A MORAL DEFEAT?
There weren’t a lot of things that North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was pleased with after his team’s 93-87 win over East Carolina on Saturday afternoon. Not the 61 second-half points allowed – a record by a Williams-coached team at UNC – not the rebounding effort, and not the general sloppiness that characterized the last few minutes.
North Carolina didn’t allow 61 second-half points by only having lapses down the stretch, but those certainly didn’t help. Credit East Carolina for hitting some tough shots, but Carolina led by ten or more points four times in the final 2:19 and still let ECU cut the lead to four points twice in the final 27 seconds. The Pirates also hit 7-of-8 shots in the final 2:55, putting up 19 points in that span. Carolina had two turnovers in the final minute that led to five quick ECU points.
“It just shows that we need to learn how to finish games better – not that we can’t, we just have to learn how to do it better, be a lot smarter at the end and be patient,” sophomore P.J. Hairston said. “We did some things where we rushed and tried to score in the last minute instead of holding the ball, taking our time, being patient and taking what they gave us.”
Still, Carolina’s defense had been bad most of the second half. The Pirates ended the game with 87 points (most allowed by UNC this year) and 27 free-throw attempts (also the most by a Carolina opponent). “We weren’t sliding our feet and staying in front of the ball. We were reaching more than anything. They were more aggressive,” Williams said. “If you play defense with your feet, you don’t commit very many fouls.”
UNC’S BIG MEN FAIL TO OUT-REBOUND WICKED WANDA ON THE OFFENSIVE BOARDS
Williams often likes to say a player who failed to get a rebound “got as many rebounds as Wanda”, or “Wicked Wanda”, as he sometimes lovingly refers to his wife of nearly 40 years. Other acceptable variations of this joke could include a random reporter sitting in the audience, or even Williams himself. Former players have said he’ll even reference a random inanimate object. Point remains, all of those people/things had exactly zero rebounds.
On Saturday, James Michael McAdoo, Joel James, Brice Johnson and Desmond Hubert – Carolina’s four post players – combined to get exactly zero offensive rebounds. As many as Wicked Wanda. Williams said he couldn’t remember the last time that had happened.
“It’s an easy deal – anticipate your teammate’s shot,” Williams said. “You guys in the stands, the guys that are knowledgable about basketball, people that aren’t knowledgable, you sort of can tell when a guy’s getting ready to shoot. Then (you) anticipate your teammate’s shot and go to the board. That’s a pretty simple thing to do right there.”
Wing Reggie Bullock had four of Carolina’s offensive ten rebounds, while fellow swingmen J.P. Tokoto and P.J. Hairston had the other five (one was a “team” rebound). The true post players combined for 12 rebounds, all defensive (seven from McAdoo and four from Johnson). Johnson got the start for UNC as part of the constantly-rotating starting centers, but he was sick and played just 15 minutes.
Because Williams was so frustrated with his team’s rebounding, he went small. Sometimes really small. About midway through the second half, the five were third-string point guard Luke Davis (6-0), Leslie McDonald (6-5), Hairston (6-5), Tokoto (6-5) and Bullock (6-7). Carolina played with one big man and four guards in eight different lineups and without any traditional big man at all twice.
Williams was asked if that small a lineup might be seen again. “Um, if (the big men) get no frickin’ rebounds, yeah,” Williams said. But he acknowledged the lineup has its drawbacks. “There was one possession down there where (ECU) got four shots. Now, why is that? That’s partly my fault because we don’t have any big guys in the game. Why do I not have any big guys in the game? Because they weren’t getting any rebounds either.”
In the first half, Carolina’s “traditional” lineup with two bigs outscored ECU 36-21 over 16:18 while small lineups (one or fewer bigs) outscored ECU 6-5. In the second half, though, Williams played a small lineup for 11:09 out of 20 minutes and it “won”, 39-36. The traditional lineup was outscored 25-12 over nearly nine second-half minutes. Hardly overwhelming results by either. “There’s no question that during parts of certain games that we’re going to go small. … But I don’t foresee us going and starting small and playing small for 30 minutes a game,” Williams said.
Williams has been tinkering the smaller lineup since the Maui Invitational, when Carolina very nearly came back against Butler by forcing a lot of turnovers defensively and creating mismatches with Butler’s less-athletic big men offensively. Tokoto, a three, said he played both the four and five on Saturday.
“It’s just another position. You’ve just got to adjust. ‘Be a basketball player’ is what (Williams) always says, and that’s what we did,” Tokoto said. “I never really guarded a five-man before: maybe on a switch 1-2 times, but not a few up-and-downs. So it was an adjustment, but it wasn’t that bad.”
Hairston insisted he thought the small lineup could be effective all the time, but Tokoto wasn’t so sure. “If we need a steal or a quick bucket or something, a small lineup helps a lot,” Tokoto said. “(In the) ACC, it may be different. They’ve got bigger guys. It’s all about matchups. With a team like East Carolina where their three-man can play the four like us, we can go small and match up pretty well.”
The 6-5 P.J. Hairston was playing center. He’s known mostly as a three-point shooter, but every now and then, he shows what he’s capable of when he remembers that he’s a strong, athletic wing who can absorb contact. Saturday was one of those times. “I feel more comfortable taking it to the basket than I did last year. When we got to the four guards and a big lineup, I feel like I can take any big man off the dribble,” Hairston said.
And since he played some center when he was younger, he has some natural big man instincts. “I just know there are certain things I can do to try to get to the rim and if it works, I can get the rebound and finish,” Hairston said. “On one play, I think I spun off a guy on the free throw and ended up with a wide-open lay-up. It’s just knowing where the ball is going to go and timing.”
He scored six points off of his three offensive rebounds (a third of the team’s total). All of the put-back buckets seemingly came at big moments, and he was often getting the offfensive rebound over a bigger player. There were times when Hairston seemed like the only Tar Heel who wanted to take a shot or make something happen.
“No one likes to lose – that’s anybody on any team. But you just have to want it more,” Hairston said. “I felt like that I wanted every rebound more than their big man, our big man or our guards. I just felt like I wanted the rebound more because it would help the team.”
Delaware (2-5) at No. 2 Duke (7-0), 2:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: The minutes of Duke’s bench. Duke has seven players that Mike Krzyzewski trusts right now: his starters, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton. That’s it. Against Ohio State, freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy played a combined six minutes. Coach K will not play a freshman for the sake of letting him learn if he’s not doing the right things in practice or in games. Games like today give Murphy and Jefferson a chance to prove they deserve minutes. Duke could use the depth, but Krzyzewski is not going to manufacture it.
Random Delaware facts: Monte’ Ross was hired as Delaware’s head coach in 2006, and it was the first time since the 1994 season that Delaware wouldn’t be coached by a former Mike Krzyzewski assistant. Current Notre Dame head coach and Krzyzewski assistant Mike Brey coached at Delaware from 1995-00. Former Duke guard (and assistant) David Henderson took over from 2000-06. …. Delaware still hasn’t played a home game this season, and won’t until December 4.
Prediction: Duke, 95-72. After Duke’s previous four-game stretch, this should be a breeze.
Miami (4-1) at Massachusetts (3-2), 2:00 PM, CBS SN
What to watch: Reggie Johnson. The senior center did not play against Jacksonville a few weeks ago because of a “sore tailbone”. After scoring 22 points against Stetson in the season-opener, he has 23 points total in three games since. Miami can win without him being a force, but it would be a lot easier if he could be more consistent.
Random Massachusetts facts: UMass is quite the stepping stone job. John Calipari, who took UMass to its only Final Four, left to go to the Nets in 1996. Bruiser Flint succeeded him, resigned in 2001 and went to Drexel, where he’s been since. Travis Ford was hired in 2005, had a good year and was snatched up by Oklahoma State. Steve Lappas is an interesting exception, hired in 2001 but basically let go in 2005. He had just one winning season. Before UMass, he took over at Villanova for his mentor, Rollie Massimino, who stopped speaking to him as a result. Also, people don’t seem to think he has the voice for his current job, a basketball analyst/studio commentator for CBS Sports Network.
Prediction: Miami, 73-61. I guess.
No. 15/17 Oklahoma State (5-0) at Virginia Tech (6-0), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Erick Green and Marcus Smart. Both have been spectacular this year. Smart hasn’t had a game as good as the one he had against NC State a few weeks ago (20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists), but he’s still been very good. And it appears that Virginia Tech’s up-tempo offense suits Green well.He’s averaging 24.3 points on 51% shooting. He has always put up a lot of points, but often had to take a lot of shots.
Random Oklahoma State facts: Pistol Pete might have a freakishly large head and creepy expression, but the character he’s based on is beyond awesome. Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton(1860-1958) saw his father murdered by “lawless former Confederates” when he was eight years old, so he basically tracked them all down and killed them. And he killed two of them before he turned 17. He also used to pick up lumps of coal with his feet.
Prediction: Oklahoma State, 81-80. Virginia Tech can win, but their defense is probably not far enough along yet. It should at least be a very entertaining game.
Green Bay (3-3) at Virginia (5-2), 4:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: UVa’s point guard situation. Senior point guard Jontel Evans is still coming back from injury, but freshman Teven Jones also made a somewhat recent return to the lineup (after suspension). UVa is 4-0 with Jones, and the freshman is averaging 6.3 points, 2.5 assists and a steal per game. Evans played 16 minutes against Wisconsin and didn’t score or record an assist. It’s going to be a process for him before he’s fully healthy, but Jones should still factor into the rotation.
Random Green Bay facts: Until Elon came along and ruined it, Green Bay was the only school to use the Phoenix as its mascot. That became the team name in 1970 after a schoolwide vote. But the alleged runner-up name, “Fighting Tomatoes”, would’ve been ever better. … This is a personal game for UVa head coach Tony Bennett, as Green Bay is both his and his father Dick Bennett’s alma mater.
Prediction: Virginia, 71-45. The Cavaliers have looked better and better since some of their pieces have returned to the lineup, and the win at Wisconsin on Wednesday night was big.
UAB (4-3) at No. 14/13 North Carolina (5-2), 6:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: UNC’s veterans. For the Tar Heels to have success this season, their older players must play better. In the blowout loss at Indiana, no one seemed able to step up and make a play. James Michael McAdoo struggled (4-of-15 shooting), but his three older teammates – Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald – combined to shoot 9-of-24 and 0-of-4 from three. Bullock and McDonald were just 3-of-14, and Bullock in particular has been a non-factor too much this year. He’s used to deferring, but he simply can’t anymore.
Random UAB facts: UAB’s mascot is a dragon named….Blaze. No really, that’s its name. But perhaps the best-loved mascot was Beauregard T. Rooster, who performed at games from 1979-92. The San Diego Chicken sued for some sort of infringement. Seriously.
Prediction: North Carolina, 81-67. UAB’s squad is coached by former North Carolina assistant Jerod Haase in his first year as a head coach. The Blazers have been competitive against some good teams, and they won’t be afraid. But UNC should win this game at least somewhat comfortably.
Wake Forest (3-3) at Richmond (5-2), 6:00 PM
What to watch: Can Wake Forest play any defense? All signs point to ‘no’. Wake’s opponents this year are shooting 46% and averaging 74.2 points (in low-possession games). Offensive juggernauts like William and Mary and Nebraska have torched the Deacons’ defense so far this season. So a team that actually is pretty good offensively in Richmond shouldn’t have many problems. But if Wake Forest wakes up defensively, this game could at least be close.
Random facts: The question everyone wants to know: why the Spiders? Well, because of legendary pitcher Puss Ellyson’s “lanky arms and stretching kick”, of course! Oh. Also, Richmond revamped the mascot’s appearance in 2011 because fans were complaining that the mascot didn’t have eight legs. They should have complained that it looked like a ladybug:
Prediction: Richmond, 72-58. Go ACC!
Clemson (4-2) at South Carolina (5-2), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Clemson’s newcomers. In the loss to Purdue, Clemson’s freshmen (Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper) and transfer DeMarcus Harrison combined to shoot 4-of-17 from the floor. Without Milton Jennings, an offensively-challenged Clemson squad can’t afford to have those guys disappear, even against a bad South Carolina team.
Random facts: The costumed rooster we see today, “Cocky”, is supposedly the son of the original, “Big Spur”. He was booed off the field in his first appearance because fans thought he was “not dignified enough”. Please, try to suppress your laughter. And South Carolina might have some of the most famous/successful mascot alums of all time (at least in the mascot world) – the original Cocky, John Routh, later became Billy the Marlin. Tommy Donavan went on to be Sir Purr for the Carolina Panthers.
Prediction: Clemson, 64-57. It wouldn’t shock me if Clemson dropped this one – they’ve lost to bad South Carolina teams before – but with the exception of the Purdue loss, Clemson has looked pretty good and competitive all year.
Mercer (3-4) at Florida State (4-2), 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Michael Snaer. As he goes, so go the Seminoles. In their losses, he shot 5-of-20 (2-of-8 from three). In wins, he shot 46.3% (11-of-21 from three) and averaged 17.5 points. If he struggles and his teammates do too, this is the type of game FSU can lose. But if they’ve come as far as they seem to have come since their season-opening South Alabama loss, they should win this one easily.
Random facts: Mercer originally became known as the Bears when they played Georgia in a football game in 1892. The Mercer players had handlebar mustaches and long hair. When they came out on the field, a spectator said, “Whence cometh that bear?”
Prediction: Florida State, 84-69. This Mercer team almost beat Wake Forest at Wake earlier this year. The key word is “almost”.
Maryland (5-1) vs. George Mason (5-2), 5:00 PM (Washington, DC)
What to watch: Can Maryland ever force turnovers? Whether it’s through a combination of bad luck, defensive strategies or really careful opponents, Maryland is forcing just 9.8 turnovers a game (6.8 a game in the last four). If they’re ever going to force any, now is the time: George Mason is turning it over on 22.3% of its possessions, according to Ken Pomeroy, which is 227th nationally. They can win without forcing them, and it’s probably just a statistical anomaly, but it’s bizarre to say the least.
Random facts: The leading scorer in George Mason history was Carlos Yates, who was killed at age 27 in a drug-related shooting. And just so everyone knows that people have been writing borderline-controversial columns for a long time now, this guy seemed to think he was asking for it?
Prediction: Maryland, 72-60. The Terrapins were impressive in their dismantling of Northwestern on the road last week. George Mason is a pretty good team, but not a great one, and they should make relatively easy work of Paul Hewitt’s squad.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge: 6-6
Last week: 15-9
Michael: [discussing evidence that links George Sr. to Saddam Hussein] If this information was so damaging, why didn’t you just shred it?
George Sr.: Well, Saddam owed us money.
Michael: And you didn’t realize that he wouldn’t pay?
George Sr.: Your mom had a good feeling about him.
Narrator: Gob, getting the feeling he could not return a completely frozen dead dove to a pet store and get the full refund the felt he was entitled to, decided to join him.
Georgia Tech is still paying former head coach Paul Hewitt, who they fired in March 2011. Hewitt is now at George Mason. But he managed to negotiate a $7.2 million buyout over five years. There have been major attendance problems in Atlanta, although the hope is that the new arena, McCamish Pavilion (opening Friday), helps reenergize the fans. And the team is certainly as bad as it ever was under Hewitt. Second-year head coach Brian Gregory has a lot of work to do.
2012 record/results: 11-20 overall, 4-12 ACC. Georgia Tech’s best win (per Ken Pomeroy’s rankings) was against NC State, which finished 35th. Naturally, the ACC eats its own.
Reason for optimism: Big men Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey are juniors now, and both ended their 2012 playing well. Miller averaged 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in Tech’s final ten games while Holsey added 10.7 points and 5.7 boards in that span. Last year’s leading scorer Glen Rice, Jr.’s departure is probably a good thing for this team, and they have some really good freshmen.
Reason for pessimism: Even without Rice, Georgia Tech returns over 80% of its scoring. But the Yellow Jackets averaged just 60.2 points last year. They have a senior point guard returning in Mfon Udofia, but that’s not necessarily a good thing: he had 88 assists to 85 turnovers last year. Jason Morris and Brandon Reed, Georgia Tech’s other two likely backcourt starters, didn’t shoot well either.
Tobias Fünke: Do you see me more as the respected dramatic actor or more of the beloved comic actor?
Carl Weathers: Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going.
Tobias Fünke: Yes, that’s fine, but I would like to focus on my acting, Mr. Weathers. I did give you my last $1,100.
Carl Weathers: Let me tell you a little story about acting. I was doing this Showtime movie, Hot Ice with Anne Archer, never once touched my per diem. I’d go to Craft Service, get some raw veggies, bacon, Cup-A-Soup… baby, I got a stew going.
Tobias Fünke: [pause] I think I’d like my money back.
George Sr.: [via satellite from prison] Sorry, some of my students are arguing the significance of the shankbone on the seder plate. But we do not – not wag our genitals at one another to make a point.
None of these quotes really fit Maryland this year, but Carl Weathers could really make an interesting stew with Maryland’s mixture of returning players, the late addition of Xavier transfer Dez Wells and some very talented freshmen. Okay, that’s a stretch.
2012 record/results: 17-15 overall, 6-10 ACC. Maryland deserves a special shout-out for not embarrassing the league in the non-conference last year. Their worst loss was at home to Illinois, a team that started 15-3 before losing 13 of its final 15.
Reason for optimism: Dez Wells. The sophomore averaged 9.8 points per game at Xavier, but he was just a freshman. By all accounts, he’s been dominant so far this year. Losing last year’s leading scorer Terrell Stoglin might seem like a big hole, but Stoglin had become more of a hindrance than a help by the end of last season. Sophomore Nick Faust hit double figures in nine of Maryland’s final 11 games. Seven-footer Alex Len has put on 30 pounds. Everyone seems ready to take the next step up from last year while incorporating a class of very talented freshmen into the mix.
Reason for pessimism: Is there enough talent around Wells for Maryland to be an NCAA Tournament team? Faust was fairly steady for a freshman, but Len was all over the place last year, and he was more down than up. This is not meant as a joke or sarcasm in any way: Stoglin literally took such a huge percentage of Maryland’s shots (37.8% when he was on the floor, per Pomeroy) that it could be difficult for his teammates to get used to being more involved. And while this year’s freshmen are good, they’re still freshmen.
Gob: My gut is telling me no… but my gut is also very hungry.
Lucille: What’s a Forget-Me-Now?
Gob: They’re pills that create a sort of temporary forgettingness. So if somebody finds out how you do a trick, you just give ’em one of these, and they forget the whole thing. It’s a mainstay of the magician’s toolkit, like how clowns always have a rag soaked in ether.
Every ACC reporter ever has been sucked into the Miami vortex. And we’ve all been burned by it, too. Yet every year, Forget-Me-Now pills cause some of us to slot them them too high – this year, it was fifth. Maybe this is the year. The Hurricanes have already shown why trusting them is dangerous by losing an exhibition game at home. Can Miami be elite? We’ll believe it when we see it.
2012 record/results: 20-13 overall, 9-7 ACC, NIT (L 2nd Round to Minnesota). Miami saved its worst for last, losing six of its final 11 games, including a 78-60 home loss in the NIT to Minnesota that was not as close as even that score would indicate. Miami’s best win over anyone not int he ACC last season, per Pomeroy’s rankings, was against No. 72 Massachusetts. Their six non-conference losses were all to teams inside the top 90 of Pomeroy’s rankings out of conference: but they were still losses.
Reason for optimism: There are always reasons for optimism when it comes to Miami basketball. This year, Miami returns most of its best players from a year ago, including mainstay Durand Scott and starting big men Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson. Speedy point guard Shane Larkin ended the year on a good note, averaging 12 points and 2.7 assists in the final three games. They have a ton of depth in all the important areas.
Reason for pessimism: From a personnel perspective? There aren’t any. Miami is capable of being as good as any other team in this conference, particularly considering the Duke, North Carolina and Florida State rosters this year. But will they? Despite having Kadji and Johnson, the Miami guards tend to ignore them: in Miami’s final two postseason losses last year, Johnson and Kadji combined for 24 shots in 85 minutes.
Tobias Fünke: Boy, I sure feel like a Mary without a Peter and a Paul.
Lindsay: [saying how stress can lead to drugs] … like the stress you put on George Michael, even when he gets an ‘A’.
Michael: *Minus*, and he knows an ‘A’ gets him ice cream.
North Carolina lost a lot to last year’s NBA draft, including over 66% of its scoring and four out of five starters. There’s enough young talent and veteran steadiness on this team for it to have a good year. But in Chapel Hill, expectations don’t change much – NCAA Tournament or bust – but even North Carolina fans understand that this team’s ceiling isn’t as high as past UNC teams. Rarely are there “freebie” years like this one.
2012 record/results: 32-6 overall, 14-2 ACC, No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament, Elite 8 (L to No. 2 seed Kansas). Obviously, Kentucky was playing very well last year and might have beaten North Carolina again anyway. But injuries cut Carolina’s title run short as point guard Kendall Marshall broke his wrist in the Round of 32 game against Creighton.
Reason for optimism: Carolina returns some of its best defensive players from last year (Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo). While the young Tar Heels wait for their offense to click, defense shouldn’t be an issue. McAdoo and P.J. Hairston weren’t needed as freshmen much until the end of last year, but both responded with some big names (particularly McAdoo, obviously). Carolina has a veteran backcourt with Strickland, Leslie McDonald (who redshirted last season after tearing his ACL), Bullock and Hairston.
Reason for pessimism: Their veterans have experience, but they’re largely complementary players. Even their young talent isn’t as elite as it has been in past years. There is no go-to scorer on this team and there may not be throughout the course of the season, which might mean that the Tar Heels are offensively challenged for long stretches. Carolina’s early-season schedule is brutal and could cause the team to lose confidence quickly. Oh, and freshman point guard Marcus Paige – who will be the starter – weighs 160 pounds soaking wet.
No matter what time of year it is, there’s always going to be chatter about “next year” in relation to Carolina basketball. Good or bad, there are always expectations. But considering there are so many unknowns going into the next season, Roy Williams spent his summer press conference last week talking more about rule changes and the Olympics than next year’s squad.
When asked what he knew about the incoming freshmen, rising sophomore James Michael McAdoo said, “I know their names. I know where they’re from.” The freshmen will arrive this week, and while they’re usually given time to develop at Carolina, with this unproven roster they will have to play early and play well for Carolina to be successful.
McAdoo wasn’t sure what to expect. “Once we get the freshmen here, we’ll get a whole lot better feel for the team and once we start hitting workouts and practicing, I feel like that’s when we’ll really be able to gauge how good we can be,” McAdoo said. “I feel like if we just work hard and just come together as a team, the sky’s the limit.”
Health is still a question mark. Leslie McDonald redshirted last season after tearing his ACL last summer. He’s back at full speed, but rising senior Dexter Strickland tore his ACL in January and has been released only for jump-shooting. Incoming freshman point guard Marcus Paige broke his foot in March, but Williams said Paige should be ready or pickup games and workouts once he gets to campus this week.
This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Williams, though. Not counting his first season at Carolina, Williams has started five seasons with at least seven significant sophomores, juniors and seniors. He has a 166-24 record over those seasons (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012), which include two national titles and a Final Four. In his three seasons with fewer than seven returning sophomores, juniors and seniors (2006, 2010 and 2011), Williams is 70-35 with just one Elite 8.
The unexpected success of the 2006 team (23-8) made Carolina fans think 2010 was going to be more of the same; instead, that group finished 20-17. The 2011 team (27-10) had a great late-season run but it began the season with some bad losses, including a waxing at the hands of Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
But the 2006, 2010 and 2011 Tar Heels were dependent on their big men. Other than McAdoo, there’s no credible threat down low. While Reggie Bullock joked with reporters about the guards having to carry the team, the 2012-13 Tar Heels got an early taste of what that kind of an offense could be like, taking an 80-59 thumping in a pickup game against Carolina basketball alumni last week.
Carolina’s teams have taken beatings at the hands of the alumni before, and this team was led by NBA regulars Marvin Williams and Raymond Felton. But it also included good-not-great players like Reyshawn Terry, Deon Thompson, Marcus Ginyard, David Noel and former walk-on Marc Campbell. Carolina’s current roster included McAdoo, Desmond Hubert, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock and transfer point guard Luke Davis (who sat out last season).
“We played the pickup game (June 13) against the old guys and they just ran out and guarded (McDonald) and (Bullock) and didn’t let them get an open look. They got their tails kicked,” Williams said. “You’ve got to have some kind of threat inside to make people play you honest.”
“We made it to 40 first. That counts,” McAdoo said with a grin. “And then in the second half, they just kind of enforced their will, imposed their will on us. … We’re still just trying to find ourselves right now. With (Strickland) not being there and then (McDonald) didn’t play with us last year, we’re just trying to learn and come together as a team.”
McAdoo ended last season playing so well that he nearly left for the NBA, but he will need help in the post. Rising sophomore Desmond Hubert is still very raw and incoming freshman Joel James is a big body that lacks offensive polish. “Somebody’s got to give us an inside threat. James Michael is really a good scorer and he himself is a face-up 10-15 foot jump-shooter, put it on the floor. But we’ve got to have James Michael and some other guys to be able to score in the low-post area and make people worry about that part of it, too,” Williams said.
ODDS AND ENDS
-Roy Williams typically has little patience for modern concepts like Twitter or the Internet. But he indulged a question about former Tar Heel Harrison Barnes, who will likely go in the top five of the upcoming NBA Draft, trying to build his brand. “I don’t know how many players think about those kinds of things, but I’ve said since Day 1 that he’s very analytical and a deep thinker, and so I would expect it to be in Harrison’s vocabulary and his thought process more than anybody else. I think he was concerned about winning, and that’s what I’m concerned about it because I think if you win, your brand and everything takes care of itself.”
But when asked what Barnes’ brand is…well, the ensuing exchange between Williams and Andrew Carter of the News and Observer is best (more or less) verbatim:
Carter: What is (Barnes’) brand?
Williams: I have no freaking idea what the hell it means. Let’s be honest. What is the brand of North Carolina basketball?
Carter: It speaks for itself.
Williams: So you don’t know either. (Laughter.) Seriously. I don’t understand that terminology. You hear people talk about it, and I’m not being negative towards anybody or anything, but I don’t know what the North Carolina brand is. It’s one of these logos, that block logo I guess, is what a brand is. I have no idea what the crap that is. I know if you work your butt off and you win, your brand is a hell of a lot better than it is if you don’t or you get your butt beat. Besides that, I don’t know that I can … I’m not trying to put you down, but you couldn’t answer my question. What is the North Carolina basketball brand? You have no idea. It’s something out there like that stock that was out there that everybody thought was going to make people millionaires. You don’t own anything. Which one was that?
A few reporters: Facebook.
Williams: Okay. Tell me what Facebook is? That’s a big brand, though. But I seriously don’t know. I really don’t. To be honest with you: ‘Frankly, my dear….’
And that’s why you can’t miss a Roy Williams summer press conference.
-Williams was asked about recruiting “one-and-done” players. He’s had a few over the years, but they’re more of a rarity for Williams and it’s been five years since a Carolina player went pro after just one season. “I want to recruit Marvin Williams. I want to recruit Brandan Wright. But I don’t want to recruit five (one-and-done) guys. (Kentucky head coach John Calipari) is comfortable with that. I’m not comfortable with that,” Williams said. “I like a mix. I loved Marvin Williams and Quentin Thomas in the same class; Brandan Wright, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Deon (Thompson) and Alex (Stepheson). We had Deon play four years, Brandan left after his first year, Ty and Wayne left after their junior year after winning a national championship and Alex left because of his situation at home with the health of his father. I’d take that every year. But I’m not really comfortable recruiting five guys that are going to leave after every year.”
-This summer, a rule change allows head coaches to work with their team for a total of two hours a week in the off-season. Carolina has been holding two-hour workouts once a week. “We’re doing about an hour and 15 minutes of work with everyone together, more individual stuff during that hour and 15 minutes and then getting them to play four-on-four the last 15-20 minutes, and then using the other 45 minutes strictly as a shooting workout individually or no more than two guys,” Williams said.
-James Michael McAdoo had such a great end of the season that he shot up mock draft boards, but he decided to stay in school. Williams said he spoke with 21 of the 30 NBA teams and while all of them said that McAdoo should not leave early, they also said that he would be a definite first-round draft pick. But McAdoo says that since no one could really promise him anything, he was fine with staying in school. And considering the up-and-down nature of his freshman season, he’s the perfect mentor for the incoming freshmen. “Being a freshman, they might say it’s fun but for me, it was a challenge every day. It’s just something you’ve got to go through. I’m excited to see who’s going to take on that burden and be able to put in even that extra time that’s harder to come by,” McAdoo said.
Virginia (19-4, 6-3) at North Carolina (20-4, 7-2), 1:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3
It’s impossible to know how that devastating buzzer-beating loss to Duke will affect North Carolina’s confidence, or just their overall psyche. But if they want to come out and beat an opponent by 20 to let off some steam, it likely won’t be this one. Virginia has lost four games by a combined ten points this season and the Cavaliers will slow the pace down as much as they can. It won’t be an easy game to play for an already-frustrated North Carolina team, and nothing about the talent disparity will make this an easy matchup for a scrappy but limited Virginia team. These teams will meet again in a few weeks, but both teams could really use this one for a variety of reasons.
Stat to watch: Virginia’s production from anyone not named Mike Scott. There’s simply no way that the Cavaliers will have enough offense from Scott alone to beat the Tar Heels. So they will need some help from someone else, whether that be Joe Harris, Sammy Zeglinski, Jontel Evans, Malcolm Brogdon or a combination of all four. In Virginia’s first four ACC games, that wasn’t happening. Against Miami and Duke, just one player besides Scott hit double digits in either game and the other complementary players combined to shoot 10-of-46. Against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, two besides Scott hit double digits but the other complementary players shot 6-of-25. But in the last two games, it’s been better as Virginia had three besides Scott hit double figures against FSU and four against Wake Forest. In those two games, the non-Scott players combined to shoot 32-of-67. That’s the kind of production Virginia will need in Chapel Hill.
The reason this is important on North Carolina’s end is that in two of their four losses, it has been a lesser contributor providing an unexpected scoring outburst. Against UNLV, it was Chace Stanback emerging. Stanback hit more than doubled his season average with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting (4-of-11 from three). Oscar Bellfield hit 4-of-8 three’s and has done that just once since. For Florida State, it was Deividas Dulkys with 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting (it took him five games to equal that total and he has shot 8-of-21 from three since). This seems to deflate Carolina, but they can’t feel sorry for themselves just because things aren’t going their way or an opponent gets a lucky break or two. Carolina will need to make sure that even if a non-Mike Scott player starts going off, it won’t matter because they’ll adjust and find a way to slow him down. They have to be bigger than those moments.
Most important players: Mike Scott, Virginia and Reggie Bullock, North Carolina. Scott has 168 of Virginia’s 540 ACC points (31.1%) and ever since the Duke game (he had 23 of Virginia’s 61) teams have tried to focus on shutting him down. Virginia Tech did it successfully, holding him to just ten points (an ACC-low) but since then, he has 16 or more in every game and at least 18 in four of the last five. Against bigger front lines, like the one he’ll see on Saturday, he has had mixed success. He had 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting against Miami but racked up 23 on 10-of-19 against Duke. N.C. State’s length held him to 45% (his second-lowest percentage in league play) but he attempted 11 foul shots and had 18 points. Wake Forest has some shot-blockers inside and he went a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor. Scott has certainly proven he’s worthy of ACC Player of the Year consideration and a big game against North Carolina would all but lock that up for him.
Bullock has won five of the last ten defensive player of the game awards and all five have come in home games, including four of Carolina’s five ACC home games (Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Miami and Duke). Since he was taking over for Carolina’s best perimeter defender in Dexter Strickland, that’s quite an accomplishment. But the sophomore seems to be still learning to play on both ends at times. He has attempted just one free throw in ACC play and he has shot 13-of-38 from three (34%), attempting just 3.0 three’s per game in the last three (he had been averaging 4.8 attempts in ACC play). But if there’s good news, it’s that since becoming a starter, Bullock has averaged 8.7 points in three home games on 10-of-19 shooting (6-of-12 from three). But now, Bullock’s going to be asked to do even more on both ends as he will be the only healthy shooting guard remaining for the Tar Heels (P.J. Hairston will miss the game). Will he be able to be a factor offensively? Because the Tar Heels need him to be.
Random stat: Carolina leads the Virginia series 125-49, but in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels are 63-6. Virginia won its very first time in Chapel Hill in 1911 by an 18-15 score (Virginia head coach Tony Bennett pines for those slower-paced days). Since, Virginia has won at North Carolina in 1973 (beating the No. 3 Tar Heels) and 1981 (Virginia was No. 1 nationally and led by Ralph Sampson; Carolina was No. 12). That is the first and only time that Virginia has beaten a ranked North Carolina team in Chapel Hill. Virginia has also beaten North Carolina in 2000, 2002 and 2010: North Carolina was not ranked on any of those occasions, but VIrginia was No. 7 in 2002 and still only beat Carolina (which went 8-20 that year) by four.
Prediction: North Carolina 64, Virginia 57
Last week: 10-2
Season: 103-36 (39-17 ACC)
NC State (15-5, 4-1) at North Carolina (16-3, 3-1) (16-3, 3-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN
Finally, this rivalry means something again – at least for now. But if new N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried continues recruiting as well as he has, it will mean something for years to come. If North Carolina wins, they have a shot of going into their first matchup with Duke on February 8th with a 7-1 ACC record. If N.C. State wins, they could not only sweep the Tar Heels but also have a shot at finishing first in the league. They have the easiest ACC schedule of any of the contending teams. And N.C. State, should they win tonight, could go into a three-game stretch in mid-February of Duke, Florida State and North Carolina with a 9-1 ACC record.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. It’s been a bugaboo for both teams in their losses. North Carolina was out-rebounded in all three of its losses and the worst was by UNLV (48-39); the Rebels had 20 second-chance points while the Tar Heels managed a season-low six. N.C. State has been out-rebounded in three losses; it held Stanford to just 36.2% shooting but allowed the Cardinal to post the highest offensive rebounding percentage allowed by the Wolfpack this year.
After Florida State dominated Carolina on the glass in a way that went beyond statistics, the Tar Heels bounced back by out-rebounding Virginia Tech 51-28. Carolina has shown it is capable of rebounding efforts like that but like everything else with the Tar Heels, it comes down to their focus and concentration.
N.C. State was out-rebounded by Miami, a big reason the Hurricanes were able to erase a large second-half deficit on Sunday. But N.C. State is an excellent rebounding team and will try to be physical with Carolina’s bigs, since they lack the height advantage. It has worked for some teams but when John Henson and Tyler Zeller are attacking the boards as savagely as they have been (averaging 22 boards between them the last two games), they’re difficult to stop.
Carolina has allowed nine teams to post an offensive rebounding percentage of 30% or better and 6-3 in those games. N.C. State is 3-3 when it fails to crack 32% on the offensive glass. Something’s got to give, and if N.C. State lets the Tar Heels get a bunch of second looks, this game will be over very early. And if the Tar Heels let an already-good offensive team in N.C. State get second and third looks, they could be in trouble.
Most important players: Reggie Bullock, North Carolina and Scott Wood, N.C. State. The point guard battle will be the most closely watched, but this one will be interesting: not watching the two go one-on-one, but what the game means for each player. Wood has hit just 4-of-24 shots (16.7%) in four career games against the Tar Heels, adding just 3-of-18 three’s (16.7%) and 1.3 points per game. Last year, Wood shot 47% (45% from three ) in 14 ACC games against teams not named Carolina, averaging 10.1 points in 31.5 minutes. In two games against North Carolina, he shot 20% and 33.3% from three (1-of-3), averaging 2.5 points in 23.0 minutes and adding 4.0 fouls. The Wolfpack needs him way too much for him to do that again. Scott Wood has been in single digits scoring-wise or missed games due to injury six times this season. N.C. State is 3-3 in those games and one of the wins was a nail-biter at home against Princeton.
Reggie Bullock will be stepping into the starting lineup in place of Dexter Strickland, who tore his ACL against Virginia Tech and will miss the season. Strickland was Carolina’s best perimeter defender (though Bullock, who has won three defensive player of the game awards from the Carolina coaching staff, is no slouch). “You can teach someone the defensive principles to be a better team defender and I think Reggie’s done a better job of learning those. Now, we’re throwing him another curveball because he’s got to understand now that when you’re playing the two-spot full-time you’ve got to be able to get back and give us defensive balance sometimes as well,” North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said. “The one thing he’s really improved on is his offensive rebounding … Now, he can’t get (to the offensive boards) quite as much because he’s got to be able to get back.”
Bullock normally shoots three’s well but he’s gone cold from three and so have the Tar Heels. In the last six games, Bullock has shot just 8-of-27 from three (29.6%) and Carolina has shot 28%. In the first 13 games, he shot 26-of-61 (42.6%) and the team shot 39.1 percent. He’s just 1-of-10 shooting (0-of-4 from three) in two career games against N.C. State, although he has played a total of 28 minutes in the two games. Obviously, he’ll need to do more this time around.
Random stat(s): Lorenzo Brown is averaging 6.9 assists per game, making him the first N.C. State player to average more than 4.6 in a season since Chris Corchiani in 1991 (9.6). …. Kendall Marshall currently has the best career assist-turnover ratio in Carolina history (2.8). Ty Lawson, not surprisingly, is second (2.78). Third and fourth? King Rice (2.4) and Matt Doherty (2.3). Ed Cota and Raymond Felton aren’t in the top five. … N.C. State has shot a higher percentage in five losses (47.8%) than it has in five wins (47.7%). … Usually, more offensive rebounds means more missed shots, which is good for a defense. But Carolina is 3-3 when opponents have more offensive rebounds and 11-0 when they Carolina has more offensive rebounds.
Prediction: North Carolina 87, N.C. State 79
Last week: 7-5
Season: 82-31 (19-12 ACC)
NC State (6-4) vs. St. Bonaventure (5-4), 7:00 PM, Rochester, NY (Blue Cross Arena)
NC State’s power conference opponents have scored 0.985 points per possession while the non-majors have scored 0.82. NC State’s offensive production has been steady: 0.91 vs. major-conference foes and 0.92 against non-majors. It’s the defense that’s letting them down. While State’s schedule has been tougher than most, its 0.906 points per possession allowed is the worst in the ACC.
A good sign for an already good NC State offense has been the emergence of C.J. Williams, who averaged 21.3 points in the last three games on 57% shooting (7-of-18 from three).
The Pack faces St. Bonaventure in Rochester rather than at the Reilly Center (which has a 5,780-seat capacity). But this will not be an easy game. (For a more comprehensive preview, check out Backing the Pack.) If the Wolfpack comes into this game with a lack of confidence or focus, they will lose. But the Bonnies don’t have enough offense to exploit State’s defensive woes.
Prediction: NC State 69, St. Bonaventure 65
Random: When St. Bonaventure changed its mascot, it went to a sort of weird imitation of the Philly Fanatic called the Bona Fanatic. It was so disliked that students actually attacked the mascot, injuring the people inside the suit. It barely survived a year before changed to the Bona-Wolf.
Texas (9-2) at North Carolina (10-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN2
Carolina has lost two straight to Texas (2010 and 2011). Dexter Strickland and Tyler Zeller each averaged 15 points in those two games. If Carolina wants to answer questions about their toughness, beating Texas would go a long way. The Longhorns have out-rebounded Carolina 100-78 in the past two matchups (45-25 on the offensive glass).
Texas was just +0.7 in rebounding margin in its first seven games this year; it is +16.8 in the last four. The Tar Heels out-rebounded Nicholls 72-26 (!) on Monday, but a lot of that was their length and athleticism (plus missing a lot of shots). Carolina hasn’t faced this good a rebounding team since Michigan State, which out-rebounded Carolina 49-34. That can’t happen against Texas, a team that can make shots.
Texas was allowing more points than most Rick Barnes’ teams do to start the year, beating Rhode Island 100-90 before losing 100-95 in overtime to Oregon State. The Longhorns then had an epic collapse against NC State; Texas led 65-47 with 11:43 to play and surrendered 28-2 Wolfpack run. Texas has won seven straight since.
Prediction: North Carolina 83, Texas 75
Random: Texas’s first mascot was a pit bulldog named “Piggy”. The dog went to classes with students and supposedly growled at the mention of rival Texas A&M. It died after being hit by a car. It’s been Bevo (a Longhorn steer) since 1916. According to Wikipedia, the first Bevo met an unfortunate fate – he was eaten at the football banquet.
Virginia (9-1) at Seattle (2-7), 10:00 PM
A win at Oregon finally got the attention of the AP voters, who ranked Virginia 24th. It’s the first time the Cavaliers have been ranked since November 2007.
Virginia has allowed its last three opponents to shoot 50% or better from two-point range, and three of the last four to shoot 44% or better overall. But even in its low-possession style, it’s amazing how often Virginia forces turnovers (their 20.5% loss of ball forced is second in the ACC). Virginia trails only FSU in that category and in points per possession allowed (0.695).
Seattle hasn’t won since November 28th when they beat Evergreen State. They have lost five straight, three to pretty good teams (Stanford, Harvard and Utah State). But Virginia looks better than all three of those teams.
Prediction: Virginia 75, Seattle 50
Random: This was another school where the mascot was originally offensive (Maroons until 1938, Chieftains until 2000). The Chieftains nickname was to honor the college’s namesake, Chief Seattle.
UNC-Wilmington (3-6) at Wake Forest (7-4), 7:00 PM, theACC.com
Wake Forest looked more like last year’s version against Gardner-Webb, letting the Bulldogs hang around and only winning by eight. Wake turned it over 15 times in a low-possession game (their most since November 16th). According to Wake Forest’s game notes, Sunday marked the first time Wake had out-rebounded anyone this season (35-34). Ty Walker’s return is already helping, though (he had nine boards in just 23 minutes).
UNC-Wilmington lost its first five games of the season (four by a combined 19 points) before winning two in a row at Illinois State and at Liberty. But VCU blew them out on Saturday, 87-64.
Prediction: Wake Forest 79, UNC-Wilmington 67
Random: UNC-W’s mascot Sammy C. Hawk had a blog. On his profile, it says he is evidently a Virgo and his occupation is “Fierce Intimidator”.
Sacred Heart (6-7) at Boston College (4-7), 7:00 PM
Hard to know what to make of Boston College’s two-game winning streak. The Eagles’ opponents (Stony Brook and Bryant) were bad, but BC beat them by 35 points combined. BC’s first two wins were by a combined six points. And the Eagles may have a go-to scorer emerging as freshman Lonnie Jackson won ACC Rookie of the Week for his 26 points (7-of-11 from three) against Bryant.
Sacred Heart is not as bad as those teams, but still bad. The Pioneers have lost four of their last five to Central Connecticut State, Yale, Holy Cross and Notre Dame (by 39).
Prediction: Boston College 66, Sacred Heart 59
Random: While Indian mascots/nicknames have understandably been fazed out in college sports, evidently, “pioneer” mascots have come under fire. The University of Denver’s mascot Denver Boone was retired after 30 years due to “a lack of gender inclusiveness” and its offensiveness to Native Americans.
Last week: 8-1
(All you have to do is Google “On a Boat” and you’ll get the reference, if you don’t already. Warning: the video/audio is NSFW.)
A lot of hype leading up to Carolina’s season-opener against Michigan State has surrounded the odd circumstances of the game. (USA Today wrote a comprehensive guide to the game, available here.) It’s in San Diego on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden at sea. It’s Veteran’s Day; soldiers and President Obama will be there in person. Supermodel and Carolina fan Brooklyn Decker will attend and play a game of H.O.R.S.E. at halftime.
Despite all that, Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall said yesterday that the only celebrity in attendance who could make him nervous is Anchorman star Will Ferrell. Tar Heel Fan posted the brilliant Top Gun Quote Guide to the Carrier Classic, and in that vein, let’s take a look at this weekend through the movie Anchorman, avoiding the easy go-to quote: “Stay classy, San Diego.”
Brian Fantana: They’ve done studies, you know. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.
With wind potentially being an issue (Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo says it might blow some of his team’s errant shots in the basket), look for the bigs on each team to take the higher-percentage shots. After Kendall Marshall entered the lineup, John Henson took on a bigger role in the offense, and his scoring went up as a result (from 10.4 points to 12.8). His field goal percentage went down (from 53.5 to 47.7) and his free-throw percentage went up (from 36.2%!! to 58.9). But he was inconsistent on offense, at times getting the ball stripped and taking bad shots. Tyler Zeller was the mainstay, scoring 10 or more points in 32 of Carolina’s 37 games and shooting nearly 55 percent.
Michigan State forward Draymond Green averaged 12.6 points in 2011 and was one of 10 D-I players to lead his team in both rebounding (8.6 per game) and assists (4.1). The senior added a three-point shot to his game last year and made around 37 percent. But Green has seen his share of foul trouble and while Michigan State has some talented players behind him, there’s no one with his experience and savvy. Henson and Zeller made some very good post players into non-factors last year, but the they will need to score as well.
Frank Vitchard: [public news anchor cuts off Frank’s arm] Ah! I did not see that one coming!
The Tar Heels might feel that way if guard Brandon Wood, a graduate student transfer from Valparaiso, goes off. Carolina should see it coming though as Wood dropped 30 points in Chapel Hill, three years ago nearly to the day. He made 12-of-19 shots (6-of-10 three-pointers) and drove to the basket at will. The Tar Heels beat Valpo by 11, but it was the first harbinger of the bad season to come in 2010. It’s unclear how Wood will fit into the Spartans’ offense, and Dexter Strickland is much more capable of defending a player like that now, but Wood is an x-factor for the Spartans offensively.
As for potential Tar Heel surprises, there aren’t many. It might be a tad shocking if a Carolina team that shot 32.8% from the 3-point line last year starts hitting a ton of 3’s in windy conditions. Michigan State will try to limit the Tar Heels to those kinds of shots and if they go in, so be it. Only John Henson raining 3’s could be a real shock to Michigan State, not to mention the rest of the college basketball world.
Ron Burgundy: Veronica and I are trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging. it might be a soft ‘j’. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.
Carolina is known for its running game, and Michigan State is not going to want to let the Tar Heels get going in transition. But lay-ups and dunks are higher-percentage shots (Captain Obvious here), so Carolina will try to force tempo. In 2011, Carolina was near the top of every defensive category (per Ken Pomeroy) except for steal percentage, and it’s hard to start fast breaks without steals or turnovers. The Tar Heels were 7th in the ACC last year in both steals per game and turnover margin. It’s going to be hard to score inside on Carolina, but the Tar Heels have to get more turnovers to make things easier on themselves offensively.
Ron Burgundy: I’m proud of you fellas. You all kept your head on a swivel, and that’s what you gotta do when you find yourself in a vicious cock fight.
Roy Williams touched on this during Tuesday’s press conference when he said that the Tar Heels will have to learn to face adversity and rise above it. And while the elements present some adversity on Friday, the real trouble comes when Carolina gets on a plane right after the game and flies overnight to Asheville for a 4:00 game on Sunday. UNC-Asheville is coming off of an NCAA Tournament season a year ago and returns four of five starters. The Bulldogs are already making contingency plans in the event of a win over the Tar Heels.
A quick turn-around after an emotional game on Friday makes Sunday’s game seem like a trap. But if the Tar Heels are elite, they have to win games like this. “I hope … some success will give them a little confidence in being able to handle the different scenarios, different situations, different arenas, not having your home crowd to make you play better or faster defensively,” Williams said. “But we have a pretty good team, and so I think we should challenge them. If it was like 2006 or 2010, I would have been scared stiff. We’ll see how we respond.”