ACC Summer Recess: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by KCarpenter on August 6th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: North Carolina.

Where They Stand Now

What do you do when you have a team that goes 14-2 during conference play and loses in the Elite Eight after its record-shattering point guard goes down with an injury? In Chapel Hill, you are deeply disappointed in a team that arguably underperformed. The loaded Tar Heels were near helpless after Kendall Marshall‘s injury, struggling to execute on offense, and the surfeit of NBA-caliber talent all amounted to nothing against a Kansas team that came prepared to capitalize on North Carolina’s weaknesses. Most teams would still call a season like that a success, but for UNC fans, the 2012-13 ended in incredibly disappointing fashion.

Roy Williams Will Have to Put the Pieces Together With His 2012-13 Squad

Who’s Leaving

Everyone. Well, not quite, but like Florida State, the Tar Heels are facing quite a bit of turnover. ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. Harrison Barnes, an All-ACC First Team selection, is now with the Golden State Warriors, while Kendall Marshall, the all-time assists in a season record-holder for the conference and Bob Cousy Award winner for the nation’s top point guard, is now with the Phoenix Suns. Stilman White, the team”s back-up point guard, is leaving for two years to work as a Mormon missionary. The team is also losing the services of the versatile fan-favorite Justin Watts to that scourge called graduation. In short, next year’s team will be near unrecognizable from last year’s team.

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ACC Weekly Five: 07.02.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on July 2nd, 2012

  1. ESPN: Rodney Hood, the impressive freshman guard from Mississippi State, has made his decision. Hood is going to be a Blue Devil, helping to ensure that the reliably-loaded Duke backcourt remains one of the conference’s best for years to come. As a transfer, Hood will sit out the coming year, but he will have three years of eligibility after that. It’s a great pick up and the latest salvo that shows that Duke will continue to be a potential destination for discontented guards across the country (cf. Seth Curry).
  2. News & Observer: North Carolina State has named its first Hall of Fame class. While the  Hall is designed to honor collegiate athletes and coaches from many different programs at NC State, basketball is certainly given its due in this inaugural class. Legendary coaches Everett Case and Jim Valvano are to be honored along with the greatest ACC basketball player of all time, David Thompson. NC State’s women’s basketball program will also have two inductees, longtime coach Kay Yow and the program’s all-time leader in points and rebounds, Genia Beasley. It’s a good start to enshrining the traditions of one of the most storied basketball programs in college basketball.
  3. CBS Sports: The Virginia Cavaliers struck decisively to win a recruiting battle early. Devon Hall, a four-star point guard in the 2014 high school class, has not only committed to Virginia but he has also reclassified to the class of 2013. The Cavaliers could certainly use some help at this position and Hall looks like the kind of player who could potentially contribute as soon as he sets foot on campus.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Former ACC players did well in the NBA draft last Thursday, with eight players selected across the two rounds. North Carolina had four first round picks led by Harrison Barnes, while Duke’s Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee were also selected in the first round. One of the finest moments in the draft came with the rousing applause and standing ovation when Florida State’s Bernard James was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers (though a trade with Dallas actually will see James with the Mavericks in exchange for Tyler Zeller going to Cleveland). Meanwhile, Mike Scott’s selection by the Atlanta Hawks may go down as one of the savviest value picks of the draft. Of the notable ACC players who went undrafted, the conference’s leading scorer, Terrell Stoglin from Maryland, didn’t hear his name called on Thursday night. Stoglin had a number of pre-draft workouts with NBA teams and it seems likely he will get invited to one or more training camps, though that likely doesn’t lessen the sting.
  5. News & Observer: Lorenzo Brown‘s knee surgery apparently went well. His medical team repaired a partially torn right meniscus and Brown is only expected to miss between two to four weeks, though head coach Mark Gottfried stressed that they are in no hurry to get Brown back on the court before he has had a chance to fully heal. Considering how scary the phrase “knee surgery” can be in college basketball, this is nothing but good news for Brown and North Carolina State.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Tyler Zeller

Posted by EJacoby on June 14th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Tyler Zeller

School: North Carolina

Height/Weight: 7’0”/ 250 lbs.

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Range: Late Lottery / Mid-First Round

Zeller runs the floor well for a seven-footer (AP Photo/G. Broome)

Overview: Tyler Zeller is the increasingly rare example of a four-year senior who could end up as a lottery pick after graduation. After struggling with injuries during his first two seasons, Zeller blossomed into a true college star. A legitimate seven-footer with great mobility, Zeller was incredibly productive in his final two years as a Tar Heel, most recently becoming the ACC Player of the Year as a senior. He improved slightly across the board in all areas from his junior to senior year, showing more facets to his game. He ended the 2011-12 season with averages of 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game on 55% shooting from the field and 81% free-throw shooting, all very good numbers on a team with plenty of other stars. He was UNC’s most consistent contributor and go-to offensive option, perhaps sharing the latter with Harrison Barnes on the perimeter. But Zeller was often more effective than Barnes with his touches, and the team was most dominant when he was featured. Zeller shows great agility for his size and was the perfect center for the Tar Heels’ up-tempo offense, especially in transition. He’s not an explosive athlete or shot-blocker, and he doesn’t appear to do anything exceptionally well. But he has all the tools that a center needs, and his ability to contribute across the board makes him an intriguing prospect with the potential to be an instant impact player in the NBA.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 30th, 2012

  1. Wilmington Star News: Yet again we’ve got good and bad news out of Chapel Hill. Let’s start with the good: Kendall Marshall won the Bob Cousy Award for the country’s top point guard. It’s tough to argue with the pick, as Marshall’s ACC-record 351 assists helped lead the Tar Heels to the ACC regular season title before the team crumbled in his absence in the Elite Eight. Marshall continues the recent streak of North Carolina point guards to win the award, following the likes of Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: North Carolina’s roster next season will have at least five players missing from this year’s team, as Marshall, John Henson and Harrison Barnes all announced their intentions of entering the NBA Draft (factor in Tyler Zeller and Justin Watts graduating to get to five). Assuming the Tar Heels keep James Michael McAdoo, they’ll still have a solid interior presence and a wealth of perimeter players to go next to Marcus Paige, who will likely run the point with Dexter Strickland. Still, don’t underestimate the magnitude of losing four All-ACC guys (and Caulton Tudor — the writer of this article — should know, as he had all four on his first team).
  3. From The Rumble Seat: First, how old will Miami be next year if everyone comes back? Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson will be 22, while Kenny Kadji will be 24. Wow. I think the author touches on a pretty important point for Georgia Tech‘s conference success next year in wondering about the unbalanced schedule. If the Yellow Jackets get shots at the bottom tier of the conference (which should be better), they’ll be closer to the middle of the pack. However, unless someone really picks up the scoring load, it’s tough to project them outside of the bottom four.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Matt Bracken sat down with Mark Turgeon’s first Maryland recruit Seth Allen. Allen is a combo guard out of Virginia who hopes to contribute right away in Maryland’s backcourt by helping Terrell Stoglin with the scoring and Pe’Shon Howard with running point. The Terrapins could certainly use another consistent scoring threat (though I’d keep my eyes on Nick Faust to gain some confidence), so it will be interesting to watch Allen whose senior year was tough to evaluate because of nagging injuries.
  5. CBSSports.com: The first edition of Jeff Goodman’s transfer list is out with eight ACC names so far: Nate Hicks (sophomore, Georgia Tech), Glen Rice Jr. (junior, Georgia Tech), KT Harrell (sophomore, Virginia), Allan Chaney (freshman, Virginia Tech), JT Thompson (senior, Virginia Tech), Tony Chennault (sophomore, Wake Forest), Carson Desrosiers (sophomore, Wake Forest) and Anthony Fields (freshman, Wake Forest). I’m sure there will be more to come.

EXTRA: Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle does a great job in this article on Jon Scheyer coming back to the United States looking for a chance at the NBA. Scheyer got hurt during summer league after going undrafted following his senior season (the buzz was he would sign with the Miami Heat), so he went to play in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Scheyer received limited playing time, which ultimately led to his return to the US (rumors also surfaced about Scheyer being forced to complete Israel’s mandated military service, but he did not comment on that). I think Scheyer will get invited to the NBA’s summer league.

EXTRA EXTRA: Apparently, Tyler Hansbrough‘s nose is still attracting Duke elbows even in the NBA. Last weekend Mike Dunleavy elbowed Hansbrough in the face, breaking his nose and facial bone.

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2011-12 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 29th, 2012

If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s Rush the Court All-America team, it’s that none of us are as smart as we think.

Back in November, our voters were on the same page as the majority of national writers, pegging Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Taylor, Terrence Jones and Tu Holloway for our preseason All-America first team. Only Sullinger followed that up with a spot on the postseason squad. As for our Ashton Gibbs-John Jenkins-Jeremy Lamb-Perry Jones-Tyler Zeller second team, only Zeller lived up to the billing. Nostradamus is not walking through that door.

Rather than discussing players who failed to match those high hopes, let’s delve into the players who exceeded or met expectations. After tallying the votes and discarding any hanging chads, here are our postseason 2011-12 RTC All-Americans:

Note: voters took conference and NCAA Tournament results into consideration.

Anthony Davis edged out Thomas Robinson for player of the year

First Team All-America

Anthony Davis, Kentucky (RTC National Player of the Year)- A near-unanimous player of the year selection, Davis made more of an impact on the defensive end of the floor than any other contender for the award. His 4.6 blocks per game doesn’t adequately account for how many shots he altered, turnovers he caused and general fear he struck in the minds of opponents. Causing havoc on defense is one thing, but Davis also showed off a rapidly improving post-up and face-up repertoire, displaying incredible offensive versatility in an efficient manner. Davis picked his spots well on a loaded Kentucky team, shooting 67% from inside the arc, grabbing 10 rebounds per game and shooting 71% from the charity stripe. From overlooked recruit to McDonald’s All-American to Final Four to Player of the Year frontrunner and soon the number one overall pick, it’s been quite the magical ride for Davis.

Thomas Robinson, Kansas- After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins last season, Robinson was pegged as the popular pick to break out in a big way in 2011-12. Robinson delivered on those predictions and more, averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 51% from inside the arc. Robinson, who was asked to carry the load for a Jayhawks squad ravaged by early entry and graduation, quickly emerged as the premier low-post scorer in America. Robinson is flush with gifted athleticism, an NBA veteran’s body and unstoppable post moves. For a player who overcame indescribable adversity a season ago, any neutral observer during this year’s Final Four could do a lot worse than root for Robinson.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Elite Eight Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 25th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor – South Regional Final (at Atlanta, GA) – 2:20 PM ET on CBS

Despite there being four double digit seeds advancing to the third round, two of the teams many predicted to reach the South Region Final will meet on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome: Kentucky and Baylor. Kentucky has been nothing short of impressive and, at times, downright jaw dropping to watch; their speed, athleticism, length, and sheer ability cannot be matched—or can it? The Baylor Bears will look to pull off the upset and ruin millions of brackets across the nation in the process. After watching both teams compete on Friday evening, Kentucky demonstrated why they are the top team in the land, but it would be foolish for one to believe that they are invincible and Baylor doesn’t have the horses to knock off the Wildcats. The individual matchup that seemingly everyone is focusing on is in the frontcourt between Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III; both move like an athletic two guard, but have the imposing presence of a seven footer with an endless wingspan. But, let’s not forget about Terrence Jones and Quincy Acy, both dominant players in their own right. As we have seen throughout the tournament, especially lately, officiating crews seem to have quick whistles. Against Indiana, Davis picked up two quick fouls and sat for the remainder of the first half; it was an obvious, yet brilliant move by Tom Crean to get Davis on the bench. Expect Scott Drew to employ a similar tactic; he would be foolish not to dump the ball inside on Baylor’s early possessions in an effort to get Davis and Jones to the bench. When you have forwards running like guards, and guards running like track stars, expect this game to be played at a frantic pace. As has been the case throughout the year, when a rebound is corralled by either Kentucky or Baylor, there are instantaneously four players filling the lanes down the floor, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to move from one basket to the other. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are two of the best in the game in pushing the ball in transition. While the offensive proficiency of both teams will, no doubt, be the focal point of the game, the team that strings together a series of critical defensive stops will ultimately be the team that wins. Kentucky’s three point defense has been exceptional all season—a good thing since Baylor is a strong outside shooting team—while their interior defense is the best in college basketball bar none. The Bears will give Kentucky a run for their money, but the Cats and Calipari prevail in the end and march on to New Orleans.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 73, #13 Ohio 68 (OT)

Posted by dnspewak on March 23rd, 2012

Three Takeaways.

  1. Ohio Ran Out of Gas: Whether Ohio physically felt fatigued in the extra period hardly matters. What matters is Ohio missed all six field goal attempts in overtime, suddenly looking lost after shredding North Carolina’s defense throughout the second half. Reggie Bullock set the tone by draining a three on the first possession of overtime, then UNC sealed the game at the free throw line after clamping down defensively. D.J. Cooper‘s woes continued in overtime, as he missed two threes and threw the ball away with 32 seconds remaining. The star point guard finished 3-20 from the field, though he did dish out six assists.
  2. Reggie Bullock and Tyler Zeller Carried The Heels: Harrison Barnes found his stroke in overtime and made a critical three-pointer to tie the game in the second half, but he disappeared for much of the game in a 3-16 shooting effort. Luckily, Bullock emerged to hit two late threes to give the Heels the lead, and Zeller played like a madman for 45 minutes. Ohio had no answer for his size and tenacity — he fought, fought and fought some more for 23 rebounds and 20 points. He may not have made a defining, highlight-reel shot in a critical moment, but his presence changed the game for UNC.
  3. A Valiant Defense Effort: After shooting 23% in the first half, it seemed unbelievable the Bobcats trailed by just seven points. They hung around because North Carolina committed 13 turnovers in the first half, but once the shots began to fall for Ohio, the game tilted in coach John Groce‘s favor. Walter Offutt made five three-pointers after halftime and even added an and-1 to take the lead late in the second half. The Bobcats took their energy from the defensive end and translated it to the offensive end, as it harassed a Kendall Marshall-less UNC team for every single second of both halves and overtime. They weren’t kidding about this defense — it ranked fourth nationally in turnovers forced entering the game, and Ohio turned UNC over a total of 23 times.

Star of the Game. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. An easy choice here. Zeller’s double-double was a man’s man’s double-double, as he bullied the small Bobcats frontline possession after possession. He scored eight points in the first five minutes of the game and threw down a few dunks with authority to signal his presence right out of the gate. Zeller hardly says much on the court, and his expression never changes. But in the end, his physicality in the post wore down Ohio.

Quotable. “They just stepped up and made some plays. And we didn’t.” — D.J. Cooper, Ohio.

What’s Next. North Carolina survives to face either Kansas (for a Roy Williams special) or North Carolina State on Sunday, either game a sure-fire maelstrom of emotion and rivalry.

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Ohio University Fighting the Cinderella Label

Posted by dnspewak on March 23rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC Correspondent covering the Midwest Regional in St. Louis this weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

They hail from a league nestled in America’s heartland, playing in relative anonymity in the Mid-American Conference. Each winter, they travel through Ypsilanti, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo and a host of other industrialized college towns with funky names, occasionally appearing on ESPNU or regional television. They toil in obscurity behind one of the largest and most powerful state universities in the United States, keeping to themselves in a town called Athens situated about 157 miles away from Cincinnati and 217 miles from Cleveland.

The point guard grew up in Chicago but had no offers from the Big Ten out of high school. The team’s vocal leader and second-leading scorer used to average five minutes a game at Ohio State. The two leading rebounders stand tall at an undersized 6’8”, each averaging just 5.0 boards per game. The head coach is a young, refreshing sparkplug with a load of energy, but his shaved head and small stature seem to fit the mold of an athletic trainer– not the leader of a team in the Sweet Sixteen.

D.J. Cooper Is Getting the Last Laugh in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

At first glance, nothing about the Ohio Bobcats suggests they should have any shot against top-seeded North Carolina Friday evening, even if standout point guard Kendall Marshall’s wrist injury leaves him unavailable to play. UNC center Tyler Zeller, a former McDonald’s All-American from a well-known basketball family in Indiana, paid polite compliments to the 13th-seeded Bobcats on Thursday afternoon. But even he admitted they are vulnerable in the frontcourt, claiming his team “can attack them a little bit down low and try to play to our strengths.” So it’s settled: as long as the bigger, badder Tar Heels show up to play, they’ll have no trouble dispatching a little Cinderella that finished third in the MAC East Division.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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Quantifying North Carolina’s Offense With and Without Kendall Marshall

Posted by mpatton on March 20th, 2012

With Kendall Marshall‘s status looking more and more like he won’t play this weekend, I tried to project his impact using statistics to evaluate North Carolina‘s prognosis without him. Using play-by-play data from North Carolina’s athletic site and StatSheet.com, I charted the Tar Heels’ offensive efficiency with and without Marshall on the floor. I only used games against at-large NCAA Tournament teams since Dexter Strickland’s injury.

How Will Marshall's Injury Affect North Carolina?

Unfortunately, there’s very little to be drawn from the data with Marshall out of the game. The issue is that Roy Williams has been playing his star point guard 35 minutes or more most games, leaving Stilman White with very few possessions. Sometimes that makes White look ineffective; sometimes it makes him look like a savant.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Thompson's Team is a Real Wildcard in this Region

We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS

Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

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Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 77, #16 Vermont 58

Posted by mpoindexter on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways

  1. The Tar Heels Need Henson. While James Michael McAdoo has shown flashes of inspired play, North Carolina is a significantly better team with John Henson on the floor. McAdoo and fellow freshman Desmond Hubert are much less physically imposing when defending opposing big men. What’s more, UNC’s usually stunning rebounding takes a hit without Henson. They can get by a 16-seed without him, but Roy Williams needs John Henson on Sunday.
  2. Slow Start for UNC. Harrison Barnes wasn’t shooting well. McAdoo was missing point-blank layups. Kendall Marshall made a couple of sloppy passes. It looked like UNC came out trying to get by the Vermont Catamounts with minimal effort, and the score for the first ten minutes–small 2 to 3 point leads–reflected that effort. Tepid starts have been somewhat of a problem for this UNC team, but it’s an especially dangerous way to play in March. If an opponent comes out firing, UNC could find themselves playing catch-up in a sudden death tournament.
  3. No Shame for the Catamounts. Despite the score, Vermont actually looked better than an outsized #16 should look against North Carolina. They played smart, sound basketball, and only unraveled due to North Carolina’s superior size and talent. The game wasn’t close, but it was a promising sign for a young team that should have expectations of dancing again in 2013.

Star of the Game. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. When his teammates started sluggishly, Tyler Zeller put the Tar Heels on his back, leading all players with 13 points and nine rebounds in the first half. In the second half, when Vermont trying to cut the deficit to single digits, Zeller made two outstanding blocks near the rim, bringing new energy to a quiet North Carolina crowd.

Sights and Sounds. James Michael McAdoo shot 1-for-6 in the first half, looking lost at times. That’s why the standing ovation sounded so sweet for his second half performance: 5-of-8 from the floor, getting him to a new career high of 17 points. As he came back to the UNC bench with a little more than three minutes left in the game, each UNC teammate wore broad smiles, congratulating him on a game well played.

What’s Next? The Heels meet Creighton on Sunday, which means a matchup between former high school teammates Doug McDermott and Harrison Barnes. The big question is: does John Henson play? Today was the first time in the past week Henson wasn’t wearing a wrist brace on the bench. If Roy Williams has him in the rotation against the Jays, the Heels should be safe. If not, anything could happen given Creighton’s talented front line.

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