Ten Most Pivotal Moments of the 2013-14 Season

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 16th, 2014

Within every 40 minutes of college basketball, there is a moment or two that sets a tone, shifts momentum, or otherwise dictates the game’s final result. If we think bigger picture, we’ll notice that the five-month college basketball season is also shaped by a number of similarly formative moments. We may not always know their full significance at the time, but these moments conspire to transform the course of a season. In 2013-14, these were those 10 moments – some occurring inside the lines, others far away from the hardwood – that proved most pivotal to the season’s final snapshot.

UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many  Napier Clutch Shots

UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many Napier Clutch Shots

  • 10. Tyler Ennis Downs Pitt at the Horn (February 12). The Syracuse freshman’s memorable game-winner extended the Orange’s inspiring perfect start, but might it have ended up wounding both teams? Pitt would never really find its way over the hump, while Syracuse’s continued chase of perfection may have shielded a few critical flaws that would later cause its sharp downfall.
  • 9. Scottie Wilbekin Returns From Five-Game Suspension (November 25). A solid performance (12 points, seven assists, three steals) in a rout of Atlantic Sun also-ran Jacksonville was just the beginning of a redemptive season for Wilbekin, who overcame offseason turmoil to become the unquestioned leader and MVP of a team that, for the better part of 2014, played at a far loftier level than any other squad in the country.
  • 8. Wichita State Comes Back Against Missouri State (January 11). Shockermania hadn’t yet grown into the hysteria it would become, but Wichita State overcame a 19-point second half road deficit in the most improbable of their season-opening 35 victories. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Unofficial RTC ACC Superlatives

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 11th, 2014

While the more official hardware is beginning to be handed out, like Player and Coach of the Year and the All-ACC team’s, it’s worth looking at some more under-the-radar superlatives that players and coaches have earned through the course of the regular season on the precipice of ACC Tournament time in Greensboro.

Here are five awards that RTC found to be equally as important as some of their more official brethren:

Most Selfless Upperclassman: Joe Harris, Virginia.

His scoring dipped more than four points a game from a year ago as he watched Malcolm Brogdon become the go-to scorer and clutch player on the team, plummeting from preseason ACC Player of the Year prognostications seemingly from the first game’s opening tip. Nonetheless, Harris’ willingness to play team ball and enlarge his leadership role helped Virginia to their first outright ACC Title in 33 years and a current two-seed projection in the NCAA’s. Harris is a senior, so it’s rare for a player to back off in his final season and allow team success to trump personal statistics. Harris is still a force, but now knows he can operate in the background to help his team’s season become even more special.

Joe Harris' selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Joe Harris’ selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Best Coaching Job Outside of Charlottesville: Roy Williams, North Carolina.

Tony Bennett absolutely deserved the COY award for his unbelievable reclamation job with Virginia, but no one dealt with more adversity this year than Williams. Between the PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald saga, the academics issues brought to light by a former adviser, and the up-and-down start to the year with no set rotation and inconsistent effort, Williams had a ton on his plate in trying to get this team into postseason play. The Tar Heels won 12 conference games in a row, including a split with rival Duke, and own possibly the best non-conference wins of any team in the country. It’s arguably Williams’ best coaching job in Chapel Hill to date. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Fayetteville Observer: Rasheed Sulaimon has been one of the more interesting players to follow in the conference this season. He was a presumed star in Duke’s rotation after a strong freshman campaign before spending much of the start of the season on the bench. Then he became the go-to player for Duke’s second rotation as the Blue Devils righted the ship. Now, he’s tentatively taken over the starting point guard role while Quinn Cook is struggling through a slump. As a freshman Sulaimon showed a knack for finding the open man, so his new role fits. Suddenly Duke is less reliant on Cook to run the offense, which only makes the team more dangerous over the next couple of months.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: This article really surprised me. I know Syracuse‘s 22-game winning streak is a big deal, but I had no idea that it ranked so highly among unbeaten starts in league history. Syracuse is already tied for the third-best start ever in the ACC. The rest of the list? 1980-81 Virginia started 22-0 on its way to the Final Four (Ralph Sampson’s sophomore campaign); 1972-73 NC State’s unbeaten season on probation (David Thompson’s sophomore year); and 1956-57 North Carolina unbeaten year, which won the national title, 54-53 (in three overtimes!), over Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain.
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: I’m on board with Jerry Ratcliffe’s general premise that the ACC isn’t getting its due (thanks to a horrible bottom of the conference), but let the record show that Florida State isn’t underperforming. They’ve played a hellacious league schedule and still have a reasonable chance for an at-large bid. It’s tough to expect better than that after last year’s disaster. Go ahead and add Clemson (tentatively), Pittsburgh and Miami to the list of ACC teams playing better than expected. North Carolina, Maryland and Boston College are certainly on the wrong side of expectations, but as a whole the ACC’s chronicles of woe are mostly thanks to overzealous preseason expectations.
  4. WRAL Sports Fan: Put me down as a second to Adam Gold’s idea for an ACC double-header of Duke-Syracuse and North Carolina-Louisville during the weekend of next season’s Super Bowl. Hell, why not throw in Virginia and Pittsburgh for those who prefer a slower game. While you’re at it, put me down for whatever it takes for the Blue Devils and Orange to face off twice a year while they have their respective Hall of Famers still at the helm.
  5. Bleacher Report: Here comes another interview with PJ Hairston. He’s learned a valuable lesson: Don’t read message boards. Probably the most interesting quote in this piece was from Hairston’s assistant coach, Hollis Price, after Hairston dove for a loose ball in practice: “That’s a credit to Roy Williams and the things he instilled in him,” said Price, laughing. “But I told him, ‘P.J., you’re not in college anymore. You’ve got to protect your money, especially in practice.” And you wonder why elite college coaches don’t always pan out at the next level?
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ACC M5: 02.03.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 3rd, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Sports On Earth: College basketball stole the show this weekend. The ACC alone was home to two incredible finishes, this being the first (the second is at the bottom of the post). Duke-Syracuse lived up to all of the hype — it was a fun game to watch with both teams exerting dominance from different areas of the floor (Syracuse in the paint, Duke beyond the arc), and Tyler Thornton managing three threes in under two minutes to get Duke back in the game. It proved what we knew about Syracuse and what we thought we knew about Duke. Go ahead and circle two weeks from Saturday on your calendars because the rematch in Durham is sure to be terrific.
  2. Tomahawk Nation: In much worse news, Ian Miller is hurt again for Florida State, a team that is now squarely on the wrong side of the bubble at 4-5 in ACC play (albeit against a brutal schedule). Without Miller in the lineup, the Seminoles are likely to look much more like last year’s disappointing version of the team. In addition to being a team leader, he was probably the Seminoles’ most important scoring option and there’s little to no margin for error with Florida State’s current losses. The only good news is that the team has four upcoming games against non-NCAA Tournament caliber opponents. And with games with North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Syracuse still looming, winning all four of those is the best path for Florida State to have a positive Selection Sunday experience.
  3. Draft Express: Good interview with PJ Hairston about his transition from North Carolina to the NBA D-League. Thanks to online classes, Hairston is on track to get his degree next year and is still close with the guys in Chapel Hill (although he didn’t answer when he was asked if he was treated fairly by the university). Hairston cited the frequency of games as one of the biggest challenges with the transition, although his scoring numbers so far have been terrific. Another interesting nugget is his philosophy: If he’s chosen fifth in the upcoming NBA Draft, he would feel that “four people [...] worked harder than” him. That fire should come in handy and explains his no-fear personality on the court.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: What was an optimistic start for Wake Forest is sliding into a concerning but well-known rut. The Demon Deacons lost at home to Georgia Tech (missing Trae Golden in addition to Robert Carter for most of the game) over the weekend. This is the same Georgia Tech that was 2-6 going into the game and yet still came out and took control of things in the second half. The bad news is that the Demon Deacons are only favored in one of their remaining nine games (according to KenPom). Suffice it to say that if they finish 5-13 in conference play, Jeff Bzdelik is probably done.
  5. Washington Post: Seth Allen showed exactly what Maryland needs him to do going forward in its weekend beatdown of Virginia Tech. Before getting too excited, though, remember this was a win over Virginia Tech. Still, Allen appears to be getting healthier as conference play progresses and he’s quietly morphing into the true point guard Maryland desperately needs.

Video Extra: Malcolm Brogdon drilled this game-winning three to win at Pittsburgh, pushing Virginia to 8-1 in ACC play. Oh, and the Cavaliers will be favored in every one of its games going forward. The only two frightening games are a trip to Clemson and when Syracuse comes to Charlottesville. Beat Syracuse (or truthfully, just split those two games), and Virginia has a great shot at the ACC regular season title.

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Is This Roy Williams’ Worst North Carolina Team?

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 22nd, 2014

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

Roy Williams Frustrated

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

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

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ACC M5: 01.14.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 14th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlotte Observer: What’s plaguing Duke, North Carolina and NC State? The fine beat writers and sports columnists of the Charlotte Observer (and effectively the Raleigh News & Observer) took a shot at pinpointing the issue. What is glaringly obvious is that Duke has the highest ceiling and has been a disappointment to start conference play. Coach K going with hockey-style line changes against Virginia worked like a charm for most of the game, but the Cavaliers’ late run still points to overarching issues. North Carolina has talent, but it’s increasingly clear that the pieces just might not fit correctly there without PJ Hairston. NC State is rebuilding with (unsurprisingly) mixed results. Also a fun fact from Stephen Schramm: “The last time there was an AP basketball poll without Duke and North Carolina was December 28, 1982.”
  2. Cardiac Hill: Pittsburgh got some horrible news this week as Durand Johnson tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. Johnson was an important offensive option from the bench, as he’s one of the Panthers’ best three-point and free throw shooters. Losing him will likely mean more minutes for Jamel Artis and maybe Chris Jones. I’d certainly like to see Jones get a little more run because he’s been a very efficient scorer in his limited minutes.
  3. Macon Telegraph: Speaking of Pittsburgh, the Panthers travel to Atlanta today to give Georgia Tech its second chance in as many tries to knock off a new member of the conference. Pitt is a better team than Georgia Tech, but I think the Yellow Jackets have a shot if the can cobble together a decent offensive performance. The key will be locking down Lamar Patterson and the paint, but the big question is whether Chris Bolden has finally found his shot or whether the game against Notre Dame was an aberration.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Jonathan Graham has been a very pleasant surprise for Mark Turgeon this season, although his playing time is at least partially due to the less pleasant surprise that has been Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell’s collective season. Graham is currently the sparkplug in the post for Maryland. Despite a size disadvantage, he’s been effective and he also brings a toughness that has been missing on the Terrapins’ front line.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: Syracuse is a big draw this season. I wouldn’t go as far to say the Orange are “like the Miami Heat or the Boston Red Sox,” but they’re certainly one of the hotter tickets in most places. That said, the Orange played their first road game at Virginia Tech in front of a half-filled stadium. But I’ll offer a caveat to these numbers: This is the first year ACC fans have had a chance to see Syracuse. Also, better teams sell out faster and more often.

EXTRA: PJ Hairston is slated to join the Texas Legends in the NBA’s D-League.

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Could This Season Be the Breaking Point for Roy Williams at North Carolina?

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 10th, 2014

North Carolina’s loss Wednesday night to Miami, dropping the Tar Heels to 0-2 in the ACC, was depressing enough for head coach Roy Williams. Where once the storyline of their season was predicated on top-flight performances against the elite versus some head-scratching defeats, consecutive losses to Wake Forest and the Hurricanes have now relegated them to the status of a team merely fighting for relevance. If you watch Williams’ press conference following the most recent defeat (you can do just that in its entirety here), it’s easy to see that this season has already taken a monstrous toll on the legendary coach. Maddeningly inconsistent play has certainly played a major role, but negative headlines that have enveloped the school off the court have played an even bigger role in Williams’ angst. After years of signs that increasing disenchantment with the machine of big-time college sports and its evolution (or devolution, depending on how you look at it), has Williams reached a point where he might consider walking away after this season?

Roy Williams

Is this the year the outside facets of coaching college basketball gets to Roy Williams? (credit: goheels.com)

College basketball coaches will always have their ups and downs. Even the so-called perennial contenders still have years where they fail to fulfill their promise (Kentucky in 2013; Duke in 2012, etc.). Winning on the hardwood, especially with college basketball’s difficult one-and-done playoff system, is never going to be satisfying enough every year. Williams certainly knows that, having gone to seven Final Fours with Kansas and North Carolina and coming home with two trophies — in 2005 and 2009. It’s clear he enjoys coaching. He enjoys teaching and nurturing the players who come through his program. But it has been the outside factors — such as the AAU circuit and player “handlers,” parental involvement that has become rampant, and the enormous role sports plays in a university’s overall public perception — that are seeming to weigh on a self-described “old school” coach like Roy Williams.

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Assessing the Impact of Jerian Grant’s Dismissal From Notre Dame

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on December 23rd, 2013

Notre Dame’s already diminishing ACC chances took an even greater hit over the weekend when star guard Jerian Grant was dismissed for the remainder of the season for academic reasons. Grant was averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.2 APG for the 8-4 Fighting Irish and was largely considered one of the best guards in the ACC and the country. The 6’5″ senior was shooting 51.8 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from three, and was clearly a major cog in coach Mike Brey’s attack. Grant, in conjunction with Notre Dame, put out a brief news release Sunday regarding his dismissal. He was apologetic and mature in addressing the public, taking full responsibility for his actions and saying he hopes to be back in an Irish uniform next season. In the release he said, “I take full responsibility for my lack of good judgment and the poor decision that I made. I have no one to blame but myself for the situation.”

ND's Jerian Grant (Photo: US Presswire / Richard Mackson)

Jerian Grant Is Done For the Season (Richard Mackson/ US Presswire)

Notre Dame has had some struggles out of the gate, losing an uncharacteristic November game for the first time in Brey’s tenure and most recently blowing an eight-point lead with less than a minute to play versus Ohio State on Saturday. The loss of a team leader in Grant will set the Irish back even further with ACC play rapidly approaching. Look for McDonald’s All-American and freshman combo guard Demetrius Jackson to start playing heavier minutes and establishing himself more often on the offensive end. Senior guard Eric Atkins will likewise need to be more aggressive in looking for his shot and take on more responsibility in Grant’s absence. Don’t be surprised to also see the continued ascent of fan favorite Garrick Sherman shouldering a more extensive burden of the offense.

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ACC M5: 12.23.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on December 23rd, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Notre Dame: Mike Brey’s weekend was probably worse than yours. First, his team coughed up an eight-point lead with less than a minute left to Ohio State that was so bad that it inspired CBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander to track down the worst collapses of the millennium. That win would have brought Notre Dame back into the national conversation and made up for a couple of unfortunate non-conference losses. Instead as a kicker, Jerian Grant released a statement over the weekend that he will not be enrolled at Notre Dame for the spring semester, citing a “poor decision” related to academics. As of now Grant is planning to come back to South Bend next season for a final year of eligibility. Very tough basketball weekend in South Bend.
  2. Inside Carolina: If you’re looking for the details on PJ Hairston‘s case, Greg Barnes has you covered. Apparently what led to the final decision was not as much the impermissible benefits issue, but more the inconsistencies with Hairston’s accounts to the university and the NCAA. Also interesting (albeit perhaps not new) is that head coach Roy Williams did not initially want to suspend Hairston last summer, which put him at odds with North Carolina’s relatively new athletic director Bubba Cunningham.
  3. Run the Floor: Duke‘s second half against UCLA on Thursday night was probably its best 20 minutes of basketball this season. The Blue Devils were very good on defense (largely because the Bruins’ threes stopped falling), but their ball movement and three-point shooting were outstanding. Run the Floor breaks down all of the Duke threes in the game, exposing the porous UCLA defense. This is the Duke team many expected coming into the season. Zone defense should be ineffective against a team that usually has four shooters on the floor, two of whom are 6’8″ and highly skilled offensive weapons.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Florida State got a strong non-conference win on Saturday, dominating Massachusetts on the defensive end. The Seminoles ended up holding the Minutemen to an absurd 0.75 points per possession. The highlight of Michael Rogner’s post here is his video capturing all 12 of Florida State’s blocks. Regardless of their current record, in case those two close games against Florida and Michigan didn’t convince you, these Seminoles are for real. Going to Tallahassee is going to be quite the test this season. Notre Dame and Syracuse will get their first taste of the Donald L. Tucker Center, and they should be prepared for what awaits them there.
  5. College Basketball Talk: And we’re back to teams that had bad weekends. Boston College lost at Auburn. On the surface that’s a road loss to a power conference team, but Auburn is not good (actually, they’re awful). And still, the Eagles lost by 10 points. Now it’s time to stop talking about how Steve Donahue can turn his team around and try to figure out instead where he lost them. Is it personnel? Effort? Both? The postseason isn’t happening this year, but Donahue now faces the uphill battle of motivating three different groups: his team, his fans, and his potential recruits.
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Morning Five: 12.23.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. The big news over the weekend was the decision by North Carolina not to apply for P.J. Hairston‘s reinstatement. As we have said for several months now it seemed unlikely that Hairston would ever come back to the Tar Heels as his involvement in multiple highly questionable situations that could lead to questions from investigators well after this season ended. Although UNC remains one of the most enigmatic teams in the country they are undeniably talented and on a given night they can beat any team in the country as they have proven with wins over the preseason #1, #2, and #3 teams in the country. Hairston’s departure means they will take a big hit in terms of their potential, but in the long run it will probably help the team as it can move on without Hariston’s potential returning lingering like a cloud above their season. The next question is where Hairston goes from here. Coming into the season he was a potential first round pick. Now after a lost season we have no idea where he will fall on NBA draft boards and he might be best served by finding a professional team to play before the NBA Draft.
  2. Coming in a close second to the P.J. Hairston news was the announcement by Jerian Grant that he had been dismissed from the Notre Dame team “due to an academic matter”. The news comes as a devastating blow to a Notre Dame team coming off a brutal last minute collapse on Saturday against Ohio State. Grant, a redshirt junior, had been averaging 19 points and 6.2 assists per game so his loss is actually a bigger blow to Notre Dame than Hairston’s is to UNC, but UNC is a much bigger player on the national stage than Notre Dame so Hairston’s impact will be felt more on a national level. Based on Grant’s statement we are assuming that his dismissal is probably related to plagiarism. If Grant returns to Notre Dame next season, he would likely only have one more season of eligibility left since he already used a redshirt year.
  3. Duke certainly gets more than its fair share of notoriety, but one of the thing that does not get enough publicity is how ridiculously consistent they have been. As Matt Norlander notes, the Blue Devils are on the verge of being ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll for 120 straight weeks. That puts them 35 weeks short of the record set by John Wooden’s UCLA teams between November 15, 1966 and January 20, 1976. If they manage to stay in the top 10 of the AP poll the rest of this season (frankly, we are not sure they belong in it right now), they have a very solid chance of doing so for all of next season with their ridiculous incoming freshman class. Of course, we probably would have said the same thing about this group of Kentucky freshmen, who were considered to be of even higher quality, and you can see how that has turned out so far. Perhaps, the example of this Kentucky team should underscore just how impressive this current Duke streak is.
  4. After Billy Donovan’s comments earlier in the week it was merely a formality, but Florid officially dismissed Damontre Harris from the team. The loss of the South Carolina transfer will certainly hurt the Gators in terms of frontcourt depth particularly on the defensive end as Harris averaged 2.3 blocks per game as a sophomore at South Carolina. However, with the imminent arrival of Chris Walker the Gators might be able to overcome it. After being hit with a series of injuries and eligibility issues in the early season, the Gators are showing signs of being a legitimate Final Four contender. As for Harris, we are not sure where he goes from here and much of his fate will probably depend on what the issues were that led to Harris’ dismissal from the team. Assuming they are not legal issues, we would not be surprised to see him end up on another BCS-level conference team.
  5. It takes a special kind of talent to be kicked off a team when your father is the assistant coach, but that is what once-heralded recruit J-Mychal Reese appears to have done at Texas A&M. Reese, a top-75 recruit in high school in 2012, had already been suspended for the first four games of this season for a “violation of athletic department rules and regulations” before getting kicked off the team this weekend. His father, John Reese, had been serving an assistant other Billy Kennedy. We use the past tense there because neither J-Mychal nor John traveled to the team’s game against Oklahoma over the weekend. According to reports, Reese’s dismissal was related to drug use. Unlike Harris, the next stop for Reese will probably be a level or two lower than the Big 12 given his reported drug issue. Despite his off-court issues, Reese is a talented player who averaged 7 points per game while shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range this season in between his suspensions so there will probably be many mid-major programs willing to take a chance on him.
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The RTC Podblast: Happy Trails to PJ Hairston Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 20th, 2013

Happy Holidays, everyone! Before we head into the crazy weekend before Christmas, we wanted to get this week’s RTC Podblast out. A quick look back at the top storylines from this week’s games and a preview of a sneaky good holiday weekend to come. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts, and the complete rundown is below. We’ll be back on Monday with a Christmas Week Edition. Stay safe out there, guys.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-3:47 – Texas Topples UNC in Chapel Hill
  • 3:47-6:34 – Florida is Victorious in the “Anti-Randy Bowl”
  • 6:34-9:11 – Duke Downs UCLA at Cameron Square Garden
  • 9:11-13:03 – Stanford Stuns UConn in Hartford
  • 13:03-14:39 – Oklahoma State vs. Colorado in Vegas Preview
  • 14:39-20:42 – Other Top 25 Teams on Upset Alert
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PJ Hairston Done In Chapel Hill

Posted by mpatton on December 20th, 2013

North Carolina‘s athletic department released a statement today asserting that it will not apply for PJ Hairston‘s reinstatement. Per athletic director Bubba Cunningham: “Unfortunately PJ made a number of mistakes that placed his eligibility at risk and the University’s joint review with the NCAA made it clear that seeking reinstatement for PJ would not be possible.” The news is obviously a blow to this North Carolina team’s ceiling, as Hairston filled a major hole in their rotation. The Tar Heels have three of the best wins in the country without Hairston, but possibly the only bright spot is that closure should allow the team to game plan with certainty going forward.

Without PJ Hairston, there's even more pressure on Marcus Paige the rest of the year. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Without PJ Hairston, there’s even more pressure on Marcus Paige the rest of the year. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

While Hairston’s case is complex, the decision is simple: North Carolina, with advice from the NCAA, chose not to seek reinstatement because the case wasn’t winnable. Who knows which evidence was the proverbial straw here, but only looking at the limited information available to the public, it was clear Hairston’s case was much more complicated than Leslie McDonald‘s. Little more needs to be said. It’s unclear where Hairston will go from here, but there will be a spot for him in the NBA eventually. This ordeal will probably affect his draft stock, but as Williams pointed out more than once, he’s handled the aftermath incredibly well.

In his press conference following the release (watch the presser), Roy Williams seemed to feel some responsibility in the case. A man who always wears his emotions on his sleeve, a beat-up looking Williams called the effective dismissal “the most difficult and saddest thing I’ve ever gone through as a coach.” He noted that Hairston’s departure would also affect the team saying, “My team is resilient, but they’re going to hurt from this.” All indications point to Hairston as one of the most liked members of the team, both by the team and the fans. There’s no denying his abilities, but there’s also something about his game — utterly without fear of taking any shot at any time — that drew people to him. Hairston and his quick trigger made watching North Carolina games more fun. But that’s an article for another time. Now the question is where the Tar Heels go from here knowing that he isn’t coming back.

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