Morning Five: 02.13.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 13th, 2014

morning5

  1. After legal haggling between the school, state, and the new AAC, Rutgers has agreed to pay $11.5 million as an exit fee to leave the AAC and join the Big Ten. The sum might seem fairly small compared to the numbers thrown around for other schools attempting to leave a conference, but it is worth noting that Rutgers had already announced its intention to join the Big Ten even before the AAC played its first game. We hope that other schools and conferences can reach relatively quick compromises as well, but realize that might be hoping for a little too much. At the very least these legal battles should not interfere with the school’s ability to compete.
  2. Speaking of conference realignment there is still one team that remains independent: New Jersey Institute of Technology. Unlike Notre Dame in football, which benefits from its ridiculous NBC contract and even more ridiculous BCS (or whatever they are calling it today) exemption, NJIT wants to join a conference. The school, which was once the laughing stock of Division I for its long losing streak has gained some measure of respectability in recent years so we would not be surprised to see a mid- to lower-tier conference in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic region add the school fairly soon.
  3. Normally Ken Pomeroy focuses his work on topics that might seem a little esoteric to the casual fan, but his latest post on how important home-court advantage is should be accessible to most fans even if the degree might strike them as a bit far. Pomeroy frames the post around Syracuse and Wichita State (the last two undefeated teams). Most observers would probably say that Syracuse is the better team and has played a tougher schedule. Pomeroy is not going to try to argue with that point, but thinks it is important to point out just how important home/road games are in determining how difficult games are. Of course, one can argue with Pomeroy’s win probabilities (we are not even going to try to get into the mathematics involved in coming up with those numbers), but it is an important point to consider as Selection Sunday draws near.
  4. Duke‘s more well-known men’s basketball team might not have been able to make the arduous trek to play North Carolina yesterday leading to the game being postponed until next week. The student managers for the two schools were able to meet for their game and the administrators at the two schools probably wish that they had not. Over the years there have been several (relatively) memorable moments in the game, but this year’s moment–a fight between the managers of the two schools–is one that the administration at both schools would prefer we all forget. The fight (all we have is a grainy video clip) might draw headlines, but should not be that much of a surprise for anybody who played intramural sports, which are often more violent than actual NCAA games.
  5. We might be ambivalent about the neutral sites for many of the early-season match-ups, but we love seeing teams play who might otherwise not agree to play at an opposing arena. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis has been the driving force behind many of these events and his latest idea–creating a barnstorming tour in 2018–is one of the more unique ones that he has come up with. The four schools–Florida, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Texas–would play in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles then get a home game against an opponent that has not been determined yet. While the idea sounds a little crazy the schools have apparently signed off and we do not see any of the huge issues that we saw with his plan to have multiple games going on at the same time so we do not see why this event would not happen.
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Syracuse Can Wait Its Turn: Duke vs. UNC is Still the ACC’s Elite Rivalry

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 12th, 2014

With Syracuse off to one of the hottest starts in program history and sporting a record Carrier Dome crowd versus Duke, the whispers regarding new rivalries in the ACC grew louder than ever. The Orange were bringing the second winningest coach in college basketball leading a blue-blooded program accustomed to postseason success, and therefore expectations have remained high. Syracuse had hyped the game against Duke for some time, littering the entire town with ‘Beat Duke’ signs and creating orange shirts with the same logo, even getting the Vice President to don one. So much emphasis was placed on this singular match-up and Syracuse’s desire for a new “natural” rival that 75 years of insurmountable ACC history got temporarily swept under the rug.

Next Stop: Prime Time

It’s About That Time Again

Arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports, Carolina versus Duke holds a special place in college basketball lore. While they may not always be on even footing or both in the Top 25, they always get after it and manage to consistently pull together wild finishes for fans in attendance. While Syracuse is a great team and program, and Jim Boeheim and Coach K are great friends, the history just isn’t there between the two East Coast teams. The Tobacco Road rivalry has brewed for over eight decades, since their first encounter in January of 1920, and has accumulated amazing finishes, chippy brawls and tense instances, iconic moments, and tremendous players that are embedded in multiple generations’ memories of college basketball. And while Duke and UNC fans may abhor each other, they still recognize that they are meant for each other, and it is in both of their interests for the two teams to remain relevant and successful.

While Syracuse and Duke shared one instant classic in upstate New York, the magic that has transpired in Durham and Chapel Hill has a certain sizzle to it, not so easily replicated. While North Carolina has had somewhat of a down year this season — at least in terms of their standards — marred with off-the-court issues and the loss of a star player, they have come on as of late, winning five in a row. Duke has maintained a Top 25 ranking this entire season but snapped one impressive streak of top 10 placement in the polls, after dropping games to Notre Dame and Clemson. There are a lot of intriguing matchups in the first game between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils, starting at point guard with Marcus Paige and what is increasingly becoming Rasheed Sulaimon, both large and lanky guards. The forwards are where most of the real stars come out, Duke with Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, and Amile Jefferson while UNC counters with James McAdoo, Brice Johnson, and J.P. Tokoto. A lot of elite athletes and future professionals will be butting heads under the spotlight tonight in Chapel Hill and college basketball as a whole will be better for it.

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An Early Glimpse at ACC Bracketology

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 5th, 2014

ESPN.com’s most recent bracketology update has six ACC teams making the Big Dance, with Florida State firmly on the bubble and projected into the #8/#9 game. The division between the elite and the rest of the ACC has become clear and it now appears to be a two-team race for the ACC regular season title (although things could spice up considerably if Virginia knocks off Syracuse). With Pittsburgh’s soft strength of schedule and inability to capitalize against Duke and Virginia, look for the Panthers to obtain a gaudy win total but not much substance on their résumé. North Carolina’s up-and-down season seems to have steadied recently and the Tar Heels’ quality wins rival any team in America as they seem to be firmly entrenched barring a complete collapse (you never know with this group). Syracuse is pushing for a number one seed overall and as this week’s unanimous top team in the national polls; the Orange are well on their way to that goal. Virginia continues to trend upward thanks to its elite-level defense and corresponding ACC success, as the Cavaliers have only one ACC loss at Duke and are within striking distance of the Orange. Duke has a good number of losses (five) for a projected #2 or #3 seed, but the Devils also have some good wins and impressed many supporters in their tight loss at the Carrier Dome last weekend.

The Two Winningest All-Time Coaches are Hugging it Out For Bracketology (credit: SI.com)

The Two Winningest All-Time Coaches are Hugging it Out For Bracketology (credit: SI.com)

The final development to keep your eyes on is whether Clemson can find a way of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have three difficult games on the horizon — at Syracuse and Notre Dame, vs. Virginia — but if they can make it out of that stretch at 1-2, they could win the next five in a row until their season finale versus Pitt. If the Tigers finish out their season strong they could end up with 11 or 12 ACC wins and a seat firmly on the bubble. A win or two in the ACC Tournament could then result in a dance card. With that in mind, here is a snapshot look at the six ACC teams currently projected into ESPN’s Bracketology and their respective profiles.

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Saturday Preview: Entering February, Stakes Are Raised

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 1st, 2014

Hello February! College hoops welcomes you into 2014’s second month with a mouth-watering slate of action. You may be sold at “Duke-Syracuse,” but there will be plenty of games that don’t set Carrier Dome attendance records worth watching. That’s not to say that your college basketball fan credentials will be confiscated if you aren’t settling in to your couch for some ACC on ESPN action at 6:30 PM ET today – because they will be – but here are some other storylines to watch on the first day of February.

Perfection Will Be Tested

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

For the first time since 1976, there are three teams 20-0 or better in college basketball, and all three are in action on Saturday. Wichita State shouldn’t have any issues with Evansville (3-6 in the MVC) at The Roundhouse (3:00 PM ET, ESPNU), but both Arizona and Syracuse face serious threats to their dreams of perfection. The Wildcats visit Berkeley to take on a Cal team (10:30 PM ET, P12 Nets) which had been undefeated at home up until Wednesday, when Arizona State squeezed out an overtime win over the Bears. If Mike Montgomery’s team is to add the signature victory of all signature victories to its resume, they will need senior Richard Solomon to have a big game against that impressive Arizona frontcourt. All the way across the country, Duke would be well-served to find a way to match up with the impressive frontcourt of their undefeated opponent. The Blue Devils are not a great rebounding team, but in their game with Syracuse (6:30 PM ET, ESPN), keeping the Orange (ninth nationally in OR%) off the offensive glass will be imperative for Coach K’s squad. On the other end, look for Jabari Parker to get plenty of touches out of the high post. A record crowd is expected at the Carrier Dome for this one, which obviously sounds like good news for Syracuse. Maybe not, though. The last time there was an attendance record set at the dome (last February, versus Georgetown), a do-it-all 6’8” forward named Otto Porter torched the Orange for 33 points and eight rebounds in a lopsided victory for the visitors. Can Parker induce a little déjà vu on Saturday, and end Syracuse’s perfect season while he’s at it?

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ACC M5: 01.29.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 29th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Daily Orange: The Syracuse student newspaper is running a tremendous series on Jim Boeheim and the history of his zone. Suffice it to say that the whole series will make the ACC M5. This is the first of the bunch and covers Boeheim’s playing career and his slow adoption of the zone. It has quotes from former players and opposing coaches to go with GIF diagrams of specific plays. Great stuff.
  2. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Ron Cook has what appears to be a popular opinion after Duke’s win at Pittsburgh. Lamar Patterson and the Panthers are overrated (remember, this is coming from someone who named Patterson the favorite for ACC Player of the Year and the Panthers as the top team in the league). I agree with the second part of that statement. Pittsburgh is a challenger for the regular season title, but hasn’t shown itself yet to be the best team in the league. That said, Patterson has been their best player. Duke essentially doubled him every time Pittsburgh tried to set a screen, and his teammates stepped up — for most of the game on offense — knocking down jumpers in his stead. But he’s still my conference player of the year to this point, and it’s not all that close.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State did an admirable job contesting Duke’s shots Saturday, but the Blue Devils scored 29 second chance points on 27 (!) offensive rebounds. The chink in the armor of Florida State’s historically great defenses has always been mediocre defensive rebounding. That’s often because Seminole bigs work to seal off the lane, often leaving opponents free to get better position on the glass. The question is whether the poor rebounding stems from a problem with the Seminoles’ eraser in the paint, or the wings who need to crash the boards in his place? My guess is the latter.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: Don’t look now, but if James Michael McAdoo plays like he did against Clemson, you shouldn’t write North Carolina off just yet. Who knows if the historical significance loomed over the Tigers, but regardless, McAdoo lit a fire under the Tar Heels in the blowout win on Sunday. That’s the kind of play Roy Williams desperately needs from his upperclassmen (along with lots of scoring to back up Marcus Paige).
  5. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths are back! Which means it’s the weekly time to marvel at Virginia for being the most dominant team in conference play thus far (with Duke and Syracuse close behind). Also, the gap between fourth ranked Pittsburgh and fifth ranked Florida State is 0.02 points per possession lower than the gap between Florida State and last ranked Virginia Tech. The most surprising part of the data set is that Maryland is the fastest team in the league by a comfortable margin (69.2 possessions a game, to Syracuse’s 54.2).
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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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RTC Bracketology: January 13 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on January 13th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert.

There was a lot of movement in my bracketology this weekend. After  a loss to Clemson, Duke is now free-falling. North Carolina, sitting at 0-3 in the ACC after a loss at Syracuse, has fallen all the day to the No. 8 seed line. Ohio State, a team which really has a lackluster overall profile after back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Iowa, has now fallen to my final  No. 3 seed position. The Buckeyes had risen to a No. 1 seed in a bracket I released last week. Colorado and Oregon are also falling quickly. The Buffaloes have the better resume but are preparing for bad news about leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie, who went down with an apparent knee injury last night in a loss to Washington. If Dinwiddie is out for the year, you will see that reflected in my next bracket. Among the teams moving up include Oklahoma, which handed Iowa State its first loss of the season over the weekend. San Diego State has also continued to climb and is nearing the No. 2 seed line, but stays as a No. 3 for now. Iowa also leaped up to the No. 5 line after one of the best resume-building wins of the year at Ohio State.

Last Four In: Indiana State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Georgetown
First Four Out: Arizona State, St. Mary’s, Boise State, Southern Mississippi

jan13bracket

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Conference Play Already Delivering Unexpected Drama

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 11th, 2014

We may still be in the nascent period of conference play, but early developments have hinted that a number of league races may not play out as planned. Heading into another good college basketball weekend, here are a few of the more surprising twists supplied by the early days of conference action.

The American Athletic Conference Is Up For Grabs

Remember when Louisville was supposed to be head and shoulders above the rest of this conference? Or when UConn was the Cards’ only real competition for the inaugural AAC crown? Yeah, me neither. Rick Pitino’s team may still be the AAC favorites, but after a non-conference season featuring just one victory over a top-100 team, the recent dismissal of Chane Behanan, and Thursday night’s home loss to Memphis, it’s safe to say that the Cardinals’ grasp on pole position has been significantly weakened. As for the Huskies, an ugly 0-2 beginning to conference play (losses at Houston and SMU) has altered the trajectory of their season. Shabazz Napier and company should be able to handle UCF later today, but with a trip to Memphis and a home date with Louisville looming next week, a 1-4 start to conference play is a definite possibility. It’s not the AAC we expected to see, certainly, but this unforeseen parity could give the league one of the better, more entertaining conference races the rest of the way.

It's Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

It’s Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

Butler Still Seeking Its First Big East Win

Expectations were initially modest for Butler this season, but a non-conference campaign with just a pair of minor blemishes – two-point losses to Oklahoma State and LSU – gave hope that the transitions between coaches (Brad Stevens to Brandon Miller) and leagues (A-10 to Big East) might be smoother than expected. Not so much, however, as the Big East has so far proved daunting for the Bulldogs, dropping their first three games: on the road at Xavier, and home games to Villanova and (gasp!) DePaul. Three total overtime periods were needed for those two home defeats, but no number of extra sessions will excuse a loss to DePaul, a program that was 7-86 in the five-plus Big East seasons that preceded their successful trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs are better than that Big East record would indicate, but a brutal upcoming schedule has the potential to permanently sink the Butler ship. Georgetown visits Indianapolis tonight, and 11 of the 12 games that follow come against teams in Ken Pom’s current top-75. At least for a season, the Butler faithful may end up missing not only Brad Stevens, but also the Atlantic 10.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: JaQuan Lyle Visiting Kansas, Official Visits for Juniors and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on January 10th, 2014

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/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. Where Will JaQuan Lyle End Up?

Back in September there were a lot of rumors that five-star center Cliff Alexander (#5 – 2014) and five-star guard JaQuan Lyle (#22 – 2014) would be a package deal. Recall that Alexander committed to Kansas in November, and at the same time, Lyle was busy starting his senior season at Huntington Prep (WV). Now, with Lyle scheduled to take an official visit to Kansas on Saturday, the chance to united with Alexander remains strong. With a rivalry game against Kansas State on tap, Bill Self will look to reel in his third five-star recruit in the class of 2014. Originally a Louisville commitment, Lyle is a 6’5” guard who specializes in putting the ball in the hole. A pure scorer, he is also one of only three players in the Top 100 that remains uncommitted.

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

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 10th, 2014

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

Roy Williams

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

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

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Who’s Got Next? Justin Jackson in Chapel Hill Along With Desi Rodriguez and Malik Marquetti

Posted by Sean Moran on December 31st, 2013

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/whosgotnext.jpgWho’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once 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 discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated 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.

Justin Jackson is Ready for Chapel Hill

The top prospect in Roy Williams’ No. 4 rated recruiting class of 2014 is a rather unorthodox Top 10 recruit. Small forward Justin Jackson has been on the national radar since his freshman year in high school, a year that included a Sports Illustrated feature as a 15-year old. But he won’t be labeled a one-and-done prospect the minute he puts on a Carolina jersey like many of his highly-touted classmates. Standing at 6’8” and only 180 pounds, the No. 9 ranked player in the country has a slender build that belies a diverse skill set. In the summer of 2011 Jackson was primarily known as a three-point specialist on the Houston Hoops AAU team that was comprised of kids two years older than him. Now in his senior year, Jackson is anything but a long-range specialist, instead relying heavily on his strong mid-range game.

Justin Jackson is headed to North Carolina. (Bart Young/USA Basketball)

Justin Jackson is headed to North Carolina. (Bart Young/USA Basketball)

A rarity in the analytics age of close shots around the basket and corner threes, his patented shot is a floater from eight to 12 feet along with a soft one-dribble jump shot. During the spring and summer of 2013, Jackson teamed up with two other Top 10 prospects in Kelly Oubre (#6 overall – 2014) and Justise Winslow (#10 overall – 2014) to become one of the most efficient players on the AAU circuit. He averaged 17.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent from the field. He also shot 40 percent from the three-point line, but only attempted 37 treys in 24 games. Previously just an outside shooter, it seemed as though Jackson was not as confident in his jumper entering his senior season and discussed areas for improvement with Scout.com‘s Evan Daniels. “Definitely get stronger and just getting my three-point shot back,” Jackson said. “I’ve been working on it.” Ten games into his senior season, he is averaging 31.7 points per game and was recently named the Most Outstanding Player at the High School OT Invitational held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brice Johnson Not Making the Most of His Starting Role

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 28th, 2013

Last week’s big news with respect to North Carolina was the announcement that the school would not seek reinstatement for P.J. Hairston this year. Perhaps flying under the radar in terms of other personnel news was that starting center Joel James would be out for 10 to 14 days after an MCL sprain suffered against Texas. This opened the door for Brice Johnson, who was named the interim starter, to firmly grab hold of the center position. His results in the two games since James’ injury show why head coach Roy Williams has been hesitant to give the sophomore heavy minutes, and also why this team may miss an overlooked member of the starting lineup in James.

Brice Johnson has provided the highlights, but... (credit: collegebasketball.ap.org)

Brice Johnson’ has provided some highlights, but is squandering his chance at grabbing the starting center spot (credit: AP)

Johnson’s first audition in the starting role came against Davidson last Saturday, a game in which the Tar Heels struggled mightily before Marcus Paige rescued them in overtime. Johnson’s stat line was brutal, with only two points on 1-of-3 shooting, a pair of turnovers and an eventual disqualification due to fouls. This Davidson team was scrappy and shot extremely well from outside, but the Wildcats also utilized a shocking ability to get into the paint and either score or dish with little regard for UNC’s big men.

That trend continued on Friday night, when the Tar Heels were outscored in the paint by a Northern Kentucky team whose tallest player is 6’6”. A performance like that boils down to effort and proper defensive positioning, and this is an area with which Johnson continues to struggle. A lean player already, he enjoys most of his success on the defensive end with blocks coming from the weak side. When players actively back him into the basket, he struggles with reaching and committing fouls. While he was able to go 4-of-8 from the field, he was 0-of-2 in the second half and only grabbed four rebounds in 20 minutes of action. James and Kennedy Meeks surely would have contributed better rebounding tallies in similar stints on the floor (in fact, Meeks registered six boards against NKU in only 13 minutes on the floor).

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