An Unexpected Detour For PJ Hairston on His Way to the NBA

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 15th, 2014

Most every high school star and prominent AAU recruit dreams of the traditional ascent to the professional ranks. That typically includes playing for a shoe-sponsored AAU team, getting recruited at the highest level, and ending up at a powerhouse program before their name is called at the NBA Draft. However, as history shows us, only a small fraction of these players make the big time, and often it can be some of those who were least expected to do so. For some prominent collegiate stars, there might be a number of road bumps and bouts with adversity standing in the way of their ultimate dreams.

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill (Getty)

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill. (Getty)

Anyone familiar with ACC basketball this season has heard ad nauseam about the P.J. Hairston scandal and the hits that UNC’s basketball program has taken as a result. Regardless of what occurred and how it was handled, it is clear that his collegiate playing days prematurely came to an end. As a result, Hairston and his team of advisors and family recently made it known that he plans to spend the rest of the season in the NBA’s Developmental League (D-League). Hairston is not eligible to be called up to the NBA (if a team was so inclined) in the 2013-14 season, but he will be allowed to put his name among the entrants for the 2014 NBA Draft.

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Will the Real North Carolina Please Stand Up? Maybe It Already Has

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 19th, 2013

Will the real North Carolina basketball team please stand up? Or maybe they already have. Maybe this Tar Heels squad is going to have major ups and downs all year. Has a high profile team ever had a stranger first 10 games than the 2013-14 Tar Heels? Consider that North Carolina swept all three games with this preseason’s consensus top three teams – Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville, but now has also lost to three unranked teams, and twice at home. After last night’s 86-83 loss to Texas, the Heels have managed to offset all three huge wins with three perplexing losses. Imagine what fun the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is going to have trying to evaluate this team’s resume.

North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams Was Not Pleased With His Team's Effort Against Texas (Photo: goheels.com)

North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams Was Not Pleased With His Team’s Effort Against Texas
(Photo: goheels.com)

While Roy Williams‘ team is difficult to understand, let’s at least try to figure out what causes such huge swings in performance by looking at all six pivotal games. The first thing that stands out is how important the first half has been for this team. In all six games the Tar Heels outscored their opponents in the second half — by an average of eight points in the three big wins; and by five in the three bad losses. However, North Carolina has trailed at the half in the three losses by an average of 10 points. In the three wins, they were tied at the half with Louisville and Michigan State and led Kentucky by three. So it’s safe to say that a good start is crucial to this Tar Heels team.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 25th, 2013

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

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. teams playing havoc with the minds and emotions of AP Poll voters. Perfect example this week – North Carolina. After laying a giant stink bomb at home against Belmont and making everyone wonder exactly how much of a difference P.J. Hairston will make even when he’s back, those same short-handed Heels went out and took it straight to the defending champs during Sunday’s convincing win over Louisville. So which is the real Carolina? Hard to say at this point, but yet another reminder that this is a year where almost any team can put up a W.

UNC Took It to the Champs on Sunday (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

UNC Took It to the Champs on Sunday (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

I LOVED…. efficient scorers. Marcus Paige‘s 32 points on 9-of-13 shooting brought to my attention that we do have a number of examples this year of quantity scorers who are putting up their numbers without dominating the ball — not the most common find with today’s shoot-first mentality. The two names that immediately come to mind are Duke’s Jabari Parker (after two weeks, still for real) and UK’s Julius Randle. Parker is now shooting almost 56 percent for the year (65 percent from three) and has only been under 50 percent shooting once all year, while Randle has never been below that mark. Meanwhile, both are still putting up over 20 points per game. It’s hard to not love a teammate who can fill it up while still leaving shots for the other guys on the floor.

I LOVED…. Russ Smith‘s ability to slice the double team. I’ll harp on his decision-making when appropriate, but there is no one better in the college game about sizing up two defenders at the top of the key, hesitating momentarily to draw them closer and then knifing through to create an instantaneous 5-on-3 situation in the lane that usually results in a layup. He’s a fun talent to see up close.

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ACC Team Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 7th, 2013

Fans of the storied North Carolina Tar Heels basketball program always anxiously await the arrival of the coming season. This year, however, after a string of off-the-court incidents, fans and the team itself probably have more reason to cheer the first minute of game action than in recent seasons. Guard P.J. Hairston’s legal woes stemming from an infamous traffic stop in Durham and speeding tickets thereafter, coupled with wing guard Leslie McDonald’s strange licensed mouthpiece storyline and forward J.P. Tokoto’s unauthorized summer league participation, left UNC fans reading about their beloved college basketball season all summer and into the fall for all the wrong reasons. Luckily, the season is right around the corner, and not a moment too soon.

North Carolina Preview 2013

Last year’s Tar Heels found themselves in a position head coach Roy Williams rarely finds himself having to acclimate to: an unsettling lineup situation. The team played uneven basketball over the first half of the year, struggling most glaringly with ineffective post play. James Michael McAdoo had returned for a sophomore season hoping to become a star and catapult into the NBA Draft’s upper tier; instead, massive expectations and having to guide a young group of frontcourt players overwhelmed him and left him playing out of position. The team’s switch to a four-guard lineup in February helped accentuate the strength of the team on the perimeter, and helped spark the Heels to wins in their final six ACC games and a run to the championship game of the ACC Tournament. But upon entering the NCAA Tournament, the team ran into a team with too much size in Kansas in the second round and realized their small lineup’s limitations in defeat.

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2013-14 RTC Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2013

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With the season tipping off Friday night, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason First, Second, and Third All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion. Our crack panel of eight national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this, perhaps unsurprisingly, is where we ended up.

First Team All-America

team1Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (unanimous) – Wiggins begins his career in Lawrence as one of the more ballyhooed freshmen in recent memory. The 6’8″ swingman, who was unanimously considered the top player in the Class of 2013, committed to Kansas in April following a recruiting process that was primarily kept close to the vest. While some of the hype surrounding the dynamic freshman may be a bit overblown, it is impossible to deny Wiggins’ credentials, as he was named 2013 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, 2013 Gatorade National Player of the Year, and Mr. Basketball USA. Wiggins has already acknowledged that he would like to be a one-and-done and enter the 2014 NBA Draft, so it is logical to see why expectations are so high in Lawrence this season.

Factoid: It is not exactly a surprise that Wiggins is a top-flight athlete when you consider the fact that his father, Mitchell Wiggins, had a lengthy professional basketball career and his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, won two silver medals for Canada as a sprinter in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.

Doug McDermott, Creighton (unanimous) – McDermott’s ability to score from anywhere on the court makes him one of the most feared offensive players in the country. It is rare for a two-time First Team All-American to return to school, but that is the case with McDermott, who spurned the NBA to return for his senior season in Omaha. With Creighton making the big move from the Missouri Valley to the Big East this season, the Bluejays are going to be counting on him to fill the stat line each night out – and McDermott is good enough to come through for them.

Factoid: Due to Creighton guard Grant Gibbs receiving a rare sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA (and thus, needing a scholarship), McDermott will be an extremely talented walk-on for the 2013-14 season.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year shocked the basketball world when he announced in mid-April that he would return to Stillwater for his sophomore season. The Flower Mound, Texas, native is widely considered the best returning player in all of college basketball. Smart brings a little bit of everything to the floor. His 6’4″ frame is elite for the point guard position and he uses that size as well as any perimeter player in the country. The leadership and intangibles that Smart provides are also second to none. After Oklahoma State finished third in the Big 12 during Smart’s freshman season, it is projected to contend with perennial powerhouse Kansas for the conference crown this season.

Factoid: Making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010, Oklahoma State’s stay in the 2013 event was a short one. The Cowboys, a five-seed, were upset in the Round of 64 by 12-seed Oregon. This loss affected Smart’s decision to return to school, as the setback helped him realize he was not ready to be one-and-done in a Cowboy uniform.

Russ Smith, Louisville – Smith returns to Louisville for his senior season looking to lead the Cardinals to a repeat as national champions. “Russdiculous” is coming off a season that saw him average 18.7 points per game and take home the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. While Smith gets a majority of his attention for his performance on the offensive end of the court, he is also a defensive stalwart who keys the relentless full court pressure of the Cardinals. Even though Smith certainly figures to be Louisville’s most explosive player this season, you better believe he will still at times do some things on the court that will drive Rick Pitino crazy.

Factoid: Smith spent his fall interning with WHAS-TV in Louisville, working local high school football games on some Friday nights.

Julius Randle, Kentucky – Kentucky coach John Calipari brought in one of the best recruiting hauls in history for this season and the star of the class is the ultra-athletic Randle. The Plano, Texas, native arrived in Lexington as the second-best prospect in the Class of 2013 – only behind Andrew Wiggins – and early returns on Randle as a Wildcat forward have been overwhelmingly positive. Randle’s talent level is so elite that ESPN‘s Jeff Goodman declared in late September that he would take Randle over Wiggins with the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Factoid: Randle missed three months of his senior season at Prestonwood Christian due to a fractured foot, but he was able to return in time to lead the school to a Texas state championship.

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Roy Williams’ Two-Point Guard Lineup Not a Return to Small Ball for UNC

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 23rd, 2013

When Roy Williams stated on Tuesday that he is “convinced” that he will play both of his point guards (incumbent starter Marcus Paige and freshman Nate Britt) on the floor at the same time in the season opener against Oakland on November 8, North Carolina fans undoubtedly had immediate and mixed emotions. Last season’s UNC squad stumbled out of the gates by attempting to run a conventional five-man starting lineup, clearly not possessing enough refined talent in the post to stick with that brand of personnel. So at mid-season when Williams finally opted for a four-guard lineup that fans had been calling for, inserting P.J. Hairston into the lineup as an undersized four and moving James Michael McAdoo to the center position, the team won six straight after a close road loss to Duke and finished third in the conference, going so far as to advance to the ACC Tournament championship game.

Nate Britt will be paired at times this season with Marcus Paige in the UNC Backcourt.

Nate Britt will be paired at times this season with Marcus Paige in the UNC Backcourt.

All of that was great, Tar Heels fans would readily admit, but this is not a program that hangs its hat on regular season or even ACC Tournament success. This is a blue-blood basketball factory, and one that is supposed to reap its greatest rewards in the Big Dance. It was there that UNC ran into a Kansas team with size and experience in the frontcourt that their smaller lineup could not match, and the Jayhawks ended North Carolina’s season in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. For many, the season was not a success despite the encouraging uptick in play when the four-guard lineup was instituted.

This season is not last season, however, at least in terms of personnel and the way Williams expects to employ it. The Tar Heels’ 2013 recruiting class included forwards Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, talented freshmen big men who are expected to contribute immediately. UNC also expects substantially more consistent sophomore campaigns from returnees Joel James and Brice Johnson. James’ offseason has been spent making his game more refined to go along with his prodigious size in the middle, while Johnson conversely has been trying to beef up in order to be able to more successfully bang with opponents down low. Each showed flashes last year, and assistant coach Steve Robinson has long been lauded for his ability to maximize the potential from big men as they move from their freshmen to sophomore campaigns (see: John Henson). With the return of McAdoo for his junior season as well as the presence of steady if unspectacular reserves Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons, the Tar Heels can suddenly point to the frontcourt as their greatest area of depth.

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Truth or Myth: Reviewing Roy Williams’ Key Lineup Decision Last Year

Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 17th, 2013

On February 13, 2013, North Carolina’s season was in limbo. That evening the Tar Heels would take a 6-4 ACC record into Durham against a highly favored Duke team, while coming off their worst performance of the conference season, a 26-point blowout loss at Miami. But for Roy Williams’ team, that UNC-Duke game was the debut of a new smaller lineup featuring P.J. Hairston starting in place of big man Desmond Hubert. Although UNC would lose that game by five points, 73-68, the new lineup had bigger Duke looking slow and confused for much of the night. From that point, the Tar Heels ran off  six straight conference wins, finished third in the league with a 12-6 record, and went on to make the ACC Tournament championship game before losing to top-seed Miami for the third time. National media types lauded the lineup change as a brilliant coaching move by Williams, while many local media and Tar Heel fans were left asking what took so long for the head coach to make the move in the first place. Before we turn our full attention to the upcoming season, let’s look back at some of the truths and myths concerning that North Carolina lineup decision as well as address some reasons as to why the move wasn’t made sooner.

PJ Hairston and Friends Survived the Villanova Comeback

Inserting PJ Hairston Was The Key Lineup Change Last Season

Truth or Myth #1 – The Lineup Change Had a Tremendous Positive Impact

This would be a big affirmative. UNC’s record improved from 6-4 in the ACC before the switch to 8-3 afterward, including the games in the ACC Tourney. But more than that, North Carolina just looked like a much better team and the stats back that up. Basically the net effect of the lineup change was to remove 20 minutes from post players Hubert, Joel James, and Brice Johnson and redistribute them among the perimeter players, with Hairston picking up more than half of what was left. As expected from a decision to take away significant minutes from big players, defensive efficiency was most negatively impacted.

In comparing the Tar Heels’ last 11 ACC games with the first 10, defensive two-point field goal percentage rose three percent and opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage rose seven percent. But the new and much quicker lineup forced more turnovers and defended the three much better. The net result was that the defense got slightly worse, allowing 1.02 points per possession (PPP) compared with 0.98 PPP in the first 10 ACC games, but the flip side is that the Carolina offense really took off. The smaller unit cut turnover percentage down by three percent, improved their effective field goal percentage by three percent, and raised the team’s overall PPP from 1.02 to 1.12.  They clearly were a much better overall team after the switch — even more than the improved record indicates — especially when you consider that the only three ACC losses after the switch were to either Duke or Miami, two of the top 10 teams in the country last season.

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The PJ Hairston Saga Is Not Finished

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 16th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The P.J. Hairston saga has all the makings of a classic amateurism bombshell. The shady third-party handler vaguely accused of providing money and/or gifts to a college athlete. A star player from one of the most esteemed college sports brands in the country. A drug charge. A loaded firearm and ammunition found outside of an obscurely rented vehicle. The evidence-based suspicion of broader corruption among program athletes. An apparent academic scandal simmering in the backdrop. The amateurism debate reaching flood stage in the public discourse. A high-profile lawsuit challenging amateurism’s very existence. The convenience of the Johnny Manziel saga. It’s all too timely and salacious and interesting, but here’s the thing: We haven’t even come close to reaching the finish line. Hairston was indefinitely suspended from UNC basketball after being ticketed for speeding on July 28, his third reported traffic citation of the summer, and all charges related to his July 5 traffic stop have been dropped. Hairston won’t be punished by the legal system, but that was never the biggest part of his summer saga, anyway.

The final outcome of the Hairston saga is still unclear (USA Today).

No, the most concerning aspect of Hairston’s malfeasance is the status of his eligibility heading into a season in which North Carolina is expected to compete for a conference championship with the junior expected to shoulder the bulk of the point-producing load and solidify UNC’s otherwise shaky defensive perimeter. He may not be able to do any of that if the NCAA finds the vehicles he drove this summer were rented out to Hairston impermissibly, or if any of his dealings with local party promoter and convicted felon Haydn ‘Fats’ Thomas are deemed in violation of the organization’s confusing (and highly controversial) amateurism rules. More than two months out from the start of the 2013-14 college hoops season, Hairston’s future with the Tar Heels hangs in the balance. His status for the upcoming season is just as mysterious as all the plot twists and legal nuance that brought us to this point.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 North Carolina 78, #9 Villanova 71

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 22nd, 2013

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Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Kansas City pod of the West Region.

Three Key Takeaways:

PJ Hairston and Friends Survived the Villanova Comeback

PJ Hairston and Friends Survived the Villanova Comeback

  1. UNC showed it’s an improved team, but still highly vulnerable. For most of the first half, North Carolina dissected the Wildcats in as precise a fashion as you could imagine. UNC quietly stuck to their game plan of keeping their offense perimeter-oriented, rarely foraging into the paint against Villanova’s interior defense (aside from transition opportunities), and converted jump shot after jump shot. The Tar Heels went on a stretch where they made nine out of ten attempts and tallied just one offensive rebound before halftime. P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo took smart, calculated shots within the offense, rarely driving out of control or into the teeth of Villanova’s defense. Things started to become unglued when the Tar Heels got too loose and some of the bad habits that got  them into trouble early in the ACC schedule seeped back in, and Villanova erased a 20-point lead. At that point, though, North Carolina started hitting jump shots again and surged back ahead for good on a Bullock three.
  2. Villanova failed to capitalize on opportunities. It may sound off, given the fact that Villanova overcame a 20-point deficit, but missed layups, turnovers and a lack of bench contributions doomed the Wildcats in the second half. Despite manhandling North Carolina on the glass (37-28), Jay Wright’s team couldn’t keep up with the Tar Heels, as they traded twos for threes late in the second half. Given its limitations, Villanova played well on the whole and should be proud of its effort Friday night, but it might be hard for them to shake the idea that it could have been playing Sunday afternoon if not for a few breaks.
  3. UNC’s three-point shooting is good enough to send any team packing. Villanova’s perimeter defense has been suspect all season, a biproduct of the Wildcats’ lack of quickness, but it’s not all that hard to picture North Carolina keeping up their hot shooting. P.J. Hairston led all scorers with five made treys, but two other players hit half their attempts, and if that keeps up, it will be tough for its next opponent (probably Kansas) to key in on any one perimeter threat. The Tar Heels are prone to sloppy stretches, and that showed tonight, but they can hide many of those mistakes with some good old-fashioned bombing.

Star Of The Game. P.J. Hairston – 23 points, 7-of-11 FG, 5-of-8 3FG, three assists – Every time North Carolina needed a basket, Hairston was there to deliver it. Not only was he important to UNC’s hot start, but he helped steady the ship in the middle third of the game. The sophomore is now 25-of-54 from distance (46.2%) in his last seven games.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by KDoyle on March 22nd, 2013

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#2 Georgetown vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast – South Region Second Round (at Philadelphia) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Florida Gulf Coast is one of the better stories in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Only in their sixth year as a Division 1 program, the Eagles are riding their first winning season in history thanks to the hiring of former Florida State assistant Andy Enfield. In Enfield’s first year, they finished 15-17, but were a game away from the NCAA Tournament as they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. This year, Florida Gulf Coast has been the team to beat, and it began with an early season win over Miami (FL). FGCU’s style of play greatly differs from today’s opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas are predicated on a stingy zone defense that rarely allows for clean looks at the basket, and they play at a snail’s pace. Led by Otto Porter, Georgetown has a legitimate star that can carry them deep into the NCAA Tournament. FGCU very much likes to get up and down the floor with Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson leading the attack. If FGCU is able to get out in the open floor and score in transition, they’ll keep it close for much of the game. Problem is that not many teams control the pace of a game quite like Georgetown—that’s what makes them such a difficult opponent as they force the opposition to play their style of game. Historically, Georgetown has struggled in the NCAA Tournament under John Thompson III as they’ve failed to reach the second weekend in four of six appearances under him, but many believe this is a different Hoya team. FGCU is playing with house money and expect them to make a game of this, but in front of a heavy Georgetown crowd in Philadelphia the Hoyas are simply too much in the end.

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona – West Regional Second Round (at Dayton, OH) – 7:15 p.m. ET on CBS
One of the nation’s most balanced teams, the knock on the Buckeyes for the longest time this season was that they didn’t have a secondary scorer to help out junior DeShaun Thomas. We’ll get to that in a second, but let’s just say that Iona never had such a problem. Senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones has always been the main offensive weapon on this team, never afraid to look for his own shot, but the Gaels have always trusted guard Sean Armand and forward David Laury to chip in heavily in the scoring column. And as a result, the Gaels have one of the most efficient offenses in the mid-major ranks. The problem for Tim Cluess’ team is the complete inability to stop teams on defense; only nine times all season have they held an opponent below one point per possession in a game. Given that Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation (sixth in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com), you can expect the Buckeyes to at least slow Iona’s prolific offense. And given that Thad Matta has been getting significantly improved offensive play out of guys like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, you can expect the Bucks to take advantage of that buttery soft Gael defense. While Momo Jones, et al. have the ability to make some exciting plays when they’ve got the ball, their inattention to details defensively will allow the Buckeyes to have more than their share of exciting offensive plays as well.

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Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by KDoyle on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Kevin Doyle (@kldoyle11) breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Kevin breaking down the South Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

South Region

Favorite: #3 Florida (26-7, 16-5 SEC). A month ago, Florida looked like it was destined for a #1 seed and primed for a Final Four run to Atlanta. The Gators were dismantling SEC teams — albeit some very weak teams — and had their potent offense clicking on all cylinders. But then Florida lost at Missouri, and then at Tennessee, and then at Kentucky. Questions began to arise, and rightly so. A team of Florida’s talent and experience should not be losing to SEC teams that will not even make the NCAA Tournament. They seemed unbeatable in the 2012 portion of the schedule, but played down to their level of competition in the SEC. That being said, it would not be smart to pick against Billy Donovan. Donovan has led Florida to the Elite Eight the past two seasons, and done so with largely the same group he has this year. Two seasons ago it was a loss to Butler as a #2-seed and last year a loss to Louisville as a #7-seed. Of their eight impact players, seven are upperclassmen and have extensive experience in the NCAA Tournament. Veteran leadership and NCAA Tournament experience cannot be discounted, and Florida has both in spades. In the “for what it’s worth” department, Pomeroy has Florida ranked #1 overall in his season-long rankings (fifth in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency).

Is the Third Time the Charm for Boynton and His Gators?

Is the Third Time the Charm for Boynton and His Gators?

Should They Falter: #2 Georgetown (29-5, 15-5 Big East). Recent history is not on Georgetown’s side as John Thompson III has made a habit of exiting the NCAA Tournament too early. In fact, in the six NCAA Tournaments that JT3 has led the Hoyas to, they haven’t made it past the first weekend four times. The Hoyas won’t win any style points, but that doesn’t much matter. What they lack in flash they have in tough defense and methodical but effective offense. Not to mention that the Hoyas are also fortunate to have Otto Porter, the Big East Player of the Year, on their side. The emergence of Markel Starks as a second dependable scorer adds another dimension to the offense beyond him, though. Their adjusted tempo ranks 313th in the country — in other words, a snail’s pace — and inability to score in stretches on the offensive end doesn’t make them a sexy team to watch, but Georgetown is very comfortable playing grind-it-out kind of games making them an apt postseason team.

Grossly Overseeded: #7 San Diego State (22-10, 10-8 Mountain West). The Aztecs began the season with a 14-2 record and a 2-0 mark in Mountain West play, and appeared to be the class of the league alongside New Mexico. Since that blistering start, San Diego State is a pedestrian 8-8 and finished 9-7 in the MW. It is almost unfathomable that the Aztecs earned a much better seed than Pac-12 champion Oregon — prepare yourselves to hearing a lot about the Ducks’ seed in the coming days —and even a higher seed than fellow Mountain West member Colorado State. SDSU benefited from having a strong RPI (#28) and a challenging schedule which ranked in the top 20, but many prognosticators had them wearing road jerseys in their opening round game, not home whites.

Grossly Underseeded: #8 North Carolina (24-10, 14-7 ACC). After getting embarrassed by Miami and then suffering a tough road defeat to Duke, North Carolina looked like it was headed to the NIT; the Tar Heels had a 16-8 record and were just 6-5 in the ACC at the time. Roy Williams’ young group may have had unfair expectations placed on it in the preseason, but there is little doubt that they should be an NCAA Tournament team now. Their talent and maturation as a team began to show in the second half of ACC play by winning eight of their last 10 games including a narrow loss to Miami in the ACC Tournament Championship. North Carolina’s seed was hurt by having a 2-9 mark against the RPI top 50, but the way in which Carolina concluded the regular season shows that it was playing closer to the caliber of a #5 seed and shouldn’t be marred in the dreaded #8/#9 match-up with the top seed looming.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VII

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 31st, 2013

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

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. Kansas guard Ben McLemore. I’ve been captivated this guy since the first time I turned on a KU game this year – the only comparison for pure smoothness as a freshman might be Melo at ‘Cuse. I can usually judge a guy’s talent by how willing I am to prioritize his Thursday snoozer at 8:30 PM on ESPN2. Do I delay dinner? Do I push work off till tomorrow? Do I accidentally forget about Date Night just to marvel at a net-snapping three when the Jayhawks are already up 20? If the answer to any of those is yes, I’m hooked. And for me, McLemore is that year’s player. Watch out for this KU team – they might just have all the pieces.

Mancrushing on Ben McLemore

I LOVED…. trying to figure out Duke.  27 points. TWENTY-SEVEN POINTS. The Miami Hurricanes looked like a pro team taking on the high school JV squad – running, slamming, jamming… even Barry Larkin was lovin’ it. So is Ryan Kelly that important to the Blue Devils? Is he the difference between cutting down the nets and a Hurricane doormat? Is he worth all 27 of those points? I guess we’ll find out.

I LOVED…. in a way that only a true John Calipari hater could love, the following headline: “Wiltjer, Noel Help Kentucky Upset Mississippi.” How a team full of Top 10 recruits can “upset” anyone is beyond me. They must realllllly be underachievers to pull off that one…..

I LOVED…. how the real point of this season seems to be how many teams can claim and then quickly relinquish the coveted (or maybe at this point, despised) Number One ranking. Indiana, Duke, Louisville, Duke, and now Michigan. It’s a tribute both to the difficulty of winning on the road with today’s insane fans, but also to the parity of this year’s college crop. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting money (sorry NCAA, I mean “friendly non-financially based wager”) behind any of these teams. But it should all add up to one crazy March.

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