ACC Summer Recess: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by KCarpenter on August 6th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: North Carolina.

Where They Stand Now

What do you do when you have a team that goes 14-2 during conference play and loses in the Elite Eight after its record-shattering point guard goes down with an injury? In Chapel Hill, you are deeply disappointed in a team that arguably underperformed. The loaded Tar Heels were near helpless after Kendall Marshall‘s injury, struggling to execute on offense, and the surfeit of NBA-caliber talent all amounted to nothing against a Kansas team that came prepared to capitalize on North Carolina’s weaknesses. Most teams would still call a season like that a success, but for UNC fans, the 2012-13 ended in incredibly disappointing fashion.

Roy Williams Will Have to Put the Pieces Together With His 2012-13 Squad

Who’s Leaving

Everyone. Well, not quite, but like Florida State, the Tar Heels are facing quite a bit of turnover. ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. Harrison Barnes, an All-ACC First Team selection, is now with the Golden State Warriors, while Kendall Marshall, the all-time assists in a season record-holder for the conference and Bob Cousy Award winner for the nation’s top point guard, is now with the Phoenix Suns. Stilman White, the team”s back-up point guard, is leaving for two years to work as a Mormon missionary. The team is also losing the services of the versatile fan-favorite Justin Watts to that scourge called graduation. In short, next year’s team will be near unrecognizable from last year’s team.

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ATB: Fantastic Final Four – Buckeyes Squash the Orange, Carolina Misses Marshall, and an All-Kentucky Dream Game

Posted by EJacoby on March 26th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. The Final Four is set and ready for action with some of the biggest storylines in years. There were no Cinderella stories on this second weekend, as the Elite Eight was comprised of all powerhouse teams that have been the class of college basketball all season. This week will feature numerous awesome back-stories and matchups to look forward to in New Orleans, but first we’ll break down exactly what happened over the weekend that’s led us to the remaining four teams in the Big Dance. Without further ado, here’s how it went…

Your Watercooler Moment. Russ Smith Runs Wild For #4 Louisville as Unlikely Hero

Russ Smith Sparked Louisville to a Comeback and a Final Four Berth (C. Hanewickel, US Presswire)

The top players in the NCAA Tournament proved their worth over the weekend for their heavyweight teams, but the one team that lacks that superstar performer made for the best story of the weekend. Louisville was a slight underdog against #7-seed Florida in the West Regional Final and the Cardinals trailed by eight points at halftime by surrendering far too many open threes to the Gators. But Rick Pitino’s team stayed within striking distance throughout the second half before perhaps the most enigmatic, up-and-down performer in college hoops picked the perfect time to have his best game. Russ Smith, Louisville’s super-sub that provides instant energy, came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Smith often leaves coaches and fans scratching their heads with his decision-making, but his no-fear mentality was the difference in this game. Making aggressive moves to the basket and taking big shots late, Smith came up huge for his team in its biggest spot of the season. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds, two assists (and four turnovers), and hit two consecutive shots with his team down by six points to cut the Florida lead to one. From there, Louisville closed out the game and sent the Big East Tournament champions to the Final Four.

Also Worth Chatting About. Late-Game Defense Allows #2 Kansas To Defeat #1 UNC

The Jayhawks defeated #1 North Carolina in the Midwest Regional Final by 13 points, but this was one of the most entertaining and close games of the entire NCAA Tournament. The teams were deadlocked 47-47 at halftime in a high-scoring affair, but the defense took over in this game’s second half. Kansas allowed 63.6% shooting in the first half but it was a completely different story after that. The Jayhawks gave up just 22.6% to UNC in the second frame and did not let the Tar Heels score again after a Harrison Barnes free throw cut a Kansas lead to 68-67 with 3:58 to play. Bill Self implemented a surprising ‘triangle and two’ defense that completely threw off UNC offensively, especially limiting what the Heels could do in the paint. Jeff Withey was unable to repeat his 10-block performance from the Sweet Sixteen, but he and Thomas Robinson got the best of Tyler Zeller and John Henson in scoring and rebounding inside. Combine that with the fact that Tyshawn Taylor had an incredible game going up against Stilman White, and Kansas was too tough for a Kendall Marshall-less Carolina team to overcome. There was not enough offense from UNC when it needed it, but Kansas’ terrific defensive effort was a big reason for that.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Elite Eight Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 25th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor – South Regional Final (at Atlanta, GA) – 2:20 PM ET on CBS

Despite there being four double digit seeds advancing to the third round, two of the teams many predicted to reach the South Region Final will meet on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome: Kentucky and Baylor. Kentucky has been nothing short of impressive and, at times, downright jaw dropping to watch; their speed, athleticism, length, and sheer ability cannot be matched—or can it? The Baylor Bears will look to pull off the upset and ruin millions of brackets across the nation in the process. After watching both teams compete on Friday evening, Kentucky demonstrated why they are the top team in the land, but it would be foolish for one to believe that they are invincible and Baylor doesn’t have the horses to knock off the Wildcats. The individual matchup that seemingly everyone is focusing on is in the frontcourt between Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III; both move like an athletic two guard, but have the imposing presence of a seven footer with an endless wingspan. But, let’s not forget about Terrence Jones and Quincy Acy, both dominant players in their own right. As we have seen throughout the tournament, especially lately, officiating crews seem to have quick whistles. Against Indiana, Davis picked up two quick fouls and sat for the remainder of the first half; it was an obvious, yet brilliant move by Tom Crean to get Davis on the bench. Expect Scott Drew to employ a similar tactic; he would be foolish not to dump the ball inside on Baylor’s early possessions in an effort to get Davis and Jones to the bench. When you have forwards running like guards, and guards running like track stars, expect this game to be played at a frantic pace. As has been the case throughout the year, when a rebound is corralled by either Kentucky or Baylor, there are instantaneously four players filling the lanes down the floor, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to move from one basket to the other. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are two of the best in the game in pushing the ball in transition. While the offensive proficiency of both teams will, no doubt, be the focal point of the game, the team that strings together a series of critical defensive stops will ultimately be the team that wins. Kentucky’s three point defense has been exceptional all season—a good thing since Baylor is a strong outside shooting team—while their interior defense is the best in college basketball bar none. The Bears will give Kentucky a run for their money, but the Cats and Calipari prevail in the end and march on to New Orleans.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting North Carolina vs. Ohio

Posted by KCarpenter on March 23rd, 2012

Before Kendall Marshall‘s injury, this was a very tough match-up for the Bobcats. With Marshall’s injury, it’s still a tough match-up. There are several things going against Ohio in this match-up, but the toughest to overcome is simply size. Reggie Keely is a big body at 6’8″ and 263 pounds, but the rest of the line-up is shorter and lighter. Against the NBA-caliber size of North Carolina, this will be a problem, particularly for a team that struggles with defensive rebounding as it is. Worse, against the foul-drawing bigs of North Carolina, Ohio may quickly find itself in foul trouble. Ohio is easily the most foul-happy team left in the tournament, and Keely fouls 5.1 times per forty minutes and the rest of the front line posts similar marks. If Ohio can’t hold the interior against North Carolina, there is little to stop Tyler Zeller for going off for the game of his life.

Marshall May Not Play, But How Will Ohio Deal With UNC's Big Men?

Still, despite this distinct mismatch, Ohio comes into this game with a set of skills that could make life miserable for the Tar Heels. As a team, the Bobcats force turnovers on over a quarter of all possessions, and over the season have turned over offenses at the second best rate in the entire country. North Carolina, despite its fast pace, was one of the better ball-control teams in the country this year, and a lot of that credit goes to the masterful generalship of Marshall. Without the team’s 35 MPG point guard (or his back up), the Tar Heel’s of a distinct lack of battle-tested and sure-handed ball-handlers. Stilman White, Justin Watts, and (I suspect) Harrison Barnes are all but certain to endure hellacious ball-pressure as Ohio tries to leverage North Carolina’s inexperienced ball-handler into frequent turnovers and easy fast-break points. The success of both teams likely hinges on the ability of North Carolina to successfully break pressure, play out of traps, and otherwise initiate the Tar Heel offense before the ball hawks of Ohio make the big play.

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Ohio University Fighting the Cinderella Label

Posted by dnspewak on March 23rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC Correspondent covering the Midwest Regional in St. Louis this weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

They hail from a league nestled in America’s heartland, playing in relative anonymity in the Mid-American Conference. Each winter, they travel through Ypsilanti, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo and a host of other industrialized college towns with funky names, occasionally appearing on ESPNU or regional television. They toil in obscurity behind one of the largest and most powerful state universities in the United States, keeping to themselves in a town called Athens situated about 157 miles away from Cincinnati and 217 miles from Cleveland.

The point guard grew up in Chicago but had no offers from the Big Ten out of high school. The team’s vocal leader and second-leading scorer used to average five minutes a game at Ohio State. The two leading rebounders stand tall at an undersized 6’8”, each averaging just 5.0 boards per game. The head coach is a young, refreshing sparkplug with a load of energy, but his shaved head and small stature seem to fit the mold of an athletic trainer– not the leader of a team in the Sweet Sixteen.

D.J. Cooper Is Getting the Last Laugh in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

At first glance, nothing about the Ohio Bobcats suggests they should have any shot against top-seeded North Carolina Friday evening, even if standout point guard Kendall Marshall’s wrist injury leaves him unavailable to play. UNC center Tyler Zeller, a former McDonald’s All-American from a well-known basketball family in Indiana, paid polite compliments to the 13th-seeded Bobcats on Thursday afternoon. But even he admitted they are vulnerable in the frontcourt, claiming his team “can attack them a little bit down low and try to play to our strengths.” So it’s settled: as long as the bigger, badder Tar Heels show up to play, they’ll have no trouble dispatching a little Cinderella that finished third in the MAC East Division.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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Quantifying North Carolina’s Offense With and Without Kendall Marshall

Posted by mpatton on March 20th, 2012

With Kendall Marshall‘s status looking more and more like he won’t play this weekend, I tried to project his impact using statistics to evaluate North Carolina‘s prognosis without him. Using play-by-play data from North Carolina’s athletic site and StatSheet.com, I charted the Tar Heels’ offensive efficiency with and without Marshall on the floor. I only used games against at-large NCAA Tournament teams since Dexter Strickland’s injury.

How Will Marshall's Injury Affect North Carolina?

Unfortunately, there’s very little to be drawn from the data with Marshall out of the game. The issue is that Roy Williams has been playing his star point guard 35 minutes or more most games, leaving Stilman White with very few possessions. Sometimes that makes White look ineffective; sometimes it makes him look like a savant.

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ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 87, #8 Creighton 73

Posted by mpoindexter on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Kendall Marshall likely done for the year. In the midst of another fantastic performance, the sophomore who has lately been the best Tar Heel on the court came down with a scaphoid fracture to his right wrist. Though it isn’t his dominant hand, and UNC said that they don’t know Marshall’s range of motion yet, the medical literature does not offer a good prognosis. Much of the commentary will focus on how greatly this diminishes North Carolina’s odds of winning a title in 2012, but the real focus should be on Marshall, a player who seems as vocally committed to his teammates’ success as any in college basketball.
  2. John Henson is back, and healthy. After missing the last three games with a wrist injury, John Henson came back to the Tar Heels in full force. Henson was good for 13 points and 10 rebounds plus four blocks. It was Henson’s technical early in the game that sparked a gargantuan run from the Tar Heels, and his team played inspired ball for the first time since beating Duke at the end of the regular season. Henson was still tentative early on using his left hand, preferring to tip the ball to his right hand on a rebound and opting to lay in a ball he normally would have slammed home with authority. But by the second half he was back to his old self, using his left hand to emphatically swat away a Doug McDermott shot.
  3. Hats off to a great Creighton team. The Jays played hard today, but simply met a team that was bigger, more talented, more athletic. Doug McDermott tried his best, scoring 20 points, but the Tar Heels’ duo of Henson and James Michael McAdoo made life difficult for him. In the end, North Carolina’s players were too fast for the Jays to guard, and the Heels were able to get almost any shot from 10+ feet wide open. Creighton, though, was a pleasure to watch this year. If McDermott sticks around, then there’s no reason they can’t improve upon what was already a fantastic ride.

Star of the Game. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina. Marshall was quiet for most of the second half, but it was his play that initially put the Creighton Bluejays in a hole from which they couldn’t climb out. During North Carolina’s big run in the first half, the Tar Heel point guard scored nine straight points at one point, beating the Jays from inside and out. Marshall led the Heels in points (18), assists (11), and minutes played (36), going 7-of-8 from the floor. Multiple times, Creighton left him open and dared him to shoot, something that worked for teams last year. It doesn’t work any longer. The bad news is that the left-handed Marshall fractured his right wrist toward the end of tonight’s game, making his status uncertain for any games the Heels play for the rest of the NCAA Tournament.

Quotable. “It was a great win for our team, great win for our kids, and it was a team game to say the least. We got help from everybody. But it’s sort of overshadowed by what’s happened to a wonderful young man right now.” - Roy Williams

Sights & Sounds. The Greensboro Coliseum is an easy 45-minute drive from North Carolina’s campus in Chapel Hill, and the crowd for today’s game against Creighton overwhelmingly favored the Tar Heels. Combined, those made for a de facto home game for Roy Williams’ team. The Greensboro crowd, though, may have been so loud and energetic that it was more imposing for Creightonthan if they had played a regular season game in Chapel Hill. Tar Heel crowds at the Dean E. Smith Center have a reputation for being populated by the “wine and cheese” demographic — older donors who prefer to stay seated and clap politely before leaving with five minutes left on the clock. The crowd tonight was more like “beer and nacho cheese,” constantly screaming, jeering, and chanting. If the same people who came out for UNC in Greensboro follow them to St. Louis, the Tar Heels’ opponents are in for a long, loud night.

Wild Card. Who plays the point in Marshall’s absence? UNC head coach Roy Williams said after the game that the duty would go to freshman reserve Stilman White or senior do-everything Justin Watts. Both pale in comparison to Marshall offensively, though Watts is comparable, if not better, as a defender.

What’s next? The Tar Heels head to St. Louis, where they’ll meet the winner of #12 South Florida and #13 Ohio. UNC will have a size advantage regardless of who they play, and would cause huge problems for either team’s middling offense. If Kendall Marshall’s right wrist fracture keeps him from playing, as expected, UNC may be in for a low-scoring dogfight on the Mississippi.

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ACC Game On: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 31st, 2012

It was a lazy Sunday in the ACC when North Carolina dominated a hapless Georgia Tech team and Miami handled Boston College. I’d like to say today’s slate looks more competitive, but that wouldn’t really be honest. Still, watching two teams that are on a roll and two teams that are trying to figure things out may be instructional. Let’s go with that: tonight’s slate will be instructional.

The Dynamic Duo vs. The Legion of Doom

  • #5 North Carolina at Wake Forest at 9:00 PM

It’s becoming more than abundantly clear that with the possible exception of Ty Walker, Wake Forest has no offense outside of Travis McKie and C.J. Harris. It’s a shame, because McKie and Harris are seriously good players, but the rest of the team’s inability to provide much of any support has doomed this year’s Wake Forest team. Yes, this year is definitely better than last year and I suspect Wake Forest has at least one big upset they will pull off before the end of the season, but barring a break-out from some other player on the team, Wake Forest is just not very good. Meanwhile, Reggie Bullock is working out all too well in a starting line-up that is just starting to get scary. Consider this: at the beginning of the season, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall were all legitimate All-ACC players. Reggie Bullock, in terms of offensive efficiency as well as defensive efficiency, is beating all four. Meanwhile Stilman White seems to be adjusting well to his limited extra minutes, P.J. Hairston‘s shooting slump seems to be over and Desmond Hubert is picking up any slack in James Michael McAdoo’s game. I’m still thoroughly skeptical of the “Justin Watts as point guard” experiment, but I certainly prefer it to the minutes he was playing at power forward. In short, North Carolina looks really good right now and Wake Forest may have already hit its ceiling which didn’t seem very high in the first place.

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On Replacing Dexter Strickland: UNC Passes Its First Exam

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2012

Matt Poindexter is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the UNC-NC State game in Chapel Hill Thursday night.

After Dexter Strickland tore his ACL in the North Carolina’s win at Virginia Tech last week, many Tar Heel fans worried Roy Williams wouldn’t be able to fill the junior’s spot as starting shooting guard and backup point guard without a severe disruption. Reggie Bullock would likely move into the starting lineup and Stilman White—a freshman usually relegated to playing at the end of blowouts—would see more important minutes as Kendall Marshall’s primary backup. Other names were tossed around: Could Harrison Barnes be a point-forward? Former UNC star Eric Montross thought Justin Watts, the team’s all-purpose reserve, should run the team when Marshall needs water breaks. Williams even suggested the Tar Heels may go without any point guard at all sometimes. “We’ll be looking for anything else we possibly could have,” Williams said. But for this Tar Heel team, “anything else” means more than just rearranging the depth chart. Kendall Marshall is taking a mind-and-body approach now that Strickland isn’t available. “One thing I’m trying to do different is work on my breathing throughout the game. I’m not letting my highs get too high in my emotions because that can really take the energy out of you,” Marshall said after Thursday’s 74-55 win over North Carolina State.

How Will UNC Handle the Loss of Dexter Strickland?

Instead of simply playing White more, Roy Williams is trying to surround the young point guard with as much offensive firepower as possible when he steps onto the court. In previous games, White most often played with UNC’s inexperienced second team or with walk-ons in the waning minutes. Against NC State, White had Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes to pass to when he entered with 12:34 left in the first half. When White relieved Marshall again with 4:28 to go in the half, he joined Zeller, Barnes, John Henson, and Bullock on the floor. By substituting with White at those moments—each just before a media time out—Williams orchestrated longer rests for Marshall.

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ACC Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 26th, 2012

  1. Baltimore Sun: Apparently, there was a little more drama in Maryland’s court-naming than previously thought (there was a little hiccup this summer when the athletic department was trying to decide whether to name it after Gary Williams or Lefty Driesell). According to Jeff Barker, Driesell called out the athletic department: “It’s not fair to my players that they would put Gary Williams’ name on the court.” It was hard to tell whether Driesell was jealous the court wasn’t named after him, or annoyed that it was named at all. Ignoring hurt egos the ceremony went off without a hitch (minus the loss) as students and fans packed the Comcast Center for a final chance to see Williams on the floor.
  2. Wilmington Star News: Speaking of rivalry games, Roy Williams took some time to explain his dislike of NC State (earlier this year he said he’d shoot BB guns at Wolfpack fans in the Dean Dome). Basically, it sounds like NC State fans were mean to him growing up and never relented when he got to North Carolina: “some other people put us down any way they could to me and I took offense to that. It’s a childish way to react but it’s stuck with me.” Regardless of why, tonight’s game should be very fun to watch and features a lot of juicy match-ups on both ends.
  3. Deseret News: Stilman White‘s name has been in the press a lot lately, but many people don’t know much about him beyond his stat line. Trent Toone adds a little to White’s background, as well as paralleling his experience with former Duke player, Matt Christensen. Christensen was a Mormon who also wanted to go on a mission, which limited his recruitment. Because Mormon athletes in the ACC are so rare, I never really thought about the issues that arise from having to leave for an extended period of time in the middle of one’s career. It took Christensen seven years before he graduated from Duke — he was never a star, only averaging around eight minutes a game, but he participated on the 2001 national championship team.
  4. Carolina March: This is a fascinating article worth thinking about. Basically, the two questions are: “Is there an ‘ACC style of play’?” and “Does that style still exist?” Because of the recent conference expansion and coaching turnover, the answers appear to be “yes” and “no,” respectively. But what is the ACC style? Is it connected to coaches, geography or officiating? To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. The midwestern style seems clear (“slow”). The northeastern is debatable but “physical” is the first word that comes to mind. It’s a very cool idea that is worth investigating in the offseason (thank you, ACC Vault).
  5. Basketball Prospectus: The first edition of John Gasaway’s “Tuesday Truths” is out! It’s too early to get super reliable data, as some schools (here’s to looking at you, NC State) have played relatively unimpressive conference schedules while others (Florida State) have a lot under their belts. Interesting quick hits: the ACC is the fastest-playing BCS conference; Virginia‘s defense is gnarly; Duke‘s offense is outrageous; Florida State is making its money on the offensive end; and NC State is the second fastest team in the league. The league is also fairly up for grabs (no one is dominating the efficiency ratings so far, unlike the Big Ten, Big 12 or Big East).

EXTRA: Would Gary Williams coach the Washington Wizards? Well, this appears to still be rampant speculation, but Williams’ answer is certainly interesting:

“Well, I did have some opportunities to get into the league in the past, ” Williams said. “When I retired, you think, well, you’ve coached the last time. And I’d been a college coach a long time. The pro game’s always fascinated me because it’s pure basketball. You’re kind of on equal footing because of salary caps and things like that. I will always like that idea, because sometimes in college you get into situations where you just don’t have the ability to do what other teams you have to supposedly beat [can do]. You know, you never say never, is the way I’ve always looked at it.”

Like Dan Steinberg says, I’d totally be up for seeing Williams try his hand at coaching professionals for a variety of reasons.

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