ACC Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 24th, 2012

  1. Inside Carolina: The question of the week is how will North Carolina deal with losing Dexter Strickland. The simple answers are Stilman White (who has racked up just over 60 minutes of playing time this year) will be Kendall Marshall’s backup at point, and Reggie Bullock will replace Strickland in the starting line-up. Bullock has really come into his own this year, and many Tar Heel fans were already calling for him to start due to his huge offensive upgrade over Strickland. He also always draws the toughest defensive assignment when he’s on the floor because his length and athleticism make him a terrific perimeter defender. Not surprisingly, Roy Williams is not considering pulling Leslie McDonald’s red-shirt (McDonald isn’t a point guard). One of Williams’ ideas to keep Marshall out of foul trouble: “I may just decide to play a 2-3 zone the whole game and put Kendall in the middle and tell him never to foul.”
  2. Orlando Sentinel: In our no-brainer move of the week, the ACC named Michael Snaer its Player of the Week after he knocked down not one, but two huge threes in Florida State’s upset bid at Duke. Austin Rivers also took rookie of the week honors after settling into conference play with 19 points in the Blue Devils’ loss to the Seminoles. Both performances were pretty significant. Rivers proved he could be “the guy” against tough defenses, and Snaer continued his streak of games scoring in double figures. For both teams to be successful, those trends will have to continue.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: For the first time in several years, the North Carolina-NC State game feels important beyond the rivalry. NC State looks like a NCAA tournament team but still needs a marquee win to hang its hat on. The Tar Heels have shown some mortality. Even when both teams were ranked in Herb Sendek’s final season with the Wolfpack, his downplaying of the rivalry kept it from feeling like a big deal. Mark Gottfried is not Sendek. I personally think the Wolfpack starting five can hang with the Tar Heels. And I’m very excited to see Lorenzo Brown and Kendall Marshall face off at the point guard spot although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reggie Bullock guarding Brown.
  4. Fox Sports Carolinas: Duke still has issues defensively and at the point guard position. In the past the Blue Devils have been fine without a point guard, but this year the offense is focused on the interior. The Plumlees need someone to get them the ball. So far, only Quinn Cook has shown the ability to do that consistently (but his turnover issues made him an extreme liability against Florida State). Defensively, Duke lacks the athleticism and flexibility of past teams that had both good on-ball defenders and flexible wings, like Kyle Singler, to make Mike Krzyzewski’s over-playing man-to-man defense effective. They have to fix both issues to be a legitimate contender. Period.
  5. Miami Herald: Jim Larranga is getting tired of his team’s lack of progress. I’d be frustrated too: the Hurricanes had one assist to nine turnovers at the half and shot 2-20 from three against NC State. Kenny Kadji’s play has been about the only positive thing for the Hurricanes so far this season. Reggie Johnson’s injury really set him and the team back, as he still hasn’t been able to get near game shape. Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant have both been plagued by inconsistent play.

EXTRA: Tonight at the game against Duke, Maryland will be dedicating its court to Gary Williams (apparently there were a couple of events last night too). It should be a pretty special event, and Scott Van Pelt hinted there would be some very cool stuff. I’m not sure if the ceremony will be televised, as it starts before the game. I’ll pass along any good videos I find.

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Dexter Strickland Out For The Season With Torn ACL

Posted by KCarpenter on January 20th, 2012

Bad news out of Chapel Hill: North Carolina starting shooting guard, back-up point guard, and designated defensive stopper Dexter Strickland tore his ACL in last night’s game against Virginia Tech. Things looked pretty bad when Strickland landed funny and fell to the ground, grabbing his knee and yelling in pain. Confirmation came late today that he had torn the ligament and will be out for the season.

Dexter Strickland Is Out For The Year With A Torn ACL

Fortunately for Roy Williams, the Tar Heels are stocked with skilled shooting guards and Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston are more than capable of effectively filling Strickland’s shoes. The trickier questions are how badly the Tar Heels will miss Strickland on defense and who will spell Marshall as back-up lead guard? In terms of defense, the Tar Heels might actually be pleasantly surprised: Bullock, as well as being offensively capable, has been a skilled and stalwart defender. The defensive box scores compiled by Adrian Atkinson at Tobacco Road Blues demonstrate that Bullock has been really great on that end. This development, coupled with what appears to be genuinely improved defense by Marshall bodes well for North Carolina’s perimeter protection.

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Five and Five: North Carolina’s Strengths and Weaknesses Against Kentucky

Posted by KCarpenter on December 2nd, 2011

The big game is tomorrow, and even if it’s probably not going to be “The Game of the Millenium,” there will be an unbelievable amount of talent on display as two contenders go head-to-head in Lexington. Right now, let’s take a good hard look at North Carolina and outline some strengths and weaknesses. (ed. note: the Kentucky analysis is here)

Strengths

  • North Carolina Matches Up With Kentucky: Kentucky has one of the most freakishly athletic line-ups in the country. They are taller, longer, faster, and stronger than just about any team in the country. In North Carolina, the Wildcats meet a team that won’t feel over-matched on the basis of sheer athletic talent. The dominating performances that Kentucky has had early in the season will be harder to replicate against a very athletic Tar Heel team.
  • North Carolina Can Contain Terrence Jones: The two times that Jones has faced North Carolina, he hasn’t been able to dominate games. In fact, he’s struggled against the Tar Heels. Last December, Jones went three of 17 from the field on his way to a nine-point, six-rebound game. In the Elite Eight, he was also quiet with 11 points and seven rebounds, and turned the ball over four times. As talented as the team is, Jones is still Kentucky’s leading scorer and a bad game from him could hurt the Wildcats.

Jones Has Struggled Against The Tar Heels

  • Depth: So far this year, Kentucky has used a very shallow rotation that leans heavily on the starters while giving plenty of minutes to the experienced Darius Miller and using Kyle Wiltjer in spot minutes. North Carolina, by contrast normally goes eight deep with its standard rotation with spot minutes going to Justin Watts, Desmond Hubert, and Stilman White. With such a talented team, it makes sense that Kentucky’s rotation is pretty shallow, but there are two ways that this can hurt the Wildcats. Against North Carolina’s up-tempo attack, players tend to get tired more quickly, and often need rest. If Kentucky doesn’t pay attention, they may find their best players going into the final minutes with tired legs. Worse, a shallow rotation is vulnerable to foul trouble, something North Carolina excels at creating. Last December, four Kentucky players fouled out against North Carolina, including three starters. John Calipari will have to carefully calibrate the level of physicality he wants his players to bring on defense, or he might find his team in crunch time with his best players out of the game.
  • Experience: As a young team, North Carolina doesn’t often get to play the experience card, but against the youth of Kentucky, the Tar Heels seem like grizzled veterans. Starting a senior, two juniors, and two wise-beyond-their-years sophomores in Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall, this UNC team expects to play more cohesively and with better chemistry than their young adversaries who are still trying to learn each other.
  • Payback: Kentucky was the team that ended North Carolina’s NCAA Tournament run. After North Carolina’s loss last Saturday, Kentucky supplanted the Tar Heels at the top of the polls. The Wildcats have taken what North Carolina felt belonged to them and that’s a powerful motivation. Beyond team feelings, it seems like Zeller has a personal vendetta against Kentucky. Of course, the wry and stoic big man seems unlikely to get worked up by, well, just about anything, but it was in the Kentucky game during Zeller’s freshmen year that he broke his wrist. Since then, he’s always played well against Kentucky, whether in back-up minutes in 2009, or in a starring role in 2010 and 2011. Last December, Zeller scored a team-high 27 points on 13 shots while collecting 11 rebounds and five blocks. In the losing effort in March, he managed 21 points on 12 shots, nine rebounds, and four blocks.
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ACC Team Previews: North Carolina

Posted by KCarpenter on November 4th, 2011

North Carolina fans are developing a severe case of whiplash. In 2009, the Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson squad led the team to a dominant and resounding NCAA championship. The next year, Roy Williams had arguably his worst year ever as a coach as the Tar Heels missed the NCAA Tournament entirely. Last year, a late-surging UNC team came within spitting distance of the Final Four, losing to the ever-young and ever-loaded Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight.

This year? North Carolina is again the overwhelming favorite to win it all.  Let me put that on a timeline. A year ago, a despondent UNC fan base was praying for a great start to the new season to wipe away the memories of a catastrophically disappointing season. This year, Chapel Hill is bubbling over with excitement. People are throwing all kinds of superlatives around when they talk about this team. We can talk about whether those superlatives are earned or not some other time, but let’s make one thing abundantly clear: UNC is a championship caliber team.

Harrison Barnes Leads A Loaded North Carolina Team

The only losses from last year’s Elite Eight crew are graduate school transfer Justin Knox, who served as a solid if not spectacular backup for the starting frontcourt.  The loss of Leslie McDonald to an ACL tear during the summer, however, is slightly more troubling. Though still a backup, McDonald made the second most threes on the team and was the Heels’ most reliable threat from behind the arc. If he comes back at all this season, which seems unlikely considering the severity of the injury, it would apparently be near the start of the ACC Tournament. So for the regular season, I think it’s safe to say that McDonald won’t be playing.  Larry Drew, II, of course, left the team mid-season after he lost the starting point guard job. It’s hard to call this a loss, however, since Drew’s departure seemed to catalyze a middling North Carolina team and transform it into the tough and capable offensive team that played deep into March. It’s a textbook case of addition by subtraction.

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Who’s Got Next? Pangos All-American Camp, UNC Spotlight, Twitter Trouble and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on June 3rd, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

Last week it was the Nike EYBL, this week it’s the Pangos All-American Camp. Last week Class of 2012 small forward Shabazz Muhammad (#3) got his own section and this week Class of 2013 power forward Julius Randle (Watch List) gets his own section. Last week Class of 2012 point guard L.J. Rose (#20) named UCLA as a favorite and this week he elaborated on that. As you can tell, there are a lot of parallels between last week’s column and this week’s column but there are some things (or should I say people) that weren’t mentioned in the previous Who’s Got Next? column: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Candace Parker and ‘The Jewish Jordan”… not to mention a Twitter recruiting scandal.

What They’re Saying

Junior Brandon Ashley (#4) looks to cut his list in the next couple of weeks.

  • Junior Brandon Ashley (#4) on when he will make his decision: “I’m hoping to cut everything down in the next two or three weeks, maybe to a top ten, make my decision probably in the early signing period.”
  • Junior Rodney Purvis (#7) on his list of schools: “Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina State and Memphis.” On what position he’ll play in college: “Most of the coaches I’ve talked to feel I’ll be most successful as a combo guard.”
  • Junior L.J. Rose (#20) on why he took a visit to UCLA this past weekend: “I’ve built a great relationship with [UCLA] head coach Ben Howland.”
  • Junior Elijah Macon on the schools recruiting him the hardest: “Miami, Maryland, West Virginia and South Florida are on me hard.”
  • Sophomore standout Solomon Poole on what he’s looking for in a college: “First, academics. You can’t get anywhere without that. And a coach that makes you better. I want him to tell me what I’m doing wrong.”
  • Fantastic Freshman Trey Gundy on his favorite school: “I’m a Kentucky fan, I want to go to UK for college. I am going to keep my options open and see what’s best for me, but I bleed blue.”
  • IMG Academy head coach Andy Borman on when senior DeAndre Daniels will commit: “There is no timetable.”

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