were quick to point out that no rotation is set and that there is a ton of competition and talent in practice. Cook said as much when asked about practice: ” Yeah, we don’t have a starting lineup yet.  Different guys, we have like a white and blue team; different guys are put on the white team, different guys are put on the blue team.  So we’ll know soon, but whatever coach wants us to do, I think everybody will buy in because he obviously knows what he’s doing.  We all have to buy in and just put personal sacrifices aside.”

ACC Op BB

Wake Forest: Even when discussing their new coach, it was easy to tell that the Demon Deacons’ players still see him as a former National Player of the Year who enjoyed a long professional career. Manning, however, spoke mostly about his expectations for the team, which he put simply as “win every game.” The Demon Deacons, coming off the uninspiring Jeff Bzdelik era, better not spend their time in awe of their new coach, as they have a lot of ground to make up in order to compete in the ACC.

Miami: Transfers Sheldan McClellan and Angel Rodriguez representing the Hurricanes at this event was emblematic of a new Miami team that has put last year’s lackluster season behind it. Reverence for Jim Larranaga’s paternal style was obvious in listening to the two players discuss their coach. Larranaga immediately referenced them in his comments as well, showing that while the Hurricanes return some holdovers from last year, they will go as far as his two Big 12 transfers take them.

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ACC M5: 10.27.14 Edition

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

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: North Carolina played an exhibition game Friday night — a 111-58 rout over Fayetteville State — but the headline continues to be all the fallout from the Wainstein Report released last week. In the postgame press conference, Roy Williams made his first public comments since the release of the damaging report. An emotional Williams acknowledged the pain he’s felt over the scandal at his beloved school, but his comment that “I feel strongly, strongly that we did things the right way” makes you wonder who the “we” is, exactly. As for the game itself, a peek at the box score reveals that Justin Jackson continues to impress, leading the team with 18 points in 22 minutes of action, including a 3-of-4 performance from three-point land.
  2. Durham Herald Sun: Saturday night Duke held it’s annual “Countdown to Craziness” event, and freshman center Jahlil Okafor stole the show during the scrimmage, scoring 27 points and grabbing eight boards in 24 minutes. The drinking word of the article is definitely “dominant” and its other forms – dominates and domination – that are used to describe Mike Krzyzewski’s latest Chicago prodigy. The scarier thing is that, according to the Duke coach, Marshall Plumlee did a pretty good job defending Okafor. Perhaps that is just coachspeak for trying to keep up the confidence level of a reserve, but expect most opponents to have their hands full with a Duke post player for one of the few times in recent memory.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: Wake Forest‘s latest recruit has a familiar last name to Deacons fans. Current assistant coach and legendary Deacon player Randolph Childress’ son Brandon has pledged to join the program in two seasons. Danny Manning now has three commitments in the Class of 2015 and hopes that Childress, his first commitment from the current junior class, is just the start of great things. Not only is Wake getting a good player and the good legacy feeling of bringing in a legend’s son, Manning also hopes to now improve the Deacs’ position with a certain teammate of young Childress at Wesleyan Christian Academy in nearby High Point.
  4. Louisville Courier-Journal: It appears that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is happy with the progress being made by his young center Mangok Mathiang. The wiry sophomore appears to be following a similar career path of former center Gorgui Dieng, a key member on the Cardinals’ 2013 National Championship team. Like Mathiang, Dieng came to school as an unknown and was expected to take a long time to become a high-level college player, but he became a poster child for Pitino’s well-respected player development system, and ready for the NBA after only three years in the program. While no one is saying Mathiang will progress at the same rate, he certainly has a great role model to follow.
  5. Hurricanes Sports: This is a very good read on Miami‘s new point guard Angel Rodriguez. It tracks his path from his native Puerto Rico to Miami for high school, Manhattan, Kansas, to play for Kansas State, and finally back to Miami as a transfer. It seems that Rodriguez has made the best of his redshirt year, immersing himself into practice. Jim Larranaga is counting on the junior point guard to be the prime leader for the young Hurricanes even though he’s yet to play a game yet in a Hurricanes uniform.
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Morning Five: 10.27.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 27th, 2014

morning5

  1. Once North Carolina released the findings of the independent investigation into the widespread academic fraud at its institution the next obvious step was to hear from Roy Williams, who spoke about the issue at a press conference on Friday. Williams stated he “thought we were doing the right thing” at the time and noted his reported initial concerns about the high number of players from his 2005 title team that were so many African and Afro-American Studies majors. We aren’t sure whether we believe that Roy (or any other coach involved in this type of scandal) actually cared to know about what was going on or just preferred not to worry about the details of how the sausage was made in his program. The next step in this process is what the NCAA will do with the school. Dennis Dodd has already come out in favor of  the death penalty, but acknowledges that it won’t happen.  Given the widespread nature of the scandal we understand the sentiment, but find it unlikely that the NCAA would touch one of its sacred (cash) cows. Not to be outdone by their new ACC rivals, Syracuse already has its day(s) in (NCAA) court set for October 30 and 31. These allegations go back 10 years and involve both the men’s basketball and football programs with the biggest charges revolving around extra benefits and academic issues with the basketball team. We can’t wait for the weekly ACC conference calls.
  2. We knew that we would have to deal with teams losing players to the professional ranks at some point this season we just figured that it would be after the season actually started. Charlotte junior shooting guard Shawn Lester is leaving the program to pursue a professional basketball career. Carter, who was second on the team in scoring last year at 11.9 points per game, is reportedly looking for an agent with a plan on signing overseas. Even with the loss, the 49ers will still have four returning starters and ad Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze as well as freshmen Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn Jr. Although Lester’s reasons for leaving are unclear (reportedly under the pretense of supporting his family financially), he is the fifth player to leave the program early since the end of the 2012-13 season.
  3. We are just a few weeks away from the start of college basketball season so we can only imagine the panic in Madison when it was reported that Sam Dekker sprained his left ankle at a Friday practice. Dekker, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season and is a potential All-American, sprained his ankle during a 4-on-4 drill and is only expected to miss one to two weeks as he recovers. Fortunately Wisconsin has a relatively easy start to the season before they play Green Bay on November 19 at which point we would expect Dekker would be back at full strength based on the information that Wisconsin is providing.
  4. It won’t make up for the loss of Emmanuel Mudiay or (possibly) Markus Kennedy, but Southern Methodist got a boost when the NCAA ruled that Virginia Tech transfer Ben Emelogu had been granted a transfer waiver and would be eligible to play this season. Emelogu, who is from Dallas, averaged 10.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a freshman last season. Emelogu could also provide some stability to the team, which has been in flux the past few month as he actually was a team captain last season despite being only a freshman. If they can get Kennedy back, the Mustangs have the potential to be a dangerous team even if the person who was going to save them is on the other side of the planet.
  5. With all the crying about the rivalries lost with conference realignment a number of schools have figured out ways to keep those rivalries intact at least temporarily. The latest two school to do so are Connecticut and Georgetown, which will renew their rivalry for at least two years beginning with the 2015-16 season. The first game will be played on January 23, 2016 at the XL Center with the return date at the Verizon Center on January 21, 2017. While the rivalry might lack the history of others (remember Connecticut was nothing before Jim Calhoun got there), the Hoyas only lead the series 35-29 with the two schools each having a record seven Big East Tournament titles (something the Hoyas should be able to reclaim now that Connecticut is in the AAC). We are sure that we will be seeing plenty of clips of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen going at it in the lead up to these games.
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Clockwork Orange: NCAA Investigating Syracuse Basketball

Posted by Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) on October 24th, 2014

It wasn’t a good week for ACC student-athlete academics. First the Wainstein Report dropped like a bomb in Chapel Hill. Now Syracuse may be due for bad news next week. Jim Boeheim, along with several former members of the basketball team’s “support staff” for academics, all got invitations to the NCAA’s upcoming Committee of Infractions hearing.

Jim Boeheim is in for a tough week. (photo credit: Syracuse.com)

Jim Boeheim is in for a tough week. (photo credit: Syracuse.com)

The story surrounding Jim Boeheim’s program isn’t new. The investigation started at least a year ago, as originally reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard and CBSSports. The investigation is looking back at least a decade (dating to Carmelo Anthony), and spans everything from academics to the drug policy to extra benefits. Boeheim hinted in his recent book that the investigation focused on academics:

We suspended [Fab Melo] for three games. After that, we were under the impression that he could appeal and do some academic work to get himself eligible. He did that work. But then there arose a question about how he had gotten eligible, and he was declared ineligible again, right before the NCAA Tournament. The issue is extremely complicated, and at any rate I can’t really go into it because it is part of an ongoing NCAA investigation.

Based on the reported invitations — and the information from Boeheim’s book — it may have been an internal investigation of extra benefits that made the NCAA look more closely at the program, but expect the findings to focus on academics.

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ACC M5: UNC Fraud Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 23rd, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: At a widely-viewed press conference yesterday in Chapel Hill, independent investigator Kenneth Wainstein publicly revealed his findings concerning the academic fraud that we now know began as far back as 1993 at North Carolina. His detailed 131-page report confirms much of what the Raleigh newspaper has already been uncovering since 2011. In this piece, Luke DeCock captures the significance of yesterday’s revelations in Chapel Hill, including the fact that the school’s administration finally admitted what was suspected all along – UNC academic advisors steered athletes to phony classes in order to keep them eligible to compete in football and basketball.
  2. CBSSports: Officially, head coach Roy Williams was not implicated in any of the wrongdoing. But according to CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish, that doesn’t mean Williams is innocent in the matter. Basically, Parrish makes a reasonable case that if Williams wanted to know the truth about the phony coursework, he easily could have. After all, the basketball program’s academic advisor at the time, Wayne Walden, was brought to Chapel Hill by Williams when he left Kansas in 2003. It seems reasonable to assume that the two had a close relationship, and that they would be comfortable talking with each other about the administrative intersections of athletics and academics. In Wainstein’s report, Walden admits that he knew that the classes in question were fake and that he sometimes steered players to them. So if Williams didn’t know what was going on, why did his basketball players stop taking those classes over the next several years?
  3. CNN: One of the new revelations that came out in the report is that the fraudulent classes started all the way back in 1993. Of course the head coach at UNC at that time was Dean Smith. In this article, CNN investigative reporters Sara Ganim and Devon Sayers point out that 54 basketball players enrolled in those phony classes during Smith’s tenure, which ended after the 1997 Final Four. This now necessarily raises questions about those last four years of the legendary Smith’s career, someone who has always maintained a spotless reputation in terms of the academic integrity of his program. Many observers have noted that Smith’s philosophy behind recruiting also seemed to change around that time, perhaps in response to the rise of archrival Duke’s back-to-back National Champions in the early 90s. Smith brought in the talented but brash 1993 class of Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Jeff McInnis, which is not to say that these were bad kids, but they certainly didn’t act like what we traditionally thought of as quiet, humble and gentlemanly Dean Smith/”Carolina Way” players. There’s also the fact that upon his retirement four years later, Smith said that he did not enjoy coaching anymore. Remember that this was coming from one of the great competitors of all-time in the sport, someone who was about to begin the 1997-98 season with a completely loaded team. Is it too much of a reach to tie those two things — his suspected change in recruiting philosophy and abrupt retirement several years later — to what we now know about the academic fraud going on at North Carolina? Perhaps the bigger question is whether any reporter will be bold enough to take on that legacy and try to get to the truth, while fighting the “how dare they” backlash that would certainly ensue given Smith’s current poor health.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Another surprise from the report was that the academic fraud extended to other teams in the UNC athletic department. Most of us have focused on the football players and men’s basketball program, but they weren’t the only Tar Heel athletes taking advantage of the fake classes. In another reaction article from the N&O, Jane Stancill describes how a current faculty member has admitted steering members of the women’s basketball team to the phony classes as well. It appears that there was a network within the academic advising community at UNC that spread the word about a way to help keep their athletes eligible and in the lineup.
  5. WRALSportsFan: Former UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham was interviewed for her reaction on the report’s findings, which mostly vindicate much of what she originally asserted. Known now as “Whistleblower” Willingham, she makes the larger point that the real problem is that colleges are failing to educate their athletes. While that may be true, I think it’s time to face the root cause of what is going on across the country at the big-time programs. The model we want to put forward as fans of college sports is so outdated that it’s ridiculous. We want to see the best athletes play on the field or on the court for our favorite schools, but we don’t want to know how they are able to get admitted to the school or what classes they take or what grades they get, so long as they perform. We only want to know those facts about the OTHER school. Then there’s the colleges themselves, which cling to the notion that their athletes should be able to perform in the classroom just like the rest of the student body. Being an elite athlete today is a full-time job when you add up all the time requirements, and do we really expect them — many of whom the school made an exception to admit in the first place — to carry full course loads and stay on course to graduate? It’s time for a new model that fits modern realities. We are not going to give up high-level college sports so let’s rid ourselves of the farce that is the “student-athlete.” They’re already treated differently so why not change the class requirements to give credit hours (six?) each semester for full-time participation in a sport? Maybe if they only had to take two classes per semester, we could actually expect them to take some meaningful classes and perform their own work. The alternative is to cut time spent on their sport and that would mean fewer practices, less travel, no late night games for TV, and so on, but we know that’s not going to happen. But something needs to give in order to reduce the overwhelming incentives to cut ethical corners. If it happened at North Carolina, it doesn’t mean it is happening at all the other schools, but it does mean that it can.

 

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