Rushed Reactions: Kentucky vs. North Carolina

Posted by Brad Jenkins on December 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

UNC's Big Men Were Able to Outduel Kentucky's Tonight

UNC’s Big Men Were Able to Outduel Kentucky’s Tonight

  1. The Kentucky talented freshmen played like freshmen. This should not be a surprise since it was the first true road game in their Kentucky freshmen’s college careers, and it was against a quality opponent with an energized crowd behind it. It showed up mostly in how they reacted to the strong North Carolina defensive effort. Kentucky turned the ball over 17 times compared to North Carolina’s nine, while Julius Randle had the toughest performance of his young career, struggling with foul trouble and finding openings in the half-court, finishing with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting. The Harrison twins — Andrew and Aaron — have a reputation for sometimes displaying bad body language when things don’t go their way, and despite keeping their team in the game for much of the evening, that was true down the stretch of this game.
  2. North Carolina held its own in the paint. Before the game, this was an area where Kentucky looked to have the advantage. Kentucky led the nation in offensive rebounding, pulling down an impressive 46 percent of its misses. For the game the Wildcats pulled down 17 offensive rebounds and were right on their average, but the problem was that they turned those boards into only 19 points. On the other end of the floor the Wildcats came in as the second best team in the country in opponents’ two-point field goal percentage at 38 percent. North Carolina was able to smash through that number with 51 percent shooting on their two-point attempts and actually finished with a four-point edge in points in the paint.
  3. Both teams need to work on free throw shooting. Even though we knew this was the case beforehand, it was certainly on display in Chapel Hill tonight. Kentucky did better in the second half (77 percent compared to 53 percent in the first half) so perhaps they have hope in this area. But other than Marcus Paige, who made all 10 of his free throw attempts, the Tar Heels continue to be horrible from the charity stripe. If you take away Paige’s effort, the rest of the team made 16 out of 35 trips to the line. With the attacking inside styles of both Kentucky and North Carolina on full display in this game, this deficiency could be a nagging problem all year for both.

Star of the Game. Marcus Paige, North Carolina. After a quiet two-point effort in the first half, the sophomore guard responded with 21 second half points on 6-of-8 shooting to go with his perfect performance from the foul line. He made several big shots down the stretch — none bigger than a baseline floater that gave UNC a much more comfortable five-point lead — and ended as the game’s leading scorer. Paige also chipped in on the defensive end with three steals. 

Quotable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

After a Quiet Week On College Hardwood, Weekend Action Set to Heat Things Up

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 14th, 2013

The end of the winter exam period could not come soon enough for college basketball fans. Yes, we know that it’s important for the kids to take care of their academics, but even the most fervent of followers would have to admit they could only take so many more nights of Bryant being featured in the headline contest of the evening. Nothing against the Bulldogs and their tidy 6-5 start, but this weekend’s spate of entertaining match-ups should help us all regain a little sanity Last night’s Hawkeye State battle served as a worthy appetizer for Saturday’s feast of action, but before you grab the remote and plop down in the front row seat in your living room, check out these four storylines to monitor on Saturday.

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Arizona Takes Its #1 Ranking to Ann Arbor Today

Chances For Validation, Redemption In Ann Arbor

It may be hard to believe now, but public perception of Arizona and Michigan was pretty comparable at the start of the year. Needless to say, that is no longer the case. The Wildcats, now also known as the #1 team in the land, get a shot at validating that ranking when they visit Ann Arbor today (12:00 EST, CBS), while the floundering Wolverines will seek to redirect the trajectory of their season. Wins over the #1 team in the country have a way of curing a lot of ills, but it will take a yet-to-be-seen vigor for Michigan to earn that antidote, even on their home floor. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan will clash with Aaron Gordon and the rest of that vaunted Arizona front line down low, but keep an eye on the battle of the Ni(c)ks. We saw against Duke how crippling a subpar night from Nik Stauskas can be for the Wolverines; if Nick Johnson’s rep as one of the best stoppers out West carries weight in Ann Arbor, Michigan may again find themselves searching for other scoring outlets. For Michigan, Saturday is an opportunity to prove that the Wolverines still might be who we thought they were; for the Cats, it’s another chance to show us that they are exactly who we think they are.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Podblast: Previewing a Blockbuster Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2013

With the single best day of college basketball games facing us on Saturday, this week’s RTC Podblast is almost singularly committed to previewing and talking through some of the biggest match-ups. OK, we made some time to talk about Florida and Kansas too, but the majority of the ‘blast looks ahead to the likes of Iowa-Iowa State, Michigan-Arizona, Kentucky-North Carolina and a number of other really interesting weekend games. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts, and despite his penchant for choosing road teams, he carefully leads us through what is without question the biggest weekend of the 2013 part of the season schedule.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00 – 7:05 – Reflecting on Kansas vs. Florida
  • 7:06 – 9:40 – Iowa vs Iowa State Preview
  • 9:41 – 13:50 – Michigan vs. Arizona Preview
  • 13:51 – 17:35 – Kentucky vs. UNC Preview
  • 17:36 – 22:03 – All the Other Great Games This Weekend

 

Share this story

The RTC Podblast: UNC Say What Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2013

Tis the season everyone… it’s RTC Podblast time. In this week’s quick and dirty version, the guys dig into just what in the hell is going on with this year’s North Carolina team, talk through some of the takeaways from this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and look forward to some of the most interesting games of the upcoming weekend (conclusion: snowboarding weekend). As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts, and the complete rundown is listed below.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-9:52 – Trying to Solve the Mystery in East Lansing
  • 9:52-12:08 – ACC Middle Tier Still a Question Mark
  • 12:08-14:14 – Michigan in Trouble
  • 14:14-19:26 – Weekend Preview/Wrap
Share this story

RTC Bracketology: Way Too Early Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on December 5th, 2013

bracketology

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is RTC’s resident bracketologist. According to Bracket Matrix, he ranks as one of the top bracketologists among those who have produced brackets for more than three years, including two seasons with perfect bracket projections. He updates the field daily on his site, Bracketology Expert, and will be producing a weekly bracket update here at RTC on Thursdays. 

Right now it is almost impossible to separate a No. 1 seed from a No. 10 seed in the bracket below, so preseason expectations still matter. For instance, North Carolina upset Michigan State last night in East Lansing but the Spartans are still a No. 1 seed. Later in the year, upsets like this will more easily be reflected in the bracket, but right now with such a small sample size, it is hard to compare teams to one another.

If you look hard enough with this iteration of the bracket, you might find a bracketing error or two (or more). At this point of the year, I’m more focused on showing where teams are relative to each other than I am on nailing every single bracketing procedure — although I do try.

NOTE: Small conference champions are still represented by their preseason favorite (or who I expected to win the conference). This will change in the next update.

RTCDEC5

Share this story

North Carolina’s Big Upset Over Sparty Only Begs More Questions

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 5th, 2013

College basketball fans, welcome to the most perplexing team in the nation. North Carolina pulled off the stunning upset last night in East Lansing, besting the top team in the nation, Michigan State. A team beset by ongoing suspensions, inconsistent play and horrendous foul shooting went into a hostile road environment following an ugly loss to UAB and promptly outplayed and outhustled the nation’s top team. A confounding team? Absolutely. A team that can be pegged as playing to its competition thus far? Perhaps. But most importantly, this might be a team with just a short enough memory to continue to make noise as the season progresses.

UNC Was Quicker to the Ball All Night Long Versus Michigan State (DFP/J. Gonzalez)

UNC Was Quicker to the Ball All Night Long Versus Michigan State (DFP/J. Gonzalez)

What might be most striking thus far in the Tar Heels’ season is this squad’s resiliency. This is a team that has been forced to juggle lineups with a lot of young players forced to play significantly larger roles than they’d anticipated. Freshmen Nate Britt and Kennedy Meeks were supposed to play complementary roles while their elders carried the torch early.Instead, the suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald have forced a lineup shift that saw UNC running 11 players in just the first half against the Spartans. Britt was invaluable, playing perhaps his best game thus far. His ability to handle the ball without turning it over as the Michigan State team pressed out of necessity in the closing minutes was huge for this team. He was also a solid 7-of-8 from the line (UNC’s Achilles heel, 61.8 percent on the season), most of which was in crunch time when the Spartans turned to fouling in the hopes of mounting a comeback. Meeks’ passing ability and impressive touch down low was again on display; despite facing taller big men most of the game, he still finished with an impressive line of 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench and made numerous gorgeous passes to facilitate the team’s half-court sets. Not to be outdone was the continually impressive Brice Johnson. His 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks helped North Carolina control the paint.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 12.05.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. It won’t settle any arguments about which conference is the best (we still think it is the Big Ten), but the Big Ten/ACC Challenge did yield some interesting results. The most obvious of which was North Carolina‘s surprisingly comfortable win at Michigan State. At this point, we have no idea what to make of a young Tar Heel team that is missing the two players who were supposed to be their two best players coming into the season. And of course there is the question as to how the Spartans laid such a big egg with all of their apparent advantages, but we will give them a pass because it was so out of character. On the other end of the spectrum was a game we wish we could unsee: Wisconsin‘s 48-38 win over Virginia that was eerily reminiscent of a Big Ten rock fight in 2009. Some of the highlights from the box score: the team’s shot 28.8% and 23.4% respectively from the field, 21.7% and 9.1% from three-point range.
  2. The majority of the discussion regarding the new rules being implemented this year has been based around the number of fouls being called. One area that has been largely overlooked is how it encourages zone defense. As Ben Cohen notes there has been a fairly substantial increase in the use of zone defense so far this year. The percentage of plays that it is being used on is interesting at some level, but the number of programs that are starting to use it or considering use it might be more impressive. While the trend is impressive we will be interested to see how this changes as the season progresses.
  3. Dante Exum is one of the more intriguing recruits in the class of 2014. The problem is that the Australian point guard probably won’t enter play a college game. At least that is what fellow Australian Andrew Bogut is suggesting to Exum. According to Bogut, Exum should not go to college and risk injury since he is a likely top-5 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Although we would expect the schools that are recruiting him (basically every big-name program that you can think of) to try to push  the benefits of a year of college we have a hard time disagreeing with what Bogut is saying. Forcing players to spend a year in college is obviously beneficial to the college game, but if the player can go straight to earning millions of dollars we would have a hard time telling a player to turn that down. That’s the same thing each of these programs say they tell their players when they are deciding whether or not to return to school so it will be interesting to see if they do the same with a player that they are recruiting.
  4. We are not sure how we missed this and we are even more unsure of how Rob Dauster of all people appears to be the only one we have seen point this out, but with Tuesday’s win Mike Krzyzewski tied Herb Magee for the all-time men’s wins record with 964 career wins although Magee overtook Krzyzewski with a win last night. As Dauster notes, with Krzyzewski coaching more games each season (and to be frank winning a greater percentage) the record should be his as long as Magee doesn’t coach for many more years than Krzyzewski does. As for the all-time college wins record, that appears to be pretty safe for the next few years as Pat Summitt has a comfortable lead at 1,098 wins.
  5. Over the past few years we have heard a lot of complaints from individuals in print media about how online media was destroying their careers. So it was interesting to read Seth Davis’ piece on Dick “Hoops” Weiss and how he reinvented himself after being laid off. Some might argue that Weiss was fortunate to have a connection that enabled him to land such a job, but based on what others have said about him and our limited interaction with him (about 10 minutes back in 2009) we don’t think it has that much to do with luck.
Share this story

Morning Five: 12.03.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 3rd, 2013

morning5

  1. Drexel appeared to be on the verge of putting together an excellent season as they started 4-2 with their only losses being close games against Arizona (four-point margin) and UCLA (five-point margin), but their hopes for being a March sleeper took a huge hit yesterday when they announced that Damion Lee, their leading scorer last season at 17.1 points per game, was out for the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Lee sustained the injury in the second half of the team’s loss to Arizona, a game in which the Dragons held a 19-point lead at one time. This is the second straight season that Drexel has lost a significant player to a season-ending injury as last year they lost Chris Fouch to a season-ending knee injury as well (Fouch is playing as a sixth-year senior now).
  2. It appears that Drexel was not the only team to lose a significant player to a knee injury over Thanksgiving break as Houston announced that sophomore guard Danuel House would be out indefinitely after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Unlike Lee, House is expected to return this season although the school did not set a timetable for his return. The injury is still a big blow as House was averaging 15.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season albeit while shooting an atrocious 37.9% from the field. Fortunately for the Cougars, they do have a relatively light stretch before their schedule gets noticeably tougher starting on New Year’s Eve when they face Connecticut.
  3. Despite their tough loss at Connecticut last night Florida appears to have the pieces to make be a legitimate Final Four threat if they can get everybody healthy and on the court at the same time. It is beginning to look more and more like that will not be the case. While they are still waiting to hear back about some major eligibility and injury issues, it appears that they will redshirt Rutgers transfer Eli Carter who is still recovering from a broken leg. Although the injury occurred in February, Carter, who was averaging 14.9 points per game at Rutgers before the injury, has played sparingly for the Gators this season as he has only played 53 minutes this season. The loss might be considered a big blow for the Gators who are now looking for a point guard after Scottie Wilbekin went down with a knee injury late in the loss last night, but the decision to redshirt Carter should not come as a surprise to those who have followed his recovery.
  4. We finally have a break in the North Carolina academic fraud scandal and someone has been charged with a felony for his actions. No, it is not an administrator. Instead, it is Julius Nyang’Oro, the former chairman of the much-maligned Department of African and Afro-American Studies at North Carolina. Yesterday, a grand jury indicted Nyang’Oro on a single felony count of obtaining property under false pretenses for accepting $12,000 for a course that had no classes. According to the university, the were able to recoup the money in his final paycheck. If convicted, Nyang’Oro faces up to 30 months in prison [Ed. Note: The AP story says 10 months.] so perhaps the most interesting aspect of the case will be if he tries to work out a deal with the prosecution to testify against the school and/or administrators being complicit in the fraud as a means to avoid jail time.
  5. Usually when Gary Parrish publishes a Poll Attack it typically features a writer we have either never heard of or are simply unfamiliar with. This week is a little different as he uses the space to inform us that an individual we are very familiar with, former Maryland coach Gary Williams, has an AP vote. We had heard about Williams’ new job working with Comcast Sports Network, but we had no idea that he had received a vote basically at the same time he started his new job. Unfortunately, Williams appears to have missed the results of Xavier’s games and Memphis’ victory over Oklahoma State, but like Parrish we will give Williams a break since he is new to this.
Share this story

Who’s Got Next? Rashad Vaughn and an Introduction to 7’0″ Michal Cekovsky

Posted by Sean Moran on December 2nd, 2013

whosgotnext

Who’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.

Rashad Vaughn: The Top Remaining Guard

Five-star shooting guard Rashad Vaughn is ranked the No. 13 prospect in the country, but when it comes to uncommitted guards in the class of 2014 he is the at the top of the board. The 6’5” Vaughn is listed as the second-best shooting guard in the country behind Seton Hall signee Isaiah Whitehead (#12 overall, #1 SG), and is looking to make a college decision sometime in the spring. Right now Iowa State and UNLV are the presumed leaders with Vaughn having visited both schools in November. Other schools are in the mix, including North Carolina, which was originally scheduled to receive a visit in September, but was recently re-scheduled for the weekend of February 15.


Vaughn gained notoriety during his stellar junior season at Robbinsdale Cooper (MN) High School where he averaged almost 29 points per game, and he continued his impressive play during the spring and summer on the Nike EYBL AAU Circuit. Over a two-month span Vaughn averaged 19.4 points per game despite seeing frequent double-teams, while also adding 6.5 rebounds per outing. After a summer competing against the best players from across the country, Vaughn transferred to Findlay Prep (NV) which is currently rated is USA Today‘s top high school team in the country. Vaughn is a dynamic scorer with good size for his position. He possesses a sweet stroke from the outside, but can also score off the dribble and from the mid-range. No matter what college campus he lands on, Vaughn will most likely be the teams’ top scorer as a freshman. Here is a look at how he would fit in next year at the two schools that already received his official visits along with UNC which is next up on his visit list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 11.27.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 27th, 2013

morning5

  1. Over the years we have seen a lot of championship rings go on sale, but we cannot remember the last time we saw such an item from an active player on the auction block. So you can imagine our surprise when we saw an auction for a 2012 Final Four ring from Chane Behanan. Now on some level we can understand why Behanan would not have a specific attachment to a ring that might symbolize a loss to Kentucky when he has a championship ring from a year later, but we are almost certain this would be considered a violation if it is Behanan selling the ring based on what happened to the Ohio State football players and Oregon basketball players. We doubt that Behanan will admit to selling the ring so we are just wondering what excuse the Louisville administration will come with as to how this ended up on the auction block.
  2. There were a couple of interesting announcements yesterday. The one that will probably garner the most attention is Oklahoma State announcing that suspended guard Stevie Clark was not with the team “due to personal matters”. The school has not released any more information and the best insight into the matter that we have is that Clark’s mother agrees that he deserved to be disciplined. We have no idea as to when Clark will return to the Cowboys, but fortunately their schedule is so soft that they probably won’t need him for a while (they most likely will not play a ranked team until January 18). On the other end of the spectrum is San Francisco guard Cody Doolin who decided to leave the team “due to personal reasons”, which sounds similar, but suggests that the departure was of his own volition rather than being imposed upon him. Clark may be more well-known due to his team’s prominence, but the loss of Doolin, a senior point guard who was averaging 13 points and 7 assists per game this season will likely have a more detrimental effect on his team.
  3. Yesterday, Washington disclosed that Shawn Kemp Jr. had been diagnosed with Graves’ disease in September. We won’t get into the details of the disease (here’s a basic primer if you want information). We are also not sure what led the school to disclose the information since it is a fairly common diagnosis that is a benign condition if treated by competent medical professions, which Washington certainly has, and it has been nearly three months since he was diagnosed so we are not sure that it is particularly newsworthy outside of the fact that the school disclosed his medical condition without any apparent reason.
  4. We love the passion that college students bring to college games. It is one of the reasons we wish more early-season tournaments would play games at on-campus sites. Unfortunately sometimes those groups go overboard. One stark example of that comes from the Missouri student section where a group of students known as the Antlers were thrown out of their second game this season for yelling a variety of unimaginative, offensive things at opposing players. Our general tendency is to forgive people for doing stupid things, but based on what the group is saying with their Twitter account it is pretty clear that they don’t get it. At this rate we imagine that the group might eventually get banned from going to any sporting events at the school.
  5. We are still trying to figure out what Joe Nocera’s angle is at The New York Times where he appears to be spending quite a bit of time trying to be their NCAA attack dog (perhaps a book deal?). His latest article on “The North Carolina Five” focuses on the state of North Carolina attempting to prosecute individuals for essentially acting as agents to players who were still in school at North Carolina. To be honest we are not that familiar with Nocera’s writing from before his current crusade, but his logic seems pretty weak in this article. If we have any issue with the state of North Carolina taking on these cases it is that they should probably be focused on more important things (like fake academic departments at state institutions).
Share this story

It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 25th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. teams playing havoc with the minds and emotions of AP Poll voters. Perfect example this week – North Carolina. After laying a giant stink bomb at home against Belmont and making everyone wonder exactly how much of a difference P.J. Hairston will make even when he’s back, those same short-handed Heels went out and took it straight to the defending champs during Sunday’s convincing win over Louisville. So which is the real Carolina? Hard to say at this point, but yet another reminder that this is a year where almost any team can put up a W.

UNC Took It to the Champs on Sunday (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

UNC Took It to the Champs on Sunday (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

I LOVED…. efficient scorers. Marcus Paige‘s 32 points on 9-of-13 shooting brought to my attention that we do have a number of examples this year of quantity scorers who are putting up their numbers without dominating the ball — not the most common find with today’s shoot-first mentality. The two names that immediately come to mind are Duke’s Jabari Parker (after two weeks, still for real) and UK’s Julius Randle. Parker is now shooting almost 56 percent for the year (65 percent from three) and has only been under 50 percent shooting once all year, while Randle has never been below that mark. Meanwhile, both are still putting up over 20 points per game. It’s hard to not love a teammate who can fill it up while still leaving shots for the other guys on the floor.

I LOVED…. Russ Smith‘s ability to slice the double team. I’ll harp on his decision-making when appropriate, but there is no one better in the college game about sizing up two defenders at the top of the key, hesitating momentarily to draw them closer and then knifing through to create an instantaneous 5-on-3 situation in the lane that usually results in a layup. He’s a fun talent to see up close.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

UNC Answers Critics With Statement Win Versus Louisville Sunday

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 25th, 2013

Coming into the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic over the weekend, North Carolina had generated plenty of concern from a fervent fan base after a less-than-stellar start to the season. Uneven performances against Oakland and Holy Cross were worrisome enough, but then the Tar Heels dropped a home game to Belmont that caused a plummet in the rankings and had pundits predicting a very long year for the storied program. While many blamed the ongoing suspensions of PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald for a startling lack of offensive continuity and inability to put lesser competition away, there were other major questions for the team as it headed into the tournament. Could the team continue to rely so heavily on Marcus Paige, a point guard by nature, as its primary scoring threat playing off the ball? Would the freshmen and sophomores begin to show the promise and consistency expected of them? Had Roy Williams suddenly been exposed as a mediocre in-game coach, unwilling to make adjustments when his system doesn’t run smoothly?

Brice Johnson's emergence has provided more offensive punch for UNC (credit: collegebasketball.ap.org)

Brice Johnson’s emergence has provided more offensive punch for UNC (credit: collegebasketball.ap.org)

All three questions were answered over the course of the weekend, none more dramatically than when the Tar Heels shocked the world by upsetting defending national champion Louisville in the tournament title game on Sunday. Paige continued his torrid scoring stretch over the weekend, netting a career-high 26 points against Richmond on Saturday in the semifinals and then topping that mark with 32 against the Cardinals. While the converted shooting guard remains the team’s lone outside threat, his noticeable improvement from long range has proven to be a godsend during the absence of the team’s primary perimeter shooters. While holdover James Michael McAdoo has proven inconsistent in this young season, Paige has been Carolina’s go-to guy in all the critical moments and right now he’s producing with that burden on his shoulders.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story