ACC Weekly Five: 06.07.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on June 7th, 2012

  1. The Dagger:  In a series on unbeatable records in college basketball, the Yahoo! Sports blog looks at North Carolina‘s 56-game home winning streak against Clemson. The streak started in 1926 and the record’s persistence is one of the strangest quirks in ACC history, more a testament to chance than dominance or inferiority (though, historically, both of those factors played a part). This article discusses the 2008 showdown where Clemson seemed on the cusp of clear victory only to have the Tar Heels storm back to win and preserve the streak. Though outside the scope of this discussion, the other half of the 2008 series, played in Clemson, was maybe even more exciting if you can ignore the stakes of the streak. In that game, Wayne Ellington played the best game of his college career and hit clutch shot after clutch shot to will UNC to a victory that left the Tigers stunned.
  2. BC Interruption: In transfer news, former Notre Dame player Alex Dragicevich will land at Boston College. Dragicevich is 6’7″ and didn’t particularly stand out during his stint with the Irish. Still, he is a warm body who knows how basketball is played. Right now, this counts as a nice “get” for the undermanned and under-talented Eagles.
  3. NY Daily News: Former Maryland player, Ashton Pankey is headed to Manhattan College. Pankey was actually a key player for the Terrapins, playing valuable minutes, rebounding, and making the most of his limited scoring opportunities. Pankey is transferring to be closer to home due to family and personal reasons, a rationale that could potentially allow him to play next season if the forward is granted an NCAA waiver. One of the more promising big men among the ACC freshmen, Pankey will be a valuable asset to the Jaspers as soon as he is eligible to play.
  4. News and Observer: Leslie McDonald, the North Carolina guard who missed all of the past season because of a ligament tear sustained while playing in the NC Pro-Am summer league, is fully rehabbed and ready to play. McDonald redshirted last year, and his defensive acumen, as well as his sweet shooting stroke promise to help a Tar Heel team that sorely needed his skills last season.
  5. Washington Post: Allan Chaney, the former Virginia Tech player who collapsed during a practice in 2010 and was later diagnosed with viral myocarditis, has been cleared to play by his doctor. Last year, the Virginia Tech athletic department decided that they wouldn’t risk playing him under any circumstances, but that hasn’t deterred Chaney’s hopes. According to the player, a number of other schools have expressed interest in his abilities, and the athletic forward has been giving a return serious thought. Though Chaney expects to finish his undergraduate academic career in Blacksburg, his plans are open for 2013 and a possible one year stint at a school with a graduate program that would allow Chaney to play immediately.
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Morning Five: 04.14.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2011

  1. Add Illinois forward Jereme Richmond to the group of disappointing freshmen exhibiting their selfishness by skipping the year-end team banquet in favor of “preparing” for the NBA Draft.  As if spending two to three hours eating, laughing and commiserating with your teammates will derail that dream.  Kansas guard Josh Selby did the same thing last week, as he was “working out” in Las Vegas during the KU banquet and couldn’t be bothered with celebrating a 35-3 season with his team.  Interestingly, both players routinely found themselves in their head coach’s doghouse this season, and each at times seemed to think he was a lot better than he was actually performing — Richmond averaged 7/5 RPG in 22 MPG, while Selby went for 8/2 APG in roughly the same amount of time last season.  This is yet another reason why the one-and-done rule needs to go; it gives players like these two prima donnas a false sense of their talent based on high school rankings made not even a year ago.  Speaking of Selby in particular, Gary Parrish deconstructs the Rivals #1 recruit’s draft prospects (being compared to Willie Warren, ouch!) and how he got there — very instructive stuff.
  2. Of course, the biggest NBA Draft news of Wednesday was Arizona’s Derrick Williams taking his prodigious talents to the League.  Thanks to a great March including a game-saving plays against Memphis and Texas and a statement performance against Duke in the Sweet Sixteen, Williams has shot up most draft boards to the point where he’s considered one of the top two picks in the draft.  He will sign with an agent, leaving no doubt that his fantastic two-year career in Tucson is now over.  He will also undoubtedly go down as one of the players who led Arizona back into the national consciousness, something that probably didn’t seem possible so soon a couple of short  years ago.
  3. And a couple more…  Butler’s Shelvin Mack has decided to test the waters but will not sign with an agent, while Memphis’ Wesley Witherspoon announced that he will return for his senior year.  Mack in particular is an interesting case — he performed extremely well last summer against both professional players and his peers, and although he struggled with his shot for much of last season, he came on very strong in the Bulldogs’ run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.  He’s considered a late first round/early second round pick.  Witherspoon is making a good decision, as he had an injury-plagued junior year that didn’t allow him to show the true talent that he possesses — coming back healthy for a senior season will do him a lot of good.  One other note with respect to testing the waters, John Calipari is encouraging all three of his draftable players — Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and DeAndre Ligginsto explore their professional options over the next few weeks.
  4. Note we said “weeks” with respect to the UK players exploring their options above.  The actual deadline for a player to return to school is May 8 this year, which gives players some, but not a lot, of time to assess their prospects before making a final decision.  Yet with today’s shameful ruling by the NCAA Legislative Council to further reduce the amount of time players have to make such a life-altering decision, it begs the question as to who these people are actually working for — the student-athletes that need valid information about their prospects, or the coaches who want to get out onto the golf course (as Mike DeCourcy eloquently argues)?  MD is much more tactful than we’ll be here, but in case you’re wondering where this all came from, a certain ACC coach got very annoyed by having to wait until the very last day of the deadline in 2008 (which was then mid-June) to see what his players would do.  The irony is that Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington ultimately stayed in school, and that coach won a national title the next season because of their late decisions.  Makes sense, right?
  5. Enough about that.  How about a little post-championship analysis from Luke Winn to finish things off?  The Brooklyn Bohemian comes strong as always with a put-it-to-rest analysis of whether Butler’s miserable shooting night in the title game was a result of an off night or great defense.  You’ll need to read it to see his conclusion, but you should open the link assured that he leaves very little room for debate about the correct one.
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Set Your Tivo: 11.09.09 – 11.13.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 9th, 2009

tivo

It is time to rejoice college basketball fans. After seven long months college basketball is back (officially). Since the last game of importance (UNC dismantling Michigan State), we’ve put up with the drama of Billy Gillispie getting fired and John Calipari getting hired (technically before the title game) along with John Wall, Lance Stephenson, and Renardo Sidney taking a ridiculously long time to decide where they would go to college (maybe just for one year) then waited to see if they would be eligible to play, which will probably be an ongoing drama throughout the season, and put up with a lot of really bad behavior by players and coaches. Now it is time for the games to begin. To be honest, the opening week is a little light on great games, but the pace should pick up next week as the early season tournaments get underway and we know that college basketball fans are craving a fix of real games so this week should still be exciting.

Monday (11.09.09)
FIU at #4 UNC at 7 PM on ESPNU: I’ll admit it. This game is more interesting for the sideshow that will be Isiah Thomas more than it will be compelling basketball unless Isiah decides to lace them up one more time. As for the actual basketball, I’ll be “watching” (quotation marks since this game is on ESPNU which nobody has) UNC to see how they have reloaded with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough (last seen filming awful commercials), Ty Lawson (last seen talking about how he wished he had left Chapel Hill after his freshman year), and Wayne Ellington (last seen on the bench in Minnesota). My guess is that we will be seeing a lot out of the frontcourt with John Henson, Deon Thompson, and Ed Davis. Watch for the emergence of Ed Davis as Roy Williams will no longer have the option of hiding this budding superstar in what some believed was an attempt to keep his draft stock down and keep him in Chapel Hill for at least one more year (see Roy blowing off my question at the press conference after the Miami-UNC game last year). http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/inside/roywilliams/index-index.html?&url=http://mfile.akamai.com/8108/wmv/cstvcbs.download.akamai.com/8108/open/unc/08-09/video/m-baskbl/01jan/011709_unc_m-baskbl_pcpostmiami.wmv
Albany at #25 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPNU: A week ago I wouldn’t have even thought this would be a contest, but that was before the world learned about Le Moyne. While Albany is a nice middle-of-the-pack America East team they shouldn’t be much of challenge for the Orange, but that depends on how shellshocked they are after the Le Moyne debacle. Watch for Jim Boeheim to try to pound the Great Danes on the inside. Virgina transfer Will Harris will have his hands full on the inside with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku.
Murray State at #12 California on ESPN U:

Monday (11.09.09)

FIU at #4 UNC at 7 PM on ESPNU: Ok, I’ll admit it. This game is more interesting for the sideshow that is Isiah Thomas more than it will be compelling basketball unless Isiah decides to lace them up one more time. As for the actual basketball, I’ll be “watching” (quotation marks since this game is on ESPNU which nobody has) UNC to see how they have reloaded with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough (last seen filming awful commercials), Ty Lawson (last seen talking about how he should have left Chapel Hill after his freshman year), and Wayne Ellington (last seen on the bench in Minnesota). My guess is that we will be seeing a lot out of the frontcourt with John Henson, Tyler ZellerDeon Thompson, and Ed Davis. Watch for the emergence of Ed Davis as Roy Williams will no longer have the option of hiding this budding superstar in what some believed was an attempt to keep his draft stock down and keep him in Chapel Hill for at least one more year (see Roy blowing off my question about Ed at the press conference after the Miami-UNC game last year–it’s the last question on the video as he is folding up his papers both while I am asking the question and as he is dodging the question).

Albany at #25 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPNU: A week ago I wouldn’t have even thought this would be a contest, but that was before the world learned about Le Moyne. While Albany is a nice middle-of-the-pack America East team they shouldn’t be much of challenge for the Orange, but that depends on how shell-shocked they are after the Le Moyne debacle. Watch for Jim Boeheim to try to pound the Great Danes on the inside. Virgina transfer Will Harris will have his hands full on the inside with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku.

Murray State at #12 California at 11 PM on ESPN U: This might be the most interesting game of the night even if it might be the least interesting to the casual fan, but we will be courtside covering the game for this year’s opening RTC Live (and we’ll be back two nights later when Detroit comes to Berkeley). I’m not expecting the Racers to pull off the upset although I think this game could be closer than a lot of people expect as Billy Kennedy brings a team that has the potential to win the Ohio Valley Conference into Berkeley. Kennedy will rely on his talented trio of Danero Thomas, Ivan Aska, and Isacc Miles against Mike Montgomery‘s talented group of perimeter players led by Jerome RandlePatrick Christopher, and Theo Robertson. Montgomery’s trio (with some help from Duke transfer Jamal Boykin) should be enough to hold off the Racers, but if they come in believing the considerable hype we might just have our first upset of the regular season.

Friday (11.13.09)

Hofstra at #1 Kansas on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: I’m not really expecting this to be a competitive game, but it is worth watching to see the consensus preseason #1 open up. Expect to see Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich play about 20-25 minutes in what should be a glorified exhibition. Hofstra has a pretty big name for a mid-major, but coach Tom Pecora will have the unenviable task of having to replace Antoine Agudio, the school’s all-time leading scorer, and he also lacks an interior presence to battle Aldrich on the inside–expect to see Aldrich dominate Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo on the inside. One match-up that might turn out to be interesting is at point guard with Collins going against Charles Jenkins (the only returning player in D1 to average more than 19 PPG, 4 RPG, and 4 APG last season). Outside of that check out the game to see Xavier Henry, who will have to work for his minutes this season on a deep and talented Jayhawk team.

Morehead State at #5 Kentucky on ESPNU: We would like to talk about how we think that one of the contenders for the Ohio Valley Conference title could take down Kentucky’s vaunted group of freshmen in their opening game, but it’s more likely that this could be a preview of a NCAA tournament game — a 1st round NCAA tournament game. Donnie Tyndall‘s team will have its hands full going into Rupp Arena with 23,500 rabid Kentucky fans ready to witness the rebirth of their program. One match-up that might be interesting will be Patrick Patterson (yes, Kentucky does have players outside of its freshmen) against Kenneth Faried, the odds-on favorite to win OVC POY. For the NBA scouts who might be reading this, you’ll have to wait to see John Wall who is sitting out as part of his suspension, but there will still be NBA talent on the court with Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins on the inside for the Wildcats.

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RTC Conference Primers: #2 – ACC

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2009

seasonpreview

Steven Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. North Carolina (13-3)
  2. Duke (12-4)
  3. Clemson (10-6)
  4. Maryland (10-6)
  5. Georgia Tech (9-7)
  6. Wake Forest (8-8)
  7. Boston College (8-8)
  8. Virginia Tech (7-9)
  9. Florida State (6-10)
  10. Miami (5-11)
  11. Virginia (5-11)
  12. North Carolina State (3-13)

All-Conference Team (with 2008-09 per-game averages):

  • Greivis Vasquez (G), Sr., Maryland – 17.5 points, 5 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 33% 3-pt
  • Malcolm Delaney (G), Jr. Virginia Tech – 18.1 points, 4.5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 35% 3-pt
  • Kyle Singler (F), Jr., Duke – 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 39% 3-pt
  • Trevor Booker (F), Sr., Clemson – 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Ed Davis (F), Soph., North Carolina – 6.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks

6th Man. Gani Lawal, F, Georgia Tech – 15.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

Impact Newcomer. Derrick Favors, F, Georgia Tech

acc logo

What You Need to Know.

With Tyler Hansbrough off saving puppies in cell phone commercials, and Greg Paulus quarterbacking a sub-par college football team, who is left to watch in the ACC this year?  Well, as you might have expected, the prime candidates will both wear a shade of blue and still play on Tobacco Road.

But don’t sleep on those in purple, red, or even Yellow Jacket gold.

North Carolina and Duke set a new record for ACC equality this season when they equally shared the top spot in the coaches’ preseason poll. Their Feb. 10 showdown in Chapel Hill is already circled on every hoop fan’s calendar, while their season-ending tilt in Durham (March 6) already has Dick Vitale in a tizzy. The reigning National Champs lost not only Hansbrough, but also Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. And still, they are expected to win the ACC, thanks to a new shift of power to the frontcourt (more on that later). Duke also may rely heavily on its big men, which is a change of pace, since jump-shooting, floor-slapping guards usually reign supreme at Cameron Indoor.

Without those big names, you might think the ACC is lacking in star power this season. But if you want to be the smartest guy (or girl) in the room, tell your friends to watch Greivis Vasquez play. Make them sit down and watch a Maryland game. Just do it. The guy is pure energy, and always looks like he’s having the time of his life. Kyle Singler and even Trevor Booker might be the names you hear in 2010 NBA Draft projections, but Vasquez will have more to do with his team’s success than any other player in the conference.

While the Heels and Devils battle it out, the most interesting ACC subplot may lie in the race for NCAA Tournament berths. Don’t be surprised to hear Digger and Bilas discussing as many as eight or even nine possible candidates come February. While Clemson, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest seem like prime candidates for dance tickets (and even top-6 seeds) come March, Virginia Tech, Florida State and even Boston College and/or Miami could be in the conversation with a few key wins.

That’s the one great equalizer for the lower-tier teams in a conference like the ACC. Steal one or two big wins against the Dukes, North Carolinas and Clemsons (especially on the road), and you’ll be hard to ignore in that selection room.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Summer Bracketology: 07.23.09

Posted by zhayes9 on July 22nd, 2009

Did you all miss Bracketology as much as I did? While the intense days of February and March seem like eons away, here’s a dose of bracket madness to keep you college basketball diehards happy in the heart of Summer 2009. Some brief notes regarding the bracket:

- The preseason #1 seeds are (in order) Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and Michigan State. As the number one overall seed, Kansas plays the closest to home in St. Louis, Kentucky is placed in Houston as higher priority over Texas, and so on. The only #2 seed that was considered for a top seed was Purdue, but I gave the slight Big Ten edge to last year’s national runner-up from East Lansing.

- They lost Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Danny Green…and North Carolina is still a #2 seed? It’s true. Due to an outstanding recruiting class, an overall decrease in talent across the board in college basketball (especially from upperclassmen) and returnees like Ed Davis, Larry Drew and Deon Thompson expected to make a significant leap in production, North Carolina will most likely be at the top with Duke as preseason ACC favorites.

- The other difficult call was in the Pac-10 between Washington and California. While the Golden Bears return all of their talent from an overachieving season, I’m in love with the Huskies backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy. As the returning champions, I gave them the slight nod as the #3 seed in the Salt Lake region, with Cal sliding to a #4 seed.

- This might be painful to swallow for all the Big Ten haters out there (I’m definitely not one of them), but it’s going to be the best conference in the land this season. Michigan State and Purdue are both potential number ones, Ohio State returns nearly everyone besides the disappointing B.J. Mullens, Illinois returns a talented group (losing Frazier and Meachem could hurt initially), and both Minnesota and Michigan have plenty returning. You can never discount Wisconsin either.

- The last team in? Vanderbilt from the SEC. The last team out? Pittsburgh from the Big East. Really, I wanted to put the Panthers in, but they lost DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Sam Young, Jermaine Dixon and Tyrell Biggs. That’s just too much to overcome, even if Jamie Dixon is their head coach and the Petersen Events Center is one of the most difficult places to play.

- The Pac-10 has only three teams in at this point. I expect them to receive more bids when it’s all said and done, but right now I just can’t put anyone else in the field besides Washington, Cal and UCLA. Both Arizona and USC are total messes. Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State appear to be NIT clubs at this point.

07.22.09 bracketology

Last Four In: Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, LSU

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Mississippi, Miami (FL)

Next Four Out: Marquette, Creighton, Florida State, Arizona

Bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), Big Ten (7), SEC (7), Pac-10 (3), Atlantic 10 (2).

Automatic bids: Binghamton, Dayton, North Carolina, Jacksonville, Kansas, Villanova, Montana, Radford, Michigan State, Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Tulsa, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Akron, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, BYU, Mount St. Mary’s, Murray State, Washington, Holy Cross, Kentucky, College of Charleston, Sam Houston State, Prairie View A&M, Oakland, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State.

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Davidson and UNC Lose 3 Star Juniors: Coach K Pumps Fist

Posted by nvr1983 on April 23rd, 2009

After arguably being the third best team in the state of North Carolina the past 3 years (behind UNC and Davidson in 2008 and behind UNC and Wake Forest in 2009), Duke may have just ended up with the best team on Tobacco Road and the ACC by simply holding onto its stars this off-season with the possible exception of Gerald Henderson. Let’s run through the challengers for Duke in the state of North Carolina (NC State left out for Sidney Lowe obvious reasons).

TP_261586_CASS_fenlons_

Wake Forest? Having lost James Johnson and Jeff Teague to the NBA Draft, Dino Gaudio will be hard-pressed to replicate this year’s success (outside of their embarrassing first round loss to Cleveland State) with just Al-Farouq Aminu returning to lead the Demon Deacons. I’d say they’re going to be worrying more about playing for a NCAA bid than about challenging Duke for the ACC title (although Teague may ultimately return).

Davidson? Although Davidson’s drop-off this year (from a missed Jason Richards‘ 3-pointer at the buzzer away from the Final 4 to a NIT also-ran) made the Wildcats seem like an unlikely threat this coming season, having Stephen Curry in the mix meant that the Wildcats had the potential to threaten any team in the country (even if some people think he isn’t quite all that he’s hyped up to be). However, today in a move that wasn’t surprising to all but the most deluded fans, Curry announced that he will turn pro and hire an agent ending any chance of stealing Pete Maravich‘s career scoring record (done in 3 years without a 3-point line). Good luck playing for a Southern Conference title and a 15-seed for the next few seasons Wildcats.

UNC? Going into the off-season, the Tar Heels posed the greatest threat to Duke next season even with the loss of all-time ACC leading scorer Tyler Hansbrough (I know it sounds weird to me too), Danny Green, and Bobby Frasor (the Deadspin commenters will miss him more than Tar Heel fans will). As all Tar Heels knew the fate of their 2009-10 season hung on the decision of juniors Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. If either of them returned (both returning was just a pipe dream), Roy Williams would have another national title contender with Marcus Ginyard, Tyler Zeller, and Ed Davis returning and John Henson, David Wear, and Travis Wear (and potentially John Wall) coming to Chapel Hill next year. Instead, both Lawson and Ellington declared for the draft today. Assuming that Ty can hire a designated driver from now until the NBA Draft, I don’t expect to see either of them suiting up in Carolina blue again as they are both at their peak value. The Tar Heels are a shoe-in for the NCAA tournament next year and will probably will be in contention for a top 4 seed particularly if Wall decides to not listen to his handler Brian Clifton and play for Roy.

What does all this mean for Duke, which has struggled to live up to its reputation and ESPN’s infatuation since Chris Duhon left?  Although Coach K will have to wait a year to add Seth Curry, and there has been no official communication from Durham, I’d have to guess that it would look something like this. . .

So for all of you Duke haters, get ready for an unbearable next 11 months (especially if the Devils, and not UNC, garner the services of John Wall). For all the Duke fans, the pressure is now back on. Just making it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament won’t cut it this time.

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04.07.09 Fast Breaks: Championship Post-Mortem

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2009

Several things to get up, so we’ll be updating this throughout the day…

  • NBA Early Entry news:  Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks will test the waters, but he will not sign with an agent (expect him back); South Carolina’s Devan Downey will do the same (also expect him back).
  • POY Decision.  Oklahoma’s all-world and probable #1 overall pick Blake Griffin will make his announcement at 3:30 EDT today (um, GONE).   Update: Gone.
  • The UNC Guys.  UNC’s Ed Davis has already decided that he’s returning next season, but Roy Williams said he’s unsure about what his two junior stars (Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington) will do (expect them both to leave).
  • In Case You Missed It.  Wake’s James Johnson is going pro and has already signed with an agent.  He’s 22 yrs old and a projected top 20 pick, so this makes sense.
  • Pittsed Off.  DeJuan Blair will reportedly announce his intention to go pro next week.
  • Good Luck, Sean MillerChase Budinger will hire an agent and go to the NBA, but Nic Wise will not hire an agent as he ascertains his draft position.
  • ASU Not ImmuneJames Harden said that he is also leaving the Sun Devil program.
  • Tough Day for Louisville.  Not only did UConn spank them, but Earl Clark has decided to go pro.
  • At FSU, Once in 10 Years is FineLeonard Hamilton got a five-year extension on his contract, ensuring another half-decade of mediocrity in Tallahassee.
  • NCAA Championship Ratings.  The final game blowout wasn’t good for CBS, but the Tournament as a whole was.  Interesting, considering there were, like, four, good games.
  • BBall Prospectus.  Why turnovers doomed MSU last night.
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UNC Overwhelms Michigan St. to Win the 2009 National Championship

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2009

Carolina is the 2009 National Champion.

Head Over Heels (John McDonough/SI)

Head Over Heels (John McDonough/SI)

If we had to pick one series of plays from tonight’s shellacking that perfectly illustrated Michigan St.’s problems throughout, it was a series from early in the second half.  If MSU was to make any attempt at a comeback, it had to happen soon.  Immediately was more like it.  Goran Suton had just hit a three to reduce the lead from 21 to 18, and at the other end, the Spartans forced a contested three that rattled out by Wayne Ellington.  The Spartans’ Durrell Summers looked ahead to start the break, but instead he threw the ball into the waiting arms of the defensive back thief extraordinaire Ty Lawson, who saved it to his Carolina teammate, who then immediately found a waiting Ed Davis underneath the basket, foul, and-one.  Ballgame.

That Kind of a Night for MSU (Andy Lyons/Getty)

That Kind of a Night for MSU (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Yeah, the game was decided in the first five minutes, but that singular play seemed to happen to Michigan St. a hundred separate times tonight.  But by saying it ‘happened to’ MSU doesn’t give the proper amount of credit where it lies, which is that UNC was doing the happening all over the Spartans.  It was UNC’s defense that was forcing all thirteen of those first-half turnovers; it was UNC’s offense that was nailing everything (no rim) en route to a 24-8 start to the game; it was UNC’s preparation and poise that silenced the 60,000 green-clad Spartan fans by the game’s first TV timeout, never to be seriously heard from again.

Once Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green decided to return to Chapel Hill, we wrote last June that UNC was #1 with a bullet, because on paper at least, there is “nobody on the horizon who can pretend to match up with the Heels.”  Part of the reason for this was seredipity – Carolina kept its pro prospects while the teams better than it last year (Kansas, Memphis, UCLA) didn’t.  The silly talk about going undefeated in the preseason was just hyperbole gone wild, but there should never have been any question about which team had the strongest combination of talent and experience returning this season.

The MOP Splits the Double Team (Eric Gay/AP)

The MOP Wayne Ellington Splits the Double Team (Eric Gay/AP)

When the brackets came out, we thought UNC had the easiest road to the Final Four, and we only saw three teams that could realistically give the Heels all they wanted there – Pitt, UConn and Louisville.  UNC avoided playing any of them.  But that’s not their fault or any kind of a hedge against the validity of their 2009 national title – you can only play the teams in front of you, and each of those other schools blew their chances along the way.  Even that’s not to say that any of those three would have necessarily won such a fictional game – it’s only to say that they would have had a reasonable chance to do so.

We won’t bother going through all the particulars of tonight’s game or cast all the platitudes about the illustrious career of Tyler Hansbrough; there’ll be plenty of others who will do that for us.  But what we will do is talk about how tonight Roy Williams went from merely a great coach to one joining the pantheon.  As CBS pointed out tonight during the broadcast, only thirteen coaches have won multiple national titles, and several of those (most recently Billy Donovan at Florida) did so with the core nucleus of the same players.  Ol’ Roy has now done it with two completely different teams, both within the last five seasons.  He’s also been to five of the last eight Final Fours, and to say that he’s figured outthis whole recruiting/coaching/tournament success balance is the understatement of the new millenium.  It seems like eons ago when Williams was known as a coach whose players came out tighter than a drum in big postseason games.  Did you see any tightness among tonight’s players wearing the light blue and white?  We didn’t either.  And at this point, it wouldn’t shock us in the least if Roy gets a couple more of these things before he hangs it up.

Roy Could Realistically Do This a Couple More Times (John Blever/SI)

Roy Could Realistically Do This a Couple More Times (John Blever/SI)

For Carolina fans, this is exactly what they were hoping for when they lured Williams away from Kansas in 2004.  Five short years later, in the 1-and-done era no less, Williams has already equaled the number of national titles that his mentor and resident deity Dean Smith brought back to Tobacco Road.  Enjoy #5, Heel fans, but don’t insult us by claiming six.  Yet.

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NCAA Title Preview: Meet the Real Team of Destiny…

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2009

Much of what has been written in the last 36 hours about tonight’s UNC-Michigan St. showdown in the national title game has applied liberally the use of the word “destiny.”  And on the surface, we can understand some of the hyperbole.  Detroit, in fact the entire state of Michigan, is going through hard times.  Harder than the rest of us, at least.  MSU, personified by its tough-as-nails coach who also happens to be one of the very best preparation NCAA coaches of all-time, has gutted and clawed its way back from multiple injuries this year to put together a Big Ten regular season championship season and two straight victories over #1 seeds from the very talented Big East Conference.  The game is 92 miles from their campus, and roughly 80% of the available 75,000 seats are expected to be filled with green-and-white clad Spartan fans.   Their opponent, UNC, was the prohibitive favorite prior to the season and came into the Tournament as the prohibitive favorite once again (both in the pools and in Vegas).   When the two teams played in this same venue 126 days ago, Carolina looked like it possibly could become the greatest team in the history of history, as it eviscerated, immolated and annihilated Sparty by a score of 98-63.  Despite MSU’s 27-4 record since that point (not dissimilar than UNC’s 25-4 in the same interim), there’s a perception that this is still a team of underdogs, fighting for their town, their neighbors, their state. 

So the narrative seems clear: the NCAA Tournament, the most magical postseason event in all of sports, filled with glorious upsets that have become de riguer in the national consciousness, will once again work its sorcery tonight in Detroit.  Michigan State’s gutty bunch of tough guys who happen to play a little ball will bring home the golden crystal trophy in front of its adoring fans, sorely in need of a caffeinated jolt of good fortune to rally around. 

The problem is… it’s not gonna happen. 

destiny

If there’s a Team of Destiny in this year’s Tournament, it’s the team residing in a state that has also gotten hit fairly hard by the downswing of the textile, banking and tobacco industries.  More contextually, Carolina’s destiny was secured on June 6, 2008, when Ty Lawson, who at the time was leaning toward staying in the NBA Draft, was picked up by Chapel Hill police for ‘drinking while driving,’ a head-scratching offense that may have put just enough doubt in Lawson’s mind about his being a certain first-rounder on draft day. 

So he came back to Carolina, and like dominoes, so did Wayne Ellington and Danny Green.  Tyler Hansbrough wasn’t ever leaving, and suddenly Roy Williams enjoyed a fortuitous situation where a majority of his Final Four team was returning while every other major contender (Kansas, Memphis, UCLA) was getting parceled up like an auction for engine parts.  It’s not just the players who returned, mind you, it’s also how they’ve improved as this season (which could have been their rookie years)has progressed. 

Lawson, Green & Ellington: There's Your Destiny (photo credit: AP/Haraz Ghanbari)

Lawson, Green & Ellington: There's Your Destiny (photo credit: AP/Haraz Ghanbari)

For the fake Team of Destiny to defeat the real Team of Destiny tonight, three things ALL have to happen.  If any one of these three things doesn’t happen, Carolina assuredly will cut down the nets.  The likelihood of any one thing happening is good; of two things happening is not-so-good; and all three, damn near impossible.  Still, these are the three things…

1) Travis Walton must get into Ty Lawson’s head.  Good luck with that.  Lawson is generally unflappable, having committed a ridiculously low six turnovers in 128 minutes of play over four NCAA Tournament games.  Granted, four of those were against Villanova, but he also dished out eight assists and had 22 pts in that game.  Walton, who has harassed AJ Price (5-20) and Terrence Williams (1-7) into terrible games the last two outings, will this time be at a quickness disadvantage.  If he (and by proxy, Izzo) can figure out a way to slow down the mercurial Lawson, then the Spartans will have a chance.  In three of Carolina’s four losses this season, Lawson shot the ball poorly (~33%) and he turned the ball over at least four times per game. 

2) MSU must dominate the boards.  Where MSU excels, they must continue to do so.  Izzo’s Spartans are the #1 reb% team in America, securing 58% of all caroms.  In the game against UNC in December, the Heels actually won the battle of the boards in addition to the score (40-39).  But in the Spartans’ most recent two games, they dominated Louisville and played even with the super-sized UConn frontline through hustle and aggressiveness.  Michigan St. will need a +10 rebounding margin with multiple second-shot opportunities to win this game. 

3) The Spartans Need Others to Step Up.  Against Louisville, it was Goran Suton’s 19/10; against UConn, it was Korie Lucious’ three treys off the bench in the first half.  The Spartans will need someone unexpected to provide offensive punch against a team that is going to score 70+ points against them.   Tom Izzo has a multitude of options, including Draymond Green, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Marquise Gray, but he’s going to absolutely have to have one or more of these players contributing points for his team to have a fighting chance tonight. 

franklin-street-unc

Assuming Michigan St. accomplishes all three of these things, they’ll have a chance to win tonight’s title game.  Three of UNC’s four losses were one-possession Ls, so it’s impossible extremely unlikely the Heels will lay an egg and get blown out tonight, no matter what happens.  But like we said above, the odds of all three of these occurrences happening simultaneously tonight are not good.  MSU should feel great about its accomplishments this season, but the ony Team of Destiny for 2009 is going to take another trophy back to the party on Franklin Street tonight. 

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Final 4 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2009

dynamiteWe’re back for the second to last BGtD of the season and while we’re a bit saddened by that we are looking forward to a pair of great games today. If you’ve been checking our site the past week, you’ve probably seen some of the stuff we have been doing. We have had the best bloggers for the various teams (UConn, UNC, Michigan State, and Villanova) write previews explaining how/why their team will win, our statistical analysis for both the UConn-Michigan State game and the UNC-Villanova game, and our ongoing 64-team era modern NCAA tournament, which is in the Final 4 too with results coming over the next 2 days.

I’m assuming that most of you know the schedule of games today, but here it is for the rest of you.

  • #1 UConn vs. #2 Michigan State at 6:07 PM
  • #1 UNC vs. #3 Villanova at 8:47 PM

We’ll be back around 6 PM for the start of the first game. As always, leave your questions/comments and we’ll be responding to them throughout the day.

5:14 PM: Yikes. That shirt that Blake Griffin is wearing. At least we know that if an agent is giving him any money, it isn’t going towards buying tasteful clothing.

6:00 PM: It’s finally here. In a little under 10 minutes, we should have the starting lineups. I’m going with the chalk here like I said on the Dan Levy show. Hopefully we get a pair of entertaining games.

6:10 PM: Big question for today: Will Clark Kellogg make us miss Billy Packer?

6:15 PM: Phenomenal start for the Spartans. I think UConn is too tough to let this bother them.

6:25 PM: Decent level of play so far. Neither team looks that tentative so hopefully that means we will have a good game. One thing to note is that typically we have a story about how playing in a dome affects some great shooter. I haven’t read anything like that this year partly because Wayne Ellington is probably the only star who is an exceptional shooter, but he doesn’t fall into J.J. Redick or Trajan Langdon territory.

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RTC Final Four Preview

Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2009

We’re  here.  After five months of winnowing down 341 college basketball teams, we’ve got four teams left standing – UNC, UConn, Michigan St. and Villanoa.  None of the four are surprises (although Villanova probably didn’t expect to be here) but all four are worthy candidates for the crown of 2009 National Champion.  Let’s break down both games for you, and keep in mind that we’ll be running our usual Boom Goes the Dynamite starting about a half-hour before tip at 5:30pm EDT.  See you then…

Dave Zeitlin and John Stevens contributed to this report.

Michigan State (30-6) vs. Connecticut (31-4)

Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Saturday, 6:07 p.m.

Tale of the Tape

ROAD TO DETROIT: Michigan State got by Robert Morris, then knocked off a series of highly athletic teams in USC, Kansas, and Louisville, the last of which destroyed a lot of brackets. Connecticut enjoyed their time in Philadelphia, just throttling Chattanooga and Texas A&M, then outlasted Purdue and Missouri. Advantage: MSU.

COACHES: Two of the biggest and baddest in the business, here. Both have championships to their credit. Izzo has to get his team fired up and prepared for what is basically a home game. Not to question his mental toughness (it’s certainly iron-clad), but Calhoun and staff know that all that awaits them, even if they were to win a title, is more talk about this Nate Miles recruiting thing, and maybe the occasional rogue “journalist.” Izzo’s got it better. Advantage: MSU (but just barely)

BACKCOURT: Kalin Lucas is military-quick and has a couple of fine supporters in Chris Allen and Durrell Summers, but A.J. Price has been superb in the tournament and he’s gotten more than sufficient assistance from Kemba Walker and Craig Austrie. I never thought a team could lose Jerome Dyson and still have a backcourt advantage, but that’s how good the UConn guards are. Advantage: UConn

FRONTCOURT: MSU has one of the best backcourt duos in the game with Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton. Suton seems to get better every game, since he came back from his injury. The problem is, what awaits them is what could be the best frontcourt in the country with Hasheem Thabeet, the inestimable Jeff Adrien, and the underrated Stanley Robinson. Watch the frontcourt battle between these two teams. It’ll be glorious. This is one closer than you might think, but…Advantage: UConn

BENCH: Michigan State utilizes their bench much more than Connecticut; the Spartan bench contributes a full 10% more to MSU’s total scoring than UConn’s (35% to 25%), and they’ll come off the bench with 1-2 more players than UConn on the whole. Advantage: MSU

STYLE OF PLAY: This has been billed as UConn’s speed and fast-break attack versus Michigan State’s slower, plodding style. Be careful, there. UConn averages about 78 points/game, but MSU averages about 72. Both teams have good guards and versatile big men. You might hear that whoever controls the tempo will win this game, but both of these teams have the ability to play at any speed. The winner will be determined by nothing more profound than defense and shot selection. Advantage: Even

X-FACTOR: The freshmen. Delvon Roe and Kemba Walker are significant contributors for MSU and UConn (respectively), to say the least. How will they handle the Final Four stage? Advantage: Even

AURA: Connecticut comes in here with the most mystique, so to speak. They blew out their first two opponents and they’re one of those teams that can deliver a Joe Louis-like knockout punch in short order; seriously, you can lose focus for 45 seconds and by the time you look up, UConn’s got you down 14 and they’ve turned on the full court press. Michigan State paper-cuts you to death with physicality and efficiency on offense, like a tennis player who uses a lot of slices and drop shots, then blows a single 150-mph forehand by you. No real difference, here. Advantage: Even

KARMA: Well, as noted above, UConn has this whole Nate Miles thing I know they’d like to forget, at least for now. MSU must be living right, having made it to the F4 in virtually their backyard. Advantage: MSU

MASCOT: Spartans were trained in the art of war from the age of seven and were so good at it, they considered archery an “unmanly” means of warfare. Huskies are dogs. Cool dogs, cold-weather dogs, high-stamina dogs. But this game will be an actual war. Gotta go with Sparty. Advantage: MSU

RIVALRY: MSU-Michigan is only slightly more relevant these days than UConn-UMass. But still…Advantage: MSU

FAMOUS BASKETBALL ALUMNI: I love Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Donyell Marshall, and Cliff Robinson as much as anyone. Great basketball players and ambassadors, all. But added together, they don’t equal the plastic end of Magic Johnson’s left shoestring. Advantage: MSU

FAMOUS NON-BASKETBALL ALUMNI: You could probably include Magic in this category as well, given all he’s done outside the realm of basketball. But we won’t do that. UConn has…Meg Ryan? Moby? MSU can boast James Caan and a man by the name of, uh, James P. Hoffa. I’m not messin’ with that. Advantage: MSU

PREDICTION: It’s the feature game of the Final Four (despite being the first game). If Connecticut fans think they can crank up the pace and run MSU out of the gym, think again. Michigan State will run with you. They have the athletes. and they’re the runningest (forgive me) team in the Big Ten, for what that’s worth. This has all the makings of a classic. It involves two teams whose similarities actually outnumber their differences, despite conventional wisdom. We’ve got legendary coaches, fantastic guards, excellent frontlines, and the biggest stage our sport has. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see some extra time played in this one. But in the end, in a great one, Connecticut just has too many options on offense. The Huskies get it done, 81-77.

———————————————————————

Villanova (30-7) vs. North Carolina (32-4)

Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Saturday, 8:47 p.m.

Tale of the Tape

ROAD TO DETROIT: Villanova, the No. 3 seed in the East Region, survived against American, throttled UCLA, humbled Duke and then stunned top-seeded Pittsburgh with THE play of the entire tournament – a coast-to-coast runner from Scottie Reynolds in the final second. North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the South, had little trouble with Radford, LSU, Gonzaga and Oklahoma on its way to the Final Four. Advantage: Nova.

COACHES: The affable, well-dressed Jay Wright is on the verge of cracking the elite echelon of college basketball head coaches. Roy Williams is already there. Advantage: UNC.

BACKCOURT: ‘Nova junior guard Scottie Reynolds had been up-and-down during this tournament before delivering one of the greatest endings in NCAA history. Ty Lawson has been virtually unstoppable since coming back from his toe injury – and Danny Green and Wayne Ellington are pretty darn good, too. Advantage: UNC.

FRONTCOURT: Forward Dante Cunningham leads Villanova in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 ppg). But he’s obviously not at the same level as four-time All-American Tyler Hansbrough. Advantage: UNC.

BENCH: Villanova’s bench may be relatively short but Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher can hit shots and spread a defense, while Antonio Pena can bang inside. Veteran guard Bobby Frasor and 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller may both play big roles for the Heels. Advantage: Villanova.

STYLE OF PLAY: ‘Nova has kicked it old school during its NCAA run, suffocating teams with its defense and toughness. UNC boasts maybe the best offense in the land. Advantage: The public.

X-FACTOR: Reggie Redding may not be flashy, but the smart, defensive hound has been vital to Villanova’s success and is a favorite of Coach Wright. (He threw the inbounds pass to kickstart the game-winning play against Pitt in the Elite Eight.) Everything is falling into place for Danny Green, who will finally get to play in front of his father. Advantage: Even.

AURA: If you’ve watched any of Villanova’s tournament games, you’ve seen the camera fixated on former coach Rollie Massimino, who led the Wildcats to one of the great championship-game upsets in 1985. Rollie will be there for Saturday’s game, as will probably every other player, coach, cheerleader, band member, fan, booster and groupie from that ’85 team. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, booked their ticket to the Final Four by winning its record 100th tournament game. Advantage: Nova.

KARMA: Villanova was knocked out of the 2005 tournament by UNC thanks to a phantom travel call on Allan Ray. The ‘Cats remember. The Tar Heels’ road to redemption started when Hansbrough and company did the unthinkable by passing up the NBA draft to avenge last year’s first-half debacle against Kansas in the Final Four and win a national title. Advantage: UNC.

MASCOT: A wildcat is a hunter of small mammals, birds and Ginyards. A Tar Heel is apparently derived from North Carolina’s 18th-century prominence as a tar and pitch producer, but their mascot is a ram. I’m confused. Advantage: Nova.

RIVALRY: Dick Vitale may or may not be wearing pants when he broadcasts Duke-UNC games. When Villanova and Saint Joseph’s hook up, it’s referred to as the “Holy War.” Advantage: UNC.

FAMOUS BASKETBALL ALUMNI: Was Kerry Kittles as good as Michael Jordan? How about if Kerry Kittles drank Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff? Advantage: UNC.

FAMOUS NON-BASKETBALL ALUMNI: Don McLean dropped out of Villanova after four months before writing the immortal American Pie. Speaking of great American things, Moonlight Graham and Peter Gammons both went to North Carolina. That’s an impressive baseball combo. Advantage: UNC.

PREDICTION: North Carolina may beat Villanova nine times out of 10. But as Rick Moranis said in the classic sports movie Little Giants, you just have to win one time. (What, you don’t think Little Giants is a classic?) Villanova keeps its magical run going, 75-74.

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Why Villanova Will Win…

Posted by nvr1983 on April 3rd, 2009

As part of our ongoing attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage anywhere, we enlisted the editors from the finest team-specific blogs we could find to write posts explaining why their team will win tomorrow.

Our first submission is brought to you by Pete of LetsGoNova.com.

Make no mistake about it: Villanova is the underdog tomorrow. North Carolina is favored by 7.5 points in Vegas and by 4 points by KenPom (with a 66 percent chance of victory).

More intuitively, common sense tells us the Tarheels are the superior team. North Carolina features five likely future first-round draft picks: Ed Davis, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, and Ty Lawson will all cash big NBA paychecks.

Villanova might sneak Dante Cunningham into this year’s second round, but that’s pretty much it in terms of NBA prospects as of right now. (Corey Fisher, Scottie Reynolds, and Corey Stokes are also plausible NBA candidates, but are not quite there yet.)

The Tar Heels have lost just four games this season compared to seven for Villanova. While the Wildcats squeaked by Pittsburgh last weekend in one of the all-time great NCAA tournament games, North Carolina blew out Blake Griffin and Oklahoma, with a 12-point margin of victory in a game that was not even that close.

Carolina has not really been challenged in the tournament so far, winning four blow-outs. Villanova trailed American by double digits in the second half before coming up with the win. The ‘Cats also played Pittsburgh to a virtual draw for 39 minutes and 55 seconds before Scottie Reynolds entered the pantheon of great NCAA tournament buzzer-beaters to win the game.

Reynolds hits "The Shot" (Credit: Getty Images)

Reynolds hits "The Shot" (Credit: Getty Images)

Villanova was able to blow out both UCLA and Duke, which is a good sign.

North Carolina also will enjoy a tremendous coaching edge. I don’t care how much you like Jay Wright; Roy Williams is one of the all-time greats. I don’t think there can be much debate about that.

Positives for Villanova include a rapid, intense improvement in quality of play late in the season, a versatile bunch of players who can multitask on the court, a superior half-court defense, and a likely favorable crowd in Detroit, especially if Michigan State wins the opener.

Conventional wisdom also says that the Wildcats play “tougher” than the Heels, but I am not so sure toughness matters so much when your opponent has a lineup full of NBA players. (I do think it matters some.) We shall see.

So, in the face of these long odds, how can Villanova actually win the game?

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