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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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 85, #2 Duke 63

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Elite Eight NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #2 Duke in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Louisville’s mental toughness was incalculable. With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Louisville reserve guard Kevin Ware ran out to defend a three-point attempt from Duke guard Tyler Thornton and what seemed like a routine play turned into a very gruesome sight at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ware’s leg snapped as he landed and he suffered a broken leg. Ware’s teammates were deeply affected by the horrible scene on the court, as both guard Russ Smith and forward Chane Behanan were in tears. As Ware was taken off on a stretcher, Smith, Behanan, and forwards Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell were locked in an embrace near midcourt. The Cardinals led 21-20 when Ware went down and it would have been completely understandable if they had been unable to overcome the emotions that came with the injury. However, the Cardinals recovered in very impressive fashion – finishing the first half with a 35-32 lead and then exploding in the second half to outscore the Blue Devils 50-31 during the second 20 minutes of the game. Louisville coach Rick Pitino, his coaching staff, and senior point guard Peyton Siva deserve a great deal of credit for guiding the team through what was undoubtedly a very tough time.
  2. The Cardinals flat out owned the second half. At the second half’s under-16 media timeout, the game was tied at 42, but from that point forward the game was completely dominated by the Cardinals. After the 42-42 tie, Louisville outscored Duke 43-21. The Cardinals’ defensive effort in the second half was so suffocating that they held a very good offense to just a 32.1% mark from the field over the final 20 minutes of the game. Duke stars Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee were never really able to make a huge impact and its guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were held to a combined 4-of-21 performance from the field. Siva and Smith took over for Louisville on the offensive end of the court, seemingly getting into the lane at will. After shooting a respectable 46.4% from the field in the first half, the Cardinals were even better from the field in the second half, making 59.3% of their attempts in the second frame. Louisville completely dominated the second half and when it is able to put forth a performance like that, it is an impossible team to beat.
  3. Louisville is the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta. When the Cardinals became the overall number one-seed on Selection Sunday, they were viewed as a definite favorite to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. Two weeks later, Louisville has advanced to Atlanta and is the only one-seed still alive in the field. The Cardinals are set to play nine-seed Wichita State on Saturday in a semi-final where they will have a definite talent advantage even though the Shockers were able to pull off upsets of West Region one-seed Gonzaga and two-seed Ohio State. In the other semifinal, four seeds Michigan and Syracuse will meet for a right to advance to the national title game. While there will be a lot of talent on display next weekend, no team has as much talent and experience as Louisville and this is why it should definitely be viewed as the clear favorite to cut down the nets when all is said and done.

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Midwest Regional Final Game Analysis: #1 Louisville vs #2 Duke

Posted by BHayes on March 31st, 2013

 

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#1 Louisville vs. #2 Duke Midwest Regional Final (at Indianapolis, IN) – 5:05 PM ET on CBS

Dream materialized into reality on Friday night as Duke and Louisville wins created a must-see Midwest Regional final match-up. In a wacky NCAA Tournament where five of the top eight seeds have already fallen by the wayside, the Midwest region largely held to form. #1 vs. #2 in the regional final feels all to0 appropriate. Louisville will enter Sunday as the favorite, with a 13-game winning streak and Lucas Oil Stadium full of Cardinal Red in tow. They have shown few weaknesses in reaching this moment, but the Duke team standing between them and Atlanta is elite in their own right, and will undoubtedly offer the sternest test yet for the Cards. The Blue Devils were five points better than Louisville back on November 24, but will the presence of Gorgui Dieng (absent from that Battle 4 Atlantis loss) and a constantly growing Cardinal swagger be enough to script a different ending today?

Krzyzewski Has Worked His Magic Again This Year, But Can He Get Duke Back To The Final Four Again?

Even without Dieng, Louisville posted a +6 advantage on the glass in the November game between these two teams. Where his absence was felt was on the defensive end, where a bigger Duke front line was able to attack the rim at will. The Cards managed just one block (Dieng averages 2.5 a game) and Duke went to the line 27 times, where 23 makes helped the Devils overcome a poor shooting night from beyond the arc (5-20 as a team on threes). Having Dieng around now will shore up the interior defense, but Louisville must maintain emphasis on guarding the three-point line, because no team spaces the floor and shoots the three as well as Duke. Louisville may be the best defensive team in the country and grades well in almost every defensive metric, but their defense of the three point line is the weakest of those areas. The manic defensive aggression is a staple of the Cardinal defensive plan, but risks need be well calculated against a perimeter attack as lethal as Duke’s.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead transferred from Oregon to join the Shockers without a scholarship and that gamble is paying off as Wichita State preps for a chance to go to the Final Four.
  • Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com writes that Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Wichita State should not be viewed as a “David/Goliath” match-up.
  • Would Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall be the greatest catch of this year’s coaching carousel?
  • Ohio State sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross has matured during his second season in Columbus to become a playmaker for the Buckeyes.
  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta was unhappy with the way Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. performed defensively in the team’s Round of 32 victory over Iowa State, but the junior stepped up his play significantly in Thursday’s victory over Arizona.
  • Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas has a well-earned reputation as a “bad shot taker and maker” and this moniker has not prevented him from becoming the Buckeyes’ most lethal weapon offensively.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Duke 71, #3 Michigan State 61

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between #2 Duke and #3 Michigan State in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Seth Curry caught fire. The senior sharpshooter had a game to remember Friday night. He erupted for 29 points while shooting 6-of-9 from the three-point line. He had many open looks on the night, as Duke’s offense did an admirable job of getting him open. Curry has been an offensive dynamo throughout his collegiate career, but he took it to another level tonight. When you score 23 of your team’s first 41 points, you are making a huge impact on the game and that is what Curry did against Michigan State. Curry’s hot hand was never more evident than when he drained three from deep between the 19:18 and 17:12 marks of the second half. While the Duke lead was just three after that barrage from deep, it really forced the Spartans to put more pressure on Curry, which resulted in the rest of the Duke offense opening up.
  2. Duke’s defense was very impressive. Between the 12:05 and 3:32 mark of the second half, Michigan State did not make a shot from the field. Duke’s defense – anchored in the post by forwards Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly –  did an outstanding job on three of Michigan State’s top four offensive weapons. Forward Adreian Payne was limited to just a 3-of-10 performance from the field. Big man Derrick Nix matched Payne’s 3-of-10 performance. Standout freshman guard Gary Harris had a very frustrating evening, as he only managed six points on a 2-of-11 mark from the field. The Blue Devils have now played excellent defense in two straight games – they held Creighton to just 30.2% shooting in their Round of 32 victory – and if they are able to keep that going against Louisville in Sunday’s regional final, there is a strong possibility that they will be playing in Atlanta next weekend.
  3. Louisville/Duke on Sunday for the Midwest Regional title has the potential to be a classic. Louisville and Duke have already met once this season. The Blue Devils topped the Cardinals, 76-71 in the championship game of the Battle for Atlantis on November 24. The major difference between that game and Sunday’s match-up is that Louisville will have the services of forward Gorgui Dieng, who missed the first contest with a wrist injury. Louisville enters Sunday’s regional final as winners of 13 consecutive games and it has arguably played the best basketball in the country over that period. The Cardinals have a dynamic lineup that is very strong in the backcourt and the frontcourt. It has been evident that Louisville has been much more talented than its first three NCAA Tournament opponents – North Carolina A&T, Colorado State, and Oregon – but the Cardinals will be tested by a similarly talented Duke squad when the two meet for a trip to the Final Four. Considering the plethora of talent on both sides, it is very difficult to make a prediction on what may happen on Sunday afternoon, but it is fair to say that it has all the makings of a classic basketball game.

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NCAA Regional Reset: Midwest Region

Posted by BHayes on March 25th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent.

The Midwest Regional begins Friday night in Indianapolis with Louisville vs. Oregon followed by Duke vs. Michigan State. The East Region Reset and West Region Reset published earlier today, and be sure to look out for the South Region Reset later this afternoon. Also make sure to follow RTCMWRegion for news and analysis from Indy throughout the week.

New Favorite: #1 Louisville. When you are the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, win your first two games by a total of 57 points, and now have to travel just 115 miles to the regional site, you aren’t going to lose your pole position. The Cardinals are still the team to beat in Indianapolis.

Lucas Oil Stadium Is Where The Midwest Will Be Won

Lucas Oil Stadium Is Where The Midwest Will Be Won

Horse of Darkness: #12 Oregon. It’d be hard enough to make a case for a #1, #2, or #3 seed as a dark horse, and harder yet when the programs occupying those seed-lines are Louisville, Duke, and Michigan State. So while Oregon certainly fits the bill here, they also are winners by default. We knew the Ducks were underseeded and dangerous on that #12 line, and they went out and played like it last week. At this point, nobody would blink an eye if the seed next to the Ducks’ name was a #4 instead.  Louisville would be advised to view Dana Altman’s team through that lens, because Oregon is talented enough to knock off the Cardinals, even in their own backyard.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #4 Saint Louis. Clearly, this wasn’t the good kind of surprise. Saint Louis entered this NCAA Tournament as a legitimate Final Four sleeper. They played along with the hype in the Second Round, where they clinically dispatched New Mexico State in winning by 20. At that point, a deep run still felt very possible and at least one more win a near-certainty, which made the resounding defeat they suffered at the hands of Oregon a bit of a shock. Let’s keep in mind that this was a Saint Louis team that had lost just once in regulation since November, and the 17-point margin of defeat to the Ducks was the Billikens’ largest of the season. 2012-13 was a proud, inspiring season for SLU, but few could have predicted the abruptness with which it would end.

Completely Expected (1st Weekend): #3 Michigan State. Chalk prevailed almost across the board in this region (thank god for Oregon!), so take your pick here, but I’ll go with the Spartans. Armed with a virtual home court advantage in Auburn Hills, Tom Izzo’s crew made quick work of Valparaiso before dismantling Memphis in the Third Round. These wins were completely expected not only because it’s Sparty playing March basketball in its home state, but also because both their opponents loomed as favorable match-ups for this Michigan State team. As expected, Valpo was outmanned and Memphis not tough enough. The result, equally anticipated, is another Spartans visit to the Sweet Sixteen.

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The ACC in the NCAA: Can Albany Beat Duke?

Posted by KCarpenter on March 22nd, 2013

After the shocking loss to Lehigh last tournament, it seems unlikely that Duke will ever overlook a no. 15 seed again. Yet, looking at Albany‘s body of work; no one would blame the Blue Devils for looking a little bit ahead. Albany is not Lehigh. Lehigh was ridiculously underseeded at 15 and featured two top caliber players, one of whom, C.J. McCollum will probably play in the NBA. Duke was missing Ryan Kelly, and, in general seemed to be faltering at the end of this season. Meanwhile, this season, there is little to indicate that Albany is mis-seeded and Duke finished the regular season healthy and on a strong note. Still, for the sake of argument, if Albany were to somehow beat Duke, how would they do it?

Duke and Kelly Are Unlikely to Drop Another NCAA Opener (Lance King)

Duke and Kelly Are Unlikely to Drop Another NCAA Opener (Lance King)

Duke’s one big weakness all season has been rebounding and the Great Danes have actually been pretty good on that front, particularly in terms of defensive rebounding, though Albany easily outpaces Duke’s offensive rebounding mark as well. The big caveat here is the caliber of competition that Albany has been beating on the glass: dominating the America East Conference on the boards is a little simpler than doing the same in the ACC. Yet, it bears mentioning that tempo-free rebounding measures tend to be remarkably stable even when the level of competition changes. As strange as it is to say, it’s quite possible that the Great Danes could own the boards against Duke.

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March Madness Serves as an NBA Showcase for Big East Stars

Posted by mlemaire on March 20th, 2013

It’s hard not to feel like performances in the NCAA Tournament tend to artificially inflate players’ draft stock. It’s true that the increased weight of the games and pressure on players can help bring out the best in some prospects, but sometimes it seems like scribes and scouts tend to erroneously overdo it and conflate NCAA Tournament success with NBA success. That said, there will be plenty of NBA eyeballs on the NCAA Tournament this year, and there are a number of Big East prospects with NBA potential hoping to use the Big Dance to boost their stocks. Picking guys like Otto Porter and Michael Carter-Williams is too easy, as they have relatively assured NBA futures. We are more concerned here with the Big East players who truly have something to gain from their performances this March.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

Gorgui Dieng (Louisville): Dieng is already a surefire pro prospect thanks to his NBA-ready defensive abilities, but those who think the junior is a defense-only big man haven’t been watching the Senegal native play this season. Dieng’s progression on offense was slowed somewhat this season by a hand injury, but he is an improved passer, a reasonable free throw shooter, and shows impressive touch from inside 15 feet. Dieng will potentially get an early chance to prove his ability against an old foe if the Cardinals advance to play Missouri and Alex Oriakhi, and there are potential match-ups looming with Mason Plumlee or Adreian Payne down the road. If Dieng helps lead Louisville to the Final Four and plays well in those marquee games, he could slip into the back end of the lottery.

Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati): Kilpatrick is another player who could leave early for the NBA Draft if he thinks he has nothing left to accomplish with the Bearcats, but he may be on the outside looking in as the NCAA Tournament gets under way. There is no doubting his scoring and shooting ability, but his size and length give scouts pause so he will need to work on his ball-handling if he wants to make it at the next level. Kilpatrick has the type of gutsy attitude and moxie that are perfect for the NCAA Tournament, and he has a chance to go toe-to-toe with another NBA prospect in the first round when the Bearcats play Creighton and Doug McDermott. If Kilpatrick can lead the Bearcats past the Bluejays and then play well when matched against another NBA hopeful guard in Duke’s Seth Curry, he may impress enough scouts to earn some looks in the second round for his scoring ability and mature game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by BHayes 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, Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmidwestregion).

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

Midwest Region

Favorite: #1 Louisville (29-5, 17-4 Big East). It stands to reason that the top overall seed in the field is also the favorite to emerge from the Midwest Region. No team enters the NCAA Tournament hotter than Louisville, winners of 10 straight games and 13 of 14. Consider the Cards’ dominant second half of the Big East Tournament championship game a final warning for this field of 68 – there is no scarier team in this tournament.

"No Sleep Until Atlanta" For Siva, Pitino And The Rest Of The Louisville Cardinals, Your #1 Overall Seed

No Sleep Until Atlanta For Siva, Pitino And The Rest Of The Louisville Cardinals, Your #1 Overall Seed

Should They Falter: #2 Duke (27-5, 14-5 ACC). It’s been a quiet few days for the Blue Devils, as the weekend’s ACC discussion largely revolved around Miami. But there they lurk at the bottom of the Midwest Region, poised as ever for a March sprint. Let’s not forget that the Devils’ ACC Tournament loss to Maryland was the first time Duke had lost with a healthy Ryan Kelly, and the senior’s clean bill of health is a far greater blessing for the Blue Devils than a #1 seed ever could have been. Duke also owns a victory over Louisville from back in November, albeit one with an asterisk attached – Cardinal big man Gorgui Dieng missed the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. For now though, Coach K and company are happy to let Louisville absorb all the buzz as the region’s favorite, while the dangerous Blue Devils attempt to navigate a manageable road to Indianapolis.

Grossly Overseeded: #6 Memphis (30-4, 19-0 Conference USA). Bracket projections had the Tigers anywhere between a #6 and a #9 seed. Josh Pastner’s team maxed out its seed line by receiving the #6, but now comes the hard part – beating an NCAA Tournament team. Memphis did that just once in the regular season (a win over #14 seed Harvard), a rare gap in the resume for any team in the field, much less a team so highly seeded. Let’s put it this way — Middle Tennessee, the most controversial at-large selection in this field and a potential Third Round opponent of the Tigers, had two more victories over NCAA teams, and just one more loss than Memphis. That’s not to say that the Blue Raiders are a better team than Memphis (although perhaps we will get to find that out), but you get the point.   

Grossly Underseeded: #12 Oregon (26-8, 15-6 Pac-12). Likely the most underseeded team in the entire field. Sure, the Ducks slogged their way to the finish line of the regular season, but the return of Dominic Artis and an impressive three-game run to win the Pac-12 Tournament had most bracketologists predicting a spot in an #8/#9 game for Oregon. Committee chair Mike Bobinski admitted that the Ducks were actually on the #11 seed line and had to be moved down as a result of logistical issues elsewhere in the bracket, but either way, this team is better than their double-digit seed would indicate.

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ACC M5: 03.13.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 13th, 2013

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  1. Raleigh News & Observer: This is a phenomenal profile of Reggie Bullock and his hometown of Kinston, North Carolina from Andrew Carter. Bullock is the best player to come out of the small town since Jerry Stackhouse, whose presence is still felt throughout the local area. Carter looks at Bullock’s life, describing the impoverished town and the “it takes a village” mentality that town took to help him get to the University of North Carolina.
  2. Independent Weekly: I agree with Neil Morris in principle that the “hype” needs to be restored to conference tournaments — especially as the top conferences get more and more spread out. But I totally disagree with his solution, which is to make the conference tournament winner the only team available for a spot on the top seed line. All this does is make one seeds weaker and further cheapens the 30 games prior for a team good enough to earn a top seed despite losing in its conference tournament. The key for the ACC is picking its sites wisely (and having more competitive teams). 
  3. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Coming into this season, I was very skeptical Virginia would be able to replace Mike Scott. Last year Joe Harris was a decent second option and Akil Mitchell might have been an afterthought. This year Harris is as good a scorer as anyone in the league, becoming more efficient (specifically from beyond the arc), and Mitchell is a terror inside. He went from very good rebounder to arguably the conference’s best. The two together more than make up for the loss of Scott.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: This is a storyline that should be getting more play (although I hesitate to write that about a prominent Duke story that deserves more attention). We know Duke is much better on both ends of the court with Ryan Kelly, but neither he nor Seth Curry is healthy. More specifically, neither has practiced much this season thanks to nagging injuries. That could lead to a major conditioning issue in the rapid-fire postseason (the NCAA tournament is more forgiving than conference tournament, though). Mike Krzyzewski needs to be wary of how he uses those two guys in particular to make sure that neither runs out of gas.
  5. Washington Post: Erick Green became the first player since Len Bias to win the ACC Player of the Year for a team finishing under .500 in conference play. It was the right call, so props to the ACC media for recognizing his amazing season: Green was the first ACC player since 1957 to lead the country in scoring, and was the first major conference player to do so in nearly 20 years (Glenn Robinson, Purdue). Now Green just needs an encore to finish the season right.
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Duke Reminds Everybody That It Might Be The Favorite In March

Posted by KCarpenter on March 10th, 2013

It was over at the half. Coaches sometimes hate when others say that, but in Duke’s 69-53 victory over North Carolina, both Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski largely agreed–it was over at the half. Seth Curry was unstoppable, going 8-for-10 in the first stanza. He was closely guarded by Reggie Bullock and others, but in the end, nothing seemed to matter. “He toyed with us,” said Williams, and he wasn’t wrong. Curry led the Blue Devils to a 42 point first half (on 69.2% shooting) while a miserable looking North Carolina offense only managed 24 points (on 27.3% shooting).

Coach K Is Working His Magic Again

Duke scored at will, jumping out to a 14-0 run to start the game and one that ultimately decided it. North Carolina had nice spurts as the game went on, and the margin fluctuated, but ultimately the 14 points held up all the way to the final buzzer. Curry cooled off in the second half, and North Carolina did a better job getting close shots at the basket, but ultimately, a strong game plan and Mason Plumlee did wonders for keeping the Tar Heels at a distance. Plumlee looked more comfortable than he has in a long time, racking up 23 points on 15 shots as well as 13 rebounds. Mason’s board work can stand on its own, but it was all the more impressive for the number it did against James Michael McAdoo. While McAdoo had occasional success scoring on Plumlee, he was simply dominated on the boards. Usually playing as Carolina’s only big, McAdoo managed only 3 rebounds in 34 minutes. For reference, Plumlee had three times as many boards on the offensive end as McAdoo had on the defensive end. The Duke big man’s dominance on the boards kept Carolina at bay throughout the second half.

The Tar Heels did make a second half run, technically slightly winning the half 29-27 while shooting 41.4% to the Blue Devils’ 39.1%. Still, after spotting Duke 14 points to start the game and with Plumlee controlling the boards, the greatly improved play in the second half simply didn’t matter. Krzyzewski put it very simply in his post-game comments: “Obviously, we played really well tonight.” With Miami’s recent stumbles, Duke looks like the hottest and most talented team in the conference.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on March 1st, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

This weekend has several important conference re-matches and as well as first time clashes between conference leaders. It should be an action packed weekend. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#10 Louisville at #11 Syracuse – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****) 

  • Syracuse has lost two straight and five of their last nine. They have been inconsistent on offensive, particularly from the outside. They go up against a Louisville squad that is no stranger to struggles this season either. The Cardinals hit a three-game slide at the end of January that had a few folks questioning where this team was headed. Since that time though, they are 7-1 and only one game back in the Big East. Syracuse beat Louisville 70-68 in January in a close contest that came down to the final possession. The Cardinals have clearly struggled against long, athletic teams. Asking 6’0″ Russ Smith and 6’0″ Peyton Siva to guard 6″6″ Michael Carter-Williams and 6’4″ Brandon Triche is a tall order to say the least. Look for the Orange to exploit the mismatch at guard all night. Rick Pitino must game plan to help his guards, otherwise it could be another tough one for Louisville. The Cardinals also need Gorgui Dieng to contribute more on the offensive end. His size will help free up Smith and Siva on the outside. Expect another close battle at the Carrier Dome as these two teams battle for conference and tournament seeding.

    Peyton Siva orchestrated Louisville's offense with 10 points and 10 assists

    Peyton Siva has a lot to prove in the second go around with the Orange.

#20 Butler at Virginia Commonwealth – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (****) 

  • While Butler has amazing wins against Indiana and Gonzaga, they have struggled against the top Atlantic 10 teams. They are 0-3 against Saint Louis and LaSalle and now face VCU for the first time this season. VCU is also winless against Saint Louis and LaSalle, so Butler is not alone in their struggles. The key to this match-up will be turnovers. VCU creates turnovers on 27.3% of an opponents possessions. Butler turns the ball over on 20% of its offensive possessions. The Bulldogs cannot afford to empty possession in this game, otherwise they will lose. They must get into the half-court offense and establish 6’11” Andrew Smith early. Smith’s match-up against VCU’s Juvante Reddic will be critical. Butler needs Smith’s offense to win this game. 

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