North Carolina Readies Itself For ACC Play

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 30th, 2016

North Carolina wrapped up the non-conference portion of its schedule on Wednesday night by dispatching Monmouth, 102-74, at the Dean Smith Center. Now it is on to conference play, as Roy Williams’ squad visits Georgia Tech tomorrow (Noon ET – ACC Network) in the first of two ACC road trips. It has been an interesting season for the Tar Heels to this point. They started off by winning their first eight games, including a dominant performance in the Maui Invitational, that led ESPN’s Jay Bilas, among others, to proclaim North Carolina as the best team in college basketball. Williams’ team has taken a hit since with a road loss at Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge followed by a neutral court defeat to Kentucky in the Game of the Season. Now, on the eve of ACC play, let’s examine the Tar Heels’ prospects going forward.

Justin Jackson has been red-hot lately for North Carolina. (Gerry Broome-AP Photo)

Justin Jackson has been red-hot lately for North Carolina. (Gerry Broome-AP Photo)

The obvious strength of this squad is in the frontcourt. With seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks backed by solid freshman Tony Bradley, North Carolina may have a post trio as good as any in college basketball. Despite losing some of his efficiency with greater usage, Meeks has been outstanding in taking on a primary offensive role as well as on the boards at both ends of the floor. Hicks was expected to make a big splash as a first-time starter and he has delivered on that promise. The concern with him is that he has not performed nearly as well against tough competition — sporting a 101.5 Offensive Rating against the Tar Heels’ best four opponents — versus 118.4 in all games. Junior forward Justin Jackson looks like a potential All-ACC first-teamer right now. He converted 6-of-9 attempts from deep en route to a 28-point night against Monmouth, and unlike Hicks, Jackson has come through in big games — averaging 23.2 PPG against the Tar Heels’ five highest rated foes. Bradley, an important substitute off the bench, may have the most professional potential of the bunch. He currently leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and has displayed great hands and advanced footwork for a youngster.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

North Carolina Bench Showing Great Promise Already

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 15th, 2016

With six upperclassmen returning from last year’s National Runner-up, North Carolina entered the year with plenty of known commodities. As the 2016-17 campaign got under way, however, it was the Tar Heels’ young bench that represented the team’s biggest question mark. That group, comprised of three freshmen and two sophomores, has so far performed well. Roy Williams‘ preferred method of substitution is a one-for-one swap at each of the five positions. Ideally that means that Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley split time at the center position; Justin Jackson and Brandon Robinson do likewise on the wing; and so on. This strategy is tailor-made for North Carolina’s run-and-gun system — which requires quick attacks in transition and plenty of motion in the half-court. It correspondingly takes a deep bench to play this way, and Williams has always counted on using that depth to wear down his opponents.

Freshman big man Tony Bradley has been impressive in his first two games for North Carolina. (Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Freshman big man Tony Bradley has been impressive in his first two games for North Carolina. (Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

As expected, North Carolina is getting great production from its top four returnees. Meeks and fellow senior Isaiah Hicks have been dominant around the basket and juniors Justin Jackson and Joel Berry are off to hot starts as well — Jackson tallied a career-high 27 points in the opener against Tulane, and Berry was so impressive that he was named co-ACC Player of the Week as a result. That veteran group is also getting good support from the youthful Tar Heels’ bench. Bradley has scored in double figures in both games and has already snagged a total of nine offensive rebounds. When asked about his young center’s exceptional play after Sunday’s win, Williams said, “He doesn’t try to do things that he can’t do.” The head coach also commended Bradley for his ability to run the floor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Burning Questions: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by Matt Patton on November 10th, 2016

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Can the reloaded Tar Heels get back to the Final Four?

There's no question this year: this is Joel Berry's team. (Photo: Robert L. Poston/CarolinaBlue)

There’s no question this year: this is Joel Berry’s team. (Photo: Robert L. Poston/CarolinaBlue)

As was well-documented, North Carolina’s 2015-16 season was equal parts fairy tale and horror film. Roy Williams loses Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson from last year’s National Runner-Up, but this season’s team will likely be just as talented. First off, Joel Berry is criminally underrated. He was without a doubt the most important player on last year’s team, and he has a good chance to wind up on the short list for National Player of the Year. Second, Isaiah Hicks may finally put everything together last season and will go a long way toward filling Johnson’s shoes. However, there are some open questions here. Theo Pinson is out indefinitely after breaking his foot again, leaving the team overly reliant on Berry in the backcourt. He’ll have help in Nate Britt and freshman Seventh Woods , both of whom should get plenty of minutes (especially considering Roy Williams’ penchant for deep rotations), and Justin Jackson is a likely All-ACC wing. But the dropoff from the talent of Berry to Britt is steep, and Woods is still a freshman. That means Williams will need Berry on the floor for most of the game — especially once conference play begins. With Pinson out indefinitely, Jackson won’t have much help on the wing either. But don’t lose sight of the fact that Jackson and Berry are both elite, championship-level players. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Twitter 2016-17 Must-Follows: Ga Tech, Louisville, Miami & UNC

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2016

We are continuing our ACC Must-Follow List for the year with Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, and North Carolina in this post. If there are any other Twitter accounts that you think should be included, send us a tweet @rtcACC or leave a message in the comments section below.

For the rest of our ACC Must-Follow List, check out the rest of our posts for this year. Note that these will release throughout the day on Thursday.

Georgia Tech

He might not believe in golf, but he does believe in Twitter (RamblinWreck.com)

He might not believe in golf, but he does believe in Twitter (RamblinWreck.com)

Players

Bloggers and Beat Writers

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Andrew Carter

Posted by Chris Stone on October 6th, 2016

RTC interviews one on one

The college basketball season is just around the corner, so it’s the perfect time to start getting in the mood for hoops. To get the juices flowing, we reached out to North Carolina beat writer Andrew Carter to talk about the upcoming season, some of his Tar Heel favorites and the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. The following interview was edited for brevity and clarity. 

Rush the Court: Talk to us a little bit as an introduction about how you came to become the North Carolina beat writer for The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Andrew Carter: This’ll be my sixth basketball season. I grew up in North Carolina. I grew up in Raleigh, so I’m familiar with the area. This is definitely home for me. Before this, I was covering the Miami Dolphins for the (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel and before that I covered Florida State for four years for The Orlando Sentinel. The News & Observer had this job open and being from this area and having grown up here, it was especially of interest to me. I knew a couple people here and it just kind of worked out. Here I am.

Andrew Carter is the The News & Observer’s North Carolina beat writer. (The News & Observer)

RTC: Last year, the Tar Heels obviously had a pretty successful season, winning the ACC, the ACC Tournament, and making the national title game. What would you say are some expectations for the program this year?

Carter: I think expectations are always high at North Carolina, regardless of the roster and who they have coming back in a given year. The expectations are always going to be high. People always think that UNC should be good because it’s UNC. Naturally, with what they have coming back next year, I think those expectations are justified. They lose a couple really important pieces in Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson and Joel James was a valuable reserve by the end of his tenure. But everyone that could have come back is back. They bring back a solid nucleus: Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Isaiah Hicks, Theo Pinson. You just go on down the list and I think they have a lot of solid pieces back. Last year, the expectations entering the year — it was a Final Four or bust kind of year. I don’t think it’s necessarily that for UNC this season, but certainly this is a team that probably is going to enter the year somewhere around the top 10, if not certainly in the top 10. It’s going to be a team that if it doesn’t make the second week of the NCAA Tournament, it’ll probably be viewed as something of a disappointment this season. There’s a lot of high expectations, that’s obviously nothing new. If pieces come together and things fall the right way, I think this is certainly a team that has the potential to get back to the Final Four.

RTC: Is there a player among the guys that you listed that you think might surprise people there?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Sweet Seven Scoops: Midnight Madness Begins, Rabb & Skal Trimming Lists & More…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 10th, 2014

http://rushthecourt.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/7sweetscoops.png

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Midnight Madness: Kansas

It’s October and that means teams are tipping off the season with their editions of Midnight Madness. Last week UNC got things started with “Late Night with Roy” and tonight Kansas takes center stage with “Late Night at the Phog.” The Jayhawks are bringing in a plethora of top-notch talent for both official and unofficial visits. Last year KU hosted Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander, both of whom eventually selected Bill Self’s program. Some of the top five-star seniors who will be in attendance are small forward Jaylen Brown, considered the No. 1 player in the country, 7’0″ center Stephen Zimmerman (No. 14 – 2014), fresh off a scintillating performance at the USA Developmental Camp, small forward Brandon Ingram (No. 26 – overall), and power forward Carlton Bragg (No. 11 – 2014). A few of the other visitors include the No. 1 junior recruit in Jayson Tatum and the No. 2 sophomore recruit in Troy Brown. Which players will make their pledge to Kansas as a result of this weekend’s festivities?

2. Ivan Rabb Looking to Trim List

Five-star 6’10” power forward Ivan Rabb is getting ready to trim his list. He is scheduled to have his last in-home visit at an unscheduled date with Roy Williams before making a decision on the schools he plans to officially visits. The Bay Area native has programs from all over the country in pursuit of his services, including schools close to home in California, UCLA, and Arizona, in addition to Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, UNC, and Georgetown. Due to his connection with the Oakland Soldiers AAU program, it was long thought that Arizona was the school to beat for Rabb’s services. Sean Miller has used that pipeline over the years to establish Arizona as the premier school on the West Coast, with players such as Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon, and Stanley Johnson arriving in Tucson over the last few years. While Arizona has been recruiting Rabb the longest, it might be a school located in his own backyard that is getting the most buzz. As soon as Cuonzo Martin got the head coaching job at California, he took a visit to Rabb’s high school to establish a relationship — he has since been recruiting Rabb hard, and the Bears could be the surprise school in a list of blue-blood basketball programs.

3. Kentucky’s Scouting Combine

This weekend, while schools such as Kansas and Missouri are having their Midnight Madness, Kentucky will instead host a two-day scouting combine where 90 NBA scouts are scheduled to watch John Calipari’s nine McDonald’s All-Americans go through drills and tests. ESPNU is set to televise this event, where freshman center Karl Anthony Towns will be the main attraction. Some consider Calipari’s latest marketing idea as brilliant, while others see it as another shameless plug, but either way, Kentucky is set to host its Big Blue Madness even next Friday, which is expected to rival Kansas in terms of sheer talent visiting campus. One thing is for sure, Calipari will be able to tell all of the recruits and their families about his first ever basketball scouting combine and the exposure that Kentucky provides to all those NBA teams.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Seven Sweet Scoops: USA Basketball Developmental Camp, Ivan Rabb Receives East Coast Visitors and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 11th, 2013

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. USA Basketball Men’s Developmental Camp

This past weekend Colorado Springs played host to the most competitive event of the year for high school athletes. At the U.S Olympic Training Center the top players in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 classes gathered for four sessions of instruction, drills, and scrimmages covering a two-day period. Twelve players from the class of 2014 made the trip in preparation for the 2014 USA U18 National Team, while 34 players from the classes of 2015 and 2016 arrived with hopes of playing in the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships. All the players competed against each other in individual drills, controlled scrimmages, and full-court, 10-minute games. More highlights from each class below.

2. Malik Newman Update

The five-star guard from Jackson, Mississippi, is currently out due to a swollen right hand which he suffered while going for an alley-oop in practice last week. Despite the recent setback, Newman noted that the past month was a whirlwind with college coaches making the trip to see him play. Newman noted that Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi State, N.C. State, Alabama, and Kansas were some of the schools that stopped by. While the college attention has been fierce, Newman is focused on winning his third Mississippi state championship. “We’re just trying to figure each other out,” Newman noted about his new teammates. “I’m working on everything, but mainly the transition to point guard.”

3. USA Basketball Camp: 2014 Focus

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story