On a more serious note, however, UNC fans have been quick to character assassinate McCants, who very well may be in some strange way attempting to shake down the school for what he perceives to have been a lack of ongoing support. At the same time, whistleblowers and other informants rarely come without motive or personality flaws, so the question needs to remain focused on whether McCants (and possibly other members of the basketball program) were recipients of the benefits of sham African-American Studies classes at UNC rather than whether he alone is a reliable source. His unofficial transcript — which shows that all of the As and Bs he earned in Chapel Hill were within the beleaguered department — are enough to call into question the integrity of those courses. And that is presumably what the NCAA is doing with the news last week that it has decided to reopen its previously-closed case into academic misconduct at North Carolina. Also keep in mind here that, in light of the undressing over the concept of “student-athletes” that the NCAA suffered last month at the Ed O’Bannon trial, the organization needs a public “win” that supports the notion that it takes academics seriously. Coming down hard on one of the true blue-bloods of one of its primary revenue sports to set an example wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility in this climate. We’ll all have to wait to see how it shakes out.
To that very point, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation at 2:30 PM later today is expected to tackle the topic of “Promoting the Well-Being and Academic Success of College Athletes.” Chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va) and supported by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the committee will explore the NCAA’s stated mission to integrate college sports and academics, and whether the commercial enterprise unfairly exploits athletes. Sound familiar? The NCAA is taking hits on all sides, with interested parties from the political to the business to the legal to the educational sectors all clamoring to understand the justifications for a lucrative business model that doesn’t share the wealth with its labor source. If the NCAA is lucky, Mark Emmert won’t be asked to testify if for no other reason than to avoid another jaw-dropping Freudian slip.
The reason that everyone is getting so chummy with the NCAA’s operations, of course, is that there’s a ton of money involved. The crazy realignment of a few summers ago has calmed down (for now), but as Boise State‘s recent financial settlement with the AAC illustrates, organizations tend to lose their damn minds when there’s a windfall to be grabbed (even if said windfall never actually materialized because it wasn’t thought through). That’s right, Boise State has agreed to pay a total of $2.3 million to the AAC (formerly the Big East) as a penalty for joining and then leaving a league that none of its teams ever actually played for. The Big West, another league that never suited up a single Broncos team, has already received $1.8 million in exit fees, meaning that the final tally in penalties for never actually leaving the Mountain West is $4.1 million. Congratulations to everyone involved, and let there be a lesson learned somewhere within this.
This has been a fun M5, so let’s end it by continuing the theme of poor behavior with some coaching news. College of Charleston head coach Doug Wojcikhit the news late last week with the release of a 50-page report (on a late afternoon heading into a holiday weekend, no less) summarizing a pattern of verbally abusive behavior levied toward his players. Among the details released were that Wojcik had used a homophobic slur on one of his players and generally made a habit of degrading and humiliating them during practice sessions. CofC’s athletic director, Joe Hull, initially wanted to fire Wojcik for his transgressions, but he was overruled by school president George Benson, who instead decided to give Wojcik a one-month suspension without pay (meaning he will miss July’s key recruiting window) and instituting a zero-tolerance policy for any future abuse. Personalities are difficult to change overnight, especially in such stressful positions, so it’ll be interesting to watch how well Wojcik does under these new constraints.
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name:P.J. Hairston
NBA Position:Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Projected Draft Range:Late First Round
It’s Been Over A Year Since P.J. Hairston Donned The Carolina Blue. Can He Use His D-League Experience To Boost His Draft Stock?
Overview: Thirteen months ago, everything was looking up for PJ Hairston. He had announced his return to a North Carolina team that was poised to build off a strong second half of the ACC season, a surge catalyzed largely by Hairston’s insertion into the Tar Heels’ starting lineup. He was to be the leader and primary scoring option for a preseason top-10 team, a tough, physical wing who could score the ball in a variety of ways. Last season looked to be a big year for both Hairston and the Heels… and then the summer happened. Camp and popsicles on the summer vacation was not for Hairston, as a series of violations — speeding tickets, marijuana possession, impermissible benefits received – would wind up costing the senior his final year of college eligibility. Hairston’s loss was a major blow for a UNC team that would struggle to find perimeter scoring options all season, but the suspension may not have injured Hairston’s basketball future as significantly. Sure, PJ was probably disappointed to not be a part of this Carolina season, but Hairston quickly moved on to the professional ranks after being ruled ineligible, latching on with the Texas Legends of the D-League in short order. Once in the Lone Star State, Hairston displayed the scoring touch that had made him one of the ACC’s most lethal offensive players, averaging 21.8 PPG (in just 32 MPG) in 26 contests with the Legends. Game to game consistency is still a major concern with the mercurial ex-Heel, but the diversity of Hairston’s D-league scoring (55% 2FG, 2.8 3FG per game, 87% FT) solidified his status as a likely first-round pick in this June’s draft. Hairston’s road to the NBA will have been far more circuitous than it appeared to be a year ago, but PJ is still right on time in arriving at his destination.
Just when you thought that the coaching carousel was done, Mike D’Antoni announced that he was resigning as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. Although there are reports that the Lakers are interviewing Tom Thibodeau there are other reports that they have expressed interest in both John Calipari and Kevin Ollie. While we have not heard anything to suggest that either is actively looking for this job (Calipari actually tweeted that he was committed to his Kentucky team) it would not be shocking if a college coach (even a Hall of Famer) jumped at this job if offered. You may remember that Mike Krzyzewski seriously considered the Lakers offer back in 2004. Obviously, the Lakers were in much better position then than they are now, but it is still one of the most prominent positions in sports so it would be hard for some to turn down.
Naadir Tharpe may never have been the type of point guard that Kansas needed to put itself over the top and win a national title, but his departure for Kansas will leave a void in their backcourt that they will need to fill. Tharpe’s time in Lawrence was marked by inconsistent play and culminated in a very-NSFW tweet, but his stated reason for leaving is to be closer to his daughter who he says has been dealing with medical issues that requires her to have regular office visits. Tharpe will likely be headed to somewhere close to Massachusetts and his departure should mean that the starting job should be Frank Mason’s to lose and it does theoretically increase the likelihood that they land Devonte Graham.
The schedule for this year’s Big Ten- ACC Challenge was released yesterday. The marquee game is clearly Duke at Wisconsin in what should be a matchup of top five teams. Outside of that there are a handful of interesting games–Syracuse at Michigan, Ohio State at Louisville, and Iowa at North Carolina–but the overall quality might be down because the ACC is so much better at the top of the conference. This will probably correct itself in a few years and the Big Ten might even win the event this year because of their depth, but in our eyes the main appeal of this event in its ability to pair up top teams in non-conference matchups that we might otherwise not see.
Washington transfer Desmond Simmons announced that he was transferring to Saint Mary’s yesterday. Simmons averaged 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game this season after coming back from a knee injury, which forced him to miss the first ten games of this past season. Simmons is set to graduate so he will be able to play for Saint Mary’s next season, which will be a sort of homecoming for him as he grew up about 30 miles away from the school. Although Simmons headed to Washington after high school he reports having had a good relationship with Randy Bennett during his initial recruitment and actually had the Gaels in his final three coming out of high school.
Former North Carolina State guard Tyler Lewis has found a new home at Butler. The sophomore point guard averaged 4.4 points and 3.8 assists per game this past season and his move into the starting lineup late in the season was cited as one of the reasons that NC State made the NCAA Tournament. However, Lewis never lived up to his McDonald’s All-American pedigree and with Trevor Lacey coming in we are sure that Lewis could see the writing on the wall. At Butler, Lewis will have to help rebuild a program that fell off hard with Brad Stevens’ departure, which was compounded by a loss of a lot of talent. In the end, this will probably be a better situation for Lewis in terms of playing time and level of his opposition.
Within every 40 minutes of college basketball, there is a moment or two that sets a tone, shifts momentum, or otherwise dictates the game’s final result. If we think bigger picture, we’ll notice that the five-month college basketball season is also shaped by a number of similarly formative moments. We may not always know their full significance at the time, but these moments conspire to transform the course of a season. In 2013-14, these were those 10 moments – some occurring inside the lines, others far away from the hardwood – that proved most pivotal to the season’s final snapshot.
UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many Napier Clutch Shots
10. Tyler Ennis Downs Pitt at the Horn (February 12). The Syracuse freshman’s memorable game-winner extended the Orange’s inspiring perfect start, but might it have ended up wounding both teams? Pitt would never really find its way over the hump, while Syracuse’s continued chase of perfection may have shielded a few critical flaws that would later cause its sharp downfall.
9.Scottie Wilbekin Returns From Five-Game Suspension (November 25). A solid performance (12 points, seven assists, three steals) in a rout of Atlantic Sun also-ran Jacksonville was just the beginning of a redemptive season for Wilbekin, who overcame offseason turmoil to become the unquestioned leader and MVP of a team that, for the better part of 2014, played at a far loftier level than any other squad in the country.
8. Wichita State Comes Back Against Missouri State (January 11). Shockermania hadn’t yet grown into the hysteria it would become, but Wichita State overcame a 19-point second half road deficit in the most improbable of their season-opening 35 victories. Read the rest of this entry »
Prior to the beginning of the college basketball season, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski infamously proclaimed that the ACC had the potential to be the greatest college basketball conference of all-time. That was a bold proclamation at the time, as we covered here, and with the 2013-14 season now drawing to a close, it’s become painfully apparent that the conference this year did nothing to stake such a claim. So the question then becomes, what does the ACC need to do in coming years to proudly proclaim itself the best basketball conference ever assembled? Here’s a road map for the league’s coaches and administrators.
Virginia’s ascendance will only help the ACC’s argument that it’s the premier basketball conference. (USA Today Sports)
The conference’s elite have to dominate the non-conference slate and enjoy copious postseason success. While there were a handful of marquee wins spread around prior to ACC play (North Carolina’s defeats of Michigan State, Kentucky, and Louisville; Duke’s defeat of Michigan; Syracuse handling Villanova), the league’s postseason results were anything but stellar. The conference managed to get six teams into the NCAA Tournament, but the upper tier didn’t produce much success when they got there. Duke lost in the opening round; North Carolina and Syracuse fell in the round of 32. Virginia, the regular-season and ACC Tournament champion, may have drawn a rough match-up in the Sweet Sixteen with Michigan State, but it could not advance (and UConn was able to handle the Spartans in the nexts round). The embarrassing result was that there was no ACC teams in the Elite Eight. These teams have to produce in postseason play in addition to their non-conference victories to help the perception of the conference return to an elite level.
While the ACC took a beating in its reputation over the course of the season, the league ended up with four very good teams (regardless of their early exits in the NCAA Tournament) that all spent some time in the Top 25. The league was top-heavy with a clear upper quadrant this year, but that didn’t stop the bottom from occasionally feeding on the weaknesses of some of the top teams, as Wake Forest beat Duke, Boston College and Georgia Tech beat Syracuse, and UNC lost to Wake and Miami. The ACC has traditionally run through Tobacco Road, but with the inclusion of powerhouses Syracuse and Louisville, the league will have a much more diverse, East Coast feel to it. The new rivalries that will develop among those schools are practically bred for prime time, with some of the sport’s most magnetic and well-known coaching personalities clashing on the sidelines, Hall of Famers with thousands of combined wins at this level. Their players aren’t halfway bad, either.
Louisville’s Rick Pitino has to be pleased (contrary to his facial expressions above) with his well-rounded six-man recruiting class(Getty Images).
Most other basketball conferences will be hard pressed to match the star power and coaching prowess that programs like Syracuse, Duke, UNC, and Louisville will bring to an already tradition-rich ACC. Much of the the league’s success can be laid on the shoulders of the incoming recruits that will provide these future made-for-TV moments. The 2014 recruiting class among the league’s programs seems to be fertile and deep, full of stars and instant impact performers who will enhance the collegiate landscape during their time on campus. The McDonald’s All-American game, played on Wednesday night in Chciago, featured seven future ACC players, all headed to Tobacco Road. While Duke’s top-ranked class has received much of the early accolades, North Carolina also is bringing in a potent blend of athleticism and shooting ability.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tonight the top high school players in the country gather to participate in the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American game held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Twenty-four of the top ranked high school seniors will provide the college basketball world with a glimpse of what can be expected from the next touted class of youngsters on ESPN at 9:30 PM ET. The high school class of 2014 might not have the star power similar to last year in a game that featured the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon, but there are still several good storylines and match-ups to keep an eye on during tonight’s contest.
1. Chicago Natives At Home
There are three McDonald’s All-Americans from Chicago this year, including two of the top five players in the country. Five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star power forward Cliff Alexander will suit up for the East and West squads, respectively. The two played together on the AAU circuit this past summer and faced off in high school action several times over the last three years. Okafor is considered the No. 1 player in the country and is headed to Duke next year, while Alexander is ranked No. 5 and has committed to Kansas. Alexander put together a monster senior campaign, but it was Okafor who won the Illinois state title. Okafor and Alexander excel with different styles although they are both low post scorers. The 6’11” Okafor has the more refined post game and is almost impossible to stop in a one-on-one situation while Alexander is a DeAndre Jordan clone who looks to dunk and block everything in sight. While these two might not match up in tonight’s game, you can be certain that they will both have the hometown crowd on their feet. To go along with the Windy City twin towers, there is also diminutive 5’9” point guard Tyler Ulis (#29). The four-star prospect is headed to Kentucky and will be the quickest player on the court. The floor general is great at beating his man off the dribble and creating easy shots for his teammates. Ulis will suit up on the East squad along with Okafor, while Alexander will play for the West.
It doesn't matter who comes back for Kentucky, I don't know how they could keep Tyler Ulis off the floor. He's a leader w/ terrific vision.
There is only one prospect in the game that remains uncommitted and he is 7’0” center Myles Turner, who is also the No. 2 ranked recruit in the country. This time last year the Texas native wasn’t even considered a top 100 player, but after a meteoric rise last summer he is now the hottest commodity in high school. Turner just recently took an official visit to Texas after previously visiting Ohio State, Duke, Oklahoma State and Kansas. He has also taken unofficial visits to SMU and Texas A&M, and is also reportedly considering Arizona and Kentucky. It’s been a whirlwind journey for Turner, who plans to sit down with his advisers and family after the Jordan Brand Classic to discuss his choice of suitors.
Iowa State Just Took It From North Carolina. The Tar Heels did almost everything that it needed to do to win today. But Iowa State just wouldn’t let them. The last run, which went 21-9 in favor of the Cyclones over the last five minutes of action, was a clinic in offensive execution. On Iowa State’s last 11 possessions, they scored on nine of them, including four threes that wouldn’t allow the Tar Heels to pull away. For those of you wondering, that’s a 1.91 points per possession pace, which is simply outstanding for a team that appeared to have lost its legs in the middle of the second half. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that it’s not like UNC fell apart during that stretch. They scored on roughly half of their possessions during the same period, and EVEN hit a back-breaker of a three by Leslie McDonald with a minute-and-a-half left as well as two free throws from James Michael McAdoo (of all people) with 15 ticks to go. North Carolina made plays to win; it’s just that Iowa State made more of them.
DeAndre Kane Pulled a Dwyane Wade Today. Without beefy forward Georges Niang in the lineup to relieve some of the offensive pressure, DeAndre Kane decided to pull out his cape and turn into a Dwyane Wade clone, replete with a ridiculous one-handed dunk down the lane as well as an extremely athletic driving layup to win the game. It was quite reminiscent of a younger Wade tearing up defense at Marquette a decade ago, and the stat line — 24 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, on 9-of-18 shooting – supports that comparison. It’s an overused cliche, but it seems to fit here — Kane was not going to leave this building without a victory today.
The Final Play. After Kane’s driving layup for the win, I kept my eyes on the clock and noticed that it was stuck at 1.6 seconds even after North Carolina had inbounded the ball and started dribbling upcourt. It only started running once the Tar Heel player had gotten near midcourt, and then it ran out completely. It didn’t surprise me at all that the final call was that the game was over, because it felt like at least two seconds were spent dribbling. It was a really unfortunate way to end the game, but UNC perhaps should have thought to use one of those two remaining timeouts after the ball went through the net. For those couple of minutes, the North Carolina fans behind me were as quiet as a church mouse — everyone just watching the officials and trying to read the body language. Just a fantastic game all the way around, and Iowa State a deserving victor.
Star of the Game:DeAndre Kane, Iowa State. He was the player who kept Iowa State alive when North Carolina was surging, and of course his all-around floor game resulted in a trip to the Sweet Sixteen, the school’s first in over a decade.
March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.
North Carolina has its hands full tonight with its first round match-up against #11 Providence. The Friars are red-hot at the moment, coming off a Big East Tournament title that included an upset win over Creighton. Head coach Ed Cooley placed a premium on winning the title in Madison Square Garden because the Friars hadn’t won it since 1994 and only once in the past 34 years. Providence may have lucked out in avoiding top seed Villanova after the Wildcats were upset by Seton Hall at the buzzer, but they still managed to get past the Bluejays and college basketball’s likely NPOY. The Friars’ best player, senior guard Bryce Cotton, was a unanimous first team all-Big East selection and he is a handful for any defense. A capable scorer who has increased his distribution skills this year, Cotton is much like North Carolina’s Marcus Paige in that they are both rail-thin, ball-dominating guards that are relied upon heavily from the perimeter. Their battle at that position will be one of the key match-ups in this game, and if Paige can play Cotton even or better, the Tar Heels will be well positioned to advance.
The competitor in Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton ( Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)
Marcus Paige has been a revelation this season. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)
Pittsburgh finally got its big win. The Panthers were on the bubble coming into the ACC Tournament, but a dominant beatdown of Wake Forest and a convincing (albeit close) win against North Carolina puts the Panthers squarely where they should be talking about seeding rather than sweating on Selection Sunday. The Panthers are healthy and have two great players in Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. This team finally lived up to its computer profile. They pass the ball very well (when not being trapped in the backcourt, but more on that later), but most importantly, the way Pittsburgh plays there are no obvious weaknesses for opponents to exploit.
North Carolina can’t keep starting slow. It’s a dangerous game to play. It’s even worse when you consider the Tar Heels appear to expect a perfect performance from Marcus Paige in the second half of every game. That said, give major credit to the Roy Williams for going to the press in the final quarter of the game. Pittsburgh really struggled with the pressure, and it got the North Carolina team (and crowd) back in the game. But there’s no reason this team should have stretches like the 3-of-19 start to open the contest. All that said, North Carolina almost pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks I’ve ever seen. They never quit, almost seeming to forget about the first three quarters of the game. That could pay dividends later.
These are both good teams. Good enough to make a deep run in the Big Dance (or lose the first weekend). After the game, Paige was asked how they had lived up to his expectations.
“The season is not over for us. It’s hard to say. There’s a lot that could happen in the next however many weeks that could change that answer. I think we have dreams and goals of making the deep Tournament run and I think we’re capable of doing that. A lot of it rests on that. We’re pleased with the way we’ve been able to fight back and win 12 games in a row and put ourselves in the good position. That’s not what our expectation was coming into the year. That’s what really made this month.”
Since many of the ACC’s founding members sprang from what was known as the ‘Southern Conference’ in 1953, the ACC adopted many of the SoCon’s mannerisms and bylaws. The Southern Conference traditionally anointed a champion via their postseason tournament and out of that came their postseason automatic bid. Ever since the ACC formalized the wording of a similarly fateful decision in 1961, the ACC regular season title has been all but a formality. The idea behind awarding a postseason victor in a short and somewhat chaotic multi-day tournament setting was to provide a free-for-all environment that was both entertaining and unpredictable. This ACC Tournament gave lower seeded teams who had a less successful regular season a chance at making The Big Dance. And back in the day and age where these rules were first enacted, only 15 teams were awarded chances at the NCAA Tournament, making a bid all that more valuable and cherished.
Is the ACC Tournament success a strong indicator of NCAA Tournament success? Florida State parlayed a win in the tournament in 2012 into a solid showing in the Big Dance.
In a format where games are played on top of each other with little or no rest or time to prepare, less superior teams would essentially be able to pull a win out regardless of their records. But while all the other major conferences today at least recognize officially the regular season champion, why has the ACC lagged behind is perplexing to say the least. The ACC finally began paying homage to the regular season winners in 1990, and retroactively recognized the winners from 1954-1989 in that same year. But why it took them so long, and why more conferences do not go along with the Ivy League method of a regular season champion is beyond me. ESPN‘s entrance into the foray and emphasis placed on Championship Week may have something to do with it, glamorizing the end of season postseason tournaments as bubble bursting madness.